Preparation & Instinct
How did we prepare to adopt? That's a question J and I are asked quite often.
We have a habit of fudging the answer.
We did of course do a huge amount of preparation for adoption. We had over eighteen months of sometimes gruelling, often intrusive, always appropriate questioning from our Social Worker as we prepared to go before the Adoption Panel asking for approval as adopters.
Practically we relocated our family home. Moving from a country cottage with a small, stepped garden, to a much larger house. This modern home having space more appropriate to children both internally and within its grounds.
We bought caps for the electrical sockets. We fitted anti tamper devices to the kitchen cupboards. We moved all potentially dangerous medicines and cleaning products to much higher cupboards.
Providing those examples in answer to the preparation question sometimes assuages the enquirer. More often though it doesn't.
"But what reading did you do?" Is the question most often asked next.
Most Adoption Agencies recommend a considerable amount of reading prior to adoption. We had a reading list provided by our Social Worker too. Books about attachment, child psychology, development. The range of texts was considerable.
Then there were the articles recommended by the wonderful BAAF (British Association of Adoption and Fostering). Their monthly magazine. The articles they publish through their website. All suggested reading too.
The fact is though, that we read virtually nothing prior to the adoption of our children.
Our lives were busy. Our experience varied. J in particular, having spent some time in paediatric medicine and mental health services in the past, felt well versed in many of the issues we might face.
While we didn't read generic texts we did study the vast amount of information we were presented with for each of our children. We scoured the myriad of social work, education, fostering, medical, psychological reports for both our son and latterly our daughter.
Seeking out clues to the challenges we would face. Identifying what we felt to be the significant issues they, and therefore all of us, might face as a result of the experiences they carried with them.
Last night I was sent a message by a friend. A new friend. A social media friend. Nevertheless someone who I have grown to trust. Whose advice I respect as he and his husband are much further down the adoption route than we are.
In response to my post about attachment he commented:
What strategies did you put in place to compensate for attachment disorder? That Vera Fahlberg book - A Child's Journey Through Placement - proved a godsend in the early years.
The question brought back the issue of how we had prepared. As you can see, whilst being aware of the book. Aware of the import attached to it by many adopters and adoption professionals alike. We never read it.
I owned up in my answer to my friend that we didn't really read anything prior to adoption of the children. Certainly nothing that influenced us so much that we used strategies from it.
So, how have we managed? How have we navigated our way through the process of integrating two damaged children into our family unit?
Honestly, we have felt our way throughout this process. Doing what seems instinctively right. Reacting. Adjusting. Behaving in the manner that seems most appropriate, most emotionally intelligent to the situation.
We are extraordinarily lucky that J and I compliment one another so well. Our strengths cover one another's weaknesses. Our mutual devotion forgiving, supporting, nurturing one another through the tougher days.
We have also been so incredibly fortunate to have remarkably intelligent and intuitive children.
When we have felt we needed external information or help we have turned to the internet, to our wonderful circle of friends and as a last resort to the absolutely fantastic adoption professionals at our Adoption Agency. Their breadth and depth of knowledge has never failed to astound us.
Many prospective adopters with whom we speak have been advised to read as widely as possible prior to beginning the process of approval and matching with a child.
My answer to the oft asked question of whether we feel it necessary is now this.
If you feel it's necessary. If you feel happier investigating, researching the subject then the recommended texts are indispensable. But not doing so does not preclude you doing the right thing, finding the most appropriate strategies.
Instinct can provide that for you. So can others when you need external input. They might be people within your circle, adoption professionals with whom you deal, or the authors of the recommended texts.
Of over-riding importance is recognition of when to look for that help.
We, none of us, have all the answers. Knowing when, where and how to look for those answers you don't have is what's essential.