Celebration hearing

It’s been a while since I last blogged. Things are really busy what with looking after LO and going to work. As LO’s local authority is out of town, we could arrange another celebration hearing near to where we live. The big day finally came and we all dressed up. We were nervous and excited but it was very strange walking into a court during a weekday when there were people going to court for commiting crimes! Even though our hearing was at 9.30am, the judge was running late by 30 – 45 minutes and poor LO was getting bored. We had to find different ways to entertain her in a small waiting room so she wouldn’t get annoyed. We were finally met by the judge’s PA and followed him into the court. The judge was very nice and gave LO a teddy bear. She asked some questions and we had our photo taken with the judge which we will put in LO’s lifestory book later. The judge asked if we wanted to say anything extra to mark the occasion but we declined as we felt it was occasion enough. After 10 minutes, we had left the court and LO was firmly in our lives. It was a great moment and at the same time, a muted understated moment. After years of yearning, struggling, battling with awful social workers and feeling extreme highs and lows, we finally found our little child. To us, it was a momentous occasion and LO had no idea what was going on. I think to her, she got a teddy bear from a woman in a big room and then we went to lunch and that’s how it should be I suppose.

Adoption order

Richard managed to get all the paper work into the court by their deadline. We were so grateful that he managed to do all the work on his own and completely annoyed that our agency let us down again. Days passed and the first court date came. It didn’t dominate the day but it was definitely in the back of our minds. We went to a soft play centre with LO and met with friends. On the way back home on the bus, my beloved received a phone call from Richard. With LO sitting on my lap, I waited with bated breath as I watched my beloved’s serious face as Richard talked to her and then suddenly, her face beamed and she gave me the thumbs up. I felt extremely relieved but had to wait until she got off the phone to get the confirmation. Apparently, birth mum did turn up at the court intending to contest but thought better of it. The judge granted the Adoption Order there and then so we didn’t have to wait for a second court date! I was over the moon. At last! After all jumping through so many hoops, feeling a range of highs and lows, our little girl was finally ours. I couldn’t describe the feeling. It had been a long haul but we finally became a family.


Just when it couldn’t get any worse

We had completed our section of the adoption order application and sent it off to the courts. We had to send it to LO’s local authority so her birth parents don’t know where we live (as they get notification from the court about the court date). A few weeks later, we received a court date! This first date is when the judge looks over the case and could either grant the Adoption Order there and then or could set another date for a final hearing, when potentially the Adoption Order would be granted. We hoped that the Adoption Order would come through on the first date as we have heard that birth mum is getting her life back on track and is now asking questions about LO. Once again, we felt in a really precarious position, knowing that our newly formed family could easily be demolished. I’ve found that this process, particularly the matching stage, has exposed us to potentially being hurt. The system isn’t geared for potential adopters which is okay if the system was actually child-focussed but it’s not.  At the matching stage, social workers want you to open your heart and soul only for them to misrepresent you in your PAR. Then, at the matching stage, family finders want to see you be really keen and imagine that their child is your future son or daughter but then don’t follow up with you so you are left with nothing. Then, when you are finally matched with a child and s/he has moved in with you, a judge could turn around and say that the birth parents get more time to prove they have changed and take the child away from you. I know that this isn’t everyone’s experience of the adoption process but this is certainly how it’s been with us.   Birth parents are of course a child’s biological parents and children shouldn’t be taken away so lightly. The whole point about social workers taking children away from birth parents is because the situation is really, really bad. The child has suffered, so why, after all that, would they get another chance? Generally children who get to the Adoption Order stage were in foster care, have waited for a Placement Order, had to be matched, then be introduced to potential parents and finally move in. This whole process takes quite a long time and at any time, the birth parents have the opportunity to change and try to make their life better so that their child can go back. However, it doesn’t usually happen this way as, like I’ve said, the birth parents are in extreme circumstances and don’t/can’t change their ways. It is quite well known though, then when it gets to the Adoption Order hearing, birth parents then speak up. This could be because this is their final chance to contest and feel that they should contest because at least then they can say they have tried. Any good judge would listen to the birth parents to see if there actually is a chance that they have changed and I don’t blame them. However, I don’t think it should get this far for the birth parents to contest. By this point, the child has met and bonded with their potential forever family, some children have had therapy to get over the damage their birth parents exposed them to and are moving on. When judges and social workers have made the difficult decision to create a Placement Order for a child, that should be the last time when birth parents can contest. I know it sounds controversial but can it really be in the best interests of the child who has undergone the trauma of being with a unstable parent, then going through the trauma of being taken away to a foster carer, then when a child has attached to a foster carer (or more than one if moved multiple times), then being taken away again to meet and move in with their potential adoptive parents, for this to then potentially be disrupted and them to be placed back with the birth parents? I know that this happens rarely but the point is that it can happen.

Anyway, I’ve clearly just gone on a rant and I haven’t told you what happened as of yet. When John came to visit my beloved and LO, he casually mentioned that he was going back home to another country for a couple of weeks but reassured her that he would get his section of the Annex A report done and would be back in the country in time for the court date. He asked for referees but this time from friends and family who have seen us with LO. My beloved gave him the names and told him when they would be available. Time passed and when we asked our friends, they hadn’t heard from John. We tried to contact John to see what was going on but after leaving messages and emailing him, we heard nothing. More time passed and our friends still hadn’t heard from him. Some of our friends took matters into their own hands and chased him themselves. We had to resort to emailng his manager to try and spur him into action as he had to finish his section of the court report by a certain date. He finally met one of our referees and then more time passed. We then got CC’ed into an email from John addressed to Richard saying that he had to go back home due to a bereavement and askng Richard to postpone the court hearing?! However, he had previously told my beloved that he was going back home for a holiday at that time, which was weeks earlier, so it was very suspicious not to mention unprofessional.We were outraged and didn’t believe he had had a bereavement at all and was trying to get out of doing his work. Richard wasn’t too impressed either and after getting nowhere with our agency (John’s manager ignored Richard for a while and then said they couldn’t help!) and lots of discussions with his manager and their legal team, he agreed to write the whole report by himself! We were so relieved that there wouldn’t be any further delays. We felt sorry for Richard having to deal with the incompetence of our assessing local authority. I’m glad that LO has a better social worker than us!

Adoption order and an incompetent social worker

For a while now, we have talked about applying for the adoption order. We have been in a position to apply for the adoption order from 10 weeks after the placement. LO has been with us for much longer than that and we want to make her a permanent member of the family so we asked Richard and John how to go about doing this. We didn’t get any information from John but we did from Richard. It came to a head when John visited at the same time as Richard. John said all-knowingly, that we will be able to apply for the adoption order when we have had LO for 10 weeks. We stared at him in disbelief as LO has been with us for much longer than that and we have discussed this previously. Not to mention the fact that we’ve sent him emails about our court application. We tried to patiently tell him the situation again. The conversation moved on and John asked for LO’s medical reports. We told him he should have it on file as Denise would have received it months before, but we offered to send it to him again. This was after John got the Prospective Adopters Report confused with the Child Permanence Report and asked for both reports in the end. We reminded him that he should have all of this on file already but he said he couldn’t find them electronically. We said he must have had hard copies of all the reports on file but he looked at us blankly as if we were speaking a different language.  After us trying to clarify what was very clear already (and us losing our patience with his stupidity), he finally said that they didn’t have any hard copies or any electronic copies of anything of our case! We were exasperated by this point and I really wanted to strangle him. Richard had to intervene and diplomatically say he would send them all again. We wrapped up our meeting with John agreeing to complete his section of the Annex A of the Adoption order application (the bit that the social workers have to complete) and to complete the references for us. I’m a bit worried that he will be writing a court report on us when he hardly knows us. I just hope he manages to complete his bit because from what I’ve seen so far, I have hardly any faith in him.

Loving the little things

So life is ticking on as LO becomes more settled into her new family. Everyday I am greeted with a big smile from LO when I get her out of her cot. She makes me laugh and smile, and forget about all the trivial things that stress me out. She has given me so much joy and had ended years of yearning for me. For years I yearned for a career and then I yearned for a child. It isn’t like my career has been successful as such, it’s just that my priorities have changed over the years. When I was young, I wanted to ‘be’ something and spent years unsuccessfully chasing a career I thought I wanted. Years later, I changed tack and moved into an office job and then wanted a challenge so I got a more senior job which meant long hours and being on call at weekends and working for a maniac. After this stressful job, I realised that it doesn’t really matter any more. All I wanted is a job that I could leave at work and not work ridiculous hours, particularly as we were in the adoption process. So now LO is in our lives, my new priority is to enjoy being with her!

The weird thing is, that I wondered if I could stomach changing the nappy of a child who wasn’t biologically mine. I know it sounds stupid but it was a question rather than a concern. Of course, I could and I do it without blinking an eye (unless she’s done a really stinky one!) I also wondered if I could genuinely love a child who wasn’t biologically mine. Again, it’s a stupid thought and again, not a pressing one, but obviously I can. She is a wonder and gives me so much joy. There are so many little things that she does that make me happy. The other day, I came home and LO ran up to me at the front door and said ‘hi!’. It was the best way to be welcomed home.

Onto our fourth social worker

So we were without a social worker yet again. To be honest, I am quite glad that we didn’t have a sw but that also meant that making LO officially ours would be delayed. Surprisingly we were allocated another sw quite quickly but I suspect it was because Richard and we were emailing the service manager and head of department.

We have now heard about our fourth social worker whom I shall call John. We weren’t too thrilled about this assignment to be honest as we have met him before. We met him in our prep group a few years ago and he was a student at the time so you would have expected him to be bright eyed and enthusaistic. However, when we broke into smaller groups to do a task, John was supposed to faciliate the group but instead, fell asleep. He fell asleep. It’s pretty impressive that he can fall asleep in a busy room, in front of a small group of people looking at him. Well, I tried to ignore this first impression he made and meet him with an open mind. During the first meeting, he seemed okay and friendly. We told him about Denise’s kitchen gate issue and outlined our strategy on how we would keep LO safe (without a gate) and he agreed that was fine.

Things looked slightly optimistic after our first meeting but unfortunately, this optimism hasn’t lasted long. He has visited a couple of times and he doesn’t listen and comes out with cliches. He doesn’t answer emails and I fear that we won’t get very far with him. He has asked us questions that were already covered during our home assessment (such as ‘how would you feel if LO brought a boy back home?’) which it seems odd to be asked now, considering we have a) covered all these things and been approved for adoption by a panel and b) we have been approved by the matching panel and had a child placed with us. He has also asked for a photo of us and some other strange things (list of all the addresses that we have ever lived at) which make it seem as if we are going through the assessment period again. We asked if he had this on file and he said he needs them again! He has asked for a copy of our PAR and then, when we told him that he already has it and we asked why he needs it (again), it became clear that he wanted a copy of LO’s Child Permanence Report (CPR). It is worrying that he doesn’t know the difference between a PAR and a CPR. Again, we said that he should have all of this on file, and again, he just asked for it once more. I’m really getting fed up with this incompetence and hope that we don’t have to deal with social workers for much longer.

Life moves on without a social worker

So here we are again without a social worker for the 3rd time. Fortunately, we have LO and LO’s social worker, Richard who is keen to keep things moving. Our LAC review was set and unfortunately, I had to be at work due to an event that took place on the same day but Richard said it was fine for my beloved to meet him on her own. However, as the day drew nearer, I realised that maybe my beloved shouldn’t be on her own to contend with a child and three unknown adults in our small home (LO’s social worker, the IRO and ‘our’ social worker). Luckily our friend who is great with kids was free and she came to look after LO whilst my beloved talked to the adults. I’m glad that our friend did come over because it sounded like there was a lot of talking involved. Our LA sent a duty worker to stand in as our social worker. She apparently asked my beloved about the safety gate and she was satisfied with the safety measures we already have in place and thought that a gate wasn’t necessary.

LO behaved really well with our friend in LO’s bedroom. Our friend is a really close friend who has met LO many times before so we both felt that LO would be fine with her. Our friend was well briefed about LO and what the visit meant, so she didn’t come out of the bedroom as she didn’t want to break the spell of LO being okay. She also didn’t want to change LO’s nappy when she did a poo as she didn’t know how LO would react to her changing her nappy, but she also didn’t want to interrupt my beloved, so our poor friend sat in a room filled with the overwhelming stench of poo. Now that’s loyalty for you!

My beloved fed back that the LAC review went very well. The IRO has known LO for most of her life and he said he could see we are doing a great job and that he would not hesitate to recommend that we adopt LO. It was such a relief that the first LAC review went well!

Safety gate-gate

Just to let you know that the following occurred at the same time as LO’s birthday which I already blogged about, but I wanted to have some time to properly write about this. So here it is and I have to warn you, there is a fair bit of moaning to come…

Denise came to our home on behalf of Richard at one of the fortnightly visits to see how we were doing. During this meeting, we talked about how well LO is doing in many things, as she honestly is. Denise asked if there was anything that was not going so well and we mentioned LO’s issues around food. She said that we were doing a really good job and asked if we could get a safety gate for our open plan kitchen to keep LO away, and we said that we would look into it. The rest of the meeting went okay and then Denise did something really strange. After all her talk about attachment and telling us not to invite too many people into our home during the settling-in period so LO wouldn’t get confused, Denise suddenly picked LO up and sat her on her lap. LO immediately reachd for me or my beloved to take her back again, which we did. I found this strange as LO had only met Denise once or twice for a short period of time and surely this was exactly the thing that she had told us not to do.

The next visit was Richard and that went okay. He didn’t raise any concerns about our open plan kitchen and thought things were going well. Shortly after his visit, we found a safety gate online and had it delivered. The space between our kitchen and our living room is quite wide so we had difficulty finding one wide enough. We finally received it and tried to attach it, but due to the angle, the gate would not fit and it would have had to be secured to the internal stud wall on one side and a kitchen unit on the other side, both of which are quite flimsy. LO is very strong and would have ripped out the gate quite easily and it most likely would have hurt her (either by it falling on her or her falling on it). We decided to send the gate back and continued to look for another, which we told Denise.

Anyway, things came to a head when my beloved had another review meeting with Denise, without me. For some reason, Denise suddenly became very fixated with health and safety. She kept talking about getting a safety gate even though my beloved said she usually cooks when LO is having a nap or if she is preparing food for LO when she is awake, she puts LO in the high chair. However, Denise did not trust my beloved and demanded that we get a safety gate. Denise also apparently stared at the lead of our kettle which is very short to the point that the kettle can’t reach anywhere near the edge of our kitchen work surface, which is also too high for LO to reach anyway. I am being completely honest with you, there is absolutely no way that LO could reach the kettle at all. She also stared into LO’s bedroom, seemingly looking for any potential dangers. What we don’t understand is that we have already had a home assessment done during our adoption assessment and Denise has been to our home many times before, so why this now all of sudden?

The strange thing is that at the end of the meeting, Denise told my beloved that she will be leaving within two weeks. Well. Not sure what I make of that and I wonder if something happened with another case of hers which is why she is over-zealous now.

Shortly after this meeting, we both received a snotty email from Denise demanding that we get a safety gate and that ‘having a safety gate is a standard requirement for adopters with small children’ and asking us to keep adequate safety measures in place whilst we wait to get another gate. This email really annoyed us as it implied that LO’s safety was the last thing on our minds – never mind the fact that we have been looking after her for a while! Richard, LO’s social worker, hasn’t said anything about getting a gate. Denise was supposed to be our social worker and she was throwing obstacles in our way when there didn’t need to be. Our first priority is, and will always be, to ensure that LO is safe. We continued to look for a gate and we replied to Denise’s email asking her some questions, mainly was it a standard requirement for adopters to get a safety gate for their kitchen? We already stated that we would put LO in the high chair if we were in the kitchen so how would a safety gate and her being in a high chair improve the situation? What would we do if we were in the kitchen and LO was on the other side and had an accident? Surely the gate would prevent us reaching her quickly? Whilst we waited for a response from Denise, I rang Richard to see what he thought of the situation. He didn’t think we needed a gate and thought that the measures we already had in place were fine. He also received a very curt email from Denise stating that she is leaving in two weeks without a hello or goodbye. He was quite irritated by her email and her short notice of leaving. He found it odd that she was leaving so soon as social workers usually have to give more notice. She either kept it quiet for a while or something has prompted her departure. It does make me wonder.

We received a reply from Denise. Unsurprisingly she ignored most of our questions and asked us to get an estimate from a ‘qualified carpenter’ to fit a safet gate. I don’t know how much money she thinks we have but this will be one expensive gate!  We asked her again to clarify the purpose of the gate and how it would improve upon our existing safety measures. On her last day, she said she needed to get clarification from her managers who were conveniently out of the office. So she demanded that we get a gate (even pay out for a bespoke gate) and couldn’t even explain how this gate would be safer than what we are doing already. What a social worker.

She hasn’t been any support to us whatever. She arrived late for appointments, even missing the meeting we had with LO’s foster carers, asking me to take notes! When she did finally arrive, she rang to ask how to get there! She didn’t find any children for us, the few profiles of children that she did show us were months out of date or completely outside of our matching criteria, she didn’t answer any questions or requests for information, and she put obstacles in our way. All I can say is good riddance!

Meetings and things

Amongst all the excitement, I forgot about the official bit. Since LO moved in with us, we have had to have fortnightly vists from LO’s social worker (I can’t believe I haven’t named him yet – I shall call him Richard). As Richard is from out of town, Denise and Richard will be doing alternate visits. After 4 weeks, we are due to have a LAC (looked after children) review held by an independent reviewing officer. S/he will come to our house and ensure that everything is as it should be.

Once we are 10 weeks into the placement, we can apply for the Adoption Order which is the court order to make LO legally ours. If we don’t get this within 3 months after the LAC review, we will need another LAC review. Hopefully though, we aim to apply before that!

In the meantime, Denise has to write a summary about us to give to the birth parents. It is like a profile of us but with no identifiying features. This is so the birth parents know something about the people who are looking after their birth child. We were happy to do it and looked over at what Denise had sent through.

Richard is really nice but this is his first adoption case as he has moved from a different part of social work to the adoption team so there are a lot of questions that he doesn’t have the answers to. However, unlike Denise, he is honest about this and tries to get answers from his manager. I do find it odd however, as it is quite a journey for him to make, and when we do see him, he doesn’t really have much to say or ask. Maybe he is satisfied with the way we are caring for LO – or that’s how I like to see it!

Transition – eating problems

Apologies for not posting for ages. Things have been very hectic and it’s hard to find time to write this blog. However, I’ll be catching up as soon as I can!

Things are going very well with LO but it seems she has an obsession with food. She will moan for more food after she had eaten, she gets very upset if she has to wait a few seconds for food (e.g. When you blow on her food if it is too hot) and she will be fixated if she sees food. I’ve read that babies/toddlers self regulate but LO does not do that. If we let her, she would continue to eat until she was sick. The thing is that she wasn’t like this when she was with the foster carers or when we met her during introductions. I’ve talked to people and looked on the internet and it seems there are other kids who do this but I couldn’t find anything about adopted children. We always hear the same thing, ‘well at least she’s eating’ which yes, I can imagine it is stressful if you had a child who didn’t eat but this does not help our situation and if I hear that one more time, I think I may scream.
So all we have to go on is that clearly the transition had something to do with it, and/or we are stimulating her lots more than when she was with the foster carer, and/or the food we are giving her has more flavour (she generally had packet food at the foster carers), and/or she is going through a growth spurt. I suspect that it is a combination of all of the above. What is clear is that, when we encounter an issue, we can never entirely unpick it due to her being a potentially adopted child (can’t say she’s adopted yet as we have to get the court order first). In these situations, my advice is to ask adoptive parents – which is what we finally did. My beloved takes LO to a local (ish) playgroup for adopted children which is held regularly. Once a month, the playgroup hold a weekend session and we all went along. It was really lovely to meet other adopters, and their children. It gave us a chance to talk to others who knew what we were going through which you can’t do at other play groups. It will be very important for LO as well so she has friends who have been through a similar experience. We talked to quite a few adopters with young children and found out that a lot of their children had experienced similar issues with food. One woman stated that children who can’t talk find food a comfort and eat to fill the emptiness and loss they feel from being taken out of the foster carers home. when I heard this, it made perfect sense to me. So now we don’t really worry about this anymore. We give her sensible amounts of food and snacks and there will be times when there will be food around that we can’t control, e.g. at playgroups where other children are having their snacks. When these situations occur, we make sure we have plenty of healthy snacks, and try to distract her or remove her away from the food. This works pretty well, particularly as we are less stressed about the whole thing. The really odd thing is that I couldn’t find any information about comfort eating and adoption which is weird considering how common it is, so I’m writing about it here in case someone else encounters this.

As LO settles with us, we hope that she will gradually find comfort in other things, other than food. We have already started by reading the emotions book by Todd Parr to LO. She may not understand all of that book yet but she will be used to taking about emotions and hopefully will be able to identify how she feels. We also spend lots of time with her and we are attentive to her needs so she can go through what she needs to. I know it sounds all doom and gloom but we do have lots of fun times too!