Our adoption story – birth children interviews

Part of our social worker’s job was the important task of figuring out whether or not our birth children were ready for us to adopt. We had been talking about adoption to the children for a long time and so it wasn’t something we had to suddenly prepare for. They all had adopted or fostered children in their classes at some point during our assessment process and so knew a little about adoption from the child’s point of view. We were given various books by our social worker to give them to read and read with them, but none of them were particularly helpful (one day we’ll try and write our own!). One of them helpfully told the story of a family who adopted an older child who went on to bully and traumatise the younger birth children. Now, although things like this do happen, it’s not something we particularly needed to worry about as we were looking at adopting younger children than our own. With the benefit of hindsight we should have read the books ourselves first…

Our SW wanted to interview the children individually and so in order to prepare them for this she wanted to try and get to know them a little first. She suggested playing a game with them would be a helpful way to do this. The prospect of this terrified me as we play a lot of games and at that particular stage of life it was rare for them to end without some kind of argument. We chatted with them about what game would be best, and least likely to end in tears. Monopoly – no way; Jenga – “you nudged the table” – no way; etc etc. In the end they opted for Frustration, which thankfully was relatively quick to play and didn’t generally end too badly. 

Apart from the “their very competitive aren’t they” comment, it went well and she agreed to come back the following week for their individual interviews. 

The following week, we all sat in the lounge whilst our SW took them one at a time into the kitchen to chat to them. We still to this day don’t really know what was said in that room, but for the most part it clearly went well as there were no major issues from it. We’d tried really hard to not “prep” them and not tell them what to say if she asked certain things, as we were pretty sure it’d be obvious if we had, but it was definitely strange having her chat to them without us knowing what they might say and how much we felt was riding on their answers!

The children’s interviews saw the end of our assessment process and so we were ready to go to panel once the final few references were back. We still needed to do the “what kind of child” tick box session, but no more personal questions or assessments were needed. It had taken us 2.5 years to get to this point, so the looming panel date felt hugely monumental….

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Our adoption story – home study

The main set of paperwork that was to go to the panel of people that would make the decision about our adoption future is called a PAR (Prospective Adopters Report). This includes a huge amount of information that is supposed to give anyone that reads it a really clear picture of who we are as a family and as individuals. Over a series of interviews, lasting anywhere from 1-3 hours, our social worker questioned us on every aspect of our lives, from babyhood to now. We had to describe how we celebrated, how we mourned, what our work ethic was, what our parents’ work ethic was, what our parents’ parents’ work ethic was (they really like the work ethic thing). 

There was a definite need throughout the assessment process to establish not just who we are as people and parents, but what experiences we might have had that would help us empathise with any children we may adopt. I’d had various things happen through my teenage years that meant I could show a clear understanding and empathy (although on a very different scale) of some of the issues an adopted child may struggle with. Once she’d been reassured that I’d had a period of counselling (10 years earlier) to work through any issues I’d had, our SW was happy to not discuss them further. Simon’s childhood and teenage years were pretty uneventful and it was almost amusing (in a slightly sad way) how relieved our SW was when Simon mentioned his brother had suffered with leukaemia as a teenager. Our SW hung on to this one event as being monumental in Simon’s development as an emotionally rounded adult and seemed slightly disappointed when he told her that his brother has been well for years now and, although it was obviously difficult at the time, Simon didn’t have any lasting trauma from that time in his life despite never having received counselling. 

Emotional stability is of course hugely vital for the whole family, and particularly for any children who’ve experienced any kind of trauma – I do wonder if a more formal assessment of mental health would be helpful although I’ve no idea what that could look like and I’d hate to make the process any longer than it already was. I also suggested at the time that counselling could be offered for all people going through the adoption process alongside the assessment as, although not necessary for all, there were times it felt extremely strange talking so deeply and intimately with a SW rather than someone qualified as a counsellor! 

Before our PAR could be completed, each of our birth children needed to be interviewed – but that’s for next time.