Clinton and Damien Blog

26th July 2014 - Session 4

So today is the final day of prep-group. It was a mixed bag heading into prep-group today as I am sad to say good bye to everyone but also really excited to officially apply for adoption. One of the folks in prep-group brought in some doughnuts and cupcakes, which was a wonderful surprise and delicious. So we started off really well.

The mood in the group suddenly changed when we were asked to split into two groups and list abuse experienced by children and how this could affect them. This is naturally a hard exercise to complete as you are having to think of situations children could be facing each day. What was even tougher was working out the "grey area's". But it opened our eyes to how we would have to be sensitive to this abuse for the child/ren we adopt.

Afterwards, we watched a DVD on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. This was shocking and there was a definite change in the group afterwards. We discussed this and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome a little which I had never truly understood before. But it is so scary that some birth parents are so focused on their own issues that they can't see or understand how their behaviour effects their unborn child. This was a tough and emotional subject to touch on.

We all went to Leith Links for lunch again. This was wonderful as the group seriously seem to be bonding this week. It is great to know that these folks are going through the same process as us (and at the same time). I think we may have been a bit early back from lunch, so we watched a funny YouTube video of a child arguing with his mum. This lightened the mood a bit before heading into our next subject. I put this up and got a row from my partner for "taking over" - but it was worth it...

The rest of the afternoon was spent discussing the different approach of parenting a traumatised child. This was really enlightening and gave some helpful guidance. We also watched a few dvd's to help our understanding on this. Dan Hughes was the key person we listened to and watched. He and Holly van Gulden will be the ones I will be researching more on.

Just before we headed, we discussed the next stages and were able to ask a few final questions. Afterwards, the majority of us ended in the pub for one last get together before the next stage of our journeys. I am also pleased to say that we have all shared emails and numbers to keep in touch.

In conclusion:

The prep-group is something I would advocate to every person who is looking to adopt. My initial reaction was that this would just delay the process of adopting. But having been through it, I would say this is fundamental before deciding if adoption is for you. It gives you the truth of adoption which you would never know otherwise.

My advice to anyone going on prep-group is: relax into it and ask any and as many questions as you wish. This is your time to learn all you need to know in order to make a decision on whether adoption is for you. Enjoy and good luck!

A huge thanks to Judy and Kathryn for their time, guidance and patience. I think the consensus of the group where that you both have a wonderfully calming and reflective approach to such difficult topics, which really helped us all.

25th July 2014 - Session 3

Today was day 3 of our prep group. We were very excited heading in to today's session as we get on well with the others in the group, know what to expect and come bearing gifts (a banana cake, which thankfully went down well).

We started the day meeting a lovely couple who had adopted through Scottish Adoption. Their story was so uplifting as they had such a good experience (slightly unmanageable expectations were set). Their journey through the adoption process was extremely quick and they were matched to a very young child - exactly what Damien and I would love. Though we know this isn't the normal process (or even average), it was just wonderful to hear such a successful story.

We all seemed a bit sullen at the start but slowly got into their story. We asked them a few questions, which I found very helpful as were heard exactly how they coped. We all seemed to benefit from their visit in some way. But the main comments were around the relationship between them and their social worker. It was wonderful to see how well they got on and the trust between them. It put my mind at ease about the home study part of our journey.

Just before lunch, we had a discussion with Kathryn and Judy. It mostly revolved around the process of adopting. This week there seems to be a distinct change in the group (more open and comfortable discussing semi-private matters around adoption).

For lunch we all went to Leith Links (or the Meadows if you are me...) for a picnic. This was just wonderful as everyone attended and we got some time to chat about our thoughts on the process so far - all very positive stuff. And thankfully, we arrived back on time.

The afternoon was mostly spent discussing after adoption support. We had a couple of social workers visit to explain what support would be available to us. It is amazing to know that Scottish Adoption is available for support as long as needed after adoption (even when we or our adopted child is 60). This was a big relief for me as I had some concerns about life after adoption.

We then broke into two groups (splitting couples up) to chat about anything to the others without our partners. This was again an amazing experience, as we could openly share stories and feelings. It was wonderful to hear others stories and discuss our thoughts / concerns - without the scrutiny of the better half.

This took us all the way to the end. Tomorrow is our final day of prep group. I am excited to be able to officially apply afterwards but  also a little sad to say goodbye to the others. I am hoping we all keep in touch as it would be lovely to meet up at a later stage.

19th July 2014 - Session 2

The second day was emotionally tiring, yet very positive on how adoption can provide a young person a better future. My partner and I were eager for today and arriving was much less daunting than day 1. We have gotten to know the others a little and feel a bit more comfortable opening up and discussing matters (so much so my partner asked me to allow others in the group a chance to speak).

The first thing we went through was how children develop at various stages. We were given comments and asked (in two groups) to try and identify at which age range each comment slotted. This is harder than it sounds as some could possibly fit in all age ranges. It allowed us to think how parenting styles could change at various stages.

Then we also discussed how children need a connection at their earlier stages in life. And the impact of these needs not being met or being disrupted. There was a heart wrenching DVD of a Russian baby home which highlights these impacts and how this effects brain development. A tough watch and really puts things into perspective. My partner and I found it particularly interesting that children's development stages don't have to be age related and how quickly disruption in development can have an effect.

These topics were very heavy and to lighten the mood before lunch, we watch a hilarious DVD of children eating cakes, it worked! The majority of the group went to the pub for some food. This gave my partner and me the opportunity of getting to know some others a little better. But as I can talk -a lot -, we got back a little late and had to apologise. Judy and Kathryn were absolutely fine about it, but I still feel a bad (Note to self - I will need to take a cake next week).

The afternoon kicked off with some discussions around gains and losses for: adoptees and the birth parents. We were asked in two groups (one for adoptees and the other for birth parents) to list the losses and gains each would have. Our group had adoptees. It was interesting to see that even though there are loads of gains, there are also loads of losses. Really puts things into perspective!

Lastly, we discussed contact with birth parents. I was apprehensive going into this subject. I felt contact is just confusing for all parties involved. We watched a DVD of a birth mother and how contact helped her come to terms with the grief of loosing a child and not feeling forgotten. This was an eye opener as I had never considered the birth family and the impact contact could have on them.

We then watched another DVD which showed contact from all perspectives, even adoptive parents. It was amazing to see how contact can help the child develop their identity. I take my hat off to adoptive parents who encourage contact for their children - it is so brave of them! 

This DVD was also such a treat: we saw some of the children who were featured in day 1's DVD - 9 years on. They all looked so happy and it was uplifting that their lives were changed by adoption.

My partner and I learnt a fair bit from today and it made us feel more sure of this extremely large decision to adopt. Can't wait for next week.

18th July 2014 - Session 1

Today was the first day for our prep-group. And as you can imagine, my partner and I were very apprehensive walking into the Scottish Adoption's front door. But all fears were instantly alleviated by Kathryn and Judy's very warm welcome, a cup of coffee and a biscuit.

While waiting to start, the room had a bit of a mixed air to it. There were the usual nerves but mostly, the group were chattier than I had expected.

The day started with Judy and Kathryn explaining all that is involved in the Prep-Group. They then gave us the task to find someone (not your partner) and learn about them, so to later introduce them to the rest of the team. I found this to be a great ice breaker.

Next we were asked to draw two homes: one of our childhood and another one now as an adult. There were some lovely masterpieces! But what struck me were the stories behind the artwork, which were so individual to each person and had such a special meaning to that person. It was also wonderful to highlight the importance that parts of our childhood carry over/affect our adult lives, which would be the same for an adopted child.

We were then asked to read some real children profiles. This was tough as I was slightly naive to the experiences of some adopted children. We had time in groups to reflect on these profiles and answer some prescribed questions. But all I kept thinking was how anyone could let this happen to a vulnerable child.

Thankfully this lead into lunch time. Some of the group wanted some personal time and others had lunch together. Lunch was a breath of fresh air after reading the profiles.

After lunch we regrouped as a whole and discussed our individual thoughts on the profiles. This was interesting as everyone felt the same but pulled different information from these profiles. And again it was great to see how each persons individual life story brought a different outlook into this.

Lastly, we had a discussion on the various stages of a child's understanding of adoption and watched a video of real adopted children discussing aspects of their lives. This video, for me, was the highlight of the day!

As these children were so varied in age, you could see the different stages of understanding. And it also really highlighted:

1) The benefits of confident, honest and clear communication about adoption to children by their adoptive parents

2) The need of possible communication with the birth family and the benefits that has on the adoptive child (should it be appropriate)

3) The importance of the child knowing their story of before and after adoption in as much detail as possible, so they can build a healthy identity of themselves.

So in conclusion, my partner and I were pretty drained after today. It was a day loaded full of information and emotions. But can't wait for the next gathering.