Regular readers of the blog will know that over the course of the last year Tom and I have been recommended a number of books to read about adoption. Back in November I did a review of the books I’d read so far so I thought I’d keep you posted on the ones I read since. I can officially say I have now read more books about adoption than I did for my entire degree (admittedly it was in drama but still!).
Books about adoption in general…
Talking About Adoption (Marjorie Morrison) – This is a really in-depth book about how best to start the ‘conversation’ about adoption with your children from a very young age. The key message is that by making adoption a talked about subject you take away its taboo status and hopefully enable your child to come to terms with what being adopted means to them.
Talking About Adoption investigates life story work, suitable language to use with children and young people of all ages, how to develop what children know about adoption as they grow older, how to talk to other adults (both family and professionals) about adoption, as well as a whole host of really useful hints and tips. It includes real-life stories, links to other books and websites, and a summing up at the end of each chapter.
Talking About Adoption is relatively new and is published by BAAF. It is one of the few books that feels like its talking to a parent of an adopted child regardless of gender or sexuality which is really refreshing. I genuinely feel more confident in how to talk about adoption and will definitely come back to it in the future. Talking about Adoption was suggested to us by Denise, our social worker.
A Guide to Attachment (John Timpson CBE) – This is a really quick read and every page has a cartoon outlining what’s being said. It doesn’t go into huge amounts of detail but covers the basics and gets the point across that children and adults who have suffered early years trauma need our, and society in general’s, support.
It’s the kind of book that we should give to every teacher, police officer, and person-in-the-street in the country to help them understand very quickly why some young people behave in the way they do. A Guide to Attachment was given to us by Tom’s aunt who works with young people with special educational needs.
Related by Adoption (Hedi Argent) – Tom and I gave this book to our parents who have passed it onto our siblings, so I thought I’d ask Tom’s sister to tell us what she thought of it…
“Related by adoption is a short handbook for grandparents and other relatives, which emphasises a caring, child-centric approach to integrating a new arrival into the family. With some genuine case studies included, it manages to help the wider family understand both the adopted child's perspective and that of family members welcoming the new child. While it focuses on grandparents in particular, it is useful in preparing all relatives and helps create a sense of anticipation.
After reading it, I found myself looking forward to the practical and emotional changes a new child or children would bring to the dynamic of my close and extended family. I was also full of admiration for my brother and brother-in-law for taking this path in life, which is not the easiest, but could indeed be the most fulfilling, way to care for children and build a family.”
It’s been a great book as it’s encouraged discussions between us and our families about adoption in a structured and informed way. Related by Adoption was suggested to us by our social worker.
You’re The Daddy We Wanted (Gavin Andres) – It was great to be able to read a book from a dad’s point of view as there are so few out there. It covers Gavin’s journey from deciding to adopt to becoming a family and is very touching. I discovered You’re The Daddy We Wanted through Gavin’s blog.
Books about adopting siblings…
Top 10 Tips to Placing Siblings (Hedi Argent) – This book is primarily aimed at social workers who are placing sibling groups. However, it’s a great read for prospective adopters too as it helps us understand the processes the social workers go through and, more importantly, the potential feelings and issues the children will be going through.
It’s a very quick read (I got through it in a couple of days) and is full of really useful information. If you’re considering adopting a sibling group this is definitely a book that’s worth reading.
Loving Each One Best (Nancy Samalin) – I found this book quite stressful to read. It’s relatively old so its focus was all about mums and how they are the primary carer. It’s also very American so some of the descriptions of events felt very alien to me as a British reader – I really wish the books were translated culturally (as well as grammatically).
There are lots of examples of issues you may find between siblings but the resolutions offered are so simplistic that I can’t imagine they’re ever useful in a real-life situation. The first few chapters mainly focus on introducing a new born into a family which for Tom and me won’t be the case but may be helpful if you’re adopting children separately.
At the end of each chapter there were top tips which were really useful and easy to go back to when and if they’re needed.
Raising Happy Brothers & Sisters (Jan Parker & Jan Stimpson) – This book has tonnes of really helpful information and tips but the lay-out is so confusing I found it difficult to stay focused on what was being said. As well as the main body of text relating to the chapter, each page is filled with quotes from parents and professionals sharing their thoughts and ideas on the subject, and sometimes a box with more in-depth information as well. It would be so much easier to read if it all flowed together more seamlessly.
Thankfully, Raising Happy Brothers & Sisters also has a really good summing up of the main points at the end of each chapter so I’ll be dipping into those in the future.
All three of these books were suggested by our agency when we attended the sibling training in November last year.
What other books have you read that you’d recommend?
Over the last month or so we’ve attended many final sessions of one thing or another before our panel date and this week was no different, as we went on our third and final preparation day.
This was a much bigger group than our first two prep days which meant there was a bigger disparity between where we all were in the adoption process. Some were right at the start of stage two with others going to panel in the next few weeks – strangely enough two other couples had the same panel date as us. I couldn’t help think of them as our competition but thankfully all three of us are looking for different types of children.
Also unlike last time, there were two other gay couples, which were the first we’d met during all our sessions at the agency. It was great to chat about their experiences and hear the answers to questions we’d been thinking about.
We were told at the start of the day that the focus would be fact-giving so we knew what to expect once panel was over. And they weren’t wrong – we were bombarded with topics that included…
The process of matching & introductions – this had all been explained to us right at the start but as it’s now an imminent possibility it was really helpful to be reminded of what to expect, get top tips on handling it all, and know what is expected of us.
Contact – we talked through the different types of contact that exist and what’s expected of us. This was spoken about in a really positive way and we both feel very strongly that contact is something we want to happen if it’s appropriate for our children.
The internet – how we need to keep children safe online. Much of this was covered in a training session I attended a few weeks ago which I shall be writing more about in a future blog.
And a general round-up of information we may need to think about.
Amazingly I didn’t come away with a huge book list so I may be able to get back to a novel or two before I’m too exhausted to read when the kids arrive.
Both social workers were great and unlike every social worker we’ve met to date were really keen on us feeling positive about what’s to come. Yes, we’re going to adopt children with trauma, and yes there may be times of complete chaos. But - and it’s a big but - we are going to have our own children, something we’ve yearned for, and there are going to be as many wonderful moments in the coming years as bad ones.
As always my social secretary side came out and I organised for us to share our email addresses so we can get in touch in the future.
We left feeling energised, positive and excited about the next few months as we hopefully go from prospective adopters to approved adopters to parents.
Most weeks, Tom and I learn something else new that we need to know as a parent, and a few weeks ago we found ourselves on a first aid course run by the British Red Cross.
I haven’t had any first aid training since I received my badge as a scout and Tom has never had any. The information was clearly still somewhere in my head as I’ve twice had to hold a nephew or godson upside-down to dislodge a stuck sweet or toy from their throats. But, as with all things, if you don’t practice something you tend to forget it, so Tom and I decided it would be a good idea to refresh our first aid knowledge.
And a good thing we did too. So much has changed in the more than two decades since I was a scout. They include:
Luckily most things have remained the same and it all came flooding back. The recovery position, how to deal with bleeds, breaks and sprains, how to stop a fever, and how to spot meningitis were all covered as well as a host of other first aid skills.
The only thing I hadn’t heard of was croup - but now, not only do I know what it is (a really bad cough), but also what it sounds like (an upset walrus) and how to deal with it (steam).
Each area of first aid was explained by an instructor before you have a go at it yourself. We then watched a short video on each exercise – some of which were very badly acted and made me want to giggle.
The first aid was specifically aimed at babies and children, but actually much of what you do for a child over two years old is the same for an adult, so we feel fully prepared for any eventuality.
The course cost us £35 each which we thought was well worth it. It can be more expensive if you go to a training centre in central London so if you can get to a different centre you could save yourself some pennies.
It was a really informative morning and definitely worth attending. We all received a booklet outlining everything we’d learnt, a pen with a pull out reminder of what to do in an emergency, a mouth guard for emergencies with strangers, and a certificate (whoop!).
For more information you can visit the Red Cross website.
Just before we went into the room I had a panic about what we’d say if they asked why we were attending. There were a lot of very pregnant women so it was clear why they were there, but in our case I wondered how people might react. As predicted, they asked and I told a room full of strangers that Tom and I were adopting and wanted some first aid training. No intakes of breath, no disapproving looks – everyone seemed to be fine about it. Then at lunch, amongst all the chat about how far gone the mums-to-be were, we were also asked lots of questions about the adoption process. People were genuinely interested and, really wonderfully, completed unfazed by two men adopting a child. It was very refreshing and made us both feel really happy.
In a previous post, I thought about all the different skills parents might need. What else would you recommend?
This week we had our final assessment meeting with Denise, our social worker. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was a bit anti-climactic.
The night before the session, Denise emailed asking us to bring a whole load of extra documents and to let us know it was going to be a tidy-up session. She wasn’t wrong. We spent the two hours jumping from one topic to the next as she made sure that any small niggles that still remained were well and truly ironed out. While all this was going on, our birth and marriage certificates, tax returns, and deeds to our house were being photocopied by the amazing office administrator.
Subjects covered (in no particular order) included…
How we’d cope with the upheaval of two children suddenly in our lives. It’s impossible to know but we talked about potential coping strategies for us both and how we would support each other.
My medical form stated that I was overweight and Denise thought this might be something that panel would pick up on. She asked me how I’d respond to that. I pointed out that I did a half-marathon earlier in the year (in under two hours, don’t you know!) and am doing a 10K in a couple of months. I’m aware that I’m not as slim as I was once was, or indeed would like to be, but I’m hardly obese. I don’t think Denise thinks it’s an issue but she now has an answer in case it comes up.
We had a long chat about how we’d talk to our children about sex, drugs and alcohol. Our answer to this was to keep ourselves informed of what’s going on in their lives, be open and honest with them, and not be judgmental about these types of issues. I think if we follow these rules for all aspects of our parenting we'll be doing OK.
We also talked a lot about our own identity and how important it is for us to be aware of who we are. Without this knowledge, we won’t be able to support our children in starting to understand their own identities.
One interesting thing here was that when Tom and I both listed all the things we think of in relation to our own identities, neither of us mentioned 'gay', 'white' or 'male'. Quite what that means, I'm not sure – perhaps that we take these aspects of our identities for granted. But it reminded us that we shouldn't take anything for granted when considering how our children might view themselves and who they are.
We went through the Adopters Referral Form that we filled out as homework. It was really useful to be able to talk about our decisions and get clarification on what everything meant.
We also confirmed that we’re happy to be considered for Fostering to Adopt – something that scares us both but that we can see has so many amazing positives for the children involved.
We finished up by going through our bank statements and proving once and for all that we have the financial means to support ourselves and our family.
Denise then dropped the bombshell that they’d like to delay our panel by two weeks due to ‘administrative considerations’. Obviously we’d rather not but it’s only two weeks so we’ve grudgingly said yes.
And that was it. It was suddenly over. We’ll meet again in three weeks to read our PAR and then four weeks later when we go to panel. The whole process has been really positive and nowhere near as intrusive as I had been led to believe – and even when it has been, it always felt like there was a good reason.
In my head, I thought the final session would feel more momentous but I suppose it’s just another tick on the long check-list in the process of creating our family.
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...