Yesterday we ticked off stage 1 of the initial 5 stage adoption process with the WA government. This was our first mandated face-to-face contact with the department, and a rather exciting milestone in our early adoption journey.
It came in the form of a 3.5 hour seminar at the Department for Child Protection and family support, which was an in depth explanation of fostering & adoption services. It was a proverbial fire hosing of information designed to deter those who may not be able to stomach the rigmarole. We found it had the exact opposite effect on us. We left feeling energised, informed and despite the somewhat intimidating statistics; hopeful.
It is difficult to summarise almost 4 hours of information into a single post, but this seminar left no stones un turned and answered every lingering question we had left after doing our due diligence in the lead up to yesterday. It explained what we’d be signing up for if we chose to continue with our plan to adopt ; the mandatory training and education courses, the costs, the home study, the home visits, the very specific challenges of raising an adopted child, the processes required in terms of contact with country and birth parents etc.
Permanent Foster Care
This seminar also introduced us to the idea of permanent foster-hood through DCP, which we have decided to wholeheartedly pursue in conjunction with our inter-country adoption.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we had considered fostering through a private provider. We weren't aware until yesterday that permanent fostering was an option. In a nutshell; this involves taking on a child for life, but without the birth parents totally relinquishing their parental rights. These are children who the courts have decided will never be returned to their birth parents, but whose parents will not voluntarily sign over all legal and paternal rights. This would mean that we, as the permanent parents, would never have the risk of our child being taken off us by a birth parent; but would raise the child in consultation with DCP, as the child will technically always remain a child of the state.
It doesn't have to remain that way. After two years with our child, we would be able to apply for special guardianship , which would give us increased legal rights. Eventually, we could seek a full adoption through the courts if we so wished (although that can be a very involved process).
We have now committed to pursuing both inter-country adoption and permanent foster hood!
We have decided against applying for a local adoption. The wait list in Perth is already 40 families, with only 2 local adoption occurring in WA last year. Those aren't good odds. A lot of people who want the healthiest and youngest baby possible opt for this route, but that isn't as important to us. We are wiling to take on a child up to the age of 2, and we are happy to work with certain health needs, so it just wasn't the right path for us. We don't want to wait year and years only to end up empty handed.
So, whats next? Education! We are now required to complete 4 mandatory full day education sessions. Unfortunately, even enrolment in these sessions has a waiting list! We are currently on the wait list to attend out first session, 'Preparing for Adoption' in early April. From there, our following sessions centre around separation & attachment , Inter-Country adoption & permanent foster care. Due to the wait list system, we're not entirely sure when we'll get to take the remaining 3 sessions.
So we're in a bit of a no mans land for now, until we get confirmation of our first education session. Fingers crossed they find room for us in April so we can kick things off ASAP. If not April, we wont begin our education sessions until the end of June.
After we've completed all 4 education sessions, we come up for assessment. This includes DCP inspecting our home, assessing our relationship, checking our medical and police records and making recommendations. The decision will then be made by a panel as to whether or not our application to adopt and foster will be successful.
How Long will it Take?
That magic question! We've been told that it take approx. 12 months from your first education session to having your assessment and application approved. It is only after all of that has been done, that you file will be sent to families and you'll join the wait list for a child.
So, depending on when we're admitted into the education program, we've looking at least 1.5 years before we submit our file for consideration for a child, and an indefinite wait to be matched. Although we are told that permanent foster carers are matched far quicker than adoptive parents, sometimes in a matter of weeks after approval.
How do we Feel?
I think we're running the gambit of emotions right now, but they are overwhelmingly positive. It felt very real to sit amongst other hopeful adoptive parents face to face with the department; after years of thought, the wheels are finally in motion. That feels amazing.
Hearing the speakers use phrases such "when your child is placed with you" made my heart soar. "Your" child. Our child. We are working to find our child. We are filling out forms for our child. I am eyeing off books and resources for our child! Unreal.
I plan on doing another Q & A with all the new information we've gathered in the near future, so if this post raised more questions than it answered... stay tuned.