The route to number 2
Our children are not birth siblings.
Soon after we had completed the formal adoption of our son (where we obtained the Adoption Order from the Court confirming him as our son, around six months after he came to live with us) we were asked by our social worker if we could talk to groups of prospective adopters about our experiences.
This we were happy to do and helped often.
Therefore we found ourselves, some eighteen months later, attending another prospective adopter event with our social worker. We walked out of the building having completed our presentation with her. "Things seem to have gone very well," she said.
"Yes, we're all happy, I think," J replied.
"So do you think you are ready for another child?" Our social worker asked.
We had discussed the possibility a little already. Our feelings were mixed. We thought a sibling for our son would be a positive thing.
Our son had benefitted enormously from being the sole focus of our attention up to that point. We'd help him face and exorcise many of the demons he carried with him when he arrived with us. However we both felt keenly the risk that being the sole focus of attention, not only for us but also our extended family, could make him unduly self centred.
We therefore agreed to proceed with the process for adopting a second child. Throughout we were very clear that we would only proceed with the adoption of a second child if we were sure it would not detrimentally effect our son. His interests were paramount and anything that disturbed the sense of self he had discovered and/or the security and happiness he felt could not be contemplated.
The process of obtaining approval to adopt child number two went remarkably smoothly. Our lovely social worker returned to go through the process of compiling the report for the Adoption Panel.
In order to do this she needed to spend some time with us together as a family and also to interview our, then, five year old son on his own.
Gentle probing of our son in our presence elicited his normal, down to earth response.
"You want to know whether I am going to be kind and nice to a new brother or sister, don't you?" He asked our social worker.
"Umm, yes," she responded.
"I'll share my toys with them and I'll look after them." He said.
After their time together our social worker came back into the room. "I don't think you'll have a problem there," she said. We didn't either.
Our son embraced the idea of a new brother or sister, talking excitedly about the preparations we should make. He was also reflective, seeming to realise that another child should share the chance of a new life he had been given.
As you might expect he had a clear preference for a little brother. When asked what attributes he would like his new sibling to have they included useful talents such as 'liking Star Wars, being able to use a light sabre, eating vegetables (presumably to take the heat off him having to do so) and able to ride a bike.'
Keen as our son was to attend the Adoption Panel that approved us as adopters for an additional child or additional children, we decided it would be best to leave him at home.
The panel were relaxed, chatty even. Their questioning probing, challenging and appropriate. Concentrating primarily how we, as a now settled and happy family unit, could and would accommodate another child without upsetting that harmony.
As with each of our previous visits to Adoption Panel, we waited nervously for the outcome to be reported by the Panel Chair. Approval was unanimous. We were relieved and happy.
Returning home that afternoon we collected our son from school on the way.
"So can I have a brother or sister?" Our son asked as he ran up to us in the playground. We waited for the privacy of our car before answering him fully.
"They said 'yes', they thought we would be a good family for another little boy or girl to join," J told our son.
"Little boy!" Our son said. "A good family for another little BOY to join. No girls. They smell!"
"We'll have to see, it depends who might need a new family," I tried to keep all options open in his mind.
"No smelly girls. What's for tea?" Our son's priorities shifted effortlessly to, for him, far more important issues.
We therefore began the process of waiting for a match to be made with a child deemed suitable for our family.
This is perhaps one of the most frustrating part of the adoption journey. Rather like the proverbial swan, our social worker (who was new to us, our former one having retired) was working hard to identify a child they thought would match our family dynamic. To us though he remained impassive and professional, unable to provide any detail until all of the myriad of pieces were in place to confirm a proposed match.
That call came one Spring afternoon a couple of months after our approval by the Adoption Panel.
I was canvassing with a friend standing in that year's local elections. In the middle of a street in a rural Dorset town my phone rang, showing an unknown number, indicating a likely call from our Social Worker.
He explained quietly and calmly that they had identified a little girl as a potential match for our family. Younger than we had wanted. Needing a quick transfer and with little family history available. There were big risks involved as a consequence of the lack of information about her, but he felt sure she would be a perfect match for us.
We agreed to meet a few days later with the little girl's Social Worker to discuss detail.
That meeting went well. The initial description was right, there were gaps in the information available about her, but none we thought insurmountable. She was quite considerably younger than the age range we had said we would consider. There was some reported developmental delay, she was under weight and under height for her age. She was also described as a live-wire and fiercely independent. She seemed to both of us a pretty good match.
We just now had to break the news to our son.