We are parents!!

So as I hinted in my last post, in mid November we finally got the news we were waiting for, our Article 17 was in, within 6 days we had travel dates and a further 6 days later we had left for Vietnam. It was early December,  we left as a couple and returned as a family of 3. We have a beautiful daughter! We’re home a week today. H’s sleep has been all over the place so we’re knackered, but completely in love! She’s a fire cracker and should be the poster child for older child adoption! Very resiliant, allows,  and even seeks out all the bonding and attachment techniques recommended.

I’ll do a full post on our trip when I have more time and sleep, in the meantime if anyone has any specific queries I can help with, pop me an email!

The very best of wishes for 2019 to all waiting parents. I will never forget how hard it is waiting.

The waiting……😞

For me this is the most difficult stage., whether that’s because it’s what I’m experiencing right now and I’ve forgotten how the other stages were or because it’s the last leg of the journey…

It’s like hope was dangled in front of us in May but the longer we wait the more worry I experience so with every passing week the positivity and hope slips further away.. it’s called self preservation. Having that partial non-identifying information on a child, a child that we will parent if all goes to plan, knowing they are in an orphanage needing a family, and getting older all the time… Its so difficult!.. I wasn’t prepared for this,  I knew the waiting would be excruciatingly difficult but really hadn’t thought we’d still be waiting now… almost 5 months now… so naive I was! ☹And stupidly hopeful…

Attachment and Cocooning

So I’ve been very delayed in writing this as I wasn’t sure in what way I was going to approach it. Some of the ideas/”notions” have developed over time, through reading books, American blogs, Adoptive families magazine, groups etc. Some are a little more concrete in where they came from and others are just notions that have developed from my collection of reading.

I want to highlight that these are choices that J and I are making and what we feel are what will be “best practice” for our child and family. As in every walk of life, different families will make different choices for their situations and there is certainly no judgement from us with regards to what you will do or have done with regards to introducing your child to family, friends or your attachment building preferences.

Attachment is basically THE most important basic need of an infant/child. A healthy attachment between a child and their caregiver means that all their other needs are met as this is how a healthy attachment has been achieved. Unhealthy attachments or no attachments for a baby/child in childhood can lead to developmental issues and relationship/social problems in adulthood.

Therefore we are prioritising bonding and attachment over everything else when our little person joins our family. We will be 3-6 weeks in Vietnam. We are looking forward to this precious time when it’s just the 3 of us and no expectation placed on us.

Based on our reading and research we have decided that we are going to cocoon when we return home. “Cocooning is a very intensive time of care where mom and dad are the sole primary caregivers. Mom and dad are the only people to hold, change, feed, touch, kiss, comfort, and play with baby/child. Often times, especially when babies or children are brought home and adopted from institutions (orphanages), new family members won’t even be introduced for a period of time and the child doesn’t leave the house. There are varying levels of cocooning.” https://adoption.com/cocooning-should-i-try-it-with-my-adopted-child

The general recommendation for the cocooning period is 1 month for every year of age up to the adoption, so we are looking at up to 5 months at the moment! The child will likely experience feelings of loss and grief; loss of caregivers, friends, culture, language, familiarity of environment etc. Loss that is followed by adequate grieving can be resolved well enough that the child and parents can begin to establish new bonds, therefore we want to allow the time to be given over to our child’s needs and during this time offer them a secure base in which to do so. We’ll be in no rush but we will follow the child’s lead and if there’s days in which they are looking to get out of the house then we will do so. There will obviously be G.P. appointments etc. during this time also. It will probably be a little strange as when we are out we may bump into people we know and they will then have met the child and some of our closest friends may not have met them but what can ya do!!

We have decided that the grandparents are to be included in the cocooning period as we feel their relationship with the child is important and should also be nurtured during this time. We would like them to play with them however not fulfil any of their needs and take physical contact if offered but not request any etc. If they seem to be asking/looking for something we ask that they be referred back to us and short visits initially, 20/30 minutes. As we only have 3 siblings between us, along with their spouses, there are 5 aunts and uncles in total and 2 cousins’, we hope that within the month of returning home we will have been in a position to have had them visit us. So I suppose it won’t be a strict cocooning period but as we have a small immediate family we’re lucky in that sense.

We request that no gifts be given directly to the child, we feel it is especially important in regards to the people closest to us such as grandparents, as we want the relationship to develop based on interactions, fun and play, not on the basis that they bring presents and/or sweets etc. If you want to help or give something, dropping a dinner off in the early days or some food shopping, a voucher for a takeaway etc.

So introducing them to our wider family and friends, we haven’t decided what we will do. We could literally arrange visitors for every week for months but on top of us having family time, grandparents visit and the aunts and uncles so that relationships are being built, we’d have no time to ourselves for months! I think this would not be in the best interests of the child and would end up too overwhelming and portray a life in that initial year home that wouldn’t be normal. So we are thinking at the moment that perhaps, at the 4 months home mark or something (depending totally on the child), that we will have a gathering of friends in the local community hall and set up a play area and some refreshments and invite our friends, family and neighbours to meet our little person.

Alot of the time we’ll will be winging it and following our instincts and the child’s needs and doing what is best for our little family.

Infrequent updates and Language Learning

I’ve been terrible at updating the blog posts but this waiting for Article 17  is terribly difficult and I’ve been distracting myself with work and learning Vietnamese.

Actually incase anyone is interested, I’ve been learning through a website called, www.verbalplanet.com where you choose your preferred language tutor, who are native speakers, and you book through the website, they then call you on skype at your specfied time and it’s basically a 1 on 1 class on a video call. My tutor is Lim Ka and she types the words/discussions etc too so you have all the notes to go back over. It costs €10.50 per lesson. Part paid to the website on booking and the balance to the tutor with PayPal. It’s a pay and book, as you go and no commitment to book more than 1 at a time.

I really really enjoy it and as our child will be slightly older I think it will be useful! I have also learned so much about Vietnam and it’s culture.

News!!!

We got THE CALL!! Hence the radio silence the last few weeks, I got distracted. As it is only a Proposed Placement in Principal we’re keeping details to ourselves for now. Nothing is 100% until we travel but we’re hoping for news on the Article 16 & Article 17 by September to travel 5-8 weeks after this however we have been advised we may have to wait up to 12 months to travel. Keep us in your prayers!

I’ll be looking at Cocooning and Attachment next week.

A Mish Mash of Stuff

So we were 12 months into the declaration (which has a 24 month limit before needing a 12 month extension) when we had a discussion with the adoption agency about changing country. We decided to change. This meant that we ended up compiling 2 dossiers in 12 months. That brings us up to now. The dossier should be with the agency in another week or 2 we hope. We have changed country to adopt from Vietnam. The first thing I did when we decided to change was to buy some books on Vietnam as I like to get an image of the country in my head and build an association with it.

Getting the dossier together can be pretty exhausting. This brings me to the thoughts of how we cope with the times we are overloaded with thoughts and information and how we process this.

At many times throughout the journey of getting our paperwork lodged in the first country we needed to take breathers. Like during the preparation course when they are giving you the whole “It’s not a walk in the park spiel”, make you watch videos of orphanages from 1990 in Romania and discuss the horror stories about attachment issues. We would spend the evenings zoning out on the couch watching T.V. after dinner or do nice things at the weekends but the main thing was we wouldn’t talk about “the thing we were processing” (for want of a better term) for a week or 2. We’ve kind-of carried that on. There’s just not enough energy and headspace for everything. Just know, it’s ok to not be in full-on adoption mode all the time. Take it in stages and deal with what you have to and try and take time off when you can. I would always try and get any paperwork that was waiting on us out of the way before we crashed out but sometimes it won’t matter if it’s done today or tomorrow so take the time as you need it. Everyone copes differently and processes in different ways but make sure you and your OH come back to each other at the end of the week or 2 weeks, acknowledge the difficult period, discuss it as needed and move on, into the next stage.

The following is inspired by a recent chat with someone on their own adoption journey. I mentioned previously about the preparation course and kept it vague. As I mentioned above, some of the information can be pretty heavy. First off I’d like to mention the video we are made to watch is harrowing BUT it is almost 30 years old as far as I can remember. What I kept in mind during the whole course is The Hague Convention is actively in operation in the countries that Ireland has an adoption agreement with. Therefore they have standards that need to be met within orphanages and Tusla don’t seem to have amended their course to accommodate this update. It is not always optimum care like if they were cared from birth in your home however it should be nothing like what is in the video. On that note, yes, attachment should be at the forefront of your mind when you meet your child and everything you do in the first year or more should have their attachment needs considered however, many many orphanages operate a keyworker system or foster care placements, therefore they should have built a primary attachment and although they may grieve the loss of this caregiver, it is usually a good sign that they had a healthy attachment and as time goes on, will build that bonding and attachment with you, their parents.

I feel like this post is a bit scattered but I’d also like to mention, the feedback we got during our preparation course about adopting a child over 3 years old. As mention we didn’t do our prep course in our region and the region we did do it in expressed that they wouldn’t approve a homestudy for children over 3 years old / 36 months. I think this narrow age range is limiting prospects for Potential Adoptive Parents (PAP’s). We have approval up to 72 months. As you can see from the ‘reading list’, I read a lot. I also read a lot of American blogs. I read about families that have very successful adoptions of ‘older children’ and books written specifically for parenting an adopted older child. I am qualified, and work with children up to 6 years of age and so I felt very comfortable with an adoption up to 72 months/6 years old. I wouldn’t be afraid to push it a little with your social worker as there are successful outcomes with older children (We didn’t have to push anything, our SW accepted our age range from the get-go). I have spoken to families in my region that have adopted 4 and 5 year olds and they are coming on splendidly. With any adopted child issues will likely arise at some point in the future. There are many therapies available, Play Therapy in particular being very beneficial for an adoptive family.

I think the hardest part of adopting an older child is knowing you have missed out on so much time with them, however, if everyone thought this way we’d all only adopt newborns.

 

*Process for changing country on existing declaration

-Discuss with Adoption Agency

-Contact your SW, probably arrange meeting to discuss it with them

-SW writes an Addendum Report for the Homestudy and makes a recommendation, sends to AAI (Shouldn’t need to go to LAC)

-Approval from AAI – Newly issued Article 15 – Declaration for new country of choice

-Compile Dossier, Notary, Apostilled, and sent to Adoption Agency

The Process – Part 2

After the Declaration  arrives                                        

So what happens next? During assessment we needed to choose a country. From the early stages of year 1, we had been in correspondence with the only adoption agency now existing in Ireland. I’m not going to name the country we first chose, it is now irrelevant which I’ll explain later. During the time of the assessment, going to the LAC and then the AAI, we had been keeping the agency up to date as it progressed.

We received the dossier listing for our chosen country and had been working on gathering that paperwork. The dossier information needed is individual to and set by the sending country. It is a collection of documents needed to meet legal requirements for adoption. It can consist of some of the following; Garda vetting (can take some time if you’ve lived abroad for any length), up to date medical and letter from your G.P., birth and marriage certs, Home study, Article 15-Declaration, usually a country specific letter and more besides. We tried to have everything ready for when the Declaration arrived from the AAI. It’s very important to follow the instructions from the adoption agency, but the usual protocol is the complete Dossier goes to a Notary (www.notarypublic.ie) and then must go to the Department of Foreign Affairs to be apostilled. Then you keep a copy, 2 go to the adoption agency; 1 for them to keep and 1 to go to the country of choice.

I’m going to mention the cost of getting the dossier notarised here as to me it was a hidden cost. I didn’t really look at the process as a whole, just concentrated on getting the declaration and when we got there I was kind-of lost. The adoption agency fees for Ireland and the chosen country were always quite clear. The notary does a lot of work and makes sure your pack is done correctly and signs every individual page on 3 copies and spends a lot of time on it. However, as I had never engaged a notary before I didn’t know what I was at or what the cost was going to be. Anyways the cost was €700.00 including the apostilling at the DFA. It also took longer than I expected. It probably took about 6 weeks between the notary and the DFA, again this was my naivety.

Assessment Process

So I’m going to go through the assessment process with Tusla.

Year 1 started on the 2nd January when I wrote a letter to Tusla stating our interest in being assessed for Inter-country Adoption. There is an information meeting that you usually have to attend, however as we had met with the senior social worker 2 years previous, they put us on the list for the preparation course. We expressed that we would travel anywhere in Ireland for the prep course to speed up the waiting. Additionally we were sent some paperwork that needed completing; financial statements, birth and marriage certs, approval letters for doctors for them to seek medical information on any procedures, G.P. forms, bank statements and Garda Vetting. I can’t remember if there was anything else.

Now as it turns out they didn’t seek the medical paperwork until the assessment started with the social worker, so as it was still up to date by the end of the assessment. Having spoken to other couples during this time they had to get the paperwork twice, at the initial stage of applying and before the social worker would start their assessment which seemed really unfair as it was delaying their starting the actual assessment. And putting more work on consultants, secretary’s, G.P Surgeries etc. unnecessarily. It just shows how different regions can vary and apply their discretion and common sense where needed but I think it’s a problem in the system. The assessment process should be nationalised as it’s leaving a lot of regions at a disadvantage.

In early March we got dates for the Prep course, it was 2.5 hours away but we were delighted. It was to be held every other Friday from April to June. There was 4 other couples. For confidentiality reasons I won’t be discussing the prep course too much. It involved introducing yourselves on the first day, topics like attachment, adoption in the media, perceptions, group work etc. It was nice to get to know others that are in the same position as us. We are now very good friends with another couple from the course.

Once the course was finished we had to formalise our wish to continue with the assessment process in writing to the local Tusla adoption services. We did this immediately and were signed a social worker whom we met in early August, due to annual leave etc. the proper assessment didn’t get started until early September. Initially I met with the social worker twice to discuss childhood, family relationships etc. then it was J’s turn, then by mid-October we were having joint meetings again. Our marriage/relationship, infertility, how we would see ourselves raring adopted children, age range of children, medical needs, country of choice etc. were all discussed in the joint meetings. I think there was about 6 joint meetings, so 10 assessment meetings and 1 beforehand and 1 after to look over the report and sign off on it. Again due to confidentiality I’m not going to massively get into this but if there are any specific questions email me!

So by the 2nd week in December we had our last meeting and the week before Christmas a draft report was with us. We have massive respect for our social worker, the whole team were lovely and although it was nerve wracking, we did enjoy the process and were very excited that we were finally on the way to being approved as adoptive parents. Oh in November there was a home visit, J showed him around the house and we all sat down together then to discuss the locality and what resources we had at our disposal should we both become ill at the same time, someone close by to care for the child, local schools etc.

I also just remembered that we needed 2 couples with children to act as references for us. Both couples had to fill out a questionnaire type form on us and 1 couple had to go in to meet the social worker at their offices. We are quite involved with our friends’ kids and would help out where we could so we had no concerns about this process!

So back to the start of year 2, early January we met with the social worker again to finalise the report. There had been a few questions in the draft that I’d answered over the Christmas, typed and printed it out and dropped into their offices before they re-opened in the New Year. I would recommend being as organised as possible in this way. The LAC (Local Adoption Committee) were to meet at the end of January. The social worker and senior social worker sign off on the report and the social worker presents the report with their recommendation to the LAC. They approve it or look for further information before it is presented to the AAI (Adoption Authority of Ireland) who then issue the Article 15, also known as the Declaration. Due to unforeseen circumstances the LAC meeting was delayed by 2 weeks, to the second week of February.

We had been advised by the social worker that generally the LAC or AAI will refer back to them for further information on something. Now the social worker was very thorough but we were expecting there to be some delay to gather further information on something. It was passed by the LAC mid-February and sent to AAI. It was approved by the AAI early March with no questions, no referring back to the social worker or us! We couldn’t believe after only 4 weeks it landed by registered post when we hadn’t expected it for another 2-4 weeks!!

Why Adopt?

No one that knows us has actually asked us this question as it’s basically always been on the cards for us. However we thought there may be biological children in our family as well as adopted children, but I’ll get back to that in a minute. Since Secondary School I’ve wanted to adopt, I remember reading about baby girls in China being abandoned on streets. I read a couple of books about it during this time and it’s basically been a given ever since that I’d be adopting! So I met my husband and early on we discussed how we would like to complete our family, me expressing that I saw adoption in my future. We are both of the opinion that a child does not have to look like us or have to have our DNA to be our child. We agree that families are made up in many different ways. I can’t remember a time when adoption wasn’t discussed in our family. 

So after we got married we decided to try to conceive. Nothing happened after 2 years. We approached the HSE (this department is now known as Tusla) about starting the adoption process. As we were ‘young’ at the time, (mid to late 20’s, in the adoption world I guess this was young…) the senior social worker wanted us to explore the reason for our infertility. During this time we also did some research and realised that due to Hague ratified in 2010, Ireland was still working on re-establishing adoption agreements with countries such as; Vietnam. We decided to take some time to explore the infertility stuff. We spent just under 2 years with a clinic doing Ovulation Induction, lots of meds and month on month cycles etc.  We decided at the end of 2014 that we were done with this route. We went to an IUI/IVF clinic open day during 2014 and decided this wasn’t a route we wanted to take at this time, but I am a fan of informed decisions and research.

So we contacted the Regional Adoption Services (Tusla) and got the ball rolling. I’ll get back to the actual adoption process in a further blog post. 

Why Inter-Country?

Well as previously mentioned, it was the reality of what was happening in China at the time that caught my attention in the first instance, so my instinct was to adopt from abroad. There are cases of domestic adoption. However, these would mainly be foster parent adoption of their foster child/ren and step-parent adoption. Additionally though in 2014, there were 6 cases of ‘stranger’ adoption of babies being placed for adoption by their birth parents (I haven’t looked at these stats since). In these cases, the birth parents are given your profile along with other prospective adoptive parents to chose the adoptive parents for their child. Theoretically meaning you may never be chosen or you may only have been approved to adopt and could be chosen. Too much of a lottery for me to consider it. See the Tusla website for further information on domestic adoption. 

Ireland has a population of 4.5 million. Vietnam, for example, has a population of 90 million. There are approximately 1.5 million children in Vietnam needing adoptive families (read it somewhere, no reference to back it up at the minute, sorry!) 

 

Why??

Why start a blog? Why adopt? Why Inter-country?

So starting with the first Why, Why start a blog?

Well…. I feel like there’s a lack of information at my fingertips, there’s been many a night that I’ve googled adoption blogs, I’ve wanted to read about adoption from a family’s point of view. To read social stories when times are hard. Wanted to connect with someone experiencing the same thing as us. And although there’s lots of American blogs, it’s time-consuming sifting through what’s relevant for Ireland. Often the inter-country process is much quicker in America and they seem to be able to lodge multiple declarations so can adopt 2 non-blood related children at the same time. I’m going to be honest, it is very frustrating reading when we are working with a much slower, restrictive process in Ireland.

It might be asking to much from a blog but I want it to be there for you when your awake in the middle of the night researching adoption, wondering if this is the direction you should make to complete your family. I want the blog to be there for me, to keep me busy during the next few months or longer, during the waiting,through the moments of doubt that it’ll ever happen… Hopefully down the line when our child joins our family I hope to document the joys and challenges, the ups and downs, of parenting a child adopted at an “older” age (up to age 6 years), of parenting a child with special needs, from here on referred to as additional medical conditions because I just prefer this term. (I’ll address peoples perception of special needs at a later time.)

I would like to use this blog as a method of de-bunking some myths about Irish adoption. I feel like there’s alot of mis-information about Irish adoption since the Hague Convention was ratified in November 2010. If you are in any doubt, adoptions are happening! Families are being formed through inter-country adoptions. I’ll provide a link to stats when I find out if it is ok or not to do this.

I’ll finish this one here. Why adopt? coming next