They kindly invited us into their home and shared a meal with us (we know them through church, so we were all quite at ease) and over the meal and subsequent evening, shared their adoption stories and experiences and were very frank and open to us asking them a multitude of questions, all of which they answered with good humour and sensitivity.
They seemed fairly certain that although the process is necessarily rigorous, it's not as offputting to undergo as we had initially felt. They also said that once you've gained approval at panel, you're very much in control, which was not the impression given yesterday evening, where it felt more like as soon as you're approved, you'll be strongly recommended to pursue particular children.
So. The process is as follows
- Information gathering
- Informal-yet-formal chat with a social worker, who if they think you might be suitable adoptive parents will invite you to participate in a;
- Three day and one evening preparation course, which constitutes part of the professionals' assessment of you as a couple
- Receive, complete and submit an application form to an adoption agency (not necessarily local council - more on this later)
- Rigorous assessment by a social worker then;
- Approval by a large (12 or so people) adoption panel
- Search for a child in adoption publications, through your agency, through the National Adoption Register and via children's social workers approaching your social worker if they think you might do well for the child they're in charge of
- Matching assessment by social workers involving you
- Return to panel to have the match approved then receive a;
- Formal decision
- Agree an introduction plan
- Carry out introductions
- Review of introductions and decision made to place (or not)
- Child is placed (the bit you're waiting for)
- Review and supervision throughout a minimum ten weeks then:
- Apply to the court for an adoption order
- Adoption hearing (where their birth parents *may* turn up to disapprove of the match)
- Child legally adopted (breathe sigh of relief)
- Post-adoption support.
So anyways, the main thing that I think we took home from this evening is that it's all incredibly do-able. We also got the opportunity to look through some of the publications they give to people who've been approved for adoption - Be My Parent and Children Who Wait - and I'm in love with several children already. Not that we're remotely ready even to begin the second step of stage one (still got to find out the medical future in terms of timescales and preferably move house), but that's what happens when you put a long-term-broody person in the position of reading about kids who so desperately need homes.
New stuff we know
- It's likely to get a bit much in terms of jumping through hoops but there's likely to be less of this and the administrative ride should be considerably smoother if you adopt via an independent agency such as Cabrini or through a local authority which has a ringfenced adoption team (social workers whose sole role is the organising, overseeing and supporting of adoptions, rather than dual-role social workers who might have to (quite rightly) drop the non-emergency adoption stuff to attend to urgent child protection issues)
- You can take things pretty much at your own pace but despite the assurances (last night) that the process would take 8 months from panel approval, that's fairly standard and it's the bits before panel approval that can take time (such as the preparation course, which might only be run four times per year)
- Your child will have emotional needs at the very least, but (particularly if they're younger and not so aware) it can be difficult to know whether behaviours they exhibit are due to 'being adopted' or 'being a kid' so it's worth forging links with other parents so that you can 'check' your kid's behaviour against their expectations, particularly if the adopted child is your first - a frame-of-reference type thing.
- Maintaining contact with the birth family is something all adoption agencies do, and for good reason, but no - it's not necessarily easy
- When you bond with your child, they're yours and belong in your family regardless of the status of their adoption order (and in fact, if you want additional support with the child, it can be worth delaying the adoption order to achieve this if the local authority seem to be...sluggish...in providing the help, because until you have that order they're legally responsible for the child)
- The path ahead may be studded with adoption-specific difficulties but at least with the information provided prior to adoption, you will know precisely what you're getting yourself into and be supported with this.
Also I found out today that we're in the middle of National Adoption Week, so yippee for all this pertinent timing
Though (I hasten to add) I have not forgotten Violetta, Gertie and Gretchen, who remain on my heart and though I'm still thrilled that Gertie's found her forever family it tugs my heartstrings that I can do so little for Violetta and Gretchen. Here's hoping their forever families find them soon.