We have a beautiful, funny, energetic daughter and a very different feel to our home.  We have toys around the house, homework to be completed, fish fingers have become a delicacy and we frequently hear: “Mummy, Daddy…look”; “Good morning, Mummy, good morning Daddy”; “No, Mummy I don’t want to brush my teeth” or “Daddy, Mummy, I love you”.  These are the sounds of our family setting. Our journey was a long one, fraught with ups and downs, elation and sometimes disappointment.  This is our story.

As with most people, the first adoption service we contacted was our Local Authority and, unfortunately, our experience with them was quite negative.  Several months passed between our first contact and induction evening with them and their contacting us to arrange a visit to our home.  We were accepted onto their adoption programme and were eventually visited by a Social Worker.  The first visit felt awkward and quite intrusive as they delved into our past quite quickly.  When we were asked to attend preparation training at very short notice we had to reluctantly decline due to work obligations.  We asked to be put onto the following preparation course instead and were very upset to have our appointed social worker question our commitment to adoption at this point.  After another couple of visits they informed us that we were not committed enough to be adoptive parents.  We were devastated by this as we had not made the decision to adopt lightly.  We immediately started to research into Voluntary Adoption Agencies in our area. 

We contacted Adoption Focus to make an enquiry and very quickly received an information pack and were offered a home visit.  There was a certain amount of trepidation about this visit following our negative experience with the Local Authority; we had become quite aware that social workers had the power to have a major influence on our future and to put an end to our adoption plans.  However, the visit was absolutely fine.  We were asked some questions to assess our readiness for adoption, but we never felt like we were being judged.

We were invited to attend Adoption Focus’s Preparation Groups, where we met several other potential adopters.  It was a great experience to be part of a group of people in the same situation as ourselves and the atmosphere was very supportive.  The training ran for five days, spread out over three weeks and was very informative.   The course covered a wide array of topics around adoption, the most memorable and impactful of which was an exercise about looked after children, which succeeded in bringing home the intensity of their experiences and the effects of these on their lives.  Attending Preparation Groups was a positive, thought-provoking and informative experience, answering all the questions we had and many that we hadn’t even thought of. 

We met our appointed social worker, Louise, at the preparation group session.  Louise was very friendly and professional and we built up a fantastic relationship during the assessment.  Over the course of several visits to our home she would talk to us about all aspects of our lives in a relaxed and conversational way.  Although talking to a ‘stranger’ about your experiences may seem intrusive and daunting, it was fairly therapeutic. This experience was very different to the first Local Authority visit; Louise gave us the opportunity to get to know her and built a good relationship of trust.

Once our assessment was completed we were invited to attend Adoption Panel, where our application to adopt would be considered.  We received an information pack before we attended and Louise ran through some of the questions that she thought we might be asked.  The day itself was exciting and the Panel Members were friendly and welcoming to us.  The meeting took about an hour and very quickly afterwards we were told that we would be approved to adopt.

As approved adopters we continued to work with Louise and Adoption Focus to find a child.  We were sent a lot of children’s profiles and also spent time looking at potential matches on the Be My Parent website.  After several weeks, and having considered around 50 profiles, we both found that we were particularly drawn to the profile of the same little girl, Caitlyn.  Caitlyn had a smile and a twinkle in her eye that captured our hearts, she already felt like our little girl, even before we met her.  We contacted Louise and asked her to find out more information.

Information was exchanged between Adoption Focus and the Local Authority and we were met by Caitlyn’s social workers.  After a second visit we were thrilled to be told that we were now the only family they were considering for her.  There followed a Matching Panel, at which the decision to match us with Caitlyn was considered.  The day of the Matching Panel was nerve-wracking.  Having found Caitlyn and having set our hearts on becoming her parents, it felt like there was a huge amount at stake at this meeting.  Louise attended the Matching Panel with us, but the majority of the questions were directed to us.  When we were finally informed that the match had been approved, it was a big relief.

Adoption Focus and the Local Authority arranged a series of introduction meetings between ourselves and Caitlyn.  The first of these took place at her foster carers’ home and was restricted to just one hour.  We were very excited, but also nervous about this meeting; we were so keen for it go well.  We were told to expect Caitlyn to be very shy, possibly even hiding away and not to be concerned if this was the case.  However, when we arrived, Caitlyn was quite the opposite, she even saved some chocolates especially for us and we immediately felt comfortable with each another.

Shortly after our first meeting Caitlyn’s foster carers brought her to visit us at our home.  The next day after a few minutes Caitlyn told her foster carers that she would be fine and that they could go!  Caitlyn was very excited, particularly when she went to see her room and when she went around the house following the little treasure hunt that we had arranged for her.  Our meetings with Caitlyn confirmed for all of us that becoming a family was the right thing to do.

When we picked up Caitlyn from her foster carers for the last time, they were in tears.  They had been very supportive throughout the process and we were grateful to them.  We felt for them, having to let Caitlyn go to a new, permanent home.  When we arrived at our house, we found that our friends had decorated our house with balloons and messages of congratulations. 

The early days after Caitlyn’s arrival were great.  Throughout the adoption process we had been told to expect difficulties following placement and were ready for potential problems.  But Caitlyn settled in fine and perhaps the most difficult aspect of this time was having to stay in.  We were advised not to go out, or to have visitors to the house for a couple of weeks in order to give Caitlyn the chance to become familiar with her new circumstances.  This was quite difficult for us, as we are both quite active, but we followed the advice and it seemed to work.

At our preparation groups and at other points during the adoption process as a whole, we had been cautioned to expect problems and have tried to be prepared for the worst.  To date though, nearly six months after Caitlyn came home with us, all has been well, we have the normal age related behaviours and other aspects that perhaps need some fine tuning, however all in all it feels like she has always been here.  We know that these are still early days, but we have formed a strong attachment with Caitlyn and we’re confident that as a family, we will manage any problems that occur in the future together.  Life is very different at home with more washing, more areas to tidy up, more laughter and a great deal more playing.