Day 150

It’s Day 150 on Friday. 

150 days since we discovered the girls’ birth parents now live in our small town. The same parents who subjected them to horrors that no child should have to endure. The same parents who have several recent convictions for assault; who seem to be frequently drunk out of their skulls in town; the same parents we were told not to meet before placement, and not to go near their town, or send them photos in letterbox contact. Social services now believe the very same people no longer present any risk to our girls, and why don’t we just get over it (and bog off ourselves if we’re that worried?). They take no account of the potential for re-traumatisation should our girls even glimpse their birth parents. 

To celebrate Day 150 we’re meeting with an agency to re- kick-start our campaign for an EHCP and alternative education provision for Bubble.

On Day 152 OH and I are once again facilitating a sisters meet up. The last one – 2 weeks ago – was a tad fraught. We’re hoping the Super Therapeutic Goddeses shine on us on Sunday. 

On Day 153 the adoption support social worker comes a calling. Please god she’ll finally finish the risk assessment her manager started in May & his manager had a crack at in July. 

On Day 156 I’m taking Squeak to re-start therapy after a break over the summer. 

On Day 157 OH and I are going to look round a special school for Bubble. We don’t subscribe to the notion previously espoused by a social worker that how the system works is that Bubble will have to go to secondary school, fail and be excluded in order for the authority to do anything. Yes! We were actually told that at a meeting, in front of other professionals. Sadly, it doesn’t seem amazing any more.

This is our life now.  Repeatedly explaining, begging, pleading, with ‘the professionals’, and then resorting to a useless complaints system when no help is given. All because we are not going to give up trying to get what our girls need. 

On top of this we’ve become hyper vigilant pseudo prison guards, ferrying the girls to school and back in the car, taking different routes, scanning faces for danger. No stopping at the park, scooting, biking or going for treats after school for our girls any more. Oh no! We drive them straight home, where for the most part they stay until the next school day. We can’t stop at the shops on the way home. We have to be super organised now. 

When Bubble needed an eye test recently we both had to go, OH dropping us off next to the opticians, and then coming back as close as possible to minimise the risk of Bubble being seen. We’ll have to do the same soon for dental appointments. Squeak goes to Brownies with a hat pulled firmly down. I pray for rain on those days so a brolly can shield her further.  

At weekends we get out of town so that we can have some safe time as a family. In school holidays we have to go away. Bubble hates going away with us. Her anxieties go through the roof and her needs totally dominate our time away. We count ourselves lucky if we return without bruises. 

This is our life now. It sucks. And there’s no sign of any change. 

The great divide

Yesterday OH and I attended a meeting about ‘contact’ (horrible word) for the sisters. On one side of the table were 4 adoptive parents. On the other were 4 workers.

We finally met the Social Worker who for months had not returned phone calls, ignored our emails, and made it difficult for the girls to see each other.

The meeting had been billed as a handover meeting. But the Social Worker who was about to start working with Big Sis was not there!

There was a manager from a different team who advised us she was there to observe rather than contribute. She didn’t specify what she was observing. She spent the entire meeting interrupting. 

The foster carer’s Supervising Social Worker was there. The foster carer was 15 minutes late. We sat around and waited for her. When she arrived the Social Worker started waffling. He had no agenda. I stopped him. We sorted out an agenda. 

He asked for our views. We all offered views about his lack of communication & the negative impact on our girls.  We were immediately stopped and told it was not helpful. We said we had been asked for our views, and were giving them. Apparently they were not positive enough views to be heard. 

Minutes of the meeting were being taken by the observer.  The Social Worker wanted to go over previous minutes. None of us had ever had any minutes from previous meetings. The Social Worker blamed Business Support. 

More waffle. Eventually we got on to ‘contact’ meetings. Despite OH and I being the only adults in the room at every sisters meet up, not one worker thought to ask us how it was going.  Presumably they were not interested. We advised that as organisation of the meet ups had previously been so horrendous, and that at one stage despite our protestations there had been a gap of 6 weeks, we wanted them to be sorted out for the next 12 months. The workers had no idea how to do this. So we suggested a monthly date, time and venue. The foster carer was keen to suggest a Christmas party for the girls at our house (oh! the irony given Big Sis’s birthday party debacle). Her Supervising Social Worker kept telling us she admired our organisational skills. I refrained from replying. It would have been viewed as too negative. 

We were told by the Social Worker that the weekly ‘telephone contact’ was going well. We gave numerous examples of Big Sis not phoning, and of Bubble being shouted at by an adult in tbe foster carer’s house when she tried to phone. The foster carer snapped out an apology. 

OH gave a lengthy and impassioned speech about the importance of sibling relationships. The workers nodded along to it. 

We then told the foster carer why we needed her address. We explained – for the enth time – how important it was for our girls to write letters and cards to Big Sis, that they had done that for the last 4 years, and that now they only saw her once a month it was even more important for all the girls. We explained that Big Sis did not get her birthday card or present in time for her birthday this year. We said we would not turn up at her house, that we were safe people, we had no interest in her address other than for the girls’ sake.  The foster carer said she didn’t want to give out her address.

The Supervising Social Worker said the council backed up her decision, and that any letters should be sent through the Social Worker. We asked why. She did not know.  We told her that a few months ago one manager agreed we should have the address but then later refused to give it to us. The same manager had said the foster carer wanted our girls to go for tea! I had advised at the time this would be tricky without the address. We asked what would happen if a different taxi driver arrived to collect Big Sis from a sisters meet up and didn’t know her address. We pointed out that the other adoptive parents had the address. No replies were forthcoming. Then I asked the foster carer very simply ‘what is the reason you don’t want us to have your address?’ She just reiterated that she was not giving it to us, and walked out of the meeting. 

Everyone seemed a bit stunned at that point.  I mused over the fact that in the previous discussion none of the workers had mentioned Big Sis’s Best Interests or supported her needs. Her Social Worker had sat silently whilst the foster carer and her supervisor had reiterated that we couldn’t have the address. 

OH asked the Supervising Social Worker what legislation she was working to in agreeing that the foster carer could choose for no good reason to give us her address. She had no idea. She said she was ‘prepared to keep an open conversation going about it’. I said we didn’t want an ongoing open conversation: we wanted the address. OH pointed out their stance was to the detriment of the girls. Still Big Sis’s Social Worker did not speak up for her. 

I advised the minute taker I wanted it noted that all the workers around the table needed training in sibling relationships. And then I told the meeting I had had enough, and I left. 

We had had  only 2 days notice of the meeting. OH had to take 3 hours of flexitime from work. I had to let down the social enterprise I volunteer for. Another adoptive parent had to take time from his business. And for what? All we had done was something that should have been sorted out on the phone.  Turns out the new Social Worker was on annual leave.