Even though the Adoption Order was granted on the 7th January, when everything was formally made legal and official, there have still been quite a few minor admin things to do.
We needed to wait for the court bureaucratic wheels to slowly turn and issue various bits of paperwork so that she can be entered officially into the Register of Adopted Children, which once completed means that you can apply for an Adoption Certificate (which is very similar but slightly different from a birth certificate). This document has her new legally changed name on it, which you need to supply in order to do other official things, like apply for a passport, or change her name on other official things like the NHS/Dr’s surgery records, and her child benefits account, etc.
i have now received this, she now legally and officially has my last name/family name, and I have already applied for a passport so that we can hopefully go to Australia soon and visit my brother and dad and the rest of our family can meet my daughter!
One of the last things to do is to book a celebration hearing. These are optional, and I have heard mixed things about them from other adopters. Some found it all a bit pointless – the hearing with the judge is usually less than 10 minutes, a short speech and some pictures, and I know some adopters who expected more and were annoyed that they had dragged their families down for the day and it was such a short event. Equally for some children, it can be scary and overwhelming, seeing their social workers again or thinking they might be taken away from mummy and daddy. I think the age of the child and their level of understanding of what is happening all comes into play as to whether they will enjoy it or find it hard.
Some people have told me it’s really more for the judge than for the child – a chance to occasionally see a joyful outcome in an otherwise pretty grim job. Most judges spend a lot of their day sentencing people to jail or giving bad news or making awful decisions to take children away from their birth parents. To occasionally see the happy outcome of such tough decisions must really help them to know they have made the right choices, and it must be nice, especially if it is the same judge who has made these major decisions about that child’s life.
Some people think it’s all a bit silly, especially as younger children won’t even know what’s happening or remember it, but it’s also an opportunity for the social workers to say a final goodbye (as they will no longer be seeing us ever again!) and is a good way to mark the end of that child’s journey in the care system, even if they don’t remember it, the pictures will serve as a reminder later on of the occasion.
So I went into it with low expectations, not really sure what it would be like, but invited my mum and her partner, and my sister and her family to come along and join us for the day. It was a long way for everyone to come for something that would inevitably be a 10-minute ceremony, so we tried to keep everyone’s expectations low, but it was lovely that everyone made the effort to come and we actually had a fantastic day.
On the day we all got ready in the morning, and I had bought matching dresses for me and my daughter to wear – super cheesy and lame but I don’t care – I really wanted to do something special for us to mark the day and somehow link us together in her mind a bit more directly, as she obviously is too little to have a clue what was going on! My mum didn’t know I was planning the matching dresses, and had actually bought us beautiful matching necklaces (a bigger one for me and a little one for her) as a special gift – which of course we wore! It was a really lovely surprise and a beautiful present to mark the occasion.
We all piled into a big taxi together and set off to court – possibly the most happy and cheerful group of people who have ever headed to court on a random Thursday morning! It was the first time in a real courtroom for most of us, so it was interesting and a bit sombre on arrival. (We had a mini-panic when we arrived as the security guard didn’t have us on his list and told us we must be in the wrong building, but after checking it turned out we were in the right place they had just forgotten to add it to his schedule!).
There was a very sweet courtroom aide (I don’t know his official title!) who showed us into Courtroom 7 and told us where to sit, and explained to us what would happen. My niece and nephew were very excited when he explained that when the judge came into the room he would say “All rise” we had to all stand up just like they do on tv!
The judge arrived, and she made a very short but lovely and quite emotional speech, and even thanked me personally on behalf of the justice system, (which took me by surprise!) as without people like me who are willing to adopt, the jobs of judges like herself would be much harder. Then she gave my daughter a lovely bunny and a special certificate to mark the day she became “a full member of the XXXXXX family” with a hilarious disclaimer on the back to remind us it wasn’t a legal document, merely a nice momento from the day.
Then she invited us up to come up and sit in her special judge’s chair and take some pictures. My sister was even allowed to video-call in my brother and his family at the last minute so they could watch and join in remotely as well.
It was all really lovely and sweet and emotional, and over in less than 10 mins! Then we said our thank yous and goodbyes and walked off into town for a mega slap-up breakfast/brunch together. It felt like a really special celebration and I’m so glad my family were all able to come so far to be there for it – I really feel like we marked the occasion well!
Sadly there are very few pictures I can share on here, as most of the pics include my gorgeous girl and niece and nephew. However here’s a lovely picture of me and my sister and the bunny (I’m sure she won’t mind being featured on the blog!).
After stuffing ourselves senseless we rolled home and my daughter’s social worker, who hadn’t been able to attend the hearing, popped over to say a final goodbye and to deliver the life story book. Life story books are special books social workers make which tries to tell a child-friendly but truthful version of the story of her life so far, to help her understand as she grows up a bit more about who she is and where she came from, and why she was adopted.
I was a little sceptical as have heard mixed things from other adopters, some of these books can take months or years to get hold of, some are rubbish, or full of mistakes, and some are nice, but I must say the book her social worker made her was beautiful and really special – she put a lot of work into it, adding lots of pictures and photos and made it something really special to treasure and keep. While my daughter is still a little young at the moment, I think it is something we will get out and review every few months so she can start to understand the narrative of her life, which has had a rather complex beginning!
Overall it was such a wonderful and special day – one I will remember for many years and I am so glad we properly celebrated my daughter officially joining the family. It was such a joyous occasion and I was overwhelmed with love and happiness.
And finally, in addition to the gorgeous necklaces, my mum gave us one more present which is so lovely and incredibly special. My mum is an artist and often paints together with my daughter when we visit. She took one of my daughter’s random paintings of rainbow splodges and squiggles and drew over it to turn them into birds (possibly parrots or lorikeets). It’s such a beautiful painting and so special to have a picture made by my daughter and her grandma together. I can’t wait to frame it and find a place to hang it!