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….
We finished our preparation course at the beginning of October and then everything went quiet. Once again we had the ‘how much do we chase them’ dilemma. Towards the end of November we contacted the adoption team to ask what we should expect to happen next. Having met up with other couples on our course when it finished and kept in touch, we knew that some had been allocated social workers and some had been refused already. We just hadn’t heard anything so didn’t know what to think.
Early in the new year we were allocated a social worker (SW) and met her for the first time towards the end of January. In the first session she went through the rest of the process with us which was helpful for us to have a clear idea of what would be happening for the next few months. She explained that we would meet every couple of weeks and in between each session we would have homework to do.
The first couple of sessions went well and we had fun trying to draw our family trees and contacting various family members to make sure we had everyone’s date of birth/death correct! As Christians our faith is interwoven throughout all that we do and so this came up very early on in discussions. It was clear reasonably early on that this was becoming an issue for our SW. On the week that we discussed our ‘values’ we spoke about how we felt it was important to ‘put others first’ and this was something we talked to our children about. Our SW had a massive issue with this and just couldn’t cope with it as a concept. The rest of that session was spent listening to some really difficult issues that she had in her past and it became scarily clear to us that our faith was going to be a massive barrier between us and her sending us to panel.
That night we nervously prayed about it and felt extremely confused. Up until that point we’d been really clear that we wanted to adopt and that we were doing something that felt right and for the second time (the first being the weight issue) we wondered if we weren’t going to be allowed. We knew other Christians that had successfully adopted and we hadn’t even got as far as discussing the really ‘meaty issues’ that we know had been tricky for other people. We contacted a few close friends and asked them to pray for us and give us wisdom about what to do next.
We were somewhat nervous waiting for our next appointment. We were halfway through our home study by this point and really didn’t know how the next meeting was going to go. As usual for these sessions, Simon and I had both taken time off work and as this next session was first thing in the morning after we’d done the school run we were both home when she arrived and hadn’t had to rush in from somewhere else. I answered the door and could tell immediately something wasn’t quite right. Our usual smartly dressed, hair straightened official looking SW wasn’t there and was replaced by an extremely nervous looking, jean clad, frizzy haired woman. I almost didn’t recognise her as the woman we’d been meeting with for the last few months but recovered quickly and invited her in. She quickly said that she didn’t have time to come in but had just wanted to pop by and let us know that she didn’t want to be a social worker any more as she felt like it wasn’t the right job for her. She then turned round, got into her car and drove off, and that was that.