Today is the last day of the course and I actually think we will miss our weekly lesson. Last night I baked a tray of brownies and made some sandwiches as we are all taking bits along to have a picnic lunch together, rather than heading into the town to buy a sandwich.
We have covered all the topics of the preparation course, so today is more focused on hearing from the adoption medical doctor and also some adopters are coming along to speak about their journeys. The day will be rounded up with any questions we have and a final talk from the head of the adoption team.
The doctor has come to talk about the kinds of developmental issues, health concerns & general support that is on offer for looked after children. As she was beginning to talk it became very apparent that she was only looking at my partner, who I could sense was starting to feel uncomfortable! The doctor must have realised as she then apologised and said that she has a habit of just looking at one person when she is talking to a group of people. So the next 2 hours were going to be uncomfortable for my partner and he would now have to look totally enthralled in what she had to say.
A large proportion of her talk centred around alcohol and drug misuse and the affect on an unborn child and also the affect they can have on an infant caused from passive reception. One very interesting fact is that the main damage to fetal growth occurs during weeks 6-10 of pregnancy. So a lot of mothers don’t realise they are even pregnant at this stage. The difference for children that end up being removed by social services is often the quantity of alcohol the mother is consuming and the ongoing drinking and/or drug misuse . Whereas most mothers refrain from alcohol & drugs as soon as they know they are pregnant or have stopped drinking long before they started trying for a baby.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is irreversible and the damage caused will be lifelong. Just to list some of the possible affects;
Distinctive facial features such as small eyes, thin upper lip.
Deformities of joints & bones
Heart defects & kidney issues
Poor coordination or balance
Jitteriness or hyperactivity
Poor social skills
Trouble adapting or changing tasks
ADHD, depression, alcohol misuse, aggression, inappropriate social conduct can all be attributed later on in life to a child having fetal alcohol syndrome.
A large portion of her talk was focused on alcohol and drugs as this is due to most children that end up being adopted are from birth parents that frequently participate in drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
Other areas highlighted were the affects caused from neglect or inappropriate behaviour being witnessed by a child whether that is of a sexual nature or physical abuse etc.
One of the key messages the doctor was trying to get across was that with love, nurture and care children are very resilient and can overcome a huge amount of trauma, although the effects can be life long and triggered at any stage in life.
After looking into the health of children, the focus then changed to the health of the adopters and the mental and physical pressure parenting can have. The doctor has an instant dislike to anyone with a high BMI and made it clear that she wouldn’t approve anyone who was obese to be able to adopt and that if you are overweight then you need to take steps to reduce your BMI. If you are a smoker then you also wouldn’t be considered but this is a question asked in your initial enquiry and so you wouldn’t have even made it onto the course. Then a little talk about alcohol, this is allowed when your adopting (obviously in moderation) but they want you to be very conscious on this issue. Some children could have had very negative experiences from their birth parents and also have a memory of what would happen when they drank. So if you are having a glass of wine or beer in the evening, once the child is in bed, then fine but just make sure the evidence is not left out, so when the child is around by day they are not seeing the glass/bottle which could stir up unwanted memories.
Making time for yourself is also incredible important for your own sanity. Both time as a couple but also time on your own. We know this won’t be an issue for us at home. We both have our own interest to do when our child/children would be sleeping and then we can come together and enjoy each other’s company over our evening meal.
The doctor was still only looking at my partner for the whole of her talk so I’m sure he was very grateful when the talk finally came to an end and she apologised and then left the room. Phew
The talk from an adopter was again an interesting insight into their own experiences. The process is going to be completely different for everyone due to our own situations and life experiences. Tips and advice were shared amongst us and their main message was to just enjoy every step of the process no matter how frustrating some elements can be and the end goal will be achieved. Use the time you have now to prepare, because once you are matched and physically start the introductions you’ll have no spare time or motivation and that cupboard you’ve been meaning to sort for years will be left untouched for several years to come!
The day was coming to an end and was rounded up by the head of services having a few words about the next step/stages. We would all leave with a greater knowledge of the process and the trauma that some looked after children could have. We all had to go away and process what we had learnt over the past 4 weeks. They didn’t want us to make a decision for 2 weeks to prove that we are not just ‘jumping’ into the application without thinking through the life long commitment we would be making. After this period, we could then drop them an email if we did wish to continue on our adoption journey.