Monday, 27 January 2014

Chapter 31 - Shopping from the baby catalogue

Every little helps

We first came across "Be My Parent" and "Children Who Wait" at one of the pre-preparation orientation evenings. I was browsing along the resources table at the back of the room looking at the Dan Hughes and Caroline Archer books when my eye spied what looked like a couple of women's magazines. Pictures of smiling happy faces beamed from the cover. "Oh well, I thought I'll have a browse and maybe do the adoption equivalent of the Cosmo quiz while I'm waiting." However, instead of an interesting article on Theraplay or facilitating attachment in adoptive placements I was faced by page after page of photos of munchkins. Each had a little write up about how lovely they were, how well they were  developing at their foster placement and how they were looking for a mummy and daddy. Gulp. It was all a bit overwhelming. This was the real face of adoption. The real little lives looking for a transformation and a brighter future...

Once the initial wave of emotion had worn off and I began scanning through the entries a second emotion started to rise up - a slight queasiness. Unconsciously I had found myself thinking "Awwww... He's sweet." "Oh, I'm not sure I'd want to take on three..." "Wouldn't it be nice to have a little brother and sister." However, all of a sudden it all felt a bit too much like flipping through the Argos catalogue. Baby buying.  Sibling shopping. Offspring ordering...

Of course, that's a gross caricature of what Be My Parent and Children Who Wait are there for. And purely based on my own personal, irrational emotional response. These magazines and resources are, in fact, a hugely valuable resource to allow both prospective adopters and adoption agencies find matches for children, and in particular, children whom their home authorities have found more tricky to match within their own adopter pools. That said, I think that it was something which continued to colour my personal response to them throughout the adoption process. It was certainly part of the reason that we took the executive decision to allow the local authority family finders plenty of time to do their thing and choose a match for us. 

But that decision was as much a logical as an emotional one. We reasoned that if we were to make a decision to pursue a match on the basis of a Children Who Wait entry it was very likely to be driven by an emotional response to a photo and made with only the sketchiest of information. Better, we thought, to allow the social workers who had access to the full dossiers of the looked after children in our local authority care and experience of weighing up potential matches to drive the process. I guess that it partly reflects our backgrounds and internal wiring. Although both emotionally demonstrative we have quite academic and scientific bents. Trusting to well established processes and procedures is something we are both comfortable with. But it is a delicate balance. We thought that we had waited long enough and worked hard enough to start a family that a few additional months waiting to get the right match for us was worthwhile. We could so easily have come down on the other side... "Heck, we have waited long enough. We've been approved, let's get on with it!" Certainly in our long dark tea times of the soul those thoughts and frustrations arose often enough.

For balance, I should point out that the route we chose is a purely personal preference which suited our personal emotional and psychological make up. It's by no means a principle we would want to see imposed across the board. As I stated before, these resources are extremely valuable tools for both agencies and prospective adopters and and we know many couples who have had extremely successful placements with children they have spotted in the pages of Be My Parent etc. As with so many things in life (and in adoption) it is just horses for courses...

Still, despite our executive decision to allow the local authority at least six months, the comments from Brian and Julie at the recent get-together still resonated a little. Denise had clearly not been passing on to us the documentation which was being produced by our local authority on children who were available for adoption. That rankled on principle. Sure, we might not have intended to act on it but we should have been given access to it. Well, that was the subject matter of the next "Hello, we still exist!" phone call to Denise sorted.

This was the first of two pivotal conversations which confirmed that, on a personal basis,  we had made the right decision for us. When we phoned Denise asking to see our authority's brochure she seemed quite defensive, actively trying to dissuade us from looking at it. "Honestly," she said, "There isn't a problem matching you. You really have been in the last few on a lot of occasions. And a lot of the children where you haven't been considered it is simply because you live too close to their birth parents. I think you would really be much better just waiting and letting  the family finders find you the right match."

Then came the most telling comment... Denise's tone turned serious and, uncharacteristically, a little conspiratorial, "You know that it is only the, erm, 'harder to place' children who end up on these lists. There is a reason why certain children aren't matched easily and that is because they are the ones who carry more baggage with them... Have more issues and difficulties." She paused. "I still really think you should wait and see what the authority family finders can come up with. You really are there in the mix on all the children and the things that have scored you down have been things like where you live, not anything about you as a couple."

We reassured her that we were still holding fast to our decision to wait and see. That was why we hadn't extended out AdoptionUK membership or signed up to any of the online resources. However, we said, we were just curious to see the authority's own version - even if we weren't planning to take advantage of it. It ought to be available to us so we would like to exercise that right... Even if only out of curiosity.

Reluctantly she agreed on that basis. However from the tone of her voice she clearly wasn't all that happy about sending it to us.


the boy's behaviour said...

We also likened those publications to the Argos catalogue and felt unease about choosing a child. In the end we were linked very very quickly and didn't have to search ourselves, but I can see how these magazines can be useful for some families to form.

Thanks for linking up to #WASO x

Anonymous said...

We actually never looked at those publications having confidence in the local family finding team to match us as they did. we were one of those fortunate couples who had a potential link going into approval panel so other than waiting for meeting with Sqk's SW had very little waiting to do. It is fascinating reading your account of your journey and reflecting how it matches ours in many ways.

Lindsay said...

I never saw any magazines when we were adopting Jonathan, but the foster care system does use a website and there's a short video segment that airs every Wednesday called 'Wednesdays' Child' (Our son was actually featured on it, but we had known about him through a mutual's kind of neat to have the video though:). It does seem a bit strange, but then again the whole adoption process can sometimes feel strange. I too agree it wasn't for us, but I see how it can have it's place:)

Sarah PuffinDiaries said...

I agree those publications can make uncomfortable reading but it is absolutely your right to choose to look at them if you so wish. I remember they did tend to include older children and large sibling groups, which are harder to place, but again it should be your choice. Thanks for writing about this as I'm sure many others will relate to it and Thanks for sharing on The Weekly adoption Shout Out.

AdoptionJourneyBlog said...

Yes, this post and the one that goes live tomorrow are the two that have given me most pause. However, especially tomorrow's was something which was said to us and both shook and struck us. In the spirit of openness and honesty I felt I had to include it.

The magazines are indeed an invaluable resource but, heart of hearts, I am glad that the fact we were linked only a month beyond our notional 6 month window meant we didn't need to use them.

It will be interesting to see how the expanded use of and access to web based data on children proposed by the govt affects the number of harder to place kids finding permanent homes. Hopefully it will be a big improvement.