Part 2 – Finding our girl
While I thought getting approved to adopt would be the hard bit, it was nothing in comparison with what was to come.
You can read Part 1 (our adoption story up to the point where we were approved to adopt here).
Myths and cold feet
With adoption you can stop the process at any time, which meant that I never stopped questioning whether we were doing the right thing. The urge to chicken out and run for the hills was at times enormous, as was my analysis of my motives.
Thankfully I’m old enough to realise that it’s the things that have scared me the most that I’ve got the most out of. I also know that when I was ill and thought that my time was up, the most important question to me was whether I’d been brave. So I put on my big girl pants and kept moving forward.
One common myth is that there are lots of babies flying around in the system waiting to be adopted. Another is that adopted children are relinquished – given up at birth by young girls who have ‘got into trouble’, reluctantly giving up their new born babies so that society won’t scorn them. This 1950′s view of adoption couldn’t be further from the truth in 21st century Britain.
Instead, it’s more likely that social services will have tried very hard to keep birth mother and child together, and will have considered every family member as a possible permanent carer before adoption is considered. And rather than being relinquished, the children are usually removed once all other avenues have been exhausted and when the child is at risk of harm. As a result babies are very thin on the ground.
How do you know they’re the one?
Once approved we were allocated a ‘Family Finder’ social worker. From this point our mythical child started to become very real. The pressure of choosing the right child for us was huge. Surely they were all in need of a new loving home?
Again we were enormously lucky with our new social worker. While the thought of glorified children shopping didn’t sit at all well, we were encouraged not to think of it in terms of rejecting children, but to focus on the search for the right child for us.
As it happened, our daughter’s profile was the first one we looked at, everything just seemed to fit us.
We’d asked for a little girl who was interested in things – who had something about her and would give life some welly! Now with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that we’ve got that in spades!
We’d also asked not to see photos at this point. It’s true to say that as soon as you see a little face smiling up at you, it doesn’t matter what their profile says, your heart over-rules your head.
There was something about hers being the first and only profile we’d looked at, which made us a bit uncomfortable. However we decided that just because it was the first profile we’d seen – it wouldn’t have been the first considered by our Family Finder. So we trusted her experience and judgment and believed that she’d just done a really good job.
After all – it wasn’t like we looking at houses or needed three competitive quotes!
Seeing our daughter’s face for the first time
I’d imagined many, many times what it would feel like to see a photo of my daughter for the first time. I wasn’t disappointed. This cheeky little girl smiled out at us – and blow me if I couldn’t see myself and my sister at that age in her. It was uncanny.
From that point on we started to invest in our girl – and the social workers and foster carers in us. We were locked in.
We were presented with numerous reports, court documents and medical assessments to wade through. It was tough reading at times but invaluable information.
Then we met her social worker and foster mother. They also needed to feel comfortable that we were the right forever mum and dad for this little girl who’d had such difficult start to life.
Our feet didn’t touch the ground
The speed of things did get the better of me at one point. Our schedule seemed to be governed by matching panel meetings and government targets. It was overwhelming and I panicked, so we slowed things down by a month and went on our final holiday together – just the two of us. We backpacked along the Croatian coast, finishing in the least child friendly city we could think of – Venice!
Our matching panel was on the 25th April 2014 – the same room and the same faces that approved our application to become adopters three months earlier.
Once again the decision was unanimous. It was really going to happen.
Meeting our girl for the first time
If seeing a photograph of her was big – meeting her for the first time was massive. This was going to be forever. What if we’d got it wrong. What if we’d had the wool pulled over our eyes just to tick a government box and get a child out of the care system. What if she wasn’t right for us?
I just had to focus on each day at a time otherwise my brain was in danger of melting.
We had just seven days to get our act together before introductions started. We had a lot to get ready and the clock was ticking.
We were also asked to put together a butterfly book of photos and audio messages so that our girl could start preparing for her new forever mummy and daddy.
We included photos of Tris and I, the house, our cat, the local park and so forth, and followed a carefully worded script.
Hello – I’m mummy, and I’m daddy – and we can’t wait to meet you.
Here’s mummy standing outside your new house, and daddy digging vegetables for us all to eat.
You’ll be going to the park with mummy and going for bike rides and playing games with daddy.
This is your new pussy cat – he’s called Charley Bucket.
We love you ……..
I felt like a complete muppet, but actually the butterfly book has become our girl’s ‘go to’ thing when she’s feeling a bit insecure. She’ll look at the photos and listen to the messages over and over. But now she recognises my top, the park, daddy’s bike and I can say “There you are – it was all true. It was just waiting for you to find it!
On the big day, following a meeting between social workers and foster mum at the adoption authority offices, we all drove in convoy to foster mum’s house. By this time I was employing breathing techniques to get me through.
As we parked up on the drive the first thing we saw was a little face jumping up and down with excitement in the bay window. If this day had been a long time coming for us – then it had been a long journey for her too.
“Who is this then?” asked foster mum.
“Mummy and daddy” she replied and then rushed off to get me a surprise.
Forty five years and no one had ever called me that, I’d grown to believe and accept that being a mum was what other people did, not me.
Next: Bringing our girl home and the first nine months.
Alison x (your 4Manchester Women Editor)
Photographs: Alison Staples, our girl, Amazon
To read ‘Our adoption story – part one (up to approval to adopt)’ click here
To read ‘Our adoption story – part three (bringing our girl home and the first nine months)’ click here