The Final Account
I discovered that I have been so traumatised by this experience that I cannot find a way to complete my account of my daughter’s adoption. I have asked my Mum to do it for me as she was with me every step of the way. She will write this in my words.
During the time I spent getting to know my daughter, I was treated with disdain and actual rudeness by the Adoption Manager. Although my daughter was now in her new – and hopefully permanent – home, I still felt very vulnerable.
This settling-in process or pre-adoption time can last from 12 weeks onwards. During that time, the adoption social worker and the agency social worker co-ordinated visits to my home (for support). Each week, either my social worker or the adoption social worker would come along.
I get very tense and experience difficulties in speaking when I am under such pressure. I struggled during the adoption social worker visits, not least because I felt she had no real knowledge of children’s development. She commented that my child had too many playthings. The following time she wondered if my daughter might be bored with her toys as the social worker had seen them on a previous visit. It was all very silly and I felt it was almost planned to undermine me.
During the first month, there was a more formal review when the peripatetic Adoptions Manager came out with the social worker and my social worker and her manager came along. My Mum stayed at home so she could provide refreshments etc. and I wouldn’t have to leave the proceedings. My child was to be made available.
The meeting was held in the dining room as the biggest and most formal environment – Mum is always business minded! It was very unfortunate that the adoption social worker and adoption manager were over an hour late. There was no phone call either. By this time my child was getting tired and hungry. I took her to be fed, and just as I was debating when to put her to sleep, they arrived, with no apology.
That meeting was very uncomfortable. The Adoption Manager insisted that my Mum remain. She was actually trying to get back to her office to complete her work. Everyone eventually left. The following day my social worker called round again and asked to speak to me and Mum. She apologised and said how embarrassed she was, but she had to ask Mum if she was willing to be a grandparent. The ‘professional’ pair had decided that she was not demonstrating real eagerness.
The ironic aspect of this was not lost on us. My Mum is a consultant for private child care organisations. Her field of expertise is children’s care and development. She is business-like and I think they felt intimidated by her. All of this added yet another weight to the tension we were living under. This was the pattern of the meetings and reviews for the next few months. The visit reduced to twice monthly and then monthly alternating between the adoption social worker and my social worker.
The subsequent review came around and we were informed that my child would have to remain during the meeting and that the meeting would be held in another room. We made sure my daughter was available to be seen; however, we remained in the dining room as the most obvious choice of venue.
Their patience wore thin very quickly; this child of mine is not silent nor is she bashful. Eventually Mum removed her and fed her. At the third review, I was so convinced they would try to remove my child, that I became quite unwell. We had to endure a couple more additional visits from my social worker to ‘check out’ that I was still keen to adopt.
Up to that point, no one in our family appeared really concerned by this experience. My aunt was asked to stand in for Mum as she was busy. I think she was shocked by the patronising tones and lies expressed during that meeting.
At the fourth review, we asked how much longer this would continue. We were informed that this could go on for much longer. In fact there was a challenge to the frequency of social worker visits and the Manager insisted they should have been increased again to once a week. She claimed to have made note of that in previous minutes of meeting – which we were never privy to. At this point my Mum stated that this was inappropriate and that it could not continue for much longer. My social worker and the adoption social worker agreed.
Accelerating the Action
After this review we took a life-changing decision and contacted a solicitor to whom we stated that we wished to move things along and we also wanted to know what the delay was due to.
The solicitor sent some letters. This appeared to send ripples of concern through the team. I was asked why I had done this and I said that I was trying to adopt my child as quickly as possible. The solicitor kept sending letters asking what the cause of the delay and requested evidence of these objections. She never received a factual account in return but a number of objections dropped mysteriously.
I was informed that a date had been set with the court for me to formally adopt my daughter. That gave the local authority time to provide reasons why it should not go through. Nine months after she came to live with me, I dressed my girl in a lovely (co-ordinated obviously) outfit and we went to court for the formal adoption. The only other people there were my social worker and my solicitor. It was completed in minutes. We had photos taken with the judge, but we have never looked at them and they remain in my daughter’s memories box for when she is older.
A Frightening Process
We have suffered so much as a family because of this, and although I know that there is no one who could succeed in breaking us up, I never wish to experience such unnecessary abuse again. My confidence was undermined to the point where I questioned my ability to parent any child. We have more important dates to remember such as the wonderful naming ceremony held in our garden with friends and family. I would love to have another child, but I am frightened of meeting similar ‘professional’ people again.
We were going to make a formal complaint, but it would have meant re-living the lies and traumas so we haven’t done anything about it except complete this story.