So here’s the thing.
Homestudies are hard work.
I mean, they have to be, because ultimately, the social workers have a finite period of time to figure out whether or not you are a suitable person to care for a child, and at the end of this process a child’s life is at stake. So they have to be SURE. And they have to be thorough.
But that doesn’t make it easy.
In fact, parts of it are pretty excruciating.
Imagine a total stranger coming to your home, and digging deep into your childhood, your formative moments, your most traumatic moments, the things that made you who you are today. Then imagine that same person plucking out all of your flaws with a pair of tweezers, picking over them, discussing them in excruciating detail, and trying to find weak points, and reasons why you might turn out to be a crappy parent.
It’s a little nerve-wracking.
Until now, I’ve never questioned my potential parenting ability – I believe deep down that I’ll make a good mum, I just do. But now I’m realising that all these people are poking and prodding at me and my capabilities to see if they can prove it, or find something wrong with me, that will prove I’ll be a terrible parent, and it is surprisingly hard not to take that personally.
I feel confident that anyone who knows me well would agree I would make a good parent, but the adoption panel don’t know me. My social worker doesn’t really know me. The adoption panel are going to pick everything apart with a fine tooth comb, and so what my social worker is doing now is trying to find every flaw and hole so that she can pre-empt their questions and concerns. I’ve got 6 meetings, a total of about 10 hours overall, to convince my social worker that I would make a good parent. The adoption panel have to make a judgement based on her written report and documentation. They don’t actually even have to meet me in person (my social worker is the one who has to go in front of the panel and justify a recommendation for me to be an adopter. I can choose whether or not I want to go in and be involved or wait outside and let the social worker do it). So she needs to pick holes in all my plans so that she can be ready for when the panel do the same thing.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to take when someone questions your capabilities, especially when you have no way to prove they are wrong. They are essentially questioning my potential to be a good parent, and the thing about potential is it’s an unknown entity and impossible to quantify. I can’t prove that I can commit to a child without actually committing to a child. It’s really quite unnerving, and left me feeling rather emotionally wrung out.
I hate that they made me doubt myself, even for a moment.
Up until now I’ve been a completely open book – I believe that honesty is the best policy and that I’ve got nothing to hide. I genuinely believe that I will make a good mum, and I have wanted to be a mum for such a long time. Adoption is something I am totally committed to and I really really want it to work.
After my social worker’s 2nd visit, I felt deflated and worried, and also a little humiliated at having to drag out every potential flaw I might have as a parent and analyse it in such a brutal way. And having someone constantly looking at ways in which I might fail is not great for the self-esteem.
We also had a sobering conversation about my ecomap and my support systems. She was really pushing me on how I will get the support that I need.
SW: “What if you fall ill or are in hospital?”
Me: “Well my mum could come down and stay with me….”
SW: “Yes but she’s too far away in an emergency, plus she’s also not well and what if she can no longer support you like that later on down the line?”
Me: “Well I’ve got several close friends who live nearby and who could help me out in an emergency”
SW: “Would your friends be willing or able to take a week off work to look after your child?”
Me: “Well no, I guess not, but they could step in for the first day until my mum could come down and then we’d figure it out from there, maybe my sister could come and help, or something…”
And so on….
I felt like I was being hammered, and that she was deliberately poking holes in all my backup care plans. I’m someone who is good at juggling things, and making things work, and finding solutions, but after that meeting I felt deflated, as if they are determined to prove that I won’t be good enough. I’m scared I’ll get to the adoption panel and be weighed, measured and found wanting.
I know that taking this on as a single parent is daunting, and that I’ll need to have more in place in terms of support than a normal couple would. And I get that they need to be reassured that I’ve thought this through and got back ups in place. However, I also know that there are single parents all over the world who don’t have a written care plan, and who somehow manage to make things work when things go wrong. I am confident that I will be fine and able to manage in a crisis.
Thankfully, my 3rd meeting was much more positive – I don’t know if it’s because the social worker has now met with some of my references, and feels reassured about me, or whether it’s just that we’ve moved past the really difficult parts and into the easier stuff, but I felt much more reassured after the last visit than I did in the previous one.
On a side note, on the admin front, having thought I’d done most of the heavy lifting and paperwork in Stage 1, I was surprised to discover the next round of things I need to provide, including:
- A couple of photos of me for the file
- A pet assessment form
- Another, similar but different home safety check
- Copies of my insurance documents, such as
- Car insurance (which must be fully comprehensive and not 3rd party – interesting twist that nobody mentioned earlier!),
- MOT certificate,
- Car tax,
- Gas boiler service maintenance records
- Life insurance,
- Home insurance,
- A statement of my income and expenditure, monthly outgoings, plans for changes after having a child, estimated childcare costs etc
- Proof of functioning smoke alarms and C02 alarms.
- Last 3 months of bank statements,
- Work contract
- Mortgage statements,
- Pension records
- Outstanding debts such as student loans and credit card bills
Annoyingly, as Cuba was my epic holiday-of-a-lifetime, I ended up spending more money that planned, and so April is not a good month to show off my bank statements! Just one more thing for them to pick holes in…
Also the home safety check threw up a range of interesting things I don’t have that I now need to buy, some of them are obvious (e.g. stair-gates, child locks for the cleaning cupboard and other basic child-proofing things) and some of them are quite odd.
For example, I need to have a cover for my rotary washing line when it is not in use (a strangling hazard it seems), and a first aid kit to keep in the car. I also need to have both a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket – which I laughed at, because I don’t know a single parent who had a kid and went out and bought these things, but apparently I must have them!
I also have to try harder to get my BMI under 30, as I am currently technically classed as obese, which will be of concern to the medical advisor. They will be concerned that I only gave up smoking 2 years ago, and I will need to convince them that I am confident I won’t start smoking again. Ultimately they need to make sure they are placing a child with a parent who will live a nice long time, and as there is only one of me, this is even more important. Luckily I’ve been going the gym and trying to eat more healthily and have lost 2kgs so far, so I am hopeful I can get my BMI under 30 by August (I’m down to 30.10 on the BMI scale).
So there we are – it is hard, but it’s supposed to be hard. They are doing all the right things, to ensure I’m not a psychopath, and I will hopefully develop a slightly thicker skin in order to calmly and rationally discuss all of the ways in which I might not be good enough, and try to maintain my core belief that I am good enough.