Sunday, 28 April 2013

Chapter 4 – The first meetings: Dis-Orientation Day

Entering information overload

Having survived the Open Evening we were keen to put our names down for the next stage of the process; a full day course which would look more deeply into the journey that adopters and adopted children take. Of course, that meant another frustrating wait for the Orientation Day. Inevitably the next one wasn’t until a few months hence.

When the day finally came we sat in another hall which had clearly been decorated in a job lot with the class rooms at the local comprehensive. Cosy and welcoming it was not. This time the previous roomful had been winnowed down to about 30 or 40 people. Sitting in a couple of rough circles it was difficult to work out what was to come next. As it turned out... largely more of the same.

The overall agenda for the day seemed to be the Open Evening writ large. Of course, that gave even more scope for horror stories. Tales of the types of neglect and abuse which looked after children may have suffered followed. Again, the odd face around the room seemed to grow increasingly pale with the descriptions. This was followed by a talk on the types of challenge which an adoptive parent might face over the years of caring for and healing a potentially damaged little soul. By now some of the people sitting around the room were letting out little gulps and shifting uncomfortably in their seats. I’m sure I heard the odd whimper...

After a brief lunch in the canteen we reconvened in the meeting room for the afternoon session. This kicked off with a description of the assessment process which prospective adopters can expect to go through. The sense of relief around the room at having to deal only with a description of the inevitable bureaucracy was palpable. A Question & Answer session allowed all of us to explore in more detail the particular elements or issues which had caught our attention or where we felt clarification might be helpful.

The final session presented a couple of experienced adoptive parents giving a view on their own adoption journeys. And, in hindsight it must be that they had been carefully chosen for effect. Of course there was talk of the rewards of parenthood but all the time tinged with a sense of underlying gloom and struggle. One recounted the difficulties of bringing up their adopted child after their marriage fell apart soon after the adoption placement was completed and confirmed in the courts. The other talked about their experiences dealing with complex court proceedings and birth parents who were determined to fight the adoption at every possible turn. Oh yes, and of course... just how rewarding parenthood was...

After a short summing up the social worker hosting the session said that we were all welcome to pick up a formal application form to enter the assessment process. Once again, many left the room as rapidly as possible without “passing Go” or picking up either an application form or £200!

Not us though. Once again we found ourselves with the same strange mixture of feelings ranging from a shell-shocked, “Well, that was a bit full on!” to the increasingly familiar feeling of “Yeah, we can do this. This is right for us!” With a few nods, winks and hastily whispered words between each other confirming that we were both still resolutely “in” we wandered over to chat to the still milling social workers.

Thinking back on the introductory sessions it soon became clear that they had a particular job to do beyond JUST providing information on the adoption process. There must have been a carefully formulated whittling process going on. The horror stories were there for a good purpose. “Caveat Emptor... This is a process and a life you need to enter into eyes-open, aware and ready for the worst-case scenarios. There are a lot of adopted children out there who are going through painful healing processes. Kids where the effects of their past lives are still being keenly felt in their new lives. Sure there are many who are, for the most part, just ordinary kids. But all adopted children will have things to deal with which are beyond the normal life experience of most families. The prospect of that isn’t for the faint hearted. It’s not for the dilettante and it’s certainly not for those with an unrealistically romantic view of parenthood (let alone adoptive parenthood!).

So many horror stories in such a short period of time and, sure enough, around the room faces blanched at the things being described. They were of course, worst-case scenarios but there were certainly effective as a reality check for those in the room. Good early checks of backbone, determination and stickability.

Looking back it was no surprise that there were over a hundred people at that first meeting, around thirty or forty at the second meeting. When we finally started our “Preparation Day” courses – the first REAL stage of the process it was no surprise to see only 15 or so people sitting around us. The determined ones. The process had clearly done its job so far.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Surprise, surprise, there was still plenty of process and bureaucracy to service before that.

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