Fast forward 8 months from *Episode 3*. We have both settled into our new roles, and by settled I mean I am already hating my life working for a clueless retail company (I’ve left that company now). But Mark seemed to be happy in his. It’s a week before my birthday and we decide it’s time to get back on the adoption train, full steam ahead to baby land!
I emailed our Local Authority to update them, informing them we were keen to carry on where we left off. A week later I received the reply to tell us that they are sending someone out to officially start stage one and get us booked onto the mandatory courses. A month later (after a huge house cleaning operation) we are introduced to Sally.
Unknown to us then, Sally would be the absolute star that would guide us the rest of the way through the process. Sally is a fake name FYI, due to confidentially (obvs) but I feel Sally is a happy and comforting name. We welcomed Sally into our home, bribed her with tea and biscuits and charmed her to the max. We got a real good feeling for Sally (unlike Jenny), she was calm, friendly and warming. In our first meeting with her, she guided us through the next steps of our adoption story. She completed our financial forms, this is where you present all your bank account outgoings and debts. This information is key, according to the Child Poverty Action Group it costs over 70k to provide for your child from birth up until the age of 18; if you can’t afford this, they will see in your accounts and may suggest delaying or even cancelling your application. Sally had a tour of the house whilst she was there and filled in a health and safety sheet, which seemed a bit extra requesting a fire blanket, extinguisher and plug socket covers(I really need to get some of these now!).
During the visit, Sally informed us how important it was for us to be completely open with her, and that she would be guiding us the rest of the way. And we really did! For weeks we welcomed her into our home. We could really relax with Sally, and the best thing was that she really understood us and got my sense of humour (it’s shit but I find myself really funny). We were completely honest with her, during our meetings she would probe and prod us for answers we didn’t even know about each other. I feel we really landed on our feet when we were allocated Sally, she was LGBT friendly and she seemed really invested in us as a social worker and now family friend.
Stage One is split into three sections: Registration, Checks and References and The Decision. You can skip the green sections if you don’t want the solid facts in regards to Stage One!
There is no standardised form to submit your Registration of Interest for the adoption process in England but there are some things that you can expect from each agency. You will start by agreeing on a Prospective Adopter Plan with the agency. This will set out both your own and the agency’s responsibilities and expectations for this stage of the process. The agency will then collect basic factual information from you, such as:
- factual information about you and your household such as names and dates of birth
- basic information on you and your partner (if you have one) – such as income, occupation and health
- the names of three referees the agency can contact, two of which must not be related to you
- basic information on the kinds of child/ren you are open to adopting
There are likely to be legal disclaimers for you to sign, including one that states you are not in the process of applying to be adopters with any other agency.
Back to School
During Stage 1 you are required to go on mandatory preparation courses with other prospective adopters. I really enjoyed these and got stuck into them, so much so, I was the class swat trying to answer all the questions before anyone else got a look in. These meetings go down on file, so in the back of my mind, it was a point-scoring session. We had great feedback from the meeting, however, we didn’t have the best feedback for them.
We felt the mandatory preparation meetings are quite negative, it was as if they were trying their best to scare us and the other prospective adopters off. Giving us all the awful stories and situations. I guess they have to check that we are really in it for the correct reasons and the entire journey, but they really seemed to ham up the negative aspects! Other than that, I really did enjoy myself and got a better understanding of the different needs of a child, why they are removed from birth parents through case studies and lastly how adoption will change our lives.
I most enjoyed the guest speakers, they were real-life people that had adopted and gave uncensored and sometimes quite brutal facts and stories. I got talking to one who had adopted 3 boys, all half-brothers. Her stories were beautiful you could say, she seemed so content and happy with her family and I pictured myself in her shoes. It really made us want to get out little family started. We also met some new friends at our meetings, some of which I still keep in touch with and compare where we are at with our adoption stages.
You will be invited to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters, which will help you explore the benefits and challenges of adoption. These may start during this stage. You will also have the opportunity to meet experienced adopters and talk to them about the realities of family life. As well as key parenting skills, the preparation groups cover the special skills adoptive parents need to care for children who may have experienced neglect and abuse. The aim is to give you the skills you will need in the future.
Pen to Paper
After these meetings, Sally was back at ours to inform us we had done well at impressing the social workers that ran the mandatory meetings, and she was confident that we would pass Stage One. We drafted our Stage One paperwork up and again and again until it was perfect. A lot of the questions are personal and you are also required to submit your references. These references have to provide a workbook on their relationship with you and how they think we would be as parents. They were extremely invasive.
After some research, we opted to go with family members and close friends that have children for our references. This method worked as Sally was extremely happy with the feedback. She even called a few to verify the content and get more facts to build our case for Stage Two.
By the end of August, just a few months after recommencing our adoption journey we were ready to submit our Stage One paperwork. In such a short space of time we had attended two prospective adopters meetings, had our bank accounts scrutinised, been to the doctors for health medicals (you need to pay for these also) had numerous invasive but enjoyable meetings with Sally and filled in all excessive paperwork. The dream of us having a child was starting to become a reality! And we were getting giddy!
Your application form will include permission to take up references and to request a medical report and a criminal background check (DBS) as well as contacting your local authority. The agency will probably want three written references, two of which will need to be from non-family members. The medical report is completed by your GP then considered by the agency’s Medical Adviser, and is simply to ensure that you are fit enough to cope with the rigours of parenting. Any medical issues that arise from this report will be discussed with you, and sometimes further information will be sought. The police check is simply to confirm that you have no convictions or cautions that would prevent you from being an adoptive parent. Remember, having past convictions doesn’t necessarily exclude you, but it is important that you share anything that might come up with your adoption agency. They can then work through any potential issues with you.
Bigger House, Bigger Fam
A small detail I forgot to mention, this was all whilst trying to sell our house! Whilst working and juggling our lives around the adoption-related meetings and homework; we were also scheduling in viewings with potential house buyers and also looking for a new home for ourselves. The driving factor behind us wanting to move house was purely for our future family. The house we were in (although accepted by our social worker as a suitable house) wasn’t perfect for us. When picturing our future we saw two children together, the house we were in only had one extra room and it wasn’t the most spacious of houses. We literally struggled to throw our pug around inside, nevermind a baby.
So in September 2016 we sold our house and purchased a 3 bedroom house 15 miles away! Sally popped around before we moved out, to congratulate us on passing Stage One (YAY) and to get an update on the moving situation and how it would work in regards to commencing Stage Two. It was a unanimous decision that we would start it in January 2017.
Based on the information gathered during this period, the agency will make a decision on whether you can continue to Stage Two.
If the agency decides that you are unsuitable to adopt at the end of Stage One they must provide in writing a clear explanation of the reasons why. Should you wish to complain about this decision you can make a complaint using their local complaints procedure.
You can choose, if you wish, to take a break of no longer than six months between Stage One and Stage Two of the process. Sometimes an adoption agency may recommend a break, to give time to resolve any housing, employment or other issues that may arise.
There is a comment section below for if you want any more information on Stage One of the adoption process, I am more than willing to help out!