Yesterday I went along to an information session on adoption, run by our local authority. I had spoken to the lady on the phone a couple of months ago and she was encouraging. She also said that the whole process takes about 2 years, and that most children are 16-18 months by the time the final decision that they are to be adopted is made, and that they like at least 2 years between siblings. This was perfect timing them, BB was 18months at the time of the call, so in 2 years we could potentially adopt a 16 - 18 month old child and the age gap would be ideal.
So, I was hopeful.
Before I went to the meeting I had spoken with several people who have adopted or who have thought about it. Fairly recently a friend and her husband attended a meeting with the same authority. At the end of the meeting they were told that there were lots of people like them, essentially white 30 something married couples, and that they could complete an application form but it wouldn't be processed. Needless to say they didn't bother. She did however think that I would be OK. She was slightly cynical, but thought a single mum might tick another box for their stats!
My friend tried another authority after that and they were well received and encouraged. They didn't adopt though. Apparently they became uncomfortable with the process and the emphasis that is currently being placed on constantly reminding the child of their birth family. They had seen examples of where this wasn't working, and my friend's partner has personal experience of an uncertain heritage. His view was that it is much healthier to focus on what you have, rather than what you have lost. A very valid point.
As someone who carefully researched all options when considering having a child by donor, I have given a lot of thought to the need to know your heritage. From the research I did, I found that the option to know was important. Children who had the option to know were generally happier about the whole thing than those who didn't. I had made the decision that I would chose a donor that was willing to be known to the child at the age of 18. Of course my situation changed when I met DD, and I am very very happy that BB has a Daddy that he can know and grow up with. It is nice to know where his wiggly toes come from and to see other likenesses - BB is so much like his Dad too. But it could have been different.
I understand that this desire to know about yourself and your genetic family is important. If I were to adopt, I would hope for the sake of my child that it would be possible for them to make that connection if they wanted to, when the time was right, and if it was not going to put them at risk. I would help my child navigate their way through that, as you would help any child navigate life's twists and turns. I can not say now how I might do that, for I do not know the child, or his/her family, or their wants, needs, or situation. I also anticipate that the situation may change - that what is right for a 2 year old is not necessarily right for a teenager. The birth parents too could change. A young mum caught up in a situation that makes her unable to care for her child could actually turn her life around, and in 10 years time be quite a different person to the one who had her child removed. On the other hand it could be unsafe to make contact, she could have gotten into a worse situation.
My own gripe with this then, is that fact that if I wish to pursue the adoption enquiry further I need to complete a form, and on that form I need to state what contact I want the child to have with their birth family. I mentioned during the meeting that I wouldn't be able to answer that question until I knew about the child and the family, but that was apparently the wrong answer. I think you need to tick a box so that you can be 'matched' more easily.
Also, although the literature all states that they welcome applications from same sex couples and single people, I really didn't get that impression. In fact, the whole advice for when to start the process was geared around how long you need to wait after your failed fertility treatment before you can begin. I would have thought they might change this slightly to include other scenarios, particularly as there was a gay couple there too, but no.
When I spoke to the woman at the end I asked where the starting point was if you haven't had fertility treatment. She responded with, "well, you said you have a son, so we wouldn't consider your application anyway." Apparently he is too young. Odd, when 2 months ago he was the perfect age. I mentioned that I would also be interested in adopting a child older than BB. She had been talking about how difficult it was to place older children. However, the answer was no. I would only be able to adopt a child older than BB if I was related to that child.
I cried as I left. I feel as though I am an ideal candidate. I have a nice home which is mortgage free, am fairly secure financially, have good health, and seem to be doing OK at this mum thing. I am willing to consider all possibilities as far as age and needs of the child is concerned, I have extended family near by, and BB and DD and PP. I have extensive experience of working with kids at risk, and have ongoing friendships with some of the young people I supported through personal and family crises up to 20 years ago. Yet they wont even look at my application to see any of that. It's infuriating.
As I drove home I started to feel annoyed. I do believe that all the rules they have are based on research, and if statistics show that there is a 10 % higher chance that x will happen if we do y than you have to act on that. But it feels like all humanity has been removed from the process, which is tragic - surely this is a process which requires you to draw upon all that is is to be human, to nurture another being as though they are part of you, to give them love, a home, a family.
I also felt like the woman really didn't want anyone to adopt. It was like the whole two hours was to put you off, and if you still showed an interest by the end they told you not to bother.
By the time I got home and told my mum (who was here looking after BB) about it all, I realised that I was already annoyed by the system, and that maybe this is not for me for that reason.
There are two other local authorities to try though - perhaps they will be different.
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