Introductions are a very strange part of the adoption process. They are the final step before you become full time parents. You are taken so far out of your comfort zone that there really is no going back to it, yet at the same time you seem to be required to behave like well-rounded, calm, experienced parents. You also have to put your trust in the foster carer who has the child or children you are being introduced to in their care.
It’s fairly normal for you have already met the foster carer, whose house you are going to be camped in for at least a week, at least once prior to introductions beginning. I would say that it should be a minimum of two times, once to talk to them about the children prior to matching panel, and once to go through the plan for introductions and sort out dates etc. That is how many times we met our children’s foster carer before introductions began.
During introductions the social workers tend to take a bit of a back seat, they can’t interfere too much or be ever-present like I’m sure they want to be, because it wouldn’t create a nice environment for the prospective adopters to meet their children. So, who then holds the power during introductions? Someone has to decide whether they are going well or not, is there anyone there without vested interests?
The prospective adopters clearly have vested interests in them going well. They might have been waiting for months or years for a match, and then to finally meet the children only for them not to get along, or for it to go catastrophically wrong. It would take an incredible amount of courage to admit that a match is not right at this stage. I cannot imagine how hard it must be, but this does happen sometimes.
The social workers, shouldn’t have a vested interest, but as I’ve said, take a back seat. They can only go by what they get told by the prospective adopters and the foster carers. If the children are older then they might get to give feedback too, although I imagine this would be limited. Any feedback would be collected in the sporadic evening catch-up phone call from social workers to foster carers and prospective adopters. It would then be discussed at a midway review meeting, if introductions are long enough to contain one.
The foster carer should always have the best interests of the children at heart so, in my mind, they hold the most power during introductions, and their vested interests should always be the children’s, and so their opinion on whether the introductions are going well should be paramount. If they are doing their job right then they will slowly pass their knowledge of the children and their routines over to their new parents, gradually handing over the chalice of parental responsibility. This is what happened during our own introductions, we were taken into the foster carer’s home, both of us probably looking like a rabbit in headlights, and not only shown the ropes, but given them and guided on how to use them.
I have some very fond memories of our introductions that aren’t all to do with meeting our children for the first time (lots of those too). Here’s a couple:
- Our first solo bath time – we warn Eldest that it will be ending soon and he’ll need to get out. Perhaps our ‘soon’ was slightly shorter than what he was used to, or perhaps he was just not comfortable with us yet, but as soon as he was taken out of the bath the tears started flowing. Loudly. It was then I heard the foster carer’s husband say “Leave them alone. They’re going to have to get used to it” to her, they were both downstairs, although I bet that she was listening intently to make sure the children were happy. It made me smile then, and it makes me smile now.
- We were playing with the children with toys on the floor – the foster carer’s husband passes through the room and bluntly says “You don’t have to play with them all the time you know. They aren’t used to that. It’s good for them to play on their own”. It was actually a penny dropping moment that, it made me realise why I was always so exhausted after babysitting our friends’ children (and why the children liked us babysitting so much!).
The foster carer took a huge amount of control during our introductions, we were guided by the plan the social workers gave us, but we definitely stretched the limits of it. All the time only doing what the children’s foster carer thought the children could cope with. That is the important thing. The children always came first.
So, our introductions went overwhelmingly positively, helped in part by the fact that we all got on with one another.
Introductions don’t always go the way ours did. I am going to relay a true story, it is an extreme of what could happen, so please don’t think that it is commonplace. It is perhaps controversial so I have written it as anonymously as possible and in summary form.
Introductions were scheduled to be just under two weeks, a few days at the foster carer’s house, the rest at the prospective adopters’ house. All went remarkably well, a bit of resistance from the child being adopted, but they were a bit older so were more aware of what was going on. The period at the foster carer’s ended, and then they started having days in and around the adopters’ home. Again all seemed to be ok.
Then the midway review occurred. The prospective adopters and social workers were happy that all seemed to be going well. But then all hell broke loose. Accusations were made against the adopters, pretty serious ones given the history of the child. They weren’t made by the child, who seemed generally happy with the situation, but by the foster carer. Introductions were then put on hold.
Meetings happened to try to establish what had happened, the accusations came out of nowhere with no evidence. The adopters were asked to PROVE that they were unfounded accusations. Luckily there was a lot of photographic evidence of what they had been doing, it was all very innocent and inline with the therapeutic parenting training they had received.
Social services were now very reluctant to continue, although no decision had been made yet. The adopters were distraught. Someone then came forward with evidence that social services had been warned that the foster carer seemed likely to have difficulty supporting introductions, and did not appear to support the adoption at all. The warning was presented to social services months before a match was even considered, and they had given the assurance that the foster carer would be given appropriate support to help her with the introductions, and to support the adoption of the child.
With the evidence of the warning, the photographs and some support from one of the social workers involved the introductions were back on, albeit under more scrutiny from social services.
Those introductions have ended with a placed child who is now happy in their new home, but I can’t imagine they were a positive experience. The child was unaware of the reason for the pause, but must have wondered why their new parents suddenly vanished even though they had said they would be there in the morning. Potentially triggering a trust issue between them all.
No one knows what the motivations were behind the foster carer’s accusations, did they have vested interests in seeing adoption fail? Perhaps they were so attached to the child that they didn’t want to see them move on to their forever home, so did their best to stop them. They certainly didn’t seem to be putting the child’s best interests first. I’m sure no one anticipated that the foster carer would appear to attempt to disrupt the adoption before it even began, and in such a potentially catastrophic way. They clearly hadn’t been given the support that had been promised by social services to try to come to terms with the child moving on. The foster carer was in a position of power during introductions so social services had to listen, and it nearly cost the child their parents.
There is more to this story which I can’t say (mostly surrounding how I know about it).
So, I’m sure that those adopters will not be having much to do with the foster carer, although I know they will if their child asks them to. They are putting the child’s needs above their own feelings, which is the right thing to do as far as I am concerned.
Ours ended differently. Ours ended in the best way it could. When we adopted our children, we didn’t just gain 2 new members to our family. We gained our foster family too.