Simone and I had been together about 3 years when we started our adoption journey. We had both always known as individuals that we wanted to have a family, and it was something we’d talked about from very early on in our relationship. We considered our options and pretty quickly agreed that we would love to adopt. We attended some information events and soon learned about concurrency. It was perfect for us. Clearly we carefully considered the uncertainty and potential heart break that might ensue if we were to lose a child we had cared for. But the prospect of looking after a very young baby and ours being their first and only home, preventing them from needless moves and upheaval outweighed the negatives.
Our assessments officially started in July. Our training was extensive but fully appropriate and invaluable. As a concurrent carer you have to go through foster carer and adoption training. Reading through scenarios really hit home to us how complex cases could be and how vulnerable children involved in concurrency really were. Together with our Social Worker our ‘Prospective Adopter Report’ was compiled over the following weeks and months. We learnt things about ourselves and each other along the way that no couple planning to have a biological baby ever have the opportunity to!
Simone and I went to adoption panel in February and foster panel in March. The thought of it was daunting, but it was far from a grilling and we felt fully prepared and supported by our Social Worker.
Not long after approval we received a few calls about potential placements. Some didn’t feel right for us and fortunately we always agreed. It was sometimes tough to say no, but we knew it was crucial for all involved that we were 100% sure. Five weeks after our approval we got the call about Elisa. Immediately we knew she was right for us and agreed to the placement. We met her the next day at the emergency foster carer’s house and she was at home with us the next day! It was an absolute whirlwind! We had 3 Social Workers deliver her, then a Midwife visit and contact arranged for first thing the next morning. She was 4 weeks premature and tiny. Needless to say she fed little and often and no one got much that sleep that night!
Contact arrangements are decided in court and, partly due to logistics, Elisa had contact twice a week with her birth mum for two hours and once a fortnight with her birth aunt for an hour. Contact was always supervised and we just had to do brief handovers before and afterwards. We also completed a communication book daily to give the birth family an idea of what was going on, and they were also encouraged to complete it. On the whole we had a good relationship with Elisa’s birth mum. We tried to facilitate this by respecting any requests she made, however small they may seem. We could see how difficult it would be to only see your daughter for four hours a week.
From the moment we met Elisa we loved her. We loved everything that came with having a tiny baby – even the nappies and sleepless nights! There was never any doubt over our attachment, and fortunately she attached really well to both of us equally. But with concurrency and the fostering phase you do live with a constant doubt hanging over you. You can’t look past or plan beyond the next court date. Every unavoidable conversation about the future ends with ‘if she stays with us’. It’s a difficult way to live, and not for everyone.
The closer we got to the final decision the more tense things got. We had a delay with court that set things back about 4 weeks. It felt like forever. We were kept as informed as we could be by Elisa Social Workers, but as the foster carers you are generally and rightfully the least important piece of the puzzle. Elisa and her needs were most important and we understood that. We eventually got the call from the delayed court hearing. The Judge had agreed with all the other professionals and their recommendation of adoption! We were absolutely over the moon. It felt like we’d won the lottery. At the same time there was huge relief – that weight that had been on our shoulders had been lifted!
We had to take Elisa to contact the day after court decision. It was really, really tough. Birth mum was understandably very upset. We had hugely mixed emotions as we could empathise with the prospect of having lost Elisa, and we could see her birth mum loved her. Ultimately though, we knew that Elisa would be safe and happy with us and that adoption was the right decision for her. Birth mum and aunt’s ‘goodbye contacts’ were arranged soon after. Again these were emotional, but hugely positive. It was evident that knowing Elisa’s adopters was very reassuring for her birth mum. The three of us had a short period of time together for us to ask her things we thought I might be curious about growing up. Birth mum also discussed with us what would be important to her in relation to Elisa’s future and upbringing.
Concurrency is certainly a rollercoaster, but it has been completely worth it. It has gifted us with our beautiful, cheeky, fun and fiercely independent daughter and made us a family. We look forward to our future together and are already thinking about doing it again!
Helen & Simone*
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity
The Concurrent Planning Service is the largest of it’s kind in the country