18. Not a biscuit in sight.

After being pronounced sane (laughs manically and strokes cat), we finally signed our Stage 2 Agreement at the end of April, with Home Study Visits scheduled for the first week in May.

After being held in stasis for so long, we were amazed to have ALL OF OUR HOME STUDY VISITS IN A WEEK. The first meetings were separate (Cara and myself individually) and the remaining two together.

Mine was first, so I dutifully took the morning off work and in the manner of a slightly erratic Mary Berry knocked up some rather misshapen cinnamon oat cookies. The phone rang, N was sick. No meeting = lots of cookies for Cara and Anna.

We feared this was the start of yet another cycle of farcical delays, but lovely N called to apologise and reschedule the following day.

Given that the majority of people cite the Hone Study as the most intrusive part of the process, we found them relatively painless, and even quite fun in part. N has a great sense of humour and seems to ‘get us’, so we relaxed and chatted more openly than we had before. I finally found peace on the biscuit front, nobody eats the bloody things anyway.

The meetings were based around all of the classics – love and relationship, loss, childhood, motivation to adopt etc etc. Because we had done so much preparatory work (e.g psychoanalysis and endless recounting of my childhood to earnest people clutching clipboards) and now have the skin of a rhino with ichthyosis, this was a veritable breeze.

The final session saw us re-visiting the ‘Child Matching Criteria’, this is a terrifying document where you score your ability to support a child with various needs, e.g. diagnosis of Autism or FAS; familial history of schizophrenia; physical or sexual abuse – as you can imagine, it’s a blast.

We have been realistic, but also pragmatic. Anything we categorically say ‘no’ to now will be considered at panel. So, hypothetically, if we were to say we would only adopt a girl, 0-2 years, with no additional needs – that is what we will be approved for. So if we were to fall in love with the profile of a boy aged 3, we’d need to return to panel to be re-approved (or not). This seems nonsensical to us, we can’t make these life changing decisions on the basis of a score chart, so we have left the parameters fairly broad, with only a few definite caveats.

Working with disabled children, we see the impact this has on families firsthand. We witness the joy, but also the challenges and immense pressure. We recognise our limitations and know that we don’t have the capacity to support a child with pre-diagnosed complex needs. On the other hand, we know that nearly all adopted children present with some level of developmental delay and if we ‘Foster to Adopt’ (more on this exciting development later) there’s the issue of developmental uncertainty. But these are children, not a series of diagnosis and case notes, so we will treat each child or sibling group on an individual basis, because you just never know who you’re going to fall in love with.

At the end of the session N casually mentioned that we will be going to Panel on July 10th, we knew that didn’t we? No N, we didn’t – but thanks for the update! This was scheduled months ago apparently, before the delays, but no one had thought to share this information with us.

So, Panel before the summer holidays, that’s a game changer!

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