A general surgeons warning to any smug person who thinks running a small business isn't as much work as holding a regular regular 9-5:
You're entirely incorrect.
There are LOTS of perks. I have flexibility in my schedule. I can arrange to take my nephew swimming at the pool during the afternoon or go to visit a new mum during the day. On top of that, I’m doing what I love. I have no boss, and I get to work with one of my best friends.
These perks are what I choose to focus on when I talk about my work most days ; because I am not a Martyr. I had a normal job but I chose to do this instead, and I really do love it. I don't need a trophy in the busy olympics to justify my choice to myself or anyone else; I am simply grateful I have the oppertunity to be entrepreneurial and flex my creative and problem solving muscles with autonomy on a daily basis.
However; because I frequently talk about how happy my work makes me; some folks think that is all there is to it and seem to feel justified in diminishing my efforts or making patronising remarks. These assumptions come in many forms; from the downright dismissive “thats a cute hobby” to the less direct implications; like being asked to take care of things others they cant, because they’re working and I, apparently, am not.
Hmmmm. Not quite.
I've grown a thick skin for business, but the lack of personal support in that form from those I've supported in their studies and or work over the years does cut deep and will always remain very personal.
By personal support, I don't mean buying my products (its my job to sell it, not your job to buy it) but rather, I mean not diminishing my efforts without even bothering to ask me what is involved with what I do.
I acknowledge that these assumptions aren’t always malicious. They arise out of sheer ignorance to the full extent of small business ownership. After all, this isn’t a path many are familiar with. It certainly isn’t traditional. It isn’t taught in schools. How would people know what it involves? In others cases, I believe my comfort and confidence in my vocation challenges some peoples perceptions of their own livelihoods. Perhaps they feel compelled to diminish it to help them cope with a work situation they’re not happy in.
Whatever the reason, as someone who may have contributed to the misconception that small business ownership is a walk in the park by focusing on the positives, or not speaking up in conversations when there have been misconceptions; I wanted to shed some light on some of the more more sobering realities of the path my partners and I are walking.
What you're not seeing (and what I am trying not to make a habit of talking about too much, because truthfully? Its a bore!) are the tears of frustration, which are usually ignored and worked through because there simply isn’t enough time to let the enormity of some tasks overwhelm you. I have packaged orders through tears because if I had stopped to comfort myself, the orders wouldn’t have been delivered. I worked through the physical pain of my second miscarriage because there were deadlines looming. Self care becomes very difficult when you’re on 24/7. There is no leaving work at the office. No weekends No one else to pick up the slack .
Then there are the all nighters that are pulled to accomodate that enviable flexible schedule. Family and friends are a priority for me; so I will happily agree to babysit during the day, or attend a friends birthday dinner instead of working those hours; but those hours are always paid back. I don’t have a magical time machine that allows me to shorten to lengthen the hours in my day, so usually any hours lost to flexibility are repaid in the wee hours of the morning.
There is no paid sick leave, maternity leave or compassionate leave. This week I will miss the funeral of a woman who's like a second mother to me growing up, because I have deadlines that wont be met if I took the time to fly home and say farewell; and will render 2 years of work more or less useless. When I have my first child in February next year, there will be no one to cover for me. My maternity leave will be short and my boy will come to work with me. When I come back to work after his birth, the work I left will still be waiting for me … and then some. There are no temps. No replacements. No relief.
There is the lack financial stability. What I spend 40+ hours on a week is yet to return a single cent. My husband works three seperate jobs to maintain our household and pay our mortgage. Any money we earn from running our B&B goes straight back into the business, and yes, we pay tax on all of it. There are no promises that all of this back breaking work and sacrifice from all partners wont have been for nothing.
We're talking tens of thousands of dollars invested. This isn't a hobby. The fiscal stakes and threats are very real. The only guarantee we can give ourselves is to work our asses of to give it every chance to succeed; even then, our futures remain up in the air.
Shall we talk about personal liability for a moment? Chance are, when you go to your job, you work for someone else. If you mess up, you might get a wrap over the knuckles. Hell, you might even loose your job or your license; but will you personally be held legally and financially responsible? Can anyone come after your personal assets to fix your mistake? Unless you’ve broken the law in a serious way, the answer is probably No. We are. My business partners and I are legally and financially responsible for every single aspect of our operation. From a bad batch, injured employees or a broken piece of equipment in the kitchen. We’re it. The process we must go through to protect ourselves and our families from the far reach of liability are exhaustive.
Then there are the days like I’ve had today. Where doing one thing takes me the whole day because it is so complicated and outside my formal training. Where I am so snowed under the I don’t even get to shower or brush my teeth. I roll out of bed in response to urgent emails and remain at my desk well into the night.
Every single day presents a task I need to do that I need to learn from the ground up.
These are tasks that could be done in a fraction of the time by someone trained and specialised in them (like an IT specialist, or a lawyer) - but we can’t afford that, so it is up to me to self-educate and execute flawlessly ; all whilst thousand simultaneous deadlines breath down my neck. I feel the strain. The pressure. I know more about A records, I.P addresses , legislative compliance, graphic design, intellectual property, vacuum sealing, cooling processes, cost formulas and pathogens than I ever wanted to and I relish the day are making enough to pay professionals to lift the pressure of my back; and the learning never ends.
It is not an easy job. It is not an area that you can succeed in without a tonne of effort. Bare minimum isn’t a thing. It takes more and more and more at every turn. It demands blurred boundaries, forward planning, immense sacrifice and long hours slugging it out at the coalface.
Next time you feel like making a comment to a small business owner about how easy they have it; DON'T. You now know better. Engage them in a conversation about their work, or simply swap battle stories with them. After all, no matter what we do, we’re all out here just doing our very best, no matter how we choose to pursue a livelihood.
Since my last update, we have had two home visits with our case worker.
The First Home Visit
The first visit was a chance for us to meet the case work we have been assigned who will be with us throughout the entire process. It was also a chance for her to see our home, and make an initial assessment on whether or not it was suitable and safe for children. (spoiler alert: we passed with flying colours).
During that first visit, we sat at the dining room table and discussed some of the reasons behind our decision to become permanent foster parents. Our case worker walked us through the next round of paperwork and took our ID's for a background check.
We openly discussed one major roadblock to us proceeding with the foster process; the details of which I will leave off the blog for the time being. Aside from that one road bump, our case worker assured us we'd have no problems and that we were perfect candidates.
She left us with a stack of homework that we will complete over the next 2-3 months. Its mostly around being able to recognise developmental delays in children, and knowing what interventions to apply. Still - its a lot of work and research!
The Second Home Visit
The second visit kicked off the offical assessment process. Our case worker arrived with a stack of thick paper work. She sat and interviewed us for two hours to fill it out. She asked us about:
+ Our families & how we were raised.
How were we disciplined?
What where the house rules?
Who reared us?
+ Our support networks.
Do our friends & family know we're fostering?
What do they think?
Are they willing to be part of this child's life?
+ Our top 3 reasons for becoming foster parents.
+ Our thoughts on managing common behaviours in fostered kids.
How would we handle certain behaviours?
Drug addiction in infants?
+ How would we feel if our child was unified with their birth parents?
+ How would we raise this child to ensure their birth family was always part of their identity?
+ What do we think could stand in the way of a child bonding with us and vice versa?
We have 2-3 more home visits yet to finish the interview process.
Our next visit will focus on questions surrounding our understanding of the care team approach (raising a child in collaboration with the department as well as birth parents if they choose to be a part of the child's life). i'm not entirely sure what the third visit will focus on at this stage; but she commented that we are flying through it all very quickly!
We are booked into a weekend of mandatory training in late July. After that training and after all of our home visits are complete, our case worker will gather up our file and present it to a selection panel who will approve or reject us as permanent foster parents. After we've receive the panel approval, and child can be placed with us as early as that night!
Our case worker told us she thinks we would be best suited to a newborn or a an infant. Apparently there is currently a high demand for families for newborns, which was a surprise to us. We'd always been told that placements of newborn babies are very rare. The risk of being placed with a newborn baby, is that a judge might rule that the child be returned to its birth parents. Orders of permanent care cant be imposed from birth; parents need to be given due process in court to prove they can parent. Our case worker says 9/10 the outcome is predictable (care orders are granted), but it is never a certainty.
We have both decided this is a risk we are willing to take; so are likely to be placed with a baby when we are approved.
There has been another development as well. We've decided to put our international adoption application on hold for several reasons:
1. It is too expensive to pursue at the same time as preparing to become permanent foster carers. We needed to raise around 4k by the end of the month to pay for the adoption training, and it just wasn't realistic. It is also a huge amount of money to spend on training we may never end up needing.
2. There are local children in far more immediate need of a loving home via permanent foster care, and for us, the reward outweighs the risk. The stories our case worker has been telling us have broken our hearts wide open and made us more keen on the idea of giving a home to a local child. We can't reject these children simply because they come from less than ideal circumstances.
3. We are confident we will be approved as permanent foster parents, and we want to focus on getting through this process as quickly as possible. There is so much work and paperwork involved with both process, that doing both as the same time was practically a part time job. We want to be ready to take in a baby the moment we are approved; so we'd rather spend that time preparing a nursery and finishing our homework.
We might pick it up again years into the future, but for now, we are no longer pursuing international adoption.
Accordingly, I have changed the name of this blog series. Although we still hold the highest hope that our permanent foster placement will eventually culminate in our adoption of the child placed with us; its no longer our primary focus. Its been a journey of growth, so the change of the title reflects that.
I now work full time on my own business. I've said goodbye to my full time wage which means we've really had to tighten the purse strings here at home week to week. When I was working, we had more than enough to make ends meet. So much so that we didn't need to worry about treating ourselves and discretionary spending. We still have multiple sources of income (Reece works 3 casual jobs for starters); but trying to raise capital for a start up business, pay off our home and save money for the in-betweens such as all of our adoption training leaves less room for the types of luxuries and discretionary spending we'd become accustomed to whilst I was a government employee.
I wont go into the finer details of our budget and how it works - but in our newly necessitated thriftiness, I've come across some genuinely useful ways to save money that I wanted to share. They've helped us cut away extra costs here and there and stash away little extras when we can. I am by no means a savings expert, but I figure if these hacks were helpful to me, they may be to someone else as well.
1. Shop at Aldi & Local Markets for your weekly groceries
Savings: $80 per month
On Sunday I go to the Fremantle produce markets where I can get a weeks worth of fresh fruit, vegetables, dried beans, fresh eggs and sometimes meat for two people for $25 or under. Sure, it takes a little extra effort to get the cash out and brave the crowds - but the savings are well worth it! I'm able to buy things like black beans, rice etc in the quantities we need - so there is less waste and it keeps the cost down.
Anything that I can't get at a produce market, I get from Aldi. They are all over Perth and it is worth finding out where your closest store is. Most of the products stocked at Aldi are Australian made and are manufactured in the exact same plants as the crap you buy at Woolies or Coles; so any snobbery is misplaced. In fact, I've found some Aldi products to be superior. I'd take their $2.65 rum and raisin chocolate blocks over lindtt any day! What would cost $100 at Woolworths costs me around $65 at Aldi.
We've also had to get real about things like super thick toilet paper, The $4 bulk pack does the exact same job, and I hate to break it to you; but your ass does not show signs of intelligent life. It wont know the difference.
2. Get into Alchemy
Savings: $15 per month
it is so unbelievably simple and cheap to make your own household cleaners. I've got a recipe for a general all purpose surface cleaner here on the blog. You can also make your own damp-rid, toothpaste & laundry detergent. I am a clean freak, and I am more than happy with the results yielded by my DIY products (although the toilet still gets the bleach treatment). Iv'e also started a 'rag bag' where any of my old clothes that I cant donate are torn up and re-purposed as cleaning rags.
I find it is these kinds of things always blow out a grocery budget because they run out when you're not expecting the expense of replacing them, and they add up! Having the supplies at hand to make your own saves time and money.
3. Sign up for Market Survey Sites
Savings: $10 per month
This one may not be for everybody; however the reality is that most of us spend an inordinate amount of time every day and night looking at our phones. If you're going to be a tuned out zombie, you may as well get paid for it, right?
Last month I downloaded the Pureprofile app. Its simple to use, and allows me to complete quick market surveys for anywhere between 10 cents to $3 per survey. I've been able to earn as much as an extra $5 per day in my down time when I'd otherwise be mindlessly scrolling Facebook. It doesn't seem like much - but it adds up and for a very small outlay of time. It adds an extra $10+ to our budget every month. Sometimes more.
We generally funnel this extra $10 into an account that covers birthday and Christmas gifts for our friends and family - and since there is a birthday (or several) every month, its a great system!
4. Student Hairdressers
Savings: $20 per month
My hair upkeep ain't cheap. As I get older, my roots get more ominous and covering the greys that are creeping in is beyond my capability and those of the at-home box dye (which is terrible for your hair, anyway). I was reluctantly prepared to part with the idea that I may just have to give up my beloved red hair to nature until I discovered the training salon at The WA Academy.
What would usually cost $85 - $100+ now costs me $35. A student hairdresser (who is supervised by a senior hairdresser) will do my colour (roots and all) and give a blow out for $55. If I'm feeling particularly tight, I'll skip the blow out but still walk away with professional grade colour for $35! Its a great solution if your hair upkeep is a simple job. They also do trims and other beauty treatments on the cheap.
BONUS: Go Green
I plan on doing an entirely seperate post on this in the near future, but we've noticed that our recent efforts to reduce our household waste have also helped out bottom line. Things we have switched that are helping us save in the long run include:
- Disposable razors to stainless steel safety razors.
- Mouthwash to Tongue scrapers.
- Face wash to Microfibre cleansing clothes
- Disposable pads/tampons to washable pads & period panties (like omg, ew? Get over it!).
- Sandwich bags/cling film to re-usable zip bags
- Body wash & Hand Soap to liquid castille soap
Other adjustments we've made to our own person budget include:
- Ordering my contact lenses online via OzContacts (1/2 the price of OPSM)
- Buying generic brand prescription medications
- Cancelling gym memberships and using free fitness apps to workout together
- Ordering vitamins and supplements online via iHerb rather than in stores (usually cheaper)
- Buying the big ticket stuff for little birds nursery second hand from gumtree, and bartering!
- Using our RAC insurance card discounts where applicable (movies, fuel)
To Our Treasured Little Bird,
It is the last day of May in 2017.
There is a strong chance that you’ve already made your stunning debut into the world.
You may have been born today. If so, happy birthday my love!
Maybe you’ve been alive for a little while by now and you’re starting to get the hang of this whole existence outside of the womb. Don’t worry kiddo, you’ll get the trick of it soon enough.
Either way, I can’t be sure; but I can believe that you’re out there somewhere.
You’re just not with us. Not yet.
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I’ve been dreaming of you as well. Each dream sends a signal to my heart, encouraging it to stretch and grow. Just like your tummy mummy had to stretch and grow in all directions to bring you to life; so too does my heart to accomodate all the love I have for you.
If you do exist right now, it is likely that you’re about to experience some of the rarer horrors that human kind has to offer. I am so sorry. It is so unfair and so utterly undeserved. The way we come into the world is the least fair lottery of them all.
It may be of little comfort to you in the years to come, but please know that while you endured; someone cared. Someone worried. Someone ached to hold you and lost sleep wondering how she could get to you. Someone wished she could be there to protect you; to stop anything happening to you other than joy, security and love.
I don’t know who you are yet, or where you are. I don’t know how you’ll make your way to us, nor us to you; but I know that we will find each other and that we will do our absolute best to stop you from ever feeling that kind of pain again. Your future with us comes with a 100% joy guarantee. It will not be all joy all the time. We will hurt and grieve as a family too; but you are owed joy in spades in this life, so we have been banking up all our spare just for you.
That is our job as it is written in the stars.
Little bird, we were born to love you and we will.
We will love you in ways none of us would have ever imagined. It will revolutionise our worlds.
There will be nothing you can do, nor anything you can say that could make us love you any less, nor any more than we already do.
We can’t WAIT to meet you. Please stay strong & I’ll see you in my dreams.
All of our love.
Mum & Dad.
Ask her about it.
When a woman is pregnant, people have a script to stick to. "Congratulations!" they beam. The comes the questions. “how far along are you?” “do you know what you’re having?” “how are you feeling?”. In fact these things are asked so frequently of pregnant women that by the end of 9 months, they’ve answered them so many times they may want to scream!
The good news is, you can ask an adoptive mama these exact same questions!
I know that I am personally very happy to share what stage of the process we’re at with our adoption, answer questions that we can about our future child, and tell you how we’re feeling about it. Genuine curiosity is very unlikely to offend & avoiding these questions can make the adoptive mama feel pretty isolated. Being congratulated on our decision to adopt gives us a huge boost and makes us feel like we are part of the cool mums club!
Of course there are questions you really shouldn’t ask such as “can’t you have your own kids?” or “have you really thought about this?”. Those kinds of questions are assumptive and rude, and more likely to cause offence. Apply common sense, and you cant go wrong.
If this will be her first child, throw her an adoption shower.
Sure, you can’t play measure the bump or guess the birth weight, but if she is a first time mum, she would most likely appreciate being thought of and celebrated just as other new mothers are!
There are a lot of normal happy milestones of motherhood that we miss out on due to the way our children come to us, but this doesn’t have to be one of them.
Most adoptive couples will have a vague idea of the age of the child they’re likely to get, which should make gift giving a little easier with some creative thinking. Books make fantastic adoptive baby shower gifts, as do crafty keepsakes. But in the end it isn’t really about gifts; it is about inclusion.
Stuck for games or ideas? Here are some great themes and activities for adoptive baby showers.
Let her talk about it.
Her journey to motherhood is going to be totally different to yours, and can sometimes be confronting. It can be hard to relate when she wants to talk about it or vent; but let her do it anyway.
You may be able to identify more with morning sickness, aching backs and being kicked in the ribs at 3am. She may be frustrated by slow moving paperwork or worried about unknown conditions her child will have. The road to motherhood can be a pain, no matter how you arrive there.
Sometimes the easiest way to support someone is to try and relate to them, and if you can’t do that, young might want change the subject. Don’t do that; it makes us feel as though what should be a joyful journey for us is something that makes others uncomfortable and that we cant share. Just listen. Ask questions. Try and find common ground (we can all talk about bottles, cribs, toys, daycares, parenting styles, schools etc). Reassure her as you would any other new mum!
She may turn into the worlds biggest flake. Try to be Patient.
There will be times when she may be so buried in paperwork, home study, home visits and training that you don't see or hear from her. She may flake on plans if something to do with the process pops up. Try to give her some grace as far as that is concerned.
Adopting is a very time consuming process with peaks and troughs of demand on the adoptive couple. It also has an inflexible timeline. We’re at the mercy of the Department. If we want to progress any further, we have to drop anything and jump when they say jump, or risk prolonging an already long, expensive and emotional process.
Just as a pregnant woman wouldn’t be judged for putting her health and the safety of her unborn child first; try not to judge adoptive mamas as they make their adoption process their number one priority.
Included below are some suggestions on adapting the usual baby shower formula to suit an adoption shower; including appropriate games, a gift guide and how to word an adoption shower invitation.
ACTIVITIES + GAMES
Have guests submit photographs of themselves as a baby or child before the shower and make a game out of guessing which photo belongs to which guest. You can also include photos of famous celebrities as children to make it more challenging.
Wishes For Baby
Have guests write down their well wishes for the adoptive child or best parenting advice on a piece of paper for the adoptive parents to read through after the shower.
You can also use a template such as this one.
Instead of traditional baby shower girls, ask guests to bring a copy of their favourite children's book as a gift.
Mad-Libs are where guests are asked to write down a series of verbs, nouns and adjectives without any context. They’re then asked to inset them into a story about the new parents to be; which they can read out loud to the group.
You can download a free adoption appropriate mad-lib template here.
Piece of Advice Puzzle
The adopted child is often the missing piece of the puzzle for some families, so celebrate that by creating a blank puzzle. Each guest can then write their best piece of parenting advice on a puzzle piece.
Create a quiz about the parents-to-be. Get the answers off the mum and dad beforehand and see how your guests score. Questions can include;
How many kids does each person want?
How wold was Mum/Dad when they said their first words?
What were their first words?
What are their favourite baby names?
What were their pet names as children?
What is their pet name for the child they’re adopting?
What gender do you think there child will be?
What gender do they think their child will be?
Click here for an example.
This is a nice personal keepsake for the adopted child’s room.
Adoptive parents wont have ultrasound photos for their baby books, so give them something for the first page by setting up a Photo Booth for guests to enjoy! Adopted children can look back on these photos in the years to come and see how celebrated and wanted they were.
You can add fun props such as ‘cant wait to meet you!’ or ‘worth the wait!’ signs.
Consider a 'Blessingway'
This is a little hippy-dippy, but would certainly be an empowering spiritual experience for any mum to be. I find the idea to be very beautiful and a nice alternative to the traditional baby shower.
I've included this in particular for the adoptive mother, who can sometimes feel disconnected and cut off from other women and their experience of motherhood. This is a neat way to bring together her support network and re-assure mama that you’ve got her back, no matter what.
You can read about the ritual of a blessing way here. You could include activities such as body painting or time-capsule planting into this ritual.
Pink & Blue
Simple & Floral
'Our Greatest Adventure'
'Nacho Average Baby Shower'
'We Will Love you to the Moon & Back'
You may have to be creative when it comes to creating invitations for an adoption shower.
Here are some ideas;
"A new addition to the nest - join us in honouring the parents-to-be"
"Families grow with love. Please join us for an adoption shower honouring (name here)"
"A mum and a dad we are ready to be. On the way is a precious baby Delivered with love by a stork from above; Please join us to celebrate the adoption of (name here) "
"Their home is set to grow by two precious feet, so join us for celebration and something to eat at (name's) adoption shower"
"A wonderful new adventure! (parents names) are adopting! Lets celebrate with an adoption shower."
"Here is to hugs, joy and laughter as we welcome little (surname) into our happily ever after. Please celebrate with us at an Adoption shower"
A fantastic gift for any adoptive or foster parent is a gift card to a children clothing store such as Cotton On Kids or Pumpkin Patch. Since buying clothes for an adopted child can be hard, this will still help mum and Dad be able to go out and choose something sweet on your behalf when they know what size their child will be.
Other ideas include;
+ An Adoption Keepsake Journal
+ 'Paper Pregnant' shirt
+ Family Ever After Onesie
+ Keep Calm & Finish The Paperwork Mug
+ Love Makes a Family custom print
+ ‘Adventure Awaits’ nursery Hanging
+ Mama Necklace
+ Children’s Growth Marker Ruler
+ Custom Family Gumboot Print
+ Mama, Papa & Little Bear Shirts
+ Customised Hanky ( for all those happy tears that come with adoption!)
It seems as though the only blog updates I do at the moment are those pertaining to our quest to become parents. I have plans to remedy that in the near future; however it its an all consuming task, so it makes sense that it is eclipsing our lives right now, both online and offline.
Adoption Progress Update
In late July we will undertake the second stage of the adoption process by attending a workshop where we will meet other adoptive couples and work through some of the skills required in adoptive parenting.
In August, we will move onto stage 3 - a workshop pertaining to separation and attachment issues in adopted children.
So yes, the adoption process has begun; but as you can see, it is a slow one full of long waits.
More pressing and more recent is the progress we have made with our quest to become permanent foster parents.
Permanent Foster Care Update
3 weeks ago we attended our first mandatory information session specifically for permanent foster care. It was presented by DCP case workers & a guest speaker who had been a foster parent for over 20 years. It was a very inspired and insightful evening.
We went to the session with our first round of paperwork already completed and ready to hand in, We were able to submit that paper work on the spot, thus formally commencing our application to become permanent foster parents.
The next step in the process is for the department to process our paperwork, and call us to arrange a case worker to interview us at our home. The purpose of the visit is for the department to get to know us better (they will ask us about our childhoods, parenting style, marriage, support networks etc) and check that our home is a safe and suitable place for a child to live (do we have room? is it free from hazards? is it hygienic etc).
The home visit we will have in the next few weeks is the first of many, and the case worker doesn't expect to see a completed nursery for the baby at this stage. That hasn't stopped us from starting to gather bits and pieces to prove that we are serious and prepared. The little bird already has a growing library and toy collection as well as a pram!
We have begun the process of adding an office to the back room of our house which will fee up and our spare room to be turned into the babies nursery. once the ball gets rolling with foster care, it can be as little as 3-6 months before placement occurs (far shorter than your average pregnancy!) so we figured we best get a wriggle on, since we have a few renovations to finish to make it work.
Because we're starting to get into the nitty gritty of it all, we are getting more and more questions and comments from family, friends and associates.
Most of the comments and questions come from a good place and are positive, but I admit, sometimes people say some rather insensitive and downright stupid things and its hard not to feel insulted. I often have to remind myself that no one is trying to be cruel, they simply don't understand.
I think Q & A is a really effective way of answering a lot of the common questions we get, so to finish up, I've answered some of the common things we get asked.
Q & A
What is the difference between adoption and permanent foster care?
Adoption is when a birth parent voluntarily signs over their parental rights to someone else.
This allows the adoptive parents to assume full parental rights of the adopted child.
Permanent foster care is when the courts have ordered the children to be removed from a parent never to be returned - but the parent refuses to sign over their parental rights to another person.
The department then becomes the legal guardians of their children and places them in forever homes with permanent foster parents - however it is the department who retains the full parental rights, not the foster parents.
Is there is a chance the birth parent could come and take your child back?
There is no chance of that happening. Children who are placed in permanent foster homes are not eligible for re-unification with their birth parent due to sustained and ongoing abuse, neglect or other issues. Once our child is placed with us, they will be with us until they are adults.
The only real difference between permanent foster care and adoption are the legalities surrounding parental rights.
Can you eventually adopt the child you permanently foster?
This is rather common. After they have been with us for 4 years, we can go through the courts to adopt our child. However, it depends on a number of factors; including the involvement the birth parent has had with the child over those 4 years.
Wait... so the birth parent still gets to have a relationship with your child?
This would be the case in adoption as well. ALL foster placements and adoptions in Western Australia have to be open. It is up to the birth parent to decide if they want to be part of our child's life; we will facilitate it if they do. it can be as much as weekly visits, to writing letters or sending photographs.
Doesn't that bother you!?
Research indicates that maintaining some form of relationship with a birth parent or family member is best for a child's sense of identity, and we want what is best for our little bird. We also don't hold it against these parents that their kids were taken of them. Both of us are educated enough to know that it doesn't always mean they're bad people - there are a lot of circumstances such as mental illness etc that prevent them from caring for their children properly.
What age will you get?
We have nominated a preference for a child aged between 0 - 2 years of age; so it will be somewhere between there.
We chose this age because those are the formative years of a child's development, so we want to give them as many early interventions as possible before they begin school.
Could you get a newborn?
It is highly unlikely.
What about siblings? Or twins?
We're very keen to give a home to siblings or twins within our age range.
In fact, my secret preference is for twins! or maybe even triplets!
Can you choose if you want a boy or a girl?
We can, but we wont.
It doesn't matter to us, and picking one gender decreases our chance of a placement. We wouldn't want to say no to a boy when there might be the perfect little man out there waiting for us, and vice versa.
How long will it take until a child is placed with you through permanent foster care?
It can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months.
How long will it take until a child is placed with you through adoption?
Anywhere from 2- 8 years.
"I dunno, I've heard some real horror stories about Foster care kids."
No shit sherlock!
Sorry to be blunt on this one - but the state does not forcibly remove children from their parents unless something horrific is going on. Almost every child in the foster care system has experienced a high level of trauma, and this will impact them throughout their entire lives. Be it through abuse or neglect. This means that the children we are likely to care for will have very different needs from your kids. There may be behavioural or attachment issues. They'll probably be 'difficult' in some way or another.
I'm not sure why people say this to be honest. Its as if they are trying to warn us or scare us. We are well aware; trust me, we've read more books on it than you can poke a stick at. We know the blood, shit, piss, bone and tears associated with therapeutic parenting; but we are not afraid of loving someone difficult who deserves all the love in the world after the unfair start they have had in life.
If you're only prepared to parent on the proviso that your children are perfect, well adjusted and trauma free, then you probably shouldn't be a parent. There are no promises in life and birth children experience trauma throughout their lives that can mess them up also; divorce, death, assault, sickness, addiction, injury - the list goes on. You never know what your child is going to get, and It is a parents job to love, no matter what.
Can't you have kids of your own?
I don't know.
We have had 2 miscarriages now, and have been unsuccessful conceiving since. We are still trying month to month, I'm starting to work with my doctor on a fertility plan. We are both on a fertility boosting diet & supplement regime at the moment.
However even if we can, we'd still be adopting. THIS IS NOT OUR BACK- UP PLAN.
So what happens if you get pregnant in the middle of all of this?
No big deal, we simply put the whole process on hold and focus on a healthy pregnancy.
We will return to it all once our birth child is of an appropriate age (I'd like my kids to be close in age, so probably after 2 years). A pregnancy does not signal the end of our journey into adoption.
What happens if you end up with a baby through foster care and then all of a sudden you fall pregnant?
Not going to happen. Its called birth control. At a certain point closer to being placed with a child, we will pause our efforts to conceive and resume when our first child is settled in. (again, probably after 2 years).
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.
I figured I'd break the monotony of healing project posts with a bit of an update on our adoption journey. You might recall that we announced our intention to adopt a child last year, before our wedding.
Things have progressed since then, but not by much. This will be a constant theme throughout this journey, but it certainly doesn't dull our excitment surrounding the fact that the process has officially started for us now. I actually feel giddy just typing that.
Since our last post, we have narrowed our list of prospective intercountry options down to three; Hong Kong, South Africa or Thailand. These are the top three countries whose selection criteria match our home and family situation the best, and offer us the best possible chance of being matched with a child. We have also decided that we will apply for domestic adoption in addition to intercountry adoption, despite the chances of placement within Australia being very slim. We have no preference for intercountry over domestic adoption, we simply want to maximise our odds of a placement by applying to every avenue available to us.
We passed the preliminary government eligibility test & we are booked into our first compulsory information session with the department of Child Protection & Family Services in early March. After that session, we will then be signed up for 3 compulsory education sessions spread out over a number of months.
Basically, the first year or so of the process is simply attending mandatory sessions and training. And paperwork. Oh, the paperwork.
Only after we've attended these 4 seminars can we officially lodge our expression of interest with the government, which is followed by lodging a formal application. Then, and only then does the real wait for a child begin.
In the meantime, we've made the decision to book a holiday to Thailand to immerse ourself in the culture and check out one of the countries where our future child might come from. It is not that we have a preference for Thailand over the other countries at this stage; its merely that it is the closest country to us and I had two weeks annual leave up my sleeve, so we figured, why not!? Its certainly a beautiful place to explore for two weeks. We'll be spending our first few days bunked up at a healing buddhist retreat in Koh Samui, and then going where the wind takes us in terms of getting to know Thailand, Thai language and Thai culture (god knows we've already got the Thai food part down pat. Yum).
There has also been another development born out of our desire to provide a loving home to a child in need. Fosterhood as fallen across the table several times over the past year, and is something that has sat at the forefront of our minds for the last few weeks.
We've been in touch with MacKillop Family Services who are in desperate need of WA based carers and have appraised us as ideal candidates, We've indicated that we'd like to provide care for newborns or infants only to begin with; especially those with high needs due to drug dependency or withdrawal. At this stage, all we need to do is hit the trigger on that process. However, there are a few considerations that still need to be made; such as an examining of my current work load and the flexibility of my contract, the readiness of our new home to accomodate a baby, as well as the long term impact on any foster, adoptive or biological children if we attempt all 3 processes at once.
More on that as it happens.
To end, I thought I'd do a secondary Q&A as to where we stand with the process right now. You can read the initial Q&A here.
Did your miscarriage effect your decision to adopt or foster?
Yes and no. We had plans to adopt long before I miscarried. The loss of my last pregnancy simply highlighted how ready we are and how much love we have to give.
Do you still want to try to have biological children?
Yes. We do. We will try again for a biological child when the time is right for us, and we will fit the adoption process around that as required. Adoption has always been part of our family plan.
Isn't fostering hard?
Yes. Nothing worth doing is easy. Bring it on. We feel the rewards will far outweigh the risks.
Why are you only willing to foster infants?
Because this is the age group we both have the most experience with, and those early years are formative. Babies thrive on love and nurturing, and we know we can do that. We are not yet experienced enough to handle the complex behavioural issues that older children in need of fostering may present; but feel far better equipped to meet the physical and emotional demands of high care infants. If we enjoy being foster parents, we hope to expand our skill sets to welcome older kids into our home eventually.
Will you visit orphanages in Thailand?
No. We can't be sure they are not simply products of poverty-tourism. It is also not good for the emotional well being of the children in those facilities to have strangers coming in and out of their lives for short periods all the time. We are arranging our adoption through the relevant government agencies within Australia and the home countries to make sure it is 100% ethical and complies with the UN charter of the rights of the child. I encourage anyone thinking of visiting orphanages in foreign countries to do their research, as it can be problematic in some places.
Will you visit Hong Kong and South Africa as well?
That would be nice! But its hard to say. Finances, time off work and schedules all need to be considered. We have no immediate plans to travel there just yet, but never say never. We'll certainly be learning as much about those cultures as we can in the meantime.
The past week my focus has been on 'healing through supplementation'. My end game was a decidedly simple one; sort out the right mix of supplements for my body and its current needs, and take them regularly. Optimise myself. I kept it simple this week because we were in the middle of moving house, so I knew I wouldn't be able to commit to anything too major (I'm writing this from a small box fort in our new place - more on that soon!).
It was no mean feat. I did the research, purchased the supplements, and took them at the same time every day. It was as easy as it sounds, and moving forward, it will be very easy to maintain. I feel great about what I'm taking and I'm confident in their long term benefits for my overall health. Once again, for the record, all have been cleared with my treating GP. I intend to review them in 3 months and adjust as needed.
This is my new daily supplement regime.
I primarily take fish oil because of its linked benefits on mental health and concentration. In the fall out from recent events, I could really use a little support on that front. It is also said to aid with memory and staying on task for extended periods of time, which I rely on a lot for my day job. I enjoy the benefits it gives my skin and hair, and I've read countless studies touting its benefit for healthy heart function. When I do eventually fall pregnant again, it has a host of benefits for a developing foetus' cognitive and motor development.
I began taking turmeric the week before last as a gentle pain killer and inflammatory. I was on a steady stream of heavy prescription painkillers over the course of two weeks for a case of dry socket from my tooth extraction (painful!) and the ongoing cramps associated with the passing of the pregnancy, which was a shock to my system and made me feel ill. As soon as the pain became bearable, I switched over to a triple strength turmeric supplement a few times a day to keep the inflammation at bay as my body finished healing both wounds. I've kept as part of my supplement regime in the hopes it may be helping with the inflammation in my gums and knee joints.
Ethical Nutrients Pre-Pregnancy Support
This one is pretty straight forward. In a few months we'll try to conceive again, and my GP has told me its best to start taking a pre-natal vitamin as soon as you can before doing so. Folic acid reserves are important for trying to prevent neural tube defects in foetal development. Its also a good general mutli-vitamin for every day functioning.
Previous to my last pregnancy, I took a course of 'Elevit' and Reece took a course of 'Menevit'. I've since read some questionable things about the quality of that supplement, and decided to steer clear of it this round. I've also found this supplement has done away with my need to take an additional iron supplement, as it contains just the right amount of iron that my body needs.
I chose to incorporate this supplement after I finished reading It Starts With The Egg (highly recommended for anyone who is reproductively challenged, doing IVF, or suffers from endometriosis or PCOS). I take it in an effort to optimise my egg health. The short version of the story is that our eggs are subject to oxidation and degeneration at any age. All women release a number of dud eggs, not just older women. The rate of duds simply increases with age . The unfortunate few who have these dud eggs fertilised will experience miscarriage as these eggs are not chromosomally viable. Hence why miscarriage is so prevalent, and why many women who experience it often go on to have healthy babies with no further issue - they simply release a healthy egg next cycle. CoQ10 is a powerful anti-oxidant that assists mitochondrial ATP synthesis, which is responsible for creating cellular energy; thus in turn, creating eggs that are chromosomally viable. You up your odds of conceiving well if you can increase the quality of eggs you are releasing, and coQ10 supplements play a significant role in this process.
This was another recommendation from 'It Starts with The Egg'. It is not recommended that you take over 300 mg of Vitamin E per day (and I don't) - however some studies have shown in may increase egg health. My pre-natal vitamin does not contain any amount of vitamin E, so I supplement my regime with capsules. Plus, its awesome for your heart , hair & skin!
I'm trying my hardest to get this from the sun. I make an effort to spend at least 10 minutes, uncovered in direct sunlight every day, usually by eating my lunch at work out on the grass with a big hat on, or sun baking very briefly on the weekends. However, on overcast or really busy work days, this sometimes doesn't happen; which is why I keep a quality Vitamin d3 supplement on hand to top up my reserves. If I haven't found the sun that day, I pop a pill. Easy! I do it for two reasons; I don't want to catch every bug and flu that goes around the office (I've had enough time off this month!) and vitamin D helps boost immunity. I also do it to boost my mental health (and notice the biggest change here on days when I get real sunlight! It really works to flick a switch).
I probably spelt that wrong. I take this for gut health, pure and simple. I have a sensitive stomach (which is also being investigated from a medical point of view) - but I find that taking one of these capsules each night after dinner and before bed seems to even things out for me into the next day. I do think a healthy gut is important. Because I have an overall vague goal of 'reduce inflammation' , I'm aiming to settle this down as much as possible to operate at an optimal level.
AS A SIDE NOTE.... I have managed also this week to chase up the last few remaining to-do items from medical week. I had my pap smear (piece of cake! Ladies, go book yours in!) - I'll have my colonoscopy next Monday (fun!) and I have had my blood drawn to screen my thyroid etc as a pre-pregnancy pre-caution. I'm calling both medical week and supplement week, a huge success!
This week I'm healing through sweat. My aim is to get up and move ever single day this week, in one way or another..... and to get to know my pelvic floor. I'm considering it an absolute baptism of fire as my re-introduction to regular work outs. Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: This is not a medical blog. I am not a medical professional. This is not medical advice. This is simply a recount of my own experience and an exploration of what is working for me right now on a physical and emotional level. Every woman and every experience is different. This is anecdotal. Please see your doctor before trying any of it, just as I did.