Our adoption journey: what if?

Getting The Adoption Order has caused me to reflect a little on our adoption journey. As I look back, it’s strange to think how things could have been different.

What if we’d had a reply to the first enquiries we made about a child? A little girl with FASD. What if we had pursued that potential match?

What if the potential adopters before us had agreed to have Little Bear?

What if Karen and Bob (my fictitious names for Little Bear’s foster carers) and Little Bear’s Social Workers had been more honest about his behaviour? What if they had provided a detailed list of all the behaviours we could expect? Would we still have gone ahead with the match?

What if our Social Worker (I call her Anne) had not been able to persuade Little Bear’s Social Workers to look at our details, despite them having closed the process to expressions of interest? What if she hadn’t advocated for us so strongly?

What if those Social Workers had not listened to her and had not kept an open mind?

What if we had decided that rushing through the process to get Little Bear before Karen and Bob went on holiday was too risky? What if we had waited and it had taken another 5 months for him to get here? Would we still have agreed to the match? Would it have been too late to reach him and to start turning his development around?

What if the placement had disrupted during introductions, as it so nearly did? What if we hadn’t put all our efforts into making it work? What if we’d had to come home without him?

What if we didn’t have fantastic support from everyone around us during those first challenging months?

What if?

I know what if. I know that the first little girl we saw was gorgeous but she wasn’t meant to be with us. I wonder now whether we really would have been able to cope with her needs. I do think about her though – I wonder what happened. I hope she got her forever home and is happy and settled there.

I know what would have happened if things had gone more smoothly for the potential adopters before us. They too would have seen the gorgeous boy hiding behind the behaviour and Little Bear would be living with them now…

I know what would have happened if we had been given a full and frank account of Little Bear’s behavioural needs. We would not have pursued the match. On paper, in black and white, it would have seemed unmanageable. We would not have thought that somebody with those needs would make a good brother for Big Bear. We would have been wrong, but we would have thought we were right.

In retrospect I don’t think that anybody was purposefully duplicitous, but I do think that in their desperation to find Little Bear a forever home, they had considered his needs through rose-tinted spectacles. For a while I was upset about this: it’s dangerous to ask adopters to accept a child into their lives without furnishing them with all the facts. Nobody wants a disruption but this type of lack of transparency could all too easily lead to one.

However, now, with the benefit of hindsight, I have to be grateful for this error of judgement. Without it, we would not have got our Little Bear.

I know what would have happened if Anne had not persuaded the Social Workers to look at our profile. They would not have seen the very clear links between our profile and Little Bears’. They would not have been struck by how right the match seemed. They would not have agreed to meet with us or allowed us to get to the point we are at now: a family. Though there were failings on their part, I have to be grateful that they believed in us and invested in the match.

I think I know what would have happened if we had not have taken the risk to speed up matching and introductions and to meet Little Bear a mere 6 weeks after first viewing his profile. I know Little Bear would have gone to respite care while his extended foster family went on a very exciting holiday. I know this would have served to confirm to him that holidays were bad and not for him. I know he would have been confused and unsettled. Perhaps he would have felt rejected or abandoned. I think he would have returned to his foster placement some weeks later (though there was talk of them not accepting him back again) and after a period of settling, preparation for adoption would have begun. I know it would nearly have been Christmas by then and Little Bear would not have been placed until the New Year. I know he would have been nearly 4 at this stage and assuming things had continued as previously, he would still not be potty-trained, still not sitting on a proper chair, still unable to walk appropriately beside an adult, still unable to understand language or express himself. Still not doing any of the things expected of a nearly 4 year old. And he would have been stuck in this delayed limbo for 5 months longer than if we had taken the risk of speeding things up. How far behind would he have been by then? I think his behaviour would have been getting towards unmanageable…

We knew these risks at the time and we listened to our gut instincts to go ahead with the expedited match. I am grateful that we allowed our hearts to rule our heads and we forwent the leisurely build up and time “to rest”.

I think that had we not, there is a significant chance that the placement would not have happened at all or would have happened but not worked out. I know that we were Little Bear’s last chance of getting adopted and that had things been different, he would now be embarking on a whole childhood within the care system…

I can hardly bear to think about what would have happened if the placement had disrupted during introductions. Suffice it to say that I have a deep sympathy for those who have had to disrupt placements and can only begin to imagine the stress and heartbreak they must have incurred.

I am extremely thankful that we did find the strength to persevere. We were certainly well scaffolded by key people around us who listened, counselled and dared to hope, whilst never judging us. Grizzly’s Mum came with us for introductions as we were staying far from home and needed help with Big Bear. She was with us every step of the way and I know she felt our anxiety and stress as much as we did. I’m not sure we could have successfully navigated those agonisingly difficult days without her unfaltering emotional support. And her practical support too – she just kept making food appear as if by magic!

We also had long distance support from my parents on a daily basis, from our friends and of course Our Social Worker, Anne.

We have been very lucky that the support has continued since we have returned home and is ongoing. It is hard to imagine adopting Little Bear without the comforting shroud of our support network encircling us. Those who feel isolated or unsupported on this journey again have my full sympathy. I find it difficult when Twitter friends are clearly struggling alone: if only I were nearer or could somehow improve things with some magic words. It’s hard to know how much impact you can possibly have in 140 characters!

I know I cannot change the course of events that have passed and it is certainly not helpful to dwell on them either, but now and again a little backward glance can be enlightening. This little pause for reflection has made me feel grateful for what has been and relieved we didn’t need to face the ‘what ifs’. After all, if we had, we would not now have Little Bear. We would not have had the joy of witnessing his progress, felt his gorgeous little cheek against ours, been able to comfort and cuddle him, hear his tinkly giggle or be amused by his endless mischief. Big Bear would not have had the chance to be a great big brother or have his world irrevocably altered by the funniest playmate he can imagine.

I’m not really sure if I believe in destiny but there is certainly serendipity about our story. There are so many points at which things could have gone differently, junctions at which Little Bear could have moved away from us. But somehow, whether through the intervention of something greater or not, at each of these intersections he headed in our direction, to us. Where we feel he is supposed to be.

So, despite some less than favourable circumstances, misinformation and considerable challenges, I am truly grateful for our journey.


Our adoption journey: what if?

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