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Making the first call to your adoption agency

The first time you pick up the phone to call your local authority to advise them that you want to adopt, you need to know a few things.

  Here is where the Boy Scouts motto "Be prepared" is imperative. 

 Many a person's chances of becoming parents has been lost on the initial phone call. 

 Marie laments every time she sees my son. She wanted to adopt but was unprepared for the response she received on her initial phone call. The aggressive, and time pressed social worker heard the hesitant voice, asked how old Marie was, and on hearing 41, immediately retorted "You are far too old to adopt", and promptly put the telephone down.  A shaken and shattered Marie never found the confidence to pick up the phone again and thus has spent the last 10 years trying to resign herself to the fact that she will be childless for the rest of her life.

 How many children, I wonder, will never have the peace of a secure home because of ill-treatment of potential adopters by social services?

 So do not pick up the phone until you are fully prepared.

 When several adopters get together, we often talk about the 'conspiracy' to prevent international adoptions by the social services, on the first phone call. Very, very few people have had a pleasurable experience on this initial contact with the local authorities and the first step on their adoption journey.  In an ideal world, the response on the other end of the line should be, 'You would like to adopt from overseas? How wonderful, please come in to our offices (specially designed area for relaxed conversations) and let's see how we can help realise your, and a child's, dream to become  a forever family". We wish.

The adoption agency's primary role is to find adoptive families for the UK's looked after children. Thus they have been instructed that as soon as you mention 'international or inter-country or from overseas' they are to try to find out if you have considered adopting a looked-after child in this country and your reasons for not pursuing that avenue.  They want to establish that you do not have misconceptions about domestic adoption, and will try to convince you that this is the way to go. Unfortunately, very few social workers feel that other countries' looked-after-children also need families.

Thus,  your declaration of your wish  to adopt a child from overseas, will be met with negativity. There will be 'umming' and 'ahhing', you will be told that it is very expensive and not advised, very difficult, impossible, waiting lists too long, the children are all delinquent, the systems are corrupt etc., etc. It is as if they don't want to be bothered and you can just go away.

Last week, Mark and Joanne spent 40 minutes hearing how dreadful Russian children are, the horrific conditions of the orphanages, the fact that the children have never been outside and have never seen an adults face as the carers all wear masks! Plus of course all the children are defective.  Having adopted a beautiful and talented Russian child and having spent every day for 12 weeks in his orphanage, I am a little distressed to hear this prejudice, which left Mark and Joanne feeling totally shocked and shattered.

So, be prepared by the negativity of your initial telephone consult.  Although it is

abhorrent It is 'normal', and the first of a million barriers you will need to cross in your adoption dreams. We wonder if it is not a 'test', to get a measure of your committment although an unfair test ,as they hold all the power and you are unaware that you are being challenged at this early stage.

 To have a successful first conversation, you need to be confident, composed and assertive.

 You must come across as adamant that you want to give a child a home, that you understand the complexities, you want to go ahead as soon as possible and you want to adopt a child from X country.

 They will need to see that you have done your homework and know what you are about to embark on.  You should know that you fit the criteria of X country before you make the phone call.  You are assessed according to the country to are going to adopt from and in my experience no social worker has given any advice on what country to adopt from, despite information and advice being one of their roles.

 You should not leave the phone conversation without ascertaining what the next steps are and when. Time is a strange thing to local authorities and you adopting a child from overseas is not their priority, so if they can put it in an in-tray and forget about it they will. 

 Some LAs may want to start your Homestudy shortly, others say they will only be able to start a few months time.  You need to ensure that they are doing the best for you and that there is no vacillating for any reason.

 If they have said that they will come back to you on Tuesday, and it is now Wednesday, and they haven't called, pick up the phone and call them. This is your adoption and it is in your interests. It is up to you to ensure that each stage is met. If you wait for the local authorities you will be waiting for ever.


Good luck!

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