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I have had the fortunate experience of conducting assessments for Impilo Child Protection and Adoption Services, where I assess prospective adoptive parents for their suitability to adopt. The potential parents are often people who have tried, unsuccessfully, to have a child biologically, or, just as often, people looking to adopt a child who has become part of their family through unfortunate circumstances surrounding the loss of the child’s biological family.
Part of the process includes an interview with the person or couple looking to adopt. It is common for this to elicit anxiety from prospective parents; they have not requested a psychological assessment and they may feel like their lives are open to scrutiny and judgement. Over time I’ve developed an introductory talk that generally alleviates the worst of the anxiety and helps them to trust me a bit more. I’m up front about my role and what the assessment process will be, and I tell them that I may ask them things that no one else asks them. For example, if they are adopting a child who is of a different race I may explore how they intend to navigate that; or how they will talk about family members who have passed away. I also tell them that I am not looking for perfect people who have no problems; rather that I’m interested in how they navigate the problems that they do have. I warn them that I may focus on painful or difficult experiences they have had in order to better understand them.
Although the purpose of the assessment is to assess the emotional and physical safety of children in their care, I try to give prospective parents something useful from the assessment. My meetings tend to be a useful opportunity to talk through some considerations that potential parents haven’t had the space to talk or think about with anyone, such as dealing with a child who is of different a race, and integrating the differences in the family. We also consider how the child might feel and react to the experience of adoption, and how the new parents will adjust to the changes which come with a new baby and family member. If parents anticipate difficulties around stigma and perceptions around adoption, this can also be addressed in the meetings.
I’ve been doing these assessments for many years and one of the aspects that I most enjoy is being able to talk to the prospective parents and learn about them and their lives without all the stringencies associated with psychodynamic psychotherapy. I often have to explore difficult experiences and histories; however, I find it to be a rewarding experience to look at and explore my clients’ lives and how they have come through their difficulties. I’m also able to enjoy the good experiences they share with me, for example the excitement of being on the path to getting their often long-awaited child. It is wonderful to be part of an experience that helps children find a loving family to look after them.
Impilo does amazing work. It is run by a team of dedicated social workers and caregivers who look after and advocate for orphaned and abandoned children. I often visit their nursery and see the sensitive and warm care that they give their children. While they house some children at Impilo, they are responsible for 200 children overall, housed in 8 other places of safety.
View the video below to learn more about them and visit their website if you would like to find out more about supporting this important organisation.