Archive for July, 2013

A Week Before Matching Panel

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

I’m suffering from ‘morning adoption sickness’. 

Every day, when I wake up, I feel sick. I have done for the last couple of months actually but the last couple of weeks have really been dreadful. It’s all anxiety about the impending arrival of the matching panel date and there’s not much I can do about it. Ginger biscuits aren’t going to work for me.

Our matching panel is, in fact, a week tomorrow. Our emotions (well, mainly mine) are all over the place. I don’t know whether to feel excited, happy, scared, worried. At this stage I feel like I’m getting mixed messages from all over the place. On one hand I feel very confident that we will be approved for the match. In the words of everybody we know, “why would we not be?” and “you’re perfect, if they turn you down they’re mad”. But I don’t share other peoples confidence. Not at the moment. Not after everything we’ve had to do just to get to this stage.

People love to compare. I’ve had it said to me that it’s like being nervous just before you give birth. That women are scared about having a baby and not knowing how they’re going to cope or just being scared about taking a baby home. But the thing I’m nervous about is nothing to do with the actual child. If they handed over our daughter this morning, right now, we’d just get on with it. It’d be tough but who said it wasn’t going to be. We’re ready for her, we’re prepared for the difficult times, the sleepless nights, the trauma, the (initial) rejection. No, what I’m worried about is the six people who are going to make the decision that we are right for this little girl. That’s a big difference. When you go in to labour there aren’t six people sitting around a table waiting to ask you questions about uncertainty, time off and why you were drawn to this child with the (albeit low) possibility of them saying “no”. You have the baby and because you haven’t quite answered the questions *”correctly” they take your baby away. That’s how we would feel, at this stage, that they were taking our baby away. She is our daughter. We have seen pictures of her, a little DVD footage, read her report, bonded with her, attached emotionally and fallen in love with her. As have our parents and all our friends. It would be devastating now to lose her.

And it is a low chance. I can say that, out loud, and know that it’s true and factual. But I don’t feel it. Ever. Maybe it’s because I respect the process and I don’t want to assume. Maybe it’s a trust thing, I just can’t quite trust them to make that right decision. Whatever the reason behind how I feel it’s tarnishing what we are doing in preparation for her.

We have started sorting out her room, we’ve been to car boot sales, charity shops, had stuff given to us by extremely generous friends, bought stuff for her and she’s even had a first gift which is now waiting on her little dresser/book/toy shelf we bought at the weekend. I am making curtains at the moment, which is actually working out to be quite therapeutic, we’ve created her family book ready for the matching panel and laminated some large, close up photos of us ready for the foster carer to put on her wall and around the house. And, even though we’ve done all this, I still feel like she could be taken away. What a horrible position to be in. It feels like the cruelest time for adopters-to-be and I think the uncertainty makes it that way. We should be enjoying going shopping, buying things, creating her room, making these curtains, creating things for her. But everything we’re doing has this ‘edge’ to it all the time. It’s not a nice feeling at all.

I’m hoping that once we have been officially approved for the match to this little girl that we can then start to really enjoy the time running up to meeting her. I know that’s what’s going to happen. I know that, once we know she’s coming to us, that we will relax. I know that I’m not nervous, scared or worried about having her as our daughter, she is our daughter already.

But, I think, in the meantime I actually might just try the ginger biscuit theory out. 

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

 

Life Appreciation Day

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

We have just arrived back home after a full on day of 9 hours!

Some of that travel time but most of it talking and discussing and listening and asking questions.

Life appreciation day is where we (the prospective adopters) get to meet everyone who has been in the child’s life so far.

Through the hours, in which we were there, we spoke to the two social workers of the child, the foster carer, her social worker, a health visitor, a physiotherapist and our social worker was there too. We were a little bit apprehensive about it but, to be honest, we’d met the social workers and the foster carer not long before today so we felt pretty much at ease as soon as we walked in the door and from then on it was just very easy and relaxed. We laughed a lot (which always helps to break the ice) and, although we are totally aware of how serious and important this process is and what it’s about, I couldn’t bear to sit through meetings with a stiff upper lip and total seriousness through the process. At the end of the day we are all human beings who need to feel comfortable in a very unusual situation and it helps that we all get on really well. It will make the whole transition period and introductions all that more enjoyable and enable us to cope with it. Can you imagine not getting on with the foster carer…..awkward!

We’d also met with the child’s doctor at the hospital beforehand too and she’d spoken to us, at length, about some of the issues we may face in the future. It was nothing we hadn’t heard or read before but it really helped to hear it from the medical professionals mouth and clarify the few points we knew about already.

The same went for most of the people we met through the day but we did learn little bits more than we did already and everything else we already knew were just made clearer.

The whole day was totally and utterly invaluable because we have now met people who know the child and different aspects of her. It’s made us feel more confident in our own ability and we feel really positive after today.

Now….I’m going to crack open a bottle of ginger beer and I’ll probably be asleep within minutes!

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

 

Meeting the Foster Carer

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

This was a BIG day for us

We were more apprehensive about this than anything. But we did the usual thing we do and pretended that we were fine which, in the long run, makes you feel like you’re doing fine. We had nothing to worry about. We feel we’ve been lucky with everyone we’ve met through this process. She is lovely. Really open and friendly and the conversation flowed, after an initial stilted period of time where nobody spoke for a few seconds (which felt like hours!) and me, being me, wanted to fill the silence. But I held back (and bit my tongue) because it wasn’t our place or our job to start the conversation.

She told us quite a lot about her (the child) and she’d brought her camera with some new photos on it from the week before and she’d changed so much (from the initial photos we’d received) and had become even more stunning.

I’m really glad that we get on with her so well. It will definitely make things easier. And she told us so much that it brought everything to  life, which is hard when all you’ve got is a photo. She was really animated in how she described her and she became a little girl to us, not just information in a report.

This was one of the best days so far.

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

 

 

Meeting the Social Workers

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

This was one of the least worrying moments of the whole process for me. As mad as that sounds. I just knew they’d be nice

Everything about this little girl just ‘feels’ right and, from the moment the social workers came through our front door, that feeling stayed. I’d made cakes which I told them I’d made as a bit of bribery and corruption. Seemed to work *winks*

They talked a lot about the little girl and asked us to ask any questions. The only thing they asked us was about time off work and then reassured us that she wasn’t allergic to cats as she lives with 2 at the moment…thumbs up for that!

They were with us for about an hour and a half and were very positive and helpful. It’s an odd feeling though because you feel like you’re getting somewhere and then, after they left, you realise you’re in total limbo land again because you don’t quite know where you are with it and nobody has actually said “yes” yet.

We feel very lucky to have worked with such fantastic social workers, it’s made the process all the more positive. 

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

 

Report Reading

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

As we drove back from Scotland we knew that the little girls report would be on our doormat as we walked in the door

We both couldn’t wait! Yet, as we walked in with all our bags through the front door and saw the thick, brown envelope, we didn’t open it straight away. We unpacked our bags, put a load of washing on, put all our things away in to their correct places and then made a cup of tea. It wasn’t until then and we’d sat down that we opened the report to read. It is 78 pages long. And it took us 2 hours to read it. It took even longer to take it all in and we were exhausted after reading it.

In all honesty, because the little girl was taken in to foster care very early, the report was mainly about her birth mother and her birth fathers histories. They say it will be upsetting reading a report and they’re right in one sense. But I think it must be a lot harder to read a report about a child who has been neglected or abused for some time before being taken in to care. For us, it’s not like that. And that’s just me being honest. Because there will be people out there who don’t feel devastated when they read a report about birth mothers and birth fathers who will be made to feel guilty or odd for that. But you’re not. You are just human and, for me, all I care about is our little girl-to-be and the fact she’s been with a fantastic foster carer nearly all her life, so far, who has loved her and given her consistency, security, warmth and love is just great!

Reading the report was hard going because that’s her story, her history. But the fact she will know about that will help her make sense of her life in the future.

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

Holiday Time and the Second Biggest Mountain Climb

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

We couldn’t have planned or timed this better. 2 weeks after our approval date we went on holiday

We would have gone straight away but decided to wait a couple of weeks for various reasons (friends birthday night out we didn’t want to miss out on and husbands work was very busy)

We both had 2 very busy weeks at work so by the time we got to Scotland we were ready to collapse….which we did, very quickly, when we arrived at the beautiful cottage in the middle of nowhere which we called home for a week.

In fact, our SW had agreed that we would have some “time off” from the whole process which we really appreciated but then she had sent me an email about a little girl in the week running up to our holiday who we felt an immediate click with. We had, very tentatively, replied saying we were interested and so she’d sent us a bit more information before her full report so we could read more about her and a couple of photos. We were smitten immediately. But, the trouble is, we’ve become very practiced at hunkering down our feelings and emotions and not getting excited or assuming anything. So we went on holiday and didn’t really think about it apart from the odd conversation on our walks.

****I can’t quite believe I’m saying that now (23rd June) because she is all I talk about! But more on that later****

We faced one more mountain climb after our approval panel and that was to climb Benn Nevis. We did it in 7 hours and it was a gloriously sunny, hot, blue skied day. Stunning! It is the highest mountain in Britain and we succeeded in completing it yet we feel we’d climbed a much bigger mountain in the last 8 months to get to our little girl.

Not quite there but I can now see the summit.

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

Adoption Approval Panel

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Rewind to our approval panel………..told you adoption was confusing!

Nearly 8 months on, from the day we first met someone from the adoption agency, we were sat facing 10 independent panel members about to make the biggest decision of our lives….whether we were able to adopt and bring up a child.

Fast forward 15 minutes…..yes, that is all……we were approved!

We couldn’t believe it, but were more than pleased, that 67 hours + 8 months = 15 minutes of decision making!

It was quite nerve wracking but, surprisingly, we felt quite confident and Ok about the whole thing. It was just like going to a job interview (something I haven’t done for 18 years!) but with too many people behind the opposite side of the desk! It was also quite intimidating. They tried, a little, to ease that tension by smiling and trying to be welcoming. But they have to have some sort of professional wall up I suppose. It was just not very nice having to sit opposite 10 people, 8 of whom asked a question each! It was all fine. The only thing I didn’t like was, as the panel chairwoman started proceedings she said “right, let’s start with the positives” which made my heart sink because then, all I could think was “I wonder what the negatives are”, which didn’t do anything for making me more relaxed. We actually did mention that in the feedback form. As I mentioned earlier, we’d promised to be honest through the entire process.

They mentioned how strong our relationship appeared to be, how supportive our family were and how we’d been brought up very similarly in stable homes. They mentioned my experience with adoption through my Mum and our experience with learning disabilities and physical disabilities through us and other family members.

Then they moved on to the questions. The first question they asked was what we’d thought and felt about the process so far. Bit bizarre to be the first question I thought but maybe it was like one of those questions before a lie detector test that puts you at ease and then the ‘real’ ones come firing at you like a bullet out a gun!

They then asked the following questions;

“What plans had we put in place to “sort our cat out” (that old chestnut again)

“What experience did we have with children” – I have heaps of experience with children but it appears it wasn’t enough. They want “official” experience, as in going to a nursery.

“What characteristics were we looking for in a child” – we got very confused with this one and became a bit embarrassing. Actually, what she meant was had we considered what we could ‘cope with’ in a childs history. So, whether we could ‘take on’ a child with severe disabilities for example. The medical advisor had to step in to help me answer that one but, thinking about it afterwards, we did think that a questioner should make it easy for the person answering to….well….answer.

And after wracking our brains now for ages we cannot for the life of us remember what else they asked us! I think we may have blocked it from our minds!

We then left the room while our SW stayed in to have a final discussion and ten minutes later she came down the stairs and said “that’s that done, you’ve been approved”! And that was that. The only negative, and this is what we have felt really through the process so far, is that nothing we do ever quite feels enough. There’s always a “but”. So the “but” for this achievement was to be told we “must get experience with children”. It just gets very frustrating when you feel like you’re not being listened to (as mentioned before, I have heaps of experience with children) and you’re having to overly prove yourselves all the time.

It was a very strange feeling being approved. I had imagined I’d burst in to tears with relief or, at the very least, been excited. But we felt nothing at all. We realised immediately having been approved that, actually, we were just in the middle of the process. The big stuff was yet to come.

We left the building with our SW, had a ten minute chat before she headed off and we headed back home and didn’t really say much about it. We phoned our Mum’s and Dad’s, texted a few others, spoke to a friend who also adopted through the same charity, went for something to eat, I had 2 mojito’s which didn’t hit the sides as I walloped them down and then ended up back at home, 2 hours later, conked out on the sofa for 4 hours!

A very bizarre day indeed! And we’ve got to go through it all over again when we get linked with a child! But, I suspect, there will be tears at that one……..

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

Adoption Preparation Groups

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Our adoption preparation groups were run on three days over two weekends. Friday of one weekend and the Friday and Saturday of the next

They were very long days, 9:30 until about 4:30 with a couple of breaks in the middle. There were 3 other couples there so it made for a really nice, small group and we all got on well. We’ve kept in touch with one of the couples and, even though they don’t live that near to us, we keep in touch by text.

When we first arrived the social workers were there already to greet us. We started promptly at 9:45 and sat in a circle while the various social workers and guests talked. There were, over the 3 days, a child psychiatrist, 3 adopters and another lady who came in to talk about attachment issues. The psychiatrist was fascinating. In fact the whole 3 days were really interesting even though they were so draining. We slept so well on those 3 nights! There was a lot of involvement of us (the prospective adopters) and lots of discussions and questions. We talked about why children are adopted, the different reasons (drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse to name but a few) how the local authorities go down every avenue possible to try and keep a child within their birth family and the fact that adoption, really is, the last port of call. We learned about attachments, what a child needs to develop and grow and we were made to understand that adopted children are different in ways to birth children as they have more of a question mark over their futures and development because what has happened to them.

We were then given various tasks to do. One was called “The wall of needs” where we had to discuss what makes up a childs needs from birth onwards and what happens if a child doesn’t get those things. It falls down, of course, or at the very least becomes unstable. It is then up to us (the adopters) to try and build that wall up and insert the bricks back in for these children.

We were also asked, at the start of the 3 days, to pick out a picture of a child and put it in an envelope. Our decision had to be based purely on looks. Then, at the end of the 3 days, we had to get the photo out, explain why we’d picked out that particular child and then read the information on the back about that child. This was to teach us that there is more to a child than a picture.

The whole prep group experience was invaluable. We learnt so much, including one of the most vital things which is the reading of report. We had case studies and homework to do which we threw ourselves in to and really “got it”. It was, by far, the most informative things we’ve done on this adoption process. Very harrowing at times, but vital to us understanding the needs of these children.

I would go as far to say that I think every parent should go on a course like this. Maybe certain children would stand a better chance in life if they did.

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

 

Family Tree and Eco Tree

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Two very different animals but really make you think about who is important in your life

The family tree
We had to draw up a family tree which is the obvious one. All family on both sides. That was interesting, for me particularly, because we don’t talk to one side of the family at all. I won’t go in to it in detail but one of my cousins caused a huge family rift and it’s never been the same since. This has NOT affected our adoption process. Boy, would I have been as mad as hell if it had. But I did mention it because it did have a massive impact on my life and it is part of who I am (I grew from it and learned and my cousin, well, I believe he’s probably just as stupid, arrogant and selfish as he was when it all happened!) And our SW agreed not to put their names on our family tree. She was a brilliant SW!
It also made us realise just how lucky we are to have a relatively simple family tree. Both our parents are still together, our grandparents were still together and it shows a very strong family unit (apart from my cousin of course! ha!)

The eco tree
The Eco tree is something different. It includes your family but also your friends. It’s like your extended “family” tree. This tree includes the people who you are closest to, who offer support whether it be emotional, practical or just someone to talk to on the phone (or facetime as I have to with friends of ours who live in Australia! – it all helps) So this consisted of quite a few people for us. Interestingly, this reeeeeally makes you think about who you can rely on. It’s a really odd experience and quite eye opening when you sit down and think about it. You put in strong links, weak links, broken links (which represent stressful relationships – whereby there may be someone who demands more attention and support from you than the other way round)
Some of the strongest links we put in were people we wouldn’t have thought of off the top of our heads, but after really considering it we realised these friends were in fact the people we’d be able to call right at the last minute and say “help” and they’d come and give us a hand or support us in really tough times. For that reason it became a really nice task. It worked, of course, the other way round too. When we analysed certain relationships we realised that, maybe, we wouldn’t be able to call on them for help at the last minute. This made the task even more interesting and we had some very funny conversations while creating this eco tree.

At the end of the day, you know who your nearest and dearest are. These tasks just make you analyse them in a way you never thought you would.

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

Homestudy

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Where do we start with this.

How do I condense a years worth of hard work, interviews, homework, tasks, blood, sweat and tears (ok, just the tears) in to a few paragraphs? As I mentioned earlier, the total number of hours we put in to everything, so far, has been just under 70 hours. This includes the home study interviews, homework, prep groups, activity day and nursery sessions. The home study is the bit where you’re social worker comes to visit you in your home and chats. That’s actually the really nice part. We quite enjoyed this part of it. You talk, mainly, about yourselves. Your childhood, your parents, your family, your friends, your history, anything significant that you feel has happened in your life.

None of this has affected our ability or their decision to allow you to adopt, we felt we just had to demonstrate that we’d worked through life experiences and understood certain aspects of what might trigger certain emotions in the future. Our SW would come round in the evening at about 6:00 and we’d put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and chat….for hours! I think the longest she was here was 4 hours one evening. But it just seemed to fly by because we get on with her so well. She wasn’t judgmental, stern, officious. It was like having a friend round and having a really good natter but about really serious stuff, although we did do a lot of laughing as well when we were reminiscing. It was just what we wanted (and needed) in this process. We’d been through enough to have to put up with anyone coming in our home and outwardly judging us.

Anyway, we had to do all sorts for our homestudy. One of the things she got us to do was a Mr & Mrs quiz where we had to answer for each other….and we got every single question spot on! Phew! Didn’t win any prizes though, which I was a bit disappointed about.

We had to do a lot of other things like our family tree, eco tree, discuss parental messaging, chronologies, medical, health and safety checklist, pet assessment, finances, references. And, after the prep groups, we had to discuss case studies of children, how they might be affected, what problems or issues you may see arising and teaching us to read reports properly.

 

The whole homestudy thing has actually been really interesting. We have dredged up happy memories, horrible memories and everything in the middle but on the whole it’s been really cathartic and it reminded me that, whatever we’ve been through, we’ve survived….so we’re going to survive this!

 

 

Parental messaging;

These are the messages each of your parents give you about various subjects, as you grow up, through their own behaviour, verbal messages and their actions. These can include food, diet, your body and relationships. This link explains it better.

Are you messages getting through?

 

Chronologies;

This is a list of significant events, people, deaths and experiences in your life written down in a chronological order starting from your very earliest memory. Mine is from 18 months old! I found this really interesting and very cathartic. It’s amazing what you remember and the little stories you add in as you go. I thought I’d finished on several occasions only to go back and add more in. It became a standing joke with our SW that we always filled everything out above and beyond what was expected of us. But we were happy to do that. The whole process is very intrusive but we didn’t feel this particular aspect of it was intrusive in the literal sense of the word. Just that we had to tell them everything about our lives…..and you don’t have to do that when you have a baby. We just found it interesting and it was nice because it also enabled us to remember the people who’d been in our lives who are now not with us.

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved