Banbury, Oxfordshire
geraldine@pintobydesign.com

The biggest interview of our lives

The biggest interview of our lives

Pinto By Design - Wonderful World of Romance (1

This will be the biggest blog of my life because Mike and I have just had the biggest interviews of our lives. Our journey officially started on the 10th of January 2018 two days after my 51st Birthday and ended on the 29th of January 2019 at 11.30am.

Somewhere in Birmingham (sorry I’m teasing you aren’t I?) we sat for our panel. Our whole year of assessments and preparation for our “PAR” boils down to this one very important interview – sat in that room were a panel of interviewers (we had 9) who asked us 8 questions. Once done (I hoped we did well as I was so nervous, faltered a bit and got emotional) we were led back to the small meeting room to await their verdict. When I’m nervous I tend to pee lots so was just about to dash to the loo thinking I had time as they did say that it’ll take about 10 minutes for them to deliberate their final answer BUT I ran into our social worker (SW) and the panel chairman in the corridor. Our SW said to me “Don’t run away. We’re about to tell you the results”. The chairman was smiling broadly so it’s bound to be good news…right? I hoped!

So, I popped back in and he said these magic words “The panel have unanimously approved and voted in your favour to be adoptive parents. Congratulations to the both of you”. I was SO relieved, excited and beyond delirious that our one-year adoption assessment journey has resulted in today’s positive decision. I hugged all the ladies present – SW, our matching and linking officer (MLO) and their manager!

We floated out of there that afternoon.

So, there you have it…our very happy news that has kicked started our fabulous 2019! We will FINALLY be parents – me after yearning for it for 3 decades and Mike since he met me. I’m equally surprised that I have managed to keep this under wraps for such a long time – it was the best kept secret like I worked in the MI5 and MI6 combined! Absolutely minimal news left Britain and those privy to our secret were on a ‘need to know basis’ – you knew because you were either in our inner circle of support network or were down to give us references. Up to making our news public via my blog I have still not mentioned this to many people. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported us over the year to make our dream come true.

I took photos of us before and after panel to share with those who knew with the captions “We left as a couple and returned as parents”. How did we celebrate? Well, we had a drink in Starbucks and watched a movie ‘Bumblebee’ at Cineworld Birmingham NEC. We’re so low key and easy going plus it hadn’t fully sunk in yet.

After a bumpy and slight hiccup in our adoption journey we have always felt that something might go wrong if the celestial planets and stars were not aligned. Always erring on the side of caution as although we had a unanimous yes vote from the panel we still had to wait for the ultimate approval from the ADM (Agency Decision Maker) who is their Chief Executive and on Thursday the 7th that letter arrived. We now have SO many special dates to celebrate and so far they’ve all been in January. On my birthday the 8th of January we received our PAR (Prospective Adopters Report) which is a 40 page long detailed individual assessment of everything about us, our parents, family, childhood through to present day, physical and mental health, finances, the ex-partners (in my case it was the ex-husband), our home (H&S checks too), our community, support network and everything in between.

I found the process so nerve wrecking and emotional as our SWs delved into every aspect of your being. Early on in our journey we were asked to complete a 23 page long detailed questionnaire called the ‘Home Study Reflections’ booklet which I thought would be straight forward and quick BUT how wrong was I. A question in page 3 make me break down and it took me two weeks before I could face the questions again! It was going to be a very very long assignment. We all have skeletons in the closet (some more than others as they’re like bloomin zombies!), experienced trauma of some kind, unhappy childhoods and/or adulthoods, dysfunctional families etc which you may have been able to supress successfully but then are forced to relive them not only in thoughts but in writing them down too (once I started I couldn’t stop!) and worse still to tell them to a complete stranger. Yes, you may have had counselling from a therapist who’s job is to help you work through your issues or denials without being judgemental. The adoption process had someone who would be judging us on our suitability as potential parent material. To add to this pressure, our original SW left us mid-way through last year which really puts you off your game. So many thoughts crossed our minds – most of all, we started to doubt if we would ever reach panel. When you start doubting yourself you then go on to face each and everyday as a fight or flight scenario. Thankfully, we were swiftly assigned to a new SW who was also new to the adoption agency. She is good, very thorough, straight to the point in the nicest possible way BUT man oh man did it sometimes feel like I was getting a grilling. Mike really pitied me in some of the sessions that he sat in together with me. We wondered whether SWs are trained to try to find any trigger points, because the children who come to you will test you to the limits – push all your buttons, possibly pit one parent against the other, and/or try to drive a wedge between you. My two most repeated questions were from my choice of using the term “perfectionist” in my ‘Home Study Reflections’ booklet and the other was regarding my art/painting career. Basically, would my desire to maintain a beautiful, neat and tidy home conflict with bringing in a little one who will certainly bring the usual mess and mayhem with them. And how I would feel if I never painted for months or even a year, would I resent that?  We joked that in hindsight we should have not bothered to clean or tidy up for weeks and for good measure created extra mess….all artistically done of course! Lo’ behold, the question did come up at panel!!! I could have fallen off my chair laughing. Thankfully as we had been prepared for a list of possible questions we were ready for this. My answer was deemed satisfactory and the panellist was happy with it. Phew! I got that in the bag, baby!

[NOTE: The questions asked at panel will all be based on the couples PAR which panellist will read. They are not there to trip anyone up but need to make sure that you are consistent throughout the assessment journey. Adoptive parents will not know how many questions will be asked so it can range from 5 or more and in our case we were told beforehand that there will be 8. The panellist consists of members of child and healthcare professionals, their agency medical practitioner, members of the adoption agency, lawyers, other visiting adoption workers or officers or parents who have successfully adopted and are sitting in as volunteer panellist. We were sent a formal letter inviting us to panel and it listed all those who usually sit in on a panel although on the day we had 9 panellists. Our SW goes in beforehand to speak to the panellist and gets given the questions. She sat with us during panel as a support and to also help if we falter. Thankfully, we did ok on our own]

There are three stages in the adoption journey. Stage 1 will be all the gathering of information to prove you really are whom you say you are – DBS  (Disclosure and Barring Service) to ensure that we have no criminal record against children, I had to get a ‘Letter of good conduct’ from the Malaysian government, references from former employers (although I really didn’t want my former Area Manager to know this),  references from family and close friends, references from any ex-partners/spouses (Gah! I had to initiate communication with my ex-husband after 16 years of no contact), financial records and a full medical check (very strict as in they will not entertain smokers or former smokers). Also, the home visits by social workers to access all Health & Safety aspects of our house and garden (oh, and pets if you had any too). Then there was the intensive 3 days training course that we all undertook. This was insightful, emotional and very draining. On top of the courses we attended we were also given a list of books to read up on. Lastly, the dreaded ‘Home Study Reflections’ booklet to complete.

Once you’ve passed all the crucial checks you go on to Stage 2 where we had more courses – Stage 2 course, siblings workshop (to decide if we wanted just the one child or siblings), ‘Therapeutic Play Workshop’ (which we will attend one soon), more paperwork and where we start volunteering to gain more childcare experience (unfortunately, we never had nephews living near us so could not say that we babysit on a regular basis). We jumped straight into this by volunteering in a nearby primary school (I was in the nursery year and Mike took the year up), we also volunteered with the ‘Let’s Play Project’ (providing play and leisure opportunities for ages 5 to 25 with learning or physical disabilities) and Mike also goes to ‘Cubs’. We thoroughly enjoy our time with the children but I have to say that I have never been in one room with so many snotty noses, wiped lots of them and have gotten ill three times. I’m laughing now but try telling a child not to cough in your face when they are in your lap while you read them a book. I loved coming home with glitter on my face, coloured powder in my hair, playdoh stuck under my shoe, paint on my clothes…you name it and I had it. It has made a huge impact on my confidence that these children slowly warmed up to me as I needed to earn their trust but also that we all had fun. What can I say, it made me beam with compassion and love when children seek me out when they need attention, a cuddle or cried. I also started learning a bit of Polish as there were a few Polish speaking children. All the experiences gained in Stage 2 culminated in our SW preparing our PAR ready for panel after many intense sessions of interviews where we discussed our ‘Home Study Reflection’ answers, interviewed our referees including my Dad who timed his visit perfectly.

As we had talked about taking this amazing journey some time back in 2017 we set the ball rolling by my resigning from a job that was not making me happy anymore. Our lives changed right after we attended the ‘Information Day’ on the 10th of January 2017. We made a quick decision to move home as our 2 bedroom flat was just not an ideal space to raise a child seeing that the second miniscule bedroom was my studio. Luck would have it that the first house we found we liked with a huge garden, right around the corner from our local park, near to two primary schools and town centre based. A no brainer and both our SWs who’ve seen it loves the space. Being unemployed has had its ups and downs but I really needed the time and space to set up my art business, prep myself mentally and emotionally and enjoy this last flush of coupledom sans child.

All the tears, worry and stress that we went through to get to panel was worth it if it meant that we have now been officially declared fit and sound to be parents! HOORAH!!!

Pinto By Design - Adoption Journey

This photo grid that I had originally shared on New Year’s day to all my family, friends and on various social media platforms has great significance to us as it sums up last year and our hopes for 2019.

Our photo was professionally taken at Adoption Focus in March 2018 when we attended 3 full days of training.

This photo is attached to our PAR that all social workers will see. I added the picture of the leaf to symbolise our love as a couple (bigger leaf) and the smaller one is the child we will bring into our family. 

Now we are in the last stage of post approval, we will be matched and linked up with potential children that are currently in foster care. As soon as we came out of panel we sat with our MLO who explain what happens next and the official site that we need to register on to have our bio for all children’s social workers to peruse. It was all so exciting and feels like we’ve graduated from University! Teeheehee  

To date, we have been sent potential children’s bios (by both our MLO and the children’s SWs) and we have also expressed interest in a few children. It will take time going through the formalities – once both parties have expressed mutual interest we will request each other’s PAR and CPR (Child’s Permanence Report) to be better informed and raise any concerns before a decision is made. Once both parties are agreeable and have decided that there is a good match the child’s SW will request a home visit to assess us and our home personally. Lots more paperwork, formalities and more people will be involved including the local council where the child currently resides before a date is set for us to finally meet the child. This too will take time as both parties are keen to introduce the child slowly to us and we will need to accustomise ourselves with his or her foster carers. These wonderful people who have been caring for the child will be the ones showing and teaching us everything about the child. Depending on the age of the child we get there will be a week or two that we will be at the foster carers home getting them up and feeding them, take them to school and pick them up if it’s relevant, give them a bath and prepare them for bed. We will repeat this for the period stipulated before the child gets to visit our home and slowly wean them off their foster carers. Once it’s all completed and the child comes to live with us in their new ‘Forever Home’ we’ll have lots of formalities and paperwork to go through with the authorities and school if age appropriate. The formal adoption will be applied through the court of law (which can be done no sooner than 10 weeks after placement) and he or she will take on Mike’s surname. We will be in a whole new territory when it comes to an adopted child as there are potentially many uncertain factors, health concerns and challenges that we will need to take on and seek professional help for if needed. Reading children’s profiles and the circumstances that they have been placed in care is so heart wrenching and you would never want any child to experience but as what we have acknowledged and said amongst adopters is that if every birth parent/s took really good care of their child then there will be no children out there for us to adopt. You try to not judge anyone for some birth parent/s may have had a traumatic childhood themselves and are a product of an unhappy circumstance, surrounding or life and had no one to turn to for support, help or guidance. But I do draw the line when their children are harmed even before they are born either physically or through substance abuse. It is terribly sad, heart breaking and tragic. But at the end of day, we know that we are now on the BEST life’s journey that we could possibly take – we have been prepared and we are ready. Giving a child a stable, supportive, safe and loving home is all that we can do.

Thank you for taking the time to read if you’ve reached this far. I hope I have not bored you to tears. This blog may be one of many that will chart my “new beginning” into Mummyhood. I am beyond excited at all the challenges that will lie ahead for both Mike and me. Mike will make the most awesome Daddy ever. I have seen how he interacts with children of all ages and they just gravitate to him instantly as he’s kind, funny, thoughtful, observant, caring and very loving. Everyone who are aware of our journey and those whom we have started telling have all been very excited for us, super supportive and informative. We are confident and encouraged by the many surprising coincidences where we have friends who have adopted children, know of family members or friends who have adopted or are adopted themselves.

On the 9th of February we met up in Birmingham with 4 other couples who were on the same 3 days course with us back in March 2018. We came home six hours after we left the house feeling so happy, confident and supported by such wonderful people who will be amazing parents soon. Granted that we are all at different stages of child finding and placement seeing that Mike and I are the last in our group to reach panel but it was so helpful to hear from them on what we can expect next. One couple will be meeting their son within days! How beautiful is that? We shared in their excitement, were shown photos of him, saw photos of his room and their home. We talked, joked, laughed and shared our doubts, disappointments, fears, worries or concerns but the overriding factor is that our table was filled with so much LOVE. We were just radiating with happiness, fulfilment, immense joy and blessed beyond words that we are able to give a child their forever home.

On that happy note and our exciting news, I wish you an equally fabulous 2019. Make of it what you want it to be. Turn the ordinary into an extraordinary.

Live. Light. LOVE.

Pinto By Design - Adoption Journey

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