Kate Alexander* and her husband hope to adopt a child (or more). In her second column, she talks about their first contact with social services.
In the first instalment of this diary, I wrote about the events leading up to our decision to adopt – about our tardy decision to start a family, then having a miscarriage, then failing to get pregnant again. Quite a lot has happened since then and a few months ago we found ourselves relaying the same information to a social worker at a drop-in event hosted regularly by our local council.
She was very measured, articulate and kind, although there was an awkward moment when it emerged that she’d misheard something I’d said early on in our conversation. I’d explained that, while I completely understood why the IVF route is right for a lot of people, we didn’t think it was for us.
Later on in our conversation it became apparent that she thought I’d said that we’d tried IVF and failed. I’m putting it down to the acoustics in a noisy room as opposed to her listening skills. It doesn’t matter, really, but I do hope she didn’t think I’d changed my story! British problems, hey?
Anyway, the conversation was very informative and warm. Without going into too much detail I explained that I’d had a mental health wobble in my 20s and she assured me that, providing I could demonstrate subsequent resilience, this wouldn’t necessarily count against us.
Coming from a perfect background wasn’t a prerequisite, she explained – we would be of more value to children who’d had a difficult start if we weren’t strangers to problems ourselves.
She explained that the whole process would usually take about two years: one year to be approved as adoptive parents, and up to another to be matched with a child. She also asked us whether we’d consider being foster parents, but we declined because we want to be permanent parents.
She added that some people opt for a form of permanent fostering, which is like adoption apart from the fact that the parents receive regular financial support from local authorities, but neither of us was keen on that: if we’re lucky enough to adopt a child or children we want them to know that we are their forever family. We want to offer a complete guarantee of stability.
“While my husband and I have never been fussy about the age of the child or children we’d adopt, the fact that we’re both in our mid-40s made us panic slightly, albeit temporarily, about how much time we had left.”
Because we’d already done a bit of research, and had conversations with other people who’d adopted children, we already knew most of what she told us. But there were two surprises – fairly big ones.
The first was that in our local authority, like many others, there is an age guideline for adoption: they generally prefer the gap between child and adoptive parents to be no greater than 45 years. I’m not sure why we were so taken aback by this because it makes perfect sense: at 40 you might feel perfectly energetic and thoroughly equipped for the challenges of parenthood, but what about 10 or 15 years later?
Parenting is never a doddle, and it would be naive to think there wouldn’t be additional challenges when your child has been traumatised by abuse, neglect or other heartbreaking circumstances, no matter how much love you had to give.
So, while my husband and I have never been fussy about the age of the child or children we’d adopt, and hate the idea that older kids would be left feeling unwanted because most people want to adopt babies, the fact that we’re both in our mid-40s made us panic slightly, albeit temporarily, about how much time we had left.
The second surprise was to do with accommodation. Knowing that the process would probably take about two years, we didn’t think there was a big hurry to move from our flat to a bigger place with room for one or two children. But the social workers like to get a feel for the context of your living arrangements right from the beginning of the application process, and advised us to get that sorted.
As a result, the past few months have been a frantic process of selling our flat and buying a house that’s big enough for a family. All this happened while we both had quite a lot on our plates work-wise, so summer was something of a blur. In order to afford the house that we now have, we had to move to a smaller town – and this means we had to start over with a new local authority.
A month ago I emailed them to let them know our intentions, and within a week or two they were in our lounge, with us nervously firing questions at them. In the next column I’ll let you know what happened.
*The names of the people involved have been changed to protect the identity of the children they hope to adopt.
Read Kate’s first adoption diary excerpt here.
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Kate Alexander is a serial instigator of peekaboo on public transport and a fan of American chocolates containing peanuts.