For as long as Tom and I have been talking about adopting, we have wanted to adopt a sibling group. I’d like to say that this was a truly altruistic decision but we came to it as we’d been told we were more likely to get younger children if we took on siblings. As the months passed on, we kept being told how much more difficult siblings would be to manage, and that we were highly unlikely to get young children, but oddly our decision didn’t change.
Tom and I both have older siblings and I think, deep down, we knew that we wanted our children to have the same bond and connection with a brother or sister as we do.
As well as lots of homework for Stage One, our old social worker, Lorraine, also suggested we attend a preparation meeting specifically aimed at adopters who wanted to adopt a sibling group. So just before Christmas, Tom and I joined two other couples for a meeting at the agency’s head office to find out about more about it.
The session was led by Brenda, a senior social worker at our agency. She was great – down to earth, didn’t speak in a patronising tone, and really knew her stuff. The first thing we were told is that having two children is way more than double the work.
We were also given a whole new list of books. Those of you who have read previous posts will know this was handy as we’d just finished the last of the books on the previous list from the agency and needed something else to read. What was interesting was that these books weren’t necessarily linked to adoption but were more about parenting in general, and parenting siblings in particular.
We spent the evening working through numerous case studies of adopted siblings. We discussed different behaviours in siblings and potentially how to deal with them, what to look for in the children’s profiles when it comes to the matching process, and strategies for ensuring each child feels equally loved and looked after.
However the main thing we took away from the session was understanding how two children in the same family can have had very different experiences with their birth parents and, as such, may need very different styles of parenting.
Tom and I have spent a long time adapting, in our heads at least, to the idea of therapeutic parenting our future children. And now we have to find different parenting styles for each child. It all makes perfect sense of course but is another shift in the way we think we might parent our children — and another shift from how our friends and families parent theirs. Most of them find the idea of therapeutic parenting slightly odd and pride themselves on parenting their children in a more conventional way.
Nevertheless, all in all it was a really informative session that gave us lots to think about and we took loads of notes but, as always, the proof will be in the actual parenting.
As we’ve come to expect from any social worker who’s talking about adoption, it felt as if Brenda spent a large part of the evening trying to dissuade us all from adopting. And, as always, it didn’t work. In fact as we walked away from the meeting and headed toward a glass of wine, Tom and I were even more committed to creating our family of four.
Tom and I have been thinking a lot about names recently. As a gay couple who are adopting there are no traditional conventions to follow when it comes to choosing names – either ours or the children’s.
At the first home visit Lorraine, our social worker who has since left the agency, gave us some homework to complete. This included writing a family tree and a life chronology for each of us, an Eco-map, and a list of local amenities that will be useful when we have children.
I completed the family trees months ago while I was waiting for Stage One to get started. You can read more about that in an earlier blog.
The life chronology is a list of all the major events in our lives. We had to include where we’ve lived, where we went to school, where we’ve worked, who we’ve been in relationships with, and anything else we could think of that would have an impact on who we might be as a parent. It was like writing a really detailed and overly personalised CV. The chronology is used by the social worker as a basis for the questions in the Stage Two interviews. I know some people would feel strange sharing so much information about themselves with a complete stranger but I’ve never had an issue with talking about how I feel or ‘who I am’ so I rather enjoyed the process of thinking about the big events in my life.
The Eco-map is basically a spider-gram that encourages us to think about who we will rely on, both practically and emotionally, when we’re parents. Mostly it was really obvious. Claire, my best friend, who lives about 15 minutes away, is clearly going to be a big part of all our lives and will be on hand with a lasagne should we find ourselves unable to cook*. Our parents, who are older and live a fair distance away, won’t be around for the day-to-day stuff but will always be on the other end of the phone for advice and guidance.
* For some reason, practically every social worker I have spoken to has referred to us needing a friend who will make us lasagne in times of crisis. Oddly enough, Claire and her family have been staying with us for a few days recently while a burst water main is repaired at their house. She offered to make dinner one night and guess what we had – that’s right, lasagne! I knew we were in safe hands.
What was really interesting were the people we didn’t include and some that we did. I’m not going to write who wasn’t included in case they read it here, but the surprise additions were two of our neighbours, a pair of widows in their 70s with a penchant for a bowl of crisps and a strong G&T, whom we met just over a year ago. After spending a couple of really nice evenings with them and talking about the adoption, we honestly think that they’ll be an enormous emotional support and fount of knowledge in the years to come.
Lorraine pointed out that often the people you expect to be there for you aren’t always the ones who are able to do so and vice versa – we shall wait and see.
When we were looking for the new house we were searching with a family in mind. As a result, I think our list of local amenities is strong - the schools are good, there are plenty of parks and open spaces, the local authority have good play groups and a library service that is thriving, the doctors' surgery is great, we’re close to the Thames and other places of interest, and we have everything we could ever think of to give our children the best possible start in life.
Lorraine had suggested we start looking at schools in the area so we can make some potential choices when the need arises. I contacted three of the local primary schools and made arrangements to visit one of them. I had missed the open days for the other two – though one of which put me in touch with the SENCO for a chat, and I’ll keep in touch with them. The school I did go to was amazing! I had tonnes of questions based mainly on what I had read and heard about from other people. The deputy head talked me through their behaviour policies, how they distribute the pupil premium, and told me that there were other adopted children in the school who were being supported and doing very well. I know the ‘best’ school might not be the right school for our children and lots more research will need to be done but for now I know where I’d like to go if I were a child.
Over the course of a month or two, we pulled together all the information and thankfully we now have someone to send it to – a new social worker. Hurrah! We’ve spoken to Denise a couple of times on the phone and will be meeting her to hopefully start Stage Two next month. I’ll tell you all about that when, and if, it happens.
It feels like a long time since my last blog and this one. A manic work schedule, Christmas, norovirus, and New Year (pretty much in that order) have kept me away from my laptop. All that, coupled with a lull in Stage One adoption proceedings, has meant that there’s been little to write about that you’d want to read – trust me you don’t want to hear about our norovirus experience!
However, it has given me a chance to look back on 2015 and to look forward to what’s hopefully going to happen in 2016.
So, 2015… All in all it’s been a really good one. We’ve both been busy with work (for two freelancers that’s nothing short of a miracle), we got the house refurbished and decorated (whilst managing to agree on colours, fabrics and furnishings without too many arguments), it being the year of 40ths (and a surprise wedding) we’ve actually seen way more of our friends this year than we have for ages which has been brilliant, our families are all well and healthy, and we’re happy. Not a bad year in anyone’s book.
All year, at one event or another, I couldn’t help but think that the “next time we do this we might have our children”. Particularly around Christmas and New Year, it’s been difficult not to think about how different life will be this time next year. As a result, Tom and I went away to a posh hotel for Christmas by ourselves telling our families “this might be our last chance to do it” (we had an amazing time and I’m gutted I never agreed to do it sooner), our families have talked about the extra seats we’ll need for Christmas lunch next year (the venue of which has already been agreed upon!), and I’m preparing myself for the fact that Christmas may have to be scaled back from the madness I usually insist on!
So what’s in store for 2016? In a perfect world Tom and I will sail through Stage Two, matching will be a breeze, and we’ll be joined by our children at some point around September. Oh, and World Peace will be achieved by Easter. In reality we’re both very much aware that the hard work starts now as Stage Two hopefully begins very soon alongside so much else to think about…
Work for me is going to be interesting as I’ve elected to take at least the first year off to look after the children. So far I’ve taken on work up until June. I’ll need work beyond that but for how long? I don’t want to take on a project and then have to back out at the last minute and piss off future employers.
The two spare rooms that Tom and I are happily occupying at the moment will have to be redecorated and furnished for two children rather than being used as our office/den/music room/play room (delete as appropriate). This also means that Tom will either have to find somewhere to work outside the house or find a way of working through the noise of two children (and me).
Our friends and family have been getting increasingly excited about the arrival of the children. Quite how they’re going to cope for the rest of the year is going to be interesting and that hasn’t taken into account how excited Tom and I are. I’ve already found myself having to manage people’s expectations about adoption. Like me, before I read books and attended the training days, most people assume bringing up our children will be same as how they bring up theirs. That our children’s behaviours will be the same as their children. Hopefully it won’t be too different but it’s better to start sowing the seeds now just how different it might all potentially be. In fact we gave both our parents a copy of Related by Adoption, by Hedi Argent, as part of their Christmas presents in an effort to make their expectations more realistic.
As with every New Year we’re full of hope for what’s in our future. Fingers crossed that it involves the patter of little feet…
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...