Ever since Duckling and Gosling have been in the care of the local authority their social worker has explained to them that her job is to ‘find a special family for them to live with’. On the day she told them she had found an ‘extra special family with two daddies’ to be their forever family, she also gave them a bag of goodies that we’d given her at matching panel. In the bag was a book and cuddly toy for each of the children, an audio book of the Gruffalo, and a DVD. What was special about these items was that we had made them ourselves (not the cuddly toys).
The introduction book aims to let the children know about who we are and where they are going to live when they move in with us. Each page had a large picture with a description of the room it was showing. We had great fun putting the cuddly toys into each of the pictures – my favourite is the one of the two of them playing the piano. We also made sure the children’s favourite things were on show. In one picture the rabbit was drawing a princess crown with some glitter spread all over the place, in another there was a huge bowl of fruit that the cuddly toys were tucking into. We did our books in Photoshop and then sent the files to a local copy shop who printed and bound them for us. We also got a spare copy in case they got ruined with the kids looking through them.
The cuddly toys were a rabbit and a dinosaur which we’d been told by the foster carer were the children’s favourites. Being able to actually hold the cuddlies whilst they are reading the books is supposed to help the children understand that the pictures they were seeing were real.
We had also asked the foster carer what the children’s favourite book was. I could have probably guessed as it was the Gruffalo. So Tom and I set up a mini recording studio and read the story with us doing all the voices and narration. Tom then did a bit of editing and added some music at the start and end. It was really easy to do and we were really pleased with the outcome. Thankfully, both kids loved it and we listened to it at both the foster carer’s house and in the car when we were driving with them during introductions. I have to give a huge shout out to Suddenly Mummy who shared this idea on The Adoption Social.
The DVD was a physical embodiment of the book and we hated making it. Tom and I both work in the arts and I think people expected great things from our DVD. However, we both work ‘behind the screen’ as it were and the thought of being on camera made us feel sick. We duly filmed ourselves in each room and Tom did a great job of using some great music and every style of edit in iMovie to make the film more exciting. The end result looked like a cheap and not very interesting edition of Location, Location, Location. As soon as we’d burned a copy and were on our way to the panel I had loads of ideas of how to improve it – songs, costumes, or more interaction with the toys and rooms - but by then it was too late.
We were told by the children’s foster carer that the children loved the toys, books and even the DVD. But the audio book went down an absolute storm and it has become a firm favourite in our house and car ever since.
We were really pleased with the introductory items we created for the children and I think they really helped in the early days of introductions. In fact reading the book together made for an easy way to chat to them and listening to the audio book was lovely when we all snuggled up together for bedtime.
If you’re making a book, DVD or anything else the best advice I can offer is to be yourselves and try to enjoy the process. The more you can show who you are it will really help the children make sense of what’s happening.
I'd love to hear what else people have done...
A couple of weeks ago Tom and I ‘accidentally bumped into’ our children for the first time. As far as they were concerned we were two people ‘who worked’ with their social worker who just ‘happened to be in the park’ at the same time as them with a bag of duck feed. For us it was make or break about whether we carried on with the link. I’m glad to say it was one of the happiest moments of my life – one of those fireworks I talked about last week definitely went off in my heart. Even typing this the next morning it still brings a tear to my eye...
We’d travelled up to where we were meeting the night before and stayed in a nice, if not very old fashioned, hotel. I slept remarkably well considering what was happening the next morning - although we did both wake throughout the night having the most bizarre dreams, and in my case a proper jumping up and gasping for breath nightmare. Oh – and trying to close our ears to a couple having very loud and vigorous sex!
We both felt strangely calm as we drove to the park and sat in the café while we waited for Denise, our SW, and Tanya, the children’s SW, to arrive. It was as soon as the social workers did appear that the butterflies in my stomach took off. Every time a woman and two children appeared my heart would flutter until I realised it wasn’t THE children. What if they didn’t like us or, God forbid, we didn’t like them? At exactly 10.45am I glimpsed another woman with two children and I heard Tanya say ‘It’s them’. I could barely breathe while I resisted the urge to turn around and look at them.
They came into the café and bought some drinks, which felt like it took forever, while we all tried to act as naturally as possible. Finally, I heard their foster carer, Fiona, say “Oh look, there’s Tanya”. At this point I was allowed to turn around and see the two cutest and most wonderful children standing in front of us. I could feel my eyes welling up and it took every fibre of my body to hold back the tears of joy and the urge to give them a big hug. I could sense Tom, who was sat behind me, was feeling the same. After a brief chat, Tanya suggested we all go and feed the ducks together.
We walked down to the pond while Tom and I did our best to act ‘normally’. We knew Fiona had been working on the children’s stranger danger which we obviously wanted to respect and encourage. It was so difficult to try and strike the right balance between showing them we were interested and keeping a safe and appropriate distance. When we got to the pond, Fiona said the children could take some duck feed from Tom and me so the four of us knelt by the pond and fed the ducks. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to do (albeit with three people watching us).
We were probably together for about 15 minutes before Tanya said it was time for us to go back to work. I could have stayed all day but the children had nursery and we had to meet with some of the professionals who had worked with them since they’ve been in care. We walked back up the hill whilst having a chat with the children about their favourite colours and what they enjoyed doing. As we waved goodbye and turned away from each other I could feel my eyes wanting to stream with tears but I managed to hold them back. I remained in this state for most the day.
Tom and I drove into the city to the social services building. We were both smiling and excited the whole way there. We kept talking about things we’d noticed about them – their smiles, the way LB runs, how thoughtful and inquisitive BG is.
We met with the BG’s play therapist who gave us an amazing insight into the work she’d done with her so far and the progress she’d made. We made loads of notes and asked tonnes of questions. LB is too young to receive play therapy but we’re hoping it will start when he’s placed with us.
We also spoke with Fiona for about an hour and a half. I was really worried at the start that she didn’t feel we were right for the children as she seemed a little guarded. As we chatted more I think she warmed to us – especially when she heard about the plans we had already made for the children coming to live with us. We asked what the children’s reaction to us had been and, as it should have been, they were slightly nonplussed about meeting two of Tanya’s colleagues.
At the end of the session we had a big hug and outside Fiona told Tanya she thought we were a great match. I am so in awe of the work she does and am aware of how difficult it is going to be for her to say goodbye to the children. Tom and I will be eternally grateful for everything she has done for them.
Unfortunately, the speech therapist and nursery worker were unavailable so we’ve planned to meet them in the next few weeks. I was annoyed when we found this out as we were expecting to see them but actually, I’m not sure we could have processed any more information anyway.
On the way home, a song that was sung at our wedding came on the radio and the tears that had been threatening all day finally burst forth. Not a great thing to happen when you’re driving at 80mph down the motorway.
Somehow we survived the journey and spent the rest of the evening letting our families know how things had gone and booking accommodation for the introductions which are starting at the end of the month.
It was quite the day and we both felt exhausted but unbelievably happy. The day was a huge milestone in Tom’s and my life - one that we’ll never forget – and we’re both so excited about all the rest to come…
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...