Our Adoption Story – Episode Five
Episode 4 of Our Adoption Story concluded in Autumn 2016. We had just purchased our first home together and taken a break from the adoption process in order to get our home lives on track. This mostly involved borrowing a large amount of money from my mum, several Ikea trips, a spot of painting and decorating, a boozy day trip to Ireland and a new job for me!
Pre Stage 2
Over the Christmas period, we kept in touch with Sally; she gave us plenty of homework to complete in order to make Stage 2 go as swimmingly as possible. It wasn’t until 6 months later, in April 2017 that we re-boarded the Babyland train and saw Sally again!
For those that are contemplating adoption (or just interested), Stage Two is supposed to be a 4-month process, during which you will be assessed and a decision will be made as to whether you will be allowed to put yourself forward to adopt a child.
The homework set by Sally paid off and we had managed to get all our paperwork done prior to starting Stage 2 officially. It consisted of putting together a Pen Picture, family EcoMap and a number of online tests; It was like being back at school, we had to do a test on how to spot a radicalised child and even how to brush a childs teeth! This then enabled our social worker to get writing our PAR (Prospective Adopters Report) which is then taken to PANEL!!
*I’m hyping panel up as adoption panel is where it can all end. There were sleepless nights for us in the run-up to this day, so whenever you see my talk about the panel and I seem over the top about it, trust me it was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life!
So let’s get onto the stage two details.
In the space between Jan and April Sally put together a detailed assessment plan for us to abide by for stage 2, in this she had set out all the dates in which we agreed to meet her, stating what the meeting would be about and how long roughly it would take and who would be needing to attend.
In total there was 7 separate ‘conversation meetings’ scheduled, I’d read about these when doing research; about how cringe and intrusive they can be. So as you can tell we were a bit apprehensive about going into them. We received a formalised assessment plan in order to get us prepared for each topic. These topics ranged from our childhoods to our future child wishes and would run to a few weeks before our panel date.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we really liked Sally and it’s for this area of the adoption process that its key to have an honest, friendly relationship with your social worker; as this is where they get into all the nitty-gritty. The assessment process is designed to help the agency get a rounded picture of you and your family so seriously no questions are held back!
* This stage involved plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits; so make sure you stock your cupboards up on bourbons and hobnobs!
Pressure is also added as you have separate meetings with your social worker at this point. So make sure your stories add up and you are both in it for the right reasons as its during this time that your social worker will suss you out! Luckily Mark and I are honest, genuine, kind, caring and lovely Christian boys, who were both as keen to adopt as one another!
During this time our social worker had conversations with us about our childhoods and experiences growing up, these fell into the categories of Resilience, Support Network, Childcare Experience, and Relationship. Sally questioned us in order for us to refer to how we dealt with past experiences, how we felt about our families, some feelings not so positive; and that’s totally fine as it shapes what sort of parents we wanted to be and that’s the aim of this exercise. Some of these meetings were also individual so she could question us separately.
It felt somewhat testing at first, when in reality Sally was testing our capacity to delve deep into our own past personal experiences and discussed how we handled them, as this may well be important in the future as we raise our potential child by reflecting on things that have happened in our early years that maybe Mark and I hadn’t really discussed in depth with each other. Luckily we are pretty textbook with no irregularities or damaging experiences.
Towards the end of our assessment, when the conversation leant towards what child or children we could see ourselves raising, Sally asked us to complete a form which we named ‘The Shopping List’. This really is as bad as it sounds as you literally tick what you were willing to deal with as a potential parent.
We filled these forms in separately and were informed to take a reasonable and realistic approach. On this list, you were expected to tick in correspondence to how tolerable you were towards certain aspects, such as; if a child was sexually abused – would you be willing to take on this child? If a child has down syndrome, would you be able to take this on?
Once completed Sally compared both our tick lists and totally disregard any points that either of us was unsure of, narrowing down our criteria for our potential child or children. Again it’s extremely important to be open and honest at this point, if you aren’t able to give a certain child the life they deserve based on their needs, now is the time to make that clear.
An End In Sight!
The final meeting involved families and friends, this is an opportunity to invite those closest to you to find out more about the adoption process. It was set up like a Q&A session whereby our family can ask more about what we had been through and to ask Sally any questions they had (no matter how silly!). Luckily our families were pretty clued up, as throughout the process we had kept them in the loop. However, what we didn’t really communicate was how fast we could end up with a child. The looks on their faces said it all when Sally let it slip that we could be matched with a child within the year!
After all 7 conversation meetings were complete, along with the necessary paperwork done over Christmas, Sally was then ready to write up our PAR. She drafted this a few times and offered us the opportunity to read and edit anything we wanted, but on the whole, she did an amazing job.
From the conversation meetings she really absorbed quirky little facts and included them in the report. Such as Mark and his Grandpa making wooden swords in the garden and how close I was to my mum and how proud I was of her for raising me single-handedly. She painted a really nice picture of us (not that we aren’t nice or anything) so much so that we were really proud of the finished result.
GOING TO PANEL
We have arrived at the most daunting stage of our story PROSPECTIVE ADOPTION PANEL! So that you understand what ‘Panel’ is, here’s a brief intro; You attend panel at the end of Stage 2, By this stage our local authorities independent Adoption Panel (a bit of a mouthful) had reviewed all the information prepared by Sally and readily prepared questions for us. The adoption panel is made up of adoption experts, experienced adopters, health professionals and adult adoptees and is independent of the local authority…
There can be as little as 7 people on the panel to 15 (as there was for us), It’s their job to make a judgement on our suitability to be adoptive parents NO PRESSURE. The panel then meet to consider all the evidence presented to them and then make a recommendation back to who you are adopting through.
You can read about how panel went for us, and find out what crazy proposition our social worker had for us in Episode 6!