Parenting through adoption

An adoptive parent describes the process of adopting a child and charts both the anxieties and the joys of different stages. The child's new grandparent also comments.

Our journey to starting a family was definitely not straightforward and we certainly took the scenic route. But, our rather different route to a family, makes us appreciate everything and take nothing for granted. This is how it went.

Decision time

We called our local authority to enquire how we applied to be adoptive parents. They arranged to come and meet with us both in our home. The local authority social worker was very helpful and painted a more realistic picture than the one we imagined. In short, she advised us that there were several different routes and agencies involved and we should spend time investigating the options and consider which would be best for us.

This was sound advice as it moved our decision to adopt away from what we could do for another child towards what we could manage and deal with as a couple. It made us talk to each other about ages of children, their backgrounds and how we would talk about adoption with family and friends.

From the media, we thought we knew or had a fairly good idea about the process. We had read and heard about the changes in legislation and the much hoped for shortening of waiting times for children waiting for adoption and their prospective adopters. In hindsight, we did not have a clue until we discovered Scottish Adoption.

We had one initial meeting with a Scottish Adoption social worker and he was helpful. He asked us lots of questions, as we did him. This enabled an open and honest discussion about how serious we really were about adoption and if we had considered the whole picture. This was April 2009. Since then, Scottish Adoption has provided space, balance, support and listening and this has been absolutely critical to manage the different stages of the process.

Preparation time

We attended a preparation group through November and into December. We, and five other couples, spent quality, dedicated time exploring adoption, attachment, grief, loss, identity, ourselves and our relationships. I found it extremely testing. After the first session I felt like I had been hit by a train. This was when I fully realised that I was unable to have a family of my own. It took time, but through the preparation groups, we were able to understand what adoption meant for our relationship and our future family. It also allowed us to start talking about it to our parents. They could not have been more supportive and I can say from first-hand experience that talking helps.

Application time

By the end of the preparation groups we were desperate to move to the next stage. This involved meeting our social worker who got to know us, our histories, strengths and vulnerabilities with a view to becoming parents. She completed a 'home study', a full and detailed report about us. We had been anxious about this part of the process but ended up feeling very positive about it, a feeling we had not initially considered. This was largely down to our Scottish Adoption social worker. We would not be a family without her and her supportive style and approach throughout the process. Thank you to her, from all the family.

We asked our family, closest friends and work colleagues whether they would consider writing a reference to support our application to adopt. The process took time, six months to be precise, and the regular interviews, conversations which covered more than just the weather, were all worth it. The final result was a report we half read. There are parts of this report that we do not get access to. Having been through this part of the process, we found reading our life story and reflections a positive experience.

The first approval panel we attended was the Scottish Adoption panel and this was unknown territory; we were petrified. The phone call we made to each of our families after we were accepted for adoption was one of the many emotional memories we have had so far!

We did not have to wait too long before our social worker phoned about a wee girl! A family was a potential reality at last. This was everything we had focused our efforts on since deciding to adopt.

Meeting time

The next stage to the adoption was getting to know the local authority social worker. This was so she could consider whether we would be appropriate parents for the child (our now daughter) for whom she was responsible. We then met the foster carer, saw a photo for the first time, met with her doctor and finally were formally matched by the local authority.

The process of waiting and going into adoption: from being approved, receiving the relevant forms, living with a report, the meetings with the social worker, the local authority legal representative, foster carers and medical professionals brings everything alive. It is so important that this part is well managed even though it takes time. It is difficult to understand how it feels when you are waiting for a child and then matched. There are so many questions about being matched and waiting for a child. Some can be answered and some cannot. We definitely began falling in love with our wee girl at this stage of the process.

Our new life begins

In January 2011 the sheriff ruled in favour of adoption. A huge day. A year later and we have just recently celebrated our first anniversary in McDonald's - our daughter's choice!

We had a long wait before it all became official and it was not until we had been to court and the adoption became official that we felt safe and secure as a family. The process has made us learn to deal with uncertainty. I think we are pretty resilient as a family but we are a family and that is all that matters. All the waiting, all the meetings, all the uncertainty, are now a memory. Our family has started and we have support from Scottish Adoption for whatever lies ahead.

I'm a father now and I could spend lots of time thinking about what is different between being a birth father or an adoptive father but right now what programme we are going to watch on CBeebies is far more important!

Do I look at my daughter when she is playing outside or at a party and worry if she is doing OK or knows the rules of the game? Of course I do, but is that not what any parent does - birth or adoptive? We consider ourselves the luckiest people in the world with such a beautiful girl in our lives.

People often congratulate us for what we are doing. That is the wrong way to look at it. The rewards far outweigh the decisions and process which can often take up too much focus in adoption. We thought we could not have a family - we were wrong.

Words from a grandparent

Nobody told us how our hearts would expand when our son and daughter-in-law were accepted as adoptive parents. The waiting seemed like years, but in fact, was seven months. As a family, we already loved her. We learned how best to support our son and family and watched our granddaughter blossom and thrive. The path of adoptive grandparents can, in the beginning, seem a long, dark, road but nobody can explain the glorious Eden you then enjoy.

About the author

Scottish Adoption (adoptive parent): 'we became adoptive parents just over a year ago and cannot imagine life without our beautiful wee girl. We spend much of our time outdoors and in the last year our interests range from horse riding, cycling but mostly CBeebies - in the night garden!'