What is it actually like to go through the process of fostering and adoption? I have to admit that I had a very naive view, and having spent time chatting to my friend and his partner, I am a little clearer now. What strikes me about these two men is that between them they run a tight ship, there are no blurred boundaries and they have huge hearts. Love isn't a soft emotion, compassion and love are strong courageous and determined.
I wanted to know what was really involved in fostering and adoption and I was intrigued about their experiences and particularly as a same sex couple. I quickly learnt that you really have to persevere, Wayne and James were refused on their first try at fostering. This was extremely tough to deal with. However, the local council were advertising and they decided to try again. The process was lengthy, and involved initial visits from social workers to assess viability. Looking at their house, the space they had and getting a sense of suitability. The next six months involved regular meetings and panel assessments. Their lives were examined, including any previous partners, learning difficulties, healthy and unhealthy habits. They were asked to divulge their entire lives. Six references, health checks, criminal record checks and a lot of questions later they got the go-ahead. The two weeks waiting for the final decision were hard and it became very clear that anyone who wants to do this will need to do it for the pure desire to want to help. James laughed about anyone deciding to do it for the money.
Waiting for the call for a child to arrive was difficult. When the call came things moved exceptionally quickly. As they told me about the situation and state of the young child that was brought into their home, my heart went into my throat and my emotions got the better of me. It was his birthday and they had half an hour to wrap some presents for him before he arrived. This led us to the importance of pointing out that these children are hurting, they won't just fall into a lovingly reciprocal relationship, they need to learn again. Wayne and James were clear that boundaries need to be established, strength and courage is key and a united front needs to consistently be demonstrated. Well, I say Wayne and James but James does most of the talking and is clearly Boss. They amused me with their descriptions of each other.
Did they experience difficulties being a same sex couple when fostering? A little, yes, there were initial discussions that they could only foster boys and there were also discussions about bathing, as this was seen as the woman's job by panels of experts!? However, this was overcome and they have adopted two children and seen five children come and go, including babies. It's not easy seeing them go, but essentially as a foster carer you are supporting the return to parental care where possible. Remaining neutral in meetings with parents can be very tough!
What did I take from my discussions?
Five important factors: you can't have expectations where fostering and adoption is concerned. You have to have a strong relationship with your partner, like having a baby - it will be tested. You must establish boundaries and stick to them, unwavering. You have to teach the children one thing at a time, most things need to be relearned, from eating to receiving love. You have to have a whole lot of compassion and be doing it for all the right reasons - to help.