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Initial visit - what should I expect?

(23 Posts)
Aeschylus Mon 29-Aug-11 19:38:33

We have our initial visit on Thursday and I just wondered about other people's experiences of this and of the home study. I can't help but be nervous generally and also am worried we'll be turned down. I dont think there is any reason to turn us down but we have read all sorts of things in the press.

Any experiences shared will be appreciated smile

NanaNina Mon 29-Aug-11 21:10:27

Hi there - I am a retired sw and was a tm mgr of a fostering & adoption team for 15 years - so 30 years experience in all.

OK - I know it's easy for me to say "don't be nervous" but do try to not to be. You must not start to worry about being turned down at this stage in the process. Social workers are not looking for Mr and Mrs Perfect or single prospective perfect people. I don't know what age range you are thinking of. I am assuming you are not hoping for a 6 week baby, as these are very few and far between. Adoptors are needed for older children, sibling groups and children with disabilities. Most adoptors start off wanting a young child for obvious reasons but can usually be "pushed up" to think of a slightly older child - up to 5 years. Sadly it is very hard to get children over 5 or 6 adopted.

The other thing is that you need to realise right from the start that all children awaiting adoption will to a greater or lesser extent have a variety of difficulties related to their pre placement experiences and the damage already done by the birth parents.

Your home doesn't have to be perfectly tidy - but needs to be generally clean and safe for children. Remember this is a 2 way street - it isn't just about what the social workers say/think, it is also for you to consider whether adoption really is for you. If there are no difficulties in the initial assessment, you will be invited on to a preparation course and then the homestudy if you wish to go ahead.

Don't take notice of what you read in the press - it is usually about one case where some decision has been made about prospective adoptors that is ludicrous.

If the social worker is yakking on (as they do sometimes!) ask if there is anything you don't understand rather than just nod and wonder about it after. Remember this is the very first stage and the sw should explain the process to you - but again ask anything that you need to know.

Happy to help further if necessary

Aeschylus Mon 29-Aug-11 21:44:01

Thank you for this.

We already have a son (3 1/2) although he will obviously be older by the time a child is matched, we are not expecting to have a baby and know that 2-3 is more realistic. I put 1-3 on the initial application form but depending on how long it takes, we are happy for a slightly older child. My husband is a stay at home Dad and I work full time and have a good salary. We have a spacious (though not massive) house with a spare room and a fair sized garden but within 200 yards of a big park and field. We are prepared for emotional difficulties but my dh does not have experience with any learning difficulties or disabilities so although we don't want to say no as such, I think it is not likely we are suitable to adopt a child with such needs.

I am also aware of my sons needs, he is a timid boy and not overly sociable although he is developing this continuously. He has taken time to settle into his nursery settings etc and his confidence with other adults takes a while to show (although with children he is doing much better now). It has taken lots of thought about whether or not it is fair to have another child with these needs (which are not for any medical reason - just his personality) but over this summer we have had other children round and he has really shown that he would benefit from being around another child.

Is the inital visit all about finding out about us and our backgrounds or is it also the time to talk about the needs of a child we feel appropriate to care for within our family?

Also (sorry - lots of questions) If we get to the point of the home study, does that often mean that thinks will progress and we will be approved? We dont have anything to hide and if we did we know to be honest about everything from the start so does that mean that if it goes well then we have a strong chance of everything else going ok? I know there is no definitive answer to that question and you could not guarantee, I am asking generally. I dont really know what sort of things would stop someone from being approved.

I am trying not to be nervous but it is just such a big thing that it is hard not to be.

Thanks again

Maryz Mon 29-Aug-11 21:52:51

My theory is that social workers spend the first few visits trying to put you off.

It isn't that they really want to put you (personally) off, but they don't want to waste loads of time assessing someone just for them to say at the last moment "oh, no, this isnt' for me".

So they are negative, they tell you awful things, they aren't very nice at all.

A couple of visits later, when they know you are serious, they suddenly become nice and friendly and accessible smile.

This is just a theory, mind. I have no proof apart from anecdotal from a fair few adoptive parents who hated their social workers for the first few visits, and then came to like them a lot.

There is a lovely thead here where we all (rather tongue in cheek) discuss the possibilities of chocolate biscuits and tidy bathroom cupboards!

Best of luck. I'm sure it will be fine.

hester Mon 29-Aug-11 22:37:54

You sound like a very good candidate for adoption smile

Just two things to add: I have a birth child who sounds rather like your son. We adopted her little sister a year ago and she is a wonderful big sister: they really love each other.

Also, others may disagree but I think if you get taken on to home study the odds are very good you will be approved. When we went to our prep course, before home study started, they told us that their assumption was that all of us would become adoptive parents.

Oh, and don't feel defensive or apologetic about not wanting to adopt a child with severe learning disabilities - it is important that you are realistic about the resources you have and what you can reasonably provide. On the other hand, keep an open mind and be open to what you will learn during the process.

Best of luck!

Maryz Mon 29-Aug-11 22:47:02

I agree with Hester about the SN thing. There is no harm in saying you don't want to adopt a child with severe SN. That is something that came up when we were adopting dd, because we already had ds1.

I was much more flexible when we were adopting ds1, because we had no children. Second time around I was much more wary, because I knew that any child we adopted, if he/she had SN, would eventually impact on ds1, so my attitude was different, and I was much more "picky".

But I would point out that you don't know what the future will bring. So although it is ok to say you don't want to adopt a child with known SN, because of your ds, you have to be prepared that SN may be diagnosed in the future. ds1 (in our case) was a perfectly "normal" child with no SN. But he has subsequently been diagnosed with Asperger's and has a lot of problems.

You need to recognise that if that happens (your perfectly "normal" child develops issues) that you will deal with it, and cope with it. Because "normal" at the time of adoption doesn't guarantee "no issues, ever", and when you adopt you need to accept the possibility (as you do when you give birth to a child) than some SN may appear at a later date.

Aeschylus Mon 29-Aug-11 22:51:52

Thank you - and Maryz, I read that thread and it was very useful so thank you for the link also.

Hester - our main consideration has to be our son at the moment so that was very good to hear. I think it is always hard when deciding if another child is right for an existing one and I don't think that changes if you are considering a birth child or adoption.

We are definitely keeping an open mind, I just don't think its likely as we are at the moment. We are aware of the different needs of a child who has been abused and neglected (though still have much to learn I am sure), its more medical reasons we will need to learn more about before deciding. At the inforation evening it was all 'adopted children this... adopted children that...' and it was quite negative as you have stated Maryz a bit like trying to put us off but in all honesty, and this is not to devalue the needs of any child, most of what they said, we felt, could be down to personality and temperament as much as their experiences. Its really not about what they have been through it's about their reactions, self esteem and attachment needs and security and with those each child will differ as much as every birth child will differ. The lady talking spoke about how her child spent ages hiding under the table if visitors came - my son, when he would come to my work, felt more secure hiding in a cupboard the first few times, then slowly came out and now leaves the office with colleagues to go to the photocopier etc - no different to the child she was describing but without having adoption as an excuse!

hester Mon 29-Aug-11 23:42:05

Aeschylus, the agency has a responsibility to any existing children in the family, and their needs have to be assessed too. In our case, our social worker was always very focused on the impact of adoption on our first child, as well as our second. She was also completely accepting of the boundaries we put up about what issues we could take on and what we couldn't - she used to say her worst nightmare was the couples who take on more than they can handle, and the adoption then breaks down.

Having said that, we were always careful to acknowledge that no child comes with a guarantee of a problem-free life, and that is particularly true of adopted children. We used to say something like, "Because we have a child already, and because we both have to work, we are not in a position to adopt a child with diagnosed significant care needs. We are prepared to consider children with minor additional needs, and we are prepared to accept the element of risk that always comes when you adopt an infant".

Actually, at this stage, our adopted child seems to be more 'normal' and developmentally appropriate than our birth child was at the same age. But they are both still very young and anything can - and probably will - happen!

NanaNina Tue 30-Aug-11 00:56:39

Some good posts here for you Aeschylus - agree that social workers do tend to be very negative (they see it as being realistic) at first and we don't really make any apology for that, because there are a lot of people who think children awaiting adoption are orphans, and just need a loving home and all will be well. So being realistic at the beginning can weed out some of the applicants, although I have to say that some just don't believe us and think that this won't be the case for them.

You do say that you think a child's needs can be more to do with personality and temperament than what they have been through - you continue "it's not about what they have been through,it's about their reactions, self esteem and attachment issues and they will differ as much as any child will differ." I think you need to re-think this a bit to be honest because the child's experiences in his earliest days, weeks, months are (as I'm sure you know) of vital importance and if his needs are not met by a nurturing adult who is emotionally available to the child as well as physically available, an insecure attachment pattern will be set and the baby will learn that adults are not to be trusted. There is even evidence now that a baby in utero can be emotionally harmed by domestic violence etc in the parents.

So in a way I think you need to be thinking that the childs very early life experiences are exactly what will affect his self esteem and his attachment issues, which you refer to in one of your posts, rather than these things being "more to do with personality and temperament" if you see what I mean. Sorry to labour the point, but it is a very important point. In fact I think the most helpful things that prospective adoptors can do is to read up as much as possible about attachment, as all children by definition awaiting adoption will have an insecure attachment. Children with a secure attachment to their parents will be babies whose needs have been met right from the moment of birth, by nurturing parents who show unconditional love to the child. This secure attachment is a protective factor for a child throughout the life span.

It is possible for a child to learn to trust adults again, but it isn't done by love alone as many people think. There is very often a big gap between the adopted child's emotional age and his chronological age and therefore children need to be able to regress at times to a much younger age and to have adoptors who understand the necessity for this. Sorry I'm going on - but I really think this is the most important issue in adoption. There is an excellent book called "Why Love Matters" by Sue Gerhardt - she provides evidence of studies that show a child who is abused/neglected can have altered brain pathways from a securely attached child, which is of great importance in adopted children.

Phew apart from this Aeschlyus I think you sound like a very good candidate for adoption. You ask about the initial visit and whether it is to go into your backgrounds etc - no - it is just as it says an initial visit for you and the social worker to have a chat, for her or him to get the measure of you and whether you understand the reality of adoption, and for you to maybe ask things that are onyour mind.

To be honest I think you need to slow down a bit and take this thing one step at a time - you are asking if the homestudy means that you will be approved - and the answer to that of course is "it depends" because that is what the homestudy is all about to assess whether you would make suitable adoptive parents. It isn't a case of pass or fail, and in my experience once the homestudy has started and is progressing well, there shouldn't be any problems. It isn't always plain sailing though and if there are issues that are of concern, then the sw will discuss those with you at the time and maybe things can be ironed out.

Given that you are thinking of a 1 -3 year old child, you may wait longer for a placement than someone thinking of a sibling group or an older child, but it is by no means impossible to adopt a child of this age. As regards timing, there is a poster on the adoption threads who is in my view overly pessimistic about the length of time the process takes, and talks of it being years. Every case is different and you should maybe thinking in terms of at least 1 year and then a wait for a good match and there is no way of telling when that will come about.

SO - relax, take things a step at a time - if all goes well on Thurs and I'm sure it will, you will no doubt be given paperwork to complete at some stage and then be invited on to a preparation course, where you will learn about all aspects of adoption. Again I would stress you must see this as a 2 way street - throughout the prep course, the sws will be forming a view of all the applicants, but at the same time, you should be considering whether in fact adoption is right for your family (you won't know that for certain of course) but you should be giving serious consideration to this.

Think I've said enough.................be interested to hear how you get on!

Aeschylus Tue 30-Aug-11 07:53:09

Thank you all again, I am very appreciative and will feedback after the visit.

Just wanted to clarify a couple of things not for anything other than my own piece of mind.

We are certainly not expecting this to be easy and in terms of SN, we are currently talking about a 'choice' based on my current understanding/feelings of what we can offer. I would certainly not want to say that we wouldn't accept, love or care for a child with SN and if anything developed, we would as any parent does, adapt. You never know what is around the corner and there are many possible factors that can lead to all sorts of difficulties and we both understand that.

Secondly, when I spoke about the reaction to experiences as being the difference, I was not suggesting that there would be no difficulties. Mentioning self esteem, attachment etc I fully understand that every child will be affected by their experiences. I just also believe that you cant label a child's behaviour as solely due to abuse/neglect/multiple carers or homes and that first and foremost it is important to see the child as an individual with their own individual experiences and the effects of these on them (and not all other adopted children - as others will react differently). I also have this viewpoint about all other factors that affect development - one size does not fit all and whilst there are common characteristic (lack of trust for one example of many) there will still be differences in how these are expressed/dealt with. I feel this has been interpreted that I think we can adopt a child with next to no issues who will just fit into our family and be fine, on the contrary, I am very aware that we may adopt a child who finds this extremely difficult and am prepared for the journey.

I have found all of these dicussions really helpful and thought provoking so thanks again.

NanaNina Tue 30-Aug-11 17:06:15

Sorry if I misunderstood you Aeschylus. In no way does your post suggest that this has been interpreted by me as thinking you think you can adopt a child with next to no issues who will just fit into you family and be fine. On the contrary your posts indicate that you have a good understanding of the needs of children awaiting adoption and are as you say "ready for the journey" - of course children will treact differently to their pre placement experiences and I'm sorry again if I misunderstood your first post.

I think you are exactly the sort of applicant that any social worker would be keen to recruit.

Aeschylus Tue 30-Aug-11 17:47:39

No apologies necessary, I just wanted to clarify (and not to anyone in particular). I think this is such an emotive subject and as such I just wouldn't want people thinking something of me that wasn't what I meant.

I want people to be honest as otherwise the 'support' offered on this site is not worthwhile. I appreciate and respect everyone sharing their experiences and knowledge and want to learn from it. You are all very helpful also and I very much appreciate the length of some of your posts, this shows you are very generous in supporting and helping others. I have lots of experience with children and read a great deal not only about adoption but also about child development, research etc through studying but I have not cared for young children who have been adopted (although have cared for many children who have lost touch with one parent). I have worked with some young people (16-19) who have been fostered or adopted as I teach in a college but I still have so much to learn about these specific needs and what I like about this site is that you all have different opinions so even though some people might be biased, you get an overall view.

NanaNina - I hope you are right that we sound suitable and thank you for this comment - I wish it were you coming Thursday wink

NanaNina Tue 30-Aug-11 21:07:26

Ah no worries Aeschylus - just give me your address and I'll do a joint visit on Thursday!! Please stop worrying - you are a professional person with a great deal of experience with children and have knowledge of child development to offer (including relevant research) and you are very well thought out. The social worker is an ordinary mortal - you may well know more than her or him about child development. However the visit will be from an adoption worker and most of them in my experience know their stuff but I can think of one or two exceptions!

It's just going to be a chat to get to know each other a bit more and for the sw to maybe explain the process to you. Obviously it needs to be established that your home is suitable for children and is reasonably clean etc. It is obvious to tell this from the moment someone opens the door, and if I was offered coffee, I might wonder into the kitchen and continue chatting. I would always ask to see where an adopted child would sleep, as you clearly need to have a room available. Now r-e-l-a-x that is an order!!

Aeschylus Tue 30-Aug-11 21:16:59

Will do smile

Mumleigh Wed 31-Aug-11 10:43:09

Just want to say good luck. I've been through the process twice now. It's an exciting but sometimes exhausting process.

The advice you have received on this thread is excellent and matches my own experience of the process.

NeverendingStoryteller Wed 31-Aug-11 22:24:03

Hi! Well - it's tomorrow - so exciting for you! As the other posters have said, try not to worry. When we went through it, it became known (after the visit) as the axe-murderer/scummer test. They want to check if your house is suitable and if you seem kinda normal (define normal - answers on a postcard, please).

We didn't get asked anything about the kind of child we wanted to adopt - we got asked lots of questions about why we wanted to adopt, and we talked a little bit about our families and backgrounds. It was a bit like meeting a new acquaintance, and having that pub-style chat.

Make sure you have some tea/cakes/biscuits - our social workers were particularly fond of home-made brownies. Make sure the mugs are clean and the loo is clean - after we adopted, one social worker admitted to us that they always asked to use the loo on the first visit so they could nose around upstairs, and see if the 'out of sight' areas were the same as the 'show' areas in the house. It doesn't have to be perfect - I think the social workers worry if it's too perfect...

Just be yourselves, and remember that it's not a performance - you're simply communicating facts to a person who will eventually be (hopefully) a fantastic support to you during the process.

Oh, and don't worry about the sandals/socks/hippy skirt combination - it seems to be the social worker uniform - ant that's just the guys (sorry, totally tongue in cheek and not true - one of our social workers used to ride in on a motorcycle).

Honestly - enjoy yourself - it's the start of a lovely relationship (in our experience).

Good luck tomorrow smile

Aeschylus Thu 01-Sep-11 21:38:21

My goodness - 4 hours our sw was here! It was a very positive experience and you were all very much right about how it would go. WE had detailed discussions about a range of things (I possibly spoke far too much - 3 hours too much wink ). We think it went well and she said that her report would be positive and she can not see any reason for it not to be approved (but she will not be the one to make the decision). They rushed the visit with an independent sw as the training/prep days are in October and the hope is we will get on that so I am pleased about that, it should save time, especially as some of you reported a bit of a wait.

It was a relief that we could be really honest and even some 'concerns' of ours ie my ds personality/sociability etc were considered as strengths. Of course we will wait to read the report but as a starting point, I felt that went really well!

Thank you everyone smile

Mumleigh Thu 01-Sep-11 21:47:27

That's great news and so exciting that you will get on the October course. I really enjoyed the prep workshops and made some wonderful friends who I still see on a regular basis 6 years on. I wish you well with the rest of your adoption journey.

NeverendingStoryteller Thu 01-Sep-11 21:58:23

Glad it went so well! Good job!

Aeschylus Thu 01-Sep-11 22:02:00

grin

NanaNina Thu 01-Sep-11 23:09:30

Coo - 4 hours Aeschylus - typical for an independent worker - most LA sws don't have that sort of time to spare. Anyway glad all went well. I assume you are aware that this is a viability assessment (is it worth inviting you on a course and undertaking a comprehensive assessment at a later date) and she is putting in a positive report on you...........so it should be full steam ahead. Hope you get on the Oct prep group, which I'm sure you'll find interesting and informative.

Keep us posted

Aeschylus Sat 08-Oct-11 13:08:33

We are going to our first training session on Monday - I am so excited grin . Really pleased it has all happened so quickly but think after this it will probably slow down and we will have a long wait until the home study.

Mumleigh Sun 09-Oct-11 17:24:22

That's great news! Hope you enjoy the workshops as much as we did. We made some great friends on ours. We were approved 9 months after the workshops and matched 3 weeks later! Good Luck smile

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