Monday, 22 October 2012


I dont know whether I should be writing this here or not. I dont know if you want to read about the reality of adoption, not just in how tough it can be but also in how we have been treated by the local authority that placed the children with us. I dont even know if I can legally say too much as we are still in dispute - so I guess, you must read everything I am about to say with an open mind and recognise that it is only my version of events and mainly speculation as to the reasonings and outcome (whatever that may be)

Today is not a 'light hearted look at adoption', today is about honesty and if there is anyone who has media contacts and wants to help me share this part of the story then by all means direct them to my blog. However, I am going to ask anyone who actually knows us to please respect the privacy of our children.

Here goes...

In February 2011 two children were placed with us for adoption. Two children who had a hideous past, two children who were incredibly traumatised by their birth family, two children who were abused, mentally tortured and subjected to neglect, victimisation and eventually abandoned by every member of their birth family before being taken into care. One of the children has a recognised disability and the other has a learning delay - which was hardly surprising. I am not going to go into details as that is their story to tell but, as you know, children are only ever taken into care as an absolute last resort - something would be adopters are warned about on the pre-adoption course but it is something they will be assured that they will be supported through by a water tight post adoption support package.

When we first read about the children's background we were horrified but we had decided to adopt because we wanted to help children just like these two, we could have taken the far more fashionable and less risky route of surrogacy and had a beautiful bouncing baby. Instead we opted to take two children who needed a home, needed security but most of all needed a loving family. We told the social workers that 'yes, we were interested in pursuing this adoption but that we needed a robust support system as we had never dealt with many of these issues.' Remember we were new to parenting, I had worked with children extensively, but, as any parent will tell you, working with children and parenting children are two entirely different things.

In December 2010 we were officially 'matched' with the children and we were sent DVD's, pictures, drawings of what they wanted in their new family and we had already grown to love these children even though we had never met them. They even made us a Christmas Tree decoration 'to my new family' We were promised full adoption support, therapy in place, financial assistance - if we asked for it, social services promised it.

Then we were told that due to the cutbacks and the fact that this local authority was very poor that we would now only get £350 to buy a set of bunk beds and.... oh, that was it. Nothing else, no adoption allowances to help meet their, or our, needs, no therapy (it was too expensive)... nothing. Oh, and I was to give up work for a year in order to help the children settle into their new home. We didnt really know what to do, we didn't want to lose the children, we felt that we knew them and we didnt realise at that point what having no effective support would actually be like. So we agreed. Although, I did state that I would not be able to afford to give up work, so it was agreed that I could work from home during the school hours but not during holidays. Two weeks later we met the children and in February of 2011 the children came to live with us....

People talk of a honeymoon period in adoption - where the children work really hard to please you and are as good as gold. We didn't get that. Ours hit the ground running. Once again, I won't go into details but it was a very tough time for us. We were stressed - we didnt know if this was how it was supposed to be. If all children behaved like this? If we were reading too much into every bit of behaviour? But needless to say it was horrendous. To say we were finding it difficult was an under statement. The children were struggling too, I was in school almost every day dealing with one problem or another - luckily I have experience of the school system and I know the right questions to ask - we were also very lucky that they are in an amazing school - I researched a lot and although our school may not be the best academically it is by far the best in terms of nurture and child well being - thank goodness we got it! The behaviours we were experiencing from both were far and above anything we had been expecting from the adoption course (and indeed from the the children's notes - social services are never truly honest), other parents were complaining, teachers didnt know what to do and to cap it all - we didnt see a social worker for nearly 3 months. I was firing off emails everywhere, calling everyone, trying to get some support or some help from anywhere - eventually Adoption UK (an excellent charity) suggested the Post Adoption Centre and they were put into place - which really helped me at that time.

This all might seem very bland to you - perhaps you are thinking that birth parents dont get any support so why should we as adopters expect any? I can see that argument but believe me when I say that the problems we were faced with were massive - Papa and I had no experience of them and, in all honesty, the school didnt know what to do either - with no social workers to advise anyone we were all making it up as we went along.

Papa and I were struggling, financially, mentally and physically. By the end of the summer of 2011 we had put a complaint into social services, an immediate investigation was ordered and people finally started to listen. By October of the same year, with still no assistance or therapy in place for the children we faced a potential disruption (where the children would have had to have gone back into care). It was at this point that suddenly help started to arrive after all, the cost of taking them back into care would have ben huge. And thats what adoption today is about - the cost.

It sad to say that adoption support, whilst deemed necessary by the Government and the major adoption charities, is not a right. It is a post code lottery. We got nothing and yet took on two children with massive problems - the social services defence was 'other people walked away from these children - you didn't - therefore you knew what you were taking on.' I am not joking, that is the defence they gave at the investigation. When we went to court for the Adoption Order, the placing social services sent in their lawyer to fight us (yes, they were fighting the very people they had recommended to adopt) - they accused us of not having the children's best interests at heart - of only coming into adoption for the financial gain and they told the judge to adjourn our case until the Ombudsman (who is still looking into the injustice of our case) had made a final decision. The judge threw that out and granted the Adoption Order, but it was a horrible position to be in, to be sat in court and accused of these horrendous things whilst all the time knowing that you have opened your home and your hearts to these children and all you want to do is to make sure they get what was promised to them in the first place. Thank goodness the judge told the authority that he did not have any sympathy with them - that they had made this about finances and not us. That it was in  the 'best interests' of the children for them to have a stable and loving family and he would not delay proceedings any further - even at this point the lawyer started to argue and the judge told him to sit down, that he was granting the order. The social services team didn't even speak to me afterwards - they just walked away from me and started talking with their lawyers. The only person who congratulated me was the court official - who, I think it fair to say, had never witnessed this sort of behaviour before and felt sorry for me standing there in the courtroom all by myself, unsure of what to do next.

Now we have parental responsibility we can share our story and, as we have been advised, can begin proceedings to sue the local authority on behalf of the children. The Ombudsman is further looking into our case - to find out why when all of our complaints were upheld within the extensive investigation that we didn't get any further assistance. Our MP is now involved. Family Futures, a respected charity working with adoptive families, called this 'the worst case of poor social worker practice they had seen in years.' The only people who don't seem to think that they have done anything wrong are the placing social workers.

So today we are still fighting - we are now in debt up to our eyeballs - but we needed to do it to give the boys the home and the safety that they needed. We don't know how we can cope with my wage gone - but cope we will. Papa and I have committed ourselves to these children - we won't join the long list of people who have abandoned them - social services may not like it and we may face many obstacles but we will keep on fighting for our kids - we will fight to ensure that they get everything they need to help them overcome their past and become responsible and caring young adults.

As I say, this is only the tip of the iceburg and when I look back at the full story I often have to sit down and think 'how did we get through that?' I don't have the answer but when I read some of our family's many exploits in this blog it makes me realise that there is a balance, that the wierd and wonderful things that happen to us (and make so many people laugh) are there to balance out the sheer horror of these children's experiences and the incredibly poor way in which we have been treated as adopters.

It was suggested to me this weekend that maybe it is because we are a same sex couple that we have been treated so badly,  I hope not - but there has definately been no respect for us (respect for adopters is high on Mr Cameron's list of adoption reforms).  I hope that we have just been unlucky in our placing local authority.

I don't want to put people off adoption - it is an amazing gift and I wouldnt change our family now for anything but to anyone who is or who is thinking of adopting - please make sure before you commit to anything that the adoption plan is written in stone and learn to read 'social worker speak'....

1 comment:

  1. Dear Daddy & Papa

    When I was a little girl (from the age of 2 until I left home at 18) I was horrendously abused - physically, emotionally, mentally and sexually. I wish to God that there had a been a couple like you who could have adopted me. I'd love to know who I was meant to have bee - who I could have been if I'd been given a chance.