Journey to a Forever Family (UK) – First Steps

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Deciding on Adoption

When I was 16 years old I was told that my 60% lung function meant that I’d never be able to carry a child. I never questioned this notion and if honest, have never felt the need to be pregnant. I always thought there were other options.

In 2007, after 7 years of being with my husband (then boyfriend), I looked into adoption and was devastated to be told it wasn’t an option for those with Cystic Fibrosis. We also decided we didn’t want to consider surrogacy as it just didn’t feel right for us. The options I’d pinned my hopes on were gone. But we decided it was ok to be just us and continued to plan mortgages, our engagement and our wedding over the next 3 yrs.

In 2011, after we had been married a few months, we started spending more time with my pregnant sister-in-law and recently born niece. We both agreed that, whilst we did not miss any aspect of the pregnancy or the young baby, we felt the pang for the continuation of life, for the passing on of stories, for the being a mum and dad.

My lung function was now 38-43% and although incredibly stable (IVs yearly, working 16hrs a week and attempting exercise!) we didn’t want to compromise all we’d worked towards. We discussed this with my new wonderful CF clinic and, whilst they would have supported a pregnancy, we were confident there should be another way. We discussed adoption with the team and found out that there had been patients who had successfully adopted as each was now considered individually. Brilliant!!

Finding an Adoption Agency

I was heartbroken when our County Council Social Services department gave us a straight “No” on our initial phone call, due to my CF. It was so hard hearing them say – “you won’t be fit enough”, “it would not be safe for a child”, “you won’t keep up!”. I just sobbed for ages. But my hubby, the eternal optimist, simply said ‘Next!’

We then enquired with and met a representative from Barnardos. She who was very supportive, felt we would be wonderful parents and that we had obviously discussed all the pitfalls and possibilities and had seriously thought about support to put in place. However they tended to have older children (8yrs+) with disabilities of their own, so she suggested we try another Social Services department and wished us luck.

Finally in August 2011, we enquired with a second Social Services department (literally the next local one) and they agreed that we should be considered and pending a Medical Investigation and lots of discussions about ‘what if’s’ they would reach a decision and let us know if we could apply.

Getting Approval to Formally Apply to Adopt

We were told there are 7 stages to becoming approved, which often take 19 months in total:

  1. Enquiry by phone / information evening
  2. Initial visit from SW
  3. Medical check
  4. Training sessions x5
  5. Application and checks
  6. Home study (6-12 home visits)
  7. Panel to be approved

Stages 1 and 2 were very quick – we enquired in August 2011, went to an information evening the following month and had the visit from a Social Worker the very next week. We had to be very open in the 3 hour visit and discuss all possibilities and support we had and what plans we had in place should the worst happen and how we would feel if it did. It was exhausting but we stayed upbeat and tried to answer all questions positively and honestly. It worked, the Social Worker really liked us and stated that apart from my CF we were perfect! We just had to prove that my health was stable enough and that we would approach all potential outcomes in a positive and pragmatic approach (e.g. what would happen if me or my husband were permanently house-bound or, worse still, no longer around… what support would we have around us, practically and emotionally and how would the child be supported and cared for?).

Stage 3 took 3 months! The Medical Advisor (MA) for Social Services wrote to my consultant in October, who then had to answer questions and write back. The MA then had to consider the answers given, along with what I had told them at the inital meeting, and write a report about whether they felt it was appropriate or not for us to adopt. This took two months to do. Then the Social Work team had to have a meeting about the report and decide whether to take us forward to training. Eventually we got a “Yes” in January 2012!

In February 2012 we began our five-day training course which was one evening and a Thurs/Fri and a Fri/Sat the week after. We began with an introductory session where we met the other couples on the course,  got reading materials and discussed general queries about adoption and course outline. Over the next five days we covered issues that included: Culture, Differences, Prejudice, Changes and Adjustments, Attachment, Grief and Loss, Birth Parent and Contact Issues, Abuse, Behavioural Issues, Legalities of Adoption, Identity and History, Openness and Honesty. We also met a Foster Carer and an adoptive parent and their children which was great.

In March 2012 we met with the Social Work team for feedback from the training sessions and a decision as to whether or not they thought we should apply formally. The meeting was 75 minutes long and we were invited to apply! Two concerns were raised: firstly, my CF and, secondly, our ‘lack’ of experience with children under 4 years. Both would need to be assessed throughout our home study but could hopefully be resolved. We were ready to make a formal application to adopt…we were on our way!

Read the next part of our story here…