Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Chapter 25 – The Home Straight: Home-study visits continued

Welcome to our humble abode... 

Our panel date was only a few weeks away and all our discussions with Denise over the time since filling in the matching matrix had concentrated on dotting "T's" and crossing "I's". Or at least that is what it felt like. 

Every day or so my wife would get a call or a text, "So, was it your parents who were freedom fighters in the Guatemalan civil war and Derek's who ran away to join the circus?" "No, it's the other way round. Oh, and by the way, my husband's name isn't Derek!" It's the type of detail that you'd think might have stuck... And so it continued. You had to admire Denise's commitment to getting the details and the flavour right.

Still, it wasn't a surprise that when Denise emailed us her report on us to proof read there were still a lot of mix ups and little errors. Still, that is what proof reading is for, I suppose. 

The report made for some interesting reading. It was fascinating to see what a third party made of us as individuals and as a couple. Fortunately it was all positive. Well, pretty much... Denise had assured us that she was content that we had ticked all her boxes and that she would be making a strong recommendation to panel. The report  seemed to reflect that. Sure there were a few things which we had to convince ourselves of but largely it was very positive. Most helpful was a little section towards the end which listed in bullet point form our particular strengths and, more importantly, any of our weaknesses. Things to which the panel would need to give particular thought in coming to their decision. 

A couple of the "cons" derived from Sandra's initial and (we thought) biased, unrepresentative reports but most of the others were things we were aware of. It was gold dust nonetheless. This was the stuff which was being flagged to the panel to think hard about and dig into. Hmmm... I wonder what topics they might question us on when we were interviewed by the panel? In the end, having concentrated on those issues and having thought of some model answers to possible questions paid dividends. Both in terms of actually answering the questions which were asked and in terms of feeling prepared before panel. We knew that we had done our best and had prepared - a surprisingly effective confidence builder.

As we wound up our last topping and tailing meeting with Denise, with just two and a half weeks to go before panel the first chink in her efficient armour appeared. "Great, that's everything on my list to check. I think we're there! So I'll just grab your Welcome Book and we're done." My wife and I looked at each other and chimed in unison, "Welcome Book?" "Your sample Welcome Book. The one you've prepared. Panel will need to look at it."

More blank looks. "Welcome Book... I asked you to prepare one." She glanced from one blank face to another. "I did ask you to prepare one for Panel. Erm... Didn't I?" "What's a Welcome Book?" "Ah..."

Denise explained that it was a photo book which your prospective child's foster carers would use to prepare the child for introductions. Pictures of you, your house, your family, their bedroom and so on... "Don't worry," said Denise, "There's loads of stuff online you can copy... Can you get it to me on Monday?" And off she went! 

Right, it's Friday afternoon - where to find a suitable little scrapbook or photo album? OK, so Smiths and Boots are still open. We can sort out some photos tonight and get them printed tomorrow. As we headed out of the house I grabbed the camera and took some shots of the car, the front of the house and, with the help of a makeshift tripod, us standing at the the front door welcoming our theoretical new child into their new home.

It's amazing how quickly a firm impression forms in your mind of what a new concept should look like... And how rarely the shelves of your local shopping centre match that. There were some dilemmas to discuss... Blue? Pink? No, let's go neutral. What size? An hour later we had a little stripy photo album in a WH Smiths bag and a plan for other photos to take that evening to populate the Welcome Book.

The loft was raided for old cuddly toys, ancient children's books and some other non gender specific paraphernalia and a corner of the spare room was transformed into a convincing enough fake nursery. Say cheese. Snap!

The toys were taken downstairs and "mummy" was photographed playing in the living room. Snap! "Daddy" was found chopping up some fruit for tea in the kitchen. Snap! There was "mummy" sitting in the garden reading a book. Snap! "Daddy" was relaxing in the dining room playing guitar. Snap! Right that should be enough staged shots to be going on with... By Sunday evening we had printed our photos and dug out other shots of family. After an evening with a Pritt Stick we finally had a book that we were more or less happy with and my wife agreed that she would take a detour on the way to work the following morning and drop it off for Denise at the Social Services office.

That was it. All the work had been done. The dossier was complete. The panel date was booked. Apart from some last minute question cramming there was little that we could do now other than sit and bite our fingernails.


Sarah Hill said...

Imagine not being told about the book, but well done for jumping into action and getting it done. You are so close now, it's exciting to read.

Thanks for sharing on the Weekly Adoption Shout Out

AnnieB said...

I remember putting those books together, taking such care and pride in them.
The other day my son threw his on the chair and the spine split. He was angry and said "I don't want it anyway" (which I knew he didn't mean) and the memory I had of making them was really strong.
Everything matters when you are in the preparation stages, I imagine it really is like a first pregnancy.

Thank you for your writing. x