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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!

Matching panel

So judgement day arrived. We ensured that we had everything we needed (the prep things we did for LO and all the reports in case we wanted to read them on the way). On the train, my beloved tried to speak to me but I couldn’t reply as I was too nervous and my stomach was in knots. We got to the place in time and Denise was running late. Luckily, the panel was running late so we waited in a room with LO’s social worker, the family finder and finally Denise.

All the social workers were called in to discuss the match with the panel without us and they took in our preparation things to show. They were then going to call us in. It felt like an eternity but finally, the social workers came out and the Chair of the panel came out to introduce himself. He was very friendly and put us at ease. He also told us what was going to happen and how many questions they had for us. We then followed him in and like the approval panel, there was a panel of people in one room, all facing us. They introduced themselves and then asked us our questions. We answered them the best we could. The questions weren’t very hard but you never know how well you did until later. We were then asked to leave whilst they took a vote and we would then be called in. It was a horrible time waiting for people to decide our future. However, we were called back in and as we went in I realised that we were on the threshold of a life-changing moment. When we got back into the room, we got a resounding yes! We were so relieved! We were a bit dazed as we left and then had an hour meeting about what would happen next. Afterwards, we text everyone our good news and everyone was very happy for us.

I thought we would be going out to celebrate but I was very tired as all that stress and nerves had left my body! It is so odd to know that we are going to be parents!

An amazing day

We went to meet the foster carer and the medical advisor for LO today. We set off early to ensure that we made it on time. Denise didn’t make it as she text and said she was ‘delayed’ so we went on our own. We met the foster carers, their link worker and the family finder. LO was in the next room being looked after by someone in the office as they didn’t have anyone to look after her! The family finder asked if we wanted to meet LO after the meeting as it must be strange knowing she is in the next room! It was left undecided until the end of the meeting. The meeting went well. We felt sorry for the foster carers as this was their first placement and we could see that it was emotionally difficult for them. However, they wanted the best for the LO so they put on a brave face and told us all about her. They talked about her routines, her likes and dislikes and other things like that. We asked questions and they were very forthcoming in their answers. They gave us photos to keep. After the meeting, they asked if we wanted to meet LO and we said yes!

It was so very exciting. LO was carried in and then given to my beloved! She sat on my beloved’s knee and they had a little interaction in which LO made a cooing noise and my beloved copied her and LO cooed back again. She was a little bit restless so my beloved put her down on the ground and helped her stand (we knew she could do this beforehand). She took a few steps and was very relaxed and not anxious at all which was reassuring. She was extremely adorable and it was very strange meeting our future daughter!

We were still reeling when we said goodbyes to go and meet the medical advisor. Denise met us at the hospital and apologised for being late (she had forgot to take her train tickets so had to go back home to get them!). The medical advisor talked about LO’s health and development and the potential outcomes. It was good to hear about what could happen and being aware of it but also not to get too over-anxious about it. This medical advisor was so much nicer than the last one we had seen!

After the meeting, we had lunch, walked around the town and then got the train back home. On the way home, we saw a perfect double rainbow. It was like the world was saying ‘yes, this is an amazing day’.

 

Back to normal life

After an intense weekend of thinking about children, my beloved told Denise which child we would be matched with. We have now left it to Denise to work her magic with the child’s social worker. The child’s social worker would like us to be matched as soon as possible as she is quite young which we are very happy to do! We do have to wait for her medical though so I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, particularly after last time. So it’s difficult trying to get back to real life again, going to work and thinking about other things. It feels like we have been in some surreal time warp thing and have been plonked back into real life. Now all we can do is wait.

Matching – it’s like buses, you wait ages for one and then suddenly…

Two come at once! For months we have been enquiring about children and getting really down-hearted as we didn’t hear back from the social workers, only to see the children ‘advertised’ in adoption magazines. Now suddenly, social workers for two different children want to meet us. I think our social worker arranged it so the visits were on a consecutive days, just like last time.

The visits went okay, the first one was for a little girl and the second one was for a little boy. They were roughly the same age and sort of came from the same background. They are both dual heritage and we could have easily adopted both of them. The girl’s social workers were really keen on us and told us the reasons why they chose us. They asked us quite a few questions but it wasn’t really a grilling as we have experienced before. However, the boy’s social workers didn’t really ask any questions and didn’t really show us any interest. It felt really odd and then when they were told that we were considering another child, they became really angry and inappropriate even though they hadn’t said if they wanted us to proceed. The girl’s social workers were naturally disappointed but didn’t show any anger! However, both sets of workers understood that we needed time to think about it and we would let them know.

It was a terrible weekend. We agonized over it and talked ourselves in circles about the two children. We talked to our friends and family (whilst maintaining confidentiality of the children) and tried to think of the children by themselves rather than comparing both of them and tried to ignore the rapport of the social workers (or the lack of it). We thought about the needs of the children and what they might possibly feel if they had us as parents in terms of identity and ethnicity. What was muddling our thoughts was the anxiety of what happened last time: choosing a child and the match falling through. At that time, we definitely chose the right child but it was upsetting when it fell through, knowing that we had turned down another child. However, we had to divorce ourselves of the past and think about the child only.

Some people suggested we get more information and that was what we were going to do. However, the more we thought about it and talked about it from various perspectives, the more our heart had made up its mind. In the end, we decided on the little girl (who I’ll call LO for little one). It was a horrible thing to do but something we had to do to ensure that we had chosen the right child.