So it was decided that the introductions should start. We had a time-table from the previous planning meeting, so the next day we drove over the foster mother’s house to begin. It felt good but I was already feeling tired all the waiting had taken its toll.
He was very engaged with us from the beginning, I think that’s why I was so drawn to him, his eyes were alive and expressive and his smile was just infectious.
We spent the first few days just playing and getting to know him. As the days passed we gradually took on more of the caregiving roles nappy changing and feeding. I was used to nappy changing as I had been around children my whole life. Lee had not but he just rolled his sleeve’s up and got on with it. I will never forget the first time I changed him, I thought he would resist and wriggle around, he didn’t he just kept completely still, looked into my eyes and smiled I was totally in love with him already.
We took him to the park and we realized what a joy it was for him to get out of the house and run free. You could see he had boundless energy and clearly loved being outside. Eventually, we got to bathe and put him to bed. We’ll when I say put him to bed, that was not exactly what happened. The foster-mother used to let him fall asleep in front of the TV and then transferred him from the sofa to the cot upstairs. I was not impressed by this as I felt like it was a really bad habit to allow any child to end the day this way. I thought it was lazy! Foster parents were supposed to be getting the children into good routines so that when they moved on to their adoptive placement these routines could be mirrored enabling the child to settle and feel secure. She told us that he often gets up in the night and comes downstairs and lies on the couch. That’s why the room was very minimal. If he got up and went in to the foster mothers room she said that she would just put him in with her, instead of putting him back in his cot.
One day while we were there, he picked up one of the dining room chairs and proceeded to throw it on the floor, I got up and tried to explain to him that this was not a safe thing to do but was interrupted by the foster-mother who said.
‘My house my rules, once he’s with you, then you can have your say.’
I was a little taken aback by this, surely as an adult no matter what your relationship to the child, letting a child throw furniture around was a bad example to set. He also liked to swing on the curtains which looked like great fun! I mean what child doesn’t love to swing on the curtains! Again she said nothing.
Introductions are an essential part of this process but I think they’re hard on all parties. The foster family has strangers in their house every day for two-plus weeks. The adoptive parents have to try to bond with the child whilst being in an unfamiliar space and emotions are heightened as there’s a lot at stake. We had the agenda outlined by the social workers, we had our expectation and the foster family has their way of doing things and the two aren’t necessarily aligned.
About a week into introductions it was scheduled that we would take him out for the afternoon for a few hours, so we took him to the local shopping mall. Neither Lee nor I are big fans of these kinds of places but because of the weather, it was all that was available. We took him for lunch, he looked so sweet sitting in the high chair eating his food. He was so good, no crying, no calling for the foster-mother. It was as if he was taking us out not the other way around. He was very confident and secure in our company.
After we’d eaten we walked him around the department store. Lee had seen that his wellies needed to be replaced and he really wanted to buy him a new pair. We went to the kid’s department and our little man spotted the wellies he wanted right away. He grabbed one foot from the shelf and proceeded to push his foot inside it, even though it was the wrong size. We found him the right size and then he wouldn’t take them off, so we had to go to the till with just the tag in hand. The assistant thought he was just adorable in his new Gruffalo wellies and of course, we couldn’t take our eyes off him.
As I looked down to admire him I could see that his nappy was looking a very strange shape, so off to the toilet we went.
When I took the nappy off it was everywhere, so I took everything thing off cleaned him up and we headed back to the car park as it was time to return him to the foster-mother.
The following day we got to bath our little man and assist in the dinner routine. He was very happy for us to do that. When I look back there was never anytime that he objected to us doing any of these things. I was shocked at the amount of food she was feeding him. Two slices of white bread, 5 fish fingers and what looked like half a tin of beans. He was only 20 months old.
The day after he would be coming to visit our house for the first time. I was really excited to see his reaction to his room. The foster- mother drove him over to us, her daughter came with her as it was half term. They stayed for a little while and then they left the house leaving us all alone. He was up and down the stairs and then straight into his room. He looked at the cot and all the other things that we had put in the room. He was more interested in the stairs and of course the garden. Our cat was not the most approachable but she stood still long enough for him to get a quick stroke and he was thrilled to have a cat. At this point, I had no idea whether he was actually processing any of this information. He just seemed happy to explore and have us with him. Looking back his lack of interest in the cot made a lot of sense.
Finally, the day came to bring him home. We had brought quite a lot of his stuff home with us over the previous few days. We’d agreed that we’d get there just after lunch. The foster-mother gave us the last few bits. We put him in the car and said our goodbyes, she ran quickly back into the house, we drove off. I’m not sure if he really understood that he was coming home with us for good. As we drove away I kept looking in the rearview mirror, he was sitting so calming, watching everything out of the window, the sun was beaming, he looked so angelic, we drove towards home.