Meeting your child for the first time is an exciting, mind blowing experience. You’ve prepared their room. Bought clothes, toys and books in abundance. You’ve probably spent a lot of hours in their room wondering what it’s going to be like. Is it really going to happen? Are you actually going to become a parent?
Meeting your child for the first time when you’re adopting is like nothing else you’ll ever experience. It’s one of those things that unless you’ve been through it, you can’t really understand what it’s like.
You’re meeting little people who already have likes, dislikes, routines and favourite toys. They’ve also experienced some level of trauma and so meeting them has to be at their pace. They already have an attachment to the people who’ve cared for them, often for many months and so need to learn how to transfer that attachment to you.
Adopters have to go into a strangers home looking like they know what they’re doing and soak up as much information about them as they can. And at the same time, try to get to know the child who’s going to be your son or daughter.
How do adoption introductions work?
Adoption Introductions or transitions as they’re sometimes called, usually take place over at least a week. The older the child, or if it’s a sibling group, the long they’ll take. Our daughter’s were both under one when we met them, and introductions were just under a week. That’s a really short space of time to get to know your child and for them to get to know and trust you enough to start to settle.
The process will differ depending on all sorts of circumstances. But generally, the first day will be at the foster carers home where you’ll spend perhaps a couple of hours. The amount of time you spend there will gradually increase and you’ll start to take over more of the caring role from the foster carer.
You’ll go out initially with the foster carer, and then on your own. And then the venue will move to your home, again initially with the foster carer and then on your own.
There should be regular reviews to make sure everyone is happy. And then on the final day, you collect your child for the foster carers for the last time and bring your child home. This is an extremely emotional time for everyone involved. Foster carers are saying goodbye to a child they’ve loved for often many months. The child is being taken away from their home to go and live with strangers. Adopters have to manage all of those big emotions and there own as well.
Tips to help you prepare for introductions
So, how do you prepare for something like that? Can you prepare for something like that?
I’ve asked adopters who’ve been through introductions what advice they’d give anyone about to start. Here’s their top tips:
- Take some time for you before you start. Make the most of long baths, lie-ins and free time.
- Batch cook meals in the weeks leading up to them so you’ve got easy food when you get home.
- Make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks with you. For you and kids.
- Don’t have high expectations about how things will go, particularly for the first few days. Take each day as it comes.
- Don’t worry if you get things wrong. That’s what parenting is all about.
- Keep a record of what you did and how your felt at the end of each day.
- Find out what your child’s favourite colour is and try to wear it.
- See if you can find out foster carer’s perfume or aftershave and have a spray of it so you smell familiar and safe.
- If you have a partner, make sure you talk through your feelings with them. It’s ok if you both don’t feel an instant connection. Be patient and the feelings will come.
- Take lots of photos and videos.
- Accept that being at the foster carer’s home is a false situation and not real life. Stick to their routines until your child is home.
- If you’re travelling a long distance for intros and have to stay over, take little luxuries like candles and beauty products.
- Ask as many questions as you need to.
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