Adoption lingo: Linked

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Adoption, like anything, comes with it’s own language and set of terms it seems. Attachment, therapeutic parenting, letterbox – these apparently innocuous words at first glance, can generate thoughts, feelings and emotions which require some careful processing and consideration.

Much of this will be done during Prep Group Training and Stage 2 discussion with your social worker, but ” linking “, being ” linked ” and finding ” links ” wasn’t a word I’d thought about to be honest. Instead, the word ” matching ” comes up a lot – the process during which the needs of a looked-after child are matched with potential, approved for adoption, parents.

” Matching ” makes sense to me. But don’t get it confused with being ” linked ” to a child… ” Linking ” is really a tentative step TOWARDS the very first rung of the ladder. Linking is ” making enquiries “, ” asking lots of pertinent ( hopefully!! ) questions ” and ” exploring whether or not a match MIGHT be worth pursuing “.

When does a ” link ” turn into a ” match ” enquiry? Answers on a postcard please SWs…

And yes, all this pontificating on my part DOES in fact mean we have been recently linked to a LO. In fact, this is our second link since our approval as adopters three months ago. The first link arose via our LA, who put forward a potential match in fact. Things didn’t progress due to issues over LO’s name ( LAs choice of name, which we couldn’t see working for us as there’s already another family member, a child, with that name – more on this in a later post ).

This new link has arisen via the family finding service Adoption Link, and we’re ( quietly ) very excited about this one…

A Year Down The Line

Yes indeed! I cannot believe I’m writing this, but a whole twelve months has passed since we cranked this adoption journey into gear.

We attended our very first Introduction to Adoption session last October with our local authority. One thing they omit to tell you at these information evenings that’s stuck in my mind and seems particularly pertinent now as I reflect on the whole approval process that currently exists in England at the moment, is that despite the perception nowadays that approval has been sped up, it actually still takes a goodly long while.

That very first phone with the SW was misleading. Maybe she wanted to make the whole process sound simple and easy, but I definitely felt alarm bells going off when she stated that from initial enquiry to approval takes on average a mere 8 months. Well maybe it does. In our case it was in fact 9, due to a move of the Panel date only though. We were ready to go in June of this year but had to wait for the next Panel date in July as a high number of matches were being considered and these rightly, took precedence. SW’s comment that approval is ” quicker than an actual pregnancy ” I would say wasn’t particularly helpful. It doesn’t match up does it. As far as a pregnancy’s concerned you’re there with a real baby in your arms, ready to start putting into practice all that you’ve prepared for. After approval, you’re looking at an indefinite period of time stretching out before you, until a match is found, with no certainty that a suitable match will even materialise.

We are lucky because of our situation. We have a busy, family-orientated life. There’s always something big going on in our household. I feel for those approved parents who are childless and becoming increasingly desperate with each passing week without a match coming forward. I can understand the blank space stretching out ahead of one must look very bare and bleak. It’s a weird place to be in, this post-approval no-man’s ( no-child’s ) land. Even I’m struggling a bit. It’s the not knowing, I expect…

How we got to where we are now: First Step

In a previous post I mentioned that the idea of adopting one day had been bubbling around in our consciousness, gently coddling away like home-made broth on the simmering plate of the Rangemaster, that passes for a metaphor of our family life. Very occasionally we’d lift the lid on the pot and take a peek to check that the contents hadn’t curdled or gone stale through lack of attention. More recently, as is often the case when I’m in the kitchen, trying to find my inner domestic-goddess a-la Tana Ramsay ( four kids – check, curly hair which has lost its mojo during the current straight-is-trendy phase – check, millions in the bank, a celebrity-chef, marathon-running hubby and an A list little black book of friends – check, check, check… I’M JOKING!!!!!!! ), the contents of the pan began to take on a life of it’s own; ” I may very well be ready “, it said. ” Turn your attention elsewhere at this stage and I may decide to curdle, become a trifle stale or go off entirely!!! “, it said a bit louder.

The little voice inside my head that’s in touch with the part of us we sometimes refer to as our soul, was becoming increasingly louder and insistent. Intuition was making its presence felt and there were the corresponding notes from the universe which let you know in subtle and sometimes glaringly obvious ways that THE TIME IS RIGHT!

It was time to make that initial phone call…

Fingers in ears time, la-la-la I can’t hear you and all that

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One thing I absolutely and resolutely refuse ever to do is to pay any attention to statistics. Another is to watch the news: way too much negativity, parcelled up in repetitive half hour slots, chiefly designed to panic, worry or depress you in equal measure.

My underlying motive in my refusal to do either of these things? A conscious decision made approximately two years or so ago to avoid as much of societiy’s habitual negative thinking as I possibly could. My aim? To minimise the potential for worrying! Such a senseless waste of time and energy, which achieves very little except to add to the grey on your bonce!

Don’t worry – the irony of my selection of the above image does NOT escape me, but I’m making an exception for these statistics!

Which leads me nicely on to the point of this post. Something I’ve not taken the trouble to look into yet. Instead, I’m adopting the fingers-in-ears method of handling/ignoring this helpfully non-specific, put-everyone-in-a-box and let them stew information…

Apparently, so I’ve  read, heard AND been told, there’s a statistic out there which baldly states that adoptions are more likely to break down if your family already has birth children in it when an adopted child comes to live with you.

Not listening to that one.

Just yet…

Where are the blogs, books etc from people with adoption-into-a-family-with-children-already by the way? I haven’t seen many although I am actively looking…

Why the heck are you adopting?

That’s a polite way of expressing the ( occasionally mild, but sometimes not ) incredulity which meets our declaration of intent to begin the adoption process. Not that every response is that negative. In fact, most of our friends and family have been incredibly supportive and interested ( at least to our faces!! ). But I guess in our circumstances, time of life etc, it’s a perfectly valid question. I mean let’s face it, we’re already a family of six with four beautiful children, busy work lives with a hectic family life to match; nine hens, five cats, two rabbits and probably a partridge in a pear tree if we could locate him under all the piles of homework, ironing, dirty clothes, odd socks, toys, DVDs, toilet rolls, assorted assemblages of cardboard artistic creations ( blame the current creative phase of the youngest daughter ), Xbox games, controllers, old VHS cassettes, games kits, spare shoes, old bicycles , riding gear, discarded wine bottles ( a result of the Hubsters home-brewing efforts, not in any way related to the travails of being a parent I swear! No, I really do! I’m tee-total!! For real!! ), books, souvenirs, fitness apparatus, and so on and so forth. You’ll get the picture I’m sure. Think the usual BBC1 situation drama mixture of My Family and Outnumbered with a smattering of ( it’s a fantasy which exists purely in my own head ) Alex Polizzi’s plush London pad!

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I imagine it’s the same for most people but deciding to adopt isn’t something we arrived at instantaneously during a rare moment of peace. And not simply because we never have any of those. Moments of peace, I mean. Hubster and I have always recognised the importance of taking time out from the usual everyday pressures of family life. We seem to have this tacit understanding and inkling when one or other of us is reaching crisis point and in desperate need of a break, and we’re both pretty good at taking the reins for the requisite number of hours in which the other person can find their inner peace again. The Hubster runs, brews his wine/beer and talks to people about cars to wind down. I’m of the ‘ cranky brigade ‘ if I don’t get to exercise/meditate/read/watch box sets etc. Neither one of us is lucky enough to have parents willing to turn up and ‘ give us a break from the kids ‘.

NOTE: why is this a ‘ thing ‘? The concept of grandparents stepping in and babysitting, often overnight, even for the WHOLE WEEKEND (!!!) is totally alien to us. Frankly I find it hard to grasp. A few hours away from your children, with partner taking over seems fair. After all, you brought them into the world ( or elected to adopt them ), so parenting them is something you’re quite likely to want to do, yes? But to regularly expect that grandparental intervention seems a tad over the top. I’m not disregarding the loving grandparents who want and actively seek to spend time with their grand kids, but I am taking issue with those parents who do expect regular time out from their own children. I’m probably speaking from a slightly envious viewpoint here, my own parents having baby sat a grand total of once in over 20 years, but hey! Whoever said our opinions weren’t shaped by personal experience?

The desire to adopt has been simmering away on the back burner for some considerable time now. Probably ever since I became a parent in fact. Having been brought up in a cold and unloving environment, by a self-confessed non-maternal mother and an emotionally distant father, it was something of a revelation to discover that I was a hugely maternal person. Who knew??! Certainly I didn’t.

Never having had any contact with babies or young children whilst growing up, effectively an only child due to my severely disabled older brother’s banishment to a residential home – my parents, in particular my mother, were unable to cope with his condition, I was a naturally shy and timid child. I spent a large part of my childhood on my own, except when I was at school. I’d had friends, of course, none of whom who’d had younger siblings. My younger cousins I’d hardly seen whilst growing up. The consequence of all this was that I’d never spent any time around babies or small children. Instead, I’d while away many a long, happy day looking after animals. In hindsight, the signs were there. I’d regularly rescue wild chicks and stray cats. I’d spend whole summers obsessing over butterflies and my ladybird collection. We had cats, dogs and rabbits as pets and I was lucky enough to have two ponies of my own. I lavished my attention on all of them, spending hours upon hours at the local stables, mucking out and grooming the horses for free pony rides, just for the love of it all. This love of all animals I see now on reflection, was a substitute for the lack of affection and love I felt at home. Dogs, cats and ponies were my constant companions and I’m grateful for that now because I’ve been instilled with a lifelong affection for animals of all kinds.

I was a naturally quiet and ‘ good ‘ child, studious in my teens, and I secured a place at a prestigious University to study law after taking my A levels in one year, when I was sixteen. I traversed my way through the academic process and qualified as a solicitor, still making sure I had time for my animals but factoring in time for quite a riotous social life and boyfriends of course. The Hubster-to-be and I discussed our desire for children during our engagement and I remember thinking at the time ‘ yep, I could quite go for the whole working mother of two perfect children thing ‘, providing my salary provides for adequate child care and knowing full well that my parents would never dream of fulfilling any child caring role themselves, citing ill-health as a reason. More on that in future posts I’m sure, because I’ve always felt their health issues were always on the rather convenient side to be frank…

Just stopping to read through the above and OH MY GIDDY AUNT, WHAT A HUMONGOUS MOANING MINNIE I’M SOUNDING right there!

I’m going to have to stop myself from a) going off on a needlessly irrelevant tangent and b) I really do dislike feeling sorry for myself and sounding off like that. Not only is it a complete waste of time – how does it change anything? In what way is it constructive? We can’t change the past, only learn from it and move on into the future taking the lessons with us, with a grateful heart. But also, and very importantly, it makes me appear as if I have bitterness & resentment deep down in my soul for my parents and really, I don’t. I accept they did the best they could in the circumstances, given their own upbringings, priorities and demons etc.  I know they both had family issues to deal with whilst growing up and having a disabled child at any time, let alone over forty years ago when attitudes and resources  weren’t as they are now, must have been hellish.

Im going to steer my thoughts quite deliberately now, back to pleasant memories, and try to explain a bit more fully, why we came to a firm decision last year to begin our enquiries into the adoption process. Think positive!

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The bottom line on making that life-changing decision to adopt is this: we love being parents. And we’d like to keep doing it. And get better at it.

Not that you stop doing it as your kids grow up. When they eventually flee –  in my case!  or, fly the nest -hopefully our children’s case, your still going to be parenting, in new and challenging ways.

Your kids are always going to be in need of your support: practical, emotional, FINANCIAL!!!

At present, in truth, things are a little bit quieter at home than they have been, since our eldest is midway into a three year university course. Number Two son ( UGH!! Must NOT get into the habit of referring to him in that way!! ), is progressing towards a Uni place in September. Next down the sibling line comes 15 yr old daughter, about to sit her GCSEs this summer, and bringing up the rear is youngest daughter aged a fantastic 8 years of age.

I’m going to say it big and bold, and loud and proud: I LOVE BEING A MUM!

I love the idea of a big family unit, a house teeming with kids, sharing our lives with one another. I love helping to guide and support them through life’s ups and downs. In recent years I’ve discovered on a deeply personal level, the power of positivity and gratitude and the importance of finding our own unique purpose in life and I want to help my children in their journey to discover what their purpose might be. I love being their very own number one fan! I love being around children and young people, feeling their energy and vibrancy. I want to champion them as they discover the world about them in all it’s glory.

Adoption for me, is about taking this forward to help a child who might otherwise miss out on what life can offer. It’s also – I THINK at least at this stage – perhaps going to help me become a better parent. With anything you’re passionate about, you should, I believe, always be seeking to improve on what you can do, and even at this early stage ( we’ve just completed Stage One of the process and are about to commence Stage Two), I’ve already found I’m learning new things and implementing them in my current ‘ parenting strategy ‘.

If that last sentence is anything to go by, I’m also already absorbing the Social Worker lingo on a subliminal level.

Yep that really is it. Being a mum is the best job in the world, certainly for me. I’m not saying I’m gong to practice being a BETTER mum on a looked-after child, but caring for, getting to know and loving a potentially damaged and traumatised child, negotiating a way through the emotional turmoil of a child grieving for the loss of their birth family, and providing that child with a loving and supportive family network seems to me a natural progression of my love for children, parenting and caring for others.

I believe in leaving the world a better place when we shuffle off this mortal coil, and adopting a child who needs love and the close bonds of a family, is one way I feel I can make that contribution; to that child, to our society and to humanity as a whole.

Off and running

Blogging is all the rage, de rigueur, fashionable and customary these days, but when I wanted a way of documenting our journey through the adoption process, I figured in this day and age, blogging it all would be the way to go. A fast, fun and convenient way of writing down our thoughts, emotions and feelings, the highs and perhaps lows ( there will be some but let’s not anticipate them yet! ), the trials and tribulations, the tears of laughter and hopefully, joy! No sad tears yet, but hey! – I’m under no illusions there’ll be no lack of those too!

And you never know… Adopted child, whoever he or she may be, might just want to read it all someday…