There is now just over a month to go until we face the panel. And this means means we’re nearing the end of the assessment period. So, no more home visits. The most immediate consequence of this is the house’s transition from show home to dog’s dinner.
Home visits are a strange phenomenon. I was just about starting to get used to them when they stopped. All in all, we’ve had around eight. Each one took an average of three hours. So that’s a whole day and night under the grill – or around 50 cups of tea by my reckoning. You slip into easy routines during this period. For example, everyone sits in their familiar places in the living room – me and Sarah on the sofa facing the social worker, who fired questions at us from the armchair. Each time, it felt kind of like a job interview. And, for the most part, we had no idea how we were shaping up.
For me, that was the hardest thing about the whole process. It wasn’t until the last couple of sessions that we had any idea what she thought about us and whether or not her report would be positive. We literally talked about everything – childhoods, relationships, finances, thoughts about parenting etc. No stone was left unturned. Which is great. But it also left me feeling uncomfortably exposed. Along the way, the social worker spoke to our friends and our family. I know that every person she spoke to went through similar emotions. None of them enjoyed the experience and everyone felt a huge pressure not to let us down.
Of course, the bottom line is, no-one lets anyone down if everyone just tells the truth. And that’s the biggest lesson I’ve got out of all of this. I started out with ideals of “Oh, that’s not relevant,” and, “She doesn’t need to know about that.” Because I’m a private person, I felt like some things are sacred. But the thing is, when you’re subject to that kind of scrutiny, it’s very hard to be anything other than yourself. Yes, it’s very uncomfortable. But you’ve just got to suck it up.
So while I expected the visits to be uncomfortable, they weren’t so bad in the end. However, I didn’t expect to find reading the social worker’s final report so difficult. The PAR or Prospective Adopter’s Report is the written record of all your home visits – among other things. So, it includes our account of ourselves and our histories, the social worker’s account of our interviews and her analysis of everything we told her. I found it incredibly difficult to read all this stuff in black and white. It’s like a weird episode of This Is Your Life where Michael Aspel’s having a particularly insensitive day. It’s one thing to open up about particularly painful or difficult episodes in your life, but it’s altogether another thing to have a relative stranger interpret and analyse these events.
I got over it, of course. It was just a bit of a shock. And then what I found was a true and incredibly detailed reflection of who we are and what we want. I know a lot of people hate the assessment period and find the level of scrutiny unnecessary. But if you go with it, I think what you’ll end up with is a really useful record. It’s a foundation from which to take stock, to look backwards and forwards. Everything falls into place – you can be proud of how far you’ve come and excited about how much there is left to do. For the record, we’re an “emotionally intelligent couple” with a lot to offer an adopted child
In summary, it’s no small inconvenience to welcome a social worker into your life and to allow them to inflict a pretty unnatural process on you. But, looking back, the best advice anyone could have given me would have been to just go with it. Really, it’s not so bad.
And now we’re left in a strange limbo time. Just over a month with not a lot of contact with social services, apart from a ‘second opinion visit’. That’s why I’m writing this blog from a hotel room and on a rare day off work for non-adoption-related reasons. We’ve just ordered room service breakfast, because that’s how we roll. Although, fingers crossed, these days will soon be numbered.