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Four months down… Parents evenings, Reviews, social worker visits, PEPs and Medicals…

24 Oct

**Warning – this is a long post… but hopefully intersting/useful and I’ve left a nice bit at the end! ūüôā **

I am so proud of what our kids have achieved in the past four months! New parents, new family, new house, new school, new bedrooms, new friends… just about everything in their lives changed and their world was turned upside down in June and yet, yesterday we were the proudest parents in the world when they both got glowing reports from their teachers at parents evening. ¬†To be honest – Our Kids ROCK!

To top it all off our big little one stood up in assembly at school yesterday – in front of the whole school, all the teachers and the head teacher and read out a piece of writing done in literacy and received an achievers certificate from the Headteacher for the stone age house and model homework we had completed together as a family.

I realise that I have neglected the blog a little over the past 3 weeks or so, but family life kind of took me on a little bit of a whirlwind for a while. Not only have we experienced our first bout of child illness in the house hold – this also spread to both us parents. I can confirm that the delightful Hand, Foot and Mouth virus which many kids pick up from school environments is really not very delightful for children or for the adults they pass it on to! We somehow managed to contain the infection from spreading to big little one, but little one is still showing some signs of spots on the face and mouth, although everything else has cleared up. I was surprised that the Nurse said there was no need to keep them off school and they could go straight back in – considering how contagious it is.

Despite all our household illness and some other difficult news from the wider family – things are going really well in our adoption journey and we genuinely couldn’t ask more of our beautiful children.

We have recently had our formal ‘Review Meeting’ with the social worker team, which all went very well. It is one of those parts of the process of adoption that you don’t think about when you start out on the journey. Everything is focused in the early days, on prep/assessment/approval/matching/approval…. but what about life after the children are placed.

We haven’t found it intrusive or problematic at all – but I have heard adoptive parents getting really frustrated with the schedule of social worker visits and reviews etc… But we have a very positive and strong relationship with the kids social worker, our social worker and the school so it has all been quite a nice opportunity to meet and discuss things with them. I think having a good relationship and using the opportunity to lean on the experienced professionals at the right moments is crucial.

We now have home visits from the social workers every 4 – 5 weeks currently, we’ve had two formal review meetings in 4 months and as we now have a court date set in the diary where our adoption order will hopefully be made… fingers crossed there won’t be any need for further review meetings.

The review meeting is a formal record to discuss every aspect of how the placement has been going (The children are not present for these review meetings) and it is our chance to feed back and record any issues or areas of concern and update how the kids are doing at home, in school, health wise etc.

The more regular social worker visits are at home and with the kids, so the social worker can visibly see how the kids are interacting at home and talk to them about how they are feeling and what they’ve been doing. Our kids enjoy these visits as they feel very important and centre of attention – although it can lead to them getting a little over excited and hyped up.

We also had the kids PEP meeting at the school last week Рthis is the formal review for education purposes which all school age looked after children should have every term (I think)  РPEP stands for Personal Education Plan and it is a chance for the school to feedback how the child is coping/developing and performing in the school setting and also the outline what they as a school are doing to support that development. Every looked after/adopted child also benefits from the Pupil Premium funding which allows the school to spend additional resource directly on supporting them. It was really interesting to hear what the school were doing directly to ensure our kids transition and future development is safeguarded.

Finally we took the kids for what will hopefully be their last ‘looked after medical.’ This was an interesting experience and one which I appreciate is a necessity but also felt completely pointless.¬†¬†Having had to drive back to the county where the kids were originally from (ours was an out of county adoption) and to that social services team’s preferred medical advisor and having had to take the kids out of school for the afternoon the nurse said herself “these medicals are pretty pointless now really, but we have to do them…” The kids were weighed, heights measured and a brief examination (superficial if you ask me) was completed we were free to go. The whole thing took 45 minutes between both kids but they missed a whole afternoon of school. I’m still not quite sure why our family doctor couldn’t have done it and forwarded the results? But I try not to do negativity on this blog so I’ll stop that now.

Anyway – this has become a mammoth 1000 word post, so not many people will read this far down I’m sure – ¬†but if you do, then you’ll be excited to hear that my better half, our social worker and I are going along to BAAF’s National Adoption Week Awards the week after next in London and we’re really looking forward to it.

I’ve also written a guest blog post for BAAF which will be published during National Adoption Week and I also did a magazine interview for an LGBT magazine about same sex parenting and 2 dad families which I was honoured to do.

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An adoption activity day made our family

6 Oct

I was recently asked by BAAF to write a piece for their website about being matched through an activity day – so I thought it would be a good idea to share our experience here too.

The first thing I want to say really is that people should consider adoption activity days with an open mind – I have heard a number of people be quite negative about the idea of activity days – suggesting they are like cattle markets, but we found our family at an activity day, we were matched with children that we wouldn’t have considered on paper in normal reports and we just couldn’t be happier.

The best and most important thing about activity days is that prospective adopters and kids get to meet each other in real life, adopters get to really see a prospective child and understand a bit about their personality, talk to them and their foster carer – this is unlike any other way of being matched!

The following is a slightly edited version of the article I wrote for BAAF: 

We attended an Adoption Activity Day in Spring 2014, with some trepidation and exhaustion from an arduous matching process. It turned out that fate was on our side this time¬†‚Äď as¬†we met our kids, put the wheels in motion and so our family was formed.

As readers of this blog will know we had a previous match fall through early in 2014 ‚Äď which was devastating. We were¬†approved as parents in August 2013 and had spent a long and lonely winter trawling through reports from the regional and national adoption register and via Be My Parent. After the match fell through, we considered¬†throwing in the towel, but instead decided to book a holiday, recharge the batteries and pick things up again on our return.

We had two ideas¬†for our holiday: Two weeks in sunny Thailand, or five nights in snowy New York. By choosing¬†New York we‚Äôd be¬†home in time for attending the activity day ‚Äď so that’s what we did.

We prepared ourself for¬†the Activity day, reading all the advice and guidance notes, our social worker was kind enough to come along to the event with us (even though it was on a Sunday!) ‚Äď which was great moral support.

As we arrived at the venue there was a cue of prospective parents snaking around the building. We felt nervous and excited; it was such an alien environment to be in.

To start the day we were given a book of one page profiles with photos of all the children that would be attending.  We focussed on the sibling groups included in the book and highlighted the children we wanted to try and meet.

Downstairs, in a large and noisy room, all the children were playing on various pieces of equipment, a bouncy castle, soft play area, craft table… It was like a giant fun day and all the children were dressed up ‚Äėjungle theme‚Äô outfits. Walking in to the room was probably the most daunting bit of the day ‚Äď as much for us as for the kids.

We felt so awkward to begin with – it was like going on a first date but not knowing who your date was in a room full of strangers. We tried to look around the room and find the sibling groups that we had identified in the book. We managed to meet three or four sets of children during the afternoon, playing with them and chatting to their foster carers and social workers. Breaking the ice with each one was the biggest hurdle to get over.

One sibling group in particular really stood out to us, not least because they were both wearing the cutest matching Sheep onesies ‚Äď but because they looked so happy, cheeky and really enjoyed playing with us. We felt like we had an instant connection with them and felt ourselves dangerously falling for them, gravitating back to where they were playing throughout the afternoon and spending lots of time talking with their lovely foster carer and social worker.

These children were older than we had been previously considering and also weren’t the same gender match that we’d got in our mind. I had wrongly discounted them from our initial look through the profiles in the book ‚Äď but they really did seem like they could be the perfect match.

At the end of the afternoon we registered interest in the siblings in the sheep onesies… 3 days later we had a meeting in the diary for their social worker to come and meet with us. 10 days after the activity day we had been identified as the preferred match. We had to wait a while for a matching panel date, but three months after the Activity Day we were approved as their parents (the longest three months of my life) and two weeks after that Introductions started, 8 days after that they moved in with us.

My partner and I are 100% pro Adoption Activity Days. For us it was the perfect way to find our match. We are both visual thinkers and found it really difficult to read the paper reports and get beyond that to easily identify a match.

Having the opportunity to meet the children in the flesh changed everything for us. Not only did our gender preferences get thrown out of the window, so too did our age preferences. The children we have ended up starting our family with are as far removed from what we imagined when registering interest in adoption 20 months ago ‚Äď but we couldn’t be happier or feel more contented and fulfilled!

School Life & Special Friday Sandwiches

12 Sep

I just thought I would share a quick post as we come to the end of the first full week of both kiddies being back at school.

They have both coped incredibly well considering, although we have had tears a few times on the playgound this week – it has never lasted long and the teachers and other kids have been so lovely and supportive too.

I’ve had a great time finding my feet as a new face on the playground too, making new friends with some of the other parents (we’re off out for dinner tomorrow night with a family from school which is lovely!) and I feel like I’m getting a little fitter with all the extra exercise walking backwards and forwards to school every day… I think I should get myself a pedometer!

Oh and I joined the PTA (Friends of the School group!)

Both kiddies have continued to embrace extra curricular activities too. This week we had the first week back at Beaver Scouts for Big Little one, both monsters turned in to gymnasts at their new gymnastics club (Big Little One got a sticker as ‘Gymnast of the Week’) and the second swimming lesson of the term went, well… Swimmingly!

Our littlest one has made a great first impression with teachers and us too by reading books, when the expectation was just to be able to hold it correctly, look at pictures and turn pages!

We discovered this week that Big Little one is rather long sighted and probably should have always had glasses for reading and school work – but it had never been picked up before now. This is really frustrating as a new adoptive parent, to think that our little one has been restricted in their learning potentially because of something so simple to fix, the new glasses arrive next week and hopefully this will really help with focus and attention in class and when reading.

Finally – it looks like I have started a new tradition in our household… Special Friday Sandwiches! I promised both of them a special packed lunch today and now they’ve asked if they can have something special every Friday. This was today’s sandwiches:

Thank goodness it is Friday! Cheers for the weekend and lets see what next week brings!

 

School, Swimming and Surprise attention

4 Sep

This has been quite a week, as it was the kids first week at their new school, which we were anticipating would be overwhelming and exhausting for them. But I’ve been amazed and in awe of how they have taken it all in their stride.

I think I was the most nervous on their first day in the school playground.

There are so many little¬†¬†things you just don’t think about becoming part of your life so quickly when you adopt older children – you go from no children at all, to needing School shoes, shirts, sweatshirts, PE bags, lunch boxes, etc…. But we never had to buy a nappy or a potty or a dummy…

We were warned of some of the ‘adopting older children’ side effects for adoptees, which I will elaborate on in a future post all of its own, but so far I don’t feel like I’m worried/anxious or depressed about the things we’ve missed in their lives – and I really was expecting some of that to come and maybe it still will. They’re keeping us so busy and filling us with so many happy memories for our new family of four that I guess we’ve not had time to worry about what we missed in their lives before us?¬†

I’ve never had to stand on the playground before, ¬†I’ve never had to¬†wave a child off in to their classroom and leave them for the day! Now all of a sudden I’ve got two to get up/get washed/dressed/fed/bags packed/lunches made/walked to school. My admiration goes out to all parents everywhere, that have been doing it all this time!

Our Big Little one came out after the first day at school and told me it was “Horrid, Boring, Hated it!” But also told everyone else it was “Good, Fun, Brilliant!” They must just like getting a reaction from their Pappy I think. At the end of the second day back Big Little one came bounding out of class full of it – having got 4 stars for doing great work and telling me everyone else had only got 3.

Both Kids also started swimming lessons at the local pool this week – and following on from my recent post ‘Our Little Water Babies’¬†I’m pleased to say that they both nailed it and I was so proud of them!

Another example of how resilient and well rounded they are, beaming with confidence they both went straight in to the lessons without a hesitation or glance back to me in the viewing area. Big Little one gave us all a surprise when the instructor said “Your too good¬†for arm bands” and promptly slid them off Big Little one’s¬†arms. But as I now would expect from Big Little one it was straight in to the rest of the lesson with 100% effort and energy and no hesitation. It gave them both such a boost of confidence and energy and was so lovely to see them both parading around afterwards like proud pigeons.

 

In the shadows while all the real life stuff has been going on and I’ve been enjoying my first week as a Pappy on the school run, this blog has been getting quite a lot of attention which has just been bonkers. The story of our Adventures at the Breakfast Table¬†hit UK national press on-line with the Daily Mail and Metro featuring it followed by the Telegraph. The news spread around the world too with on-line articles in all corners of the world from Belgium to Australia, Brazil to Paris. I’ve been overwhelmed by the comments and words of encouragement and the emails that I’ve received from people sharing their own stories. I’ve tried to reply to most of them and will do my best to get round to all of them.

The one request I am most proud of having received off the back of this added attention, is that I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger and Media spokesperson for BAAF (British Association of Adoption and Fostering) and support them during National Adoption Week later this year! I started this blog to share our story and hopefully to help other people who are thinking about adoption or currently going through the adoption process, so I am truly honoured to have been asked to help BAAF!

I’m proud to be able to share our story and see that so many media outlets have taken it on board in a positive way. I’m happy to be able to promote adoption, particularly of older children and children in sibling groups – that was my primary aim for this blog. The adoption of children is the most important thing, the fact that we happen to be a two dad family is secondary – but I’m also pleased to think that we can help shine some light on two dad families here in the UK and in other countries around the world, where it might not be so easy for Gay couples to adopt yet!

What a week indeed – this one¬†isn’t over yet, but I’m already looking forward to the adventures our little ones have in store for us next week! Their first time at Gymnastics club for one, are they going to be natural tumblers?

Our adoption journey – part 1

19 Aug

¬†As it is exactly a year ago today since my partner and I were approved as adoptive parents I thought it very apt that I make a start on posting all about our adoption journey, how we came to start this long and winding road and reach the point we are at now – 19 months later…¬†

For this first post about our adoption journey I thought I would plot out the key milestones and the dates / time frame in which we went through the process.

One thing I’m really keen to do, is paint a fair and balanced picture of our experience of the whole process – but with the health warning being that this is just one couple’s experience, in one local authority, with our particular social worker, during the slightly older process/forms for approval etc… so this is by no means how it always is, I’m sure every individual experience for every adoptee is different.

I will try and articulate some of our thoughts, feelings and emotions along the way as honestly and openly as I can – in the hope that this may help dispel some myths/anxiety or worries that other people might have or be going through and if anyone is reading this and would like to ask me a question about anything then I’m happy to answer via comment below or private email. (becomingpappy@hotmail.com)

So here goes – our timeline through the adoption process.

– Firstly – we had been together as a couple since 2003.

– We had our civil partnership celebration in 2010.

– We had always discussed having a family and adoption was always our first and only option, as I refused to go down the surrogacy route (but that discussion is for a seperate post in the future I think.)

– We actually registered our interest in adopting back in 2008, but then decided not to go through with it, as we felt we were too young, not prepared and still had things we wanted to do with our lives first, before becoming parents.

So then something dramatic changed for us, it was a big overwhelming emotional desire to ‘do it’ – over the Christmas and New Year holidays of 2012 in to 2013 we couldn’t stop talking about having our own family and by the time we started back at work in the January we had set our sights on having kids by the following Christmas.

– I registered our interest with our local adoption team at the local authority in the second week of January.

– We were invited to an information evening to find out more about what would be in store for us. I think this is designed to put off as many people as possible at the earliest stage, to make sure no timewaster or people on the fence get through to the next stage – they don’t mince their words at this session and paint a very vivid picture of what can go right and wrong! It certainly didn’t put us off though… But you really do have to be 100% sure you really want it before going on to the next stage…

– Following this meeting we were matched up with a social worker who came out to see us for an initial visit at our house – this was a couple of hours in early February where we were told more about the finer detail of the process and how it would all pan out from here on in. We were given the opportunity to ask as many questions as we wanted. The social worker that came out for this visit was really lovely and did a great job at easing our worries, answering our questions appropriately and helping us feel ready to proceed.

– Next came the prep group training, in our local authority this was three days of training (one day a week, across three weeks) which we completed in March. The training was really interesting, in-depth about every aspect of adoption and the kind of children that are waiting for a forever family and all of the different situations that adoptive parents can find themselves in and need to be prepared for.

– Following the succesful completion of prep groups we were assigned our social worker – this is the social worker that will then stay with you as adoptees for as long as is needed (well in our local authority that is the case, although I think in others it might be slightly different!) We were over the moon – because we had been matched with the lovely social worker who did our initial visit, we’d been hoping this was the case! From start to finish she has been unbelievably brilliant!

– Then comes the assessment period. This started for us in early April and is meant to be (or it was when we did it) for about 10 sessions – 8 as a couple and then 1 each as a one to one. These sessions cover everything about everything to do with your lives, your relationship, your past, your home, your friendship network, family etc… But I’ll write in more detail about this specific part of the process in a seperate post. We finished the assessment period towards the end of June.

– Following the assessment period our social worker prepared ‘the report’ about us as prospective adopters. This report is a very important document, which is sent to the approval panel, as well as being forwarded later in the process to any social workers of prospective matches and then on to matching panel.¬†

– We had to wait a little bit of time for our Approval panel date, which finally happened on 19th August 2013. So by this time we were already 7 months in to the process… Our approval panel went extremely well and we had a unanimous decision to approve us to adopt a sibling group of 2 children.

– After 19th August approval panel it started to get a little bit tougher in our journey… the waters becoming a little bit more restless/stressful and tense. It is fair to say that the 6 months that followed this date were some of the darkest, most stressful and upsetting that my partner and I have endured. I will write in more detail about the whole matching process and our experience in a seperate post – but the following will highlight the timeline we went through…

– After being approved, the local authority we were with asked us to wait for three months for them to find us a match with children only from within their county area. Which we agreed to at first, but after two months it was clear that there were no sibling groups that were a suitable match for us coming through the system in their area.

– In late October/early November we were placed on to the national adoption register, which meant that our profile as adoptive parents was sent out to all local authroities across the UK, for us to be considered as potential matches for sibling groups everywhere. We were also given a large number of profiles for children – which we were asked to read and consider. In addition we registered as users on Be My Parent to look for potential matches too.

– In late November we were visited by social workers from another county about a potential sibling group match, but after the meeting it was deemed we were not the right fit for the children and vice versa.

– In early December we were visited by another group of social workers from another far away local authority about another potential match. This time for a young sibling group who we were very excited and enthusiastic about. After the meeting it was deemed that we were the right fit and could proceed as prospective parents for these children.

– However in February – after an agonising couple of months, poor communication from the children’s social worker team and a number of legal issues – our Matching panel date was pushed back and then subsequently cancelled and we were informed that the match could no longer go ahead. The children we’d be dreaming of for more than two months were no longer going to be part of our family. The photos we’d been looking at everyday had to be returned along with all the paperwork and reports about them and yet again we were back to square one.

– This was the biggest blow and most upsetting part of the whole adoption process for us and I’m sure I will write in more detail about this situation in another post sometime. It is and was an unusual case – this certainly isn’t the norm for matches and our social worker tried to reasure us that she had never seen or experienced such a complex case before – it was just our luck I guess.

– In March 2014, 14 months after starting this whole journey we had picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, rejuvenated our emotions with a good holiday and let fate start to lay more foundations for us…. I truly believe that now, looking back, fate had been leading us along a strange and winding path the whole time. We returned from holiday on the Friday and attended an adoption activity day on the Sunday, which happened to be my partner’s 30th Birthday. I’ll will write a seperate post about Adoption Activity Days and our own experience of them at a later stage.

Anyway at the activity day we met a number of children and their foster carers and social workers… but one sibling group in particular had really stuck out for us.

– We registered interest in the sibling group immediately, and chased it up with a phone call and emails the following day. Within 3 days a meeting had been booked for the following week.

– We were visited by the social workers of this new potential match in late March, the meeting went very well, but we were informed that they were also meeting some other potential parents and we would have to wait until the outcome of that meeting was agreed and they had decided which parents would go forward as the ones…

– After the longest 6 day wait of our lives, in the first week of April we recieced the news that we had been identified as the perfect match for the children. We were over the moon, extactic, emotional, exhausted, but more than anything excited and so eager to get things moving as quickly as possible – now we had found them we didn’t want to be without them for another minute…

– However, as has been the running theme in our adoption journey, patience was the name of the game. The Authority the children were with were extremly busy and the earliest matching panel date they could get us wasn’t until 2 months later – in June.

– During the long two month wait for matching panel we had further meetings with the children’s social worker, foster carer, school etc. We also visited all of the local schools in our area as both children were of school age – I’ll write a seperate post about our experience with school admissions some other time.

– Matching panel happened in early June just a few days before my 32nd Birthday, we were nervous but most of all excited to finally be at this stage of the process. The matching panel meeting went brilliantly and we recieved a unanimous decision from the panel that we should proceed as parents of our two children. It is hard to put in to words the emotions that we felt at that moment when the verdict was given. The news took sometime to sink in, but we certainly made sure we went out and celebrated in style.

– I finished work for adoption leave within 7 days of the matching panel taking place, as I had already given my provisional notice to my employer, so by mid June I was a full time stay at home Pappy (although as yet without children.)

– One week later we started introductions. Which were everything we were expecting and more… I will write a seperate post on introductions in full detail! But if I was to sum it up in just a few words: Holding your children for the first time, getting that first cuddle and hearing them call you Pappy – can never be beaten. There isn’t really an emotion or a word that justifies a description, unbelievably brilliant. But introductions are intense, emotional, exhausting and go by in a flash.

Р9 days later the kids moved in to our house for good, which was about 18 months after we first registered our interest in being adoptive parents. 

The rest is the real stuff, the good stuff, the bad stuff, the highs and the lows of having our children living with us. And that’s another story!

 

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