Getting the most out of adoption introductions

Introductions is the time during which new adoptive parents or long-term foster carers first meet and get to know the child or children who will become a part of their family.
Diagrama Adoption: Getting the most out of adoption introductions

Whether you are an adopter about to go through introductions or a foster carer who will need to facilitate introductions as children move on from your family, this is likely to be a challenging time for a variety of reasons as emotions and anxieties will be running high. 

Diagrama offers advice and encouragement to our foster carers and adopters at this stage as introductions can be challenging and exhausting and for foster carers they can also be painful and sad. But the end result is hopefully a positive collaborative piece of work that sees children make the transition to their forever families.

Here Diagrama social worker Jen Cannon explores the process and shares thoughts from our own foster carers and adopters on how they made the most of their introductions.

“Once a child has been matched with their new parents or carers, and in the case of adoption this match has been approved by a panel of professionals, a social worker from the placing local authority will make the introductions plan. Most local authorities will have a template they work from, which social workers can then tailor for each child depending on their age, needs and experiences.

Introductions will usually start with a short meeting in the child’s foster home, often of just an hour or so. In the following days the time that new parents/carers spend with the child will build up to full days. Children’s foster carers will be very involved initially, sharing details of the child’s routines, needs, behaviour, likes and dislikes and gradually the child’s care will move across to the adoptive parents or long-term carers and foster carers will need to take a step back. 

It is very important that the child sees the foster carer have confidence in handing over the intimate care tasks such as nappy changing or bathing as this sends the message that they are safe and able to care for them. This is sometimes difficult as it can feel very artificial to carry out care tasks in someone else’s home that you hardly know but this transition needs to take place to prepare the child/ren to move to their permanent home.

It is also important to be aware that all local authorities have a slightly different approach when it comes to the length and format of introductions and this will also vary according to the age of the child/ren you are adopting. Introductions for younger children tend to last around 1 week.

Mid-way meeting

There is always a mid way meeting held where everyone can get together to review how things are going and air any worries or concerns. This is also an opportunity to review accelerating or extending introductions. Your social worker will be in touch regularly to check in with you and offer advice and support.

Do not underestimate how physically and emotionally draining introductions will be, you will be exhausted and that is normal! Remember to make sure you take some time out in the evenings when possible to have some time to yourself to be able to reflect and re-charge before you bring your child/ren home for good at the end of introductions.

We’ve asked our foster carers and adopters to share what they did in the lead up to and during introductions - we hope you find their ideas interesting and helpful.

Introduction tips for adopters

- Bring biscuits (or equivalent) to all meetings. It really helps break the ice (and who doesn't love a biccie!). 

- After your first foster care (FC) meeting where you discuss the introduction plan, exchange email addresses so you can start sharing information straight away. 

- During the planning meeting write down everything FCs tell you about your little one. I still occasionally go back to their list for reference.  We added all of their answers to a list of questions we’d compiled in regards to likes, dislikes, development, routines etc. If your list of questions (like ours was) is very long, do warn them in advance! 

- A few days after the meeting exchange emails and send the list of questions with some of their answers added from the meeting. 

- We started a WhatsApp group after building a relationship over emails and this became our most valuable way of sharing information - it still is! 

- Before introductions, find out the names (and ages) of all the children (and pets) in the house. Prior to introductions we let the children know a little about ours. The kids were very interested in our cat. We found pets are an amazing way to connect. We told them all about the antics of our little cat. 

- By the time we had been approved at matching panel we had built the beginnings of a good relationship with the FCs. At the matching panel meeting we brought our little one's introduction teddy, butterfly talking photo album and some photos of ourselves so that the FC could display them in their house. 

- On the first day of introductions we brought flowers and chocolates for the FCs and some sweets for ALL the children. 

- During introductions ask as many questions as possible. In the first few days do ask the FCs to show you how they do the routine whilst you observe. 

- Take as many pictures as you can of everyone together, your little one by themselves and you with your little one. One of the pictures we took of everyone together was given as a present to the FC at the end of introductions. We also have the same picture on our wall at home. The FCs were very touched that their photo was displayed among our wall of family pictures. 

Introduction tips for foster carers

Whilst foster carers are aware it is ‘part of the job’, there is no underestimating how difficult saying goodbye to children is for carers and their families.

Our foster carers suggest:

- Be as involved in the introductions planning process as possible as you are likely to know the child better than anyone, so make sure the plan fits well around their routine and will give the new parents/carers the best chance of getting to know them well.

- Share all the information you have about the child and be prepared to offer advice and answer any questions from the new parents. If it is your first time moving a child on, seek advice and support from your supervising social worker regarding transitional objects, sensory comforts and the use of these in preparing the child prior to introductions starting.

- Do seek practical help where possible – with meals, cleaning, ironing, or helping with the other children in your care during the introductions process.

- If you have any concerns about the match or anything comes up throughout introductions, you should share this with your social worker in a professional manner.

- Plan your own goodbyes where you can, and those of your friends and family who know the child well.  Give yourself space to grieve and let go. Be sure to remember to be kind to yourself and the other children in your care, and take some time to rest physically and emotionally after such a busy and emotional time.

For more information on becoming an adopter or foster carer with Diagrama please get in touch with us today.