When you’ve decided you’d like to try and make a birth child, you don’t have to go on any courses to check you’re suitable. You don’t have to go into every aspect of your life with a virtual stranger. Or share your income and outgoings with anyone.
You do have to do all of that though, and more, if you decide you’d like to be a parent through adoption. And there’s a very good reason for that. Children who need to be adopted have already suffered trauma and loss in their short lives.
The assessment needs to make sure that adopters are prepared, as much as they can be, for the types of things they’ll need to deal with. It also needs to make sure that the people being assessed are have the skills to be (more than) good enough parents.
Wannabemums has written this very honest post about the assessment and how she found it. You can follow her journey on Instagram @wannabemums.
The road to adoption panel
Last week I was approved to adopt after a 14-month journey. If I had known what would be involved in becoming approved when I started, would I have gone ahead with it? Now that we’re approved, a million times yes. But there were times along the way that I was seriously thinking of throwing in the towel. Here are some of the things I discovered…
The adoption assessment: It’s sloooow
The first hurdle is realising that this isn’t like anything else you face in life – most of which can be spun through with enthusiasm and a bit of elbow grease. It dawns on you quite quickly (the fastest thing that does happen in this process) this isn’t something that can just be ticked off. No matter how smiley and compliant you are on the training days or how many books you read, they aren’t going to just give you a kid without looking under every pebble in your life.
For some people this is the advertised six months. For lots it does take longer. People are often asked to clear up areas of their life that aren’t quite ready, whether that’s practical, medical or psychological.
Progress can seem glacial; the red tape voluminous; the necessary social worker appointments bumped by weeks. At the start this will have you raging, but try and remember that when you have a child you won’t have the luxury of time and treat yourself to nice ways to fill it.
A year ago I was champing at the bit to skip to the end. But now I’m pleased I had time to work on myself and spend time just with my partner.
You’re not the client
It soon becomes clear that the relationship with your social worker is like no other you’ll have experienced. In that they’re focused on assessing you but not in a service relationship. It’s hard for some couples to get this. We’ve all had a grumble at what’s expected of us, as we bare our souls and bank balances to judgement.
But once you realise that the future child is the client, it becomes easier. Of course they can ask you to fill in a form in triplicate or answer the same questions again because they have to be sure you’re good enough. The kids have been let down too much before.
It goes deeper than you think
When we started, there were some niggles in the back of my mind to do with my mental health. A couple of small bouts of depression I hoped would just be allowed to pass unexamined. Most people with anxiety or depression who apply do get approved. But like everything else in your life, mental health is scrutinised.
The key factor is your childhood. Parenting a traumatised child could trigger your past. So it’s important to make sure you know what you’re dealing with. The one-on-one interview is particularly discombobulating. It’s half therapy session, half job interview and you reveal more than you ever told anyone in one go.
I was asked to take some time out to think about how my childhood impacted on my life and came to some realisations that have shaken up my understanding of myself. This has been the hardest part – but necessary.
You realise how lucky you are
Above all, gratitude is a key word in this process. You will read stories practically every day about kids coming from abuse and neglect. Their lives are unimaginable to those with loving parents. You’ll learn about attachment issues and ongoing conditions that are the product of trauma. And while as a potential parent this can feel overwhelming, you also feel blessed.
It changes others’ perspectives as well. When friends see you going through a process that at times makes you stressed, worried and sad they say, “I’m angry for you. Birth parents don’t have to go through this.” But by the end they’re like, “Birth parents should totally have to go through this.”
I, for one, feel lucky to have come out the other side with new insight into myself. Lucky for the perspective I’ve gained and even lucky for all the moments I doubted it all. I once read an article by an adventure writer who talked about “type two fun” being the moments on any trip that really weren’t fun at the time but that you laugh about afterwards.
Adoption approval is like that. A journey where when you look back, even the rocky bits were an opportunity for growth. Coming through such an intense process makes you proud of yourself and of your partner. Every hurdle makes you feel more ready to take on what is to come next.
And I finally feel ready.
If you’d like to find out more about adoption and what the assessment involves, First4Adoption is a good place to start. Or head over to the adoption stories section to read more articles from adopters sharing their experience of the process.