Contact

We sent off our 2nd letterbox contact letter today, and it got me thinking about contact in adoption.

When we were being assessed to adopt, the subject of contact (with birth family) was discussed. It was explored both in our home study with our social worker, and in our group sessions.

I think that contact (whether direct or indirect) is a strange concept to people who don’t know adoption. Some people may think why should you continue a dialogue with (sometimes, but not always) the very people that the child was removed from. Surely in adoption all links to birth family are cut? What’s the benefit of continued contact? What form can contact take? I’m sure that all these questions were once on my mind too.

Because there was already adoption and fostering in our family before we were approved, we could see firsthand the benefits and challenges of several different types of contact. We’ve seen how occasional direct contact in one case was actually not very beneficial, and caused stress and anxiety (and associated behavioural challenges) for the children involved. This also had an impact on the wider family who experienced the challenges second hand. In another case, regular direct (in that it is Skype) between siblings is really beneficial, and it helps those children have a sense of identity and understanding of where they have come from. They can share joint experiences as they grow up and can be a support to each other (if this is what they decide they need). In another case letter box contact between siblings (well their adoptive parents) is about to start, and again, this will hopefully be helpful for both the children and their families as they grow up.

In our case we have yearly letterbox contact with two birth family members, and once yearly direct contact with one. This arrangement although not court appointed was discussed very early on during the match as the social workers needed to know that the adopters would be in agreement to it. We thought quite a lot about whether we would be happy with this. We decided that as long as it was beneficial and not causing our child to be harmed/hurt, we would at least agree to start it and see how it goes. We thought that hopefully it would help her to understand more about where she had come from, and help her to form a strong identity in herself. It may help her to understand about her adoption, and she would know that we didn’t want to erase this other vital part of her life. We felt that the direct contact was more unusual, and more a risk, but we were reassured that it was low risk. Again, we felt that for now it was really important we keep links to birth family, and when our child is old enough, she can decide for herself what she wants to do. This person was significant in her life before (and also whilst) she was in care, and we didn’t want to take this relationship away. We are clear though that we agree to this as long as its in her best interest, and not just to appease others.

We had the opportunity to actually meet members of the birth family, and for me this was such a valuable experience. It helped to bring these people that we’d read about on paper to life, and it enabled us to think of them as people who have thoughts/feelings rather than just those people that the child wasn’t able to live with. What we learnt and heard from them in that hour is so important, powerful and helpful. We have photos from the meeting, so can show her and talk about it when she’s ready. What could have been a very difficult meeting was actually very positive for us as well as them (I hope). I think they were relieved to see who their precious girl (and she was (still is) loved by them) will be equally loved by us. We were able to tell them about some of our hobbies and interests, so they could know what sort of life she will have, and how her interests would fit right into what we already enjoyed doing.

So, to our letterbox contact, I’m so grateful we met who we are writing too. It really helps me to think back to that meeting, and to try to imagine how they might be feeling when they receive our letter. It means that we’re writing to real people, and not just names we’ve read about. Its strange writing about and sharing our child with people who are still strangers really. Sharing milestones, photos and achievements makes me very proud, but also sad (for them) that they are missing out on watching this gorgeous girl grow up. It’s helped me realise just how well she is doing, how well she has settled and how much she has changed. As I write, it’s 5months today since she moved here, which makes it about 6months, a whole half year since they saw her for the last time.I can’t imagine how they feel about this. It also makes me feel very privileged and honoured that we do get this experience (to raise this child), and it makes me determined to do as good a job as we can.

Now we wait (hopefully) for a reply, which I’m sure will bring up another who set of feelings and emotions (whether we get a reply or not).

 

 

Memories

15th February 2016, the day we were approved to adopt! I  remember this day like it was yesterday, and it got me thinking about some of the other big memories and thoughts/feelings of the last year. So much has happened in 12 short months, it’s definitely been a year I’ll never forget. Below are some of the memories/thoughts/feelings I’d like to share.

  • Waiting more than an hour before approval panel & then them asking some really strange questions, not really appropriate to the panel & not the questions we had thought they’d ask.
  • Being nearly crashed into on the way home from approval panel.
  • Being cryptical as to what we were celebrating when we went for a meal to celebrate approval as we only told a few people about adoption.
  • Endless checking of LinkMaker & hoping each discussion might be ‘the one’
  • Seeing her smiling face in her profile on LinkMaker & asking our family finder to enquire. I was out of the country at the time in holiday. When I landed back in the UK I had a conversation with our social worker & and read her CPR in the car. As soon as I got home husband & I talked & agreed to take it further. From there everything happened so quick.
  • Making lemon drizzle cake & the social workers taking it with them, they didn’t eat anything else, maybe my baking persuaded them to say yes?
  • We watched a DVD of her & because it was really hot that day we had the windows opened. It was also bin day, so the noisy rubbish trucks were going up the street. I remember not being able to hear the DVD properly & now every Wednesday when I hear the rubbish trucks coming I think back to that day.
  • Waiting the whole day at work to ring our social worker because I was too nervous to do it alone at work in case they had said no, i needn’t had bothered, apparently they’d decided on the train home after seeing us
  • Being exhausted that weekend, all that nervous energy
  • We just happened to be matched and needing to attend a meeting with the medical advisor & foster carer (4hrs drive away) in the two weeks that I was the only qualified OT in the Ward. Luckily I had a very supportive manager who said I could be off on the day I needed. After all, it was only me who was going to be picking up the pieces the next day anyway. Typical that everything was happening at once when work was really stressful
  • Social workers loved our intro video book, they got so excited
  • Choosing & building  furniture & decorating her room. Hoping she’d like it & hoping matching panel would say yes after all that effort. We only had about a month to do it all, and this included emptying a room full of computer equipment.
  • Almost being late to matching panel, the most important meeting of our lives and we were nearly late. Struggling to park & knowing every minute that ticked by was another minute we might be late. It was also the hottest day of the year which added to the stress. We got really grilled at matching panel, even the social workers say the level we got was unusual. I remember feeling quite emotional as I knew she really would fit well with us, and I felt it was my job to make the panel agree this, and to show them how much I wanted this.
  • Enjoying a night in a posh hotel to celebrate being matched & our last treat to ourselves. We were exhausted, so slept most of the afternoon.
  • Training for the GNR before & after being matched & how it provided a welcome distraction during quite an intense time
  • Actually running the GNR, just the weekend before we met her. I raised money for our adoption agency. It was emotional as I was really doing it for a cause so very close to my heart. On the day it felt like every step towards the finish line was a step closer to her
  • When we bought her car seat & got it fitted in the car, it felt more real, but it was strange driving round with a seat but no child for a few days.
  • The placement planning meeting, where we talked about the details of intros, think it all felt much more real then. This was really going to happen.
  • Meeting her birth family, such mixed emotions there, but I so admired their bravery and strength to do it & will be forever grateful. Can’t wait to tell her some of the things they told us.
  • Meeting her, standing at the foster carers door & hearing her run up to let us in. She had her favourite doggy friend we have you & she knew it was mummy & daddy.
  • Getting to know her those first few days. Getting soaked through that first day. Her walking between us holding both our hands & just grinning.
  • Her finally coming home for good in our wedding anniversary, it was like it was meant to be.
  • Lots moments of real joy with her, but also lots of really hard times too. feeling like every time it doesn’t go right, that I’ve failed because she deserves better. Also realising that I’m never going to be perfect, and I’m certainly not going to have it all together just a few months in. Learning to relax a little more and enjoy being a mum at last.
  • Struggling to come to terms with the huge life change, particularly around loss of work and change in role. Feeling a bit alone and lonely at times, but so very grateful for supportive family, some good friends, and an amazing church. Grateful for an amazing husband who is just great, we work so well as a team. Our social worker is also amazing & we really feel she’s looking out for us. Grateful we went with a voluntary agency who will be a contact for support post adoption order.
  • Being grateful for lots of outdoor space nearby, and some fab free activities to do locally. Our children’s centre is amazing, just what we needed.
  • Loving watching her get to to know our families, they adore her, and she adores them.

So that’s a bit of a collection of my memories and thoughts/feelings of the last year, and today, a whole year later we finally completed the paperwork ready to send the application for the adoption order off, so February 15th is yet again a significant day!

My thoughts for National Adoption Week 2015

I wrote the following reflection for National Adoption Week 2015. This was before we were approved and a year before our daughter came home. She is mixed race (although not actually a mix of our ethnicities). Our vey mixed family was certainly seen as a positive factor in our match to her and didn’t disadvantage us with her. As I had hoped, she has turned our world upside down & has given us so much  joy, love and fun.

 

I am 29, nearly 30 years old. I am currently nearing the end of stage 1 in the adoption process. I am married to the wonderful E, we’ve been married for 3 years now.

So, why did we decide to adopt you may ask, not married long, and not yet 30, isn’t that too young, too soon? Why not try to have your own children first? try a bit longer maybe?

Well, my answer is that I can tell you firsthand that adoption is a truly amazing thing & well, why wait to welcome a much wanted child into a family who can be the loving family they so desperately need. Yes, the adoption rates are going down, and yes, there are seemingly less children for adoption, but we do know that there are children out there still waiting. Why produce another child, when there is hopefully one already there waiting for us. Our case is a bit different as we are not coming into adoption after the heartache of infertility. Yes, we tried naturally for a while, but didn’t want the medical tests and interventions. So, we don’t know why we didn’t conceive, and at this time, we don’t want to take it further. We like the fact that for us, adoption was the 1st option, a very much wanted option, and hopefully one day our child/children will understand that it was a conscious decision to choose to find them. I think you’ll agree this is a pretty amazing thing to do.

This is my story, I am myself adopted, at 16months. My parents worked in Asia, and whilst they were there they adopted my sister and I. I know that adoption changed our lives. I love the fact that my parents chose me, loved me & have given me the best upbringing any child would want. I know that without my amazing parents, I wouldn’t have made it through school and university. I wouldn’t have become a successful therapist, and I wouldn’t have developed my own christian faith which is so very important to me. They have taught me to be myself, and have supported me every step of the way. I don’t know what I’d do without them, they inspire me so much, and they have inspired me to adopt a child myself. As any family, we’ve had ups and downs along the way, but it’s been an amazing adventure too, with many laughs and much fun. All my siblings are also adopted, and we’re just about to add another little sister to our family when my parents adopt an 8year old. We’ve lived in several countries, homeschooled whilst abroad, had some beautiful holidays & had many additions to the extended family as my parents also foster.

I know that things have changed since I was adopted, and that it’s difficult to compare my own adoption with the journey that we’re on now to adopt my own child. However, I can’t help thinking that some things these days are over analysed and thought about. Take inter-racial adoption for example, I’ve experienced it, I live it and I’m all for it! (my adoptive parents are white British, I’m not) I don’t particularly remember it being a problem for me when I was younger. Yeah, we got strange looks when we were out as a family, but then again we are a larger family with people of all sorts of colours, so of course we were going to attract attention. I don’t remember any nasty comments or remarks. I think that it doesn’t matter what your colour is, as long as you’re safe, loved and have all your immediate needs met, thats all a child needs. I think it’s sad that there are so many loving families out there who are not given the chance to adopt a child in need just because they don’t look the same, or won’t fit in. I do however totally get that the child’s identity is important, and this in part will come from discovering who they are and where they came from. As long as the family can demonstrate how they will support the child in exploring and forming their own identity, then race/colour should not be a barrier to adoption. We discussed this at our stage 1 group training, and I think that we challenged the social worker to think about her views on the subject. I was surprised that even these days it’s still a very debated subject in adoption, and I wish it wasn’t.

The adoption process is hard work, very hard. I naturally like to be in control, like to be organised, and like for things to happen when they should. The adoption process has challenged me greatly in all these areas. I think it’s preparing me for adoption and the rest of my life when a child joins our family. Im going to have to get used to contact with social services and the endless waiting and chasing involved in health and social care services (I know, I work in & with one!), but it will be a different experience being on the receiving end this time. I know that when a little person comes into our lives, they’l turn our world upside down, and I’m ready for the challenge (and hopefully joy, love and fun) that they’ll bring.

100 Things about my lovely little girl

100 Things about my lovely little girl:

I was inspired by someone to write 100 things about my little girl. It was a really helpful exercise to do as it encouraged me to think of the positives at a time when I felt we were struggling and things felt quite negative. I love that I’ve only known her 4months, but I already know so much about her. What makes her tick, and what doesn’t. When times are challenging I’ll look back on this list and smile.

  1. She has a beautiful smile
  2. She is very friendly, loves to wave at people
  3. She is very interested in people’s names, ‘who’s that’ is a constant question
  4. She loves a good hug & a cuddle
  5. She loves her cuddly toy dog we gave her before we’d even met her
  6. She loves her family – grandparents, aunties, uncles
  7. She is very tall, must remember she’s only 2!
  8. She has amazing speech for her age
  9. She loves her food, sausages are a favourite
  10. She is learning to scoot, but can’t steer very well yet
  11. She loves books, will sit & read on her own or with someone for ages
  12. She knows we’re Mummy & Daddy & is happy to see us when we’ve been apart (even if it’s just to pop to the toilet)
  13. She likes slides, but not the ‘wet bottom’
  14. She loves church, particularly Sunday school & giving the peace
  15. She loves cheese, even the stronger flavour ones
  16. She likes to be pretty & have her hair done
  17. She is really cute when she very excitedly tells Daddy ‘it’s nearly tea time’ & tries to open his office door
  18. She loves nursery rhymes, twinkle twinkle is still a fave
  19. She loves the staff at playgroup & always runs in for a cuddle, they love it too
  20. She has an amazing memory, particularly for names and places, basically she never forgets
  21. She loves music & having a dance
  22. She used to sleep through the night, not any more!
  23. She knows lots of colours
  24. She loves to run, she’s got a lot more confident and steady running
  25. She wants to go running to get a medal like mummy
  26. She likes watching television, thinks she is Tree-Fu Tom for some reason
  27. She appears to have selective hearing at times, as all toddlers do I’m sure
  28. She is starting to work out where she lives, can say her address correctly
  29. She’s very interested in all the street names, needs to know all of them
  30. She loves flowers, and can’t help but want to touch them
  31. She has got a lot better at not drinking the water or eating the bubbles in the bath
  32. She knows her alphabet & can identify all the letters
  33. She knows numbers 1-10, gets a bit confused by the teens.
  34. She enjoys watching frozen ‘Let it go’ every night before bed
  35. She sleeps with many soft toys in bed
  36. She has a very cute high pitched voice when she’s excited
  37. She loves the tickle monster book, we’ve read it so many times she knows it off by heart
  38. She was very excited and proud when she got to wear pants (pull ups) for the 1st time
  39. She loves climbing, anything
  40. She has an infectious laugh
  41. She loves to bring a toy with her on any trip out the house
  42. She loves the park
  43. She claps herself when she’s proud
  44. She likes to say ‘you are funny’ like in Mr Tumble
  45. She likes to loudly say ‘what’s the man/lady doing’ when it’s actually not a man/lady, cue move on quickly
  46. She likes to run up our street by herself on the way home.
  47. She likes to draw & colour & will make grandad draw endless pictures
  48. She likes everyone/thing has to have a name, and then mummy has to think of new ones & remember them all.
  49. She has huge feet, already a size 10
  50. She likes looking for the moon/Venus
  51. She loves fruit, strawberries, blueberries & grapes are faves
  52. She loves having her photo taken, does a silly scrunched up face smile & then always want you to show her the photo afterwards
  53. She sits on the potty & says ‘me do a wee wee please’ & claims she’s done one within milliseconds
  54. She is very comfy sleeping in the car
  55. She is very concerned when other children are crying/having a tantrum, but can have an equally good cry/tantrum herself
  56. She likes to watch a bit of Jamie Oliver with Mummy
  57. She listens to a lot of Radio 2 with mummy, gets really excited when her fave song comes on
  58. She loves the siren that plays on Radio 2 on a Friday afternoon
  59. She loves emergency vehicles, especially with flashy lights & sirens
  60. She knows that poorly people go to the hospital where doctors and nurses make them better
  61. She likes to visit the hospital where mummy works & seeing all the poorly people in bed.
  62. She did think we only bake for mummy’s friends at the hospital as when we made some brownies she asked if we were going to take them to the hospital
  63. She likes to help bake & then lick the bowl & spoon
  64. She looks cute in her little apron
  65. She likes to play with play doh, and try to eat it
  66. She’s not keen on having her hair washed or combed
  67. She will say ‘hello doggy’ to every dog we see out & about
  68. She was very good with her first advent calendar, only ate 1choc every night
  69. She was very cute when listening to Rudolph the red nose reindeer at Christmas as she was always very concerned he couldn’t ‘join in any reindeer games’
  70. She was not keen on Santa when she met him at the playgroup Christmas party, have a great photo to show her when she’s older
  71. She believes anything Christmas related has gone ‘back to the north pole’ until next Christmas
  72. She likes to sing happy birthday
  73. She knows she is 2 & will be 3 when it’s her birthday
  74. She is very active in bed & is frequently found on top of the duvet the wrong end if the bed
  75. She still doesn’t get out of bed herself, will always wait until we come and get her. Will also call for Daddy to pick up toys which have fallen from her bed.
  76. She is normally very good at entertaining/singing to herself in the morning, on a good day we can have a lie in until 8 if she is settled
  77. She is very interested & likes playing with people’s phones
  78. She has a musical mobile phone. It came with her, its very well used & loved
  79. She is a fan of Minnie Mouse
  80. She has some very cute Minnie Mouse wellies
  81. She can walk quite a long way now, won’t be needing the pushchair for much longer
  82. She likes to try to help Daddy do some work, she likes to ‘type’ on a spare keyboard he has that’s not plugged in
  83. She knows what a full stop, question mark & exclamation mark are
  84. She likes to wave to Daddy when he’s in his office every time we go out/come home, is so excited to see him again, every time
  85. She likes to tug at her ears, think it’s a comfort thing
  86. She likes to have her face stroked
  87. She was a bit confused by the concept of middle names
  88. She will whisper her name when anyone asks what it is
  89. She loves to study people’s photos on their name badges
  90. She has the most gorgeous curly springy hair
  91. She loves a babychinno, it’s our monthly treat to go to a coffee shop and have on
  92. She’s rarely ill & can now attempt to blow her own nose
  93. She has coped with so much change in the last year, she is doing so well
  94. She’s excited to be a big girl & go to nursery
  95. She calls mostly for Daddy, but sometimes Mummy in the night
  96. She always starts the next day bright and cheerful, no matter how tricky the day before was
  97. She loves a good snuggle in a blanket
  98. She loves being tucked up in bed
  99. She has the most beautiful big dark brown eyes.
  100.    She has taught me so much about myself & inspires me to be better person & Mum. I feel honoured I get to be her Mummy