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So that’s it, we’ve done it. Apparently. We’ve crossed the most important hurdle in this very bizarre process. Our status has shifted from ‘prospective adopter’ to ‘approved adopter’.
“Does it feel like the burden’s been lifted?” asks one friend.
Hmmm. I know what she means. And yes, in one sense it does.
We no longer have to use tentative ‘if’s in conversation. We don’t have to wonder what the adoption panel will ask or what they’ll make of our report. We can look forward to the future with the certainty that we will be growing our family through adoption.
On the other hand, though, there’s a new burden to take its place. The burden of OK we really do have to get out of the boat now.
Speaking of adoption in the theoretical sense and speaking of it in the practical/expectant sense are two very different things. One is confident, assured, smiling – everyone else is on board and thinks you’re wonderful for doing it.
The other is unsure, unsteady and just a little bit isolating – suddenly you’re in a place no one else can go, and it’s slightly frightening. How do we choose a child? Will we ‘just know’?
I can understand why people ask how long the process should take from now on, I really do.
But I’m never going to be able to give a satisfactory answer to that one. Finding a family for a child who needs one – for life – is not something to rush. You can’t create a family by randomly assigning parents to children, or vice versa, and expect it to work. There is a thoroughness to the process, many different stages designed to ensure – as much as is humanly possible – that the parent-child match is a good fit.
So, no – I don’t know how long it will take from this point, and nor would I want to assign a timeframe.
What happens next?
A better question is ‘What happens next?’, for which there is a clearer answer. Essentially, we are now looking for a child.
This can happen in different ways. Our social worker receives details of children on the adoption register, which she can forward to us if they match our criteria. We can search for children on a secure web register. And we’re planning to go to an adoption exchange event, where lots of different local authorities will have details of children who need families.
Only when there has been a ‘match’, approved by both social workers, will we have an idea of timing.
How do we ‘choose’?
No one told us that looking at children’s profiles, knowing that we are now in a position to make enquiries, would be this hard. We were prepared, of course, for the tough life stories – but we didn’t realise how clueless we would feel about how to proceed.
Do we ask for details of any child who matches our criteria? Or just pick one or two? What if other adopters have got there first? Should we subscribe to the online adoption registers? And if so, for how long? They offer subscriptions for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and a year – how are we supposed to know what to choose?
From theoretical to actual
Life post-adoption panel is exhilarating, exciting and filled with hope.
It is also confusing, nerve-wracking and emotional. Out with the theoretical case studies – and in with the actual children, the ones with actual lives who actually need a family. They are why we’re in this process.
I’m holding on to a thread of faith which believes that God will lead us to the right child or children – whilst also having no clue how He will do that. We trust God for the outcome, but can’t see the process.
In other words, just like normal life.
Congratulations! We were approved in December. We saw our kids’ profile at an exchange day in January. We fell in love and just knew. But other adopters were interested and because of our social worker changing role we were told no. Then in March, the social worker came back to us with the same children. We met them in August, they moved in in September and we just got our Adoption Order in June!
Some learning from the journey:
It is hard. These kids all have stories to break your heart and there’s a chance you’ll want to help them all. You’ve already recognised that the process is about identifying who you might have a shot at helping. Hold on to that thought. You want to give the child a new start, not another broken relationship.
The Exchange Day is particularly hard. Be prepared to make some clinical decisions about real children. There are hundreds of them profiled and you’re only looking for one (or two). It’s tough. Make space later to grieve for the lives you’ve heard about.
I think you can decide whether you want to “just know” or not. I have friends who have taken on kids without that feeling, because they decided they might be able to help them. We definitely fell in love with our kids and had to (thankfully briefly) live with the disappointment of losing them. It helped to have that kickstart, but I think it’s probably made parts of the process harder – we would have been devastated to have lost them at any stage.
We did join online forums – I think we went for 3 months. Enquire about anyone you think might be a match. Don’t let the guilt of then having to say “no” put you off. You get so little in the initial profile that you need to ask for more info. Is there something in the CPR that means it’s impossible for you to support that child? We read about 6 before we allowed our names to go forward.
And be prepared for your enquiries to come to nothing sometimes. Some social workers are so busy they never get back to you, sometimes they’ll be pursuing another match, sometimes they’re just not very communicative and it’s ridiculously frustrating.
Sorry for the long comment – two more thoughts. Get parts of your support network in place now. There’s a great adoption community on Twitter. The Adoption UK message board answered so many questions for me. If there are local support groups, or other prospective adopters from your prep course, use them. The support seems to drop away once the children arrive, and you need a backstop. Other than our faith in God, of course!
Finally, find time to enjoy your pre- adoption life. Make space to appreciate all you have now, instead of being totally focussed on what’s coming. Bless you hugely during this time. X
Living Life to the Full - Izzy's Blog says
Re getting out of the boat… Matthew 14:29-31 “… Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”
IMMEDIATELY Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Xxx
Thank you for writing down your experiences and sharing them in this way Lucy. Your up front ponderings are so encouraging for us as we ponder what we will do, and for us to pray for you through this process. I cannot imagine the mental and emotional wrestlings that must go on as you work through the systems and options.
The passage “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD keeps coming to mind as i’m writing this, and your wonderful gift of communication will help you share His thoughts and ways as your discover them in the many and varied ways that seem to exist within adoption systems before you finally get to meet whichever gorgeous child will join your family.
On a practical note, which books about adoption can you recommend? I remember you mentioning some a while back but can’t remember the titles…