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Stage One - Expression of interest to decision on suitability

The first stage of the adoption process is from you picking up the telephone to tell your Adoption Agency that you would like to adopt, to the point where officially you are granted your Certificate of Eligibility

This first part of the adoption process is the part where you are assessed as suitable prospective parents.

Your adoption agency or local social services need to establish if you are able and capable of providing competent, caring, positive and resilient parenting to bring a child up to their full potential through their childhood years and into adulthood.

Unfortunately, solely the desire to become a parent is insufficient when it comes to adoption - you have to prove that you have the ability. This is one of the personally hardest aspects of the adoption process - if nature had not let you down then there would be no second thought. And, in fact throughout the world, every second of the day a child is born with very little thinking and planning about the ability to parent them. With birth children you are natural parents, with adopted children you have to be super-duper hero parents.

It is irksome, frustrating and unfair.

In my humble opinion, it is in this area where there is a huge gap, between the thinking of potential adoptive parents and that of the adoption agency  professionals. And the area where the most angst, of the adoption process, happens.

It is the conventional wisdom that the paramount consideration is for the welfare of the child and that in all the adoption agency’s decisions about the child, their needs should come above those of adults.

And each social worker or adoption practitioner has a different understanding of how to interpret this. I was once told that the adoption agency needs to know that potential adoptive parents (PAPs as you will be referred to from here on) will make better parents than the child's own parents and they will be better cared for then in the place where they are presently residing.

I am not denying that there should be checks and balances, which of course there should be, but... uuumm..., sometimes there needs to be a reality check. Life in an orphanage is not good, never has been and never will be. All research points to children doing better in a family environment and among almost everyone I have spoken to they feel that they have been very, very harshly treated by the social services, who have made them feel inadequate, stupid, naive and even malevolent and criminal.

Jean and Joanne were discussing their home studies. Jean could not believe what Jo was saying - Jo found her home study to be an interesting and thought-provoking, whereas Jean felt that she was back in the 1930's and in front of the Stasi.

This first section of the process which includes first phone call, to  Initial visit from social work, to application, to preparation course, to home study, to report, to home study to Department of  Education and the issuing of your Certificate of Eligibility it is very difficult to state exactly what will happen as each local authority or adoption agency works differently.

Timings will be different, your experiences individual, the pace, your support, information, notification about events and professionalism will all vary. My first social worker always arrived 30-45 minutes late, my second social worker would knock on my door and if I did not answer it immediately she would leave straight away and report that I was 'un co-operative'.

If you are fortunate enough to be given a social worker who believes in inter-country adoption and is concerned about the plight of the world's orphans then go out right now and celebrate!! If your social worker, and the majority are in this camp, disagrees with inter-country adoption then prepare yourself for a tough ride.

One thing which I am concerned about, is the emotional cost of the process. 

To have every aspect of your life scrutinized by an official person is the most uncomfortable thing in the world. If you don't actually like the person who is doing the scrutiny it is almost unbearable, especially considering the point that none of this happens if you just fall pregnant.

To level the playing field and to make the process easier I have outlined here what  the social workers are looking for to better prepare and empower  you. 

If you need to vent, and I did often, then please make good use of the forum!

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