‘That’s your problem’

7 years ago Bubble and Squeak were removed from their birth parents along with two older sisters. The oldest two were adopted in one family, & Bubble and Squeak came to us. For years we ensured that they saw each other as often as possible, and this was flexible, fun, and brilliant for all of them. Our two families became good friends. The oldest sister is now back in long term foster care, whilst the other sister remains with her adoptive family. We attempt to ensure that all 4 sisters meet up every month. This has been scuppered more than once by the foster carer.

2 weeks ago the sisters’ meet up was postponed due to snow. Cue much upset. We immediately rearranged it & the other sisters’ mum agreed with the foster carer on the date.

A few days later in their weekly telephone call the oldest sister told the girls she couldn’t meet them after all as she would be in respite care that w/e. (Oh yes! The foster carer gets monthly respite. The adopters had previously begged for it but were refused it on the grounds that it would damage the oldest sister!) As oldest sister has ARND her memory is poor and she gets frequently confused, so we weren’t sure if the message was correct.

Neither the foster carer nor the social worker had bothered to tell any of the adults that the meet up was cancelled, so once again we were left to work out the facts, soothe our girls’ upset and pick up the pieces after the telephone call.

The other sisters’ mum established that what the oldest sister had told us was correct, and tried to rearrange the meet up but was given such a run around that she submitted a complaint. We are all meeting in a couple of weeks to once again discuss ‘communication’. Deep sigh.

Probably realising how pissed off we all were, the social worker then eventually agreed to keep the rearranged date, and said that the oldest sister could come from respite to meet up with her sisters. She would arrange a taxi for her.

All sorted.

Or maybe not.

On Friday I saw the weather forecast and sent a quick e mail to the social worker asking for the respite carer’s phone number. I explained that I wanted to limit the girls’ upset if the weather prevented the meet up going ahead. The social worker replied a few hours later that she had just arranged a taxi for the meet up. I e mailed back, asking her to respond to my initial query. An hour later another e mail: could I ring her? I couldn’t at that point. I was on my way to help my mother with something, and then to pick up the girls from school. I sent a quick e mail apologising that I couldn’t phone her, but needed a reply. An hour later another e mail came: could the social worker give our number to the respite carer? This time my partner answered it: yes! If we could have the respite carer’s number too. We received no answer.

Late last night the other sisters’ mum told us the meeting was cancelled due to snow. She hadn’t got the respite carer’s number either. So this morning we had to tell the girls once again they couldn’t see their sister. We couldn’t even say they could phone her. Because – try as we had done – we weren’t given the respite carer’s phone number.

This is the Lack Of Care System to which my family are now subject. The bumbling workers who seem to believe adopters have all the time in the world to engage in dialogue which gets us no further forward, and leaves us to once again to soothe the upset and pick up the pieces. As one social worker manager told us 18 months ago when we were trying to get a phone number so the girls could ring their sister who had just returned to foster care: ‘that’s your problem’.

Day 315

I’m realising the hideous toll of hiding out in our own town. I’ve seen the girls’ birth parents twice in the last week. Yesterday they brushed past my car as I was stuck in a jam, bringing the girls back from skool. Thank god for blacked out windows.

Trying to give the girls a typical upbringing is just not a reality as the weeks and months drag on. Trying to work out where is safe in our own town is impossible, particularly without any help from the Adoption ‘Support’ Team. All we can do is guess when the birth parents might be out. We make assumptions which may just stem from middle-class ignorance and be totally wrong; judgements based more on desperation than any actual facts. And we have to disguise the girls when we need to take them to health appointments.

We can’t move. Work and family commitments are here, and anyway Bubble in particular would not tolerate a move. All we can do is hope the birth parents move.

Our mental health is suffering, and we are physically exhausted. We’re doing the best we can, but we can’t carry on like this much longer. Chronic stress is taking a toll.

The isn’t the first time birth family have arrived in places where adopters live. It won’t be the last. We’re not the only family suffering: up and down the country parents are having to make similar desparate decisions, and live a reduced half-life. Up and down the country these families are denied support from the very agencies that told them at the point of placement to stay away from the places the birth family then lived.

This is a major failing. It needs to be addressed. But who is actually doing anything to help? No Children’s Services, no MPs, no adoption agencies. All of these professionals should hang their heads in shame.

It’s not helping me tweet what’s going on anymore. It’s just more depressing uploads onto social media, which aren’t a comfy fit with the multitude of tweets championing birth parents’ rights. Meanwhile our children are denied the right to live an ordinary life. And there isn’t a professional or organisation in the country who cares.