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Curiousity's 2012 to 2013 posts

Parental Influence..... - 25 June 2013

Wonderful news........leaves me reflecting on when the journey will really reach its destination...

Well, firstly, the great news is that we were approved to be the parents of a wonderful little pair of cuties. They are two and a half and one and a half, and the videos we have seen have melted our hearts.

We meet them in a couple of weeks to start the introductions.

We couldn't be happier.

However this last week or two pre panel have been a time of great refection for us. we were given some really negative sounding messages from SS, just the way thing were phrased on the paperwork, which made us start to doubt that this process that 'is just a formality' would end in a no. Turns out we were worrying unnecessarily - and all is good.

But I have been reflecting on the powerlessness I have felt to this stage. I think that, because we think of the matching panel as the big hurdle, we sometimes don't think about how many more hurdles there are to jump - and also how little influence we will have for such a long time yet.

Our LA is saying about a year before we can apply for an adoption order, so there will be Social Workers in and out of the house for a long time yet.

And some of the conversations about contact, and in particular goodbye visits, have left me feeling quite powerless.

Someone had agreed for a huge amount of different extended family members to go and say goodbye to our little ones last week. Some of these people haven't seen them either since little or at all - so the constant stream of new adults, potentially emotional ones, who wanted to come and visit 'my kids' was making me feel uncomfortable about how confusing that would be, particularly as they are already being talked to about a new Mummy & Daddy.

So - I had to talk to myself about the fact that the match wasn't agreed, and that the LA would make their decisions in the best interests of the children, and that we wouldn't be able to have a view.

But then when I find that those people all failed to arrive, I feel let down by them on my little ones' behalf - especially when Birth Mother left them waiting with bunches of flowers - they've seen a lot of her and i feel that goodbye was important.

And it strikes me that this is just the first of many many things that I won't be able to protect them from. My psychotherapist husband would say that my job isn't to protect them, but to help them accept things and move forward with their lives.

But - its a strange thing when maternal instinct cuts in before I've even met the kids.

And what will it be like, I wonder, when they sleep upstairs, play all day with me, come to me (hopefully) when they fall over - and still, I don't have the right to make the decisions.

I am going to work really hard on not wishing away this precious time together in our first months as a family because I can't wait to get to the legal adoption stage. What will be will be - and we are going to be a little family - accepting things - and moving forward together.

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managing the appetite.......... - 1 May 2013

......for information, for photographs, for news..........

During this time of linking limbo, things are quite quiet. We've had quiet spells before, the whole process is a stop start affair - and often those gaps have turned out to be helpful with hindsight.

But for some reason, once we've had little bits of information about our (hopefully) soon to be children I find myself hungry all the time for more information, for news that something is happening in the great paperwork machine of Social Services....and mostly for nuggets about the kids.

Vague statements, which I'm sure are well meaning like 'we'll try and get up to date photos' or 'maybe there could be a video' lead me to be checking my email every 3 minutes.

I'm sure its very normal - but once someone opens the door to the possibility that I'll know more about what they like, what they eat, what they like to do, and what they look like, I find an almost aching hunger to see more, to know more.

So, 8 more weeks of feeling this starvation - perhaps I should combine it with a last ditch health kick - if you're going to feel hungry, may as well feel the benefit!

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A link - and a panel date - bitter sweet thoughts - 22 April 2013

Had the four way social worker meeting this week - much less stress than we expected (our SW had prepared us for a grilling!) - you've never seen a more bleached house or more fresh flowers!

And then got the call yesterday -they are all in agreement, and want to progress us to panel late in June. Such a feeling of elation, we are going to be parents in July - a little girl and a little boy - our son and daughter, and we're going to meet them soon - and get more pictures in the next few weeks! We need to find cot beds, buggies,etc etc and can start researching what we want to buy - and I get to give up work for a year (cue a little jig!)

So that's all wonderful, and we keep having waves of realisation, especially when we talk to other people from our training group who're being matched - we are all in the same situation. We can't wait to meet our family.

However......echoing with me is the single line in an email 'it is now time for the goodbye meeting'. As with many children while in foster care, ours are meeting their birth mum regularly for a supervised contact visit - and those are going to stop.

Finality - they won't see her again,or she them for 16 years. How must she be feeling knowing that the local authority have found a 'forever family'. How will they feel when they have to say goodbye to her - and then, a few weeks later, say goodbye to the wonderful foster carer who has, by the sound of it, been fantastic - something we're very excited about as I'm sure we'll be thanking her in months to come. How will she feel saying goodbye to little one's she's had so long? How will they feel losing the only person they remember being their carer?

At the other end of our joy, there is separation, loss, tears and perhaps anger. Of course I believe that the decision to adopt is right, both for us and them and we're entering a wonderful chapter in all our lives.......but still.....

Bittersweet feelings bounce around right now...

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Doing the linking limbo! - 14 March 2013

Incredibly - although we've only just come off hold, we get to the SW office to be told that there are a couple of different sibling groups we can be talked to about!

Couldn't believe it - I guess its the benefit of big city LA's that their number of possible children is much higher - and also with siblings on top of that - however I never dreamed it would happen this quickly.

At the moment we're in the linking limbo land - we love what we read so far of two little ones who could one day be our family - but we can't meet their SW or the matching one for about 5 weeks - why are SW's allowed holidays for goodness sake? (Joke, they deserve every day of it!)

But its almost painful...the nearness of some kind of certainty - which is something we've given up for the last year or so, everything is 'it'll happen when it happens'. I talked about slow slow quick quick slow before, and that's still the pattern - they're searching for a match, two possibles in 10 days - but then wait 5 weeks to find out if they think there's a possible match here!

So - we continue to do every single thing to the house that we can think of - the guy that's been doing our downstairs loo is getting so much business - "I think you could inject your back wall with damp proofing" - oh, we better do that - etc etc, because we don't want anything to look iffy - we prospective adopters must make the best customers!

Booking up every weekend as a social with friends since we're unlikely to invite them around for some months once it all kicks off, and squeezing in another week away in the sunshine - spa weekends and trips to the movies (does it sound like we're going to be broke by the time we're parents?) Pretty much anything to make sure that we don't spend too much time thinking about the waiting.......waiting.....waiting!

And the managing expectations - conversations go a little like "so, what'll be really good is that he can have this from my nephew, and my niece has a carseat for her .......if we end up with this pair of children of course" We have to have caveats on everything to try and manage our expectations!

But then again, we've seen these two adorable little faces - whatever happens, whether they join our family or not, those faces will always be with us...

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And we're off! - 19 February 2013

We had been 'on hold' because of some family issues, so although we were approved a month ago for our two future little ones (siblings under 4 years old), we have been really having to be patient.

We have now confirmed that we're ready to come off hold, and that's brought a wave of excitement and reality.

How do you combine the 'eeek, this is coming and it could be soon' with 'now, now, calm down it could be ages yet'. We can do the painting and making sure the garden fence is secure, but we can't do buying anything significant like beds or cots, because we don't know whether we want beds or cots! (feels strange talking about it in such definite terms!)

Planning to ensure you're ready, and getting excited but trying to manage your expectations is certainly a good title for an adoption UK training course I reckon!

I'm also noticing the excitement becoming much more real in the extended family. They are starting to talk about it much more - many people warned me that their reaction might not be as strong as mine - but certainly seeing more of it now. Its interesting the difference in different people though. One granny is jumping up and down and making toy boxes, one quietly calm, one prospective auntie is talking about how she can come and babysit, another is worried about how to explain it to her own children. Interesting that there seems to be either an acceptance (which is preferable from my point of view), or an apprehension.....what will we call them? What will we know about their background? What if the children ask questions? Won't people who've grown up with you work out that you've adopted, why the big secret?

The fact is that it isn't a big secret, its a big deal, but it isn't a secret, to call it that is to give it more mystery than we intend. But it is news that we want to give in our own time - we haven't found out about our children yet - we want them to decide about who knows that they came to us in this wonderful but less usual way (as far as we can). So it intrigues me that it is so difficult to just tell people that we'll have 2 children at some point this year. Of course I'm not pregnant and they're going to arrive too big for a Moses basket, but I've got to confess that I'm a little weary of the 'tiptoeing' style of questioning.

People don't 'need to know' - people will find out we have children, many of them won't even notice we didn't before. If they aren't close friends, then they're likely to be people we only start to interact with because we become parents! I'm quite happy with telling people one at a time, when the moment feels right - and not doing some great big campaign on facebook and posters around the village I grew up in!

I'm also starting to get my head around the whole stopping work thing. I've had a career for 20 years, and every day I've got up to go to work. I'm so excited at the thought of such a big change - although its quite difficult to keep your motivation up when you keep thinking 'might not be here for that big project'.

The idea that this time in a few months, I might be sitting on the floor playing with building blocks or something - rather than sitting at my desk pretending to be working and writing this blog, is still hard to believe!

Ultimately I can't wait (although obviously I will have to!) And I console myself with the fact that, the longer it takes the more dinners out, diy tasks, live music and lazy sundays' we'll have under our belts.

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Thoughts from two weeks ago - 10 February 2013

Post-approval reflections

This week we made it to approval panel. We have been talking about this for almost 5 years - and wanted to get jobs, house, etc all sorted before applying - so had our training back in April 2012, and our assessment visits started in September. So pretty quick through the last bit of the process I guess.

But it really does feel like something we've waited a really long time to hear. Whilst we felt quite confident by the end - we did also know that there was a chance they'd say no, or say that we could only have one child.

We have been approved for 2 siblings under 4 years old. Its going to be a completely different world sometime later this year, that we can be sure. The matching is starting in a couple of months because we're taking a break to deal with a family issue - but its still starting to feel really really real. So incredibly emotional this week - especially looking out at the snow and thinking that somewhere out there are two little wines looking out of the window at the snow who are going to be our family at some point!

So now I'm thinking about what I can do in this next couple of months to prepare. Yes, we're fixing safety gates and fire-guards of course. But also can start nesting in earnest. Auditing all the friends who've offered travel cots, toys etc and finding out what we could ask for - then when we find out what age children are coming to us we can call in what we want.

And I'm planning to make their bedroom really lovely - there'll be things I'll add once I know who they are and what they like, but can get the basics done, and that's really exciting - haven't wanted to jinx it up to now. Keep seeing lovely things that I'd like to get - think it may be a bit of shopping.

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A Christmas Wish - 24 December 2012

Our children are out there.....we just haven't met them yet...............a wish for all the children waiting to be matched...

Well, it has occurred to me quite a few times over the past year or two.....unlike friends who get pregnant when they are the first to meet their child - we, the adopting parents, have a different situation.

When I was early in the process I tried to push the thought out of my head that our children may already be out there - because that inevitably went with the possibility that they may be having an unhappy or stressful time,
not being looked after as well as they deserve etc.

But now, with only 4 weeks to Panel, I'm allowing myself to believe that they are, this Christmas Eve, in the house of a Lovely Foster Family.

They have finished any nursery or school for the year - they have decorated a tree - they have watched Christmas movies, perhaps made cards or snowflakes to decorate the house or say thank you to a smily foster mum/dad for the care she/he has taken in looking after them. Perhaps they've had a carol service or a nativity....

How strange - they are already out there. I hope that the picture is as warm and cosy as it can be (from what I've learned the work that this 'Lovely Foster Family' are doing right now will be a massive help to us when we start working out how on earth to be parents!). I hope that they are warm, and safe, and one day- when the time is right, I hope they like our little cottage in the country with our mad (friendly) spaniels
and countryside life.

I guess that's what I'd choose as my Christmas Present this year.

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Slow Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow.... - 29 November 2012

Lessons from a long journey

That's how it feels, this process.....go to an information evening.....wait for ages for a pack....fill in the pack (exciting)....wait what seems like forever for the training.........2 weeks of intense, emotional and fascinating training.....wait for months to meet a social worker (now with all the people from your training telling you they've already had 2 meetings!)......SW here every week, homework, forms to fill in, time to talk and think about it all the time........then she's got to write the report, so its radio silence and more weeks of waiting (while you hang on to little things she said like 'well, we sometimes talk to people about specific children before they even get to panel' and 'we're having a lot of young sibling groups become available'........and still you wait.....

Well, that sounds like a really moany rant about the process doesn't it?

Whilst at times I've wished it would move along quicker, the fact is, when I hear the Government and the press talking about speeding things up, I think that I would want it to be exactly like this.

We honestly thought we were ready. With my auntie experience and ease with friend's children, and my husband's childlike curiosity and professional experience with adult trauma and psychology – we were all set. In fact, the time that the process has given us has meant that we have discovered that we were naïve back then. Its helped us to reflect, read, learn, arrange our thoughts and we're going to be far, far more ready, than we would have been if the process whipped through in a matter of months.

I'm very grateful for the time and the support and challenge of our social worker – I think we were particularly lucky with the one we were assigned – and also the time to help our families really appreciate what all this stuff means.

So I thought for my first blog, I'd reflect on the things we've learned in the 2 years since we first went to an open evening (it hasn't taken that long with one authority, we moved counties and went to a couple to decide which to go with).

Contact

When we went to our first adoption information evening – almost 2 years ago now – I remember feeling quite anxious about contact and the prospect of feeling really jealous or competitive with a birth mother. We have realised through training, reading and learning how incredibly important contact is to us – and we're passionate about making it work for our children. I have a dear friend who adopted about 9 months ago – and is doing great. She met the birth mum – and we would love the chance to do the same. I'm sure I'd be nervous – however I think it'll be so great for my friend's little one to see pictures of 2 mums together.

Liberal Values

Very few children from ethnic minority groups get adopted in our LA by white parents – that's what we were told. We talked about how we would be completely comfortable with our children looking different from us, and had little fleets of fantasy for several months about helping them to connect with their heritage, spending hours learning about a country in Asia or Africa, learning together and saving up to go one day. When we started this process that felt like the right thing for us. But we have had to ask ourselves some searching questions recently. Is it in fact our liberal values getting in the way of the right decision for 2 children who we haven't yet met? Do we just want to be seen as so open minded and non judgemental that we became blind to what it might mean for children in that situation? We live in a majority white area, with a school lacking in cultural mix. How would it be for children to feel different in the community – isn't it true that adopted children will already struggle with feeling different? And what about our ability to 'reflect their cultural identity' as it says on all the profiles in the magazines. Can we really appreciate what it's like to grow up any other way than we have experienced? More and more I'm reading articles from people who feel that being placed with ethnically different parents hindered them in building their identity..... I'm not saying we've become against transracial adoption – however we realize its about more than just our attitudes – its about our family, our community – and mostly those two little ones....

Selfishness

It was really hard to start being honest about what we didn't want in a child. But the truth is, we have discovered, that there are some things that would get in the way of us being the best parents we can be. We are passionate about curiosity, exploring the outside, we love reading and studying, music and film, and travel. If we picture a life with children, we picture being able to help them to learn about the world – discussions and explorations - adventures and stories. We're completely happy to help a child 'catch up' – however we have to be honest and say that a child who is unlikely to be able to communicate and learn with us (not academically but in terms of discovery) is unlikely to be right for us – and most importantly we for them. Very hard to start 'narrowing down our options' – feels more like making a purchase. I learnt to think of it more like applying for a job – I'd be good at reading stories and making up silly games. That's where my strength lies etc

Friends 'relating'

When you talk to family and friends about adopting, they're imagining birth children who are arriving late! I lose count of the amount of times I've heard 'oh, that's the same with birth children'. In order to relate to your story and your experience, they go to what they know. I used to try and educate them. I'd sit in a pub with a girlfriend and I would talk about having learnt about the underdeveloped brain of a neglected child, who would be completely unable to understand that when Mummy was out of site she still existed. The girlfriend would respond with 'aah, yes, when my poppet was little she cried when she got to playgroup' – I started off quoting things I'd read and trying to explain why the tears came from a completely different place, a traumatic fear rather than a mild worry.....2 years on, I've stopped arguing. They're trying to help, reassure and relate. Now I just let them.
(However, I did use the amazing series of short clips of Holly Van Gulden on Permanence & Constancy with my family and close friends. Its been incredible – they suddenly 'get it' – I've included a link – hope its helpful if you haven't seen it before.

Readiness

Our relationship was really strong before adoption, we'd weathered some storms from outside, but felt very sure of each other. The assessment however was so helpful. I think all couples should be asked to sit on a Sunday afternoon and write an essay about what they value about each other – its been moving, reassuring and challenging. We are so sure what each other thinks about every aspect that I can genuinely say we are truly ready for this. We're absolutely ready to be scared, furious, knackered, hopeless, hopeful, and desperately confused – we're ready to be worried, and cross, and touched. We're ready to be parents – together.

So – what's next? Well – next time I think I'll tell you about our parental boot camp – getting into training – physically, and in terms of routine – to try and prepare for the shock of placement (all the while assuming that the panel will approve us of course – but what else can you do at this stage – people say 95% of those who get a date will be approved – so everything's crossed).

Oh, and I'm loving reading 'Big Steps for Little People' by Celia Foster – about adopting 2 boys. Her ideas for structure and flexibility all at once make me think I'll be thanking her in the years to come.

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