Being adopted is, in my humble opinion, something to be proud of and celebrated. A child gets placed into a family who chose them and want them, and so when the bureaucractic process is over, why shouldn’t we celebrate the joyful creation of a new family?
Because of this process, I have a son I am immensely proud of and love dearly. Adoption has given me a family I wouldn’t necessarily have had in any other way, and I cannot imagine my life with a child-shaped hole in it; especially this child.
After the Adoption Order came through, I got to tell my son the news; between us, we wept happy tears and hugged. He has been embraced into the bosom of his forever family by not just me but by everyone who has met him; the Adoption Order is the icing on the cake of him already being claimed by me and everyone else.
Following the Adoption Order, there is the option of having a Celebration Hearing with the judge. This is a brilliantly informal ceremony to cap everything off; it shows an acknowledgement of the court’s role in deciding our future, and allows a sense of closure at the end of a long, often painful process.
In our family’s situation, my son’s Adoption Order was signed by the judge who had followed his case all the way through from the time he had originally come into care. The judge was based in the area where my son was born, a long way from where he now lives; to have a celebration hearing there would have been impractical – everyone invited would have had a long trip, even if they could get the time out of their schedules to make the journey.
But the court system is able to deal with that; we were by no means the first family to have that quandary, and so the celebration hearing was transferred to the nearest court to us. That was a much more reasonable thirty minute drive away, so off we went.
Excitement abounded when my son realised he got a morning off from school for the experience, as did his two cousins who go to the same school. My son also had his grandparents and his aunt and uncle there (all of whom he very clearly adores), and you could see a sense of belonging coming from him; he felt claimed.
We arrived at the courthouse with about ten minutes to spare, which gave us the chance to go through security. I had to remove my hat, and received a stern admonition from one of the security guards that I was not to put it back on until I had left the building (I’m not entirely sure why, but I decided to just go with the flow), and we went through airport-style security. My son was suitably impressed, and we were kept safe from arsenals of weapons some people perhaps consider bringing into such a venue, so all was well.
We were taken straight through to the courtroom by an usher with a lovely manner, who seemed to really appreciate the significance of such a simple, yet lovely, ceremony.
Whilst we waited in the courtroom, and my son gleefully explored every nook and cranny, I found myself getting strangely emotional. It hit me in that moment – in a powerfully evocative way – that this was truly the end of the process my son and I had embarked on. We had started it separately, each unaware of the other’s existence, and then come together in an introduction where I knew far more about him than he did about me. He had to learn my ways and mannerisms, and I had to put what I knew of him already to the test; would he react the same to me as he had with his foster carers? Would he like and trust me? Could we forge a bond?
We did, and I found myself reflecting on that in the moment at the celebration hearing. All the while, I was aware that we were there for him and his journey that had ended in his family claiming him and loving him.
The judge appeared and was utterly lovely; she was kind, generous, and thoughtful. She said quietly to me that she had had the opportunity to see his report, so knew his background, and would have made precisely the same decision as the judge involved in his birth district. That was pleasing to hear, even if I did already trust the decision implicitly.
My son was given a teddy, which he christened Noah; I was happy to go along with any name choice he made, and so that was that. We got some photos taken by the lovely court usher with the judge, and my son even managed to wear the judge’s wig (which, so I’ve now learned, is made out of horse hair – can you imagine anything more uncomfortable to wear all day? That’s dedication) as well as sit in her chair.
We were only in there for fifteen or twenty minutes, but it felt longer somehow; I think that was my brain’s way of trying to absorb every moment of it and appreciate what was happening. Without knowing it was going to happen, I momentarily lost my composure again whilst talking to the judge, and I was rewarded with a hug; what a moment of compassion from someone who has to make incredibly significant decisions every day of the week. She understood, I felt, the human complexities of these decisions – that life continues after she signs the decision.
And then it was over; we were back outside the court and heading back to the cars. Reality hit me then, surrounded by people who cared about me and my son, and who I cared about in return; this was it – reality, and our lives bounded together by that common thread of family.
A visit to a local tea room where cake was the order of the day – all three children consumed huge muffins that I was convinced they wouldn’t finish, but each of them did. We then made it back to school with time to spare for them all to get into the playground and then go for lunch.
Memories were made that day, for all of us, and now we get to be a family in every sense of the word. Social worker visits had finished, and I have information about my son’s past that I can share with him when the time comes – when he’s ready for it. I’ll be there for him, every step of the way, and he’ll always know that he’s loved and treasured and given every opportunity to succeed.
We’re a family; son, I love you, and you’re home.