APPROVED!

Yesterday we went to panel. It was scary. A roomful of strangers read every detail of our lives and then sat and talked about us. We were invited in for a few minutes to be scrutinised before sent back outside to wait while they decided whether or not we were allowed to be parents. I would like to say it was actually quite fun, but it wasn’t. Or that it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it was.

We planned to set off really early and have time to compose ourselves in a nearby Costa. Instead we drove around for a long time looking for somewhere to park, and then we walked around for a long time looking for the door! It was quite a helpful distraction, however, from where we were actually going. When we arrived we were shown to a room where we could wait. From there we could see our Stage 1 Social Worker at her desk; we were brought a cup of tea by the Social Worker who ran our prep group; and then The Lady who came to our house right at the start to fill in paperwork came to sit with us and distract us. It was nice to see all of these key people again at, what felt like, The End Of All Things.

After forever, our Social Worker came in with The Chair. It was a relief to see SW who we knew had been in with the panel fighting our corner. I suppose it was a big day for her too, she was recommending us to the panel and that is a big responsibility. The Chair introduced herself – she seemed friendly – and then made small talk for a while. I think it was to help us feel at ease, but it just felt like a test!

When we were left alone with SW, she told us that the panel were feeling really positive about us so far and that they’d struggled to think of questions to ask us, which I suppose means she’d done her job well and written a thorough report. She said their main concerns had been around my history of Anxiety, and our age – did we understand the enormity of what we were doing?  I quickly mentally deleted any jokes I could possibly be tempted to make. I don’t think she stopped smiling the whole time we chatted, I’m not sure if it was her nerves, or an attempt to relieve ours. Either way, it was comforting to be chatting with her. The questions they wanted to ask us were:

  1. How would we cope with the stress of parenting two children?
  2. How had we come to choose our criteria?
  3. What were we looking forward to about being parents?

As we read them I was sure I wouldn’t be able to say a single word, and so my husband jotted down notes as SW reminded us of all of the things we’d previously said that would be helpful. My mind was completely blank.

Then The Chair came back and we were led through windy corridors, outside, back inside, and finally to The Room. The Panel did their best to put us at ease, they offered us water and introduced themselves, which gave us time to adjust to the new environment. The Panel were a mix of social workers, adoptive parents, adopted adults and a doctor. I instantly identified the most intimidating panel member (The Doctor) and did my best to make eye contact with him the most.

As they asked each question my husband would start answering from the notes we’d made; and as he tailed off I would add anything that he’d missed, or that I suddenly thought of. I found that the chance to fight for our right to be parents meant I could speak after all. I tried to talk honestly, without being over the top. To say what I thought they wanted to hear, without sounding like I was. I wanted to shake each one of them by the shoulders and somehow make them realise the enormity of what they were doing.

I don’t know if it’s normal, but it felt like they laughed a lot, that was reassuring. At one point The Doctor commented on my ironing and I thought he was being sarcastic so mumbled a long defence about how my husband had actually ironed his own shirt and I’d told him it wasn’t OK to wear, on and on I rambled. Anyway, apparently he was trying to be nice.

Finally it was over! We were taken out of the room and The Lady sat with us again to offer distraction. Eventually SW came out and straight away said it was good news! I’m not sure what reaction she normally gets, but we just sat stunned. I didn’t quite understand what she was saying, or what it meant. We are actually going to be parents. A roomful of strangers trust us enough to give us children. SW said one of the panel members had said she’d like to live with us herself. Slightly weird, but a compliment I’m sure.

IMG_20160705_212538900.jpgAs we were leaving, still in shock, SW gave us a big hug and told us she’d be in touch soon. And that was it. As we walked out of the building it felt like we had a big rubber stamp across our foreheads: APPROVED. We wandered around the shopping centre for a while, every so often I lost the ability to walk and we’d just stand for a few seconds as the realisation washed over us. We tried calling each other Mum and Dad – my husband tried Mother but it just reminded me of the film Psycho. After a coffee in Costa and a quick ring around our family, it seemed the only thing to be done now was Nando’s.

Panel Day was a scary day, a special day. I’m thankful that so many people care about the wellbeing of our children to put us through that. I’m thankful that our SW believes enough in us to stand up for us. Most of all, I’m thankful that it’s over.

How will we know?

In 11 days we go to panel to be (hopefully) approved as adoptive parents. Then comes the matching process. Our Social Worker seems confident that we will have profiles to look at straight away because our criteria is fairly open. Throughout the process we’ve tried not to think past panel day, we really wanted to take it one step at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. In fact, as someone who gets excited about Christmas in January, I have been incredibly self-controlled!

However, there is now very little to distract ourselves with, no forms or meetings or training days, and so inevitably our thoughts and conversation have turned to post July 5th. Aside from wondering when our children will finally be home, and desperately hoping they’ll be here for Christmas, our biggest question has really become ‘how will we know?’

DSCF4869We are very confident in our Social Worker, she knows us really well, she has so far worked really hard on our behalf, and she is genuinely concerned with the best interests of the children looking for families. And so when she starts to bring us profiles to look at, we’re confident that all of them will be sensible, good matches for us. And so now we’re wondering ‘how will we know?!’ And if all of them will be good, sensible matches, what would make us say no to the first one we see?

Should we be waiting for a fuzzy feeling? Or holding out for a child with less ‘issues’? Should we narrow our criteria? Should we look for profiles with cute photos?! How on earth will we know?!!!

When we were looking to ‘adopt’ our cats I looked at loads of websites with photos and descriptions. Both times I knew as soon as I saw the cats that we ended up adopting, and then did everything I could to make them ours.

Adopting children is quite a lot more complex and serious than adopting cats. I don’t think we can operate the same method.

When our Social Worker asked how we’d like to go about the matching process, we said we’d like her to do all of the searching, and bring us the profiles she thought were good matches. We knew if we started looking ourselves we’d fall in love with every face we saw, and we’d talk ourselves out of our original criteria that was decided with very sensible reason. We didn’t want to risk getting attached to photos of lots of other people’s children, and we didn’t want to risk pursuing matches that would ultimately not be approved because they weren’t at all sensible.

And so if we are only going to see profiles of children that fit our criteria, and that have been selected by a professional who knows us well, understands the system and cares for the children, why would we say no?

If you’ve adopted, I’d love to know your thoughts. How did you go about the matching process? How did you finally know? Or maybe you’re in the matching process now, has it been what you expected? Please leave a comment!

 

 

This is your life…

Last week we received our Prospective Adopters Report (PAR). A 21 page long document about us and our abilities to parent. It made for very strange reading.

Young, vibrant couple in their mid twenties.

Our social worker did a great job. I would definitely give us children! Hours and hours of interviews meant she could give really detailed accounts of our lives and significant experiences. She included anecdotal stories that make us seem like real people to someone who’s never met us. She made observations about us as a couple that we were oblivious to, like how we interact together.

DSCF4832.jpgAnd yet it made for uncomfortable reading too. Very personal memories are suddenly written in black and white and handed over to strangers. I felt comforted that the document she emailed to us was password protected. Not because it contains secrets, or because I’m worried who might want to steal it. But somehow it felt respectful.

Since our assessment interviews finished and we didn’t have any more homework, I’ve naturally started worrying about panel. I bought myself a new dress (actually 3) to wear on the day to give me confidence. However now I’m wondering if I’ve wasted my money. Sitting in a room full of strangers who have all read this document, I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel completely naked.

White British, heterosexual, able bodied, Christians.

And as always it comes back to the fact that a room of complete strangers get to decide whether or not I can be a mum. They will know my medical history, how I got on at primary school, how my husband proposed. What they won’t know is how long we have longed for our children. How much we already love them. The way our hearts break when we pray for their safety. It doesn’t feel fair that these strangers get to make such a massive decision. That we have to be prodded and poked and investigated inside out. But this is how our children will come home to us. and so we trust and we wait.

We are thankful for our social worker and the hard work she’s put in, as well as the PAR she’s written. We’re thankful that there are procedures in place to protect our children, and that that room of strangers are there because they want the best for our children. We’re thankful for a God who is in control, who has a plan and who loves us.