I was trying to remember what life was like before it got turned upside down some 18 months ago. If I’m honest the start of the journey was more like 5 years ago; my husband summed it up only last night, we had a little dude shaped hole in our lives that needed filling. This has now been filled by the liveliest, funniest little boy I’ve ever known and he’s all ours – stubborn streaks, mannerisms picked up from us (we are big believers in nurture over nature), and the cutest smile ever .
But my goodness it was a very hard journey and continues to be going forwards but I am putting the latter part down to there being a toddler in the house. There are lessons I have learnt and hand on heart if ‘We Are Family’ hadn’t come onto my radar and the wonderful people I have met it would have been even harder, you are the adopters answer to the NCT and I love it!
Ours was not mainstream adoption, our local authority said they couldn’t help us as we were both white. Through a bit of research and a chance conversation with a family friend that we found another route: Concurrent Planning. The CP process starts with a fostering placement where a young child is placed with a family, this provides security and stability at a crucial stage. CP carers are also approved to be adopters so if the Court decides the placement should move to adoption the baby doesn’t have a further move and the CP carers become the adoptive parents.
I found an email recently from this family friend who said to think carefully before going down the CP route as it was incredibly hard. She wasn’t wrong. We had approximately 3 months of training to become both foster carers and adopters and then when we had completed the training we were able to complete our adoption paperwork to be approved. The fostering period of CP involves weekly (some time several times weekly) contact meetings with the birth family which we were also prepped for as well as ongoing training throughout the fostering period.
We finally got approved in November 2012 and then the wait began. We were told the call could come at any time. Our new friends from the training were all in the same boat. Slowly over the course of a few months emails arrived from them to say they had a match. Until, finally, our turn came.
It was a Tuesday in March 2013. Our social worker called to say there may be a little boy who needed us. A meeting at the local authority was planned for the Thursday where we would find out more. My husband and I (with our wonderful social worker) were excited and nervous.
Arriving at the local authority we were surprised (and pleased) to find in the corner ‘the little dude’ all smiling and happy. It was completely overwhelming. We left the meeting elated and went straight to the shops. This little dude was coming to us as we were to become his Foster parents whilst his future was decided.
I walked into work the next day to hand over my job and on the Saturday flew to visit my father for what was to be the last time, he died of cancer 3 weeks into the foster placement. However, our priority had to be the little dude and despite how I felt, we only postponed 1 contact session.
On the Monday we spent the day with the little dude at his emergency foster placement and then on the Tuesday he spent the day with us to see our home for the first time. On the Wednesday we picked him up and drove him back to our home.
Almost immediately the meetings started. Social workers, health visitors, it was relentless. And then contact started. We had to take the little dude twice a week to visit his birth family for their sessions. This meant dropping him off at the contact centre and leaving him for 1½ hours with the social workers and birth parents. We went for coffee. It was without question the most stressful part of the whole process and only became harder as the months passed and our attachment development. It also caused stress for the little dude as he didn’t like to be left. This caused me huge amounts of stress (as I was the one having to take him). We also found a number of sessions were cancelled as the birth parents didn’t turn up.
Overall contact was a positive experience as it gave us a chance to meet the birth family. This should help us to answer any questions further down the line.
The local authority and courts eventually decided that adoption was the plan and we were ‘matched’ with the little dude (we had at this point been looking after him for 6 months). Contact was then reduced and final goodbyes were said to birth family.
Was it too much to believe that we could start to think we could really be his mummy and daddy, it wasn’t and we could begin to concentrate on no longer calling ourselves by our 1st names, keeping a daily account of everything he did, remembering to email our social worker and his social worker if we’d had to give him Calpol, etc., etc. We knew it would happen but had been holding back. For the duration of the fostering we were unable to leave him with anyone else, we had to remain in London but if we did want to leave London we had to leave details in triplicate. So yes, it really was tough.
When we said goodbye to the little dude’s birth family they said ‘Thank you’ – a simple yet powerful phrase and one I will hold dear.
We were now able to put our application in to adopt, and whilst it was rather straightforward it reminded me of being a small child and waiting to see if Father Christmas had come. Eventually in January 2014 the little dude became our son
And as one journey comes to an end another adventure begins; our adventure as a family. Today my son said ‘Daddy is brilliant, Mummy is gorgeous’ and I can honestly say this journey is going to be wonderful.