My journey to parenthood – part 1

Andy Heathershaw · 1st August 2017 · Reflections

This series of posts is an insight into the world of adoption from the viewpoint of a same-sex, male couple. I decided to publish our story for a number of reasons: 1) because I’m a private individual and rather than talk to people, sometimes it’s easier to put it into writing. 2) to help others who are thinking about going through the process, and 3) so we have something written down to show our future children how they came into our lives.

This is the first in hopefully a number of posts charting our journey.


In June (2017) me and my husband James decided to apply to become adoptive parents. James applied to a few local agencies – Staffordshire County Council, Barnardo’s and After Adoption – and began the process of what would become our journey to parenthood (hopefully!)

In the space of a few days – which left little time to become comfortable with what we were about to go through – we had lined up an information evening with Staffordshire council and interviews with Barnardo’s and After Adoption.

It’s probably worth me mentioning at this point that none of this process is new to us – we did it all before about 4 years ago with Leicestershire County Council, but unfortunately got turned down due to our circumstances at the time.

After Adoption

Our first interview took place with After Adoption at their office in Birmingham. We had already attended an information evening at Staffordshire council so we had refreshed our understanding of the adoption process, however this was the first time we had been to an agency that wasn’t affiliated with a local authority and so we didn’t really know what to expect.

Their process was quite formal – it was a full-on interview, being asked some quite personal and direct questions by the interviewer who proceeded to fill in a questionnaire in front of us. She challenged some of our answers, which was her way of understanding exactly what we were telling her, but considering we had only just met this person and hadn’t even agreed to place an application with their agency, it made me somewhat uncomfortable. It felt like we had to justify aspects of our life before we could even be considered as an applicant.

The interview itself lasted around an hour and a half, and our interviewer told us our application would be written up and hopefully seen by the team manager that day.

It ended up being two weeks before we would hear back from them – and even then, they hadn’t reached a decision – they needed more information from us.

Barnardo’s

On the afternoon of the day we had our interview with After Adoption, we also met with two social workers from Barnardo’s. They came to our home to see us, which immediately made the whole meeting much more relaxed, as we were in our home setting.

The two ladies were very pleasant, friendly and easy to get on with and make conversation and jokes – a stark contrast from the social worker we had assigned to us with Leicestershire council.

There was no forms to fill in, no endless, direct questions being read from a questionnaire – it was a general chat for them to understand what we were looking for. They were very complimentary of Barnardo’s and offered us a number of reasons why we should consider going with them over other agencies.

Something I’ve been very nervous about since we started this process again is what effect Mickey – our 3 year old Labrador – would have on the success of our application. Would he be a reason why we couldn’t be considered for children? Would the social workers like dogs? Would the fact he gets very excited with new people be off-putting?

It was quite pleasing to see the social workers were keen to meet Mickey and made a good fuss of him. They also looked around our house and offered us some practical advice (put locks on the upstairs windows, get lockable cupboards for cleaning supplies/chemicals) even before we’d made a decision.
Once Barnardo’s had left, James and myself had a talk about what we thought and what we wouldn’t to do. It took no time at all to reach an agreement.

At 9am the following morning, I phoned the social workers from Barnardo’s and registered our intent. They had made us feel like they really wanted us as their adopters. It didn’t actually feel like they were providing a service for us – it felt like we were joining them as a team – something which I’ve since learnt is extremely important. 

For this whole process to work, there can be no “us and them” with your social worker – you have to work together as a single entity that trusts each other implicitly.

Within 24 hours, Barnardo’s had sent us the application forms by e-mail, James had completed them, signed and returned.

Over the next few days we had numerous bits of paperwork – all completed over e-mail so it made the process quick and efficient – and an invitation to attend the “prep group training.” This is a 3-4 day course which – as the name suggests – prepares you for the journey ahead – not just for the adoption, but for the life of your future children.

 

Prep group is the subject of my next post in this series.

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