One dad’s honest insight into the highs and lows of adoption
The first thing I would say is, if you’ve ever considered adoption then go for it and if you’re currently going through the process then stick with it! Keep smiling, talk, don’t let the process bog you down, have a break if you need it, let your hair down and enjoy your time while you have it, because when your amazing little person or persons enter your life, everything is going to change – but in a good way.
Our journey wasn’t an easy one, but from the first day we set eyes on our daughter’s profile it was clear it was all going to be worth it.
It all started for us in late 2016. My wife and I hadn’t been together that long when we first discussed the prospect of children. I remember it like it was yesterday – we were sat on a bench on the riverside in the village where we now live, looking across at a couple who I knew to be foster carers. “Would you adopt?” I asked, to which I received a resounding “Yes.” The conversation developed and we toyed with the idea of IVF. However, having gone through this in a previous marriage I knew how difficult it could be, plus there are no guarantees and we weren’t getting any younger!
So, in January 2018 we took our first step on the adoption road when we attended an adoption open evening hosted by a local adoption agency. It was a strange evening. Some of the points they raised made sense, some of them didn’t. One question mark for us was a comment about dogs and that they aren’t always helpful when adopting and you may have to get rid of them if required. “Really?” we thought. Our dog is the most placid, friendly dog you could meet, but OK let’s see what happens with this.
There was one key point that stood out and reaffirmed our decision that this was for us. It was when they shared the stats of how many children were waiting to find a forever home in that area. It was mind blowing and heart breaking in the same measure. We got back in the car and both agreed we would register our interest and see what happened.
"One thought that did cross our minds was would they have the same bond with a child that wasn’t biologically linked to them."
To give some info, the process can then be broken down into stages; Register Interest, Stage One, Stage Two, Adoption Panel, Matching, Matching Panel, Introductions, Home, Formal Adoption.
We submitted our paperwork in January and were booked in for our first home visit with a social worker and admin worker in mid-March. One thing I will say with the adoption process is nothing happens quickly!
The date finally came round. We cleaned the house from top to bottom (the type of clean reserved for when my Gran comes round) and were ready to make a good first impression. We were nervous and irrational questions came into our heads, like where we should sit, should we hold hands, how much do we smile and should we lock the dog in the kitchen.
The meeting wasn’t easy. It was quite in-depth – we discussed work, health, relationships past and present, finances and, above all else, why we wanted to do this. If I’m honest, it didn’t go well as we didn’t warm to the social worker. On a positive note, they loved our house, but even then raised concerns when we said we still wanted to finish some DIY. But at least the cleaning paid off!
We closed the door feeling a little emotional and deflated but still sure this was something we wanted to progress with.
"We were nervous and irrational questions came into our heads, like where we should sit, should we hold hands, how much do we smile and should we lock the dog in the kitchen."
In the May, we started stage one, which is all about paperwork, medicals, DBS checks, work references and more paperwork. Also during this time, we attended four days of pre-adoption training which was actually very interesting. It made us think about things in a new way, consider things we’d never thought of and really understand the need to put all your own feelings to one side and give the child all your focus.
They also said if you’ve had more going on in your life then this stands you in good stead for the process, as you’ve had good life experiences. So, being someone with divorced parents, who had battled anxiety and depression, been married twice before and had been a step-parent I thought I was a prime candidate, while my wife who has had a wonderfully stable life felt a bit inadequate.
Anyway, we completed everything we had to, had our medicals in the September and now had to wait for all the paperwork to come in. Some came quickly, others didn’t, medical advisors went on leave, admin workers left, new admin workers joined, more questions got raised from the medicals and were answered.
It was full on and seemed never ending. We chased and chased, and my final email of the year was on the evening of our wedding, in which I further chased an update. So, there was no break from stage one, but we did have an amazing wedding!
"It made us think about things in a new way, consider things we’d never thought of and really understand the need to put all your own feelings to one side and give the child all your focus."
In the new year we finally got the answer we’d been hoping for, but not in the way we expected. We received an email stating we’d been approved to start stage two, accompanied by the most demoralising, patronising and slightly heart-breaking letter from the adoption agency.
The letter stated we could continue to stage two and would be assigned a social worker. However, due to my high BMI and past medical history, this wasn’t compatible with raising a child so they had concerns that we would be approved. There was literally nothing positive in this letter and it ended with ‘thank you for your interest’.
“Interest?” Seriously, we’d been at it for 12 months by that stage and that’s what we get! It felt like something we’d been working towards had been pushed further away and for the first time it made us question whether we should proceed.
A couple of weeks passed and after a lot of soul searching, we decided to continue. We had our first visit from our allocated social worker and based on all the negative information she had been given, she again spelled out there was little chance of us being approved. Again, this was astounding – they didn’t know us. All we wanted to do was give a child a stable, loving home and a good life, but they were making assumptions on weight and history.
Nevertheless, we persevered, and it soon became apparent to our social worker that all the fears that had been raised were unfounded. During countless meetings, some as a couple and some as individuals, all things were discussed at length – my mental health, previous relationships, our current relationship, our support network and our finances were assessed with a fine-tooth comb.
"All we wanted to do was give a child a stable, loving home and a good life."
The day of the Adoption Panel arrived, and we were nervous, really nervous. I made sure I was dressed in all black, so it looked slimming – every little helps! Today was huge and could change our lives forever. We entered the room – desks were formed in a square and there were 11 people sat there. “Who do you look at?”, I thought, “How much do you smile?”, “Remember to breathe in.”
I can’t remember all the questions, but one that did stand out was: “Why do you want to adopt?” to which my answer was simple: “Because we have a lot of love to give and feel we can give a less fortunate child a better start in life.” With that, we were asked to leave the room while they made their decision. I do remember not being able to get any sense of how it went. They all had incredible poker faces!
Ten minutes later the chairman entered our room and said words that I will never forget: “We’re really happy to say you have been unanimously approved.”
It was one of the most emotional moments we had experienced to that point. Both my wife and I burst into tears. It was a sense of happiness and relief; we had done it.