The first part of this account appeared in the March 2009 edition of the Webmag. Click here if you would like to read that first.
Waiting for News
The Panel took place in June 2007, very close to my adoption agency. I met my social worker at the offices (I took my Mum with me for support) and we all walked over in the rain to the building where the Panel was being held.
We entered the building and were left to sit and be nervous whilst my social worker entered the room where everyone who would make decisions about my ability to raise a child sat. She went in to see the members before I did as they needed to ask her questions about my abilities separately and to clear up any aspects of the Prospective Adopter’s Report on which they needed further clarification.
It felt like an eternity that she was in there, and all sorts of possible problems were running through my head. In actual fact she was probably only in the room about 10 to 15 minutes before she came out with the Chair of the Panel – who was very welcoming, friendly and tried to put me at ease before I entered the room.
The Panel itself was made up of a number of members from all aspects of life. There were adoptive parents, adults who had been adopted as children, a medical advisor, a manager of adoption agency and a few others. To be honest, I’m not very good in front of crowds and it felt rather uncomfortable to be the centre of everyone’s attention. I was asked a few questions, but as I was clearly uncomfortable it wasn’t prolonged. In fact, I can’t even remember the questions that I was asked. It’s all a bit of a blur. I was in and out within ten minutes. My social worker left the room with me and told me that I’d done very well and that she would call me later on in the day to let me know what the Panel’s decision was.
So that was it – there was nothing more I could do but wait for the decision. My future relied on the Panel saying ‘yes’ to my ability to love, care and respect a child… which meant that my name would be entered on a register held by BAAF (British Association of Adoption and Fostering) and allow me to look at children who wait for families’ profiles. Mum and I walked back to the car, not really talking about what had happened. We drove out of the car park and were about fifteen minutes in to our hour long journey home when my mobile rang. It was my social worker – the Panel had made their decision and they were very pleased to rubber-stamp my application to become an adopter.
Whilst I was on the phone, my social worker told me about a baby girl who was looking for a family. She was very small, her mother had drunk alcohol throughout the pregnancy and as a result the baby had stopped growing and had suspected FAS (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome). She thought I might be interested in her and she’d already been in touch with the social worker about me and they were very interested in me. She told me to have a think about it and she’d get back in contact with me when she had more information about her.
So… not only was I officially a prospective adopter, but there was possibly a child out there waiting for me … VERY scary!!!
The Search Begins
I signed up to two websites which show children’s profiles, and it was a very strange feeling … catalogue shopping for a child. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I made enquiries about a few children, but was turned down as I am a white person and the children were either of unknown heritage (white mother and unknown father) or they were considered to be black (one black great grandparent) so I wasn’t ethnically appropriate for those children.
My social worker gave me a few more profiles of children to look at. She’d discussed me with their social workers and they were interested in me. After I’d looked through the profiles and checked out on the internet their medical conditions I decided that I didn’t think I was the right person for the children – which was very hard to do – but I thought I knew my limitations as to what I could cope with, and constant medical attention wasn’t something that I thought I could do. The social workers, when told this, were apparently quite disappointed but passed a message back that they thought that I would be fantastic for any child.
Finding the One
The social worker of the baby girl (the one I was told about on the day of the Panel) had been in contact with my social worker and had provided a profile and picture to my social worker. My social worker called me to tell me about her, and gave me all the information she had on her, and asked me if I was still interested.
I said ‘yes, I was’, but I really needed to see a picture of the baby girl, so I arranged to go to in to the office to see her profile the next day. I saw the picture and the profile description and decided that I did wish to pursue the prospect of being the baby’s Mummy. My social worker made the calls to the child’s social worker and a home visit was arranged to come and see me.
Stress and More Stress
I find the next sections very difficult to write and it is also very confusing for anyone who wasn’t involved (and for those who were involved!) so please bear with me, as the timescale is not clear to me either.
I was given the child’s Form E to read through and find out more about the family history and the history of the child from birth. Form E is a confidential form which provides details of any child who is looked after by the state with a view to possible future adoption. I was advised to read this and write down any questions I had prior to the meeting with the child’s social worker.
The home visit was arranged for 26 June 2007and the people who were coming to see me were my social worker, the child’s social worker and the child’s family finder. My Mum stayed with me for support and she also prepared a wonderful spread of food for the social workers to eat whilst they were meeting me. I’d been told not to worry by my social worker and to just be myself, and she arrived at my home earlier than the child’s workers.
When they arrived I did feel sick and very worried about what they would think of me, my home and what I might say that would put them off me! We sat down in the lounge, and my Mum went to make drinks whilst we all made idle chatter. I did feel so very uncomfortable as if I was putting on a show, even though I was just being me.
The first problem encountered was when the family finder asked for my Mum to come in to the room so we could start. Now as far as we (myself, the social worker and Mum) were concerned Mum was only there to support me and make drinks, run round and be a general dogsbody (I did like that bit), and not be part of the meeting.
However, I did comply and asked Mum to come in to the room. Second problem arrived when Mum joined the ‘informal’ meeting and sat down next to me. The family finder insisted on talking to Mum; she didn’t speak to me at all, to the point that Mum even attempted to hide behind me so that she wasn’t being looked at and the family finder would have to direct herself at me. I felt more uncomfortable than ever and I know that my Mum did too.
I can’t remember much about the meeting really, other than feeling really put out that Mum was the one being spoken to. There was some more information given about the baby girl, I was told that she was tiny, and that she had size 2* shoes (European shoe size 18), that her future development was very uncertain due to her birth mother’s intake of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, and that she was delayed in her development and that she had feeding issues.
At the end of the meeting the social workers arranged when they would bring the foster parent to meet me, so I assumed that the meeting had gone well and that it was being taken further if they were bringing the foster carer out to see me. Apparently the foster carer had commitments and we couldn’t meet until 6 July.
So again, that was it – nothing else could happen until I’d met the foster carer: all on hold again. It was really difficult not to think about the baby, not to go out and buy things. I actually did go out and buy a few small things. I needed to, so that it felt that something was happening. So I bought slippers and a dressing gown. Not expensive, just something.
You can find the next episode in this mother’s story on this page.