Little Steps…

30 06 2011

It came as no surprise to the Mostly Functional parents that their application for a Statutory Assessment of LML’s Educational Needs was turned down. The schools Educational Psychologist had hinted as much at their last meeting. What they didn’t expect was the way the conversation would go at the meeting to explain the Local Authority’s decision.

The meeting was with the Authority’s Assessment Officer, the Senior Educational Psychologist for the Area and the Schools Special Educational Needs Coordinator.

The Assessment Officer explained the decision making process and that he had, with some reservations, recommended an assessment because LML has above 50% developmental delay. In his words, “My view was that if we didn’t do it now, looking at the case history of LML, it was very likely we would have do it in the future.” This then went to an independent officer who reviewed his decision and advised not to proceed to an assessment because LML had made “significant progress” within the school setting. A panel of senior officers then made a decision not proceed.

The Ed Psych. explained that had been in the school for the past two weeks undertaking an assessment of the school’s overall provision which had nothing to do with LML. However, he had observed LML on a number of occasions “You can’t help but notice her” he said. He also stated that he had not been given the Authority’s reasons in the paperwork sent out prior to the meeting and it was only now that this had been explained to him. Given his observations, he said, he would like to explore what was meant by “significant progress”.

The Mostly Functional parents exchanged a knowing look.

The SENCO then explained that in the three months since the school submitted their report for the assessment LML’s behaviour had deteriorated and that much of the progress they had initially observed had either stalled or gone into reverse.

There was then a lengthy discussion about LML, her development and behaviours which illustrated why the Mostly Functional parents had submitted the application in the first place.

The Assessment Officer observed that some of the contributing factors to the decision were that some of the reports the Mostly Functional parents had submitted were about a year old, that because she was in reception it was less academic, more free flowing, and the panel thought that the support provision of the school in this sort of setting met LML’s needs

The Ed Psych. proposed that we wait until the new academic year, when LML will move to a more structured curriculum where everyone acknowledged that she is likely to struggle in the setting and get a fresh set of reports from the professionals involved in her case. They would then submit a new application.

The Assessment Officer, who may or may not have nodded his agreement, concluded the meeting by explaining to the Mostly Functional parents that they could of course appeal against the decision based on the evidence they have submitted so far.



27 05 2010

At the end of an ISAR meeting CD calls the Ed-Psych over. She has just run through her report which will form the basis for the funding that will support LML when she goes to primary school. Her report means that LML will get significant one-to-one support, which is a relief to the problem parents.

CD, “As you know we haven’t asked for a statement for LML, do you think we should consider making a request?” he asks.

Ed-Psych, “Well, the process for a statutory assessment would mean that I would write a report like the one I have just completed, in fact I very often write reports that are less detailed than this one. All the other professionals involved would write reports too….” she goes off into the detail about the process which CD already knows, having done his research.

CD, “We are really pleased with the support that we and LML are receiving and we haven’t felt the need to make a request but I suppose my concern is about the future.”

Ed-Psych, “Yes, the thing about a statement is that if things start to go wrong then, whilst it is bureaucratic, you can refer back to it. I think given where LML is at and her circumstances I’d be very surprised if she didn’t receive a statement if you requested one.”

CD, “Yeah, I think we should talk to parent partnerships and go from there”

Ed Psych, “I think that’s a good idea.”

just one more thing…

7 04 2010

As CD talks to the Homeless Officer who has phoned, GM looks over his shoulder at his notes whilst she comforts the poorly Lolly.

Drinking Problem” she reads, and nods her head.  No surprises there, as Big Sis had already talked to them about that.

CD makes affirmative noises down the phone as GM walks away, talking to Lolly who has calmed down a little and seems ready to be put down again.

GM hears a sigh and looks across the room at CD. As he talks to the Homeless Officer about how his daughter has alienated all her friends and that as far as he knows she really has no-where to stay tonight CD shakes his head.  GM walks across the room to look at the next note that he has written.

Pregnant?” is what she reads, and she feels her stomach flip.  She echos CD’s sigh, and rubs her temples.


Later Big Sis sits in their living room and CD tries to go through big Sis’s options with her. Big Sis has been given advice by the Local Authority homelessness team, but has been told that currently she is not in priority need, so they will not provide temporary or emergency accommodation.

The Mostly Functional Parents have agreed that they will pay for Bed & Breakfast accommodation for Big Sis for a couple of nights whilst she tries to secure something that is longer term.

“What about the question of whether you are pregnant?” asks GM, “Is that a real possibility, or were you just hoping it would help with the homeless assessment?”

Big Sis glances at GM and shrugs “I could be” she says, “I might be”.  GM waits for her to say more but she doesn’t.

“If you are we need to find out, as you’ll have a right to temporary accommodation straight away,” says GM.  Big Sis is looking at the TV, and GM cannot fathom what she might be thinking.  “Big Sis” she says, “If you are pregnant, you don’t have to decide what to do about that right away you know. You wouldn’t have to keep it just because you get somewhere to live, but if you are pregnant you will have a window of stability and probably some support and advice about that and the drinking …” she petered out, not getting much of anything from Big Sis.

Updating HH

13 06 2009

Bring, Bring… Bring, Bring

Hi CD, it’s HH. Is GM there?

“Hiya. No, you just missed her. She should be back in a couple of hours.”

How’s the introductions going?

“Great. Little Sis seems to be really comfortable with us. She’s lovely and so much like LML. She’s engaged with us all. Big Sis met her yesterday and they hit it off from the start. It all feels very relaxed, if a bit slow. ”

Why’s that?

“It’s our stupid introductions plan. The foster carers expressed concerns that Little Sis sometimes reacts badly to strangers, so the plan is for us to meet her every other day for an hour for the first week and then for the introductions to properly start, but really slowly. It means that at the end we only have one full day at our house before she moves. It’s stupid, up until that day she only spends four and a half hours at our house.”

It’ll be all right. When you have the review meeting half way through you can say how well it’s going and amend the plan then.

“You’d think so wouldn’t you, but they’ve scheduled the review meeting for two days before she’s supposed to move. Sixteen days to do introductions based on a concern that Little Sis might not take to us straight away, it’s mad. It’s too long and there isn’t the opportunity to change it.”

“It felt really frustrating at the planning meeting as we were continually told that we needed to be flexible but it was clear that the chair had a plan in her head and that is what we were going to do. It seems that we’ve had to be flexible but the local authority has it’s procedures and it’s going to stick to them.”

“Anyway, we’ve looked at the plan and we’ve talked to our SW and have already agreed some changes with the foster mum.”

You know, we had the same problem with them. In the end I phoned the manager and was a bit stroppy. You’d think they’d want to place a child as soon as possible, but it felt like they were determined to fit our introductions into a model and not look at the family, Little Bro’s needs and our needs. If I were you I’d agree a new plan with the foster carers and phone and tell them what it is.

“Yeah, I think we’re just going to play it by ear and agree stuff informally with the foster carer. As long as we move at the right pace and cover everything in the plan I think we should be OK. We really do need to create more time with us at home before she moves.”

“I’ll tell GM you phoned and I’ll get her to give you a call later this afternoon.”

“Speak to you soon, bye.”


Approval Ratings

3 06 2009

We met the social workers at the appointed time outside the ornate council offices. We were there first, GM insisting we allow plenty of time. Shortly after we arrived our social worker turned up followed closely by Little Sis’s social worker.

We made a our way to the reception area, which was cavernous, and sat there waiting. After 10 minutes or so the chair of the panel came out and introduced herself and asked us to follow her down the long corridor.

The room was full of people all willing to make eye contact and offer reassuring smiles. After a round of introductions the first question was aimed at Little Sis’s SW. ‘Why’, the panel had wanted to know, ‘had it taken so long to get to this stage.’

‘Oh, this is going to be fun’ thought CD to himself.

The SW gave a hesitant response which sort of covered the bases but left out the fact that this was her first child protection case that has become an adoption and she floundered about with it because of a lack of support from the city’s adoption team.

The rest of the questions were nowhere near as interesting. The panel asked about how GM and CD were going to manage introductions. How they were going to manage without either of them owning a driving license, never mind a car. How they were preparing Little Miss Loud and what were Big Sis’s plans (a question they’ve asked themselves a number of times!)

The best question came from a panel member who asked, ‘How did they manage the complicated contact arrangements with LML’s and Little Sis’s siblings. CD stated that it wasn’t complicated at all, we see LML’s full siblings once a month and we saw the half siblings twice last year. That we have plans to meet up again soon. We just organise it amongst ourselves informally.

Then, in what seemed like no time at all, it was over. We were asked to go and sit the cavernous reception area, an area where people were coming and going and were there was no privacy. The SW’s were asked to stay in the meeting and followed us a few minutes later.

After only a few minutes the chair of the panel arrived and sat with us. She said that the panel were very impressed by how calm we were and that we had clearly thought about the implications of adopting a second child and she stated, “It is with great pleasure that we approve the match.”

And that was it. A bit of a debrief with the SW’s and a review of our next steps and it was all over.

Little Sis is coming home to us.

“Can we clone you?”

12 05 2009

Ring, Ring…. Ring Ring…

“Hello” says Grumpy Mum.

“Oh, Hi Grumpy Mum. It’s the Social Worker here. About today’s hearing. We have a problem. One of the panel members if unable to attend because they are sick and another knows your family, so has declared an interest and can’t sit on the hearing, so it will be inquorate. We’re trying to get someone else to step in. We may have to cancel.”

“Oh, OK.”

“I’ll call you back if we have any news.”



30 minutes later.

Ring, Ring… Ring, Ring.

“Hello GM, it’s me again. We’ve got someone, but we are going to have to reschedule your hearing. Can you get here for 4pm? Will you be ok for childcare for LML?”

“Yes Yes” was the relieved reply.

Our Adoption Approval Panel hearing, to become 2nd time adopters was back on. Phew!

In the end it was straightforward, we had pretty much guessed the questions as we walked along the road to the the adoption agency offices. There was only one ‘curve-ball’ which was around the support we provide to our friends and their boys (more about the boys another time).

When we went in, the chair of the panel was very complimentary, then panel members asked us the questions (which they had already given to us 15 minutes before going in), and that was it – “please go and wait for us to make a decision”.

A couple of minutes later the chair came into the room, beaming ..

“Can we clone you?” she began. “We are really impressed with your commitment to sibling contact, it will be so important to LML in her later life”

“You are clearly a resilient, loving and supportive couple”

“You have a clear understanding and commitment to the adoption process”

“We therefore approve you as second time adopters!”

Beam …

“oh – and I don’t know if I should say this GM, but I know your big sister, please say hello to her from me!”

“You do it…” “No, you do it”

6 05 2009

We adopted LML through one Local Authority, the birth parents moved, had little sis and now we’re dealing with another Local Authority, as well as the original one. Given the current political climate in the UK regarding child protection, you’d think that the interests of the child would be at the centre of the decision making processes. However, this supposedly overriding principle seems to get lost in territorialism. Because we wanted our original SW to assess us for our second adoption the new local authority seems to have taken offence. From the feedback we have they seem to want to abrogate any responsibility for the child that is currently in their care, who is to be our daughter.

One off-shoot of this is that the child’s SW, who is relatively new to child protection, is unsupported and making mistakes. She is NOT on the ball. The process has already taken far too long and now she has missed the deadline for our matching panel. This means that rather than meeting our daughter at the beginning of June, it is more likely to be the end.

Oh the frustration.

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