A few weeks have passed and we receive a call that we’ve been waiting for, it was the head of the adoption service informing us that we have been assigned Sophie as our social worker and that she will be in contact soon to start work on stage 2. We had met Sophie briefly on the preparation course as she had sat in on the course one afternoon and she came across as being lovely and understanding.
So we had heard from Sophie, and she is coming today to meet us at home and to start going through stage 2 and commencing the paperwork. We’ve had time to ensure the house is all in order, we’ve taken Hendricks out for a walk to hopefully burn off some of his energy. In true Welsh style it is pouring down and we see Sophie coming down the drive, the nerves start to kick in, what is she going to think of us and our house, and will Hendricks behave and not jump up!
So Lee being the gentleman he is, grabs an umbrella and goes to meet Sophie and walk her to the house while I’m left trying to control the dog. Hendricks immediately jumps up at Sophie and leaves 2 muddy paw prints on Sophie’s lovely dress, oh that wasn’t the first impression we had wanted to give. Luckily she is a dog lover and was more than happy having Hendricks around. I made a pot of tea for us and had baked some brownies, so we soon sat down at the table and began going through some of the questions.
We had been given a clear timetable of events and this laid out what we needed to cover in every meeting. This stage was likely to take a minimum of 12 visits in order to cover all the areas required to gather enough information to compile our PAR (Prospective Adopters Report)
Sophie’s first visit looked at health and safety of our home and gardens. We had already done some work in the house to make it as child friendly as we can such as removing my odd collection of scissors! A few vases and ornaments have been moved to higher shelves etc. We had thrown the hoover around and cleaned the bathrooms, so we were happy for her to look around. The inspection however went a lot deeper than we had even considered. The spindles in the bannister were measured to make sure they were spaced correctly, so that a child couldn’t get their head stuck between them. That there were no locks on the bathroom doors (so that a child couldn’t lock themselves in there). We were asked questions relating to the services to the property, such as what fuel the boiler used and for a service certificate for the boiler.
The garden and sheds were checked for their safety and to ensure there were no sheer drops in the garden. A general look at the entire set up and to check that it is safe and suitable for a child. Although it was in depth, never did it feel to intrusive or pointless.
Another visit delved into our finances (oh no, we’ve just got married and had a great weekend of celebrating, which certainly hit our savings account). You have to prove that you are financially stable and able to provide for yourselves and have additional finances available to be able to look after a child/children. Sophie needed to see our latest payslips to prove our income and then we had to itemise our monthly outgoings. Mortgage payments, services payments (electricity, oil, water & council tax etc) any other monthly outgoings. We also had to breakdown any other outgoings such as car insurance, monthly spend on groceries all to ensure we had the means to live. A quick glance of our savings account and everyday bank accounts online.
By this stage of the process you should be open enough to understand why they need to check all these details. Their main aim is to ensure the correct placement of any child and that they will be in a safe environment and have all their needs met.
A couple of sessions looked into our families and our own upbringing. The kind of relationships we had with our family along with a chronology of our life’s, listing any key dates such as school, births and deaths within the family, any significant partners, to any major surgery we have had. We also had to have a one on one meeting with Sophie to look into our own life story without any influence from our partner, before hand I was nervous as my personal meeting was first and wasn’t sure what to expect. I did know that due to us being honest through the whole process that I wouldn’t be ‘caught out’ and say the wrong thing, but just didn’t know what we would be discussing. The personal meeting was very straight forward and Sophie just wanted to hear about our own upbringing and what impression it had, my own relationship with my parents, how my school years had been and any relationships I’d had.
These few sessions did seem to go on and go over the same information that we had given in the initial assessment form but this is to ensure Sophie has all the information down correctly so that she is able to write our PAR (prospective adopters report).
Next on the schedule was to look at our support network and who would be there to support us. This is not only to look at support with any childcare we may need but also importantly, who was there to support us as we become a family and to help/reassure us if we ever had a ‘wobble’. Sophie needed a couple of names and contact details for our main support network and she would arrange to meet with our network to gauge their level of support and their opinion on our suitability (make sure you have mentioned this to your support network before just handing out their details).
Throughout stage 2 we were given tasks to undertake in order to provide Sophie with the full picture. One thing we had to provide was a family tree for each of us starting from our grandparents listing any dates of death and the cause. We also had to draw up a list of local amenities such as the distance of the primary school we would like the child/children to attend, play parks in the area, tourist attractions along with a map detailing whereabouts our support network were in relation to us.
One of the latter sessions looked at children and our requirements. This from the outside seems harsh and I do always feel guilty if I ever talk about this area. There is a section where you discuss what child you would be willing to offer a home to. There are a series of questions which you individually answer with a yes, no or maybe. If either of us had answered no, then a no it is and vice versa with a yes. If either of us answered with a maybe, then this would be discussed between the three of us until a decision was made. These consisted of questions such as ‘would you accept a child with a physical disability’, ‘would you accept a child from a family with a history of physiological disorders’, ‘would you accept a child where the parent/s were alcoholics or drug users’, ‘a child with Down’s syndrome’. All serious questions which we had already discussed with each other. We were also asked what age child/children would we like, did we have a preference of the sex of a child.
I think I always feel uneasy around this topic due to the fact if you had a birth child of your own, you wouldn’t be able to select your own child, but under the adoption process the key objective is to ensure the best home for a child and so by matching the correct child will help ensure this is the final move the child would ever have to make.
Sophie was working from a checklist/booklet to ensure all areas were covered. This on the whole was fine although as a same sex couple there were a lot of times where the questions were either not applicable or worded incorrectly. This was annoying and we kept finding we were saying that it was not applicable and often laughing with Sophie how ridiculous some of the question were. (we fully appreciated that it wasn’t her fault or even the local authorities, but that of the adoption authorities and their template). So if you are a same sex couple, just be prepared!
During stage 2 you are encouraged to attend any additional training course that you can. Our local agency were great at laying on courses at regular intervals that we would either attend together (work permitting) or otherwise one of us would attend. All these additional attendances help form the evidence that we are ready and taken the process seriously.
Sophie has now gathered all the information that she required and it was now time for us to wait for our PAR to be written and for us to then check all the information is correct and we would be happy for it to be submitted.
When you do receive your PAR, what we did was to sit down with a copy each and take a few days reading over it and making any notes (if anything isn’t correct) and then to go over it together until you are both happy. Once the changes have been made, it will then be submitted to the panel for their decision on whether you will be passed as prospective adopters and can carry on with the adventure. It is very exciting receiving your PAR and all you really want to do is tell your social worker to go go go, but it is really important to take your time and go through it with a fine tooth comb checking all dates and information is correct as you really don’t want to be quizzed by the panel on something and then to get your answer different to what’s in the report.
We had a few details changed in our report due to Sophie having to take so much information from us, there were just a few crossed wires but nothing major and the report is amazing and totally captures us as individuals and a couple and what we have to offer a child/children.
Just 3 weeks to wait until our panel date. We sense this might be a long 3 week wait but so happy and excited that stage 2 is coming to a close.