Monday, 20 August 2012

Being matched for adoption

This week on the BAAF blog, adoptive mum Diana recalls her first meeting with Clare, an 8-year-old girl she was close to being matched with and explains the "mistakes" she thinks she made on that day.

The bill went up and up. The little girl picked out coloured notepaper and envelopes, pens, a sketchbook, a pencil case and crayons...anything she liked. She went from shelf to shelf, "amazed" (that was the word she used) and smiling. We were ecstatic just to be with her.

Just watching her joy was a thrill. Yet we’d just done the daftest thing you could do – let Clare, 8 the little girl we were in the early days of being matched with as adoptive parents, loose in a gift shop! This would rebound on us years later, but for now it was wonderful.

Our first meeting with her had been classed as "slightly unsatisfactory" by foster parents and social workers. So that first time we took her out alone we went overboard.

We never mentioned the word "adoption" on our first meeting, fearful of scaring her. After all the only reality she’d known, apart from her sad years as a seriously neglected and malnourished child, was with long-term foster parents. They loved her and had wanted to adopt her.

I was sure she would find it hard to imagine any other life, and wanted to go slowly. Wrong. It’s best to be open and tell the child you’d love to be her parents, from the start.

At that very first tea I heard Clare calling the foster parents "Mummy" and "Daddy" – painful. Weren't we going to be her mum and dad? She sat on their laps and touched their faces lovingly. She showed us her room and toys, but we didn't mention A-word. Big mistake. One of so many I made.

Apparently, when we left Clare had become distressed. She thought we didn't like her. And the foster parents had doubts about us – as they had every right to do. Their views counted. They had looked after her lovingly for two years.

But when I heard this verdict, I was distraught. I saw my hopes of Clare being ours evaporating. Maybe they'd ring, politely, and say with regret she was being matched with another family. I cried. We already adored her, and had imagined her playing in our garden, going to the school round the corner, growing up in the city.

But no – when the phone call came, it was that Clare would give us a second chance! This was a surprise, a marvellous turn of fate. There were meetings first to help us, of course – the social workers couldn't have been kinder. They want matches to work, but the final decision must be that of the child.

So – back to take Clare out, first with social worker and then, a couple of weeks later, out with just us in the car. I can't even remember where we went, a stately home with a well-stocked gift shop and a cafĂ©!

We wanted to show Clare beyond a shadow of doubt that we would love for to be our daughter. Buying her gifts and talking was all we could do, then.

She was thrilled but foster parents were not impressed...

You can read more about Diana's adoption experience over on her blog. If you need information or advice about adoption, please visit the main BAAF website.

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