If today wasn’t going to be stressful enough it was made just that little bit more excruciating with the fact that our social worker, Denise, insisted on talking about the day on a very busy train from London to the Midlands. I’ll talk about adoption with anyone who’ll listen so it wasn’t the subject that bothered me – it was just the environment. Thankfully she gave us a tonne of new reports about the children to read so we managed to keep quiet for a while.
When we arrived at the social services building, we were led into the smallest and hottest room in the world, where Denise, Tom, Tanya and Gloria, the children’s social workers, and me squeezed in and looked through the introduction books Tom and I had made. The panel administrator very kindly went to a massive effort, verging on the farcical, to make a cup of tea that due to the heat none of us wanted actually wanted. But we politely said yes and got even hotter. I’m sure it was some kind of final test. Finally, the panel chair introduced herself, talked us through the process and the questions they were going to ask, and we all duly followed her into the meeting room.
As is becoming a pattern, this was when I started to feel nervous. And I mean nervous. I suddenly had this dread wash over me that they were going to say no – despite all the reassurances the social workers had given us. Conversely, Tom’s nerves started about three days before but he was in zen-like state of calm when panel was actually happening. I’m not sure which I’d prefer.
The panel was made up of three adopters, one social worker, the medical advisor, the panel chair, and panel administrator – it felt positive that there were five of us, so we weren’t quite as outnumbered as we were at the approval panel. They were all very smiley and encouraging, which somehow made my feelings of doom even stronger. It started with the medical advisor talking us through the information she had about the children. What was odd was that she was clearly working from early reports and we’d seen much more recent ones so we actually had to correct some of what she’d said. They then asked Tanya for further updates on the children from when the original report was written. I understand the panel had to get the information but I wish they’d asked our questions first – it really felt like an age before they got to us.
We were asked questions about why we wanted these particular children, about the potential impact on us, about one specific behaviour that had been identified in the report, and about contact arrangements. Similarly to the approval panel we each took the lead on a question with the other one chipping in extra bits as we went along. Before we knew it, we were ushered back in to the furnace of a room while the social workers stayed behind to answer a few further questions.
After about five minutes, the social workers came out and we all had to wait for another ten minutes before the chair came back and asked us back into the room. I genuinely couldn’t read her expression and I clutched Tom’s hand while she got herself organised. It felt like an eternity but she actually very quickly told us that the panel were delighted to approve the match. Yippee!
Of course I immediately cried. I’m worried what the adoption process has done to my tear ducts which previously were pretty much unused. Denise even commented that I now have a reputation for blubbing!
There was a bit of stand-off between the panel chair and Gloria about when the agency decision maker would sign off the panel’s recommendation. Tanya had hoped to give the children as much time as possible to get used to the idea of the adoption but had been told she had to wait for the ADM. It was agreed that the ADM would put this decision to the top of his agenda and it would be rubber stamped early the following week. Phew!
The panel finished with them talking us through why they’d reached their decision and wishing us luck.
Afterwards we took Denise out for some lunch while we waited to go back to the social services building to meet the children’s birth mum (more about that in next week’s blog).
The day ended with a meeting with the children’s nursery key worker. She was great! We looked through their books which had loads of pictures of them playing and having fun. She also gave us some great tips on how to manage their behaviour and the types of things they enjoyed doing.
The day had clearly taken it out of us, as we all slept on the train back to London. Denise was off on holiday the following day and wouldn’t be back until introductions have started so we all had a big hug and said our goodbyes. The next time she sees us we’ll be parents!
Tom and I went to the pub and celebrated with a nice dinner and some wine. We talked through everything we’d learnt and how we were feeling. We were both smiley and feeling warm (and it wasn’t the wine). It was so great to have this next milestone out of the way, knowing that in sixteen days time we were going to meet our children.
During the approval process Denise, our social worker, asked us to tell her what our ‘house rules’ would be. In the moment of being asked the question we couldn’t think of any and it duly went into our PAR that we would have a house with no rules. That was quickly changed, as that would certainly not be the case! A few weeks later, when we were at panel, one of our questions was about how we would set boundaries and stick to them in a therapeutic way.
I think both Tom and I would naturally be relatively strict parents but we have shifted our thoughts on this through our prep day attendance and discussions with other adopters about therapeutic parenting. And whilst we very much intend to parent therapeutically there are some rules that I think we should at least strive for in order to make our children fully functioning members of society.
Some of these ‘rules’ may not come to fruition until years in the future and that’s OK - if we fail, we fail but surely it’s definitely worth trying…
So nothing too strenuous, but what about when we’re out in public? What’s important out in the big wide world…
All in all, I don’t think any of these are that unreasonable and can be pretty much summed up in one simple statement – ‘be nice’.
Like I say these aren’t things that I’m expecting straightaway, or indeed all of the time, but it’s the point from which Tom and I will start. And of course the children may well have their own ideas about the kind of home they want to live in, and rules that we as a family have created together will hopefully make for a happy and safe place to live.
What house rules do you have? Which rules have you abandoned? Are there are any you didn’t expect?
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...