Monday, 10 June 2013

Chapter 8 - The Preparation Days Pt 1: First day at school;

And MORE delays!

It was the first week in February and, frankly, we were getting a bit nervous. Wasn’t the first Preparation Day supposed to be some time in mid-February? Shouldn’t we have heard something by now? A quick phone call to the office was in order.

Yes, our paperwork had been sent off a couple of weeks ago. Yes, they would have expected to have had sign off by now. No, they hadn’t heard back from the Medical Advisor. Check with his office? Why yes, certainly...

Later that afternoon we got a phone call.

Terribly sorry. It seems that the paperwork was sent to him a few days before he went off for three weeks’ holiday. He wouldn’t be back for about another week and there simply wasn’t time to approve the paperwork before the next series of Preparation Days. And they certainly couldn’t allow us to attend until all the paperwork was signed off. Not to worry though. There would be another course taking place in May. We’re sure that you’ll be able to attend that one.

And so, we faced another agonising, frustrating wait until we progressed to the next stage of the process. Of course we pushed back as firmly as we felt we could. Given that fact that this was just an administrative glitch couldn’t we start on the process pending the Medical Advisor getting through the paperwork? The response was quite unequivocal – the procedure was quite clear. There was no way that they could make an exception. Were they sure? Absolutely!

And so we resigned ourselves to another three months of thumb twiddling and time biding. Here was another lesson – although we didn’t realise that until well into the Preparation Days when we were chatting to another couple in our group. Rules may be rules but their application can vary wildly. Particularly if you’re willing to stamp your feet and throw a few toys out of your pram.

That couple had similarly realised that they wouldn’t have their paperwork ready in time for the Preparation Day. So they found every table they could bang and banged those tables with gusto. So there they were alongside us in late May, settling into the Preparation Day while their paperwork sat upstairs un-rubber stamped. Did the fact that they slipped past the rules make a lot of difference to either of us in the long run? Probably not and I guess it’s six of one and half a dozen the other which is the better option. Mind you that was another three months of wasted time they didn’t have to experience.

For us, we’re pretty collegiate people. We’re consensus-builders at heart. Of course we stood up for ourselves. However, we took the view that we had to work within this system so we might as well do our best to get along with the people we’d be working with and who “ran” that system. Let’s go out of our way to make allies not enemies.

The BIG day arrives...
Anyway, after another seemingly interminable wait our first Prep Day finally came around. The 9:15 start at a Council building half the way across the county from our home meant that we were treated to a lovely morning tour of our local roadblocks, roadworks and bottlenecks. Inevitably despite having pretty much left three days to make the trip (didn’t want to be late and make a bad impression, after all!) we arrived at 9:25 and hastily parked the car in the only remaining space in the car park – in the furthest corner from where we wanted to be, of course. We finally barrelled through the door of the meeting room panting and sweating. Once again the anonymous room had been decorated in the 70s comprehensive shabby chic style and we were greeted by the sight of seven other couples sitting uncomfortably on plastic chairs in a rough semicircle looking nervous and uncertain.

It was an interesting dynamic to begin with. There had been a comment at the Orientation Day that your Preparation Course group should become a type of surrogate Pre/Antenatal group. A group of like-minded people who had a rare shared experience with you and who could be there to bounce frustrations and concerns off. An inner-circle support group. Over the four weeks of the course that sort of dynamic did emerge. Adoption preparation is a strange and wonderful thing and only by experiencing it yourself can you really get to grips with its subtleties and complexities.

Even so, there was a slightly different dynamic to begin with. I think that most of us were aware, however valid the Prenatal Group analogy, that there was a difference. Ultimately if approved we would/could all be competing for first choice in the same pool of available looked-after children. That sort of thinking can only breed some distrust. At least with natural birth, the chance of another member of your Prenatal group getting first dibs on YOUR child is pretty slim!!!

Yes, yes, that’s another overly melodramatic statement but rationality doesn’t always win the day – particularly in such an emotionally charged environment. Certainly, you could see that thought floating behind the other eyes in the room to one degree or other. That soon passed, though as we settled into a pleasant group dynamic. Even if, to be honest that was sometimes fostered by a Blitz-mentality solidarity as we struggled to accept some of the things the Social Workers were asserting. In fact, over the coming months some really good friendships emerged. We were a support group after all.

Of course that was all to come. At that point we all sat there shifting uncomfortably in our seats feeling like kids experiencing their first day at big school. The two social workers who would be taking us through the four day course outlined how things would go. Each of the four days would focus on a different aspect of the adoption journey...

  • our journey as adopters – what had brought us to this point,
  • the looked-after child’s journey – what had they experienced, how had they come into care and what had happened to them between then and adoption,
  • bringing the two journeys together – the dynamics and process of the actual placement, and
  • taking the journey forward together.

However, before that it was time for some getting-to-know-you ice breaker exercises... around the room seven sets of shoulders visibly slumped. For the two of us the reaction was a little different. After twenty odd years in management in business we’d both been on enough training courses to have done just about every conceivable ice breaker exercise in the book (and it’s a big, big book!). Of course we were going to start like this. Twenty minutes later a small teddy bear had been thrown around the semi-circle and we’d all introduced ourselves, we’d chatted in pairs and reported back to the group and come up with largely facetious answers to some random question designed to elicit a little insight into us as people...

And then it was into the content of the first day. Very soon it became clear that this first session was going to be all about me...


ME, ME, ME!!!!!!


The Adoption Social said...

What a great account of your first prep day. I remember that initial feeling of competition between the group but soon everyone was chatting and being friendly. I look forward to following your story further.

Thanks for sharing on The Weekly Adoption Shout Out.

Lindsay said...

I really enjoy your writing and that a word?! I look forward to reading more:)

AdoptionJourneyBlog said...

Lindsay, thanks for the kind words and the encouragement. I'm pretty new to this whole blogging game and it's nice to know that it's connecting with folks. I guess that my main two desires are that it should be useful to people but also entertaining and engaging to read.

Similarly I'm really enjoying finding so many great blogs via the #WASO and have enjoyed reading Grey Street too. Today's "Digging Deep" was particularly inspiring and I'm sure will be a real encouragement to many.