2. Before the beginning

Like many people we did a little ‘shopping around’ when it came to selecting an adoption agency and went to a few different information evenings.

The first (voluntary organisation) was a little disorganised, the speaker arrived late and we were somewhat non-plussed by the presentation…although given we’d read every shred of information we could find about the charity and their processes, it wasn’t an easy task for the speaker. Unfortunately the talk was drier than Jack Dee eating a Jacobs cracker which didn’t help matters.

The second was an RAA (Regional adoption agency) and we were far more impressed with the presentation. That being said, we were massively swayed by the couple (same sex no less) who had successfully adopted a couple of years earlier and gave a talk. They were wonderful and highly complimentary of the agency, which (alongside their Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ rating) was enough to convince us to take the plunge.

We sent along an expression of interest and shortly they got in touch to arrange an initial interview (home visit) from a social worker.

Cue. pre-visit nerves and biscuit dilemma. Does a biscuit say a lot about a person? Probably not, but the preceding week was full of baked good quandaries: Rich Tea – mean or frugal; Scottish Shortbread – delicious treat or choke risk; Tesco Finest salted squirrel and cranberry – sophisticated or frivolous? We barely slept. In the end we opted for the humble (and highly underestimated) Milk Chocolate Hobnob. Our first misfire – she was a vegan.

We knew what to expect in the meeting, as outlined in an email “an opportunity for you to ask questions, as well as for me to ask you questions. Areas to be discussed will include your childhood and family background, health, understanding of adoption, your relationship and any challenges or losses you have experienced, amongst things…”

So far, so reasonable.

What followed was a little more uncomfortable.

My childhood was ‘unusual’ (more on that later), whereas Cara’s, not without it’s ups and downs, was more ‘traditional’. We spent an inordinately long time talking about the losses in my life and far less time on Cara’s formulative years, whilst the kitten politely nibbled her toes (the S/W not Cara).

When she left, we both felt a little shell shocked. I went to have a little lie down. Upon reflection, the overriding feeling was that she had taken the news of my orphan status as a red flag. I may as well have had ‘crap childhood, likely poor parent’ tattooed on my neck.

Our fears were confirmed when we received a phone call explaining that we were unable to progress with the process until we had both undergone counselling.

Anyways, long story short, we did the counselling thing (me more so than C). Which I tried to embrace, but essentially, it was expensive and awkward. My parents passed away many years ago, and whilst this is undoubtedly a horrible thing, it happens. I have been fortunate to have many wonderful people in my life to help me through this. I’ve had messy times: standard hateful teen, blip in my early twenties…textbook stuff, but ultimately I’ve grieved and talked and survived. I am a resilient person, I form good attachments, I work with challenging young people, I run a charity, I make a mean moussaka. I’m Okay, I truly am.

I sense the sighs, I feel the raised eyebrows, I can hear people saying, ‘poor thing – she really doesn’t realise how this process might challenge this sense of wellbeing’. But I do, we do. We’re going into this with our eyes wide open and we both felt that we were being somehow punished for our circumstances.

At no point were we reassured, or told that actually this experience can benefit a child suffering the same feelings of loss.

As time progressed, we realised that these feelings of resentment and hurt, no matter how unjustified, weren’t going to diminish. And that is not a healthy way to begin a long term, intensive relationship with a social worker.

We took all the positives: the counselling; volunteering we’d started with a local nursery; experience of an initial meeting and decided to move on.

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