It all started by looking up the local authority adoption procedure on the internet. You get yourself booked into an introductory meeting/presentation. They tell you what you might expect. Fair enough, it's all about the worse-case scenario. After all, children don't get taken away from their parents because they forced them watch X-Factor (though, in my opinion that would be reason enough). They usually get taken away because they are being neglected, abused or are deemed to be in danger in in some way, so they are likely to have problems and are not going to be the easiest kids to deal with.
Next up they send a social worker round for a home visit and go through a basic form to look at the basic requirements for adopting a child, like having space for them, making sure you have a sound financial footing, support network and that sort of stuff. It's all frothy and light at this stage, a bit like a social worker decaffeinated cappucchino. The social worker who visited us was a nice woman, enthusiastic and helpful, if a bit scatty in an endearing way. I think this is going to be the way things go. The people we deal with are, I'm sure, going to be lovely, but the mechanism that they work within causes the hold-ups and the general stress. I'm sure this will become more evident in subsequent blog entries. Saying that, there are horror stories on various fora online of people being rejected for what seem to be arbitrary reasons, so we must remain fairly detached from our social workers as they aren't actually our friends, however much they seem to be. Anyway, this initial visit seemed to go well for us and we got onto the next stage that very day when the social worker called the office to see if there were any places on the next initial training session and discovered that indeed there was. We received written confirmation a couple of weeks later so the ball was properly rolling.
The introductory training session is a two day affair when you met the other prospective adoptive parents on the current intake and go through some activities. There's the obligatory ice-breaker then there are the "let's get together and talk about the effects of X" group ativities. The main value of this session for us, though, was the opportunity to meet others in the same position as we are and to meet some of the social workers we will be dealing with. They also had a foster carer and a couple who had adopted three (yes, THREE!) siblings to give their slant on the adoption process. Otherwise, it is stating the obvious and, much like throwing a blunt javelin, is a largely pointless exercise.
The end of this came with our first setback. On getting written confirmation of our place on the initial training session, we were told that we would be allocated a social worker to commence the home study, which is the next part of the process. However, since their manager was off on long term sickenss, they wouldn't allocate any of our group a worker. This could have been partially due to the fact that the group contained 9 groups wanting to adopt (7 couples and 2 single women), which is a lot more than they are used to dealing with. Still, you can't help thinking that if it was any other sphere, work wouldn't just grind to a halt because someone was ill.
A few weeks later, after sending an e-mail since we hadn't heard anything (replied to by a stand-in manager) we were told that there would be some progress shortly. We had been concerned that we might have been put on hold, so this put our minds at ease for the time being. We heard nothing until a couple of weeks later when we got a call out of the blue from a kind of freelance, locum social worker. So we now have a date to commence our home-study in the New Year which means we might well be celebrating our last Christmas as a childless couple for some time. This year getting shit-faced, eating beef and out to the pub and parties till god knows when. Next year Santa, toys, turkey and still probably getting a bit drunk. It will be very, very different, but I really can't wait. Hurry home Paddington!