In the fourth instalment of our blog, our adoptive mum tells us all about her experiences of Stage 2 of her adoption journey. Read about Stage 1 in her previous post.
Prospective Adopters Report
Our form expressing our wish to proceed to Stage 2 was received by our Local Authority on December 5th. For Stage 2 the Local Authority have 16 weeks/4 months in which to:
- Complete the assessment – this involved our Assessing Social Worker (ASW) meeting up with us almost every week – sometimes together as a couple and sometimes as individuals over a period of a couple of month
- Write our Prospective Adopters Report (PAR)
- Send the PAR off to the Panel at least five days before Panel
- Hold Panel – which will then send their recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker
- Give the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) seven working days to review the case and make their final decision on whether to approve you or not
As you can see, Stage 2 is all about getting ready for Panel and the main activity during Stage 2 is a series of meetings with your ASW. During these meetings they get to know all about you and then use that information to write up your PAR. This report then gets read by all the members of the Panel prior to them interviewing you. More detail on what it was like to go through Panel will be in my next post, but basically you appear with your ASW before a Panel of people with various connections to and expertise in adoption.
We were given the date for our Panel quite early on in Stage 2 and it was this date that loomed large in our minds and hearts through the next couple of months.
We had weekly meetings with our Assessing Social Worker (ASW) starting in December and then from early January through to March. These meetings followed a clear schedule – both in terms of times and topics to be discussed – and went through similar subjects to those covered in the workbook. Our ASW didn’t really refer to the workbooks – but rather worked through her list of things to cover in conversation with us – taking notes all the time.
Of course, having done the thinking as we filled out the workbooks, it meant we had thought through lots of the sorts of issues she raised which was definitely better than having to think on the spot. Also, when it came to writing our Prospective Adopters Report (PARs) she was able to refer to them and cut and paste as was appropriate.
We built up a really good relationship with our ASW and felt very comfortable with her. We never felt like we were having to guess what she was thinking and she was very honest when she had concerns.
For example, we were wanting to be approved to adopt siblings and also to be considered for Fostering for Adoption*. Our ASW was not convinced that either of these was right for our family and openly discussed this with us early on. By the time the report was written she had changed her mind regarding Fostering for Adoption, but she maintained her thinking re: the sibling group.
Meeting our birth children
During Stage 2 our ASW met our children once informally, relatively early on in Stage 2 and then individually towards the end of our assessment. This gave them all the chance to share their understanding of the process and how prepared and happy (or not as the case may be) they were feeling about the prospect of adoption. Again, our ASW was very understanding as the boys both wanted me to be in the room with them and she was absolutely fine with that. We also wrote a bit about each child to include in our report so that the Panel had a good sense of the whole family.
Once the PAR was finished our ASW gave it to us to read through. Feedback from us was welcomed – either on factual mistakes/misunderstandings, or if we felt something misrepresented what we had been trying to say. In March our PAR was completed and signed by all concerned and sent off to the members of our Panel.
Support Network Meeting
Shortly after our PAR was sent off we had our Support Network meeting (the format of this can vary between families). The meeting was a chance for our ASW to meet our support network informally over some lunch, but also to fill them in a little on where we were in the process and how things would proceed from here. It was also an opportunity to give them some initial pointers on how best to look after us and offer support in the early days of a placement – something which I know many of them found really helpful. It was also during Stage 2 that I attended a training day specifically covering Fostering for Adoption.
Meanwhile of course, aside from all the formal meetings, training, reports and general ‘proceedings’ there was plenty of activity and emotion as we looked ahead to our Panel date. As well as going through a process, we were of course, looking forward to welcoming a new member into our family. We transformed our spare room into a nursery/young child’s bedroom. We decided on a theme (not something we had done with our four previous babies!) and bought a cot mobile while away on a family adventure at Christmas.
In February the blackout blind went up and the spare bed was moved out. The old cot came out of the loft and was painted (again not something we had managed before despite it still bearing the teeth marks of its first occupant whose mother kindly passed it on to us!)
The blanket I was knitting was coming on, and I embellished some old cushions we had lying around to fit with the theme of the nursery.
Experientially then, reaching the end of Stage 2 and approaching our Panel date felt very much like approaching the due date at the end of a pregnancy. We were getting the room ready, preparing the children, picturing and anticipating the changes coming up. Of course, we were! Afterall, if Panel went well and we were approved as Prospective Adopters then we could be matched with a child at any time from that point.
But it wasn’t just a matter of pragmatics – emotionally speaking, our new baby deserved all the bustling and anticipation and excitement and nerves of a family preparing for its arrival, and I look forward to telling her all about it and sharing the joy of our Panel Day with her.
To approach such a date without a sense of expectation just doesn’t fit with what it is all about. But as we welcome these emotions in and encourage them to make themselves at home in our lives, we need to do so with a word of warning. The joy and excitement and happy nervousness may well have to cohabit with some very different emotional housemates. Why? Because unlike the due date at the end of a pregnancy – which at very least triggers a relatively short countdown to baby’s arrival – being approved as Prospective Adopters simply triggers the start of an unknown waiting period. So just when you thought you were getting there, there is a knock on the door and emotions like impatience, anxiety and feeling totally out of control are barging in and unpacking their bags and your already overcrowded emotional house has just got even more full.
Is it a tricky time to navigate – yes. But is it worth it? 100%. Afterall, there are not many things in my life that top hearing my little one seeing a photo of the six of us at the end of her Life Story Book (pictures of her Adoption Journey) and declaring jubilantly, aged 2 ½ “All my family”.
And that’s Stage 2!
Whether or not you are matched quickly, you have reached a significant point in your adoption journey. You have come to the end of the assessment process – you are approved prospective adopters – you did it!
Hear more about Panel day in our adoptive mum’s next blog!
*More on Fostering for Adoption to come!
A note from Adopt Coast to Coast
Notes from Adopt Coast to Coast: A huge thank you to our adopter for sharing their own experiences of adoption. Please note no two adoption stories are the same and experiences and timescales will vary for each family – if you’d like to find out more about adoption and discuss your own circumstances please get in touch now.
*Adoption Preparation Training content may vary.
If you’d like to find out more about adoption and discuss your own circumstances, please get in touch now.
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