No matter what.

Our daughters’ sister went back into foster care a week ago.  We begged social services that rather than return to foster care, she come to us short-term.  Our pleas were ignored,  and totally contrary to the legislation, social services did not even present this option to X.  They would not give us the foster carer’s telephone number, or ask them to contact us.  For the first 8 days of X’s return to care we had no way of reassuring X that we love her and will always be here for her.

As this week and the arguments progressed, our own social worker agreed to send X a card from us, and our DDP therapist tried to impress on social services how important it is for X and her sisters to be in contact asap.   Eventually it was agreed that the foster carer would phone us this evening so the girls could speak. We have spent hours wondering and talking about how best to tell our girls what has happened, and worrying that the foster carer might not call.

This afternoon we sat down with Bubble and Squeak and told them the news. Predictably Bubble was furious, and Squeak was distraught.  They had questions, many questions, and we tried to answer them as best we could.  They are worried for both their sisters, one of whom remains with her adoptive family, and they are worried for themselves.  We used the phrases ‘no matter what’ and ‘together forever’ a lot. We are all drained.

Thank goodness an hour later the foster carer rang.  She seems a lovely woman, and is obviously doing a lot to build up a positive relationship with X.  The girls got to chat – on speaker phone as stipulated by social services. A bit stilted at first, but they eventually got to the nitty gritty – is the food ok?  Are you having sweets?  Are you getting take-aways? Have you had any chocolate? (Notice any pattern here?!) And then: what is your bedroom like? Are there any other children there? Have you seen your sister?  They planned birthday parties, they talked about good times they’d shared, and what they were going to be doing this weekend.  Squeak told X she has made her a snow globe. We all told her much we loved her.  Afterwards Bubble and Squeak wanted big hugs, ‘family hugs’.

Since then, we’ve kept close, we’ve eaten chocolate cake, and we’ve answered, as best we can, questions about when we will see X and how will we get Christmas presents to her and when will they be able to see X and their other sister, and and and…

Obviously – and annoyingly – the foster carer has to take the lead from social services as to the type and frequency of contact. But I have impressed on her how much contact we’ve previously had, and that we will do anything we can to ensure it continues.  We’ve also told X’s mum and dad that we will do whatever we can to ensure all 4 girls see each other together. The foster carer won’t give us her phone number yet, but she has agreed to phone again on Sunday.

I hate that all the girls are having to endure this.  They’ve been through enough in their short lives. This situation should never have come about.  We tried our best to prevent it, and we offered a really great short term ‘solution’ when the worst happened.  That we were ignored, and that X was not given any options is truly appalling. We’ll continue to do our best for the girls. We’ll help get our girls through this any way we can, for we are family. No. Matter. What.

 

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Adoption breakdown

The Children Act 1989 is clear about social workers responsibilities when placing a child who can no longer live with their parents. The Act is clear that the social worker is required to consider preferable placements with wider family/friends. Indeed guidance is clear that this will always be the first choice, provided that the welfare of the child is never compromised.

Two weeks ago I informed a post adoption support social worker of my concerns for our daughters’ sister and her adoptive family.  I was clear that we had offered and would continue to offer to take her on a short term basis should the adoption break down.  Surely it would be better for her to be with her sisters and two adults who love her, and with whom she has a positive bond, than in a placement where she knows no one. From this place we could help ease her transition to a longer term placement.

This week the adoption broke down. Instead of coming to us X was placed with emergency foster carers. We have spent the last 2 days re-iterating our offer to support her short term until a suitable long term placement can be found.

Our offer was ignored. We persisted.  Our phone calls were not returned.  When we finally managed to speak with him, the social worker would not even agree that the post adoption team’s social worker had spoken with him about our offer! He hid behind ‘confidentiality’.  He told us he could not place a child without assessing the potential carers.  Come and assess us! we begged.  We’re here.  We are adoptive parents.  I am still  registered as a social worker and my partner works in the care system. We have nothing to hide.  We are concerned for X’s welfare.  He did not even reply.   Later he advised he would speak to his manager and get back to us.

I gave him 2 hours to phone back.  Of course he did not.   I contacted the head of service.  Immediately the situation looked brighter.  Perhaps we could be approved as temporary foster carers through regulation 24.  A manager would call us back.  No phone call was forthcoming.

4 hours later we finally managed to get hold of a manager. As far as she was concerned X was safe and ‘calm’.  I asked how they knew X was calm. She’s extremely compliant, and even at the happiest of times would say anything she thought an authority figure wanted to hear. This was met with a tirade of how experienced the social worker is.

This manager had made her decision.  She was not going to change it.  We enquired whether X had been asked if she would like to come and stay with us on a temporary basis.  She had not. We questioned why she had not been given this option and pointed out that the Children Act 1989 dictates that the views of the child should be sought. Silence. Then we were informed that the manager will be considering future options for X on Monday, but that would not include her coming to us.

We asked for contact details for X.  She refused to give us them. She wanted X to be ‘more settled’ before she had contact with us. We pointed out that X had nobody she knew to speak to this weekend. Point blank refusal. Why?  X has been suddenly wrenched from her adoptive family to a placement where she knows nobody.  She has not got a mobile phone.  She has no means of contacting anybody she knows.  We cannot offer her any comfort: this weekend she will not hear us tell her that we love her and will always be there for her in any way we can.

We’ve submitted a complaint.  I have no doubt it will be treated with the callous disregard already amply demonstrated in the last 48 hours. And, anyway, the damage is done.

Today I am going to buy a scrapbook.  We are going to fill it with photos and messages and love and happiness.  And next week we will get X’s contact details, and will be visiting her, and giving her the book, and reassuring her that we are here for her no matter what.