So for those of you who dont know its LGBT Adoption/Fostering week. A week I can now champion having processed the past 8 months.
For those of you who have been following our journey, we took a pretty unexpected turn back in June 2017. I have spent a long time processing what happened, dealing with a lot of anger, disappointment, fear, and resentment. I consciously haven’t picked up the proverbial pen through fear of what I would write.
So now I feel like seeing what happens:
For those of you adverse to complete honesty look away now….
1.free of deceit; truthful and sincere.“I haven’t been totally honest with you”
synonyms: truthful, sincere, candid, frank, direct, open, forthright, straight, straightforward, genuine, blunt, plain-spoken, plain-speaking, matter-of-fact, outspoken, as straight as a die, straight from the shoulder
If I’m honest the day we welcomed the arrival of our social worker into our home and then subsequently every avenue of our life/lives, I felt something wasn’t “right” like we didn’t quite fit.
Hubby informed me that the Maltese culturally weren’t people that typically eminated warmth and compassion. It is probably wise to point out here this is where he grew up so was speaking from not a point of judgement but knowing.
I had envisaged a slightly overweight, middled aged, linen wearing, slightly disheveled and unkempt, ‘mother earth’ type social worker and this isn’t what we had.
We had spend days fretting and hours preparing for her arrival. Excitedly we offered to show her around our home, our children rooms, the garden we dreamt of them running around, to a very calm and collected dissasocitive “no thank you, I can do that next time”.
We planned out the next set of mandatory visits, necessary for her to compile our PAR report. Prospective Adopter Report (PAR) is a report written by the prospective adopters’ social worker which summarises the information collected during the adoption assessment process. The PAR contains a lot of information and provides evidence about why the social worker considers the prospective adopters suitable to be approved. Prospective adopters have the opportunity to read the report, to clarify any inaccuracies and add their own comments. The PAR will be presented to the adoption panel, and once adopters are approved, the PAR is also used to provide information to social workers who are seeking adoptive parents for children in care.
This is ultimately what the panel base their decision on. You could say a significant story she would be telling, but not any story, ours! She left 3 maybe 4 hours later.
I wont bore your with every visit, but things didn’t improve, our relationship didn’t strengthen or broaden. We were feeling like we were in some kind of business aquisiton, we were simply something she had to process.
The one thing to this day that I still dont get given the gravity of the document your social worker has to write is that if you dont ‘click’, ‘hit it off’, ‘get along’ thats tough.
After a short while our mandatory visits where done and we waited eagerly for our PAR to be forwarded to us for us to read. This was single handedly one of the most obscure experiences I’ve ever had. Sitting down and reading through somebody else’s interpretation of me singularly and us collectively. It was emotionless, which is how we were left feeling. Confused by how little we identified with what were reading. Maybe this was normal?
The week before panel our Social Worker called to say that she wasn’t going to present for our panel date as she had another appointment. We were left feeling angry and cheated, we had invested so much in this lady and the process, and she had dropped us at the final hurdle.
Those of you who have been through this process scroll down and skip now:
Once your PAR report has been written by your allocated social worker their manager sign this off as robust enough to withstand panel. It then gets sent to two other senior professionals further up the chain of command for their approval, then when they agree it is sent to all members of panel 2 weeks before for their perusal, before you all sit down and pick apart whats been written and your suitability to parent in light of that.
So the author of our emotionless PAR wasnt going to be there on the day, but we were assured all was ok, this was just a paperwork exercise. We were to not worry her manger would be present on the day to represent us. Angered by how flippant she was I explained that her manager only knew us in the same capacity that the panel members did, that was through the PAR. So she had no knowledge of us outside of this report and the purpose of panel is to bring the report to life. Not possible with a stranger. In fact she wouldn’t know us if we passed in the street.
We were offered a few hours the day before to meet with our new representative for the biggest day of our lives! We had the pleasure of repeating ourselves for several hours again. We had got to the point now where I was bored of my own bloody story let alone telling yet another unknowing person about it. The repetition was well and truly taking its toll now.
We talked, we told the same story, reflected on the same experiences, talked about the same significant events we had experienced, the frequency and nature of our sex life ( I kid you not) to be told we would be in and out of panel and home less than 2 hours later……. little did we know!
I had taken it upon myself t0 book us a suite at a local 5* hotel, this was after all the night before we got told we were fit to become parents! We had a table booked for 25 family and friends to celebrate that evening. Panel was booked for 9:45am. The walk there from the hotel, a mere 5 mins felt like a marathon of emotion and composure. We arrived at 9:15 as agreed and were promptly moved into a holding room – a small 3m x 3m white box, almost as soulless as our thoughtfully compiled PAR.
We had it explained to us that its quite normal for the chair of panel to come and introduce themselves and then ask for the social worker to go with them. A chance for the panel to iron out any creases or questions they had about what had been written that we weren’t needed for. So fear not boys this is all ‘normal’.
Just after 10am the chair arrived, a chipper and welcoming lady who took the time to introduce herself and explain what to expect. Her face visibly lit up when she saw we had taken the time to create our “child friendly” introduction book of us and our home and gleefully asked if she could take it to show the other panel members. We were delighted by her response, had we impressed upon her already!?
So off they went as we waited to be called. We sat not exchanging a word, you could feel the importance, the anticipation, excitement, fear and dread bouncing off the white walls and flourecent lighting in our 3 x 3 box.
What felt like an age passed, The chair and ‘the manager’ returned and we immediately stood to follow them out. There was split moment that was like walking into a wall as we stepped forward and they didn’t. I noticed ‘the manager’ looking flushed. I was flushed as the realisation our in, out and home by 12 was now a far cry! In fact we learnt we wouldn’t be going in, would definitely be out and traffic permitting home by 12!
We were told some safeguarding issues had come to light in those few moments we were left waiting.
Safeguarding is a term which is broader than ‘child protection’ and relates to the action taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. Safeguarding is defined in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013 as:
Protecting children from maltreatment.
Preventing impairment of children’s health and development.
Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
It turned out our Social Worker had stated in our PAR, the very PAR everyone had paid due diligence to and signed off some 2-4 weeks prior, that she hadnt seen our necessary ID. FALSE. In the coming moments I felt like my world had been crushed, like I was in some kind of parallel universe surrounded by a thick fog.
There was lots of talking that I was in no state to process. It was like white noise to babies minus the comforting element. All of a sudden my haze turned into a mist that they may of seen as red.
“HOLD ON A MINUTE!!! What do you mean we aren’t going to panel? Have you got any idea what we’ve been though?” They scrambled around trying to explain and dumb down their error.
I explained this is exactly why our Social Worker should of been here. This is obviously an error. The ID she is saying is absent had to be sent for our DBS checks which ave all come back clear? So you can see we are who we say we are. Surely the present DBS paperwork is of more professional clout than that of the absent social worker?
Then it got worse and I could feel my anger rising up inside me. I asked, how has this happened? EVERYONE has read and signed off this document and now you’re telling me that you’ve just discovered a sizeable safeguarding issue that you have all failed to notice prior to now! “THIS IS INEXCUSABLE” and in fact negligible. Then the embarrassment we had table booked for 25 our nearest and dearest that we had to cancel last minute. There was no panel, no green light, no approval and certainly no reason to celebrate.
We drove home, before 12 as promised, but without our ‘rubber stamp’ simply numb and mute.