We have almost completed another stage in this long, drawn out process. The home visits with our social worker were intensive but have finally reached the finish line. We have a final, brief appointment tomorrow that consists of dotting i’s and crossing t’s. This will be the fifth visit from our social worker. Apart from obtaining the biological father’s consent, this aspect of stepparent adoption was what I was most nervous about. I was also feeling resentful at the thought of a strange person entering my home and evaluating our relationship with our son. Following our complaint and subsequent transferral to an independent agency, a freelance social worker was allocated to our case in order to move the process along. We had no idea who, or what, to expect.
Luckily for us, our social worker was a lovely, kind woman. From the outset she made it very clear that her role was to work for us and not against us. Once she had listened carefully to our story, she understood our frustration at the system and disappointment that we had still not gained legal security for our son. While she agreed that the visits were somewhat an exercise in futility, she still expected us to take them seriously. The process involved going through every aspect of our lives with a fine tooth comb. We had individual, joint and family sessions with her.
We had to disclose our personal history from birth to the present; education, relationships, family, interests, religion, philosophical beliefs and more. We were expected to relive significant and sometimes painful memories. We then had to revise our relationship as a couple from the moment of its inception to the present day. We gave long, detailed descriptions of each of our children and how we have approached parenting from pregnancy. We had to answer questions on future scenarios, like how we would deal with the teenage years and protecting our children from abuse. We had to disclose family history of our parents, siblings and extended family. Each session lasted from 2.5-4 hours. I was always drained after each visit. Our son was present for some of this time in order for the social worker to evaluate his relationship with both myself and his Daddy. She was discreet and tactful and our son grew quite fond of her. We always had biscuits out when she arrived so he knew he was due a treat whenever he saw her face. The child in question is usually interviewed regarding their view on the adoption, but because our son is so young this was not appropriate. She simply noted his level of contentment within his current family set up. Needless to say, he “passed” with flying colours. Two parents who adored him, and an annoying baby brother thrown in for good measure. A lucky, loved little boy.
The social worker also had to conduct interviews with our nominated guardians and referees as named in our original application. They were expected to communicate their opinion on both our individual characters and our relationship with our son.
When all this information had finally been compiled we then have to review our original application. Because the process had been delayed for so long, our medicals and our financial statements are now out of date and needed to be renewed at our expense. They have not been assessed by anyone so far.
The process is incredibly thorough and this is entirely appropriate when you are adopting a child outside of your family. It is heartening to see the HSE take their role of a child’s advocate so seriously. When you are adopting your own child, however, it is simply bizarre and unfair. Having to explain my life, including some incredibly personal moments, in order to prove my worth as a prospective parent for the child I gave birth to and cared for is just wrong. These visits were so intense and incredibly difficult. As soon as the social worker left I had to return to caring for my young children without any time or space to mentally process what felt like a passive interrogation.It feels like we are being punished for stepping outside the mould in order to secure my son’s place with his Daddy.
We are still intact, however.
Finally, I’d like to sincerely thank those of you who have either commented or e-mailed and empathised with our situation. I am genuinely delighted that what I am writing about is somewhat helpful to others who are also being dragged through such a ridiculous process. If you’d like to get in touch, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I might take a few days to respond, but I will! Although it feels like this will never end, I am hoping we will get our piece of paper soon and an account of our experience will be left online to inform and assist other prospective candidates.
Onwards and upwards.