Adoption experience and advice

A place where you can discuss adoption and moving on after the TTC journey

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Adoption experience and advice

Postby PurdeyGirl » Sat Jul 18, 2009 8:17 pm

Hi. I am new to this discussion board but not to this condition or to Verity which is a useful, helpful organisation.

I was diagnosed with PCOS 8 years ago, as hubby and I were going through the assisted fertility/IVF process. To cut a very long story short, clomid and IUI didn't work, nor did our first attempt at IVF with ICSI. Our second attempt did, but I miscarried twins at 13 weeks. A year afterwards, just as we were ready to try again, I was diagnosed with relapsing, remitting MS and we were advised not to try.

After some time (3 years) and having talked endlessly about the issue, hubby and I decided to try adopting. As far as we were concerned, it was a no-brainer. We had survived all the stress of the IVF and the MS diagnosis so we were obviously sound relationship wise. We have a nice home in a pretty village; hubby has a good job and I run my own business so we're financially stable and, we thought, ready to be loving, nurturing parents to a child or children who needed a home. Heck, we even have a dog! Surely, as they're advertising for people to get involved in this, they would be grateful for our application..............

At this point I should explain that hubby has a physical mobility impairment which he was born with, but which is stable. My MS has turned out to be benign relapsing remitting and it too is stable although I am aware of its potential to worsen.

First of all, we approached our local authority. Unfortunately, they were having major problems - we know this because two dear friends of ours - who have no health issues at all and who have been happily married for 15 years - took four years to successfully adopt. Our local authority sent us through preparation training and then rejected our application.

Determined not to be beaten, we went to a non local authority agency. The training and preparation was MUCH better; things were better organised and the support was much improved too. It took a while (18 months) but we got through the process and were eventually approved as adopters in 2007. We then started the matching process. After 18 months of anguish, we pulled out of the whole thing and are now coming to terms with our childless state.

I don't want to discourage anyone from pursuing the adoption route. There are a lot of children out there who desperately need loving homes and families. What I do hope to do is pass on the benefit of some painfully gained experience in the hope that it will help give a better understanding of the process to anyone contemplating this route.

The first thing you should understand - and none of the 'introduction to adoption' books will tell you this - is that this is not a simple, straightforward process. Its time consuming, emotionally draining, very frustrating and rage inducing.

You will encounter an absolute prejudice to being overweight so if you have a BMI of more than 35 and you're not actively doing something about it, you should be. We - and two of the other couples on our preparation group training - were repeatedly told to lose weight and get fit because the adoption panel will be concerned about this issue. Some Local Authorities won't accept you with a BMI of more than 30. Similarly, if you smoke, stop now - before you even apply - because it will count against you.

The social worker will pry AT LENGTH into every aspect of your personal life including but not limited to: your childhood, previous relationships, friends, finances, family background and, most painfully, the assisted fertility process, how you dealt with that - especially if it didn't work - and whether you've 'come to terms with your grief'. You should wait at least 6 months after your final attempt at assisted fertility before you engage with the adoption process.

Social workers are heavily overworked. They don't return phone calls when they say they will; they do lose paperwork and they are looking for hidden meanings in everything you say and do. They don't like being challenged and it is incredibly frustrating because you will think "How unprofessional. if I behaved like that, I would be fired". That's probably true but you have to get used to this because if you make a fuss, it can be interpreted as you being unable to cope with pressure. That, in turn, will bring your suitabillity as a parent into question.

The matching process is not fast or simple either. Matching is a bit like a dating agency. Remember; local authorites (LAs) have their own 'pool' of children needing to be adopted - outside agencies don't so if you choose an outside agency, you could be matched with a child that comes from some distance away. That's important because, as the matching process progresses, you have to spend at least two weeks visiting with this child in their foster carer's home so you can start to build a bond.

If you really, really want a baby, you're unlikely to get that option from an outside agency. Babies are easy to place so they stay within the LA. LAs have targets to meet and these are easy points to score!

You will be interviewed by the child/children's social worker. They will visit your home and also pry into your background. It can take up to two years from being approved to being matched. In that time, you're expected to get on with your lives and not focus exclusively on this process.

Social workers will want to know what experience you've got looking after children so if you haven't got any, you will be expected to volunteer with local scouts/cubs/brownies/rainbows groups or help out at the local play school or the local school that any child placed with you would attend.

One of the really big issues you will also be asked to consider is what sort of child you are looking for; the level of contact you would be prepared to have with the birth parents and the kind of background issues you are prepared to deal with. I'm talking about types of abuse including foetal alcohol and drug abuse.

I've just read what I've written so far and it sounds like I'm very bitter and angry about the process. Let me reassure you, I'm not. As I say, social workers are significantly under resourced and completely over burdened and I understand why they pry - they are being asked to find families for, usually, quite damaged little people. They need to be absolutely certain that the family the child goes to is not going to break up under the strain of coping with something like, for example, attachment disorder or revelations of sexual abuse which only come out after the child has been successfully matched and finally feels safe enough in its new environment to actually talk about the horrors he or she has endured.

I know and understand the importance of this process because my dad is a product of the care system. He went through a number of foster families in a very short time period. It has had a profound impact on the whole of his life - and mine.

When Social Workers get it wrong - and sometimes they do (remember Baby P?) it makes the front pages of the press and questions are asked in Parliament. That's a huge pressure. I don't blame social workers. I blame the system whose default position is 'biological is always best' and the regime in which social workers function. I also blame the Government which demands that these people protect children but gives them a miniscule budget to do this valuable work.

Adoption UK is a fantastic organisation for anyone considering adoption; they too have a great message board. You should read some of the messages being posted by people going through the adoption process, as well as those from successful adopters who are living with and coping with the issues that their 'match' came with. You will see all these problems - and more - being discussed again and again.

I hope this post helps anyone who is thinking about this process. Please don't be discouraged because it does work, it can be incredibly rewarding and happy families are created - our friends were quickly matched with two small children and they're ecstatic. All I'm saying is, it isn't an easy journey and there are things you need to be aware of before you start.

Best wishes.
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Postby Calkarima » Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:39 am

Hi Purdeygirl

It really sounds like you've had a very difficult time.

You are right in all you say about the adoption process and unfortunately you are right in saying that no one will tell you about any of the things you mention. I especially get annoyed when programmes come on saying "X" is waiting now for a family, its almosts as if Joe Bloggs in Manchester could phone and the kids would be delivered in time for lunch.

Anyway, whilst I agree with everything you say I want to say that after a very long process taking 2 years first time and 3 years the second time we have two gorgeous kids that I wouldn't be without. My BMI was high first time and even higher the second time and although it was discussed both times I was able to convince them I would do something about it and my kids would eat healthily and live a healthy life.

I found it very frustrating not being able to get a hold of Social Workers when needed and agree that they are ridiculously underfunded and understaffed. A TV programme on up here in Scotland last week said that SW's should not have a case load of more than 6 families and some have caseloads of more than 20 :shock:

Anywat what I'm trying to say is my hubby and I decided somewhere through the process that we had to play along with everything. We knew and so did our refererees and families that we would be good parents (well as good as any parent can be) so we made all the right noises at the right times and did as we were told without telling any lies. We also decided not to worry when the social workers frantically started writing things down when we said something we thought was perfectly innocent.

You and your husband have been very brave to have made the decision you have made.

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Adoption experiences

Postby PurdeyGirl » Sun Jul 19, 2009 12:24 pm

Hi Cal and thanks for your response.

I know the process can work and that's wonderful but I also agree with what you say about the TV and media coverage of this issue and all I want to do is make people aware that its NOT as simple as they make out. It can be very, very frustrating and heartbreaking because you - and everyone around you - knows you'll make good parents and no-one understands why its taking so long. I mean, can't they SEE how great you're going to be?

The other really painful thing is while you're going through this process, knowing what a great life you're going to give this new member of your family, you'll see media stuff about Baby P and Victoria Climbie and all the other children who have been so badly let down by the very people empowered to protect them. You'll be walking through the shopping centre and see teenage girls smoking and hauling pushchairs, possibly with a toddler in tow, shouting and swearing at the child and think "what kind of life is that child getting" and, in the next thought, "we would be so much better...." and you have to come to terms with all that. Its an emotional roller coaster and no-one warns you about that part of it.

I don't know when you adopted but we pulled out in January. It may have been our agency but I do know that they are getting really hot about weight issues.

the only other thing I should say - and this is a personal experience - is that the training, preparation and support was MUCH better from the outside agency than from the local authority.

Anyway, best wishes.
S xx
Married for nearly 20 years. Childless and coming to terms with it.

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Postby Hols969 » Mon Jul 20, 2009 3:21 pm

We are looking to adopt or long term foster. I think you need to see all sides so it was a really good (long!!) post but Im really pleased I read it!! especially about using further away agencies, its something that wouldnt have crossed my mind.

I think the weight bit is so daft I have to say.

Thanks for posting and Im sad you arent continuing.
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Postby Calkarima » Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:59 pm


Our second adoption was completed almost three years ago so perhaps things have changed in relation to weight issues. I do think its a bit unfair though as so long as you can prove you are doing something about losing weight and being healthy I feel that should be enough. You can't suddenly wake up a healthy size 12/14. I also hated it that my social worker smoked like a chimney and then dictated to me what being healthy was.

We approached our local authority and were instead referred to a local adoption agency who we used both times. They are much better than local authority as we found to our cost when adopting our daughter. She was placed with the LA and even our SW got fed up trying to get a hold of her SW after placement. They had an obligation to visit her every so many weeks up until she was legally adopted. It took 10 months for us to get our Court Date and in all that time her SW only visited her once, 2 days after she came to live with us. :shock:

I would certainly agree that the support and training given by an Agency is better than LA.

I'm really sad that you and your hubby have decided to walk away. Have you been given any sort of support to come to this decision by your social worker. Have they tried to suggest ways in which you could cut back on the wait time you had, maybe by increasing the age of the child you adopted or going through the medical questionnaire again for the type of child you adopt. Sorry if I'm sounding pushy but I really would hate for you both you regret this decision in years to come and I think if they supported you whilst taking you through home study then they surely should be supporting you with this difficult decision.

We didn't have it all our own way either and first time round (9 years ago now) we walked away for a year. We were approved and spent 9 months looking at children and not being taken any further than linking before losing out to other couples. We were really down about it and decided to put our application on hold. We did this February 2000 and decided in December we were ready to go back onto the list, just after Christmas that year we heard about our son and he came to live with us in March 2001. With our second adoption we heard about a wee girl 3 weeks after being approved as adopters, we then spent months and months going through all the legal hoops to get her to move in with us. At the last moment, in fact 3 days before our matching panel they discovered a mistake had been made and if she were placed for adoption the LA may face a legal battle from her birth family. She had been in foster care for 3 years and for a lot of that time hadn't had any social worker so documents and other things hadn't been kept up to date. We gave them time to sort it out but kept being fobbed off so unfortunately decided to walk away. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I still beat myself up about it 3.5 years later and wonder what happened to her.

I think your original message, although very sad, is very important for anyone considering adoption to read as it allows people to see a more balanced view on what it might be like to be taken so far then no further.


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