You think it’s all over

I hoped by now I would know the answer to whether or not I could be considered to adopt a child who is friends with my son.

After some confusion this week where I recieved some second hand information that turned out not to be correct, I discovered that I am going to be considered. But far from the stuffy meeting whereby Social Workers and managers got together and discussed all the pros and cons (which is what I was led to believe would happen by my former SW), I have actually been told that my son and I will have to undergo further assessment as the main part of the ‘consideration’.

Whilst being extremely happy that they have agreed to consider us, I am definitely not looking forward to being assessed further.  My new SW has been quite negative about the situation. She made some rather negative comments about my son saying he was ‘over excitable’ and that I needed to imagine what that would be like with two of them and how dreadful this would be if he acted like this during introductions during what is a tense time for all. I pointed out that he was over excitable because he was nervous about meeting her for the first time as she is a stranger. The FCs, their home and the child in question are all places and people he knows well – he doesn’t act like that around them…but she didn’t want to hear it. She had also fixated on the fact that my son said he needed to have the first turn of a game because ‘he was the youngest’. ‘His identity is clearly bound up in the fact he is the youngest, how will it be if a child comes into the home of a similar age and he loses that status?’ she says. Erm no. He was simply repeating the rules of the game that I read to him earlier in the day because he was trying to impress you with what he knows. He knows how old he is and how old his friend is. He knows he is the oldest. He has proudly said several times ‘I’m 4! He’s only 3! He can’t go to school, he’s too little’. At the moment it feels like she is going to jump on every tiny thing he says which really worries me. She even said we were doing this to ‘rule the situation out’ and ‘put the situation to bed’…whilst at the same time saying whilst the assessment takes place she will not be looking for any further matches for me.

After the assessment there are still no guarantees. She may decide the situation is not worth pursuing as a match. She might come to the conclusion that actually this can work and be a good match. Then she would present ‘my case’ to the little boy’s SW. That SW would then make the final decision…which of course might be a ‘no’.

My feelings right now are all over the place – I swing from hope to despair, to being philosophical to being fairly angry. I know I have to jump through these hoops and do whatever is asked of us. I know I have to have faith and trust that everything will work out for the best, but its so difficult having to let others decide the course of your life and your family and future.

 

The Story So Far…

On 9th September last year, I took my son to the park as a treat for having such a good week at his new preschool. My son moved there after much umm-ing and ahh-ing from me. He had been struggling at his nursery who didn’t seem to ‘get’ him or his needs and sought to shame him in front of me every time I collected him. I had bought them books, provided them with a place on some free training but they just weren’t willing to get any help. I didn’t know if moving my son yet again would add to his behaviour or if I should just hope for the best and ‘ride it out’. In the end, I truly believed it couldn’t be any worse than what he was going through so I decided to move him to his current preschool.

Needless to say he loved it and his behaviour changed completely. So we ended up in the park for a treat. There he wanted to go on a ‘baby’ swing. On the next door swing was a little boy, with a lady, who I guessed was his Grandma, pushing him. My son says, ‘that boy goes to my new preschool’ and the conversation began between us adults. It turned out that Sally was actually the little boy’s Foster Carer and he was being looked after by Sally with his older siblings. Sally spoke how she hoped they would all be adopted together but it was all currently being discussed by SS. They definitely wouldn’t be returning to birth family though. Then my son and the little boy had a race around the park whilst Sally and I discussed how I came to adopt my son and about how I was beginning to think about applying to adopt again. She was very enthusiastic and it was partly as a result of this conversation that a few weeks later I made the call to start the process again.

Over the next few months my son and the little boy became firm friends. His was the name that my son mentioned at home in conversation. We bumped into Sally several times again in the park and the boys played.

Then one morning I bumped into Sally bringing the little boy into playgroup and he had his older siblings with him. They greeted me enthusiastically. Sally looked bemused. It turned out that I knew the children through an organisation I am involved in and visit on a weekly basis. Only a few weeks before I had asked for random volunteers in the middle of a presentation I was doing. Out of the 100+ kids who were present, I managed to choose not only siblings to help me but also now, I discovered, the little boy’s siblings!

The next time Sally saw me she told me how things had moved on and that the children were going to be split up. The older siblings would be going into foster placements and the younger boy was still deemed ‘adoptable’ so would be adopted separately. Once this decision was made things moved quickly for the siblings and it wasn’t long before they were moved on to their new families, leaving Sally with the little boy.

By now, I was half way through the adoption process. My SW had done all the meetings with me and needed to meet with my son a few times and observe us together. Sally and I bumped into each other again and I told her about the fact I was going through the process but it was a bit hush hush as I didn’t want it getting out too soon. Last time I had a bad experience and I had to put it ‘out there’ before I was ready. She was totally understanding and sympathetic…and excited. We then both went to preschool to pick up the children where we watched my son and the little boy sitting in front of us, chatting and giggling over their packed lunches. Sally looked at me and joked, ‘Well you could always adopt him!’ And then somehow the discussion became serious…and it seemed obvious!

We both left the conversation and got in touch with our SW’s, independently. I emailed to ask if I could be considered and Sally rang hers to ask if she could put my name forward. The next time we met we laughed that at the end of the conversation we both felt the same.

Very shortly however my SW came back and told me that her manager had said in no uncertain terms that I must not even think about this situation. That I should be concentrating on getting through approval panel, rather than trying to ‘fix up’ potential matches that might come to nothing. My SW was upset at her attitude and I felt chastised, so I thought it best to try to forget about it and let the process take its course.

Then that Sunday at Church the person preaching had spoken about how nothing is impossible with God. Although a message I’d heard a hundred times before I still felt moved by the talk and thought about the situation with the little boy…it seemed that there would be a big barrier in that the boys would be too close in age anyway and now the manager had essentially said no. I asked God to give me a sign that week that it might not be impossible. The next day my son and I were eating tea in our favourite cafe and I was in another world contemplating the situation in my mind when my son says, ‘Look there’s <the little boy>’ I went across to the window where he was sitting and, sure enough fast asleep in a push chair oblivious to us was the little boy being pushed along by a man we didn’t know (who later turned out to be Geoff his other FC). A sign? Coincidence? I wasn’t sure but I decided I needed to remain detached about the whole thing because I still couldn’t see how the manager was going to change her mind.

Over the next few months I was approved, but things with the little boy moved incredibly slowly. The same manager who was unhappy about me enquiring about the little boy pushed my SW to show me another ‘match’…which all then fell through and I was left devastated.

As the boy’s friendship was going from strength to strength Sally and I were now meeting up with the boys regularly for play dates in the park and in her home. I was amazed she had a dog the same breed as mine and a tortoise just like my Mum’s. When the little boy had his birthday party he ate his lunch outside with just his older siblings and my son on a mat. Then it was my son’s birthday and so the little boy came to his party. A week or so later the little boy came here to our home for a play-date and raced up and down the stairs and explored the house with my son.

About six weeks after panel my SW came to visit and told me there were no more matches currently available for us and no more on the horizon. Not only that but she would be moving on from her job soon and so nothing was likely to happen before that. She then asked me if I had heard any more about the little boy and when he would be going to court. I told her what I knew and then unhelpfully she said, ‘well perhaps you are just waiting for this little boy’. She said she would make it clear I had registered an interest about him.

Meanwhile the little boy was doing life story work with his SW and asked for a new family with dogs and chickens. Sally asked me if I was still interested in adopting him and I said I was. Things were still moving slowly for the little boy, so she hoped that if the adoption team knew that there was an approved adopter interested in him that might encourage them to get involved in trying to speed the court system up. However, when she called them she was told that due to the age gap between the boys there was no way I could be considered and, in direct contradiction to what my SW told me, the SW said was sure there were ‘several possibles’ coming up as a match for me well before the little boy would have his court date.

This made me very cross that the age gap would be the only thing that was considered – not about how he might experience less loss coming to live with us, not how the boys relate to each other now, not about any of the positives…the only thing considered is the lack of two years between two dates on some pieces of paper. I emailed my SW as a last ditch attempt to get them to reconsider. I heard nothing back, not even an acknowledgement.

In the meantime Sally was told off for trying to ‘fix up a private adoption with a friend’ by her supervisor. It didn’t matter I was an approved adopter who had already expressed an interest in the little boy – social workers just really don’t like it if they think you are doing their job for them! So I guessed what Sally had been told was true and resigned myself once more to the fact that as much as I’d love it to, it really wasn’t going to happen. That somewhere out there was another child who needed us and another family who were just perfect for the little boy.

Then finally, out of the blue, a breakthrough…of sorts. My SW finally emailed three and a half weeks after I contacted her to say that she had spoken with her manager. The manager had now agreed that if all else failed and I hadn’t got a match by the time the little boy had been to court and been granted a placement order that I was allowed to be ‘considered’ as a match. This was most certainly not a yes, but it was at last a ‘may be’. I was to write for the manager all about why I felt we would be a good family for the little boy…but without actually seeing his profile or knowing his background or any of the perceived needs he might have. And again to reiterate the fact it was most certainly not a yes I was to make a profile for my son and I to send nationwide so they could try to find me a match that way too. I was also very aware that my SW was leaving and her manager might just agree to anything to keep her happy before she left. Once I got a new SW the manager might well decide she was going to change her mind and not even consider us. It was going to be a long month to find out if after ‘consideration’ we were going to be able to be accepted as a good match for the little boy. Again to try to preserve myself emotionally I had to try to take and step back and not engage with chatting with the little boy too much which is obviously difficult when he doesn’t know what’s going on, you are seeing the little guy every week day knowing there could be that possibility…and he is excited to see you because you’re his best friend’s Mummy. There have been some exchanges between us which I could only describe as torture for me.

During this time my SW came out to do her final visit. She still had no news for me. My profile was going to be taken to an ‘exchange day’ whereby SWs from all over the country get together to view information about children and prospective adopters. There were still no possibilities coming up for me. I asked her what chance she felt I had with the little boy, given what I had been told about possibly being considered. She could only tell me it would be down to his new adoption SW. She told me a lot about what she would do if it were her, but she was neither a children’s SW, or typical of most SWs! At the end of the day the decision would now have nothing to do with her. She fed me a lot more cliches about ‘Sometimes people wait for a reason’ and ‘What will be will be’ but couldn’t really tell me what chance I actually stood of becoming this little boy’s Mummy. Furthermore, it wasn’t yet officially known who was going to be my new SW and when they were due to take over my case. She then dropped a bit of a bombshell and told me that the Adoption Team was getting someone new in charge within the next couple of weeks. This person obviously would know nothing about me showing an interest in the little boy and as he would be considered harder to place due to his age they may well decide to go straight or a family finder and so I may not be considered after all!

The little boy by now was finding things difficult. He had preparation for a new family but understandably with young children it was scary and confusing. He had started to show some worrying behaviour and Sally was finding it difficult as it was making her upset. Her SW reassured her by saying that there would be plenty of people waiting to adopt him as he was still fairly young and at an age adopters like because, “then they know what they are getting”!!!

I did get a new SW who came to visit me and my son. I wanted to clarify what was going on. She said that she felt she was ‘on the back foot’ as she was coming into something and didn’t know what had been said by whom and to whom. She couldn’t clarify anything for me and said she felt bad for me having someone come in at this late stage. She said she would do some digging and see if she could find out if the ‘consideration’ could still happen. She said once the placement order was granted everything could begin with finding him a family, but it would be good to try to seek some assurances before that.

But (in some ways thankfully) next week it ends… nine months after we first met him and six long months after I first asked if I could be considered to adopt him, I should finally find out one way or the other. I’ll finally know if this little one is going to be a part of our family…or if we’ll be saying goodbye to him for ever.

But at least I know that even if the ‘powers that be’ decide that the two year age gap has to be the rule that trumps everything else, I know I have done everything I can to show how much we wanted him to be a part of our family.

*Names & some of the information has been changed in order to protect the identity of those involved.

All change!

When I adopted my son I had a great SW. She and I ‘clicked’. She saw me right through from the very first initial chat through to three months into placement. She was lovely but she liked things done ‘by the book’. At the time I resented that a bit, but actually I totally knew where I stood – like the day she called me and told me she’d found me a match, there was no doubt it was going to work out.

My SW this time was nice but we haven’t ‘clicked’ in the same way. There are things she has said and done which I know my last SW would be spinning about – like showing up at only panel minutes before we were due to go in. When I said I wasn’t even sure we were waiting in the right building she just kind of shrugged. It took her weeks to reply to emails, if she chose to acknowledge them at all, and she never gave me any other way of contacting her.  I took to nicknaming her ‘Queen of Cliches’ as my goodness I’ve heard them all – ‘sometimes people wait for a reason’, ‘what will be will be’, ‘if its right it will happen’. But she seemed to be very short on telling me facts or realistic outcomes. When she told me she was leaving I really wasn’t surprised, nor was I sad like with my last SW, I was actually a little relieved. But then came the worry of not knowing who would be my new SW and when they’d start on my case.

Thankfully this week I got an email from a new SW, giving me her text number and offering me some dates to meet. Within an hour of reading the email and responding via text, an appointment was set up. And then it happened, I got another text saying, ‘it will be good to chat properly and find out how you both are’ Complete with smily face emoji.

Find out how we both are? Wow. Though I’m not sure she’ll actually like the response…

Frustrated – that I still don’t know what is going on – that I have heard so many different messages coming from so many different sources over the last few months – even in my last meeting with my SW – that I don’t know what or who to believe any more. I’m not even certain what match criteria they are working to!

Disheartened – because the ‘failed match’ was presented to me at approval panel, I don’t look back at that day with any real joy, as the excitement I felt at being approved became bound up in the excitement of finding out they had found me a daughter…only actually, they hadn’t really. So approval now holds painful emotions. And now with 3 months of waiting I just feel like we’re in it for the long haul…this may just be the tip of the iceberg of waiting – no one really knows. The day I found out the whole thing wasn’t happening I stopped even the tentative beginnings of sorting out the junk room that I started. And I can’t bring myself to start again because what’s the point – it may be months, years even? And though my SW tried to assure me I should never have been shown the profile, a SW somewhere still judged me, my family and what I felt I could offer a child and found me more than wanting. That still stings however you dress it up.

Anxious– a question I first asked 6 months ago should in the next few weeks finally be answered. What the answer will be I don’t know. Because I am feeling so disheartened, I am struggling to believe there is genuinely going to be any good news for us any time soon. Sadly not only do I suspect it will be a ‘no’ to a potential match with another child, I suspect the reason it will be a ‘no’ is because although I have been told I will be considered, I suspect actually I won’t be.

Apprehensive – when she visits I will be at the point I can join adoption link. This sounds like a great idea but in practice users report that it can be quite painful – reading profiles and falling in love with children only to find out their SW isn’t interested in you or has gone with a couple instead. By the point I have to make a profile I will have had quite enough of that!

Getting on with things – mostly I am trying to just get on with stuff…with life and my job. Spending time enjoying being able to lavish my attention upon just one child. Still trying to create memories even in the waiting. In fact there have been one or two times where I have actually wondered what I am doing – why do I want to spoil what I already have? Why am I putting myself through this when I have an amazing little boy already?

It is a weirdly tiring and emotionally draining time. I am hoping a new SW, a new pair of eyes, possibly some enthusiasm and some clear information might help pick me up a bit and carry me through for a while. The first indications are positive.

Limbo

I wake up and its the first thing on my mind – I wonder if today will be the day I hear something.

Every time the phone rings.

Every time my computer beeps to say I have a new email.

Its in the back of my mind in almost every conversation to do with my job.

A constant rumbling. A longing. For the child I am yet to meet. For any kind of news.

I think: May be today will be the day I hear something. Or may be this week. God, I hope its next week, if not.

But its never the call I want to get. Or the email.

Time ticks on.

And we stay in this limbo.

The Difference

This morning I have been to a meeting with other people who do the same job as me. It is a voluntary meeting, designed for mutual support. Due to the adoption process and training taking up extra time, it was a meeting that I opted not to or couldn’t attend since before Christmas.

So I turned up and discovered to my delight that a colleague was obviously pregnant – only 10 weeks to go. I, of course, offered her my congratulations. And then I witnessed the difference between what it is like to be expecting a child through biological means and what it is like to be an expectant adoptive mother.

During the course of the meeting my colleague was asked about her physical health, her mental health, her preparations for the birth, she was offered practical support, she was asked about her maternity leave, she was given gifts of clothing by another colleague, she was complemented on how well she was managing to cope with everything considering she was about to become a mother, she was complimented on how well she was looking, she was asked if she was excited, if she knew if it was a boy or a girl….and on and on.

At the end of the meeting, seeing as the senior person in the meeting had not told everyone, I announced that although I clearly was not pregnant, I was too an expectant Mum as I had been approved to adopt a second child.

Silence.

Tumbleweed.

No congratulations offered.

One person asked me the age range of the child who would come to live with me. I then started to describe how difficult this matching period was. The senior person cut in, I was thanked for sharing and the topic was changed hastily.

I came home and cried.

The Darkness

Three and a half weeks on from my last post.

Despite the actual sunshine today I now feel in a rather bleak place. I believe I have recovered from the ‘failed match’ if that’s what it can be called and have even started telling people IRL about it (partly to stop them asking ‘Have you had any news yet?’). I am ready to move on and to consider what might be coming next…but the answer is…nothing yet!

I read a Home for Good reflection on Holy Saturday about what that day must have been like for the disciples and recognising that for some adopters or prospectives life must feel like we’re stuck in Holy Saturday.  (Read it here: http://www.homeforgood.org.uk/articles/reflection-easter-saturday ) Well Easter Day has been and gone and yes, I feel stuck there in that Saturday. My SW came and visited me last week and told me she had no news and there were no ‘prospects’ even on the horizon. Not only that, she is leaving and I’ll get a new SW soon so she said its unlikely anything will happen before that.

There is however, one possibility. A child that I first met 7 months a go and that I first made an enquiry about 4 months ago. The situation is complicated…and probably a story for another time if it works out. If it does it would be amazing – almost a mini miracle how it would have all come to be. But given my last experience, my hope in SW’s making good, right and well informed decisions has been stretched thin. This child is locked in their own Holy Saturday experience as the courts, after months of waiting, have failed to yet give a date for the final hearing to grant the PO. So there the child sits, asking and wondering when they are going to get their forever family.

I know that finally the dawn will come. I know for us the joy of welcoming a new life – in the form of a new child – will eventually happen. It might take weeks or months (or even, God forbid, years), but it will finally burst forth. And I know for this child the same is true. Eventually they will experience the mixture of excitement and fear of discovering their new family for the first time, and their life will never be the same. It probably wont actually be us, but we will share in their excitement that’s for sure.

But here we are.

Right now.

In the darkness.

Longing for the light.

A Thank You

This time last week I reached the most acute level of stress and anxiety I think I have ever experienced. Now there is and has been a lot going on in my life since Christmas – not just with the adoption process but other things it wouldn’t be appropriate to address here. But suffice to say I think my stress levels have been generally a lot higher than usual anyway. Still I have never had to lock myself away from my child because I just can’t control the need to cry before now, and not just one or two tears but full on shaky sobs.

At this point last week I thought I had been matched with a child. When the profile was given to me I wasn’t told it was ‘a profile’, ‘a possibility’ or ‘a link’, but ‘a match’ and even that she was ‘ready to go’. I had also been told they didn’t do ‘competitive matching’ here in this LA so my understanding was very much that if I said ‘yes’, which of course I did, it would be “all systems go”. Certainly the picture presented now at training is that everything flows along smoothly and at lightning speed to prevent delay for the child. In fact when I tried to say during my recent training that things sometimes were not as simple as they were presenting, I was told, ‘that wouldn’t happen here’ and ‘that’s the old way of doing things’.

But after two and a half weeks, apart from confirming how I would support a child with her particular complicated heritage, I hadn’t heard anything further…at all. So I emailed my SW (again) to beg for information. I also sought advice from others but people seemed to get the wrong impression – that I was just complaining about how long it was all taking and that I was being impatient. But by this stage I think my subconscious knew something was very wrong, deep down I knew we should at least have had an appointment booked in to see her SW by then – as my SW had promised would happen when I was given the CPR. With my son I had his profile for 3 weeks without anything happening due to a SW holiday, but I still knew the reason for the delay and had a date to see his SW booked in for when she came back which was made as soon as I’d said yes. People also didn’t seem to grasp the depth of emotion already involved with the match, suggesting I would be shown other profiles or that I ‘must be an exception’ for only being shown one profile at a time. I felt I totally misjudged the reaction I would get and in the end I felt abnormal for feeling so upset…and a bit stupid for even posting.

And so I found myself locked in my bathroom sobbing because I couldn’t bear the lack of information about what was happening any longer.* And probably also sobbing at some level because I knew something was indeed wrong. And sobbing because I felt stupid for being upset and that no-one understood why I felt so distressed.

(Now at this stage I need to make it crystal clear I am not having a go at people for their response to my post in that particular place or ‘slagging off the group’. Such groups/forums are invaluable to many people and for many an amazing support particularly in dealing with the challenges of the day to day parenting of our children. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, everyone has had their own experiences and frustrations which they want to share, and this is of course further confused by the differences to the process over the last 20 odd years and the multiple ways different LA’s operate. Perhaps that day in the peak of my anxiety I couldn’t read correctly what people were trying to say – perhaps, given all this, it wasn’t the right place to post when I was feeling so wretched anyway. I should also say there were also lots of people who responded who did clearly ‘get’ what I was saying and were very simply genuinely empathetic in their responses. The point of what I have just written was to make it clear how I felt when I posted my last blog.)

The day afterwards in response to my email I received a phone call where I found out that my ‘match’ was nothing of the sort. My fear over why I hadn’t heard anything wasn’t unfounded. There had been a total lack of communication – not just with me, but between SW’s and people ‘higher up’. I received a rather lame apology for the ‘difficult situation [I had] been put in’ which again glossed over the depth of emotion that I had been through. I also wonder, had I not have emailed to try to find out what was going on, how long it would have taken to find out the match wasn’t happening and just how long they would have kept me waiting in that terrible limbo. To begin with, I felt enormous relief to finally be put out of the misery of not knowing what on earth was going on.

But after the relief, of course has come sadness.

And so I wrote my last blogpost, to try to get some of those feelings of sadness out of my system. I wrote thinking that not many people would read it and if they did they wouldn’t ‘get’ it again…that I really shouldn’t have felt what I did about a child I’d never even seen. So the response to my post on Twitter and on this blog – the amount of people who read it and who did obviously ‘get’ it caught me off guard. There are so many people who have been through something similar or even much further along the matching process who have had it all fall apart and yes, they felt the same depth of emotion I did for a child on a piece of paper. In fact they think of that child still. Failed matches are certainly not something that are addressed on training so that response has made me feel that I wasn’t stupid and that I wasn’t alone.  So thank you for sharing your experiences with me and your understanding…in many ways it has brought me healing.

*A special thanks goes to ‘glitternails’ who was DMing me words of comfort and empathy whilst I was locked in the toilet!

xxx