Monday, 29 July 2013

Chapter 16 – Friends: the second home-study visit


It was a week or so after our first meeting with Denise, the Earl Grey was brewing nicely in the pot and some Duchy Originals were arranged on a plate saying, “Eat me, eat me...”. We were ready to resume trawling through our pasts for Denise’s benefit.

It’s strange dredging through past memories and mining them for significance. It’s not something which we generally do. We certainly don’t do it in chronological order. One of the exercises which we had done on our Prep Days was to think through the key developmental moments from our personal histories and chart them on a time-line. Alongside each event we had to indicate whether it was an “Up” arrow or a “Down” arrow. Looking back over what I consider to be a broadly happy childhood it was fascinating to see how many arrows were pointing downwards rather than upwards. It seemed that happiness and contentment were a continuum which was punctuated by traumas of different types. I suppose I should be glad that it wasn’t the other way around!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Chapter 15 – Getting to know you: the first home-study visit

Bumps in the road

It was only a week or so later (a completely interminable and dragging week or so later) that we received a letter informing us that “Denise”, our social worker would phone us soon to arrange a mutually convenient date for our first home study visit. We didn’t have long to wait as just the next day the mobile rang while my wife was at work. However, it wasn’t quite the call we were expecting. There was a tetchy voice on the other end of the phone. The tone would have been completely passive aggressive except that there was no passivity about it. “I’ve been looking at your referee list and it’s just completely unacceptable. Didn’t you even read the guidance?”

Yes, of course we had and, indeed, we’d got clarification from Maureen and Doreen at the Prep Days, including asking them to tell us if the mix of people that we’d put down seemed reasonable. We’d even checked whether it was OK to include James and Emma, our closest friends, who had just moved to Brussels. They were on the end of the phone and would be popping back regularly to see family – so that was fine, we were told.

“You’ve got too many family members. You can’t have more than two. You’ll need to drop one of them. And one of these referees lives in Belgium. You can’t expect the council to send people overseas to visit people. What were you thinking? Didn’t you read the guidance? You’ll have to give me alternative referees right now.”

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Chapter 14 – Sorry Sir, my dog ate it – The Final Preparation Day

Moving on...

I must confess that the fourth Preparation Day is, ironically, the one of which I have the least vivid memories. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the day was taken up with what seemed like really dry information about the administrative and legal process. There were some more brief discussions around how to apply the PACE principles in practice but most of it was process.

What happened when, who had legal responsibility for what, what steps would be taken by whom to cross which hurdle... I’ve spent a good proportion of my working life in the public sector so I’m no stranger to the importance of bureaucracy. But even for me the content was dry, opaque and distant. Goodness knows how those with a lower red-tape tolerance threshold were coping.

But that was still to come. To celebrate the last of the Prep Days we were early. Stupidly early. All of the regular snarl ups and bottle necks that we left plenty of time to negotiate had been flowing like quicksilver. Jane and John had seemingly had a similarly blessed journey as they were already sitting in the meeting room when we arrived.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Name Game - a response to The Guardian's article "What's in a name?"

An aside...

This week an article in the Guardian by Fraser McAlpine has been causing something of a stir in the adoption blogosphere. From my own reading of the article it seems to be a grossly misinformed, poorly argued and shoddy piece of journalism. Which is a shame because, ironically, I happen to agree with the main premise which Mr McAlpine is slowly edging towards.

Names are important. Identity is important. You meddle with it at your peril and only with very good reason.

The article concludes... “Can't we just give the children new names?

Unless there's an issue of security, in which case identity takes second place to personal safety, the answer to that question should most often be no. And the reason is simple: an adopted child should never grow up ashamed of where they came from. Otherwise there's a risk that they will develop void people of their own, and that's a competition all parents can well do without.”

Hear hear, well said that man. Unfortunately in getting to that conclusion Mr McAlpine manages to misrepresent both adoptive parents and the adoption preparation process. And insult adopters and social workers into the process. This is from someone who, apparently, is a member of an Adoption Panel. For the uninitiated, the Adoption Panel is the semi independent body within an adoption agency or local authority which takes decisions on who should and should not be approved to join the the adoption register and what adoption placements should and should not be approved.

He should know better.

Chapter 13 – Adoption Trek: First Contact – The Third Preparation Day Pt 2

Hey there, wait a minute Mr Postman

In the afternoon session on the third Prep Day we started to broach the thorny subject of “contact”. The group seemed to go into the discussions rather polarised in their attitudes. For us, the idea of an open adoption had been liberating when it was first mentioned at the Open Evening and Orientation Day. Rather that sort of honesty rather than having a deep, dark, dirty secret hanging over the family. The sort of thing that Auntie Agatha would let slip over Christmas dinner during the teenage years. Light blue touch paper... Was it something that we were actively looking forward to? No. Of course there would be baggage which went with that and we’d just have to deal with those downs if we were to enjoy the upside.

For others they clearly hadn’t reached that point. They were still openly horrified at the idea of spending time and energy on the evil birth parents for time immemorial. After all, they were sufficiently bad people that they had their child taken away in the first place... And what about all those neglect and abuse horror stories? We shouldn’t be worrying about how they felt. Did I mention before that our group was a little feisty and had some strong opinions they weren’t afraid to voice?

So there was clearly an uphill struggle for Maureen and Doreen to get the rest of the group at least partly onside.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Chapter 12 – Matchmaker, matchmaker – The Third Prep Day Pt 1

The third Preparation Day, we were told, was going to focus on the actual process of adoption itself; how we would be assessed through the coming months, adoption panel, how children were selected for particular prospective adopters, introductions and settling in, ongoing contact with the birth parents. So not too much to cover in two three hour sessions. 

By now the group was beginning to be a group of friends who we were looking forward to meeting again. It was clear that there were some with whom we had begun to click more than others (and some whose façade we couldn’t seem to break through and not for want of trying). But, that’s the same in any random group of people who are brought together by mutual interest of circumstance – whether at work or in a club. And still there was a little feeling of “us against the system” to bind our group together.