We started our journey to adoption in January 2014. Our adoption journey from expression of interest to placement wasn’t long by some people’s standards (eighteen months in total), but each step seemed to take so much longer than we had expected.
The process from being accepted by our Adoption Agency to getting to Approval Panel took us eleven months. Here are the key parts of the first stage of our adoption journey.
The Local Authority (LA) where we live is part of a partnership between local Adoption Services. This means that our LA’s Adoption Service is joined with that of the six LA’s across our region. We spent two weeks trying to access their information online, only to find their website consistently down. Having read around a bit and spoken to other adopters on Twitter, we came to understand that Voluntary Agencies (VAs) generally provide better access to Post Adoption Support than Local Authorities do. We found two VAs that covered our area.
Our phone call to the first of the VAs didn’t go that well. The Social Worker I spoke to was of the impression that we simply couldn’t have any spare capacity, between having three birth children already and home educating them. While she may have had a point (and it was one that we were fully aware of), we knew from the off that we didn’t need to be having that battle with an agency that we would need on our side when other people would most likely voice similar concerns further along the road.
The agency that we chose, Adoption Matters, was the second agency that we spoke to. The helpline Social Worker was intrigued by our family and our desire to adopt. She was enthusiastic about the benefits that could be gained through already having children at home and also through home educating. She said she could see how our family could be a great fit for a specific child. (She actually ended up taking us through Stage One and picked us up again shortly after placement.)
So we asked for an initial visit. We met our lovely Social Worker face to face for the first time in February 2014.
Stage One is the part of the process where the agency carries out checks on you, calls references and requires you to submit relevant paperwork about yourselves. For us this time period lasted from February to July 2014. Having both worked for years in youth and community work, churches, healthcare settings and with vulnerable children, young people and adults, our references requested was rather a lengthy list. Hence the period of time it took us to get through Stage One.
We were invited to attend an adoption Preparation Group in early March – four days over two weeks, where we travelled to Chester and spent the day with around fourteen other potential adopters. The training covered a whole range of subjects, including child development, trauma and loss, and the ‘parenting on steroids’ that some of our children require.
We then had a two month hiatus, as our lovely Social Worker took extended leave and the new Social Worker identified for us was not able to start with us until September. He was worth the wait!
Assessment and study:
Stage Two was actually a really fascinating process for us both. We had heard that some people found it a hard stage, as it’s the part of the process where your Social Worker begins to get to know you and build a profile about you. Our new Social Worker was fabulous and quickly clued in to our personalities and our relationship.
Yes it was intrusive and personal, but we had expected that. At no point did we feel it was pointless probing or too invasive and we actually enjoyed the opportunity to sit back together and talk about our lives and relationship so far. There were times that it felt a bit like marriage therapy!
We both talked about our upbringing and some of the beliefs and experiences that shaped our early years. We talked about our relationship – how we met, what makes us tick, why we decided to have our girls, why we wanted to adopt, our strengths and weaknesses, what we found difficult in our marriage.
There was a financial interview, looking at our finances and budgetting.
We discussed our parenting styles and how we dealt with situations where we disagreed on how to manage something.
It was fascinating doing the attachment assessment, and the other aspects of the Stage Two study, in the light of our then day jobs – leading and pastoring a church and home educating our girls. It helped us to begin to do some preparation for hopefully expanding our family, as well as evaluating ourselves and our relationship as we went along.
The formal part:
Once we had completed Stage Two, we had to wait about six weeks for an available date for Approval Panel, but the day came in mid December 2014. As is often the subject of much debate by those due to go to Panel, we wore smart casual clothes in order to feel comfortable. Jeans and a smarter top with heeled boots for me, jeans and a shirt and smart shoes for Mr Six. For those who know us, that’s smart!
Panel wasn’t as intimidating as I had expected, although they were low on numbers due to sickness and other unavoidable issues, meaning they only just made quorum with five core members. I think we would have been gutted to have had to wait for another panel date, had there not been sufficient Panel members to convene. I do remember waiting outside the panel room for what felt like the longest time whilst our Social Worker was inside discussing our case and answering questions. I think it was actually about forty five minutes. We really had the sense that he was doing battle on our behalf!
We had been given three questions prior to going in to the Panel room, in order for us to think and talk through our answers.
When we finally were called in, it felt like a relief to be able to be part of the process, rather than too nerve wracking. I don’t now remember the exact questions we were asked, but there was one from the Social Worker representative who asked about home education and what the legal requirements were, how we managed our home education and what we would do if our future little person wasn’t suited to home edding. We also discussed at length our three birth girls and how we were preparing them for adopting.
After about only half an hour in the room, we were invited to leave and await the Panel’s decision. Fairly soon afterwards, our Social Worker and the Chair of Panel came out to let us know that we had been approved, pending the Agency Decision Maker signing us off. The Chair wished us the best of luck on our matching journey and we were left to celebrate with our Social Worker.
As it was almost Christmas, we had told our Social Worker that we wished to have a break to relax over the holidays and would begin to look at profiles in January. Our Social Worker had been in complete agreement with this, as he understood that it had been a long eleven months journey just to get to approval.
The next step:
Unbeknown to us, our Social Worker had received an email the night before our Approval Panel that was to change our lives. The road to meeting our Rainbow Girl began as he sat down in the waiting room and pulled a sheet of paper from his bag.
To be continued!
(Check out First4Adoption’s website for your local agencies or Local Authority/Regional Adoption Agency if you are interested in adopting.)