Adoption agency says no: time to convince them otherwise!

So in my previous blog post back in 2014…The adoption agency tells us no! I detailed our desire to expand our family. Reflecting back I realise there are gaps in our story. So 6 years later I intend to fill those gaps. Like the amazing moment we adopted boy 2.

We absolutely loved being Dad’s to Wil and thought we were ready to build on that. No, scrap that! We knew we were ready! We were doing a dam good job! He was thriving and happy and we had an amazing support network around us. Still do, in fact that network has grown so much. We have awesome friends and family! Unfortunately the adoption agency didn’t agree at the time!

Having weighed up our options we had decided to look into adoption, rather than carry out surrogacy again. It was an amazing, selfless, brilliant and understandably one time offer from Lorna! Wil must have been about a year at this stage. We applied to the adoption agency for an assessment to be considered as adopters. After carrying out the assessment they said that we weren’t ready at that stage….they require an 18 month gap between our existing child and any prospective child. Also they wanted us to wait to show some longevity to our relationship. Hah! Little did they know Ivan was stuck with me, poor fella, they wanted us to prove it!

I reckon we managed to wait about a year before we got back in touch with the agency. Though they’d recommended we wait 18 months, we were still itching to get going and, impatient as ever, we decided to make the call.

I remember nervously picking up the phone and ringing the agency. To my shock they were happy to move forward with our application. They sent out a new application to update which we quickly filled in and returned. To our utter surprise and glee it was only a matter of weeks that we received notification that our application was being assigned to a social worker, Dave.

That first phone call from Dave was both amazing and scary! Ivan took the call. When he had hung up he explained that Dave wanted to meet with us to set the ball rolling. When I asked him what he seemed like he said, “a bit wet.” An observation that was soon to be debunked completely.

The day we were to meet Dave rolled around quickly, hastened by a flurry of cleaning, decorating and organising. We wanted to make a great impression and also I needed to do something to settle my nerves! We needn’t have stressed though. As soon as we met Dave we realised Ivan’s telephone assessment was way off point. Dave was anything but “wet”. He was quiet and professional, but oozed a persona of strength, knowledge and trust. He had a quiet calmness and organised approach to things that we found both settling and confidence inspiring. He never removed his professional persona, but I like to think by the end of the 9 month process, he considered us friends. I know we did him. We had definitely lucked out when it came to social workers!

Dave explained the process. We would have regular visits from him to build a back ground picture of us and our lives. He warned us that it would often feel intrusive and that he would be required to speak to family, friends and potentially even exes. We would also require references as well as financial and criminal checks. Dave also explained that we would have to complete an adopters course….basically weekly classes for 6 weeks with the local authority and other prospective adopters. At the end of all this, if he deemed us ready, he would put us forward to the adoption panel to be considered for approval. I feel like we should have been overwhelmed, to he honest though, we weren’t. In fact I think we were reassured at the depth of checks and background work that would be going into the application.

The first homework Dave set us was to write, independently of each other, our own personal history….an honest and raw account of our lives from birth to now. No gaps, no ommisions. I don’t know about Ivan, but I really found this process of self reflection both cathartic and therapeutic. I left nothing out… From my chaotic childhood with an alcoholic father to experimenting with men at 14. No stone was left unturned. I felt it imperative that I was honest from the outset. I was sure that Dave’s process would be thorough and I didn’t want to be caught out in a lie, even by omission. Besides that isn’t my style.

The meetings with Dave were great. He met with us both individually and together and used these self reflections to build and write his profile of us as individuals and as a couple. And I was right, he was very thorough! Good job I’m an open book anyway! He always managed to make his questions easy to answer no matter how sensitive or direct. Even when I did feel slightly uncomfortable or embarrassed, this feeling was nothing compared with the feeling we hoped would come our way from a positive panel. Fingers crossed!

The months of meetings and paperwork went on and Dave put us forward for the adoption classes. We took this as a great sign and a leap forward in the process! We attended the first of these weekly sessions with trepidation… we suspected when we walked in to the room we were the only gay couple of about 10 other couples. But we didn’t feel awkward for long. Both the social workers and the other attendees were welcoming and friendly. After all we were all in the same boat, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other background. We all had the same goal. Some of the other attendees have become great friends whom we are still in touch with today (yes you Michelle and Steve!) If I’m completely honest, the thought of the classes initially felt like a tick box exercise to us. We didn’t need to be taught how to parent…we had proven we could do that. However, as often in this process we were proven wrong. The classes were invaluable in challenging our thoughts and perceptions around adoption and raising a child through adoption. The classes were absolutely amazing and completely worth it! The content was insightful, well delivered and absolutely necessary.

The time had come. About 9 months after re contacting the adoption agency Dave told us he was ready to forward our application to the adoption approval panel. This was it! The months of reflection, interviews, questions a d probing had finally led to this moment. We were ready, weren’t we??

Reflecting on this now brings back the truly overwhelming feelings (whilst at the same time slightly mind numbing too) of joy, fear, excitement and relief that I felt at the prospect of panel.

In truth I needn’t have worried. The panel was warm, inviting, professional and friendly. It’s only hindsight however that allows me to see this. At the time my mind created scholars and judges and fire-breathing dragons, all interviewing us for the dream job we’d spent our whole life training for! Genuinely I don’t think much can prepare you for your panel better than the process put in place by the local authority. The background and insight into yourself they draw out of you. Your life, your thoughts, your beliefs. It truly does give you the groundwork for analysing and creating tangible reasons around why you want to become parents. And how you’ll manage that in reality. At least that was our experience.

The rest was covered by our heartfelt desire and knowledge that we wanted to expand our family….and that we were ready for it. We were thinking maybe we’d be the next Waltons family. More likely we’d end up like the Adams family, but we were willing to take that risk.

Anyway, once we’d received that golden Yes! from the panel we went home slightly dumbstruck. What happened now? What could we expect? We were going to get a new child, our family was growing. It was all becoming very real. Very exciting. Very scary.

We were unaware though of what decisions we yet had to make…We thought that completing our approval panel meant the hard work was done. We couldn’t have been more wrong. After all, what decision could be harder than choosing your own child?

Ivan and I were thrilled with the outcome of our panel. As were our family and friends. It seems ridiculous now, but we’d spent so much time and energy on our panel that we hadn’t thought about how we’d feel actually ‘choosing’ a child, or indeed how that even worked.

So, knowing that we had approval to adopt, we made the mistake of looking at the adoption magazines. These magazines basically contain pictures of children needing adoptive parents accompanied by some text with background information on them. To us though they just felt like catalogues. There were so many photos of children, either alone or in sibling groups, all looking at us with pleading eyes. And genuinely if we had the means and it was the right thing to do we would give a home to every one of them. It was heart wrenching. Why hadn’t they already found a home? Generally the kids in the magazines are the ones that are harder to place, haven’t yet found their adoptive family for a number of reasons. Have been in the system for a while. There were so many that we made notes on and intended to speak to our social worker about. Our hearts and heads knowing we could provide a warm and stable environment for them.

When we met with our social worker though he immediately threw a spanner in the works. A very welcome and perfect spanner as it turned out.

Dave came to visit and brought us a profile of the most amazing boy. The research and insight Dave had got into us from the months he’d been working with us had clearly paid off. Sure there were some questions about backgrounds, question marks around development, ginger hair. When it boiled down to it though we went with our heart. It hasn’t let us down yet.

We knew this boy would fit our family perfectly and hopefully we would be perfect for him. We knew immediately that we wanted to adopt that boy. And the rest, as they say, is history. 5 years later and biy 2 is growing into the most amazing young man. I am so proud that I am able to call him Son and for him to call me Dad.

I still think about all those other children though and sincerely hope that they too found their perfect home. If you have ever thought about adopting a child please look into it further. So many of you could offer a wonderful home to a child. And they have so much to give back.