Preparing to apply.
This step is not at all about completing the forms. This is subset of actions that are entirely optional at this stage however I found them extremely useful and they also helped speed up the entire adoption process from initial application to being Approved Adopters.
- Get involved in as much reading about the subject as possible.
- Look for voluntary work in child care, such as play groups or nurseries, scouts, guides.
- Join and interact with adoption support groups, they are a massive resource.
Gaining additional childcare experience is only useful if you have no valid childcare experience and if the experience you are gaining is age appropriate to the age of the children you wish to adopt. That is to say, if you wish to adopt an infant, then it’s of no real value to work for the scouts for six months. If you wish to adopt a 6-10 year old, then it is entirely appropriate and valuable. What is better, and from the Social Workers perspective more valuable, is if you can look after any relatives or friends children for a period of time. Such as weekend breaks etc where you will be entirely responsible for providing all meals, hygiene, safe sleeping environment, entertainment, education and appropriate discipline.
This in itself is daunting and a real test of your commitment. Do not be under any illusion, that is what it is for and quite rightly too. How can Social Services be expected to hand over any children to someone without any child care experience? Once you do apply, if the Social Worker feels you have any shortfalls in experience they will advise you accordingly.
There are some hurdles to all of this of course. As a gay man, the level of discrimination I was expecting when I applied to the local nursery to do voluntary work was massive. Some despicable people have not only clouded public perception of many adults, gay or not, but also my own perception of what the public perception is! There's also the question of opportunity. It's okay for me to spout off that you need to do this and that but if you have no local resources to give you experience or no family or friends then it is really hard to gain that experience. Try to be as flexible as possible though but if gaining experience is literally impossible then that can't be helped.
I was very pleasantly surprised and relieved when I was accepted to help with the nursery and thoroughly enjoyed the six or so months I assisted. However angelic your own motives are you do have to be prepared for those that would seek to make allegations, overtly or not. The nursery I worked with understood my concerns and at my request I was always with a member of staff. I suggest that you follow this path you have worries too for your own protection and peace of mind although I equally understand how demeaning this can be. I hasten to add that it is not only gay people that can have this stigma, I will draw your attention to more numerous and more recent prosecutions that involve female and male heterosexual nursery workers involved in child sexual abuse and leave that thought there.
On this note, you will be required to undergo a CRB check. This is fairly standard and to be expected, if partnered you will both be required to take part in this and it is funded by the Adoption Agency if at that stage you have already engaged with them. A further CRB check will be required anyway as part of the adoption process.
We were also very lucky in the respect of relatives only too willing to let us look after their children while they went on a break. The summer holidays were exhausting for us but a real eye opener. We got to understand many of the great things about our nephews and nieces as well as the not so great things! More importantly, we learned how the introduction of children into our lives would impact on us. All of a sudden, instead of the usual routine of lazily wandering around our house in boxers with a cup of coffee while getting dressed and ready, we were immediately dressed and ready, worried about getting the kids up on time, washed, dressed, fed and then starting the day!
Throughout all of this, it’s important and extremely useful to your Social Worker to diarise all of these “care events” as I call them, your thoughts and feelings, lessons learned and any actions taken. This book can eventually form part of your PAR (Form F) of your main application. In fact - GET A BOOK AND RECORD EVERYTHING IN IT. Your thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes, experiences and ideas. Record all of it. We did and it blew our social worker and panel away.
Some organisations you may want to consider joining are:
New Family Social is the UK charity for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) adopters, foster carers and their children. http://www.newfamilysocial.co.uk. We joined New Family Social and found the organisation very welcoming, friendly and helpful. The forums were a great source of information for us and we are very pleased to see how this is growing.
Adoption UK is a national charity run by and for adopters, providing self-help information, advice, support and training on all aspects of adoption and adoptive parenting. http://www.adoptionuk.org We are also members of this organisation and attend the bi-monthly regional/local meetings. We’ve met some great people there and the meetings they have held to date have been packed with information useful to a wide audience of approved adopters as well as prospective.
Gay Adoption UK - This is a directory service that has some useful links to other resources. http://www.gayadoptionuk.com
Don’t feel you have to wait until you are approved adopters before you join these. They accept applicants who are prospective adopters and have sections of their forums separated for reasons of privacy. General areas available to all, sections for prospective only and sections for approved and those that have placements. Our advice to anyone we meet who are starting on this journey is to join these as soon as possible and be as active in them as you can. They will make the entire process easier for you in the long run.
- Start a diary and use it, now.
- Join adoption support groups, now.
- Gain appropriate childcare experience, now.