There are two types of adoption in England. The first is the traditional route where a child is only placed with adopters once a court has decided they cannot live with their birth family. That means a child will potentially have had several placements in their short lives by the time they move in with their new parents. Obviously, the more moves, the greater the risk that a child will experience further trauma.
The second route to adoption is concurrency. This places the risk on adopters and will often mean that a child moves in with them from hospital. To go down this route, adopters also have to be approved as foster carers. Until the court orders that it isn’t possible for the child to live with their birth family, the adopters are acting as foster carers. That means they have to do things like facilitating contact which wouldn’t happen in a traditional placement.
Concurrency, or fostering to adopt, carries with it a risk that the court could decide the child can live with their birth family. That obviously then means the child is moved from the adopters to live with their birth family. Today’s article is written by Hannah sharing her two very different concurrency journeys.
A bit about me
Hi, my name is Hannah and I’m a mum of two amazing, beautiful girls. If you can call them girls. They are more like complete Divas. But I wouldn’t have it any other way! My partner and I are lucky to have adopted them via concurrency.
I decided late last year after being asked quite a lot about our journey, to start my own blog about it. But with running a house, going back to work part time, running my own business and looking after two children under three, I just didn’t have the time. So I made a conscious effort after a live video went really well, to find the time in the New Year to put my head down and get started.
I’m already so glad that I have because the feedback has been that it’s helped people whether it be about adoption or just learning more about it. So, I thought I would tell you a little bit about our journey as we’ve had two very different concurrent adoptions. I hope it helps.
We started the process in 2016. We did the standard paperwork which felt like forever. We also had the standard meetings which I really enjoyed. The meetings were a bit like free therapy. The difference with concurrency and “normal” adoption is that up until the adoption order is granted, you are foster carers. This means that there’s a higher risk of a baby placed going back to their birth family.
But the great thing is, if the adoption order is granted, you’ve been forming a bond with your child from birth. This meant so much to me. We’ve been very lucky that both of our placements got adoption orders.
The process for concurrency meant we had to do both fostering and adoption courses. We also had to do the mandatory fostering courses like first aid, how to keep children safe online etc. This also meant that we had to do two panels, one for fostering and one for adoption. Our local authority now have a course specifically for concurrency which also means just one panel.
I remember the day we got our first match. It was the first Monday of the summer holidays and a baby girl was due on the Friday. It was another two weeks until she finally decided to make her entrance. But the day the lovely social workers brought her to our front door, was a feeling I’ve never experienced before. We had the weekend to bond with her and have her all to ourselves until contact started on the Monday.
If I’m honest, I was upset that contact was happening to start with. Our contact was three times a week and birth parents showed up each time. Looking back now, I’m super grateful that they did because that enabled us to form a relationship. We bonded, which is an amazing thing to be able to tell my little girl when she’s older. If my life had taken a different path or I’d had a different upbringing, I could’ve been in birth mum’s situation. I have so much respect for both sets of birth parents for many different reasons. But mainly because they’ve given me my two beautiful daughters.
Although contact was a rollercoaster of emotions, I’m so glad she got the time to spend with her birth parents. The memories we have in her life story book shows how much they really did care and how much they love her and wanted her. But circumstances meant they weren’t able to provide absolutely everything she needed.
Being foster carers
With concurrency it’s quite hard to get your head around the fostering rules and having your foster hat on. You had to write daily records, tell the social worker if you want to go away or go to a different town. You have paperwork to say you can take them to medical appointments and make decisions about those, but you still have to let the social worker know about them.
I didn’t do this once with number two. She’d bumped her head so we took her to the walk-in centre. First thing Monday morning we had three phone calls from the social workers panicking!
With our second concurrent placement the stage one part didn’t take anywhere near as long. It was more updating the report and having a few meetings about how life has changed, how we will cope with two babies and just looking into the future really. This time I wasn’t so impatient. I wanted a sibling for my little girl more than anything. But circumstances meant that if we hadn’t matched before the September, we’d have had to wait until after May 2020 as we were going abroad to get married.
I think we’d got our head around the fact that we wouldn’t get a match and we would wait. But lo and behold, three days before breaking up for the summer holidays, I got a phone call from the social worker. I can’t repeat the words I said when she told me about a little girl who’d been born eight weeks premature. At that time she was three weeks old and ready to come home on the Friday. Keep in mind this was 3:00pm Wednesday!
We’d gone from three weeks notice to meeting our first little girl, to just over 24 hours to go and pick up our second little girl from the hospital. It was amazing that we were able to go to the hospital and bring her home. That felt really special. She was so tiny. I’ve never seen anything so tiny in my life.
Contact second time
There was a big difference with this concurrent placement as contact didn’t start. It was supposed to, but birth parents were unable to commit to contact at that time. We did meet them at three months old when they had two sessions. That was lovely. But I do wish we’d had more time to spend with them getting to know them, so that we have as much to tell number two as we do number one.
A lot of things felt different this time. There wasn’t as much involvement with social workers, support workers etc. I think because we weren’t at contact seeing them regularly, they just didn’t seem to be around as much as the first time.
Then 2020 happened and put a delay on everything. Court hearings were postponed and the adoption order took over 18 months. Birth parents asked for contact, then didn’t attend during this time. When they attended court, they were full of praise for us and said how grateful they were to us. They said they’d like one final meeting.
It was different this time because we had PR so it was our choice whether we agreed to a final contact. It was a huge decision but obviously we said yes. We met them which was super special. All the feelings we had about them before that, instantly went away. I remembered how important these people are to us.
They have given us another beautiful child and they were so thankful they even called us mummy and daddy which meant the world to us. I’m glad we saw them, and they saw us, and that they saw how happy number two is. I got to hold birth mum’s hand while she thanked me. I told her to look after herself, made her promise to look after herself and that was so important to me. We bonded as mothers right there and then.
Every concurrency journey is different. We’ve done it twice and they are both completely different. If you decide to go down that route, my advice is to try and enjoy contact and the meetings with birth parents as much as you possibly can because you’ll always have that to give back to your child when they’re learning about their life.
Concurrency is a big decision because of the risk. You have to make sure you’re strong enough to be able to take on the risk of the placement not continuing to adoption. But in saying that, nothing beats experiencing the bond between the baby and yourself when they’re such tiny little things. You are their everything. I can’t explain how amazing that is. It’s true love from the beginning.
Whatever journey you’ve been on or whatever journey you decide to go on, it will be the right one for you. There is a baby or a child out there which will be your perfect match. Just remember timing is everything. Enjoy the process. Relax as much as you can. Don’t fear the unknown and good luck.
If you’d like to read more adoption stories, click here.