One of the very first things we undertook as part of our home study (that’s the bit where a social worker gets to know you in your own home and then writes a report about you to present to approval panel) was thinking about and putting together a mapped support network or eco-map as it was called. This was a kind of spider diagram with us in the middle, and bubbles all around us with names of people who we thought would be able to provide us with support, help, a shoulder to cry on, or parenting advice when we had a child placed.
Our eco-map included my mum and her other half, the NC’s parents, our siblings, my step-sisters (one of whom is a neo-natal nurse), several sets of friends (2 of whom were nursery nurses), my grandmothers, and my uncle and aunt who are also adopters.
I do recall also wanting to add the Adoption UK message board, which - in the days before being approved - was somewhere where I spent a lot of time researching, reading and chatting with others in a similar position. But our technophobe social worker didn’t consider this to be appropriate!
Now, 4 years post-placement we find ourselves with a completely different support network to the one we envisaged. And it grows, recedes and changes as our needs and networks change, as well as when the situations of those involved change.
Geographical distance makes a difference to practical support – those closer offer more, and those further offer less. But that distance also means that emotional support is sometimes easier as they are not involved with Mini and as influenced by their feelings, equally they haven’t seen so much of the harder times, the difficult Mini and it must be hard for them to imagine him having the struggles and anxieties that he has.
Some of those on our support network offer no support at all, through no fault of their own, just circumstance, distance and their own lives moving forward – one of my step-sisters has never even met Dollop.
But new and different supporters have come along - Mini has now been through nursery where the staff and director formed a part of our network, and helped and advised us through difficult times, health professionals – at times – have been involved. Mini’s foster family are still part of our lives – we’re friends with them, and they have filled gaps for us in terms of information.
Now Mini is at school I have become friends with some of the other mums with children in the same class and of course his teacher has also become a part of our support network too.
Back then, in 2007, I’m not sure I’d heard of blogs, and I’m fairly certain I hadn’t heard of Twitter. But now through ‘The Boy’s Behaviour’ and through Twitter, once again my support network has grown and changed for the better.
Without all these different types of support - for us as a family and for each of us as individuals, we might not have even got here. In the early days - in fact within a day of Mini moving in, the NC was diagnosed with post adoption depression and his parents provided practical support for me - dealing with a 1yr old, and emotional support for him, and my mum too phoned regularly and kept me going and believing that it would be OK. Each and every one of those people who have appeared (and in some cases then disappeared) on our ever-changing eco-map have helped us and I can't express how grateful I am to them all for all they've done.
Now - hopefully more changes - as along with preparing Mini for a return back to school and a return in routine, this week we’re preparing for appointments with a parent supporter, our first meeting with the post adoption support team, and another phonecall with Glenda (the mental health worker) too.
Tonight, after I’ve been slapped round the face, pinched, kicked, pushed and screamed at, and the NC has been slapped, shoved, punched, growled at and shouted at, I hope these new additions to our support network really are supportive, and can offer us all some practical help.