Friday, 17 April 2009

First Steps to Adoption.....

About 5 years ago my partner and I talked at length about what we may like to do in the future. One thing I had never wanted as a teenager and young adult was kids. I am not too sure why, it may well have been that because I was gay, I had talked myself out of having them, because it was never going to happen. After much discussion we both wondered if it would ever be possible for a gay couple to Foster children, or indeed, was there anything stopping us from approaching a fostering agency to see if we could foster.

At the time we lived in Republic of Ireland, and as such lived in a staunchly old fashioned and deeply religous area. We thought that the chances of us being considered were very slim, and funnily enough, we were kind of right in that respect. We went along to the local authority and their Children's Services department and met with a lady there. From the off, we could tell that there was going to be an issue about this, and she only confirmed this view by telling us that we would be required to have people agree with us becoming Foster Carers - these people being local clergy (ALARM BELLS!!), Doctor, Nurse, Business People, etc. The big metal barrier came down and that was it for us - we were blocked out of that particular avenue - or were we?

At work, our workmates were well behind us, and what we were doing. Even our Medical Advisor at work, who was a Senior Nurse, was totally behind us, but agreed that at that point in time, it would be more or less impossible for us to get agreement, especially with the local Clergy.

About 6 months later, living with the Euro for too long, we decided that we would be unable to afford living in Ireland, as costs had increased, but salaries had not! So, we decided to move back home, and back to our families. We moved back in September 2003, and funnily enough, it was the best thing we ever did. We saw our families a lot more, and were able to afford to do a lot more things, including buying our own house. I had a fantastic job, earning more money than I ever had and loved it even more than just the money. Tris also had a fantastic job in London, and was looking to move to an even better paid job. We had everything, money, home, cats etc, but yet again there was something missing.

In January 2004 Tris was travelling home in the car when an advert came on the radio looking for Foster Carers URGENTLY! As is well documented, even in the press today, there are not enough Foster and Adoptive Parents registered for the number of children in the British Care System, and in our area especially, one of the nearby cities actually has the highest number of children in the country in their care system. Of course, we thought, would we just end up in the same position as before, or would we be taken seriously this time? Worrying, we made a phone call to the number advertised on the radio and crossed our fingers.

Tris made the call. I am a little telephone-aphobic! I listened intently as he spoke to this "person" on the end of the phone, was he flirting with them? Sounded like it! Cheek! I shouldn't have worried, what I forgot is that when it comes to stuff like this, Tris does not worry quite so much and definitely does not show it when he is talking about it! What I was also about to find out was that he was pretty much excited about this phone call, and what the person on the other end of the phone was telling him!

The person on the other end of the phone was actually gay, and he was so excited that a gay couple had rung up as a result of his advert! He explained that there had been changes to UK law, and this meant that Fostering and Adoption was now open to anyone. Being open to anyone, of course, does not mean that they are going to turn up the next day with two kids in tow - there is much more to it than that! The first thing that would happen would be that our contact details would be given to one of their Independent Social Workers. This being due to the fact that they were a Private Fostering Agency and did not have their own Social Workers. The Social Worker would ring us up to make an appointment for an initial visit. This visit would assess how serious we were about Fostering, and of course, if from the visit if we would be deemed suitable to proceed further. From then, they would confirm their thoughts in writing, and we would take it from there.

FANTASTIC!!! We were being taken seriously!! Yippee!

We went about our day to day business for a few days, and then arrived home one eveing to an answer phone message from a lady, we will call her Kelly. She was the Social Worker we had been assigned for our initial visit. Could we give her a call back to arrange for an appointment to come and visit us. Could we - would we - bloody right we would - within 2 minutes of listening to the message!!! We rang her back, and made the appointment. Because we had spoken to someone before about Fostering, we were, even after the phone call, still very wary of the process, and whether we would be considered for it.

Our appointment was a few days away, we were anxious, but felt we knew what we wanted, so let's see how far we can go.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The first meeting with a Social Worker.....

So, off we go, a meeting is arranged to see if we are going to be able to be considered for Fostering. There was no real excitement about this meeting, it was more nerves that actually what they were coming to do was tell us to bog off, and never to darken their door again!

The evening of the meeting arrived. We had not lived in our house for too long, and had bought it to do up over a period of time. I made a conscious effort to make sure that it was clean and tidy, but because we had not been there too long, I was adamant that the Social Worker would be told in no uncertain terms that the state of the place was only temporary! My fear of her thinking children could not live in a house in need of repair frightened the hell out of me!

The knock at the door, and I peek out of the blinds to catch a shot of the dreaded Social Worker! Having never met one, it was difficult to know what to expect, although, I had visions of some style of hippy walking in. I could not have been more wrong if I wanted to have been! In walked Kelly, a very laid back and chatty lady, probably in her early 50's.

She made us feel comfortable right from the word go. Kelly explained the agenda of the meeting, the kinds of questions she would ask, and explained that she would be making notes as she went. First job was to offer her a cup of tea! I went to do that, trying to stop my hands from shaking as I put the sugar and milk in, and Tris chatted away to her about this and that. Turns out she was quite local herself, she had been a Social Worker for quite a while, we are talking more than 15 years! She has even been an Adoption Team Manager at one point, and was now a lecturer at a BIG University and in her spare time liked to keep her hand in independently for a few of the local agencies - surely she would know what she was talking about then - yes, and thank you!

To begin with there were the formal questions like name, address, date of birth's, occupations, did we drink, did we smoke, did we have experience with children. Then we got down to the nitty gritty, she asked us a lot of deep and meaningful questions about our own childhoods, our families, siblings, school etc. All the while Kelly is writing like a woman possessed, and we are hoping and praying that she is getting all of this down, and in the right order!

The more questions she asked, the more she told us too. She told us how there were sometimes too many children under the Local Authority Umbrella who they could not even find Foster Carers for, and therefore there were independent Agencies and Charities, just like TACT who were contracted to help. She also told us that one of us would probably have to give up work, as having Foster Children meant that any age range could be placed with us, however, to justify giving up work there was a payment made when you had children placed with you, although, this should not and can not be depended upon as a "living" as if you do not have children with you, you don't get paid!

It was a very interesting meeting, and one that answered a lot of our questions, including the big one....... Can same sex couples Foster children? The answer - YES! Wow - she went on to say that there were BIG changes coming through with a new Children's Act in 2002, which meant that ANYONE can Foster and Adopt. There would be a number of steps for us to take including courses, training etc, however it was possible.

She also had an obvious question for us........ Why did we want to Foster Children? Our answer - We wanted to have children! Looking back, that was such a selfish answer to give, but, apparently, quite a popular one, as there was no shock or surprise given back.

Looking into this now, it is important to understand that Fostering is not like looking after someones pets. It is a really big responsibility, obviously, and not one to be entered into lightly in my opinion. It could be the case that you have experience of a niece or nephew who is a toddler, and you get a phone call form your link worker telling you that they have three teenagers looking for weekend respite! You need to be aware of all of this!

So, the meeting lasted a good few hours, although, it felt like it passed in a flash, as we felt so comfortable giving her all the information about our pasts. The meeting came to an end, and Kelly explained the next steps. She would take all the information home with her and type it all up into a formal report which we would receive a copy of, and would receive in a few days. It would also have her recommendation on it, and it would advise us if they would be interested in taking our application further. Good News, we hoped!

The next few days went by with the obvious checking of the post every day - even the next morning! Then on the Friday morning the post arrived, and there it was, what we had been waiting for!

It was Tris who opened it, as I just couldn't handle the thought of rejection. A big smile appeared after he read the 3 pages. Some of the information about us she had misunderstood, but in the main, she had us spot on!

Her recommendation - We should be invited onto the Prepare to Foster course with a view to taking our application further! Yippee!!! We read on a little more - "However" - uh oh! "I would also recommend that Scott & Tris also look into the prospect of Adoption, rather than Fostering, as I could foresee problems when children were reunited with their families, or placed into an Adoptive Placement" - OH MY GOD!!! Is she saying we can Adopt Children - yes she is!!!

So, what ever is going to be thrown at us next?!

That is another Story!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The end of Fostering?

Well, as you can imagine, even the suggestion of Adoption just blew us away! We had never even considered Adoption before this, possibly for more than one reason!

1) It could not be possible for a same sex couple to Adopt Children, surely! As it was at that point in time, there was no talk of Civil Partnerships and to be honest, Tris and I did not fancy the "Sun" newspaper camped on our doorstep! Yes, we had, at one point, considered surrogacy, but the costs and the uncertainty of it all did not appeal to either of us.

2) It is highly unlikely that any Birth Parent would consider allowing their child to be adopted by a same sex couple. I will not hide the fact that Tris and I are well aware of specific stories in the press about same sex Couples who had sexually abused children. We deeply felt that people who did not know us that well would worry that that could be us.

3) How could you raise a child with same sex parents?

Those are three of the questions that we asked ourselves, and it really worried us, hence the reason we had NEVER even considered Adoption. The letter seemed genuinely sincere, so what should we do?

Well, we had a long long chat about it between us. In fact it was not just the one conversation, we must have had at least 8 conversations. Kelly had a point when she said that we would find it difficult handing back children after fostering. I am not too sure whether we had even thought about handing children back before that. Looking back, I can not believe we did not think about it before this, and it worried me. It worried me because, would I be selfish in feeling like this? How long would it take to come to terms with a child moving on? What if the Adoption route did not work? Would we be able to go back to Adoption? I suppose only I could answer this, but what if we took in our first Foster Child/Children and the left and it left me devastated - would it be worth it?

At this point, Tris felt the same. He could not help but wonder how he would deal with this situation, and I felt much better, as at least I was not the only one feeling like this. So, what was next? Should we see what was around? Should we ring someone? Should we go ahead with Fostering?

As if fate took over a few days later and it was Adoption Week, Adoption Week 2003 to be precise. Tris was driving home from the Train Station and was listening to one of the local radio stations. Low and behold there was an advert on before the news and it was an interview with a Social Worker from one of the local authorities. She was explaining how they never had enough Adopters and were currently recruiting, they would consider anyone, single, married, gay, straight, as long as they were over the age of 18. She gave the number and Tris saved it into his mobile.

I got home at around 6pm and Tris told me what he had heard. I am not a great believer in fate, although, I have to say a lot of things do happen for a reason, and this seemed to be one of those things! We both agreed that we had nothing to loose by calling the number, and even if it did not work out, we had tried.

The next day Tris called the number. The lady appeared quite keen, in fact, she asked if we had any problem with her doing an initial visit that evening! Wow, that was quick, and if she was coming to visit that quickly, could this be the right thing to do? Tris rung me to check I was ok with this, of course it made me a little nervous, but I was not going to say no!

So, at about 7pm that evening the door knocked. Feeling a little less nervous this time, I answered it and showed the Social Worker, Lucy, into the lounge. Tris kept her busy while I made the tea - no shaky hand this time!

This meeting was a lot less formal. It was explained to us that we would be invited to a welcome meeting, and there it would be explained all about the Adoption Process, if, after that, we were still interested then we would be invited to a Prepare to Adopt course. Wow, so she was telling us that all it would take would be for us to go to a few meetings and then we could adopt!


We were lead to believe that it could take about 8 weeks until we couuld adopt. Naive? Stupid? Yes, we were both. We had done no homework on timescales, or the actual process of Adoption! We believed what Lucy had told us as that is all that we knew. Financially we could not afford to sign up to all of the Adoption Literature, so how were we to know? Well, to be fair, if you are going to go into Adoption then you really need to open your eyes, and understand the process and children that come with the process. We waited on the waiting list of this particular authority (no names mentioned!) for 2 YEARS - 2 years we waited to hear about the Prepare to Adopt Course. Looking back we can not believe how stupid we were, and how patient we were! We waited so long...............

So, what was next, were they all going to be like this? Was it because we were same sex? Who knows, and to be honest, we were probably too scared to ask the question. Was there going to be anything that we could do? Actually, yes, there was. Two years to the day, almost, and Tris was in the same situation, driving home from the train station in the car, and again listening to the radio. It was another station this time. Bizarrely, I had heard the same advert the day before, and mentioned it, but was it all really worth it, and could I be bothered going through anymore?


Monday, 13 April 2009

More of the same?

So, here we are, nearly three years in, and no further forward! We have gone down the Fostering route, and whilst it looked as though we might be successful in our application, we were not too sure whether it was for us now. We would have been welcomed back, but as I have said, I doubt it is something we could have done.

So, Adoption week 2005 comes round, two years since an initial enquiry about Adoption. You will have seen it yourself too, in Adoption week, normally in November, there is so much awareness of it, but it appears to be just for that week - any other time of the year, unless you are heavily involved, you do not really think about it. So, another advert heard on the radio, and another number to ring.

It is worthwhile pointing out at this point, that we were very very wet behind the ears where our enquiries were concerned. We honestly did not have a clue about anything, all we knew was that we really wanted to have our own children. We had even discussed the age range, the number of children, etc, so we probably just had the vision, not realising exactly what we had to do to get it!

Tris, again, rang the number (phone-aphobe!!) and spoke to a lady on the phone, we will cal her Lea. Lea was very helpful and very interested, but to be fair at this point Tris and I were just going through the motions. I think our interest had wained a little. Anyway, Lea took all of our details and arranged to come out and see us later on that week. This time there were no nerves, and to be honest, we wondered how long we would have to wait until we got the knock back this time!

So, an uneventful week passed, and Lea was here doing our "initial visit". No pen, no notepad, just the three of us and a cup of tea. It was looking quite dodgy, however, as Lea explained, all agencies are different, and their process, whilst achieving the same result, may differ slightly, however, we could be assured of the fact that there would never be any problem with the fact that we were a same sex couple.

At that point we were 8 weeks away from the new Adoption Laws becoming live, "The Adoption & Children Act 2002". (2002 is the year it was approved, but it did not come into force until 2006) The changes to the legislation meant that from the live date unmarried couples and same sex couples would be able to jointly adopt children, where as previously only one of the partners would be able to. (You can view details of this and more of the new legislation at:

This was news that we had not even heard about, so we knew at that point that we did not have a clue what we were embarking on with this. Lea, thankfully, brought us down to earth with a big bump. She explained that there were more than a few stages to go through until we could even be considered to adopt any children.

Lea stayed for around two and a half hours, and in that time Tris really took to her, unfortunately, I could not in that time. I found myself being very defensive and trying to tell her what she wanted to hear - which was a wrong move - and one that sticks in my head to this day! I think i was just sitting waiting on a knock back, it really was nothing against her.

Lea asked us how we felt about Paedophiles. Seems like a straight forward question, or so I thought. I answered the question by saying I thought they should all be lined up in a row and shot! I am sure reading this you will either agree with this statement, or you will totally disagree, or you may even think that people like this are ill. Either way, we all have our opinion, it just so happens that in this situation, I answered it with my honest opiniot! Lea, bless her, explained that comments like that would not go down too well if we ended up adopting a child who had been sexually abused by a family member! Oops!!!!

So, I answered a question wrong, big deal. It was my opinion, but it just proved to me that I needed to start doing my research. I needed to find out more about the process, the kind of children in the care system etc. It was a must if my gob was going to keep me out of bother!!

Anyway, Lea explained that there was a "Prepare to Care" course being run in three weeks time and that she would have to discuss us with her Team Manager. She would ring us over the next few days to let us know if we were going to be invited to attend, and then of course we would receive something in writing for the purpose of getting time off etc if we needed it.

This threw up another little problem. Tris had been in his job for 2 years, and whilst he is very open about his sexuality and our relationship, he was never able to come out at work. He works in London, however, the industry he is in is old fashioned, and 100% safety related. He deals with hundreds of peoples lives every day, and was involved in the 7/7 tragedies and the clear up. He could not afford to take the risk of coming out at work and then his colleagues taking risks and taking Tris's mind off the job, after all he could end up killing hundreds of people at the touch of a button. Tris now had to seriously consider how serious he was about the Adoption Process.

Lea rung us the next day. She had spoken to her Manager, we will call her Karen, and Karen was very keen to get us on the Prepare to Care course. We were officially invited! Tris now had to get some time off, and decided to speak to his Boss, and tell him all about the possibilities of us Adopting. On the other hand, I had already told my Boss, and he was keen to help in anyway he could.

So, we were now on our way, weren't we?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Prepare to.......... be nervous!

We were now aware of 2 people that wanted to help us achieve our goal - adopting children. We received a letter a few days after our phone call with Lea. At last - an official letter from a local authority inviting us to the Prepare to Care course. We spoke more to Lea before the course too, she was kind enough to tell us what to expect, and of course, she made us aware that as it was a course there would be more couples than just us there.

This made us very nervous. The thought of us getting together with, 1) The Local Authority and 2) Other couples who were interested in Adoption was beginning to freak us out. The more we thought about it the more nervous we got, so we were trying NOT to think about it! You may have noticed that my tone may have changed slightly by saying that we were part of a group of people who "were interested in Adoption". By now we had talked to Lea enough to understand that actually, we were no where near the stage of adopting children, we were actually just at the beginning. I am just thankful that, actually, we stuck with it, even after we understood that 3 years in we had to take a step back and look at it more seriously.

The two weeks before the course slipped by. As I say we were nervous, however we had to cling to the thought that whatever happened we would be another step forward after the course. The evening before the course begun arrived, and it was almost like waiting to go into hospital or the dentist for a route canal - We were nervous but would be glad when it was all over. A glass of wine was required, for medicinal reasons of course!

The morning arrived. Funnily enough we both slept ever so well, and felt quite refreshed. As always, Tris left it to me to tell him what to wear, otherwise, he'd have gone in his three piece suit! A casual day I felt, so jeans and jumper would suffice for that December week! Three cups of coffee and 20 Marlboro Lights later (for me!) we were ready to leave. By this point I was a little narky, and just wanted to get to the course with no conversation! We arrived nice and early, which makes a change for us, and registered at reception. Every person that walked past us we wondered if they would be on our course too.

As a side line to this, it is worthwhile pointing out something, yes, I smoke, and yes I have been able to adopt children. Whilst there is no one running round demanding that you stop, you WILL be questioned about it. It is really a question of making an effort, and at the end of the day, what comes first? In terms of the "rules" - Prospective Adopters will not/can not be stopped from adopting, however, being a smoker can limit the possible opportunities that come through at the "Matching Stage" . With the Authority we are with, if you are smoker then you will not be in a position to Adopt a child under the age of 3 (soon to be changed to 5years old). I would imagine that it is the same with other Authorities too as these guidlines are normally "blanketed" around the country. One thing you must not do is lie! Please do not tell them that you don't smoke. These guys are Social Workers, they are programmed to sniff out lies - and you WILL be caught out!!

Anyway, back to our day! We arrived and were asked to take a seat and someone would come and collect us. We saw Lea walk past, and she noticed us, so she said she would take us into the meeting room. She was ever so chatty, and made us loose a bit of our nerves, until we walked through the door to the room. There were 4 people from the Adoption Team there, and 5 other couples in the room. You could sense the tension in the room! It was so thick you could have cut the air with a knife! It was hell on earth!

You could not help but wonder what kind of situation these other couples were in, and of course you assumed that they could not have children! I know, it is a cruel assumption, but I would imagine that anyone who thinks of adoption assumes that this is the case. Not so, as we found out. Of course, there was the other issue about us being the only same sex couple in the room. What would people think of that? Would anyone have a problem with it? Yes, we cared enough about ourselves to wonder!

Firstly, it was time for coffee, as if I needed any more! It was also a good way of getting out of the tense atmosphere! It was difficult to strike up a conversation with the people in the room to begin with, and I think the other couples would agree! So, we had our coffee, and then it was time to begin. Karen, the Team Manager, welcomed us, and thanked us for coming. Thanked US for coming! We wanted to thank her for inviting us! She explained how the 4 days would work, what we would be doing, the visitors that would come in and talk to us, and what we would achieve by being there. Obviously there were a lot of questions flying around, which she was only to happy to answer, however, there were some questions that were a little premature, for example, someone asked how many children there were awaiting adoption in the authority, and how likely this particular couple would be to adopt one!

The first job was to introduce ourselves! I hate this kind of thing! Thankfully, they did it a little differently. They split us up! We were given 5 minutes to chat to the person to our right and find out as much as we could about them and their partner. We would then have to tell the rest of the room all about them. It was a nice and different way to do it. I had to find out more about "Jeff" (not his real name!). He appeared more nervous than I was, and could hardly get his words out. He seemed nice enough, and of course he had to find out about me, and my nerves had me yakking away telling him my life story!

It was nice at the end of this to hear about everyone else, and there was a little humour injected into it. It appeared that people were here or all manner of different reasons. There were two couples there that had had their own children, and were looking into Adoption as a way of passing on what they had learned from having their own children, however, in the main, everyone else was in the same situation as us.

The course itself was very relaxed. All of the Adoption Team were very friendly and chatted to us in a very friendly manner. It took a while, but by the time morning coffee time came everyone wanted to find out more about everyone else. There were two couples that we took to straight away and who we would like to keep in touch with, Ron and Laura (names changed) and John and Karen (names changed). They were lovely, and very friendly and seemed to be a lot like us, there because they really wanted this, and had great humour with us. We felt genuinely relaxed by this point, and we would be spending the next 3 and a quarter days with them!

The course ran, and we had no end of people come in and talk to us, A Birth Mother, An Adopted Child (obvioulsy Adopted in the past!!), A Child Psychologist, the Adoption Team's Senior Practitioner all came in and talked through their positions and experiences with us. It was so interesting, and of course there were questions flying around the room. The main thing that struck me was that had we not been there under these circumstances, it was so interesting that I would have probably asked exactly the same questions.

All the time that these people were coming into talk with us, the Adoption Team were sitting scribbling away on their note pads, taking notes and assessing us! You did feel under the microscope a little, and were minding your p's and q's, and of course, contributing to course content.

The days flew by, and before we knew it it was the end of the first two days of the course. At the end of each day we felt absolutely shattered, but we also felt very relaxed and happy. The weekend was work for us, and we had to wait another week to go back! We wanted to go everyday! Sad or what!!

Each day there was a question and answer session led by Karen, just to see where we were at. Tris asked the question, that begged to be asked! Has the Authority ever had a same sex couple adopt children? Quite a big question, and a damn important one to us! The answer was - No.

I think that we kind of knew this anyway, however, we needed to clarify some details with Karen. It was later that day that she asked if we wanted to talk with her in private, we of course agreed, due to the fact that we wanted to put our minds at ease. We needed to know if being the first same sex couple would hinder our application. Her answer - Yes, of course it would. This was not said in a spiteful or hurtful way. We had to understand that being the first meant just that - we would be the first to be assessed, the first to go through Panel, and if we were lucky, the first to adopt children with them. It all made sense, it may be delayed a little, but only because they had to be 200% sure that all bases were covered, and all the i's were dotted and t's crossed.

Before we knew it it was Thursday again. It was enjoyable getting ready to go to the course that day, to see everyone we had gotten to know. Of course, we also knew that we had two more days to impress the Team to ensure an invite to make our official application to Adopt. The days flew by again, they went too quick, and again, we had more visitors, and role plays to endure!!!

By the Friday it was time to wrap up. At this point Karen was now going to explain the Application process to us, from end to end. This process does differ from Local Authority to Local Authority, however, it is mostly standard with guidelines provided by BAAF - British Association of Adoption and Fostering. Whilst we knew there were a lot of hurdles to cross, we were surprised to hear that once all the forms had been completed we would be required to attend a "Panel". The Panel were a group of 12 people from various parts of the community and City Council. They included, a Birth Mother, an Adopted Child, a Child Psychologist, Kate (who was the Panel's independent advisor), the Panel Chair, as well as other members. They would be given all of your information prior to the meeting and would ask any relevant questions before making a decision on whether or not you could be a Potential Adoptive Parent!

Here are the stages we would be going through with this particular authority:

1) Advised whether we would be invited to make our first application for Adoption. Completing a "form to register interest"

2) Place application with the Team advising that we would like to take our application further.

3) Social Worker would be assigned to us.

4) Social Worker would take us through our assessment, which would last around 8 months.

5) Social Worker to complete Adoption Application forms and submit to Karen for approval.

6) Application submitted to Panel.

7) Attend Panel and answer questions from the Panel.

8) Receive decision from Panel.

If we received a decision from the Panel to approve us as Adoptive Parents they would tell us while we remained in the building. If there were any problems there was a chance that a decision would not be made on that day, and we would be required to provide more information and re-attend the panel.

It all seemed mind numbing to us, and it was also nerve wracking that we could be going through this process.

At last we were getting somewhere! Although, we did not yet know if we would even get that far. Would we be invited to apply?

We were about to find out!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Apply, Apply, Apply!!

So, four days of quite intense "training" went by in a flash. It is funny, because looking back it was intense, but actually, at the time, it was good fun, and we both enjoyed getting to know others, learning about Adoption, and it's process, and of course, by the end of it we found out something about the numbers of children in the care system with the Authority. Everyone, including us, did not want it to end, however, we knew it was just one step, and there were more to be made.

At the beginning of the four days Karen told us that the four days were about gauging our level of understanding of Adoption, and our suitability to be assessed through the Authority. We would be advised not more than 2 weeks after the end of the course whether or not we would be invited to apply. It was a very tense moment at the end of the course, as we really wanted to know there and then whether or not we could apply. I think Karen must have sensed this from us, in fact, she really made an exception for our group by telling us that all 12 of us would be invited to make applications. YES! Excellent, we all jumped for joy. Some had a few tears, understandably, but on the whole it was just relief. We would still receive a letter confirming all of the details and it would include the initial application form.

Karen also explained that we should try and complete and send back the application as soon as possible, so that the process could begin. This was all excellent news, and there was no "buts" or "howevers" - it was simple, she explained it, we were all through to the next stage (Sounds like an X-Factor Blog!!) and we really could not be any happier or relieved about it! All that was left to do now was swap contact details with everyone on the course, and get off home. (It should have been the pub really, but we'd gotten this far, we didn't want to give the wrong impression!!)

About a week past before we received the details confirming what we had been told on the course. It was a big relief to have it in writing. As well as a letter confirming our invitation to apply, there was an application form and a laminated certificate confirming our attendance on the course and our suitability. That was a nice touch, the more we had telling us that we were welcome the more confident we got.

I would say that you shouldn't get too confident at any stage, but a little amount will help to get through. You really need it at stages throughout the process. We never assumed that we would ever be successful, but we needed that confidence to get through. Sometimes it did wain, and we had to perk ourselves back up, but there is always someone on hand to help you do that, and of course, if your family are 100% behind you, then you can get help there.

I have not really mentioned much about the support we received from our Friends and Family, so now is the time for them to take centre stage!

Parents are the funniest thing in the world. Both sets of parents are separated/divorced. Both Mums are in relationships, but funnily enough neither of our Dads are in relationships, they are both single. We both had very different experiences of coming out. Tris is a very confident person, and has always known he was gay, since he can remember. He was so confident that his family would accept him that he took his Mum out for dinner to tell her. It did not go too well! If I were writing a book, then I would include some of the details, but this is not really the place! The end result was that he ended up moving away, and the "gay issue" was never spoken about again for a long time. I think he ended up in the Restaurant on his own. His Dad was "ok" about it, although, I don't think they went into details about it.

My Mum was reasonably ok about it. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to tell anyone, as I was a lot less sure of myself and had very little confidence. My Mum made a point of telling me to be careful and safe, and if I ever need to, to talk to someone I could trust. My Dad was another story, unfortunately we did not speak for a few months, and when we eventually did it was very difficult to hold any kind of conversation. Even 13 years on we don't talk about it, although, he accepts who Tris is.

To say that Tris's Mum and I did not really get on to start with is an understatement, in fact, she would not even look at me, never mind talk to me. It took a good year before we were even on speaking terms.

When it came to telling our Parents about our plans to Adopt, we definitely expected a similar reaction to our coming out. Surprisingly, their reaction was excellent! Of course, they had their doubts, we all did, but they were actually very keen on us adopting.

We only had one bad reaction from a friend. Well, she obviously was not a real friend. We had spoken to her at length about it, and she even offered to be one of our referees, however, when it came to it she was not able to do it. She would never explain why, and it was evident that as she did not want to tell us why, that we could not even consider her remaining as our friend. It was not for any daft reasons, we were totally justified in not remaining in that particular friendship.

There is only one drawback to telling all of your friends and family that you are considering adoption - the constant questioning, "Any news?" "Where are you at?" "What's the next steps". When this is 24/7 it does become quite annoying. Please do not think that I am ungrateful for the support, I am certainly not, it is just that when it is literally 24/7 from all sides, and there is no news to give, you can be frustrated by it all!

With the one exception in the friend stakes, everyone reacted in the way we hoped. We had two couples who were very supportive of it. It was fantastic as we went through the process to be able to talk about our ups and downs over a bottle of wine or two, and eventually the champagne corks were popped and there was another leg to go!

So, we were okay with everything, the Local Authority was ok with it, our Friends and Family were ok with it, our Work and Workmates were ok with it, it was time to officially apply.