On Sunday I was unapproachable, irritable, short tempered, and I had a headache. Why? I was anxious about the preparation group that we were going to be attending on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
To most people this probably wouldn’t have been a problem, certainly nothing to get anxious about; it was just a bit of training before we can move on to Stage 2 of the approval process. But, me being me, I’d over inflated the bits which I wasn’t looking forward to and forgotten the bits that I was.
So, in my mind, we’d be going to a training session where there will be a group of horrible, homophobic people, and have to engage with them in some horrendous role-playing exercises (because you know, local government training is always role-play based isn’t it?), which will just emphasise that I’m not a very sociable person who lacks self-confidence in group situations, all the while being monitored and observed by some ogre-like social workers. This situation wasn’t really improved by the general lack of information we had received about what we would be doing in the three days (I’ll be feeding that back to them so that they’ll hopefully send more information out in advance for people in the next groups). I like to be prepared!
What was I right about? Pretty much nothing.
The group of people couldn’t have been nicer, a great mix of people, we were the only same-sex couple, but there were people older than us, younger than us, single adopters, people who had birth children, and people without. No signs of prejudice at all from any of them, although it would have been difficult for them to show that for reasons I’ll explain.
There were 4 social workers there, 2 of which were running the group and 2 were there for observation purposes, and 1 adoptive parent who basically provided real world examples and experiences around what we were being told by the SWs. He was absolutely brilliant and really brought the training to life, he was very involved in all the sessions even running a few of them himself. All of them were busily taking notes throughout the three days, I have no idea what they were writing but they were all engrossed in it when they weren’t actively talking to us. Everyone from the adoption agency were brilliant, helpful, kind, reassuring and just generally nice.
One of the first things we were told was that the training would consist of no role-play whatsoever as they didn’t feel that it was beneficial or that it had any worth in the training (yay!).
A vast number of subject were covered, each being enhanced by the adopter providing examples about his adopted child. A few examples of the subjects we covered are:
- attachment & bonding (we learnt about attachment styles – I tend towards having an “avoidant” attachment style, which in its basic form means that I will actively avoid something if I’m stressed by it, although it’s more complicated than that, whole books have been written detailing it!)
- why contact with the birth family is important (people come at adoption with preconceptions about birth families and contact with them, and occasionally they are right, but knowing about your child’s history, where they come from, family medical histories are all things that are very important which you could potentially lose if you cut all ties with their birth family. We didn’t start off against birth family contact but the information we have been given really rammed home why it is important)
- how to deal with situations regarding the children (including social media being touched on) emphasis on being honest here!
- why the child might be suffering from loss and grief when they are placed with you (rather than being grateful to you for giving them a safe, permanent home)
- things that they look at during assessment
- the importance of having a school which is aware of the situation
- the matching process
There was so much other stuff that they covered, and it was incredibly useful, especially when put into context by the adopter.
I said earlier that I would explain why the group may not feel able to express prejudice against gay people (not that I think they had any), the reason being that the adopter was gay and had adopted his child with his partner. For the first time I felt like the adoption agency really was interested in being inclusive of all adopters rather than just paying lip-service to it. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve always been very positive towards us as prospective adopters but we’ve always been the only same-sex adopters present at all the training so far. Twice we were approached by a social worker who spoke to us specifically about groups that they run for LGBT adopters. One even said that when she’d been assessing a same-sex couple she’d been asked to find out information about them which she didn’t feel was appropriate so had actually organised training for all the social workers to go on to ensure that LGBT adopters were treated fairly.
I’m not an advocate of positive discrimination, I am however an advocate of treating people as fairly as possible. Our agency have showed that they are trying to do this, and I am pleased we chose to go with them.
All in all, the preparation group was an exceptionally worthwhile experience.
We meet our assessing social worker next week to discuss our Stage 2 plan. I hope that goes as well as the prep group did!