So after getting the go ahead from the kids social workers, we had a few months wait until the next stage, which was the life appreciation day. This ‘delay’ (that is how it felt for us as impatient excited parents to be…) was filled up with more forms, Christmas, a lot of panic, some even more forms (you never escape them it seems) and a lot of questions from family members. (although we have been told ours was quite quick, it does feel an age)
The family Christmas was especially difficult for us, as we wanted to share everything, but we felt that we had to hold back on almost everything that really mattered – not only as we had to ‘safe guard’ the kids information, but also there was still a fair amount of hoops to go – so we did not want to tempt fate by getting everyone too excited.
We did talk in general terms about the children, mentioned that they have suffered neglect (but did not share any specifics) and even showed them some pictures (not on social media of course, but old fashion paper – do remember that?). It was a difficult mix of bursting to share and needing to hold back and I actually felt at times dis-honest and that I was ‘lying’ to my family as I was telling only 20% of the story.
In truth if I was to go back, I would probably have shared more selective information with them at that time, as they have been nothing but positive on our journey and it would have been a welcome release….I think I took the warnings around sharing information too much to heart and closed up shop a little.
MY TIP: I am not sure how much information is right to share….but go with your gut….and do not panic too much about sharing a few details, after all they are your family and these gorgeous new people are joining that illustrious club…. just do not broadcast to the world.
We did have a funny moment when we put the pictures up against my nieces and nephews photos on the wall and played spot the new kids, as they almost look identical…. and bless the crazy aunt but she was very confused as to why we were looking at ‘old pictures of the grandkids’….. you can try to tell them but….
We were lucky that a lot of our family had been on the friends and family course run through PACT (http://pactcharity.org/), which gave them a real understanding of some of the concerns and back grounds of adopted children in general and some of the challenges we would face. This meant we did not have to start from scratch with them and they could also see how well prepared the courses were making us (ok, we did not feel prepared, but that is just between us).
MY TIP – If you have a chance to get family or friends on a course like this, encourage them. Even bribe them (we offered lunch in a nice restaurant, which I have to admit was rather lovely). It makes a real difference to their understanding and also helps answer a lot of questions they might have before they ask you.
So the day finally arrived when we had our a ‘Life Appreciation day’. This is where the local authority invite as many of the people who have been involved with the children together to share their personal experiences of the kids.
We entered the room to be faced with photos of the kids all over the walls. Playing in a park, birthday photos, walking in the woods, playing with toys and everything in between (very lovely). It was a little overwhelming as everywhere we looked we saw them looking back at us, but at the same time it was delightful, as they looked so full of life that I could not help but smile every time I looked up. I really started to fall in love with them that day. Yes, that might sound soppy, and a little naff, but it is strange how the heart works.
Our life appreciation day included teachers, doctors, social workers and their foster mum. They all discussed what they had observed when looking after the children – from a real hands on point of view. The ‘ground level information’ was a little real but totally welcome and we found out what maked them tick, their personalities and how much they liked to smile (it was a lot :-)).
One thing we also found out was that some of the information about the children we had previously received was wrong in the CPR’s and reports (the age of one of the children was wrong!). It in fact made us have to really consider our plans about how we would look after them. It was a shock to us, how this piece of information could have been so wrong in all the reports, so S and I took a few moments to discuss the implications of the error. I am pleased that both S and I both immediately agreed, that while it would mean some quick re-calculating, and speedy ordering of different beds covers and other stuff, we both were still keen to go ahead – as we both felt our hearts were starting to melt over the children.
MY TIP – Check the information carefully and ask for confirmation on anything and everything if you feel there is confusion. It is better to ask now rather than wait for a nasty surprise later.
We left that long session a bit shell shocked (seems to be a recurring theme) but full of excitement as we now felt we had a fuller picture of the children. In fact, I described it to S as finally getting a colour picture of the children, after the reports had given us a black and white version.
So, next stage…….panel number 2….