Finally last night we went to matching panel - and it was a yes. We meet our little girl in less than two weeks.
We are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, emotional but mostly excited and joyful.
This is a summary of the process that we've been through. I may have written bits about it previously, but hopefully this gives an overall picture of what we've gone through!
We have been quite lucky with the process - it was hard finding a local authority to take us (for various reasons not just cancer) but we finally found one and they have been brilliant. We went to an open evening, then had a home visit (in September 2009). They requested that we have early medicals due to hubby being diabetic and my cancer (I waited until I was 2 years clear) and then they put us on the waiting list for the preparation workshops.
Those started in January last year and were brilliant - very emotional at times but very well done and realistic. We got to meet foster parents and adoptive parents and we talked openly about fertility issues with other couples, and things like child development, birth families and trauma and loss - all things that we will be dealing with. Other issues too. It is a roller coaster of emotion, and really makes you question your motives.
After that we officially applied, were accepted and went through the approval process. We had about 12 meetings with our social worker on a weekly basis - they took 2-3 hours. Sometimes individually but usually together. We also had A LOT of home work. It's very time consuming and you need to be flexible. We're lucky as both of us have jobs that allow working from home or time during the day. Social workers have lives too and do not want to be at people's houses til late at night.
What helped us was from the outset agreeing that we would be totally honest and open - no skeletons in the cupboards. That included admitting that we'd used drugs in our youth, and talking about family issues that were uncomfortable. I think that this is the bit that worries people, but remember this, social workers have seem it all. Literally. Whatever you have done in the past is never going to be as bad as some of the things that have seen, which is the tragedy of it all. If you are honest, good people who are emotionally mature enough to talk about things openly, they won't judge. They don't care if there's a little bit of dust in your house - they want to see a realistic picture, a completely pristine home is as much as a warning to them as anything else - how are you going to cope with a small messy person?
We didn't get asked about our sex life (we're pretty tactile so I think it was obvious that we are close) - they did ask others though. They didn't check our fridge (I have heard that can happen), but we lead a healthy lifestyle and that's pretty obvious.
We thought long and hard about our references - in the end we chose my mum and stepdad as our family one (just because they are closer distance wise), my good and old friend Clare (we spend a lot of time with her family and especailly their daughter) and the parents of Matt's best mate (have known him since uni). We were told that they were excellent choices because they were able to give different but positive and honest views of us individually and as a couple. The SW also met Matt's parents.
Once the report was written, we had a second opinion visit - we did get some curly questions then - and we were able to read the report. It was all very positive.
In November we had Approval Panel which was nerve wracking - I won't lie! We went into a room and faced about 13 people. I was so nervous I couldn't talk and Matt suddenly had verbal diarrhea. But they were lovely. Again we got asked less questions than we were expecting, but they were very complimentary about our SW's report. We were sent out of the room, and got called back later to tell us we were approved!
Next was the matching process - i have to say that we have been unusually lucky as it's been incredibly fast for us, but it's much more about the child and finding the right parents than finding the right child for us. We were not expecting anything to happen until after we got back from holiday in January.
In December we were due to have a next steps meeting with our SW but she emailed us and told us that she was going to bring details of a child. We had her permanance report (a summary of her background) and a little DVD. And we knew she was right for us. Just before we left for Aus we were in the middle of packing up the kitchen and the SWs came again - this time with the SW who had known her since birth. She had to decide if she felt we were right and thankfully she did!
While we were away the SWs had a matching meeting. Now often there are several couples being considered but our circumstances were unusual - they had already rejected a couple of couples and another had opted out so it was just us, and again that went through.
When we got back we were dealing with no kitchen (still not finished) and had more meetings - with SWs, her foster carer, her brothers' adoptive mother, the medical advisor and also read more detailed records.
We also prepared her room, and got together a book of pictures of us, the house, the cats and grandparents for her fostercarer to give her if it was a match. Also placemats with our picture and a CD of us reading stories.
So last night we had matching panel - we had 3 social workers with us this time, and we found it a lot less intimidating - partly because we knew what to expect and partly because we had met some of the people, and recognised other's faces. Again we were not asked many questions but more were directed to the SWs'. They passed around the book which we'd done and loved it. They didn't even send us out of the room to deliberate, just told us then and there that it was a unanimous agreement that it's a match!
So the rest of our lives start here. And another adventure begins!