How to manage the adoption process as a GP Locum
When I applied for adoption as a portfolio GP, I wasn’t prepared for how I would have to deal with both organising the process and my colleagues’ reactions. Here’s what I learned along the way:
People want to help
Adoption agencies love paperwork, including letters from your employers about your salary, your conduct, your behaviour around children and anything else you can think of. Despite feeling guilty about swamping practice managers with extra paperwork, people surprised me by their happiness to rise to the occasion. It seemed as if people found it rewarding to be a small part of something bigger than churning out P60s and pension forms.
Even my accountant (normally known only to churn out cut-and-paste emails), kind of went, “Oooh, a baby” and produced a slushy letter about my tax return.
People will have questions
Most colleagues are quietly respectful and discrete but a handful are intensely curious. Beware of people hovering outside your door on the pretext of sharing their concerns about a little old lady in reception when really they have questions such as, “Why are you doing this?”, “Where is the baby?”, “Will you meet the birth mother?” etc.
Humble answers mumbling something about wanting to build a family don’t seem to satisfy people. Be prepared to be able to deflect, ignore or hand the question back to them: “Why do you ask that?”, “Why do you want to know?” etc.
People will have opinions
Most people know of someone who has been adopted: their neighbour, their cousin or their own parent and are keen to share happy outcomes with you. Again however, an opinionated minority are lurking outside your consulting room ready to sidle in in order to share their experiences to put you off. “I don’t like my bio child,” “Get a dog” and, “My friend adopted 2 siblings and still visits them in prison” are not unusual.
Other people that previously viewed me as very career orientated completely blanked the issue, as if I had mentioned I was upgrading my handbag.
Adoption agencies do not work to the same rules about time and commitments as GPs.
Compulsory courses can appear at a moment’s notice – or be rescheduled (“are you free tomorrow morning?”), then there are meetings with social workers and panel dates.
All those anxious moments about cancelling a session 6 weeks away have to be a thing of the past. It helped that all my locums were at a handful of practices and all the practice managers were understanding that a few things would be beyond my control if I had to cancel.
Luckily, having some flexible non clinical roles meant that, in the end, I managed to organise everything without cancelling any clinical work.
You are now officially a saint
Some people now assume you are officially Mother Theresa – forgetting that ultimately, if you want a family, it is the adopter that ultimately gains.
Anyone that thinks I’m a saint has never seen me being assisted into the back of a black cab at 2 am at the end of the Network Locum (now Lantum) birthday party.
Waiting for matching is the hardest part
Normally the guilt-wracked one on the self-constructed rack when it comes to cancelling sessions, I had to just take the view that it was the time of life to be selfish and everyone else just had to suck it up. For domestic adoption, the law states that you must tell your employer your leave start date within 7 days of being matched.
The reality, with August looming and your sessions booked, is that some practice managers are already nervous in April. “Any neeeewwwws yet?” really means, “You will be here seeing patients, won’t you?”
In some ways, I became envious of people’s antenatal emergencies. Stopping work seems easier when pregnant because at least employers have an idea of your gestational dates and if you have a huge bleed at 32 weeks, it’s beyond anyone’s control or arguing with; matching and taking a child home occasionally can be perceived as something you can plan or postpone like a barbecue.
This isn’t the end of the story and I don’t have a child at home. But I hope my story so far will help other prospective adopters realise how much most of your colleagues want to help you – and how to keep the nosy ones at bay.
Claire Davies, GP and editor of the Network Locum (now Lantum) blog
Are you a GP parent? Read our other articles on the blog:
Dr Surina Chibber’s Tips for returning to work after maternity leave