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“Your mouth goes dry & you start to realise how important this actually is…”
Published: November 2, 2016
Tom and his husband adopted their son in 2015. In the first of 3 blogs, he shares his story from deciding to become a Dad to attending the adoption panel :
Where do I begin? It all feels so long ago now. But here we are a whole 18 months into life as a family with our little boy. It’s a huge cliche but it feels like he’s been here forever. I’ve lost all memory of what we did before (apart from having more rest & sleep obviously!)
It was early 2014 when my husband and I decided to begin the adoption process. We always knew we wanted a family but felt we had some living to do first. Being LGBT, we weren’t sure of the route to achieve our family. Surrogacy was an option and we spent a lot of time researching it. It works for some and is an amazing way to build your family. But, personally, I was put off by the idea of paying huge sums of money for my child. It just didn’t sit right. A few months earlier, I’d been lucky enough to get a job as marketing manager for an adoption agency. Working there gave me such an incredible insight into adoption and everything that came with it. From the types of children that were in need of families, the length of time it can take, to the support and the type of training we’d receive. It quickly became a no-brainer that adoption was the path for us.
It would’ve been a bit of a conflict of interest to apply to adopt through my agency, so we went with Adopters For Adoption. I met one of their team during a work event. We got talking and it just felt right. You can adopt through your Local Authority or any independent agency. For us the main difference was that LAs only have children from that area, whereas independent adoption agencies can find children from around the whole country. At the time, all I heard at work, was that there were no children under 3 in need of adoptive families. Because we’d decided we’d like to adopt a child as young as possible, we were prepared to wait as long as it took for the right child to come along. We wanted to experience as many of the ‘firsts’ as we could. I was 30 then and felt young and fit enough to be able to handle the demands of a baby (ask me now after a week off work with my son and my back is in bits!!)
We had our first visit from our social worker in July 2014. Her name was Sarah and we loved her. I cannot tell you how important it was for us to feel comfortable with her and to get along. I kept thinking throughout, what if we’d been placed with someone who didn’t ‘get’ gay couples? Although, I hope that this type of person wouldn’t become a social worker . Since 2006 when LGBT people were first able to adopt, there have been 1,847 adoptions in the UK by gay parents. So, I’d like to think that no social workers have issues with it!
Anyway, Sarah got us and we welcomed her into our home for the many weeks it took to do the adopter assessment. What did the assessment involve? Really, it felt like an hour or two each week just talking about our lives! Literally all the way from childhood up to the current day. Working in adoption, I knew that social workers had a reputation for being impossible to pin down because of their huge workload. So, I made sure we scheduled all our future meetings on the that first visit. Luckily Sarah wanted the same. I think she could tell straight away we were ready and in good shape (if you ever actually are?).
Some of our meetings happened as a couple and some were alone. My advice is just be prepared to share it all. No skeletons. Luckily, we both were so open and had nothing to hide. To be honest we experienced very ‘normal’ upbringings. My husband’s parents divorced, we both experienced bullying at school. None of this holds you back. It shows what you can deal with and helps make you a strong parent. Social workers aren’t looking to catch you out. They’ll also request to meet with your friends and family. We chose parents and some very close friends. It’s an opportunity for them to see your support network. We are blessed to have genuine, well rounded humans in our lives. They did us so proud.
Once you and your social worker have completed the assessment period, you are put forward to attend the panel that will formally approve you as prospective adopters. We travelled to the Midlands (where our agency was based) where we met Sarah. This was the nerve wracking part. The bit when you sit in front of a board of people from the agency/local authority who are deciding your fate. Once we arrived we were taken into a meeting room. And after a bit of chit chat it was time for panel. Your mouth goes dry, you start to realise how important this actually is. What if you say something that is funny to you but completely ridiculous to them? They might think Well he can’t raise a child if he thinks like that! But then I just looked to my side and saw my husband. I’d never felt more comfortable and strong. We were both so 100% in this together. To all the single adopters out there, going through the meetings, checks, training on your own. You are so inspiring and I take my hat off to you!
We were asked all the textbook questions that we had been prepared for. What about female influences in your child’s life? Who will go to work? Who will stay at home? How will you handle any additional needs if they arise? Questions around birth parents etc. etc. etc. I felt like we nailed it. Until they asked the most random question we weren’t expecting… I see from your PAR (Prospective Adopter Report, a HUGE document your social worker writes about you) that you have a cat. What would happen if your child woke in the night and tripped on the cat by the stairs? I can’t even remember how we answered that one. But I do remember thinking What on earth was that about? It did give us a good laugh afterwards! During the panel, I had never acted so responsibly and maturely in my entire life. But they weren’t giving anything away.
Then, before we knew it, it was all over. We went downstairs, pulled ourselves together and went over every single question thinking Could we have answered that better? It hit us that they could actually decide it was a complete NO. That we weren’t ready to become adoptive parents. What would we do?
Finally, we were called back into the room and we were told it was a unanimous YES from the panel. We smiled, we cried, we shook hands and hugged everyone. We were told all about the next steps, what we could expect and what we should do. Now, as approved adopters, we would be allowed to search for our child. And then we got into the car and just sat there. We had made it. Well, over the first hurdle at least. It was a very special moment. But we had no idea how special the moments to come were going to be. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
You can read more from Tom at www.theunlikelydad.com