Thankfully Tom and I are over and done with the approval process so this seemed a good time for me to reflect on the last nine months.
I’ll start with the positives…
From the moment we told our family and friends of our intention to adopt they have been more supportive and caring than we could ever have hoped for. Even aunts & cousins I haven’t seen for years had heard about it from my mum and were truly excited for us. All of this has really helped keep us going when it was feeling stressful. On the downside, at times when nothing much has happened (see below) it’s been a nightmare fielding the expectations of so many people – especially whilst trying to do the same with our own hopes and expectations.
We have the best social worker in the land. Despite making me cry at our first meeting, Tom and I have both grown to respect and cherish Denise and all the hard work she does for us. She’s clearly been there and seen it all and really knows her stuff. What’s extra lovely is I think she feels the same about us. At a meeting last week when we read a child’s report, she had really questioned the child’s social worker to find out everything she could as she felt ‘protective of us’ which almost made me cry again - though this time in a good way.
It’s no surprise that a fabulous social worker would work for a brilliant agency. There have been some ups and downs along the way but on the whole they have been great. Our training days were particularly good and we both feel that they have given us a solid grounding from which to work. We’ve also had sibling training, online safety training, and the promise of post-adoption training too. From our first prep days, we made friends with some other prospective adopters and we’ve enjoyed a few drunken nights together whilst we all wait for our children to join us (not literally, obviously). We’ve always been prepared for what’s coming next in the process and this has helped us enormously.
Of course, as with anything, there are things that are not quite so good…
Denise is actually our second social worker. We were introduced to Lorraine at our agency's office and I immediately took a dislike to her. I don’t know why – I just did. But I thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt and see how things go. At the end of our first meeting at our house, I decided she might be OK but then she told us she was leaving the agency and we were going to be assigned a new social worker. I was so annoyed at wasting a whole afternoon that would have to be done again with our new social worker. It obviously turned out well but at the time I was not happy and it made me question whether we’d made the right decision about the agency.
By far the most irritating thing about the approval process is quite how long it takes. At the beginning, we’re told that Stage One will only take two months and Stage Two up to four. Whereas in actual fact while you wait for CBS and medical reports to be completed, Stage One can go on for what feels like forever (in our case it was just over four months). Denise has clearly been through these delays before as she knew exactly which forms we should sign with dates set in the past and future (very rarely on the actual day we were signing) in order for the statutory ‘timeline’ to work. If this happens over and again (which it does) why not just tell us Stage One is longer (in order to help manage our expectations) or allow us to progress onto Stage Two if all you're waiting for is a piece of paper to arrive?
But I should point out that I’m aware how lucky we are to have had such a good process. I know of people who have really not gelled with their social worker, whose social workers have repeatedly changed, whose agency is not up to scratch, or who have stayed in Stage One for months and months.
So if you’re about to start the approval process here are my top tips to keep you sane…
How was the approval process for you? What tips would you offer to someone starting the process?
I suspect this week’s #WASO theme was intended for bloggers with the six week school summer holiday stretched out ahead of them. But it got me thinking about what has happened over the last six weeks and what may, or may not, happen in the next six…
The last six weeks have been tumultuous to say the least. There was obviously the Brexit result, which was a shock whichever way you voted. There’s been the political upheaval that ensued, including Labour MPs once again trying to oust Jeremy Corbin as party leader and the arrival of only our second female Prime Minister. There have also been atrocious terror attacks in the US, Iraq, Turkey, France and Germany, that make you wonder what kind of world we’ll be bringing our children up in. Even at the lighter end of the spectrum, the Euro matches in France brought little but misery (except for the fantastic Welsh display), with only Andy Murray’s efforts at Wimbledon introducing a shade of joy to proceedings.
In terms of work, I completed a huge eight-month project with the RSC that’s seen me working with children all over the UK and has been an absolute joy to work on; I started and finished a smaller project of my won that has been way more stressful but also very rewarding; and I’ve started the process of winding down my work commitments in readiness for fatherhood – eek!
I’ve ticked a few things off my #preadoptionbucketlist including an amazing afternoon at the Crystal Maze, a stunning lunch at The Pig in Brockenhurst, and as it was Tom’s birthday a few weeks ago, a delicious Champagne afternoon tea near where we live.
And most importantly, to us at least, we went to Panel and were approved to adopt – hurrah! You can read all about it here.
Today we’re in the New Forest and enjoying doing absolutely nothing. Over the last few days we’ve had lovely dinners, boozy lunches, and long relaxing breakfasts – not that I’m obsessed with food or anything. After I post this, I might go for a walk after breakfast (possible), have a nap after lunch (likely) and a G&T before dinner (definitely). If I’m feeling active I might go for a bike ride but let’s not be silly about things. And while this holiday has definitely been about us enjoying time together before the children arrive, we've continually talked about how they might enjoy a section of a bike-ride we've completed or a paddle in a stream we passed.
So coming up in the next six weeks I have work trips to Edinburgh and Oxford, an annual family camping trip (which again I can't wait to introduce our children to when they're ready), a weekend away in Berlin with Tom (another tick off our #preadoptionbucketlist), and I will be about to start what will (possibly) be my last big work project before the kids arrive.
But the thing that will most be on our minds is finding the children that will make our family. Since panel, we’ve scoured Link Maker and passed profiles we thought might be good matches on to Denise, our social worker, only to realise they are already matched or not quite right for us (or we them). And then, out of the blue, a social worker contacted Denise with a profile of two very cute children. We’re meeting their social worker in two weeks, which is wonderful, terrifying and suddenly very real. So in reality, the next six weeks will mostly be us waiting for emails and phone calls, reading and digesting tonnes of documents and reports, and desperately trying to contain our excitement. We know we’re a long way off and so much can go wrong but these are indeed exciting times.
And who knows, in six weeks’ time we may have a new leader of the Labour party, but I suspect we could be matched and well into parenthood before that happens…
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...