This week’s interview is with Rosie who is mum to four children. Here she shares her experience of how her family met their children in four sets of introductions.
How old were your children when you met them?
We have four adopted children aged eight, five, three and nearly a two year old. Our first was 15 months old when we met him, then two years later we were approved again and met our second son when he was just three and a half months old. That was a foster to adopt placement.
Two years later and a sibling came along so we were approved again! Our third son was seven months old when we met him. Just a year later another sibling was born, we met her at five months of age and she moved in with us through a connected persons placement.
What did you do to prepare for meeting your children? (e.g. photo book, slept with a toy)
For each of our children we slept with a cuddly toy or a snuggly blankie for the youngest ones. This gave them something with our smell before we actually met them.
We printed out large pictures of ourselves, our pets and then children included and laminated them. The foster carer was able to show them to our children and leave them about the house. Apparently our eldest would really laugh every time he saw them! We did an audio book for our eldest but things moved more quickly with our other three and so we didn’t get that done.
How long after matching panel did introductions start?
Our first adoption was a ‘normal’ straight forward adoption. From matching panel to actually meeting him it was 10 days. Our second was foster to adopt so matching panel comes later in the process once little one had a placement order. Our third adoption was a sibling and we actually started our intros and then three days in we had matching panel! This was only allowed as we were ‘connected persons’. Our fourth was foster to adopt again so matching panel was later down the line.
When did you get the introductions plan?
I can’t remember exact timings but I know it’s always been fairly last minute. And then it has always needed tweaking. For our third and fourth adoptions, we had much more involvement with the planning of it and how it would work for us. We alrerady had children then so it needed to take thier needs into account. The plan then had to fit round what worked for foster carer and baby’s routine and of course what the social workers wanted.
How long were introductions planned for?
Fr our first it was two weeks long which was exhausting all round. I do think that our son needed that time though as he was a very anxious little boy.
Our second which was fostering to adopt and was a seven day introduction. Again just right for us all.
For our third the original plan was for introductions to be two weeks long. We managed to get it shortened to 12 days in the lead up as felt it too much for everyone. 10 days in, it was all going well but the driving back and forth (one hour away) was getting too much for our children and baby so he came home for keeps a day earlier.
Introductions with our youngest were seven days.
Did you have far to travel for introductions? If you did, did you stay in a hotel or travel each day?
Our eldest was in foster care just 15 minutes from our home which was amazing for introductions. Our second and third were an hour away which was manageable travelling back and forth. We had one night away so we could do bed routine and arrive the following day for wake up time.
Our fourth was two hours away but because of our three children at home already and wanting to keep them in their routine as much as possible, we still travelled back and forth with just a one overnight stay. We were offered the opportunity to have a self contained house for our whole family but we felt it would be quite disruptive for our children.
What happened on the first day? How did it go? How did you feel at the end of it?
I remember each first day so well. All those mixed feelings, excitement and anxiety and that the day had finally come after what felt like forever. The first day is never long enough.
I have felt differently each time. Always eager to get back the next day though! My first and third I wasn’t instantly smitten, that bond and love for them grew over time. They were definitely both much more traumatised so it was harder to connect with them.
With my second and fourth I was so smitten after just the first day. When I didn’t have that instant connection with the other two, I just got on with mum mode and definitely had in my mind ‘fake it till you make it, fake it till you make it!’ And we did get there.
What were the next few days like?
The next few days I just wanted to soak up as much time as I could with the children. Bombarding the foster carer with questions! And just getting to know the children. Lots of cuddles mainly. And sleeping, they all had a habit of falling asleep in my husbands arms.
At what stage did your child visit your home?
I think each time round it was about half way through intros that the children visited our home and always with the foster carer for the first visit.
How did that work?
It always went really well. We had four fabulous foster carers who very much let us get on with things and went above and beyond to help settle our little ones in.
Did you have any contact with your or your child’s social worker during introductions?
Contact with social workers for each introductions was always on the first day that we met the children. It was the child’s social worker present with our own social worker checking in by phone afterwards. Then the only contact was via phone or email to check that we were happy with how everything was going. Foster carers are also contacted and they feed back how they think it is going and it has always been very positive thankfully!
Did they last as long as planned?
One of our introductions was cut short by a day as everyone was getting exhausted and little one seemed ready.
How did you get on with the foster carers?
We got on really well with all four foster carers. They genuinely cared for the children and wanted what was best for them and to make the intros go as well as could be. After a day or two in, they very much just let us get on with it! They are now our children’s god parents and we keep in touch and meet up regularly.
Were there any problems during introductions? If so what and how were they resolved?
No problems thankfully.