I’m catching a few minutes whilst my daughter is asleep. I thought I would take this opportunity to begin to write about my experience of adoption. I suspect I won’t get this finished before she wakes up, so it will be done in parts.
Adopting was successful for me (after a fashion), but it was a long hard road which I don’t think should be the general rule for people who wish to adopt within the UK. I was very lucky that I had the support of my family and friends. I always wanted children, and I was never against adoption; in fact I think I had factored adopting a child into my plans, as I knew from an early age that it would be very difficult for me to conceive naturally.
In 2001, amazingly I got pregnant. The pregnancy was wrought with worry for me, and rightly so. When I was 26 weeks pregnant I began to bleed; subsequently I gave birth to my son, who survived for an hour without support and died in my arms. Perhaps unsurprisingly I did take a long time to come to terms with the death of my son, and couldn’t bear to be around children for a year or so. The desire for a child didn’t go away; it was just put on hold.
Thinking About Adopting
During the time between the death of my son and the decision that I wanted to adopt I moved back to live with my Mum, a decision that at some points we wish we’d never made (more on that later). Mum was happy to support me in whatever decision I made. After a couple of changes in career I decided that it was the right time for me as a single white female to start the process of adoption. I made enquiries to a few agencies before I settled on one that I wanted to represent me on my quest to adopt. I ‘think’ (you will understand why I’m not sure later) I did this in late 2004-2005. I had decided that I would like to adopt a child with a form of disability such as FAE (Foetal Alcohol Effects) or Drug Addiction.
The agency I chose sent me information out about them and what they did and the kind of children that they placed. They tended to place older children who had complex needs or large sibling groups or children with disabilities. They did not tend to place very young children with families.
A social worker was sent to see me and discuss adoption and the processes that I would have to go through. I say I; it was actually me and my Mother and the two people who were my referees. She asked preliminary probing questions about my family life and my thoughts about children and how they would fit in to my lifestyle. I was told that she would be taking my case to a team meeting where they as a team would discuss if I would be accepted to take part in the home study stage of the adoption process.
The First Checks
The following Monday afternoon after the first visit had taken place I received a phone call from the social worker to let me know that they had discussed my case and that they would be happy to carry out the in-depth home study. I was sent CRB forms to fill in, as you obviously have to have a clear CRB in order to adopt children. I then had to decide who were going to be my referees; it couldn’t be family members. I decided on two people, both of whom had young children and whom I saw on a regular basis, who could be honest about how I behaved with their children, and how they thought I would behave with my own children.
Once this initial hurdle was overcome it felt like I was on my way to having a child. Appointments were made with the social worker for her to come out to see me every two weeks to carry out the home study (Form F/ Prospective Adopters Report), which upon completion would be sent to adoption agencies to match me with a child.
As part of this assessment you are also expected to have a medical report completed by your own doctor. I had chosen to work as a temp during this time so that it would be easier to give up work; I also found out that I would be entitled to statutory adoption/maternity pay through the temp agency if I worked for them for a specific period of time prior to having to the placement.
Herein lay the first major hurdle on my adoption journey! I was found to have high blood pressure, and when the report was sent by my doctor to the agency medical advisor they advised the agency that until my ‘condition’ was stable the assessment should be put on hold.
I received this phone call from the social worker on my way in to work at 8:30am. It was a particularly rubbish day if my memory serves me correctly. In fact it just didn’t sink in at all. So that was it. On hold; I felt fine; I was on medication which stabilised my blood pressure within days. But no further contact from the adoption agency and no idea of how long this would be on hold for.
Life carried on for me, working, stressing, taking tablets daily (which I still do), trying not to think about the fact that ‘my child’ could be being born, could be being abused – all sorts of things that I’m sure every prospective adopter thinks (it can’t just be me). It’s just such an unknown and unpreventable thing, but in a perverse way you sort of want it to happen so that you can have your family. Then you start to wish that whatever happens doesn’t scar the child too extensively and that you can help them to love and be loved.
Finally I received information from the agency after my doctor had been in contact with their medical officer to tell them that there was nothing physically wrong with me and that I was perfectly capable of caring for a child and that in her opinion they were stopping a child from having a safe, loving, stable home. The period of time elapsed was approximately 9 months with no contact at all: no letters asking how I was, no phone calls to say that they were still monitoring the situation. I was just starting to think that it was the end of the line, that I was destined to never have my own child, that I’d always be the babysitter, never a parent.
So then the process restarted all over again. I don’t have a great relationship with my Father and I was questioned at length about how this might have affected me and how it could affect my parenting of any child. Other than repeating that it wouldn’t affect anything, and that I have lots of very positive male role models that would be part of my child’s life, there was nothing else I could say.
As part of the assessment the social workers had to ‘interview’ my Mother as they appeared convinced that she would try and take over. Oh so far from the truth. It has always been very clear that my child would indeed be that: my child. My Mother is not a ‘child’ person. She enjoyed having me, but she doesn’t do snot, poo, wee or any other secretions from children. In that sense she’s not particularly hands on. Happy to play, but more than happy to hand back as soon as anything needs to be done. My Mother is a strong, outspoken woman. It’s how she’s got where she is in the world (I don’t take after her in that way). I think because I am so mousey when it comes to group situations that people think that Mum would ‘override’ me. What people fail to see is that I get my own way most of the time.
Meeting Other Adopters
We (Mum and I) were invited to attend some group sessions again as part of the assessment. I say invited – it was actually compulsory, as we were assessed during this period too. The sessions were all day over a weekend and to be perfectly honest were the most tediously boring events that I have ever attended.
We were stuck in a room full of other prospective adopters, some of whom had no experience of children at all, but yet wanted to adopt a sibling group. All the people there were couples bar one other single adopter. She already had a child from a previous relationship. We were asked to complete all sorts of tasks ranging from child development to role play (which I loath – does anyone actually like it?). I found the whole event quite mind-blowing, that these people who had no childcare experience were perhaps going to have two or more children living with them.
I suppose in some ways I was quite lucky, I have over twenty years of childcare experience in many different guises. I know how awful they can be when tired or sick, or just in general. I also know how absolutely trusting and wonderful they can be.
After the group sessions were completed, which were over a period of three weekends, my friends had given their references for me and they were all glowing as predicted, ( who would give someone as a referee if they were going to say that they had reservations about you?!)
It was time for my next hurdle… the Panel.
You can find the next episode in this mother’s story on this page.