Well, after a lot of wrangling I finally got my adoption allowance granted – and in the end they actually gave me more than I had asked for!
I had initially asked for quite a large sum over 4 months to cover my adoption leave, but in addition to that they have also added a mean-tested sum to continue until S is 18 which I wasn’t expecting! It will get reviewed annually but should provide an extra little buffer which is extremely welcome just now as all our bills start to go up and up and up!
My final matching or linking panel (to offically approve my match with S) was finally rescheduled and happened on the 24th Feb, and it was quite intense. There were supposed to be around 6 members of the panel, (they sent me the profiles of each person in advance so you know who is on the call) but when I dialled in on Teams there were 13 people there! Slightly intimidating but I survived! Turns out all the senior managers who have been involved in this highly unusual adoption all wanted to see it through and make sure it went ok, so there were lots of senior people on the call observing!
They asked me lots of questions such as:
- What makes me the right parent for S?
- How will I manage to support S’s emotional needs during the transition to our house and later in the transition to secondary schoool?
- How will I manage A’s needs during this period while the focus is likely to be on S? How has A been prepared for S’s imminent arrival?
- How will we support contact with S’s birth family and what measures have been put into place?
- This is S’s 8th placement/move in the last 5 years, and needs to be her last and final move, how confident are my social workers in my support system? How will I ensure my own self-care? How will I manage my own emotions during this difficult time?
So it was a fairly intense grilling but at the end of it we had satisfied everyone and we got a unanimous yes!
I had planned to go and get S after the panel so she could spend the rest of half term with us, and her official moving date had been set for 5th March to give her a bit of closure to say goodbye to her foster carer, who has been a fairly permanent fixture in S’s life for almost 5 years now. However the foster carer’s husband happened to be at home with the van so they offered to drive her over with her bike (as we’re not sure it would fit in my car).
So after the panel I went to get A from nursery and about 10 mins after we got home, S showed up with an entire van load of stuff! Turns out she had already packed up ALL of her stuff and decided for herself to go ahead and move in regardless of what all the pesky grown ups said!
So we spent the afternoon unpacking bag after bag of her stuff and finding homes for her toys, and clothes, and books and various piles of paperwork. She had literally dozens of pairs of socks (more than we could fit in the drawer) and huge bags of scrap pieces of paper for crafting and drawing, and about a million felt tip pens. A lot of it was rubbish that we agreed to throw out (we found a total of 4 different containers with old homemade slime in that were disgusting and gross).
It was also quite emotional sorting through some of her paperwork. I know that when she is upset she tends to throw things away that remind her of difficult or traumatic things, so she doesn’t have much from her previous failed adoption placement, but I also know that it’s still an important part of her history, and one day she may want to look back at photos or letters from that time, so I’ve carefully put some things away in a box that she may want to look at later on. She may still want to throw them out when she’s older, but at least she can decide for herself as an adult. Some of the letters and notes she wrote to her previous adoptive mum and to her aunt when she was living with them are just heartbreaking to read and made me feel incredibly emotional.
Seeing her history laid out like that, all those goodbye cards from all the different schools and friends she has had to leave behind and never see again, all those painful memories and letters from social workers, letters and goodbye cards for her siblings and cousins, it really brings home just what this kid has been through and how hard it has been for her.
No kid should have to go through what she has been through, to put up with such a constant state of fear and change and uncertainty, and it astonishes me that this girl has managed to be so incredibly resilient and positive and upbeat through all of it. She just wants to be loved, and to have a place that’s her own, and know where she belongs, and I really really hope that A and I can provide that for her.
Of course, as I wasn’t expecting her to move in literally the second the panel said yes, I hadn’t really prepared A for the influx of S’s stuff, so we had a fairly hefty amount of tantrums from A over all the exciting new toys that suddenly appeared in our house as she didn’t really understand that they were not all hers to play with. We had to have multiple chats about S’s stuff being hers and asking permission to play with things, and not taking all her teddies etc. S of course was eager to please so kept giving A things, which was terribly sweet but doesn’t reinforce the message that some stuff is hers to keep!
There’s going to be a lot of adjustment all round, but I am just so thrilled and excited that my baby girl is finally home! She may be nearly 11 but she’s always going to be my baby.
The actual moving day was really low-key and a bit tense. S was very nervous and anxious and so barely spoke, and the girls mainly stared at thier tablets and ignored me all day, but that’s ok. We are settling into our new lives together and figuring out how to fit together as a family. And it’s going to be awesome.
And now we are three…. And I’m a mother of daughters!
Congratulations! I’m thrilled for all of you.