My husband, Matt, and I started our adoption journey in September 2014. After quite a bit of reading and research, we decided to use Southwark as the adoption agency to approve us. We have no regrets about that. We found the training excellent, the people we met to be insightful and our assessing social worker was knowledgeable, easy to engage with and a joy to work with. We were approved to adopt 1 or 2 children in May last year and our 2 boys were placed with us in January this year.
One of the most challenging parts of the process (up to the day we met our 2 boys!) was Family Finding – this is the part of the process after being approved as prospective adopters that can be described as "finding your child/ren". Rather crudely, we undertook this part of the process a little like finding the perfect job (which I have yet to do!). Given the number of approved adopters out there compared with the number of children available to adopt, we knew that we had a long road ahead of us and our social worker was excellent in preparing us for that road.
To complete our family, we were looking for a sibling group of 2 and we knew that by simply subscribing to "Children Who Wait" and registering on Adoption Link (or Link Maker), whilst excellent resources, wouldn't be enough. We wanted to be as proactive as we could in the search for our family. It was a fine balance: we were in no rush to find the "perfect match", because we wanted it to be perfect, but we did want to get on with it. We didn't want to be inundated with endless profiles or Child Permanence Reports – not least because each one tells a hard and emotionally draining story – we wanted to remain focused.
Rather like a CV, we took the attitude that our Prospective Adopter's Report could be "built on": the weaknesses that our social worker identified in us through our assessment could be strengthened. We wanted to be realistic – we knew that there are more approved adopters than children waiting to be adopted, we knew that children's social workers will look at several approved adopters before making a decision about which family to place a child with, we knew that there would be huge "competition" for the children waiting to be adopted – this made us work as hard as we could to come at the top of every pile of paper!
These are a few of the things we did during our Family Finding phase:
We attended as much training as we could. One of the most helpful sessions was a session run by our agency called "Moving into Placement": we learnt a lot about what was out there to help us find our family, how to handle introductions and how we could ensure that our children settled into their new home. We also attended sessions on "Attachment", and "Life Story Work" which are very helpful now that we have our family and have less time! Not only did we learn a huge amount from the training we attended post-approval, but we met some fantastic people and we were able to keep in touch with other social workers. Our social worker was also able to talk to children's social workers about our keenness and what we had learnt post-approval. Ultimately, we think that this was what "won it" for us when our 2 boys' social workers were deciding between us and other prospective adopters. After all, learning doesn't end at approval and we always felt that children's social workers were looking for families who embraced an openness to continued learning.
We attended a BAAF Activity Day, sometimes known as an "adoption party". Unfortunately, the many prospective adopters greatly outnumbered the children attending. But on the positive side it gave us a small glimpse into the reality of children in care.
We became members of Adoption UK and subscribed to their "Children Who Wait" magazine. From this, we were interviewed for a sibling group, but, together with our social worker, we decided not to proceed.
We registered with Adoption Link (Link Maker). We asked our social worker to read the children's profiles we were interested in before we made enquiries as we wanted to be sure that she would be supportive of any enquiries we made.
We attended We Are Family (WAF) meet-ups where we spent time speaking with other prospective adopters who were Family Finding. This support was invaluable because you can always gets hints and tips from others and we met quite a few social workers along the way! Our eldest boy's best school friend is another adopted child whose parents we met from attending this network! If you are interested in attending, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org Now that we have our boys, we attend the WAF play-dates where we can meet with and talk to other parents.
We asked our social worker to put us in contact with other adopters in our area who had been matched and who would be willing to speak with us! One couple we met have become a great support to us and we now meet them for play dates!
We became closer friends with people in our wider network who we knew had adopted – we travelled far and wide to visit them to talk through their journey and meet their children!
We attended an Exchange Day event where we talked with children's social workers about the children waiting to be adopted and read profiles and exchanged information. We made our own profiles for these events to make them stand out. We asked social workers to keep us in mind if suitable children became available for adoption.
We attended some New Family Social events.
We worked to strengthen our experience with children.
We kept in regular touch (by email) with our social worker and asked to meet with her every 6-8 weeks so that we could update her about what we were doing and to ask her what she was doing for us!
We were honest with ourselves and with each other about what we could manage and what we ultimately wanted as a family.
Almost most importantly, we went on as many holidays as our budget and employers would allow! Now we have our boys, we are so glad we did this!
Family Finding can be emotionally draining and, at times, frustrating but I hope that some of the tips above will help you.