This morning I’ve been doing some tidying up and came across my diary from 2010, the year in which the children came to live with us. Unlike most of my full diaries this stops suddenly on the day we started introductions, which whilst a shame does illustrate how crazy life became with two little children. I thought I would share the story of how we went from prospective adopters to parents in less than a year.
In mid 2009, we attended a 4 day intensive course for prospective adopters, this was to prepare us for adoption and the issues we might face. It was factual and prepared participants for the realities of adoption but made us even more determined that we could offer a safe and loving home to children. This course was followed by a home study where every aspect of your life, relationship, family, work, hobbies etc.. was discussed. The home study is hard, as every aspect of your life is analysed and checked. Whilst we were expecting safe guarding checks it also included proving income, home and life insurances, risk assessments and safety recommendations for your home, life plans and child care, as well as exploring in depth your health, emotional wellbeing, relationship as a couple and with family and friends. Thankfully we completed it within 8 months and were approved by a panel from the LA as prospective adopters for siblings up to 6 years old. At this point, our life really went on hold as we were finally waiting for our children. Whilst there is a national register, as our local authority had taken us through assessment and approval, the practice is that you are on their books exclusively for six months. I think of all the years in which we had tried to start a family this was one of the worst periods, we were waiting with no idea of what would happen and when. We were as proactive as we could be, clearing our spare rooms ready for children’s bedrooms and I tentatively began to look at local toddler clubs, schools, equipment etc.. But the reality was that there was nothing we could do. It was getting so frustrating that we phoned our social worker and asked if we could at least book a last minute holiday to give us a focus, we were given permission to do this as we were told it was highly unlikely that there would be any placements in the coming months. Needless to say these were famous last words, on what should have been the first day of our cruise to the Norweigen Fjords we met our children for the first time.
Our wait finally ended on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon when after leaving a few messages our social worker finally reached us on the phone. We were expecting a catch up call so had no idea of the surprise she was going to spring on us. There had been developments in a case the department were working on and a brother and sister were able to be placed for adoption and she would like to talk to us about the children. The week which followed until her visit was the longest of my life and my emotions really were all over the place as we waited for her visit in which she honestly presented all she knew about the children and their history. Events quickly snowballed from here with lots and lots of meetings with social workers, a paediatrician, psychologist, foster careers and we completed all the detailed paperwork to allow us to go to panel the next month to be matched as the children’s parents. Where as I had been quite shy and reserved in the approval panel, I was so different in this forum, I felt so passionately that these were our children and argued so strongly and determined. We were officially matched and then the madness started, we had 7 days in which to serve notice at work, decorate the children’s bedrooms, buy all we needed and get ready for introductions. In the most intense period of my life I will always remember the kindness and generosity of people who helped us in so many ways, the rooms got painted and decorated, furniture was ordered and delivered, curtains, black out blinds and bedding arrived, our pond disappeared, carpets were fitted, everybody wanted to help in whatever way they could and by the day of introductions we were ready to welcome our little ones.
Introductions are an incredibly stressful time, you are under scrutiny at all times. The first time we met the children, there were foster carers and social workers watching everyone’s reaction. It was a short visit and I remember little about our first visit, we went clutching a doll for Little Miss and a puppy toy for Little Man which had featured in the introduction resources that had been read to them, a scrap book all about us and a talking book with our photos. Mr S was more confident and enthusiastic, I was really conscious of not forcing ourselves onto the children and letting them come to us more gently, we played and sang rhymes and read books and after a short while left, it was all so strange it felt quite unreal. Over the next nine days our visits continued, at first the visits were at the at the carer’s home accompanied by the foster carer, they progressed to us taking the children out alone to the foster carer bringing the children to our house and then leaving them at our house for a day.
There were progress meetings and in introductions we also met the children’s birth mother. This meeting was organised very carefully by social services at a neutral venue, we were briefed before hand on what we were allowed to say and how the meeting may develop. It was an incredibly emotional meeting, social services directed a polite conversation and we had a photo taken together so that in the future the children can see us together to know that we all agreed on the adoption. The smiles in that photo do not reflect the raw emotion in that meeting. At the end me and the children’s birth mum both hugged each other tightly and I promised her that I would always love and care for the children, we were both sobbing our hearts out and it was one of the most intense and emotional moments of my life. I know some adopters choose not to meet the birth family, it was very painful but I am pleased I did, I have a lot of respect for the birth mum’s decision to allow the children to be adopted and I hope that she saw how much we would love and care for the children. She was also always very supportive of the adoption process and did things that helped speed up the legal process, she did not make any objections. She even signed her permission to allow the children to use our name immediately on all legal documents, eg NHS, child benefit etc.. which made things easier.
Nine days after the initial introduction the children finally came to live with us. However even then it was not the end of the process as social workers’ visits and reviews continued to the final adoption order six months later. It had taken eight long years but we finally had our perfect little Sparkles family.
Below are the original diary pages of this time in our life, sadly my fancy coloured pens have faded over the years but it is still legible evidence of our grand adventure.