Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Where did it all begin??
Jack and I have been together for 7.5 years, 8 in November. We married back in a very wet and cold but beautiful and perfect September last year.
We arrive for our ‘pre-approval’ interview in a cold a soulless room. Having dreamed of this moment all my teenage and adolescent life I was anxious. I couldn’t quite believe we were here! Sat waiting nervously. Despite this the lady with whom we were to spend the next four hours sharing our very being with emulated warmth and made us feel at ease immediately.
She reassured us she was not looking for ‘the perfect parent’ as they simply don’t exist.
So we began, we began our journey
The social worker asks “when did you first discuss having children”
We respond with “our first date” she seems a little surprised almost taken aback like she was hearing something for the first time. I found comfort in her response which was one of comfort and approval. This allowed her to understand how our desire to be parents, our desire to be a family was ingrained in us individually and collectively.
Quite literally from date one!
So let’s rewind…
Date Night, the first of many. We were in the local pub, making polite conversation. Full of nerves, the burning urge to impress. The desire to be the best version of ourselves.
I remember being told I’m too honest, to upfront, “You need to learn to play the game” I was told. Something I was never any good at, ask Mr Burles. My secondary school PE teacher who would regularly use me to demonstrate to the class how not to do things, like catch a ball that’s thrown at you with no forewarning from across the hall causing an immediate roar in laughter from everyone, followed by a deep sense of shame and embarrassment for me.
So needless to say I don’t hold back or play the preverbal game.
I can feel it coming up with no ability to silence it, it at this point has become involuntary:
“Just so you know I plan on having kids, lots of them and probably all with special needs.”. An immediate sense of relief coupled with a sense of panic.”SHIT I’VE DONE IT AGAIN!!!’
And in the same moment and breath here it is I’ve said it, it’s out there and much to my surprise he’s still sat facing me, smiling knowingly.
Smiling knowingly then and now 7.5 years on, My husband and father of our children to be.
We explored the possibility of fostering but decided that the permanence was an issue for us both. So we withdrew.
In January of 2016, we made some initial enquiries with our Local Authority.
We were knocked down at the first hurdle. I casually explained to the gentleman on the other end of the line that we were moving in February to a property that was better suited to our plans to have children. A secure tenancy. Our family home.
“ill stop you there” i was abruptly told “ in no uncertain terms would we consider your application until a few months after your move as this is considered a significant life event”
I was surprised, in fact, disappointed and frustrated. I then continued to confess with caution that we were also due to marry in September.
ANOTHER ‘SIGNIFICANT LIFE EVENT’
Computer says no!! We have failed this pro forma based on what we and many others consider to be positive life events. The gentleman’s parting words where “call back sometime early next year”.
This rang in my ears for several days, weeks in fact.! How had we been refused on such basic grounds? They didn’t know us? They had no understanding of our workings as a couple.
I felt angry. Angry that we had been so casually thrown to one side without being allowed to present ourselves or our relationship to a real person. Instead, we had failed a tick box exercise. Angry that we are told all the time about the number of children in ‘desperate need’ for their loving forever home.
The assumption was we would not be able to move or marry whilst being assessed for our suitability to parent. Surely getting to know us during this time would have been advantageous to our social worker. To see that we do in-fact continue to function as a couple? And do not fall apart during such ‘significant life events’.
On the note of significant life events surely taking on and parenting children is much more ‘significant’ than celebrating your love or moving ( having done it over 20 times now, move that is not parenting, I’m quite the pro), right???
So undeterred we married in September and picked up the baton again! I remember reading that whoever you choose to represent during this time should feel like a comfortable fit, as it is indeed a two-way street, you are also needed.
We found our agency online. We competed the necessary paperwork, passed the initial telephone consultations and were then scheduled to meet a social worker at our local office. This was for an interview that would determine if we were successful in our plight to find someone to hold our hands through the process. 4.5Hrs later and a very anxious 48hr wait we were told he had been approved and would be moving onto stage one.
Paperwork! Lots of Paperwork
Paperwork, lots and lots of paperwork, my advice, keep hard copies of EVERYTHING. After this mountain had been climbed we were given dates for our stage one prep training. They likened this to your antenatal groups. We were encouraged to all keep in touch, to set up the WhatsApp group chat. Which we did and at the time this has been invaluable and we have made some true friends.
We flew on to stage two training, “moving onto placement” where you learn about the matching process and what happens after that. This is where things get tough, more paperwork, meetings with your allocated social worker who prepares your “this is your life” in the form of your PAR report.
This is their interpretation of all you are, where and can be. A process that’s often referred to as intrusive and invasive. It is all of these things, think of its as practise for when you child/ren come home.
Tinder for Children
We were approved at panel in the September, 4 months later than planned due to a pretty substantial ‘error’ on our social workers part. This resulted in a new social worker, a 4-month delay, regurgitating our lives all over again, but it was worth it, we got a unanimous YES!
So approved in the Sept ‘17 and we entered the world of matching which initially felt very uncomfortable almost like tinder for children.
We explored several potential matches but found our boys in the October ‘17. There was the lightbulb moment you will read about, something fitted, a connection, a need to know more.
We were shortlisted for a home visit. I vividly remember feeling sick with nerves wracked with anxiety. I had cooked my notorious picnic pie but convinced myself i was going to give everyone food poisoning so binned it that morning and ran to M&S for croissants.
Hours passed, questions flew back and forth, videos where shared, photos were left and we were told there and then that they had already chosen us! Our heads and hearts we’re blown. WE WERE MATCHED.
Weeks passed with a speed I’d not experienced before having travelled in excess of 2000 miles, we met the foster carer, “bumped into” the boys, had life appreciation, went to panel, got a unanimous yes despite a lot fo concern re the severity of our eldest under development and his unknown prognosis.
We drove more than 250 miles home, packed and drove back two days later to start our 10-day intros.
I won’t talk too much about these as it’s almost impossible to shorthand it, but arriving at soft play Beamer asleep in his buggy and Trex screaming “daddy…..papa” is a life-changing moment. Time stood still.
We struck up an amazing relationship with the boys foster carer and quickly came to agree she would ( all the time the boys wanted it ) always be in their lives. She was our positive link to their time before us.
We had a very tough few months were Trex struggled A LOT. We all wondered what we had done and would it ever be any better, all the things we were warned about.
Here I am writing this for the lovely @twopoofsandapudding and I’m 12 weeks off of the boys coming home TWO YEARS AGO.
Time flies and i would have my life no other way!
What a journey, what an experience! (One we start again in June, ssshhhhh )