Attending adoption preparation training is part of the assessment process. Some agencies do it during Stage 1, some during Stage 2. Whenever it is, it’s an intense few days covering some difficult topics. It provides you with a vital insight into some of the issues you’ll face as adoptive parents.
How long is it?
As with everything to do with the assessment, this varies depending on your agency. It’s usually for about four days. Some agencies do it consecutive days, some split over a few weeks. Ours was four consecutive days which was intense but I think we benefited from the days being together. It’s worth asking agencies in your area how the course is run if you have a strong preference for individual or consecutive days. That might be something that helps you decide which agency to go with.
What’s the format?
The size of your group will depend on the number of prospective adopters in your area at the time. Some groups can have 30 people, some may only have half a dozen. Bigger agencies will run courses more frequently than smaller ones.
The training is informal. There’s no assessment or test at the end. There’ll be speakers, group discussions with the whole group and sessions in smaller groups. It isn’t a formal assessment but how you interact with everyone is something that may be taken into account when looking at taking you onto Stage 2 (if the training takes place in Stage 1). For example, someone who isn’t prepared to listen to anyone else’s point of view, or who is rude and disruptive, isn’t likely to be taken forward.
Talking in front of people in a group setting isn’t something that everyone has experience of. That can be quite daunting. My husband was very nervous about this and worried it would count against us. I emailed one of the social workers (who turned out to be our social worker) and explained he was nervous. I asked what type of things we’d have to do and whether he’d have to speak in front of everyone. She was lovely and put his mind at ease. She said it was an informal setting and there’s no pressure on people to speak.
Our group was quite small, about a dozen of us in total. The small number definitely helped my husband feel more at ease. In the end, he felt comfortable in the group and was able to fully contribute to discussions.
If you are nervous or feel you’d like more information, contact one of the social workers. They want you to feel comfortable during the training so that you get as much out of it as possible.
I would recommend wearing comfortable layered clothes. It’s really hard to predict how warm or otherwise a room is going to be. My advice is wear layers you can take off or put on easily depending on the temperature. And definitely dress for comfort. There’s a lot of sitting and you don’t want to feel distracted because you aren’t comfortable in your clothes.
What does it involve?
The purpose of the course is to give you an idea of some of the issues you may face as an adoptive parent, and the tools to deal with them. The best way of doing this is to hear from people with experience and knowledge of what you’re about to take on. Speakers are likely to be social workers, adopters, adoptees, sometimes birth parents and people with a medical or educational background.
A lot of people who’ve been through the course felt that the more speakers, the better. That gives you the biggest insight into what you may have to deal with. Our course had four speakers which felt about right. We had a child protection social worker, an adoptee, adopters and a psychologist. We learned so much from them all, but the adoptee’s talk really stuck with me. He brought home the importance of our future children knowing about their birth history from as early an age as possible.
As well as outside speakers, the social workers running the course will provide a lot of information. There will also be bug group discussion sessions and smaller group work. You’ll cover things like why children come into the care system and the court process; the types of trauma they may have experienced and the impact that could have on their development and behaviour; life story work.
The reality is that the course only scratches the surface of the types of issues you’ll face as an adoptive parent. It isn’t a practical training course on how to be an adoptive parent. But it gives you a lot of food for thought and is a good foundation to build on.