Friday, 9 August 2013

Chapter 17 – Questions, questions – Exploring Attachment: Home-study visits continued

Frank Gorshin as "The Riddler"

Dib dib dib!

So we’d survived two home-study sessions with Denise and we were all starting to get the measure of each other. And before the next session there was a small matter of seeing whether I could pick up some additional experience of working with children in a formal setting. Sunday League football was out of the question even though there was a local sports field not far off where there were regular kids training sessions every Sunday morning. For us, Sunday mornings were reserved for church and, let’s face it, doing an alternative kids’ activity on Sunday morning simply displaced one childcare opportunity with another. That left me no further forward.

Since we were hoping to be placed, eventually, with a pre-school or kindergarten aged child Beavers seemed to be the obvious door to push on. A quick Google showed that there were three Beaver troops in the area. Excellent, plenty of scope for getting involved in the 8 months or so running up to panel. Or so I thought.

I jotted down the contact details for the three troops and phoned the numbers listed on the websites. No answer... on any of the lines. Not to worry, I left a voicemail message on each of the numbers giving some quick context as to why I was looking to get involved and left my contact details. Just for belt and braces I followed up each call with an e-mail covering much the same information. Shouldn’t be too long now and I could happily tick one of Denise’s boxes.

That box never actually got ticked. I waited for a response. After a couple of weeks I left three more voicemail messages. A week or so later I sent another three e-mails. It was now a good couple of months since I’d initially contacted them and we were well into the depths of home-study. A few weeks later I thought “I must chase up those Beaver groups again.” and then thought about it no more.

Lord Baden Powell
In the end it made no difference. Our various Panel reports didn’t reference a terrible dearth of contact with kids and the Panel never queried it. Ironically, one Saturday morning towards the end of October, as we basked in the knowledge that we were now on the Adoption Register for our county the phone rang. “Oh hello, I understand you’re interested in helping out at our Beaver group...” I felt a little embarrassed as I explained that had been the case EIGHT months ago but right now it wasn’t quite the same imperative. I still don’t know why I was apologetic... it wasn’t me who’d taken the best part of a year to respond to a voice mail. Oh well...

Anyway, back to the Spring and my impending solo flight with Denise. The reason for the one-on-one interviews was a psychology research project which our Social Services were participating in. A university was doing a study into adult attachment styles and how these derived from formative experiences in childhood. In return for carrying out the interviews on prospective adopters and returning the data to the university the Social Services got a detailed attachment style work up on each of their candidates. That seemed fair enough and, although participation was voluntary, it seemed to us that it could only be helpful. Or at any rate, what concerns would refusal to participate flag up? As it was, we were keen to get as much info about ourselves as possible.

I was up first and my wife would be the victim at the next session. So as we sat at the kitchen table Denise arranged a pad of paper, a Dictaphone and a printed script in front of her. She explained that she would be sticking to the script as a guide to our discussions to ensure that we properly covered all the areas necessary for the study and to ensure consistency across the sample of prospective adopters. Fair enough.

Sigmund Freud
She flicked the switch on the Dictaphone, looked me in the eye and, with a small throat clearing cough, asked, “So, would you say that you had a happy childhood?” With that I collapsed into a fit of giggles. The question couldn’t have been more of a stereotype if she’s said it in a mock-Swiss, Sigmund Freud accent. “Zo, vood you zay zat you ‘aad an ‘appy childhoot?” Pulling myself more or less together I asked whether it would be better if I lay down on a couch for the rest of the interview? Her efficient veneer was starting to crack as she got to know our sense of humour and let a little of hers out.

With the ice broken we got down to the matter at hand with the script of questions very effectively digging into the deepest parts of my psyche and exploring meanings and motivations. Once again I found the experience very enjoyable but utterly exhausting on an emotional level. A friend from one of the other couples visibly blanched when I mentioned the interview to him. He said that the whole thing had reduced him to tears on at least a couple of occasions and left him a - quote - “quivering wreck”. Hard work all this introspection.

However, I was still determined to keep it light where the opportunity allowed. After an hour of deep discussion the Dictaphone clicked as side one of the tape ran out. Denise flipped it over and pressed record. After waiting in silence for a few seconds I launched in with “...lutely think that statement really sums up in a single neat package why I have such difficulties giving and accepting love in a relationship.” Denise looked puzzled for a second at this complete non-sequitur which had suddenly come out of left-field. When she caught my eye and noticed the large grin spreading across my face she burst out laughing too. I leaned close to the microphone and said “Really sorry Mr Researcher. It’s OK, you haven’t just missed out a vital bit of info. I just couldn’t resist the chance to play with YOUR head for a change! Tee hee! Anyway, back to the questions.”

The questions ranged over all sorts interpersonal areas and experiences from childhood. The depth and breadth was quite astonishing. The intensity of the experience quite draining. However, of all the questions there was one to which I found almost impossible to give a straight answer. “State three specific things which your parents did that showed they loved you.” Three specific things? What like wiping my nose, kissing my knee better when I scraped it and making me my tea every night. My parents’ love and commitment could hardly be boiled down to such trivial activities. I said as much. Their love was just an over arching and all encompassing thing. I said that if pressed to state three separate things the best I could do was:
  • they were ALWAYS there for me, consistently and solidly – totally dependable;
  • they always put the interests of the family and, in particular, the children first; and,
  • they always encouraged me to be the best “me” I could be but never by putting “pushy parent” pressure on me.

If those weren’t specific enough they would just have to do! I still wonder what that research graduate in a University somewhere across the country made of me. Well, beyond “Securely Attached” which was all the feedback we got in the end...


Mama Laura said...

I also had to do one of those attachment style interviews. I found it very interesting - it really made me look at my own relationships in a different light. I think it also helped the social worker to get to know me a bit better too.

Three Pink Diamonds said...

Out of curiosity did completing the attachment style interviews lengthen the timing of the home study?

AdoptionJourneyBlog said...

No, I don't think so. Our SW was very efficient and completed everything in the time which she had sketched out at the start. I suspect that the fact that we both came out as pretty securely attached helped, of course. Had the tests thrown up some sort of attachment issue or unresolved issues then, of course that would have needed to have been worked through. And I guess that would have taken more time.

In some ways, it was kind of a more formalised, deeper version of the chats that we had with our SW anyway.

Suddenly Mummy said...

Were you nervous waiting for the 'results' or did you feel pretty relaxed that it would be ok? I'm sort of glad I didn't have to do anything like that in the context of trying to adopt - too much hanging on it! - but otherwise I think it'd be interesting to be part of a study like that.

Three Pink Diamonds said...

Thanks for getting back to me.

AdoptionJourneyBlog said...


I should have said also that Denise really front loaded the visits too, sometimes weekly and mostly fortnightly. I guess that also gave her time to timetable in and things that needed working through in good time.


Funnily enough, we didn't feel pressure waiting for the results of this. We were pretty sure that it wouldn't throw up any deep, dark issues that needed sorting or would threaten the process.

On the other hand, we did worry about health issues (see previous blogs) and that this might be the thing that would cause us hassles or disqualify us somehow. However, I suppose that could have been our own projections of our fears onto the areas which seemed like more obvious sources of delays.

As you imply though, it seems such a high stakes thing that it is easy to find ways to worry. I think our worries were just channelled in different directions...