Jane and Dominic on adopting their son.
When we first started looking into adoption we weren’t even sure whether we really wanted to adopt or not. In fact, having known a few people who had done so and seen the reality of what’s involved I had been put off! Nevertheless, we decided to start making some enquiries on the basis that we could pull out at any stage. We never did and we are now the proud parents of an amazing little boy!
Choosing an adoption agency
We began by approaching our local authority and CCS Adoption. This was enlightening as it showed that different organisations had quite different approaches. The local authority made it very clear that it was not their job to find children for families. Rightly, their focus was on finding the right families for the children in their care who were waiting for adoption. Because CCS is an independent agency and they have no children of their own to place, its focus is very much on finding the right children for those who apply through them. Our social worker would be there purely to support us, with no hidden agendas. We found that CCS seemed to be a lot more upfront about the realities of adoption and offered much better post-adoption support. So, having made our choice, we set out to apply to adopt.
The application process
I think I was probably more worried about the application process than about the adoption itself! I knew it would be very detailed and worried that it might be overly intrusive. I also wondered whether it would just be us who were questioned or whether it might affect other family members. However, I needn’t have worried. The process was very thorough and we were often asked about things that we had never even thought about, let alone discussed. But we did find this very healthy for us as a couple. It was also a good dry run for all those things you have to work through as parents.
Our social worker quickly realised that I was quite nervous and asked if I would find it helpful to know in advance what we would be discussing the next time we met. This made a big difference for me and I began to realise that this was a partnership, not the social workers trying to catch us out. The aim of this process was not just to assess whether we were suitable to adopt, but also to really get to know us, and to find exactly the right child for us.
The culmination of the assessment process was the adoption panel. Of course, walking into a room of 12 people and being questioned by them was a little daunting. But once again our social worker was there to field the questions and answer on our behalf. She was prepared for anything they might ask and in reality, they made it a very positive experience. Feeling slightly numb and experiencing the relief of tension we hadn’t realised was there we celebrated our “yes” decision in style with a plate of meatballs in the nearby IKEA!
The matching process
For me, this was probably the hardest part of the whole process with highs, lows, false starts and lots of uncertainty. There are so many children waiting for families and as we looked at different ones I found myself trying to imagine living with that child and wondering if this was the one. This is where all the work we did in assessment came into its own. With the help of our social worker, we had already considered what we would and wouldn’t be able to cope with. So, cruel though it sounds, we could rule some children out straight away and others after finding out more about them. I really wanted it to be love at first sight, to know our child when we saw him or her. But for us, it wasn’t like that. In fact, it was our social worker who spotted our son and was convinced that this was the right one for us. So much so, that she had spoken to his social worker to get more details and got him interested in us before even showing us the details! And she was right (though it took us a while to realise this). In many ways, it was hard to make that final decision as everything suddenly seemed so real and I was aware that there would be no going back!
After a flurry of activity – visits to Mothercare to buy pushchairs and the like, making a video and talking book to introduce ourselves to our son, now it was time to meet him for the first time. We knew so much about him through his foster carers, social workers, medical advisers etc but now we were going to see what he was really like. I felt such a mixture of emotions, the top most of which was exciting. However, we knew that he was developmentally delayed and had been told that he was very likely to have learning difficulties. So I found that even as I saw his gorgeous smile and began to see his lovely personality I was looking out for evidence of them and questioning everything. On the second day though, and as we began to get to know him more, all of that was forgotten. All I could say when we brought him home was that we had found a happy, sociable, inquisitive, bright, even-tempered son, who seemed to fit so well with our personalities and lifestyle.
A forever family
So now several years down the line how are we all? We are definitely a family! Though life has changed we cannot now imagine being without our son. We’ve gone from racing to being the first to greet him when he wakes in the morning to see who can hold out the longest in bed before getting up! Pretty normal really. Our son is well settled and has come on amazingly well. Physically he has caught up with his peers and no longer needs support from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist as he once did. He does continue to have a significant speech delay (now classed as an impediment as he might never actually “catch up”). But he does manage to communicate quite well and has a way of charming everyone! His play skills and social skills are behind those of his peers and he seems to have little idea of social boundaries, thinking that everyone is a friend. These things do cause concern but they are things we can cope with and from what I understand are pretty typical of adopted children. All along our social worker has been great in helping us work through concerns. Even when we’ve felt we had nothing in particular to discuss, she has always had a useful slant on things which has helped crystallise our thinking. Our son started school recently and seems to be doing okay. We are one happy and thankful family looking forward to the future.