Friends and family – The rules

As part of preparing our friends and family for Little Chick’s arrival, we prepared a booklet to help them better understand adoption, the needs of adopted children, and outlining how they can help us. We started this booklet with a list of rules. Some people may raise an eyebrow at this, but we wanted to emphasise the importance of being sensitive to Little Chick’s history and needs, without giving specific details. We are sharing our rules here to benefit Little Chick, us, and any other adoptive families.

We hoped that by reading the booklet they would understand that while we want friends and family to like and love Little Chick and enjoy him in their lives, primarily we have a duty of care for him. Essentially, these rules are in place to give him the best chance of being happy, safe, and reaching his potential.


Funnelling

This is a term used for allowing contact with the minimum number of people possible in the early days of placement. Little Chick needs to know us as his primary carers. He needs to know, even if he doesn’t quite accept or believe it, that we will meet his needs for food, drink, warmth, sleep, love, attention, and stimulation.

In real terms, this means that it might be several weeks, or even months, before he is ready to meet new people. We appreciate that this is hard for you, but we must be led by Little Chick and his readiness. In the early stages, for the first six to twelve months, we also ask that if Little Chick needs something, even if it’s something seemingly small like tying a shoelace, you send him to us. This will reinforce our role as primary carers and help strengthen his attachment to us.

We understand, from Little Chick’s foster carer, that he can build healthy attachments, which is great news for everyone. He also really likes cuddles and there will be plenty of opportunities once he is secure with us and happy with you.

Visiting

As we said, you will not be able to see Little Chick immediately. We know this may seem a little alien, especially since many of you may have seen other family members in hospital just hours after their arrival. We have devised a plan of when we think Little Chick will be ready to meet people; this ranges from after a few weeks to a few months. However, this will be led by how well Little Chick has settled and when he seems ready. While you are waiting to meet him, we will update you with photos, videos, cards, and pictures.

Birth Family

You may be curious about Little Chick’s birth family and the circumstances that led to him being taken into care. Although this is understandable, we will be limiting the information we share, partly because of confidentiality agreements but primarily because it is Little Chick’s information to share (or not).

Little Chick’s birth parents planned his birth: he was wanted, and he was loved. Unfortunately, his birth parents were unable to properly care for any children and were not able to give Little Chick all that he needs and deserves: therefore, he was taken into care.

Please do not speak negatively about Little Chick’s birth family. This will be a complicated relationship for him and will require support through life story work with us and his social worker. While we are caught up in the excitement of a new addition to our family it is easy to forget that adoption is essentially a story of loss. Little Chick, his birth family, and his foster carer will be feeling this loss now and we need to be empathetic towards that.

Questions and Life Story

Leading on from Little Chick’s birth family, it is understandable that you will have questions about Little Chick and why he has been put up for adoption. This is not information for us to share. It is Little Chick’s story and it will be up to him to share it when, or if, he feels ready. Later, there may be times when we do share some details of Little Chick’s life story, but this will only be because it is in his best interests for you to know something.

All you need to know is that his birth parents were unable to properly care for any children and were not able to give Little Chick all that he needs and deserves. Essentially, this is the case for all children who enter the care system.

When he is older, if Little Chick does have any questions about his birth parents and life story please acknowledge these but say that you will write them down for us so that we can answer them or find out the answer.

Social Media Sharing

We know many friends and family use social media, especially Facebook, to stay in contact with each other. However, we have made a conscious decision to remove ourselves from Facebook to ensure some privacy, as we feel it could be easy for birth parents to find us online even with the limited information they are given.

We are not expecting you to remove yourself from Facebook, as we appreciate it is a great way of keeping in touch, but we would ask that you don’t upload photos of Little Chick to your pages or timelines. We know that your privacy settings are likely to be set up to prevent non-friends from viewing posts and photos, but to prevent this from happening, even if accidentally, it is much easier to ask you not to post photos. It would be very easy for his birth parents to use this information to track him down and many adopted children would be at real risk if their location was discovered. Additionally, we need to be sensitive to Little Chick’s birth parents’ emotional needs. We will, of course, share photos with you and encourage you to share with us but this would be directly and in a more controlled way, via email or postal mail, rather than social media.

Good news/bad news

Today we received some good news. News we have been waiting weeks, months, years to hear.

But we also received bad news. Unexpected news. Unsettling news. Upsetting news.

And this has been our overriding experience of adoption so far. The good news is rare and short-lived. The bad news is seemingly endless and, frankly, it grinds you down.

So, today I have lots of feelings.

I feel shattered, physically and emotionally.

I feel like our adoption journey has been one disappointment after another.

I feel like every time we make progress it is countered by a new obstacle.

I feel like every good opportunity, emotion, or experience has been taken from us.

I feel like every step has been a battle and we’re losing the war.

I feel like we are being drained of our good will and hope.

I feel angry – again – but don’t know who to be angry at – again.

I feel like I am tired of adoption before we even meet our child.

I feel cheated of pleasure and robbed of joy.

I feel sick of it all.

The waiting game

I’m the kind of person that gets antsy waiting for a bus. So, waiting to be matched with a child has been tough. Initially I reasoned that I couldn’t justify being miffed before nine months, in line with pregnancy. Then I told myself that nothing was likely to happen this side of Christmas. That took me to twelve months. Deep down I really believed we would be matched by then. Social workers proclaimed we would be. They hadn’t reckoned for the reduced number of placement orders considering the new ruling by Sir James Munby. Or an upsurge in people wanting to adopt. Potentially all good news for waiting children but a bit rubbish for us.

Then 18 months passed. Soon our two-year review was scheduled. We knew we would be asked what we could do to make ourselves more ‘competitive’. But, honestly, we were doing the lot.

  • We were gaining more childcare experience, across a range of ages;
  • We were attending classes, workshops, and studying online to improve our knowledge about key issues;
  • We were preparing our home to be ready for a child or children to move in;
  • We were networking with other prospective adopters, adopters, foster carers, and professionals, both online and in person.

The only thing going against us was our weight. Until this was remedied, we were put on hold with our approving agency and family finding was effectively suspended.

We entered our third year of waiting since approval. We began viewing profiles of children who weren’t even conceived when we started the process. We could not actively pursue links but could respond if other agencies showed interest in us, using Link Maker.

30 months since approval the LA acknowledged that we had lost enough weight and made systemic changes that will benefit us and our future children. We recommenced family finding and waited once more.

We are an exceptional case. Fewer people are being matched almost immediately after approval but not many go beyond two years. Perhaps this is because some give up at this point or are politely encouraged by their approving agency to reconsider. Fortunately, we had the full support of our local authority, even if we did feel like we were made to jump through hoops constantly occasionally.

How have we survived the wait?

We have been fortunate to have each other. When one of us was down the other dragged her up. On the rare occasion we did have a wobble at the same time, we could always turn to our social worker.

Our social worker is fab. She really is. We have always viewed adoption as a team effort and our social worker is the third key member. I could gush about our social worker all day, but I will save that for another post.

We have kept busy. We have tried to read, watch, and learn as much as we can in the time available to us. We have read books that seemingly have little relevance now but may just make life a bit easier once we have children.

We have told people that it’s tough. We’ve tried not to moan too much as we know it’s relative and we are at least fortunate not to face this challenge on the back of trying to conceive. If you are struggling with the wait please talk to other people who understand, i.e. other adopters and prospective adopters. More than anything, being honest and transparent with our social worker and support network has kept us sane.

In the meantime, we continue waiting…