There’s so much about the adoption process that is daunting. It’s not something you go into light-heartedly. Or at least, if you do, you won’t stay light-of-heart for long. There are many forms. There is huge scrutiny. And there is the constant fear that you will be judged not-good-enough. I knew all this before I started. So I certainly didn’t see the good bits coming.
When you sign up to adopt, you need to provide character references. In the case of our local authority, we provided three each. We both nominated our sisters and chose two friends. Reference forms were also sent to our bosses and the managers of the nurseries where we’ve been volunteering. In fact, anyone who’s anyone got a form. This exclusive club is expected to fill out pages of complex and, at times, intimate questions about us.
On the day the forms hit, we were both inundated with texts and calls from our references – each one anxious to do a good job and play their own part in our adoption story. Some asked to know what we wanted them to say. We were both really keen that the references should reflect exactly what our referees thought so declined to put words into their mouths. The questions were fairly intense – how would the applicants meet the needs of an adopted child? Do you know of any social or sexual reasons why they shouldn’t adopt? What would they find most difficult? How would their neighbours react? I’m not entirely sure how I would answer some of these questions myself (I don’t even know my neighbours), so it was a tough ask for our friends – let alone our bosses.
Nevertheless, they all filled in their forms. At the top of this post is a photo of the last man standing filling in his – while we were visiting incidentally. It was a bit odd to see him filling it out – an hour of deep concentration helping to determine our fate. These forms are confidential but, inevitably, once the references are in the post, people were eager to tell us what they put. Some told us they said we were a brilliant team. Some said we had the patience and understanding necessary to help an adopted child reach it’s potential. Some said we were ‘special’. It felt like a bad case of fishing for compliments.
Our social worker has also started the process of talking to our families and referees. She’s even spoken to our nieces. Apparently, the five-year-old got bored and started singing batman. The eight-year-old described me as “Kind and funny”, Sarah as “Kind and clever” and said that she likes staying with us because we make her feel “Cosy”. We’ll take that. Another friend said how she told the social worker that her 12-year-old daughter described us as an “inspiration” which we both take as a compliment of the highest order. So far, so gushing.
Now I don’t want to blow our own trumpets. Far from it. In fact I’ve always struggled to take a compliment without a ridiculous amount of squirming. I’m just trying to illustrate one of the good bits of this long-winded process. As soon as the forms hit, we felt incredibly supported. We always knew this network existed, of course – we’d signposted the social worker to it ourselves. But we perhaps never acknowledged it as such – as an entity we could trust and as people we can call on through thick and thin.
Imagine the process as an intimidating army major. It’s yelling at the troops to “FALL IN!” Well, our troops certainly did, all around us. And together, we closed ranks.