Wondering what to expect? What to take? What to wear? Don’t panic. It’s not as scary as you might think. Promise.
We went on our adoption preparation course in September 2011. It was a Monday and Tuesday of one week, then the following Monday and Tuesday. We’d only got back from holiday the night before the first session, so were quite pleased with ourselves for getting there on time and in clean clothes! Our course was held at the council offices, which have an excellent subsidised restaurant, so we grabbed a coffee beforehand and looked around, trying to deduce who the other prospective adopters might be. Although we had been waiting ten months since our initial application to get to this point, others had been waiting far longer (two years is not unheard of). One social worker told us that our timescale was shorter because we were interested in adopting siblings, so we were ‘fast tracked’.
What to expect
The other people on your course are likely to be normal human beings as well and will probably be just as apprehensive. There were three other couples (ie a total of 8 people) on our course, and two social workers running it. There should have been another couple of participants, but they dropped out. (Aside: if you are thinking of dropping out at this stage, I suggest you give the course leaders a few days’ notice, because people wait months to get on these courses and it’s a bit rude to deny others a place. If you’re not sure, just ask to be postponed to the next course while you have a think.)
The sessions themselves are about a range of topics and are intended to help you see things from the child’s perspective, to learn about the types of abuse or neglect they might have suffered and/or witnessed, how many homes they might have had, how many broken relationships, etc. You’ll look at how this is likely to affect the way they behave when they come to live with you. You’ll also examine issues from the birth family’s perspecive and talk about contact, both ‘letterbox’ and face-to-face and what that might involve.
What to wear
Smartish casual is a safe bet. Jeans and jumper are fine. It’s not an interview. You don’t have to impress anyone, so don’t dress up. Just be yourself.
What to take
If you can, complete any outstanding forms you’ve been given and take them with you. It’s also a good idea to take lots of ID documents: passport, driving licence, utility bills, that kind of thing. We had to complete CRB forms during the course, but this wasn’t on the first day, and we were given notice.
Take a notebook and pen. You’ll probably be given reams of handouts, but you might want to write down questions for the social workers. It’s also a great idea to swap email addresses with the others on the course so you can keep in touch.
We were given a large ring binder with all the course materials in it. You might find it helpful to take a sturdy carrier bag to put this in, especially if (a) it’s raining or (b) you don’t want to show everyone you pass in the street that you have a folder full of adoption information!
Be yourself. It should be interesting and you’ll meet people in the same boat as you who are likely to remain friends as you go through your adoption ‘journey’. Get the most out of the experience by asking questions and participating as thoroughly as possible. And enjoy it!
I’d love to answer questions from people waiting to go on their course, and to compare notes with those who have already been. Please leave a comment below – you can remain anonymous if you like.