Chapter 7 – The Assessment Starts Now
We are now a couple of weeks on from Gemma’s last visit where we properly restarted the process and this morning feels so exciting, as opposed to the feelings we had at this point first time around, where we were completely full of nerves and anxiety about what it was all going to entail. But, at the same time we don’t want to be going into this overconfident, as we do know that this time the stage two assessment will be quite different and have a real focus on not just us two, but the other very important person in this household, our Son. We need to be sure that the decisions we make for the second adoption not only meet our needs, but more importantly meet the needs for him and what he wants needs to be considered too. I mean he has already decided that he wants a sister, so that is already firmly settled in our minds and hopefully in Gemma’s too.
Bang on time as usual, Gemma pulls up on the driveway and Rich opens the door to invite her in, with Nutter as usual jumping up for his attention seeking moment before heading back off to chill out somewhere while we all get down to business. We all grab a seat round the table and while I am making Gemma’s drink, with the obviously already pre-boiled kettle, she starts to explain that today’s visit is all about getting the more generic forms done and out of the way. Hoping that then this will allow us to really focus on the more in-depth discussions around the potential child we are hoping to adopt. Rich is his normal smiley self at this point, knowing that over the past few days he has fully completed the accommodation form, the finance form, printed the bank statements, copied our ID’s and completed the Health and Safety check list for Gemma to run through during her visit today. All of which we have absolutely no worries about, but did want to ask about the personal reference forms, as the people we are putting down as references have changed from last time and we weren’t sure if that was going to be a problem. Gemma quickly reassured us that this is actually quite normal, as when you become parents some of the people you think will be very involved maybe aren’t and some of people who maybe don’t expect to be as involved, end up becoming a lot closer to you. Rich then added the personal reference forms to his little pile, which were then ready to go through properly but we sort of know that it should just be a formality.
While all enjoying our drinks and having a little bit of a general catch up, Gemma went through the forms with us to ensure all was as expected and within about half an hour the generic forms were deemed as satisfactory. We then whizzed Gemma around the house to go through the Health and Safety form, which was then also swiftly ticked off the list too. Wow, it really does feel like it is all going so smooth and feels like we are storming ahead, but sometimes I do worry that this sort of thing is just happening to get me into a false sense of security before it them comes crashing down, but I am going to remain positive and hope that this is just in my head. As we sit back down, Gemma then does that thing where she says “right, okay then, as that’s done” while she picks up her bag which seems heavier than normal and pulls out not one, but two ‘experienced adopter workbooks’. I mean sometimes I do think I am psychic, as I knew it was all going too easy, and now we have what looks like another load of paperwork. It wasn’t a shock as you kind of prepare yourselves for the unexpected, but it was a little bit of a surprise because as experienced adopters, you skip stage one of the process and go straight into stage two and usually stage one is where you do all of this sort of paperwork. I’m trying my hardest not to show just how puzzled I am, but did quickly ask “I thought you use the paperwork from stage one?”, to which Gemma quickly replied “Yes, we do use that paperwork, but a lot has happened since then, I mean you have moved house twice for starters” which got us all laughing.
Gemma then explains that there are actually two separate forms for each of us, but that there are some sections we need to fill out together and some where we do need to complete on our own. I am now completely dreading this as I am not a big paperwork fan, but Rich as you can imagine is no doubt already thinking about his spreadsheet in his head right now, planning exactly how and when we will do it all. Gemma then ran through the forms to explain that they will be used as part of the assessment process and will also no doubt bring up some good points for discussion, based on our experience of going through the process the first time around and what it’s actually liked being parents, compared to what we thought it would be like. Secretly, I am laughing in my head right now about the ‘what we thought it would be like as parents’ as I am sure we all believe that our child will only ever eat organic food, will always have their five a day fruit and vegetables and basically be the textbook child, that once you actually become parent you very quickly realise doesn’t actually exist. All children are different and all different parents are different too, I mean even me and Rich often think of doing things in different ways and have to decide together which one we will actually take. You learn very quickly that it is a huge guessing game, sometimes you get it wrong but sometimes you get it right and it feels amazing.
Gemma passes the forms over and I open up mine and immediately see a question on the first page which reads ‘Since your child has joined your family, have you had any significant life events? (including marriage, moving house etc)’ and I very quickly realise that this is going to be a very important exercise, as we have got married and moved twice since he moved in with us. “Gemma, do we need to be worried about the fact we have moved twice?” to which she explains that we do not need to be worried about it, but we will definitely need to be able explain the reasons behind both moves, as it is a little unusual to move so often, especially after adopting a child. It was clear that Gemma understood our reasons for moving both times were completely with the Boy’s best interests at heart, but she explained that the adoption panel may probe on this at panel and we would most probably need to explain. She did finish it off with a positive though, as we are now fully back with our support network which they will only see as a good thing.
I have to admit that the excitement and confidence I had at the start of the meeting was really starting to dwindle away, as it seemed that each page that was turned led to another potential issue or discussion point for me. It feels like Rich has got it easy and doesn’t have anything to worry about with his forms, however I must remind myself, that he was the one who really wanted to move back, so he will have something not so perfect to talk about. But for me, I am just so worried about opening up again about my feelings and my struggle with building an attachment when the Boy first came to live with us. I mean it’s not like I can even make it up, as Gemma was the one who really helped me understand that it was completely normal to struggle and for the love to need to build up and not just automatically exist. Gemma did always reassure me that this happens a lot with adoptive parents but my worry is whether this is going to affect us adopting again. How am I going to explain in panel that I felt like a permanent childminder at first, how will I explain that it did take a while for the attachment actually build, but after a while the bond really came to life. I just wish I didn’t have to go over it all again, as right now I love him more than anything in the world and will always be his Daddy that is there for him, so I need to sort myself out and get this written on paper and be prepared to talk about it to panel when we eventually get there.
Gemma then moved then conversation on, by explaining we have no rush on the forms but that she would be back next week to go through anything we had done but suggested we spend the last twenty minutes talking about what we are really looking forward to most about having a second child and sibling for the Boy. I personally think she could tell that my worries were building again, as she really does know me so well and knew this was probably all I really wanted to talk about. So, I start to go on and on about all of the lovely things that I cannot wait to be able to do with the two of them, I continue to assume it will be a little sister as that is what he wants, which clearly takes me down the path of magical Disney fairy tales, singing and dancing. Basically, all the things I hope that any daughter of mine would truly love. I don’t mean to have the typical stereotype of a little girl with a pink bedroom, playing with dolls and pink ribbons in her hair, but I can at least dream about this potentially being a reality for now. Gemma spent most of the time laughing at me, while Rich did the same, as they both know just how much I was living out my wishes, about all of what is hopefully to come, but both deep down knowing that I will be doing all of it if I get the chance.
The time as usual when Gemma comes over really flew past and it was already the end of first assessment session of stage two, with Gemma joking “only nine more to go before we get you booked in for panel all over again”. Gemma gets her stuff together and we say our goodbyes, which compared to our first ever stage two assessment with Gemma, that consisted of a nervous handshake, has turned into hugs at the door before she heads off. It’s hard not to like anything she says, even when it may be a difficult subject that we need to cover or a bit of challenge to one of my answers, as I know deep down she has the children in need of a family home in her mind at all times and she got it so right the first time around, that I completely trust her to make our dreams come true all over again. Rich sees Gemma out and closes the door, before heading back in to eat his share of the untouched posh biscuits, that has sort of turned into a tradition now after any adoption-based visits and we start to think ahead to the next visit, so bring it on.