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!