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.