Where do i begin? It all feels so long ago now, but we are only 18 months in to life with our little boy. It's a huge cliche but it feels like he's been here forever, i genuinely have lost all memory of what we did before (apart from having more rest & sleep obvs).
I recently started this blog to share my experiences of parent and toddler life. But i know from being a prospective adopter myself 2 years ago that to hear real-life stories really helps. So i feel i have a little responsibility to the fellow adopters out there to share the journey we went on.
It was early in 2014 that my husband and i had decided to start the adoption process. We had thought for a while before about how we would add to our family. Surrogacy was an option and we researched it a lot. It works for some, but i personally felt a bit weird paying huge sums of money for my child. It didn't sit quite right. A few months earlier i got a job as marketing manager for a well known adoption agency/charity and working there gave me such an incredible insight into adoption and everything that came with it from the journey to the types of children that were in need of families, the length of time it can take to the support and training we'd receive. It quickly became a no brainer for us that adoption was the path for us.
It would've been a bit too much to apply to adopt through the agency i worked for, so we went with Adopters For Adoption. At the time they were a new agency and i can't really remember why we chose them. I met one of their team at a work event 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. Agencies can reach out across the country and find children for you. At the time, all i heard at work was that there were no children under 3. The adoption industry had gone through a bit of a crazy time where SGOs (Special Guardianship Orders) were being placed with birth families rather than allowing the child to be adopted. Regarding older children being adopted, that is absolutely great for some who are looking for a slightly older child, thank god there are those families looking to adopt that age range. Every single child needs a loving family. We knew we wanted a child as young as possible. We wanted to experience as many of the 'firsts' as we could. I was 30 and felt young and fit enough to be able to handle the demands of a baby (ask me now after a week off with my son and my back is in bits!!)
We had our first visit from our social worker in July 2014. We loved her. Her name was Sarah. I cannot tell you how important it was for us to feel comfortable with her. You go on a journey together. I kept thinking throughout what if we were placed with a non-street wise, old man who didn't 'get' gay couples. But i doubt that type of person could be a social worker (i would hope!). Since LGBT people/couples could adopt in 2006 there have been 1,847 adoptions in the UK by gay parents, so i would hope no social workers have issues with it!
Sarah got us, and we welcomed her into our home for many weeks whilst going through Assessment. Really, it felt like an hour or two each week just talking about our lives. Literally all the way from childhood to now. Working in the industry i knew social workers had a bit of a name for themselves for being impossible to pin down due to the level of work demands they have... so i made sure we got the diary out on the first visit and blocked out all our scheduled meetings. Luckily she wanted the same, i think she could tell straight away we were ready and in good shape for this (if you ever actually are?) and she too wanted to get us through to finding our baby.
We set up all our meetings. Some together as a couple, 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 and to be honest we experienced very 'normal' upbringings and weren't too messed up in the head ;-) My husbands parents divorced, we both experienced bullying at school... all of this doesn't hinder you... it shows what you can deal with and all helps to being a strong parent. They aren't looking to catch you out. The social worker will 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.
Adopter Approval Panel.
This was a nerve wracking part, and it shouldn't be, but the fact you get in front of a board of people from the agency/local authority it just makes it feel a bit scary and that they are deciding your fate on whether you can have a family. But to rewind... once you and your social worker have completed assessment, you are put forward to panel. This is to formally approve you as prospective adopters. This took a little while to get a date in the diary (be prepared to be out of control of these things, the delays and lack of communication that was to come for us can be hard to deal with!). But saying that, we whizzed through assessment and had our panel in November 2014. We travelled to the Midlands (where our agency was based) and met Sarah there. We look back now and sometimes laugh at how we didn't really prepare... the whole journey there we were either silent or expressed how nervous we were.
Once we arrived we were whisked into a meeting room. And after a few moments of chat it was time for panel. We were called up. 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 and they think "Well he can't raise a child if he thinks like that..!". But then i just looked to my left and saw my husband and i never felt more comfortable and strong. We were both so 100% in this together and you realise it isn't all on you. The single adopters out there, going through the meetings, checks, training... all 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, 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 of life "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 is to wake in the night and trips on the cat by the stairs?". I mean... i can't even remember how we answered. Maybe my husband did... but i remember thinking "WTF was that about?". During the panel i had never acted so responsible and mature in my entire life. But they weren't giving anything away. The panel is made up of agency workers but also adopters from the public and all i wanted to do was show them i'd be an awesome dad.
And just like that it was all over in about half an hour or so? We returned downstairs where we pulled ourselves together, went over every single question thinking 'Could we have answered that better?!'. It hit us that they could've actually decided it was a complete 'No'? That we weren't ready? What would we do? Speaking freely, you shouldn't really get to panel if you aren't ready. Your social worker will know what they're doing. And i knew this from working in the adoption industry, but that completely left my mind and i believed it could be a negative response.
We were called back into the room and we were told it was a unanimous 'Yes' from the panel. From this moment we were allowed to search for our child as approved adopters. We smiled, we cried, we shook hands and hugged everyone. We were told all about the next steps, what we can expect and what we should do. And then we got into the car and just sat there. We had made it. Well, through that hurdle. It went exceptionally quick. From July to November and we were done. 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.
If you're LGBT and reading this thinking about adoption or already on the journey, i fully recommend joining New Family Social. The forums and resources on that site act as such a good support and they hold local meet ups to meet fellow adopters in your area. You can ask your agency if they are members which automatically gives you access!