We had been asked by Tanya and Gloria, the children’s social workers, if we would consider meeting with Lauren, their birth mum. Having already discussed this with Denise, our social worker, we knew it would be in the children’s best interest, and actually of all of ours, so we immediately said yes.
It was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life.
Lauren was tiny and clearly devastated by what was happening. She was wearing a lovely dress and a necklace and had clearly made an effort in how she looked – I suppose this image is how we’ll describe her to the children in the future.
We asked questions of each other. Ours were about the children’s past – where their names came from, their birth stories, and any special stories from their early years. It was great hearing all this as it would enable us to give them a much clearer idea of their past.
Lauren asked us about how we, as two men, would look after BG’s needs, what kind of house we lived in, the contact arrangements, and how we’d look after the children in general. We were able, with the social workers’ help, to reassure her that we would love them and look after them.
Throughout the meeting she kept saying thank you which must have been an awful thing for her to have to say, but it felt like she had begun to make some peace with what was happening – I hope so.
We promised to send her letters each year and ensured her that we wouldn’t let the children forget her or, as she was worried about, hate her.
Lauren has promised to keep up with the contact arrangements and has said she’s going to pass on the children’s scan photos, early photographs, and other mementos from their time with her, which will be amazing for the children.
The meeting was over in about twenty minutes and after a lot of tears from everyone we had our picture taken with Lauren for the life story book, had a big hug and said goodbye.
I came away from the meeting knowing that Lauren loved her children more than anything in the world – but unfortunately she was unable to look after them in a safe, nurturing and appropriate way. Seeing that love with my own eyes and being able to tell that to the children in the future will hopefully be of huge benefit for them.
I can’t imagine the pain Lauren was in when we left her behind with the social workers, but I hope that meeting us has given her some solace knowing that the children will grow up in a loving, safe and secure home.
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?
We’ve had a couple of second meetings recently. The first was when Tom and I met up with a couple of people from our Stage One preparation day for a drink. It was a really nice evening and was great to share our experiences of the process so far. Interestingly, we’re all at very different places with one being approved to adopt, another waiting for DBS certificates to be able to finish Stage One (if I felt the process was taking a long time, I can’t imagine how frustrated they must be feeling), and us in Stage Two. At the end of the evening (and after more bottles of wine than is sensible midweek) we made tentative plans to meet again in a few months. It felt like the start of our very own ‘NCT’ group.
Our second second meeting was with Denise, our social worker. After the last session I was prepared for anything and everything but fortunately that wasn’t necessary. The meeting was at the agency’s offices which I thought would be a bit grim but were actually very relaxed – it turns out Denise makes a great cup of tea which always helps (although she was a bit slow in offering the large box of biscuits that sat between us).
Denise, once again, kicked off the session by reminding us of the types of children we’re likely to be matched with and asked if we were ready for the challenges they might bring. Just like last time we assured her we were. I suspect this is going to be a regular exchange between us. We then spent some time looking at the types of children that are waiting to be placed in recent editions of the Adoption UK magazine.
This was a really useful exercise as it helped focus Tom and my thoughts on the types of children we feel we could offer a home to. As we’re committed to adopting a sibling group we don’t think it appropriate for us to take on a child with severe physical disabilities, which would mean our focus would naturally have to be on one of the children more than the other – not an ideal situation in any sibling group let alone with an adopted pair. However, we did think that a child with some form of developmental delay would be something we could cope with. As all our siblings have a child of each sex, it would be nice to have one of each too but gender isn’t really an issue for us. All of this is very fluid and will change as we go through the process but it’s good to be having the discussion.
We re-visited the eco-map but today looked at the people we offered support to and how they might cope when we were suddenly the parents to two children. This was interesting to think about as most of the people in our support network are either immediate family or our friends (most of whom have children themselves) and so the support has always been reciprocal and hopefully will continue to be so.
Tom and I mentioned that we’d met some of our prep group the night before and Denise was really pleased about this. We all agreed that they would be potential support for us (and vice versa) in the future. It turns out Denise knew I’d organised the contact list through speaking to the social workers that ran our prep days. I wonder what else she’s been told…
The conversation that took up most of the session was about stressful situations and how we deal with them. For me the big one is my mum’s mental health issues, which came up in the first session with Denise.
My mum’s periods of depression are sporadic, with her thankfully having far more ups than downs. In fact it’s so well managed nowadays, through a combination of medication, self-care, and counselling, that it’s a shock when it reappears. It is sometimes possible to predict when it’s coming though - the main crunch time being New Year’s Eve which is emotional for many people, but it’s also the night she finally escaped her life in Ireland and arrived in the UK, and it’s also the night (26 years later) she found out that I was gay.
Denise was interested in how I was affected by this and how I dealt with it. If anything I would say it’s made me a stronger person and far more in touch with my feelings (not in a new age hippie way). From the age of 11, when my mum’s illness was at its worst, I had to act as carer from when I got home from school until my dad came home from work. This meant cleaning, shopping, cooking – all things that I can manage very well now and actually are skills that all children should have. Thankfully, I also had my older brothers (who by this point had moved out) who supported me and made sure I was OK. There were also some great friends of my mum’s who were there for us and to whom I will be eternally grateful.
Nowadays, it’s Tom, my brothers and my friends that I turn when I need support - usually it’s just a frustrated rant that gets everything off my chest. When things are really bad with my mum it usually falls to my older brother who lives the closest to support and help her. But we all chip in when we can.
I’ve witnessed first-hand what bottling up feelings and emotions can do to a person, and the devastation caused when these feelings are released, so I’ve always been able to talk about my emotions, share my thoughts (this blog is testament to that), and if I ever feel a bit down I acknowledge those feelings and respond to them.
Throughout this conversation, Denise was frantically scribbling notes and at the end she summed up an hour’s worth of talking into one succinct sentence – “I get from what you’re saying is that you don’t feel responsible for your mum, but you love, care and look after her as any son would do”. I was amazed. Despite Denise’s slightly shambolic approach to paperwork, she picked up on tiny details from our conversation and understood my relationship with my mum completely. And phrasing it that way that was a revelation. It felt liberating to hear it said out loud in such a manner. And exhausting. But at least I didn’t cry this time.
We finished up with Denise giving us some homework. We have a piece of writing about the area we live in to complete, a couple of topics from the session to think about further, some more books to read (how there can still be books on adoption we haven’t read yet is beyond me), and we have to take a picture of us both that makes us look like a pair of dads.
All in all, two really positive meetings. I’m already looking forward to the next ones…
Today I revisit a blog I originally posted back in November when I was writing my family tree. Now we’ve started Stage Two I thought I would re-examine the cracks in my extended family in light of conversations with Denise, our social worker.
I come from a large family and I was struggling to fit everyone on to my family tree. And that was without including my sister – or half-sister to be exact. And, I suppose if we’re going to be exact, I should also call my brothers “my half-brothers” – a title that I would never dream of using when introducing them to anyone or generally talking about them.
I’m the only child of my parents’ marriage. My three brothers are from my mum’s first marriage and I grew up with them in the same house after my mum left her first husband and moved in with my dad. It must have been difficult for everyone but my parents and my brothers’ dad dealt with it brilliantly. There were occasional issues between my older brothers and my dad but they got through it, and my nieces and nephews call my dad “Granddad” without any thought to whose blood is in whom. We are a family. End of.
This is all in stark contrast to the relationship I have with my sister. There is a 22 year gap between my parents and as a consequence my mum is only a few years older than my sister. I appreciate this must have been difficult for her at the time, but when I was born she was a woman in her late twenties and a few years later would be a mother herself. Yet it took her until I was nearly 30 before she would even entertain the idea of acknowledging my existence.
About six years ago my dad became ill (he’s fine now) and he asked for us all to meet up. So my Mum and Dad, my sister and her husband, and Tom and I all met for dinner. It was fine (if not very strange) and we meet up now and again at my parents’ house but we don’t call each other or see each other outside of these meetings.
I know my dad would like us to have a similar relationship to the one I have with my brothers. But the fact that she’s more of my parents’ generation than my own, that she ignored me for 30 years, and that she has continually rebuffed any efforts I’ve made with her mean, for me at least, that the opportunity has passed. Plus, I’ve always felt like I was somehow betraying my brothers by having a relationship with her – I know this is completely irrational, and when I’ve said this to them they’ve always said they would support me in any decision I make, but I can’t shake that feeling.
I was originally worried about how this broken relationship would appear to Denise. Would she see it as a weakness in our application that I hadn’t been able (or willing, if I’m honest) to mend the relationship between my sister and me? Would it matter that I’ve met her two children only once, and never their children? Would it matter, when asked who’d support my ageing dad in future my answer was immediately “my brothers” (related to him by marriage), and that Denise had to remind me I had a sister (his daughter) who might take the responsibility?
As it turns out, the answer seems to be no. What I’m starting to realise is that what I thought might be considered ‘weaknesses’ by Denise are actually bonuses. Many of the children we’re likely to adopt may also have complicated families. Being aware of how that feels and can be managed could be a crucial part of what our children need.
Today is my 14th blog about our journey to becoming adoptive dads but it’s the first one to be in ‘real-time’. From now on my updates will be in the moment. Well, kind of - they’ll be delayed by a few days while I write them, edit them, and agonise whether they’re any good. I should also point out that this blog is a long one, so get comfortable…
So we’ve finally met our new social worker, Denise, and completed our first Stage Two meeting. Denise announced that she had a form we had to fill in that would officially start Stage Two proceedings and that at the end of the meeting she would decide to either leave the form with us to complete and we’d carry on the process - or she wouldn’t. If that happened that would be the end of our adoption journey with our agency. Righto!
Denise followed this by explaining she wasn’t going to pussyfoot around any issues and would be forthright with us throughout the whole process. She looked like she meant it too.
Both these announcements were enough to make me feel like I wanted to be sick. I wasn’t but it set quite a combative tone for the rest of the meeting.
It all started off easily enough with Denise going through our family trees, chronologies and eco-map. Tom went first and explained who particular people were on his family tree, discussed his relationships with his family, explained how he’d got into his line of work, and answered a whole host of questions about education, finance (more of this later), and a lot, lot more. The type of questions that need a bit of thought but nothing too strenuous.
Then it was my turn. In a earlier post I explain my ‘complicated’ family tree and gosh did it confuse Denise. Being inside my family I don’t think it’s that difficult to understand that I have three half brothers that I grew up who, to all intents and purposes, are my brothers. And I have a half sister whom I barely know. But this had Denise’s knickers in a twist as she tried to work out the relationships between various people. She was particularly perplexed by the story of how my parents met and asked me to ask them to get clarification on it* as she was unsure of their story (which is theirs so I won’t share it here).
*I have since asked them about their first meeting and it’s as brilliant as I thought it was and I was right. Take that Denise! I realise by not telling the story it sounds sordid somehow - I promise it isn’t. It’s actually very sweet – although no daughter of mine will ever meet her future husband in that way!
What I will share is why I cried. When I was 12 my mum suffered a devastating breakdown. This was triggered by the next brother up from me (the youngest from her first marriage) moving out of our family home. However, the root cause of the depression was my mum’s experiences growing up in a children’s home in the Republic of Ireland in the 1950s which she had kept hidden from us all until this moment. All this, mixed with a large helping of Catholic guilt, has meant she’d always felt she was a bad mother to us all and had let us down (my brother moving out was the straw that broke the camel’s back). It doesn’t matter how hard we try to prove to her this isn’t the case (the happy and successful lives my three brothers and I lead did not come about by accident) she still feels like she’s failed us.
My mum is actually convinced that her depression will somehow go against us as part of the approval process but, perversely, I’ve always had the feeling the social workers I’ve spoken to have been rather pleased there’s a bit of trauma in my background that I’ve overcome.
Anyway, I felt, wrongly or rightly, that Denise was somehow attacking my mum’s honour with questions about how she met my dad, her childhood, how she interacted with my brothers and me etc. And it bothered me. And as I defended my mum’s character I felt my hand reach for Tom’s leg, my cheeks get hot, my lips tremble, and then tears streaming down my face as my voice cracked. WTF?
I rarely cry. If you don’t count weeping at weddings or sniffling whilst watching a soppy move or the latest John Lewis Christmas advert (and let’s not for the moment) Tom has only seen me properly cry about three times in nearly 13 years. This is not to say I’m emotionally devoid of feeling – I am very in touch with my feelings – I just very rarely cry.
Another moment that made me bite my tongue was when Denise was talking about my first teaching job when I left university. She seemed to suggest that the only reason I got my job was that the school I applied to was so terrible (it really was) that no one else applied for the job. She seemed baffled that I could get a job at a school having just finished university. I was livid. And confused. What was she saying about me? Did she think I was unemployable after meeting me for an hour? It turns out she had misunderstood my chronology. My job title after I left after seven years was the head of a department. She thought I’d started straight out of university as a head of department, rather than as a class teacher, which explains her confusion – if not her rudeness.
Whilst talking to her I knew I was saying the right things – in as much as I was talking slowly and thinking about what I was saying. Unlike our first meeting with a social worker back in August. However, I was too aware of my body language. Should I cross my legs, lean back, lean forward, clutch my cup to my chest or put it down? I must have look deranged as I shifted from one position to the next thinking about the signals I was sending.
The final irksome moment was our finances which for obvious reasons I’m not going to divulge on a public blog. Suffice to say Denise felt that two self-employed creative types may not have the resources to bring up two children. We assured her we did and will spend the next few weeks proving that fact. It got me thinking though – is adoption only available to the rich? That can’t be the case surely. This will be the basis of a future blog so I’ll say no more on this topic for the moment.
We eventually got to our eco-map. Denise went through each person with a fine-tooth comb and talked about how they might support us. She felt that we might need more people in our immediate locality but she was generally positive about it. Thankfully, most of Tom’s school friends live relatively close to us and it’s just a matter of adding them to the eco-map.
Throughout the whole session Denise looked like she was drowning in a sea of paperwork. I had to stop myself from going to my desk to get her a stapler and putting her files in order. We knew from the couple of phone calls with her that was probably scatty but this really took the biscuit. For someone who is as freakishly organised as I am she is possibly my worst nightmare. Anyway, I’ve already decided that when this is all over I am going to buy her a stapler to say thank you.
We finished up by having a walk around the house where we talked more like people getting to know one another. She asked us about the books on our shelves, pictures on walls, where our bathroom tiles came from, and whether we had a gardener (I’ll admit it - we do). I’m pleased we did this as I think it showed her a bit more of who we are and equally who she was. I really wish we’d done this first as I think it would have put us all at ease and put her questions into a better framework.
Before Denise left she thankfully handed over the Stage Two application form (HURRAH!) and we set some dates for the following meetings plus a provisional date for our panel (AGHHH!).
When she did leave, Tom and I had a spot of lunch and talked through everything that had just happened. We both felt drained and poor Tom had to go to his first volunteering session at the local primary school. I meanwhile went for a long run to clear my head. When we both got back we opened a bottle of wine and talked some more.
So we’ve finally met our new social worker and it only took three and a quarter hours for us to decide that we like her. In that time I went from disliking her intensely, crying in front of her, drinking a lot of coffee, liking her, disliking her again, and finally making up with her. By the time she left I was exhausted but I genuinely feel like she is someone who is on our side and is going to fight our corner every step of the way. You can’t really ask for more…
NB. She phoned the next day to check I was OK – nice!
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…
So we are now in stage one and the first month feels like there’s nothing for us to do. During stage one the agency have to carry out a number of statutory checks. These include…
…four referees (two from each of us) had to be named in the registration of interest form (ROI) who could talk to the agency about the type of people we are and their experience of us with children. I chose Matthew, one of my brothers, and my best friend Claire. Tom chose his sister, Dianne, and his best friend Charlie. Their first job is to complete a questionnaire about us and then talk to our social worker on the phone.
…a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check which replaced the old CRB a few years ago. As I work with young people on a fairly regular basis I have completed many of these forms and so there wasn’t really a concern about it. Tom and I had contacted one of the administrators at the agency to hand in our completed forms and show our proof of identity. Unfortunately we went to the agency’s satellite office rather than the head office! Thankfully, Lorraine, our social worker, was there and was able to take all the information they needed. It was great to meet her, albeit very briefly, as it meant we could get dates in the diary for our first home visit. At the time of writing we should have had the DBS back by now but have been informed there is an eight week delay which means we’ll be stuck in Stage One until the end of January!
…and a full medical check to make sure that we’re fit and healthy enough to be parents. We booked in to see our doctor and filled out quite an extensive form. I decided to look on the medical as an MOT which I’m rather glad to say we both passed with flying colours. I need to lose a few pounds but I knew that. I was also very pleased to say that instead of the £72 fee we were told to expect we were only charged £24!
Whilst we were waiting for all these people to write (hopefully) nice things about us, we could do nothing but wait until the home visit and our two preparation days.
Now I’m not one for sitting around and twiddling my thumbs so I decided to complete the family tree that’s part of the stage one process. The agency had outlined very specific rules for doing this which I followed to the letter – even though they insisted it be written in a word document!!! However, as I mentioned in my first post, I come from a large family and I was struggling to fit everyone on. There was also the question of my sister – or half-sister to be exact. And, I suppose if we’re going to be exact, I should also call my brothers my half-brothers – a title that I would never dream of using when introducing them to anyone or generally talking about them.
I’m the only child of my parents' marriage. My three brothers are from my mum’s first marriage and I grew up with them in the same house after my mum left her first husband and moved in with my dad. It must have been difficult for everyone but my parents and my brothers’ dad dealt with it brilliantly. When my brothers would visit their dad at the weekends I would sometimes go with them. My brothers’ Nan (my mum’s ex-mother-in-law) was my Nan too, and I would visit her all the time. Considering this was the early-eighties it was all very well handled. There were occasional issues between my older brothers and my dad through their adolescent and early adulthood years but they got through it and my nieces and nephews call my dad Granddad without any thought to whose blood is in who. We are a family. End of.
This is all in stark contrast to the relationship I have with my sister. There is a 22 year gap between my parents (no she wasn’t his secretary) and as a consequence my mum is only a few years older than my sister. Again I appreciate this must have been difficult for her at the time, but when I was born she was a woman in her late twenties and a few years later would be a mother herself. Yet it took her until I was nearly 30 before she would even entertain the idea of acknowledging I existed. I did meet her once at my uncle’s funeral but she didn’t want to talk then. That remains until this day the only occasion I met my two nephews who have since gone on to have two children themselves (I have to say I think I’m too young to be a grand-uncle!). I appreciate this is all very easy for me to say, happily living with my parents, but 30 years is a long time. And I suspect that by ignoring me, my sister was somehow getting back at my dad, whom she remained in contact with throughout.
Anyhow, about six years ago my dad became ill (he’s fine now) and he asked for us all to meet up. My Mum and Dad, my sister and her husband, and Tom and I all met for dinner - it was fine (if not very strange) and we meet up now and again at my parents’ house but we don’t call each other or see each other outside of these meetings.
But it got me thinking about how I explain this part of my family to Lorraine. Why hasn’t there been a better reconciliation? Why haven’t I engaged with my nephews and their families? Does it matter? What would happen if I simply scrubbed that line out of my family tree? I won’t do that but I’ve thought about it. I suppose it’s something for Lorraine and me to discuss in the future. Because these answers are going to be so important when our future children start thinking about and asking questions about their birth families. And I need to be able to help them with their answers.
In contrast, Tom’s family tree took us all of about three minutes and looks much neater than mine.
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...