How you can take greater control of your own adoption assessment.
I was a social worker for 15 years before I was in the situation of being assessed as an adopter. I had gone through the experience of trying to get pregnant, through artificial insemination, This was through a clinic. I hated the medicality of it. And I felt after a while that I should be living my ideals. I knew I had a commitment to caring for children. I felt a responsibility to consider supporting children who grow up in the care system, like me.
I was a child in care, after my first few months of life. So why wasn’t I living my beliefs? Evelyn. my partner, already had two children, and she was happy to make the change to how we planned to parent.
However, the experience of being assessed totally surprised me, the delays, lack of communication, inadequate training and yet more delays! Admittedly, this was in the 2000s, but it made me truly consider social work, its role and how it could be better. The experience of being assessed, and working with social workers, made me in my honest opinion, a much better social worker, a better manager, and probably a better human being. I don’t think that I truly understood how disempowering it can be to want to build a family, and feel totally reliant on one person to enable that. That person being your assessing social worker, the one to green light you and give you that opportunity.
The article in this month’s Adoption UK magazine highlights the difficulties and challenges in the whole process for adopters, as well as for social workers. At the same time The Adoption and Fostering Podcast, episode number 255 With Becky also highlights the challenges of an adopter talks as a social worker by profession who had a really difficult assessment. She describes the emotional roller coaster and toll that her first adoption assessment took on her and her family.
It’s a very moving expression of how somebody who understood the system, suffered at the hands of professional processes. In my coaching sessions, meeting prospective and new adopters, I give them what is essentially a simple message. “You are not powerless in your adoption assessment”. While the needs of the child will always be paramount. As an adopter you can significantly impact positively on your assessment.
Strategies that I have found really help adopters to feel engaged in the process as well as put their ‘best foot forward’ include:
- Being productive.
Exploring potential schools, nurseries and play environments. Doing the groundwork with your birth family, preparing them for the impact of adoption, especially with your children. Speaking to your GP in advance of requesting the child to join their practice.
- Being honest and transparent.
There are very few ‘deal breakers’ in assessment. But the biggest and most impactful is probably any suggestion that as an applicant, you are not being transparent. However innocent the issue may seem, something withheld erodes trust of you. So work hard at full transparency, while challenging it is essential. The social worker can also only assess your capacity for adopting and any vulnerability, if they know you well. If they don’t have the full knowledge of you and your family they can not effectively help you be prepared.
- Being prompt.
Completing documents when requested. Be clear about your availability for meetings, also be clear when you are not available. Think about what your areas of development might be. Be aware that social workers can have emergencies or other demands and may be late. But do raise it if it is repeated and becomes an issue.
- Being realistic.
Do not try to say you can care for any child with any need. No one can! Think about the child as a baby, but also as a younger child, and as a teenager. When they are primary or secondary age, what will they need?
Do you have a suitable house, is the area you live in appropriate? Do you have sufficient space, etc. What activities would you want to share with your child? Long term, are there things you like to do that would perhaps be an issue if they were not possible, for example, does your family enjoy sport, walking, regular holidays etc.
- Being willing to learn.
A child placed by adoption at whatever age will need you to be the most self aware, communicative, balanced person you can be. So do the work now, counselling, coaching or therapy will pay dividends both for you and for your child.
- Be aware of your strengths and vulnerabilities, be active in your willingness to heal.
We all have issues, disappointments and trauma from earlier life. If you know yours, you will be much better prepared. Understand your triggers and be constantly working on them. Your child is less likely to need to heal, from their impact, if you do.
The act of adopting will bring to the fore, any issues in terms of communication, vulnerabilities, misunderstandings, and conflicting aspirations both as a couple, and as individuals. So nurture your relationship now, so that you can withstand the ups and downs later. If you don’t already, build a habit of self care, individually and together, work on your relationship now, so that it will be resilient when things are challenging.
- Be confident
You have got this! Follow this and you will find that the assessment will be a positive and enlightening experience. The social worker will be focussing on completing the processes for approval, but you will be thinking about the rest of your life so enjoy it. You can trust yourself to do the best you can.
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