A special day out

11 09 2010

“What court are we in?”

“Court number 3”

There were already friends and family waiting when the mostly functional parents and the kids arrived. Soon the waiting room filled up with even more loved ones. In the end there were over 20 people chatting and laughing as the girls chased around the room with some other kids and an auntie.

Before long the Clerk to the Court called out Lolly’s name and the gaggle were ushered into the court.

Crap Dad, who was one of the last to enter the court, witnessed LML pouring water all over the front table and Lolly running behind the Clerks desk grabbing stuff along the way with GM and an Aunty both desperately trying to get things under control.

The mostly functional parents managed to gain some crowd control and after a bit of tidying up the Clerk went to get the Judge.

“How wonderful!” Exclaimed the Judge as she entered the Court. “What a large group of people here to celebrate Lolly’s adoption. Who is here?” She asked and then amended her question,  “well, perhaps I should rephrase that, who are the important people here? We could be all day if everyone introduces themselves.” After identifying the proud parents and their madcap children she stated  “I normally invite people into my Chambers and have a chat with them about the adoption, but I don’t think you’ll all fit in.”

The Judge sat on the edge of the table and talked to the mostly functional parents about how wonderful it is to see so many people and how these hearings are the best part of her job.  She tries to engage LML in conversation with little success and eventually asks LML whether she likes her sister Lolly.  LML shouts, “LOLLY” at the top of her voice as she turns to her.  She throws her arms open and demands “HUG!”  the girls give one-an-other a kiss and a hug, much to the delight of everyone.

The Judge, clearly thrown from her routine, follows no real set path and just chats with the mostly functional parents. She invites the girls to sit in her chair and they delight in being in front of the crowd and the centre of attention, waving and laughing.

After a few more photographs it was time to leave.

Everyone decanted to the local art gallery cafe where tea and buns were served all round.

The girls soon filled their stomachs with cake and coke and ran off to explore the familiar gallery. Before the Mostly Functional parents could take off after them an auntie and the SW set off in pursuit. After some minutes the SW returned, herding Lolly in front of her – she slumped in her chair,  “My go they’re quick!” she exclaims.

It’s not long before everyone has had their fill of cake and have to take their leave.

As the Mostly Functional family walk to get the bus home, Crap Dad and Grumpy Mum exchange a kiss and a smile. “She’s definitely and completely ours now” says Grumpy Mum. “Yes she is,” replies Crap Dad, “yes she is…”

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Hitched

9 08 2010

Crap Dad is just about to leave the house for a meeting at work when the phone rings.

“Hi it’s the SW, as you know,  it’s the final adoption hearing tomorrow for Lolly.  I need to tell you that both birth parents are going to be there.  Birth dad is not happy about how contact has been going and birth mum has decided that she’s now in a different place and is wanting Lolly to be placed back with her.  She says that she can now look after Lolly herself.”

Crap Dad takes a deep breath before he responds.

“So, what does this mean for us?” he enquires.

“Well, if the judge thinks there are grounds for birth mums appeal then they will set a date for a new hearing. You’ll need to get a solicitor if that happens.

Alternatively, the judge may think that there no grounds for her appeal and make the the adoption order.

There have been appeal hearings but, so far as we are aware, none have been upheld in England .

My view is that any judge looking at the case has to consider the child’s best interests. As Lolly has been placed with you for so long, I can’t see how it would be in her interest to have another disruption.

I’ll give you ring as soon as I get out of the hearing.”

“OK, speak to you tomorrow, thanks.”

Crap Dad takes another deep breath before calling GM.





So good she did it twice

27 03 2010

Hello can I speak to crap dad?

“That’s me”

You’ve reported a camera and other items have been stolen, could you give me more detail?”

“Yes I think my daughter, who is 21 and no longer lives with us, broke into the house today whilst we were out and took my camera. She’s been coming to the house and taking things over the past couple of weeks. When she came yesterday I confronted her and she admitted it. Last week a couple of lenses for my camera, a Nintendo DS and phone were taken. Last night she stayed the night and my partner and I had to leave this morning to attend some training. Our younger daughters were being looked after by my partners sisters for the day so we made Big Sis leave with us. Just as we were about to leave I noticed my Nikon D50 was missing. I checked Big Sis’s bag and around he house. Eventually I found it hidden down the side of the house. I confronted Big Sis, she denied everything and we made her leave the house with us. My partner’s sisters left the house a couple of hours later with the kids and within 10 minutes Big Sis arrived with a lad from down the road and a ladder. My neighbour says that she saw Big Sis hanging around at the bottom of the street earlier and that Big Sis used the ladder to get in through my bedroom window.”

After a few question, “Is the lad a suspect?” “No I don’t think so, she lived here until a few months ago. I think he may have thought he was doing her a favour.”

Is there a history of drugs?” “No not that I’m aware of. Though given the behavior over the past couple of weeks I am concerned.”

Are you sure you want to pursue a criminal investigation?” “Yes, I told her yesterday that if she stole anything else from us then I would report it to the police?”

So can I summarise? A number of items have been stolen from your house, including a camera, which was stolen twice in one day and you’re pretty sure your daughter has done it.

“Yeah, that’s about it.”

OK Crap Dad, an officer will be around in the morning to take a statement and the investigation will proceed from there.





Rant

2 03 2010

I was really sad to read Darrow and Juan’s news regarding their foster son, T, and also filled with a familiar anger and frustration that goes with my growing awareness and knowledge of the systems within which “looked after children” have to survive.  I hope they will forgive me for referring to them here, and that I cause them no pain or offense.

There seem to be some significant differences between the UK and US systems, so for example, foster to adopt doesn’t exist in any formal sense at all in the UK.  Foster-carers do adopt their foster children sometimes of course, but it is often those children that have been labeled ‘not suitable’ for adoption.  These are the children that are too damaged by their past experiences (often within the care system as well as with birth families), or ‘too disabled’ or ill.

In the UK the term ‘foster carer’ is used, not ‘foster parent’, in recognition that a parent is very different to a paid carer.  It seems that this ‘line’ is much more blurred in the US, that foster parents like Juan and Darrow are expected (and expect) to take on the parental role for their children.  In neither the UK nor the US are the foster carers actually given parental responsibility though, and have very little (if any) control over the decisions made by the state, on behalf of the children they care for.  I think this is where the trouble starts for me, but I really don’t know what the answer is.  I have seen and heard about so many children now though, who clearly have not been at the center of the decision making process, and have heard foster carers grumble about the naivety or inexperience or boredom of the professionals involved with their children.  The detachment of some professionals just isn’t helpful, unless they are prepared to take on board the opinions and views of the people that really care about these kids.

How can it possibly be in the best interest of T, to be ‘reunited’ with birth parents who have never cared for him, when he is settled, beloved, cared for and nurtured in a family already?  How can it be justified to take four years to make the decision that this vulnerable child should be returned to parents that have not even managed to comply with the basic standards that the court previously ordered.  I find myself asking over and over how this sort of situation can be in any child’s best interest.  Of course, it isn’t;  It isn’t supposed to be.  In the US, it seems that the emphasis is on keeping families together, and that this often comes into conflict with the ‘best interest’ of the child/ren. In the UK the child is absolutely supposed to be at the center of decision making, but we often see that this is not what happens in practice.  It can be far more expedient, cheaper and easier to keep a child within a family that is not functioning well, than to make an early decision that the child should be freed for adoption.

The more I learn about the lives of ‘looked after children’, the more I become convinced that the drive to keep dysfunctional, failing, inadeqaute families together is just wrong wrong wrong.  I know that amongst many, this is not a popular view, but families come in all shapes and sizes and genetics is not the be-all-and-end-all.  I truly believe that taking that little boy away from his current family, to place him with his biological family, will do him nothing but harm.  It will probably reduce his life chances and options, cause him long term emotional and psychological damage and deny him the supportive therapeutic  parenting he will need after such a major upheaval.  Adoption is not the only answer to the issue of generation after generation of dysfunctional families, but it is probably the best one in the current climate.  There is little appetite amongst politicians to put the resources that would really make a difference into the marginalised, poorly educated families and communities that produce such a high proportion of the children that end up in the care system.  Indeed I was reading a foster/adoptive parent and teacher only yesterday, bemoan the fact that the recession means significant cuts to the already tight  education budget, which will further disadvantage these very communities and children.

I know that some reading this might want to remind me of the brilliant work that foster carers, Social Workers (SW’s), Guardians, Family Court officials etc do every day; remind me that it is not all ‘bad news’; that some families just need a little help and we should do everything we can to keep them together.  But then I look at my lovely 2 year old, crying in a car seat and wonder how on earth her SW ever thought it was a good idea to put her in a taxi with a stranger for a journey of an hour, over and over again, so that her birth dad could see her in a secure family center, having been banned from those less secure ones closer to her home.  I feel such regret for my dear friend, who has not been able to adopt the sister of her son, because the birth mother was in rehab, and ‘making a go of it’ with this (6th) child, and by the time it was decided that birth mum was not coping, the child had been so neglected, hurt and damaged that my friend did not have the capacity to help her.  I feel such sadness for T, that he will loose two parents that love him very much, and will have to get to know the other two parents that may love him, but are unlikely to have the level of understanding, empathy, skill or commitment to provide him with the support he is going to need, and would most likely get, were he to be adopted by his daddies.

I’m feeling all ‘ranted out’ for now, just left with the sadness.

GM





Aggrieved, no more

5 06 2009

“Hi, it’s me,” says GM when CD answers the phone “do I sound chirpy?”

Something starts to relax inside CD .. “how did it go then?” he asks, hardly daring to hope.

GM starts to babble “I’m so relieved” she says,

“I’m not going to be made redundant”

“They’re not going to make me learn to drive, but they will pay for lessons if I want to learn”

“They seemed to accept that the actions of my managers could be seen as bullying. They were really shocked by some of the evidence I gave them.”

“It went so much better than I had expected!”

“I feel like a weight has been lifted off me”

She pauses for breath. CD smiles, “That’s great GM, well done .. tell me all about it when you get home”. He hangs up and looks at LML “Phew” he says to her “mummys going to me much less stressed tonight!”





Highs and lows

13 05 2009

Having had a charming start to the day, the rest was what you could call ‘mixed’.

GM had the usual start to her working week, catching up with colleagues and emails, but all was overshadowed with a mix of excitement and dread – there were two meetings to attend …

1pm – meet with Little Sis’s SW and CD to sign the forms that get us to the next stage (Matching Panel) and deliver them, (with SW) into the hands of the panel’s administrator. The deadline was today, the SW was on the phone to us at 10pm last night discussing the paperwork and at 11pm we were completing our section of the form. Getting them in before the 5pm deadline today felt like an incredible relief and achievement. Assuming everything is as it should be, we’re going to Matching Panel on the 3rd June – yippee! Little Sis should be home by the end of June.

2pm – meet with line manager, GM tells her the likely time scales for going on adoption leave and goes on to say that she is taking a grievance out against her and two other managers. GM tells her that she has no other option as she believes that she is being subjected to indirect Sex discrimination. That her employer has failed to enter into proper negotiations or consultation  (regarding their view that her post is becoming redundant), has failed to follow proper procedures, and has left her feeling bullied and victimised. A seven page grievance letter is handed over at the end of the meeting and then emailed to other the other parties involved. (OUCH!)

4.20pm Pick up LML from nursery. She runs towards GM, arms wide, “Mummy, mummy, MUMMY!!!” she shouts as she crashes into GM’s arms.





Juggling

2 05 2009

So little sis (LS) may be coming home in about 6 weeks. What do we need:

  • take new pictures of us and our home and make a book to send to her
  • get ‘stuff’ – you know .. the cot, another car seat (check!), things like that
  • make a book for Little Miss Loud (LML), about her little sis
  • go to adoption panel (we’ve had the date for a while)
  • go to matching panel (yeah! – we’ve just got the date)
  • sort out cupboard and draw space for LS (check)
  • sort out ‘car boot’ junk and get it to the charity shop / municipal dump to make more space generally

That’s not too bad, but we’d like to finish off some things for LML, before LS comes home, most importantly to complete her life story book, so …

  • visit the Special Care Baby Unit where LML her spent first three months, to get and give pictures and see if there is any one around that can remember her (check)
  • find the grave of LML’s twin to take pictures and leave flowers (and as it turned out, tidy up and weed the little plot)(check)
  • meet with LML’s  SW for his input about the birth parents and decision making process (check)
  • fill in the blanks in the life story book and put it together

Well, we really aren’t doing too bad are we, so

  • order a new carpet for the hall, stairs and landing (check)
  • redecorate the hall, stairs and landing before carpet arrives
  • fill in the cracks, sand and paint front door
  • have the new carpet laid

Ok, so that’s a bit more challenging, given work and LML, but it’ll all be done within the next couple of weeks and then that’s it. That just leaves winding things down at work for the 12 months adoption leave for GM and 4 weeks parental leave for CD, which shouldn’t be too hard.

Hang on a minute GM – what’s this letter from work? … “your post is at risk, by reason of redundancy …”

  • panic and cry – cry a lot (check)
  • get legal advice (check)
  • write up the log of the unfair and discriminatory behaviour and attitudes that you’ve been subjected to since you returned from adoption leave last year (in progress)
  • take out a grievance against the three managers involved
  • try to get a settlement that means that you are not unemployed as your second child comes home.

There’s a spanner in the works if ever there was one.








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