Adoption (Part 2) - Family Finding and Matching
After Approval Panel, we went out for dinner and celebrated with food and drinks. We joked 'imagine this is the last date we have before a baby.......'
In the previous blog I forgot to write that during stage two you will complete a child profile which covers the 'type' of child you're looking for. This sounds more dreadful and heartless than it is. It's a form with all the general info such as sex, age, race, religion and it offers a list of health and developmental conditions commonly found in adopted children. I know that some families have a real issue with this task with the argument that families who birth their children don't get to choose if their child has a disability or not, which is true of course. However, the value of the task lies in you being able to assess your own abilities realistically because whilst raising a child with a developmental delay or condition is usually more challenging than raising a child without, raising a child with a condition plus developmental trauma is challenging on another level. The Social Worker has to be confident that you have the support around you and the skills and abilities to parent a child who is likely to experience more difficulties than most. With the list you can tick yes, no or consider with more information. We ticked that we would consider everything other than life limiting, a decision which I still can't justify without sounding heartless, but truthful nevertheless.
Anyhow, a few days post approval panel our Social Worker visited as it was time to start family finding. From what I've heard from many other Adopters this is the most emotionally challenging stage but in our experience this was the easiest for reasons I'll explain shortly. We recapped our children's profile and confirmed that we wanted to go full steam ahead with family finding. It was January, 2017 and we hoped so much for a new addition to join our family before Christmas that year. We knew this was very unlikely as many Adopters wait anywhere from three months to three years to be matched with a child, most around 12 months at least. 'Maybe we'll be lucky', we wondered.
Our Social Worker explained the process to us: she would send a mini profile of us to LA's (Local Authorities) in their network. Meanwhile the Social Workers of the children waiting for families were sending out profiles of each child waiting to be adopted and so our Social Worker would be on the lookout for children she felt we would be a good fit for, and likewise. Our profiles were to be put on matching websites as are the children's. This may appear a little odd, but the research shows that this is the speediest and most effective way of quick matches which means less time for the children in Foster Care. The family finding began and my Wife and I were also proactive in looking on the website at children's profiles. It felt uncomfortable but necessary. Emotional but absolutely necessary.
Nine days after approval panel I was working from home when my Wife called me. 'Are you sitting down?' she asked, 'YES', I replied worrying what was happening. 'F (our Social Worker) has found us a baby girl, she's nine months old'. All I can recall for the next few seconds is exclaiming some profanities which sounded a whole lot like 'wtf', repeatedly. I'm not sure how the rest of the conversation went but that evening my Wife and I sat down on the phone to our Social Worker flabbergasted at the news. Just a few days earlier when she had been visiting, our Social Worker had already made links with this baby's Social Worker and out of many, many families we were the chosen ones for this perfect little baby but she couldn't tell us yet. When I wrote earlier how Adopters find this the hardest part it's because this linking stage can happen many, many times with many children and fall through with other families chosen over them at the last step. It can take months, years even to be matched with so much heartbreak. We knew it was risky at this stage but we also knew how extremely lucky we were to have this happen so quickly.
The Social Worker told us as much as she knew and then dropped the news 'she needs her forever family urgently, I mean next week urgently'. I was shaking, my Wife was speechless. Usually this part of linking with a child and matching takes 4-6 weeks! That evening we were sent over her CPR (child permanence report) detailing everything about her and her birth family history. It was about 70 pages, and a photograph. The most beautiful little photograph. We had to confirm if we wanted to proceed the next morning. We didn't wait, we confirmed that we wanted to proceed that evening. We were advised not to tell our family that night as to not get their hopes up - obviously we did. I recall our parents screaming with tears, joy and excitement. How could they not be in every part of our process?
Early the next morning our Social Worker contacted us to say that Introductions needed to start in one week. ONE WEEK. Usually when a match is agreed by all parties the Adopters have to go to matching panel with the Local Authority of the child to be interviewed again to finalise suitability to be their parents. We didn't have time for this so we would be taking the baby on a Foster to Adopt basis (F2A - info for a blog another time), until we could get to Matching Panel in a few weeks. Everything was confirmed in emails that day. We were meeting the baby in six days but first we had to meet her Social Workers and have our home checked by them. Our Social Worker advised that we got everything ready for the baby before they visited in four days. Four days to prepare for a baby when most get nine months. We had NOTHING.
We called in everyone we knew for help. Our parents, friends, family, they all rallied around us to get toys, clothes, bedding, milk, nappies, medicine, food pots, her favourite foods, everything a baby needed. We built a nursery, bought a pram, set up baby monitors, shopped for carriers. We went shopping with my Mother in Law and spent a fortune in Mothercare. I remember walking the baby aisle's of Asda on the phone to my Mum in some kind of manic, stressed and excited state. It was chaos. Beautiful chaos.
Four Days later, the Social Workers of the baby arrived. It was fine. We chatted, showed them around the nursery and our home. Introductions were due to start in two days. We were to meet the baby in two days in her Foster Carer's home where we would start four days of long, intense introductions. Usually they are around two weeks to allow the you to become familiar with the child and their routine, and for the child to start getting to know you and feel safe with you, but we had four days. We never should have agreed to those short intro's but you go along with what you're told; hindsight hey?
We finished the meeting with planning to meet our Social Worker and the baby's Social Worker at the Foster Carer's home in 48 hours.
I honestly can't recall those 48 hours. We definitely didn't have time for a final date and to this day our approval panel celebration was our last time spent together outside of our home, just the two of us. I do know that I said goodbye to my colleagues within those two days (and watched another colleague due to go off on Maternity Leave be thrown a baby shower full of well wishes, games, love and gifts - heck I was even invited!). But the next thing I recall is leaving our home on intro's day one, driving the long journey to the Foster Carer's home feeling more nervous than ever before. We were about to meet her.
Just three weeks after we were approved as Adopters we pulled up outside the Foster Carer's home and met our Social Worker before we went in. 'Are you okay?' she asked, 'yes!', we lied. I knocked on the door, my Wife next to me, this was the biggest moment of our lives. The front door opened, and there she was, sat on her Foster Carer's hip; a perfect, tiny baby looking at us with big blue eyes and a huge smile.
Our Daughter, Ella.
To be continued...