It was day 38 yesterday. 38 days of knowing that Bubble and Squeak’s birth family had moved to our small town.
Day 1 – We tell the Adoption Support Team.
Day 7- Social Worker and supervisor meet with us in a shambles of a meeting that leaves us feeling angry and unsupported.
Day 11 – Incompetent Risk Assessment presented to us. It makes no mention of girls’ history or long term impact on them if they saw their birth parents here. The assessor believes I have no resilience, and my partner is castigated for telling me the birth family have moved here. We submit a formal complaint.
Day 14 – ‘Amended’ Risk Assessment shoved through our door. Only two minor changes made and still complete rubbish.
Day 30 – Response to our complaint received. In summary, ‘we’re sorry, we’re sorry, we’re sorry, you’re too anxious, we’re not going to do anything, but we’ll send a couple of managers round so you’ll shut up. Maybe you could move house.’ We move to next stage of the complaints procedure.
Day 38 – Two Adoption Support managers visit with the Risk Assessment, which they have clearly ripped from the supervisor’s hands and amended. This time it even bothers to mention why our girls were removed from the birth parents! Hurrah! But I still have low resilience and my partner has still put her employment at risk by telling me something I need to know to keep our children safe. We protest calmly. We agree to e mail them our thoughts on their Risk Assessment Version 3.
The managers are keen to express that they want to work with us, and ask us what we need. We tell them. They agree they can re-allocate our old, brilliant Social Worker but what is our ‘work plan’ and our ‘time scale’? We dont shout at them that we are parents not workers. We calmly advise we’ll discuss that with the Social Worker. More prodding and poking about timescales. I enquire about the length of a piece of string. That’s clearly not considered helpful. Eventually my partner utters some magic words which seem to satisfy them: ‘3 months initially, to be reviewed’.
We tell them what we’re doing to keep our girls safe. We tell them all the things our girls can’t do because of the birth family presence. The managers have no suggestions, and can’t tell us anything their enquiries have uncovered, but hope our ‘confidence will grow’. My partner and I look at each other and simultaneously reach for the pre-arranged ‘don’t respond to any bollocks in an exasperated way’ signal, a hand on the other one’s arm. We extract our hands and arms and move on.
Their enquiries have only focussed on the possibility of abduction and violence. Even here their conclusions are based on 6 year old evidence. What about the recent numerous convictions for assault? we ask. They seem surprised, even though we have previously told them, the Social Worker, the supervisor, and written it in our complaint.
Their enquires do not appear to have concluded anything about the possibility of significant harm and re-traumatisation of our girls should they walk past their birth parents in the street or glimpse them from the car. We start talking about the long-term psychological and behavioural impacts this would have. Clearly they either don’t understand or don’t agree. One of them suggests we could give the girls a hug and re-assure them if they see their birth parents. We advise that whilst we have devised a safety plan that deals with any immediate situation, we are concerned about the long term impacts on the girls. They don’t appear to understand.
They bang on for a bit, reiterating the girls’ safety is our responsibility but they have a duty to help us. Then out it comes, the suggestion we’ve been expecting, the suggestion they clearly believe is the best solution, the suggestion which would be the answer to their prayers. We could move house. Not should. Just could. They can’t tell us we have to. We tell them we’re not moving. We give them heaps of valid reasons. One of them says something like ‘I had to move house once, and it was a relief’. I take a deep breath, put my hand on my partner’s arm, slowly look from one manager to the other, and calmly repeat ‘we’re not moving’.
We tell them that the summer holidays are going to be a nightmare as we can’t use any local facilities including kids clubs. Though Bubble has hightened anxieties when we go away as a family we will have to do so in the summer. We have organised house swops, PGL etc but we have 2 weeks that aren’t covered. They offer to pay a percentage towards a cottage somewhere. We thank them and agree that we will let them know when we’ve got some ideas and costs. We are told this is not a ‘long term solution’ and what are we going to do in the future? I bite my lip and my wonderful partner tells them we’ll discuss that with our re-allocated Social Worker.
Time is up. They have to go. We thank them. We shut the door. I’m left wondering, once again, why people who work in an Adoption Support Team don’t understand the impact seeing birth parents would have on the girls at this stage of their lives. Why do workers think it relevant and helpful to draw comparisons with their birth children? Why do they talk in jargon that is meaningless to parents and families?
I believe that the managers who met with us yesterday really did want to help. But they didn’t understand how this situation is impacting on our family. They didn’t comprehend the long term effects of possible re-traumatisation. And they wanted us to solve the situation by dramatic action that we had already said we had considered and discounted.
It’s necessarily true that unless you have lived with traumatised children, you haven’t got a clue about the crushing reality of adopters’ everyday lives. Wouldn’t it be so much better for adoptive families if workers acknowledged this, listened to us, and worked with us to find ways forward together? Wouldn’t it be better if adoptive families weren’t left feeling judged and unsupported?