I’ve been very honest and said that the matching panel – which recommends (or not) your approval – was one of the most intense experiences in this entire adoption journey. I still believe that now, because it’s the hour or so of your life where you are given the opportunity to sell yourself to a panel of experts, who then recommend whether or not you and this young person should be put together.
But there’s another little piece of the puzzle that almost felt as intense. After Panel is the waiting game, where the information is all passed to the Decision Maker, and they have to review it and decide whether or not to go with the recommendation of the Panel. Oftentimes they do – Panels are very good at what they do, and in my case, I was fortunate to receive a six-person unanimous verdict – but you never can quite tell.
But for me, getting a quick decision meant that the introduction plan we had developed could go ahead; if the Decision Maker took their time, then we would be quickly back to the drawing board – and have to delay the plan to tell the young man at the heart of all this.
So I was anxious. I fully admit to feel the weight of time on my shoulder as I waited for this senior member of staff, who I will never meet, to make the final decision. There was a brief blip when one part of the process didn’t go according to plan, and that both concerned and frustrated me – but I’m fortunate to be working with some excellent professionals, and one of them was able to allay my concerns.
I’m also working with an excellent set of foster carers; the more I’ve got to know them, the more I’ve come to respect them. I have valued their counsel during this process more than they will ever appreciate – even on the off-chance they ever stumbled across this blog, that simple sentence will never convey the depth of respect I have for them – and they talked me through various vagaries of process local to the area.
And then, like a bolt out of the blue, the Decision Maker returned their decision (the lack of gender isn’t an affectation – I genuinely don’t know anything about them) and the plan was on! It was like a rock to the side of the head, if you’ll pardon the rough and ready analogy; I was thrown somewhat, although we’d all agreed the plan the week before, and only then did I allow myself the chance to get excited … and nervous … and perhaps a little proud as well. At that moment, I became dad.
Contact between me and my son began shortly afterwards; he was told very soon, and his reaction was delightful and promising. Contacts are very delicate, carefully planned exercises, and even the best plan written down by the team around the child can’t predict how a child will feel on a given day or react in a given moment. So flexibility is key, and an openness with the foster carers is vital; they know my son best of all right now, and they’ll know if something’s going to work or not on any given day.
Fortunately, my son’s carers are caring, compassionate, and direct – they have the child’s best interest at heart, are absolutely focused on his needs, and tell it like it is. They’re my kind of people. We’ve agreed to communicate directly, and treat the plan for what it is – a living document that might well need to change depending on what my son needs.
The contacts I’ve had, now I’m dad, have taken on a different hue; he’s had to adjust his image of me from “Matthew”, introduced as a friend of the carers, to “Dad”, his parent figure who will take over the care responsibilities for him. He’s working it out slowly and surely, though, and I’m more than happy for him to go at his own pace; he needs to work it out in his own way, and he’s getting there. It’s a privilege to see his mind work.
And on we jolly well trundle.