Everyone has told us how important the relationship between you and your social worker is. So I really wanted to like Lorraine, our assigned SW from the agency, and hoped she’d be the type of person that I could connect with and open up to during Stage Two.
Unfortunately we didn’t get off to the greatest start. We’d very briefly met Lorraine when we went to get our DBS forms checked and I left that meeting unsure of how I would get on with her. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was but there was something that I didn’t gel with. She also seemed unsure of which boxes to fill in on the DBS and I worried that she was going to fill it out incorrectly.
The first email she sent us was addressed to Mark & Claire. I understand that the email is a standard one that gets sent out to everyone but surely a quick scan would have seen that glaring error. The email also informed us that she only worked three days a week which again concerned me. What if we needed support on a day she wasn’t in? What if a judge needed a document on a day she wasn’t working?
On the day we arranged for her to come to the house to talk through stage one I had a thorough clean of the house and then, under advice from a friend, slightly messed it up again so we didn’t look like we’d be upset by mess when children arrive.
Thankfully, despite all my misgivings, she’s lovely. She had a really nice manner about her that didn’t seem apparent when we first met. She talked us through the process again, explained about the paperwork we had to prepare for Stage One, asked us a few basic questions but nothing too intrusive, and explained about Stage Two. Brilliantly she also signed us up to a meeting specifically for adoptive parents who want to adopt a sibling group.
We then had a wander around the house carrying out the health and safety check. Lots of my friends are often amazed at the hoops adopters have to jump through before being approved and this was one of the ones they were most amazed at. I have to admit that I agree on this one. Our house doesn’t have any children in it but I felt like I had to justify why there weren’t any cupboard locks etc. Obviously when we are approved we can get the house ready for every H&S possibility but it all felt a bit premature. Thankfully, we did have the foresight, when we had the house refurbished at the start of the year, to install locks on the bathroom doors that can be opened from the outside. Anyway, we have a very minor shopping list of things to get and sort out but nothing that can’t be organised very quickly.
So all in all a great meeting...
...until Lorraine dropped the bombshell that she was leaving the agency in three weeks and a new social worker would be taking over our case.
Over the course of two days, Tom and I attended the Stage One preparation days at the agency’s head office. Having been here before for the introductory meeting I didn’t expect to be nervous but I felt ill from the moment I woke up (at 5am!) until the moment the meeting started. Quite what I’m going to be like when we’re approaching panel I have no idea. Tom was clearly nervous too; we squabbled about the best way to get to the venue and even having a croissant and coffee didn’t calm our nerves – normally a second breakfast sorts us right out!
We were the first to arrive and were surprised to notice that there were only nine seats in the circle – two of which were already occupied by the social workers Wendy and Laura. I was expecting a much larger group and was slightly thrown by this – there would be no hiding at the back! Two other couples and a single adopter arrived one by one. We made polite small talk while we waited to get going. By this point the fact that everyone else seemed nervous too actually managed to calm me down. I had hoped there would be another gay couple so we could talk about any particular worries Tom and I had about being gay dads but this wasn’t to be today.
Wendy seemed very quiet and slightly unsure of what was coming next but Laura was on top of things and kept us moving along. During the day we discussed a number of case studies which enabled us to think about identity, attachment theory, the things children need to help them grow up securely, and therapeutic parenting.
As we were a small group, some of us had lunch together which allowed us to find out more about each other and our experiences. It was a bit strange being with such a disparate group of people who all had a common aim – to start a family.
There was a table of suggested books at the back of the room. If you read my earlier post about research you’ll know I’ve read a lot. Well, I discovered that I’d read way more books than anyone else on the course (including Tom if we’re honest) which made me feel like a swat. But it really helped to have some of the things I’d read confirmed, my doubts dispelled, and my misunderstandings clarified. Suffice to say I now have an extended reading list!
The day was really informative and very helpful. It was so good to start making contacts with people who are going through the same thing as us and sharing our worries and concerns.
Thankfully, the second week didn’t induce any nerves at all. When we arrived there was a new couple who had already completed the first Preparation Day a while back. The sessions were again based on a number of case studies, as well as examples of children who were waiting to be placed and copies of life story books. We also talked about parental contact, the prospective adopter report (PAR) and the home studies which would take place in Stage Two.
The highlight of the day was being joined by George who had adopted through our agency four years earlier. He talked frankly about his experiences and answered our numerous questions. This also gave Tom and I the chance to ask some questions about how, if at all, he thought being gay had affected his children. The answer, which I kind of expected, and desperately hoped for, was that it wasn’t an issue for them. Phew!
The final question George was asked was ‘did he have any dreams of being a parent that hadn’t been fulfilled through adopting?’. He told us how some of the ideas he had about being a parent hadn’t materialised but told us a story about his older child which had us all, including the very experienced social workers, welling up with tears of joy and hope. It was the perfect way to end the day.
Before we left, we all shared contact details and promised to get in touch. It will be really positive to have a group of people going through the same things as us that we can call upon or email so hopefully it will work out.
Both days were brilliant and dispelled any ideas we might have had that adoption was going to be an easy ride whilst also making us feel more prepared for adopting. However, I suspect all the books and training days in the world won’t ever be enough to make us fully ready until we have our children but these two days were a great place to start.
PS – Both our DBS certificates have arrived! Due to Christmas we won’t be starting Stage Two until January but at least it’s now in sight.
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...