‘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’.

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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. 

Great Expectations.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Charles Dickens, ‘Great Expectations’

I was thinking today, whilst I was pottering in my potting shed in an attempt to regain some mental equilibrium, that the weight of expectations on adoptive families and on individuals within those families sometimes seems overwhelming. Some of those expectations are of our own making, but there also seem to be a lot of outside pressures bearing down on us at the moment. Here are a few of them:

Both Bubble and Squeak are going to therapy sessions.  Whilst Bubble’s is currently focused on building our attachments, Squeak’s is aimed at reducing her anxieties, and helping her make sense of her story so far.  Therapy is draining for all of us, and our therapist clearly expects us to be Super Therapeutic Mummies All Of The Darn Time.

Squeak is having problems at school.  She’s the smallest girl in the school, and she is attracted to ‘trouble’. This is not a winning combination. Recently having left her at the school gate as usual,  she did not appear in the classroom.  She was found 30 minutes later playing tig in the car park, with another girl. Her teacher dealt with this really well and agreed with me that she needs extra support for the beginning and end of the school day, as well as at playtimes.  Of course the school can’t put this into place until after Easter. Why on earth would I expect otherwise?

Bubble’s teacher has just admitted that perhaps we were right that Bubble needs more direction and support at the end of every school day (just as she had had in previous years).  Better late than never, but we don’t expect to see this realisation translated into action.

Bubble was just beginning to show the first small signs of settling down a little after the upset of one of her sisters returning to foster care. But this week we will be celebrating Squeak’s birthday, so Bubble is currently feeling jealous and acting mean. Cue extra vigilance to ensure Squeak is not physically hurt. I am expecting at least one family member to comment on how well Bubble is coping with her sister’s birthday celebrations later this week.

We continue to ensure that our girls see their sisters, and with one of them having returned to foster care, this has become increasingly complicated.  After enduring 3 months of nonsense from social workers about ‘contact’ and a refusal to give us the foster carer’s phone number, they now expect that we will provide free respite for their foster carer! It is also expected that we will facilitate ‘contact’ with all of the sisters.  We don’t see either of those things as our role, so we won’t be doing them.  What we will be doing is focusing on the best way forward for our girls, and doing what they need us to do.

I’m going to attempt to throw off all expectations over this week.  It may help.  It may not.  I don’t have any great expectations either way.

 

 

 

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.