Tales of assessment: all about Stage 2

Having posted about my adoption process last so long ago I had to go back through my own blog to see what I’d written and even so I’m not really sure where to start again. If only I had written this blog as a straight forward chronology it would have been very helpful!

However I have danced around and dipped in and out. In place of a proper rundown, therefore, I’ll simply share a motley collection of more recent thoughts and experiences from my progress through Stage 2.

Previously, on planet PedallingSolo I have shared some first time views on matching, explored the view from the top of the Stage 2 course roller-coaster, and shared musings on Stage 1 and the move into Stage 2.

So Stage 2 then:

If there is one thing I have learned from my great pals and fellow-travellers on Twitter in particular, it seems to be that each LA and each VA seems to take a slightly different approach towards the whole new adoption process. That more general rule certainly seems to apply to the Home Study. In case anyone is seeking ideas as to what *may* happen therefore (!) here’s some more of my story but it could equally be very misleading!

I think I had 6 assessment meetings with the Social Worker. They were long compared to the norm, as far as I can tell – most often a full 9-1 morning give or take half an hour. I barely felt I did any homework – as we progressed along I occasionally had a stab at typing up the answers to some questions; on other occasions I just jotted down some points or read the questions through ready to discuss at our next meeting. (In line with my every experience of homework ever, this thinking invariably happened the night before, except for when it happened over breakfast.) I did type up details of all the lovely people in my support network – pages of it that then needed thinning down. (My very local support network has been throughout the process, and indeed remains one of the areas I am conscious I need to work on … but the support of my friends and family has been and continues to be amazing and unstinting. I am so lucky.)

I think the experience of actually going through the assessment process – or Stage 2, or Home Study, or whatever it is called in your area – is a very personal one. I know many feel it is very intrusive; others feel deeply fascinated as they learn more about themselves and gain huge insights into their own past; some find out more about partner’s childhood toy preferences than they ever realised they didn’t want to know! As a singleton it was of course all about me which mostly I found just bizarre. In any normal world talking about yourself almost non-stop for four hours would be considered the height of unempathetic, selfish, egotistical self-absorption. During assessment if that’s what happens you’re probably doing it right! The knowledge my social worker has of me and my life, having asked me to discuss everything from my view on certain types of child health concerns to my experience of paternal discipline as a child, is greater than almost anyone else’s. My knowledge of her and her life … minimal. It all feels just very odd!

My social worker wasappropriately probing at times, but her empathy and willingness to listen – combined with her readiness to say quite clearly “that’s fine, I’ve got enough on that” when I was waffling on as is all-too-often my way – meant we seemed to zoom along. I slowly realised quite how crucial the individual personality and approach taken by your social worker is, how much of difference it can make how they relate to you … and of course how the person you are yourself enables that relationship to build its own dynamic.

I am torn as to what I think about this. Individual, personal, thoughtful, dynamic relationships are the bread and butter of all the complex  interwoven relationships that adoption processes and parenting entail; that the relationship between the potential adopter and the social worker is deeply personal and responsive to the individuals involved is surely right. On the other hand … we are all being assessed to the same end and it does seem bizarre that there is so much variety and so much is dependent on how your social worker and their agency operates. We as potential adopters are all so different, and social workers too are all so different. There is so much riding on the relationship and yet so much chance as to who your social worker is (noting that I am of course talking from the adopter’s perspective – I presume social workers feel the same about the huge variation and difference between potential adopters too!). Suffice to say I feel my social worker is very different to me but not only have we have got on well and (I would say) developed a good rapport, my referees also all told me they thought she had me sussed! (Mind you she may not agree we got on so well: although I have continued to offer biscuits (at least when I remembered…) I still haven’t managed that home cooked flapjack or those succulent double chocolate cookies. Bad prospective adopter!)

So what else?

Well, as I moved into Stage 2 I was given a list of areas that the PAR needs to cover, and a blank PAR to look through to see where we were going. If you too are embarking on Stage 2 and haven’t been given a copy … personally I think it’s worth asking for one if you’re like me and are someone who feels happier when you know what’s going on and where you’re heading for. I guess it helped that I’d done the family tree and a first run support network (or eco-map as it was called) in Stage 1, and also that I had done some research and thinking around finances, so I may have been a little ahead on some of that.

As I’ve already described, my first look at profiles – apparently now encouraged before approval to help with refining matching criteria – prompted all sorts of interesting thoughts and insights. As suspected I realised very quickly that matching was going to be a very tough time.

A close single friend and my mother both attended a friends-and-family training session. I’d thoroughly recommend that if your agency or LA offers something similar you get someone to go along if they are willing and interested to do so – both my mother and my friend really enjoyed it (or said they did anyway!) and it gave them an independent perspective on everything rather than me simply repeating ad nauseam stories from my own training and reading plus anecdotes from my online adoption pals.

I didn’t have to decide whether to attend an Adoption Activity Day that took place a few weeks ago because I was already booked up that day: I think not even having to make that decision probably felt like a relief! I did however attend a Consortium day of which more another day as it was an event in itself.

Along with half my current world (me? obsessed by adoption? really?) I too have watched what has felt like an adoption-fest on the TV recently with a mixture of emotions! Although the research has been less intense I have carried on doing the odd bit of reading –  including the most excellent “Black By Design” which was not only interesting but fun easy reading too. Jackpot!

Finally we reached the point five or six weeks before my approval panel was scheduled.

Effectively I had been reading and thinking and preparing and talking (oh endless talking) for months by now. In a final flurry of urgent activity I saw and proofread a draft of the PAR and then a second draft. I signed a sheet of paper (not actually attached to the PAR at the time mind you due to time running out!) saying it was all accurate. I drafted a profile for myself overnight. And a couple of days later some comments on my own learning during the process that we’d forgotten were needed. There was a pause, then I received a copy, requiring a trip to the Post Office in the next town to sign my name in an unidentified scrawl.

Suddenly then it was calm. The last month before panel proved to be a strange interlude.

Your PAR (Prospective Adopter Report) is done. You may still have things to do if you’ve been asked to get more childcare experience – I finally caught up with a single adopter I hadn’t spoken to before, as well as chatting to friends of friends about their approval panel. You can of course keep on reading and thinking and exploring. I set myself a #30DaysChallenge which by and large I adhered to, in spirit at least – appreciating the little things in life in particular.

Ultimately, however, there is very little you can actually *do*.

What I decided therefore was that I would aim to do nice things. I was extremely lucky to manage a weekend away with a friend who herself is a Mummy but wangled a weekend exeat. For three amazing days we wandered and talked and explored and just had the best time ever. Huge thanks to her and to her husband too! I did some babysitting – usually an excuse in my world to catch up with friends as well as see their children. I spent time appreciating lie-ins and leaving the house on a whim with just keys and cash. I walked the canal and sang along to music I chose in the car. I enjoyed sitting in silence. As ever my family and friends were amazing and kept me boosted and smiling throughout.

As with every interlude eventually the much awaited occasion arrived … but my approval panel story must surely await another day!


About Pedalling Solo

I am a potential adopter in the UK, going it alone as they say. Somehow I've worked my way through lots of paperwork, done lots of learning, become an approved adopter, and navigated matching (hopefully). I am very much learning as I go. This blog is my opportunity to share my learning and experiences and maybe some random musings as I go along as well.
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