Thursday, 1 January 2009

Pre-approval snippets from an old blog - part 2 of 2

21 August 2008
Oh dear, sorry for not updating my blog for ages. What have we been up to since the beginning of June? When I last mentioned our adoption plans I was waiting for a medical date and panel was put back to September. W
e had a bit of good news about a panel date and a slot became available on Thursday 7th August, but only IF we could get the medicals sorted out in time - only 4 months late! In the end, Mungo COULD make the last June medical appointment - aarrgghh after all that! But he didn't know until the last minute, so things couldn't have happened any other way. So we swapped, as it's easier with my part time hours to slot in a new date and he had his in June. I eventually had my medical on the 15th July! It was still barely in time to get the information reviewed and sent to panel before 7th August as some of my records were held offsite and they were having building work done to the surgery too, so they went missing for a time. Is NOTHING simple????

A curved ball at the eleventh hour -
two weeks before panel our social worker suddenly said that there is a lot of stuff that panel members could pick us up on, like how long we have been together. Well that's the first we had heard of that being an issue - and five years, okay isn't the longest time, but surely if it was an issue, something should have been said before we started our application a year ago. And it's not like there is anything we could do about that at that late stage - 2 weeks before panel! That was really hard, because we felt like she was setting us up for a fall.

Curved ball
part two - sooooo, we got the paperwork the day before it was supposed to be sent out. Instead of having 10 days to read and approve the content, we got one!
We noted that the second opinion visit write-up was different to the meeting outcome of whether we should be approved and for how many children. We spoke with our SW who spoke with the lady; she said she was sorry she hadn't communicated her 'change of mind after meeting with us' but that her 'final' decision would still stand. She would only recommend us for 2 children. Uh? What's going on? I was really upset and disappointed, then we found ourselves wondering if only being approved for 2 children would overshadow being approved - that is, if we were approved at all! we needed a holiday! So we decided to book something to leave the day after panel. We booked a one-week cruise around Greece, the islands and Turkey; then we sat around and waited the last 13 days for panel.

We would get an indicitive 'recommendation' on the day and a decision from the decision-maker either the next day or the following Monday followed by a letter a week later. Nothing is guaranteed until the letter, though! We were required to get there by 10 for a cuppa and a chat with our social worker for a while, as panel were preparing themselves. Two minutes after we got there (early) they decided that as we were there, they would start the panel early. So off went our social worker and we were sat on our own. Time ticked by; the 45-60 minutes we were expecting came and went. Even the next couple arrived for their panel meeting and we hadn't gone in! That was worrying and we didn't think it a good sign. After 75 minutes out came our social worker and the Panel Chair with three questions (normal procedure) and we had a few minutes with our social worker to discuss the questions. She said that the first part had gone very positively and she seemed very upbeat :) Five minutes later we were all called in; our social worker had even told us where to sit! We then went to see the panel - 12 people! - and they asked about how we felt with the process and what skills we could use for 3 rather than 2 children. The third question was another curved ball - they were being extra-cautious about a particular issue, but when we all realised they had gone off on an imaginary tangent all was well - phew! We were in there for no more than 10 minutes and we ended up on our own again. Our social worker stayed in there for the summing up and voting, so more waiting!

Decision time:
Our social worker came back in with the Panel Chair and said "Yes, you have been recommended for approval and for 2-3 children!!!"
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell I just sat there, I couldn't believe it, it was absolutely everything that we had wanted! Our social worker went out to get us some more drinks and Mungo and I had our first cuddle as approved prospective adoptive parents and I had a tear - of course! When she came back she said the vote had been unanimous! All of the panel agreed with our social worker and not the second opinion report!
And yet we still we had the following day to wait, or more likely until the Monday for the final decision, so we couldn't assume that was it. Off we went home to pack and have a celebratory pizza :D 2.15 the next morning 08-08-08 we got up and went to the airport to catch the flight to Corfu. We arrived on the boat about lunch time and went straight to the bar to order yummy cocktails lol! We switched on our phones and mine bleeped a couple of times. Thinking it was just the network providers welcome texts, it took me a few minutes to get around to having a look. There were two messages: one was saying I had a voicemail and the other was from our social worker saying she had tried calling and had left a voicemail message but also wanted to text us to let us know that the decision maker had agreed outright with the panel's decision! And yes there were more tears! when we got home the approval letter, sent that Friday, was on the doormat. So that's it! All approved, we did it! I am soooooooo happy! WE are so happy!

Pre-approval snippets from an old blog - part 1 of 2

17 February 2008
Mungo and I have not been blessed with our own children, so we are adopting. The process is very long and drawn out; we started in April 2007 and haven't yet been approved. We can see why it should be like that, so we just keep reminding ourselves of the outcome, if things get too tortuous. We had a planned visit from our Social Worker on Thursday, who discussed our ability to parent children. The things we have to discuss and reveal about ourselves are sometimes very intrusive and upsetting. Our social worker is very pleased with us and can see no reason why we shouldn't be approved. Our panel date is in June, so we still have a long way to go before we can even start to think about the children we might have. Or so we thought! Our social worker said we can start looking for a family! Woooo hoooo! We are sooooo excited :) Now, if you don't know about the process, what we do now is start looking in specialist listings for children who are currently waiting to be adopted. We already have one delivered on a monthly basis, so we have an idea of those who are out there and their family requirements. We are looking for a sibling group of two or three, with at least one child pre-school age, e.g. toddler or baby, so we need to be matched with children who are waiting for parents that have our strengths, experience and skills. Poor kids, eh? It's starting to get exciting, we are already saying things like, "When the kids are here we get to go to a holiday camp in the summer!" "When the kids arrive we can go to the pictures and watch kids films!" "When we get out Midges we'll have to have a better routine!"

22 February 2008
We received an email from our social worker asking if we wanted to attend a family finding info day in April, so we responded yes. I'm not sure of the process, I think it's where they show prospective adopters details of the children waiting to be adopted and you can put yourselves forward as potential parents. Most definitely, things are moving in the right direction :)

28 February 2008
Today, I told my boss about our adoption plans. She was very supportive and told me about the Adoption policy they have there. I was worried that they might hold it against me, like my previous employers did when I told them about my IVF requirements. But let's not go down that road because I am still extremely angry about that even after 2 years! I know it's not healthy to bear a grudge that long but I've got to have some miniscule chink in my otherwise uber-perfect character ;)

02 March 2008
I went to get a spanking new haircut :) Oh how happy I am and how different I feel. Very grown up with my new body, clothes and hair. We have a sports car and I drove home with the roof down and it was fab. Sadly, the car's days are numbered, as we can't squeeze a ready-made family of four or five into two seats! Talking of family, being Mothering Sunday and all, we have seen some families that we might like to be linked with, so have emailed our social worker to ask for more information.

22 March 2008
Some great news! We have finished our home study and are now waiting for our reference visits to be completed. We will have one final official visit - called the second opinion - and a medical, then we will be ready for panel in June. The social workers now need to get everything pulled together and typed up, which will take a month or more. Such a slooooooooooooooooooooow process! We have also seen some kiddies that we might be interested in and our social worker said we could contact their social workers. Because we don't have the information in draft yet we are unlikely to get any response, so it is worth a punt to see what reaction we get.

04 April 2008
I have been very busy at work doing some overtime in the after-school club and I am hoping to get some extra hours in next term. It all helps to increase my childcare knowledge. We had the latest publication of children waiting to be adopted today and we have seen some sibling groups we could potentially take on, so I shall send out some emails later.

04 May 2008
I have been poorly again, 5 colds since I started work at the school, 4 this year! By the time we have our kiddies I shall be immune to just about everything! Talking of which, it's 39 days to panel! I went on a 'Family Finding Information Day' a couple of weeks ago to see if we could find some kiddies and I saw two sibling groups. Our Social Worker has been off ill for 3 weeks so they have not progressed and it will be unlikely now that they will still be looking for a family. We have decided to mark it off as an information-gathering exercise and try again.

10 May 2008
I am starting to get impatient about the adoption process again. We have had nothing from our social worker in ages and are wondering if the paperwork is going to be ready in time. We haven't been given the go ahead to have our medicals done and we haven't seen the draft paperwork to approve it. Mungo is going to give them a call on Monday to find out what is happening.

15 May 2008
Soooooo, Mungo rang our social worker on Monday and she had been off sick for weeks and just got back - but no-one at the agency bothered to tell us! We have been sitting around waiting for them to contact us like they said we should. This now means our panel date has been put back by at least a month. Are we happy?

25 May 2008
We have had all the reference visits carried out by our social worker so another task completed. Apparently, she was very pleased and they all went really well. We have our medicals and the Second Opinion visit to go, then panel is now booked for the 10th July. But that is not set in stone as we have now found out, so we shall have to wait and see. We have transferred the goldfish into the big tank and rearranged the front room, ready to bring the TV down from upstairs. Mungo needs to get the cable man in to extend the cable into the front room. All this is preparation for our little ones.

27 May 2008
I had a wobbler last night. We were snuggled up watching Heroes Season 1 and there was an adoption issue on it and I just started sobbing. I feel like we arre never going to get there, it seems further away than ever. Mungo did and said all the right things and that made me feel better. I was still a little wobbly when we went to bed and I said to Mungo that I didn't want to go to sleep because I knew I would dream about my sister again. And i did. This time it wasn't a nightmare, or upsetting. She was there and we were getting along ok - but stilted. I don't remember what was happening but it wasn't as bad as it has been in the past. I am always going to be upset that she will never be part of the adoption process. When we had IVF I remember emailing her the embryo pictures and saything these were her possible nieces and nephews. But I will never be able to do that again, with pictures of our potential littlies.

28 May 2008
It's just getting worse. I telephoned the doctors this morning to get us booked in for the medicals. Apparently, they have special appointments for them, you don't just book a normal appointment. When the woman who looks after these appointments rang me back (because I couldn't ring her directly!) the next one available is the 17th June and then the one after that is 20th June! Emailed our social worker who said if the doctors surgery doesn't hang about we should be okay for 10th July panel. Soooo we've been waiting for the medicals to happen since early February and we have it all to do in the last couple of weeks. Flaming typical. On the bright side, as it's adoption not fostering they have given us a reduced fee of £50 each not £76 each, so that helps.

29 May 2008 - AM
Mungo is unable to make either of those dates in June due to being the newbie at work! So I am taking the last date in June as it fits in with my working hours. However, the surgery won't get July's calendar until 3rd week in June!! The NHS at it's finest!!! Therefore - which will,
I'm sure, be confirmed by our social worker when she comes this afternoon for a 'catch-up' visit, - we won't be going to panel in July. I am really, really, really peed off. To put it mildly. Very mildly. Very, very mildly. Get the point? I just wish... well there's no point wishing is there? Just gotta get on and deal with whatever comes your way as cheerfully as possible.

29 May 2008 - PM
We have now had our social worker vist and the outcome of discusssions around our panel date is... ...September panel. September... SEPTEMBER....

30 May 2008
I have just received a lovely email from N who found this blog through my Flickr profile. He's a member of one of the groups I belong to and a foster carer. He said this: "I just read your blog and can empathise with you entirely around the whole process of dealing with social services and approval. Although we have not adopted we have been foster carers for quite a few years now and for us it's an ongoing process of approval and certification. So much red tape these days due to all of those nasty incidents not so long ago in the press but it's all in a good cause. It's just the going thru the process stuff that seems to take forever but eventually it will all come together. We must be doing something right as they just asked if we would like to sit on the approval board hehe. Very best of luck with your 'process'." How lovely is that? Thank you, N. Made me feel a bit happier about it all.

31 May 2008
Had another lovely email from N about adoption with some really valuable info, especially for The Hubster - N is male so can give advice from a 'father's' perspective.

07 June 2008
We have had a long hard look at our finances and realised that we cannot continue for very long the way we have been going, without my full time salary, after I was made redundant last year. We are tightening our belts again and I will have to work full time, maybe even permanent until the kiddies come along. We spoke with our mortgage company and have changed the term of our mortgage to help. We will be selling my car and Mungo's bike and calling back a loan to ensure we don't sink when we get the kids. A very different scenario to when we bought the house 4 years ago!

Adoption Process

This post is for those of you who would like some detail on the process and where we are:

  • Contact the Local Authority or private agency
  • Have an initial meeting for both parties to agree to go ahead
  • Send in a formal application
  • Attend 4 - 6 preparation groups, learning about the adoption triangle and abuse issues, over about two months. It is very emotional and thought-provoking
  • Have a social worker and have 10 home study sessions, over about 20 weeks. The social worker uses the information to prepare a 30-40 page document of your entire life history! It is very intrusive and sometimes quite emotional
  • Prepare for 'panel' to approve you for adopting, decide what you can offer children, e.g. how many children and of what age range /abilities / disabilities / gender and so on
  • In the background your social worker is finalising your paperwork. This can take about 2 months
  • Go to panel and be approved! Yay! This takes a couple of hours and you are advised of the provisional outcome on the day, with the official decision verbally a few days later and in writing a week later.  The process is supposed to take no more than 8 months from official application to panel
  • Family-finding - now the fun and emotional roller-coaster really kicks in! Search for children using literature sent out every 4 weeks. The information contains a picture and two to three paragraphs about the child(ren)
  • Notify your social worker of your interest, who then contacts the children's social workers
  • Receive a profile - an A4 sheet of paper with basic details of the children, sometimes with a photo
  • Swap paperwork - the paperwork is the outcome of your home-study and the papers that the panel used to approve you - about 30-40 pages of your entire life history. The same paperwork has been written about the children's life including graphic detail about their history of abuse and how they came to be taken into care. Shocking stuff
  • Identify potential links - the social workers will look at all the interested prospective adopters and choose two or three that they may be interested in
  • Being linked - you will then be interviewed in your home and the social workers decide which, if any, prospective adopters to go with. This is then an official link
  • Being matched - once you are linked all system are go to prepare for matching panel, you meet the foster carers and the children's Local Authority's Medical Adviser. If you haven't already had them, you will receive the foster carer's / nursery / school / medical reports. These are over and above the paperwork already provided
  • Matching panel - as with the approval panel, you attend panel, they discuss all the information and you are advised of the outcome on the day
  • Preparing you all - the child(ren) see a book of the prospective adopters, to get them used to their faces, even including a DVD if they are really brave! The prospective adopters get a life story book, so they can show the children in later life what happened to them before they came to live with you
  • Introductions - this is a planned one- to three-week visitation of the children in the foster carer's home(s). If there is one child or a baby it may only take a week. The amount of contact is increased until you are with them 24 hours a day. All social workers closely monitor the children and yourselves. When it is agreed that everything is fine and the children are attaching you take your children home for good!
  • The legal stuff - after a period of time (usually 13 weeks or so) with plenty of monitoring by all social workers, it is agreed that you can apply to formerly adopt the children. This can take a few months
  • The children are legally your children and take on your surname, their birth certificate is changed and they have the same rights as if they were born to you :)
  • Unless in the children's best interest not to, contact with their birth family is continued, usually every 6 to 12 months, either directly or in-directly via letters to and from a post box. This is managed and directed by social workers who monitor contacts and letters both ways. This is to ensure no damage is done by the birth family, and to ensure that the children's location is not accidentally divulged.
We hope you found this useful. Please comment if you would like any further information.