I can’t believe my boys are turning 4! It’s seems like only yesterday that we started our adoption journey and that moment when they first crawled into our lives seems an almost distant memory.
Looking back on our experience of the adoption process there was so much I wish I had known or really understood/paid attention to as we began that epic year in our lives… not that I would change anything about where we are now, but just so that I could have felt better prepared or in truth being left to feel a little less aggrieved by parts of it.
So I thought I would share some of those things with you in hope that it might help other prospective adopters get off to a good start on their journey! But before I do, I really want people to know that becoming an adoptive parent is AWESOME and whilst most of these points are negative, they serve the purpose of this post but for me do not negate from the millions of positives that we experienced, so take them for what they are, just things to be mindful of!
5 Things I wish I’d known
about the Adoption Process
#1 The ‘Ticky’ Box
During the assessment phase we were asked to complete a 2-sided document that lists all the things you could think of that would make a person ‘not normal’ (i.e. different types of disabilities or illnesses they may be genetically predisposed to etc) and you have to go through each one and tick a box to say if you would accept, would consider or not interested in.
Believe me, completing that form feels as barbaric and callous as it sounds. I get that some people may not have the resources, experience or desire to deal with profound illnesses or disabilities but I’m sure there is a much better way for the social workers to establish that.
We found this exercise really difficult and pretty much said ‘accept’ or ‘consider’ for everything as there seemed to be with each one a ‘but what about…?’ type of question so we didn’t feel we could just rule a child, who are all equally as deserving of a loving forever home, out.
I’m not saying this to make others feel guilty if they are able at that stage to just say no, but the fact is we took a 17 month old who wasn’t displaying any physical, mental or developmental problems, yet 2.5 years later I seem to have appointments with every Tom, Dick and Harry about various ‘stuff’, and you know what, I wouldn’t change him for the world and when you’re a family sh*t like that just doesn’t matter!
#2 The Lack of Consistency
We had a social worker who was lovely but at the same time was quite strict, uber-professional and very detailed in her assessment of us. Throughout the process we kind of just felt this was the norm and that she was just doing her job despite some of the questions and probing feeling bit invasive and at times a bit OTT.
It wasn’t until some friends of ours went through the same process, with the same local authority but a different social worker that we realised just how different each social worker is, which is to be expected to some degree, but we definitely felt that we got a rougher ride of it!
I recently spoke to someone else about their experience of adoption and they hit the nail on the head when they talked about hindsight it’s all about power. In that moment you relinquish all your power to them. If they say jump you say how high… that kind of thing. That person felt through their experience that something wasn’t right but didn’t raise concerns for fear of not being given a kid!
My point to this is, don’t just go with the flow thinking the social worker know’s best. If something doesn’t feel right or you are unsure about anything… SPEAK UP! Don’t be afraid to challenge, social workers are not your friends and they wont be in your lives forever so don’t panic about offending them… there are plenty of other social worker fish in the sea!
#3 The Dreaded Panels
Going into the process we knew that there was an expectation that you go in front of a panel in order for them to ratify the social workers assessment and conclusions. I won’t bore you again with the full story about our panel experience… well I would but Pips won’t let me! But you can catch all the detail here if you missed it first time around.
It was only a few months after the boys had been placed with us that I started to feel quite angry and aggrieved about the panel experience, probably because I was no longer caught up in the moment and life had settled down (a bit anyway… we did have two kids after all haha).
I started to replay some of the questions they asked me (Craig didn’t get difficult questions as he didn’t seem to have had any drama in his past… boring git… obvs kidding). If the purpose was to ratify a qualified and experienced social workers assessment then why is it necessary to force someone to talk about really difficult issues from their past in front of 12 strangers when the social worker has already, clearly from the report, gone into that level of detail. I really don’t think it is appropriate and is something I put to Ofsted when I was asked to complete a service user questionnaire during their inspection… not that anything has changed from what I hear!
Don’t let panels put you off though, they may possibly be the most uncomfortable hour of your life, but they are a means to a fabulous end so just suck it up and get through it… and if it’s any consolation the matching panel we had a few months later was a totally different experience.
#4 The Legal Bit
Once your child/children have been with you for 10 weeks you can finally put in an application to the courts for legal adoption. This felt at the time like a really exciting stage to get to… 10 months later our application was granted but the experience was much like a good Disney film… filled with drama, tears and anxiety but with a magical and happy ending.
I plan to write about this whole experience in detail soon as there’s so much I have to say on the matter, but for those starting to think about adoption or currently going through the process, my advice is similar to earlier… Don’t take everything a social worker says as gospel, I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but they are not legal experts and are essentially, by the time you get tho this point, the ‘middle man’ between you and the local authorities legal team.
My advice is at each point in the legal process to ask 2 questions;
- Why is this happening and in this way?
- What is the best and worst case outcome at this stage of the process
At this point in the process there are two social workers involved, yours and the Child’s. We got very different messages from both and felt that we were fed unrealistic expectations. It wasn’t until we went over their heads and requested (OK demanded) direct access to the legal team that we finally got the right answers and understood what was going on.
Speaking to other adopters, some had a smooth and quick experience, others had similar experiences, but of all the parts of the adoption process I found this the most difficult/stressful and the most confusing so prepare for it, ask questions, don’t feel you just have to go along with it and seek independent advice if needed… social workers don’t want you too, but it’s your prerogative!
#5 The Wider Impact
All through the process, not surprisingly, I only really thought about myself… maybe Craig at times, but mostly myself and how I was feeling. It’s only in hindsight, as wonderful as it is, that you realise just how invested and along for the journey your friends and family are. Everyone was obviously messaging and asking how it was going but I don’t think I realised how excited they were and then during the legal difficulties we encountered, just how frustrating and upsetting they were finding it.
So keep that in mind when you start sharing information with your loved ones, you might need to protect them a bit too!
And don’t get me started on how to deal with your broody-crazed families who you are supposed to keep at bay for a few months when your child moves in to allow them to settle and develop the bond with you… it’s a borderline impossible mission!
Sorry for the doom and gloom blog but hey someones got to keep it real and I honestly wish I had understood some of this before we got going! But I will reiterate… it’s all means to a wonderful, life changing end!
Good luck with your journey and if you have any questions be sure to pop them in the comments or drop me an email (if you’d prefer to ask in private) at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m more than happy to talk about adoption ’til the cows come home!