5 years ago we were bright young(ish) things, sitting attentively, listening to our future children’s Social Worker explain why she had decided we could not meet our future children’s birth parents, why we could never go near their home town, and why we could never send them photographs of our future children.
5 years on, and we are older, wiser and decidedly jaded things sitting on the same sofa, listening to yet another Social Worker tell us that their team is not going to work with other agencies to consider positive ways of supporting the birth parents to move away from the town they have suddenly landed in, the town that they have no links with, the very same town in which we’ve been establishing our family for the last five years.
The word ‘contravening’ crops up. Ah! Yes! A senior social work manager has told our MP that we have asked them to ‘contravene’ article 8 of the Human Rights Act! That’s the Local Authority’s take on our request that they do something so that we can live safely as a family. It’s a classic retort taken from The LA Rulebook, Section 3: ‘How To Justify a Bad Decision With a Totally Irrelevant But Popular Piece of Legislation To Make It Look As If We’d Like To Help, But Can’t’.
We ask the Social Worker ‘what about our girls right to a safe family life?’ We get a shrug, a sympathetic look, and a reiteration that her team is not going to work with housing and probation agencies. We respect this Social Worker. Highly qualified, she’s been the only worker who has previously bothered to attempt to get to know Bubble, and who has referred us on to the appropriate therapy for her. But this time she has been warned by her managers. Threatened, probably: recently she told OH that she could not afford to lose her job over this. We feel for her: her pained expressions tell of the inner struggle she is having balancing her professional values and pity for our predicament against what her managers are forcing her to say to us.
Back in May when we discovered that the girls’ birth parents had moved to our small town, our entire focus became how we could make this situation safe for our girls. We had lengthy discussions with each other about how we might possibly connect with ‘old mum and dad’ (as the girls call them); that maybe they didn’t pose such a threat to our girls now; that perhaps we could all co-exist safely in the same place. We talked to our girls’ Psychotherapist. We looked at court reports. We sought information about old mum and dad’s current lifestyle. We did not have to look very far: a walk to the town centre regularly provides ample proof that alcohol and drugs are still a dominant force in their lives. Our clear conclusion was that old mum and dad still presented a threat, if not of abduction, then certainly of re-traumatisation of our girls.
The adoption support team disagreed. Despite our then Social Worker telling us old mum and dad would not hesitate to cross the street to approach us, her manager decided there was no risk to our girls or family! His risk assessment has since been re-written (by a worker he supervises) and concludes there are certain and definite risks to the girls. But despite this, social services still won’t work with other agencies.
This week the Social Worker told us she will look into funding for OH and I to go to therapy, and for financing some of the time we have to go away to stay safe. (We’re not holding our collective breath: the same was promised in June but never materialised.) But they won’t do what really needs to be done: engage in an effective multidisciplinary approach to solve the actual problem. They have said that they won’t even tell us if they know that old mum and dad have left town.
Our stress is sky high, and despite our best efforts it is impacting on the way we parent. We try to hide our stress from our girls, but they are hyper vigilant, and Squeak particularly is very sensitive to any slight fluctuation in emotional temperatures. Bubble doesn’t respond well to ‘no’ and it’s becoming increasingly hard to find ways of telling her that we cannot go into town or to the park or scooting or any other of a myriad of things without saying ‘no’ and without having – in her mind – a good reason.
Every day we wake up determined that we will get through the day in the best way we can. But increasingly the situation is taking its toll. We’re living in a pressure cooker, and the reality is this may not end well.