We only went through the matching process with our eldest daughter as our local authority approached us about our youngest. I found that part of the process very difficult so I thought it would be good to share our experience of matching here.
Introduce yourself and your family.
I’m Suzy and live with my husband and our two daughters who are eight and four. They are full siblings.
At what point in the process did matching start?
After approval. We were approved in September 2013. I was convinced our social worker would have a profile for us on her first visit after Panel and that our little one would be home for Christmas. She didn’t and we were in for a long wait.
How did it work? Did your social worker do all of the looking or did you get involved in that part?
We played no part in the matching process at all. Our social worker did all the looking. She said at the start that she would only bring us a profile when she thought it was a match.
At the time, I found it extremely difficult not to have any part in the process. I couldn’t understand how our social worker would know that a child was right for us. Surely we were the only ones who could assess that?
She came out regularly and gave us snippets of information about children she’s looked at. And then told us why they weren’t suitable. It turned out that one of those children she mentioned early on was our daughter.
As the months went on, I found it harder and harder to not be involved. We asked that she spread the net wider than just the children from our agency. We also registered with Link Maker which I found really tough. I realised then that not being part of the search was probably a good thing. I tried to convince myself we could cope with all sorts of things because I felt so bad that there were so many children on there waiting to be matched.
Did you attend any events such as adoption activity days? If so, what were they like?
No we didn’t. At that time our agency didn’t do them.
How many profiles did you read?
The only profile we read was our daughter’s. As I’ve said, our social worker gave us snippets of information about other children, but the only profile she showed us was of the child she thought was the right match.
I’ll never forget reading it. She’d emailed the day before to say she wanted to come and talk to us about a child. After such a long wait, I was terrified. Terrified that it wouldn’t feel right for one of us, or neither of us.
In the end, when she started talking about the little girl, I knew she was our daughter. When I started to read her profile, I felt a connection. I know that doesn’t happen for everyone, so I feel very lucky that it happened that way for us. It took me a long time to love her, but I felt a connection straight away.
We didn’t see her photograph until we said we wanted to proceed with the link. I phoned our social worker the next day and went in to meet her that day to sign some forms and get a photograph. It probably sounds odd but I didn’t want to look at it. I think I still expected our social worker to say there’d been a mistake so not seeing her picture would make that easier to cope with.
What was the hardest part about matching?
By far the length of the wait. It was the uncertainty of the length of time it was going to take that really got to me. If we’d known at the start it would be 10 months, we could’ve planned how to keep ourselves occupied. It felt like our lives were in limbo and we couldn’t plan or do anything. One of my best friends was due to get married in the June following approval. We had to say in the February whether we were going to the day time as well as the night time. I found that really tough because we just didn’t know. I hoped we wouldn’t be able to go because we’d been matched.
In the end we tried our best to do things like going out for tea and weekends away as we knew they would be more difficult once we had a little one. We also managed to sneak in a final, final holiday in the sun. I spent a lot of time sitting in little one’s bedroom because being in there helped me feel like it was going to happen. I knew it was, but the longer we waited, the harder it was to believe that.
A few weeks before we found out about our daughter, I found things really tough. We’d just found out that the final hearing for a little one our social worker was going to link us with, had been postponed. A family member had come forward on the day of the final hearing and (rightly so) the court had decided they should be assessed.
We didn’t know anything about the child until the hearing had been postponed. Even then our social worker didn’t tell us any details. I was devastated and felt like it was never going to happen. I knew it was the right that the hearing was postponed because if there was a chance the child could stay with their birth family, that had to be explored. But it was really hard for us.
It makes me really emotional thinking about that time. We found out about our daughter a couple of weeks later. If the final hearing hadn’t been put off, we would have been linked to the first little one and would never have met our daughters. That thought terrifies me.
I found out later that it was a little boy who we were going to be linked with. It turned out that the relative wasn’t suitable so final orders were made not long after that.
How long did it take to find your match?
10 very long months!
What age and number of children were you matched with? Was this the same as you expected or did it change when you started looking?
We were approved for one child up to the age of two. We were matched with our daughter when she was six months old.
What happened once you were linked? Who did you meet to find out about your child?
We met her social worker quite soon after we said we wanted to proceed. She came to our house and had a quick look round. I remember feeling a bit of an anti-climax as I thought we’d find out a lot about our daughter and that she’d want to grill us about why we thought we were the right match for her. But there was none of that. It was quite a quick meeting. She said she had everything she needed about us from our social worker and asked us if we had any questions.
We met her foster carer about a week after that and we got a lot more from that meeting than we had from the social worker. Foster mum really brought our daughter to life. Although she must have thought we were mad because all of the questions we asked were about nappy sizes and what she liked to eat. We completely forgot to ask what our daughter was actually like! Luckily our social worker did ask about her which led to a lovely conversation.
We then had quite a long wait before we could meet the medical adviser. It was the start of the summer holidays when we found out about our daughter, and the medical adviser was on leave for the full six weeks. She gave us quite a lot of information about some of the concerns there’d been following our daughter’s birth.
As I said before, our social worker had given us a snippet of information about our daughter not long after she’d been born. There’d been concerns about the size of her head and so some tests were going to be done. We found out about her following her six month check which showed there were no concerns and the size of her head was put down to a family trait.
It does make me sad to think we could have met our daughter sooner. We found out later that her social worker had tried to match her before the six month check. She’d even been to a matching event, but everyone who enquired about her was worried about her head size. It’s something that didn’t bother us. Our social worker had been told early on that matching wouldn’t happen until after the tests had been done, so she didn’t take it any further at that stage. She only saw her photograph later by chance and couldn’t believe there’d been issues about her head.
How long was it between being linked and matching Panel?
It ended up being about 10 weeks due to school holidays and then our social worker being out of the country for the September Panel. In the end an extra Panel was convened. We found out about her at the end of July and went to Panel 1st October.
At what stage did you start preparing your child’s room and buying items for them?
We actually started decorating the nursery before we were approved. We decorated it in neutral colours and not with any particular age in mind. It helped me feel like I was going to be a mum by starting to get prepared.
We bought a cot bed and pushchair not long after approval. I bought a couple of things like bibs and some toys at about the same time, but didn’t buy anything else until we found out about our daughter.
I originally wanted to wait until panel before we bought anything specifically for her, because I was terrified it was all going to fall through. But once we met her social worker and foster carer, I couldn’t wait! I remember thinking I’d regret not enjoying the time of nesting and buying things, more than I’d wish that I hadn’t bought anything if it all fell through.
How did you prepare for matching Panel?
Our daughter was just under nine months at matching Panel. My mum made a fabric photo book of us and immediate family. It being fabric meant it was safe for our daughter to play with on her own. We got A4 photos of us and her room laminated so the foster carers could put them up around their home. We slept with a cuddly toy and blanket for a few weeks before panel so they had our smell on them.
Everything was handed over to our daughter’s social worker at Panel for her to pass on to the foster carer. Panel were very impressed with the fabric photo book which my mum was really chuffed about.
What happened at matching Panel?
Ours and our daughter’s social workers went in first. It felt like they were in for ages. Our social worker then came out to get us. Once we were sat down, the panel chairman told us that they were delighted to approve the match. But he then went on to invite questions from the panel which made us more nervous answering the questions. I was worried we’d mess up the answers and they’d say they were reversing their decision.
We were asked the usual things like why were we the right match for this child? I think that’s actually quite difficult to answer and put into words. For us it was a feeling and a connection which is what we said. They also wanted to know about adoption leave. Which one of us was going to take it, how long we intended to take and how we were going to fund it. Panel then wanted to look at the things we’d brought for the foster carer to look at.
It felt like we were in and out very quickly, but I think the whole thing probably took about an hour. We then had a meeting with our social worker and got the introductions plan. Panel was on a Wednesday and intros were due to start the following Thursday. As there’d been a delay getting to Panel, everyone wanted intros to start asap.