It is amazing some of the different responses you get when you tell people that you are planning on adopting. Adding into that the fact that I, as a man, plan to be the primary care giver (what a phrase), there seems to be an almost reverence to the ‘sacrifice’ we are making to provide some children with a new home. While the thoughts and wishes are very well meant, and in honesty makes you feel a bit special, it really does not feel that way when you are in the process of looking to adopt (or even discussing it at the start). It is a journey that S (my partner who has chosen to stay mysteriously nameless) and I never thought we would be on, and one at the end where we will be the lucky ones.
It has been a long journey and there is still such a long way to go, but I wanted to give you some of my thoughts, which hopefully you will find interesting and maybe even give you some sense that you are not alone and that there are no silly questions, and it is alright to not want to see another form again :-).
When we were younger, and throughout our lives, when we dreamt of a family, we were thinking of getting pregnant, having our child, changing nappies (maybe skipping the reality of how messy that might actually be) and bringing up our children – learning, growing and experiencing all the ups and downs together, from baby to adulthood. Never in our youthful story was there a thought that we will not have birth children and will need to look at other journeys to create our family. But this is where we found ourselves at the end of 2016 – having tried and failed in IVF, S and I discussed the options available to us as we knew that we wanted really a family – (and I am pleased to tell you that this actually grew stronger through the process), we brought up the option of adoption.
So the first questions was how do we start the process, who do you talk to and who can you ask? We found it was not something that we were not very comfortable about mentioning to friends or even family at the start. There is almost a feeling of failure# that you have not somehow managed it the ‘normal way’ and that this is such a personal thing that you need to do it yourselves. This, I think was our first ‘mistake*’ and as we went through the process, we found that not only did it become easier to speak about it, it became a really positive experience.
My TIP – speak with close family and friends as early as possible. You will be surprised at how many have been through (or know close friends) the same process, and they generally are very supportive.
As both of us did not know much about the adoption process, we started by looking on the web and reading about it online. There is a lot of information out there, but in reality the more we read the more confused we became –
Do we need to go through a local authority, if we go through an agency, do we need to tell the authority (Or do they recommend), which authority should we go to (our local one, the one where the child is?), foster, adoption, foster for adoption!?!?, what is the difference between a charity, local authority, an agency – (or are they the same), if I speak to one, should I speak to another, or is that wrong, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each, how do you make the first step, who can help you…..arrgh the questions came thick and fast?
My TIP – Look at http://www.first4adoption.org.uk it has some of the clearest information
In all honesty, I do not think we ever became 100% clear, but after what seemed like a library of information, we decided to approach an agency called PACT (www.pactcharity.org). This was partly due to the information evenings they offered, partly location but mainly they seemed to have a good reputation and that they offered good support during and after the process.
Stage 1 – Attend one of the PACT introduction evenings.
So near the end of 2016 we attended an information evening. This consisted of several talks from social workers and trainers about the process and what we should expect. It was heavy on the ‘expectations’ (that it will be hard and long) but also gave enough positive aspects to give confidence that they would be there to help you through the process.
The highlight for both of us was the past adopter who came in to talk about their real life experiences of the process (both the good and the bad) and also how their lovely boy is thriving. The low point was that we were told that we cannot start until 6 months after the last IVF we had (I am sure there are very good reasons for this, but as a couple wanting to complete the family we both know we want, it was very frustrating to hear you would have to wait).
My TIP – Don’t be scared and don’t be put off. If you are really keen on growing your family, it won’t. Ask questions (remember, there are no stupid questions) and don’t worry if it all seems confusing – you are not expected to know the whole process – everyone feels confused, scared and excited.
Both of us left that introduction meeting with a buzz of expectations on what could be possible, but also a bit of trepidation on the difficulty of adopting and the hurdles we would need to overcome.
Stage 2 – The initial interview.
Once we decided that we wanted to go ahead, we got in contact with the agency to confirm our intention. We were then invited to an initial interview at their offices, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
This is where you take the first real step in the process and start to answer the more personal questions. It is an important part, as it really focuses your mind on how much you want to adapt. It also gives the agency a chance to see your suitability for adoption and starts looking at the types of children that would be suitable. The initial interview lasted for several hours (be prepared for that) and really started to probe into our motivations as well as what we were expecting from adoption. The biggest thing for us was that it also introduced us to a form that got us to rate how likely we were be to take children with various challenges – from physical disability, to AIDS or suffers from sexual abuse.
It really was an eye opener and in truth we found it quite difficult to answer some of the questions emotionally or with any certainty – after all S is dyslexic and would appear on this learning difficulties scale but who knows where! Luckily we found out that finding the form difficult is normal, as it is another way to help focus your thinking while giving the agency an opportunity to start to learn about you and what you are looking for – so give it some thought but don’t let if put you in a spin.
My TIP – Get used to paperwork, forms and personal questions. This is where you really start to map your life. It is a great opportunity for you to ask questions, but it will be quite personal.
My TIP – Don’t worry if you cannot easily determine the challengers you are able to cope with, you are not expected to know it all yet – but be open and honest – and do not feel bad if you think there is something that you do not think you will be able to cope with.
This interview also introduces you to the book lists (or re-introduces you). You are given extensive titles of books that you can read that talk about adoption, parenting, techniques to cope and also real life stories of people who have gone through it. The book list does seem overwhelming and you may think that book reading is not as helpful as the face to face training that will come up, but some of the titles are really useful in getting an understanding of children who have been adopted as well as some of the challenges. Some of the books are quite depressing, and highlight some extreme challenges that people have faced in adoption. They gave S and I a few nightmares on how difficult it could be – as it really does drive home the complexity of the journey we are on, but overall we found the books to be extremely useful in broadening our outlook and giving us a framework of the real challenges and successes around adoption.
My TIP – Start early and order books as you go along. They are worth reading, but you will want to try to read them all over time –do not try to cram them in. The best ones we have read so far are by Dan Hughes and Sally Donovan
My TIP – Consider getting Amazon Prime – the ability to order books on the fly is very helpful (As well as other things that you will need later on – which we are finding out now)
# – it is not, and it should not feel that way
* – No-one knows it all, so don’t think of them as mistakes, just learnings
Look out for my next posts which continues the journey…