So after our second ‘successful’ panel, we were ushered into a tiny airless (and windowless) room to discuss the introduction plan. This meeting consisted of (a tired) me, the (very) lovely S, our social worker, the children’s social worker, a couple of representatives from the local authority children services and the foster mother. It was a little like musical chairs and I really though we would need to rack and stack ourselves, but we just managed to squeeze everyone in.
This get together is designed to flesh out the introduction fortnight where we meet the children and start our life together – so quite an important step (especially as we were still awaiting final confirmation that we were approved). You can imagine we were still reeling from the initial ‘yes’ and so were probably not at our most useful. The draft plan that we were going to discuss had only been sent through the previous evening so we had not had much of a chance to digest the details. For us, this was not really an issue (as we had no idea about what to expect, and were happy to be led by the experts….(I mean my God we had just got the yes ….I hate to be repetitive but that was about all my brain could process). However, the short amount of time for the foster mum was more of an issue, as she was looking after 3 house-bound children and had not had a chance to review the plans (but of course she was expected to juggle her life around this plan but was a little put out not have enough time to have a say). This was not ideal as it was not always appropriate for the kids and meant the atmosphere was a little tense (remember we were in a small crowded hot room!), so here we were again in the middle of some politics (so we kept our heads down again :-)).
MY TIP – When you get the schedule through, have a review and make sure it makes sense and the dates work, but do not stress the details, as they will change (but do point out anything that does not work or you do not understand). This is where you will need to be flexible but don’t sweat it too much, just clear the time and go with the flow.
We also got to meet the foster mum for an extended time (it was only a brief meeting at the life appreciation day). This is is the person that has been shaping, developing and generally helping our children grow and recover from their slow start, so we were really excited to have a chance to see her up close and personal. It was a shame about the politics making everyone a little testy, but listening to her talk about the children (and her no nonsense approach), meant we were growing to like her and even better, totally respect her :-).
For us (ok, for the experts), the main area of contention was the amount of time each day they expected us to take the children out. The introduction plan seemed to have been developed with an older child in mind, (as you may remember if you have been reading carefully, the second child was a year younger than first thought), so we had to re-arrange some of the days to allow some time to rest (as I believe tired toddlers may, on very very very rare occasions become a bit testy 🙂 ) This is so important as you are just meeting and building rapport, there is no point in rushing it and making it hard than it needs to be.
Finally we managed to flesh out a 2 week plan for introduction and everyone was happy (as happy as we could be in that hot room – I mentioned it was hot right?). We thought that was it, but before we could escape that room, a large pile of forms came out for us to review and sign (I told you you will never get away from forms lol). We duly signed our life away, on forms ranging from our acknowledgment that we would never smack the kids (I thought that was a given!) to the ‘blind letter’ agreement (more on that later).
MY TIP – do not feel afraid to ask any questions and keep your wrist limber for the form signing
Now, it was the time to meet our children!!!!! (sort of)
We had arranged what they call a bump into meeting after the panel, which is where we go to a place where the children are to ‘observe them’ (but not interact – I know…. it is really tough). This could be in a park or at a play ground, but for us it was in the community center where we had the panel (aren’t we classy??.).
The children had been told they were there to swap over car seats with the foster mum’s older daughter, so they did not have a clue.
There was a little confusion where we thought we were going to see them in the car park, and the foster mum thought we were going to meet in the canteen. So we ended up meeting in the corridor (classy us again). So there we were, standing in the corridor as the foster mum walked past with our 2 kids. She was very helpful and stopped to show them some pictures, so we got to see them for a few minutes.
And yes, this was as strange as it sounds. All standing in a corridor, us at one end, them half way down looking at some pictures and me looking over the the shoulder of our social worker trying not to look like I am looking, while of course looking avidly like a complete and utter stalker!
All I can say was it was incredibly emotional to actually see them in the flesh, as at the back of my mind, I only knew them through photos and reports (so to see that they are actually real children who walk and talk is really special). S was also equally delighted and emotional to see them (and even had a bonus mummy pride moment when the little boy fell over, but did not cry (clumsy? but brave 🙂 – just like Daddy (sort of 🙂 ) It was amazing….they were real and so so so small, sounds dumb but they were smaller than we expected like absolutely tiny….yeah very dumb 🙂
MY TIP – If you get an option for a bump into meeting, take it, even if it sounds weird and forced (it is). Seeing them for the first time kind of makes up for all the form filling and months of training and helps cement in your mind that these children are not just the sum of their neglect. You will be entranced and scared, over-awed and petrified, in love and bewildered …. but mostly so very excited – welcome to the long road that is the wonderful world of caring for your adopted children 🙂