Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Deciding to Adopt

Making the decision to adopt can be a decision that takes considerable time. Some people know that they want to be an adoptive parent from the outset whilst others come to adoption after experiencing infertility.  One of the hardest things about making the decision to adopt as part of a couple is actually both reaching that decision. For us it wasn't a decision that we reached a the same time. I think it's fair to say that I reached the place emotionally where I knew adoption was something I wanted to consider about a year before Daddy. When we first started discussing it his reservations were too great for him to be able to consider it as a possibility. Obvious things like being unsure whether he would be able to love a child that carried someone elses genes but less obvious concerns like being rejected in favour of a birth parent in future years and the intrusiveness of the adoption process were concerns that he needed time to process.

Whilst he was processing, I had a very tough year emotionally, if I'm honest. I had a lot of dark thoughts about my future and our future as a couple. I knew that being a parent was something that I absolutely had to do. I imagined waking up on my 60th birthday knowing I hadn't been able to be a mother and I knew that it wasn't something I could willingly accept.  I spent many hours talking to some very close friends about my feelings. They were incredibly patient, allowing me to go over and over the same ground time and time again. What would I do if my husband decided that adoption wasn't a journey he could walk with me? Would I stay in my marriage or would I leave and seek to adopt alone?  I knew I couldn't force him to make a decision and I knew it wouldn't be fair to bring a child into our family if he wasn't 100% on board. I tried to give him some space. That was very hard.

During this time we weren't inactive on the fertility front. We we still trying to work out if there was a medical protocol that might enable me to maintain a pregnancy but our hearts weren't really in it at that point.  The pain of failure was getting too much to bear.  I had stopped getting pregnant naturally by this point so we tried an IVF and FET. I conceived with both treatments but miscarried both pregnancies. We were at 10 miscarriages by that point. Enough was enough. 

We talked. We talked some more. We talked again and again.  We went over and over our concerns about being adoptive parents and the adoption process. We were both nervous about the process. I have a lot of baggage from my past and I was was concerned that would go against us.  I knew I could love a child that I hadn't given birth to because there were children in my life already that I was close to. Could my husband?  How would we cope if our child rejected us in the future after all we'd been through? How could I reassure him that it would be OK? There are no guarantees at all. Despite all this I wanted to go ahead. I felt sad. I felt angry. I felt anxious. I felt so confused. My poor friends had to listen to all my frustrations which must have been difficult.  I spent time talking with an old school friend who was an adoptive parent and met up with her group of adoptive parents. I met all their children. They were all wonderful children. I took my tales home to my husband. I showed him pictures of the children.  I said I couldn't give him any guarantees.

Eventually in September 2008 he said he felt he could go ahead with the adoption process. We agreed we would take it a step at a time and withdraw if we felt uncomfortable or that it wasn't for us.  We were finally ready to phone our local authority and move ahead. 

After all that, when I did phone the adoption team at our local authority, we had to wait until a year had passed from our last a miscarriage before we could proceed.  There then followed another frustrating wait. 

But we got there in the end. That's all that matters. Interestingly, making the to adopt again was easier in some ways but we are so much more aware of all the issues involved that I have had more concerns than Daddy.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Wibbly Wobbly

I have THE most excited girl in the world at the moment. She ran to me with glee when I collected her from school, her grin barely contained. The has talked of nothing else since 3.15pm. Every conversation is interrupted with a thought or observation. Apparently she won't be able to eat.


Katie has her first ever wobbly tooth and it is the most exciting thing in the world. Speculation as to when it will fall out is high and incessant. Anxiety about whether it will hurt peppers her excitement. I've had to feel it. We've had to be careful cleaning it. She can't eat any apples in case they get stuck in it.

Bless her. The thing is, it's only a tinsy, tiny, weeny bit wobbly.  She might have a bit of wait for the Tooth Fairy.

I'll keep you posted........

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Parenting Clubs.....

It occurred to me whilst chatting to a fellow adoptive mum friend the other day that expectant mothers, with a baby in their actual tummies, are encouraged at every turn to join bump to toddler clubs with companies such as Boots, Sainsburys and Tesco.  They are given vouchers for nappies and creams and food and little joining gifts and magazines.  If you join Emma's Diary you can get £150 worth of Argos vouchers.  There are obviously financial incentives to join these groups with money off vouchers etc but there is also a wealth of help, support and advice available from the websites and forums.

As an adoptive parent you are not barred from joining these clubs (as far as I can tell) but they do usually have a preclusive upper age limit of around 2 years of age and seem to be mostly aimed at the "bump to babies" mothers .  When you think that the average child isn't adopted for around 18 months of being in the care system (at the least) then the majority of us newly adoptive parents have children above the age range specified for joining these clubs. When we first brought Katie home she was 2 years and 4 months old, too old to join any of the clubs and get all the exciting things that new parents can get from the big companies.  Yet I was still a new, first time, mum with all the anxieties that a new mum has and nobody seems anxious to get us to sign up to their parenting clubs or give us a free changing bag!  I can remember gazing longingly at the Boots Parenting Club leaflets and feeling sad that, after all this time of waiting to become a mum, I still wasn't eligible to join their club.  In fact, as an adoptive parent, you have to go out and buy an enormous amount of "stuff" in a very short space of time.  We don't get many months of preparation to slowly stock up on nappies and take our time choosing our prams.  We almost have to run into Mothercare and grab whatever is available to take home that day.  We rarely get any financial support from our Local Authorities to buy all the paraphenalia that goes with bringing a new child home so it's a very expensive and very frentic time. 

As an adoptive mum you miss out on all the bonding that pregnant mums get to do with other mums.  You don't do pre-natal yoga classses; you don't do ante-natal classes; you don't bond with other mums in the hospital after giving birth.  Being an adoptive mum is actually quite an isolating experience.  Yes, we have visits from our Social Workers but the emphasis is on us to get out there and meet other people.  Now this is a great thing to do but you're actually advised to keep things simple when you first bring your child home.  You are discouraged from introducing too many people to them in the early days.  This serves to further isolate the newly adoptive parent, especially once your partner's adoption leave is up (if you are adopting as part of a couple) and you are the one at home literally holding the baby.  For the adoptive parent our world seems to be full of little reminders that we have become a parent in a non-traditional sense.

So with that thought and feeling in mind I am sending this post out as a call to all the parenting clubs out there and asking:

Is there a space for adoptive parents in your clubs?
Can you be more aware of our needs as well?

Many of us have waited years to become a parent 
and the little things, like feeling included in things like this, 
would make such a big difference. 

P.S. Plus we're consumers as well and we're going to be spending a lot of cash in a short space of time.......

.......why not give us an incentive to come and spend it with you!

Edited to add: From the response this post has received on Twitter, it appears I'm not the only adopter who has experienced this issue. I'm hearing responses from various adopters who feel maginalised by the big parenting clubs and some have even been refused to join.

Additional Edit to add that Adoption UK have been in touch to say that they are going to see what they can do about this issue - Big thank you to them!!!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The League of Extraordinary Authorities...

Anyone with an interest in adoption will have seen and heard the Government's announcements about the reforms of the adoption system. Local Authority league tables for adoption were released a few days ago. 

Obviously I had a sneaky peak at the stats for our LA and saw how many children were waiting to be adopted. I then wondered how I should digest this information.  Yes, there are "x" amount of children in our LA approved for adoption but what does that table tell me about these children? Does it tell me how many sibling groups there are? How old those children are? What their needs are? No. It just gives me a number. What help is that in reality for would-be adopters coming into the adoption system? You could look at a high number and you might think that your LA is failing. What you don't know is how many hard to place children might be included in those figures.  You can say anything with numbers and statistics. The real information is in the detail, which isn't given in these numbers.  If I'm honest I think prospective adopters need to be asking their agencies or Local Authorities more informed questions about this information. How under-staffed are they at the current time (or how many vacancies for social workers are there currently?) What is their expected time to process your application? What sort of adopters are they looking to recruit? What sort of children are they looking to place?

 In an article in The Telegraph on 16th January 2013 Andrew Webb, Vice President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said: “It is a crude measure and whilst we understand the rationale for this map, it is not a proportionate analysis and cannot be used to judge “good” or “bad” authorities.

 BASW’s Acting Chief Executive Bridget Robb, in a statement issued on the BASW website, said  “So yes, it is welcome to help signpost potential adopters to services that could help them to eventually take a child into their lives, but talk of 'hotspots', areas where children are spending the longest time 'waiting for new homes' is yet another example of this government's simplistic approach to an incredibly complex subject.”

 I'm tempted to agree with these statements. If I'm honest I have concerns that this roadmap might leave prospective adopters feeling confused, lost and needing directions.  
 Well one port of call (so to speak) in the confusion is the new helpline that has been launched to help support and advise prospective adopters (see statement by Adoption UK).  The hotline, which is funded by the Department for Education and operated by Coram; Adoption UK and Coram Children's Legal Centre, is called First4Adoption.  Hugh Thornbery, Adoption UK Chief Executive, said: “This service aims to be a comprehensive, supportive resource to anyone who is thinking of adopting. Our advisors, all of whom are adoptive parents, will be on hand to answer questions relating to the adoption process.  “We encourage anyone who has an interest in adoption and who wants to find out more about becoming an adoptive parent to get in touch by calling 0300 222 0022.” 

 At the moment the website isn't fully functional and it is planned to launch this in the Spring of this year (2013).  I hope that this helpline will be successful but I do question why it was needed when you already have the BAAF and Adoption UK offering information and advice on their telephone lines.  Maybe one centralised line is the answer (although I hope this isn't a gimmick) and that funding is fully committed by the government for the foreseeable future.

 Also related to the current reforms of the adoption system are plans to offer more support to adopters once they are approved in the form of Adoption Activity Days.  These days are being piloted by the BAAF and offer children and prospective adopters a chance to meet and make connections.  I don't feel that I have enough background information to comment properly on this activity.  Success stories are documented, and this is wonderful for the families it creates, but I do have a concern about the impact on the children who remain unchosen as a result of these days and hope that children are carefully selected to participate in order to ensure that children do not feel further rejected.  Also included in the reforms are plans to bring adoption leave in line with that of current maternity and paternity legislation; giving adoptive parents the right to take paid time off work during introductions with their child/ren; a trial of personal budgets (which I need to hear more about before I can comment on); the extension of free early education for two year-olds to adopted children from 2014 and giving them priority school access from 2013.  More details can be found on the Department for Education's website.

I am delighted to see Adoption at the forefront of government reforms but my ongoing concern still remains unresolved - just how much funding is being put into these initiatives to support the Local Authorities and other agencies involved in adoption?  With the current cuts to public funding councils are making cuts to staff, not recruiting.  I can see the impact of this on my own Local Authority and it doesn't take a genius to question what the impact on Social Workers to all the added pressure will be without additional staff to support these reforms.  How many more Social Workers will be needing sick leave because of stress?  This isn't just effecting adoption but all areas of social care.  I don't want to be a cynic. It's actually not my nature to be that way but I've been around the adoption (and social care) block for far too long to assimilate all these reforms without mentioning the obvious word.........FUNDING!

What are your thoughts and experiences? Do share them with me.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Calling Miss Marple.....

  Isn't it funny how things like....

.........oh I don't know....


........just off the top of my head......

........a reference that apparently never arrived when it was posted in November, has suddenly "been received" today on 10th January.....

I think this is a case for Mrs Marple!

On the plus side, now that the "missing" reference has been "received" our Social Worker can now hand our PAR in to be read by the Manager (which only takes 2 weeks) and then she has 2 weeks to make any amendments....and then.....we might have another panel date.

I should run a competition really to guess when that panel date might actually take place.

What do you all think? February or March?.....hopefully not as far ahead as April!

I highlighted to our LA today that it's taken us 14 months to get to this point since our initial home assessment took place in November 2011.  We were promised an 8 month process as second timers. They are going off to review our file.

*shakes head in exasperation*

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Questions about Cats......

I thought I would share with you a questionnaire we have completed recently as part of our home assessment. I'm sharing it partly to give an insight into some of the questions asked when you are a prospective adopter and partly because it was really hard to fill this form out with a straight face (as any human living with cats will testify!).  My real answers are in blue and the answers I would have liked to have given or added are in pink.......


Name of prospective adopter(s)  ……………******……………………………..

1)     Total number and type of pets in the house:

2 Maine Coon Cats (one fairly small female MC and one tom cat the size of a snow leopard).

2)     How long have you had the pets?

We've had Leo for about 18 months and Willow for a year (that's two Christmasses with each cat and the knocked over Christmas trees to prove it!).

3)   Where in the house are the pets kept

The cats can go wherever they want to in the house because let's face it cats do whatever they want to do and Maine Coons are the kings of doing whatever they want to do! (and very gorgeous with it!).  I've never known cats like MCs.  They are amazing cats to share your life with but they do like to be with you at all times.  Actually scrap that entire answer and just define "kept" for me........

4)   Do the pets have access to any rooms of the house? If yes, which ones?

      All Rooms. Every bloomin room in the house in fact. Even the toilet because they will scrabble at the door and call continuously until you let them in.  I now know what it's like to never be alone.  Leo likes to sit on the toilet next to the shower whilst I'm showering! I'm quite a strict parent as well......honest!

5)     Where do the pets sleep?
            Sofas and beds and anywhere else they think a nap is suitable......often on the kitchen table (yes I know it's gross and I've never allowed it before with any of our cats in over 20 years but I really do mean it when I say that MCs rule the roost! Let's just say I anti-bac ALOT!). I'm learning to pick my battles - great preparation for parenting toddlers!  As I write this Willow is sitting next to me at the kitchen table (waiting patiently for me to go to bed - giving me lots of yawning hints - when I give in and go to bed both she and Leo will join me and take up half the bed!).

6)     Do the pets use a litter tray, if so where is it kept?

Yes, the litter tray is kept in the upstairs bathroom. They are very good at using the litter tray and like to ensure they cover all their poo carefully by scrabbling and knocking their litter all over the floor - they then like to shake their paws all over the floor as well and I sweep up this particular bathroom about 5 times per day (I've never known cats to poo as much as MCs do!).  Willow rips through every litter tray liner so it's a balancing act to try and get all the litter in the bin when changing it to prevent it falling all over the floor!

7)     How often are the pets cleaned out and by whom?

            Daily by Gem. Pretty much anytime I visit the upstairs loo and smell one of their horrific smelling stink pods!  MCs do the smelliest poos you've ever smelled in your entire life!

8)     Where is the pets’ food and any medication kept?

            In a box in the lobby which is annexed to the kitchen. We've had to keep it in a closed box because the cats are able to open treats and bags and pouches of food with their teeth and claws.  There is no food they are unable to open themselves (except tins but I'm sure they're doing a masterclass on how to do that behind my back!). Leo likes to drink out of the tap rather than from his drinking bowl - is that a problem?

9)     If appropriate, are the pets kept up-to-date with vaccinations? Verification by regularly used vet?

            Yes (nothing more I can add here really) - they are also insured after Leo cost us over £1000 in surgical bills when he developed the rare entropian of the eyes when he was a kitten.

10)  Have any of the pets ever bitten/scratched anyone?

            The cats will only scratch with provocation and if feeling threatened or if they're playing (especially Willow).  They bite each other in play all the time and Willow is a dreadful nibbler of fingers/arms/toes.  They are provoked daily by Katie who has not yet learnt to leave them the hell alone but actually show amazing restraint considering the professional levels of provocation she directs at them!

11)  Are the pets nervous of other people/children visiting the house?

            No they are very sociable cats. Because they are the kings of the universe they feel that all attention is good attention (and should be directed at them) so they lap up all the tummy tickles and ear scratchings.  They have some great hiding places for when it all gets too much ( I wish I could join them some days!)

12)  Are there any pets you would be willing to accept in your home?

            We would discuss any pets apart from snakes and spiders........

13)  If you keep potentially dangerous animals eg. Snakes or spiders – are they kept in a locked cage?
Where are the keys kept?

N/A and we're aiming to keep it that way!

14)  What steps would you take if your pet injured a foster child?

We would investigate how the injury was obtained. Our cats would not scratch without being provoked. We chose this breed because they are family orientated and brilliant with children. Both cats are wonderful with our 5 year old daughter despite being picked up and annoyed fairly frequently. I rather suspect I would side with the cats if any injuries were sustained (only joking Social Services if you're reading this!).

Signature of prospective adopter(s) 


Assessing officer’s/social worker’s comments on animal and the attitude of their owner(s):

I can't wait to see what our assessing SW writes in this section especially as the cats never leave her alone and I'm sure Willow has tried to wash her hair!

Signature of assessing officer/social worker: ……………………………………………………….……

Date: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Just one of the many forms you have to complete whilst going through the adoption process.......