They warn you of the pitfalls.
They tell you when to take some time to breathe and look out in wonder at how far you have come. Or they could wander off elsewhere and leave you feeling alone, lost and unsupported.
Ask any adopter about their experience with social workers and you will receive no two responses the same. When it comes to our Social Workers, we have fared really well over the almost three years we have been on this road. Our Voluntary Adoption Agency has been fab. Barring one or two little hiccups along the road, we don’t really have anything bad to say about them. The placing Local Authority has not been such a positive experience. But they aren’t the subject of this blog post.
As some of you will have read previously, we had two Social Workers from our agency over the course of our journey so far. Our first contact with our agency was on their helpline, when we spoke with L who ended up becoming our Stage One Social Worker. She got things done, though we didn’t see loads of her at that stage.
As we approached the start of Stage Two, L was going on Maternity Leave, so our case was shifted over to N to see us through Approval and into Matching and Placement. We had to wait a couple of months. What we initially saw as an incredibly frustrating time actually became a total God-send, as N was totally worth the wait.
We hit it off with N from the start. He had a similar faith story to ours and was part of a local church leadership. Meaning that he understood some of the stresses and strains and issues that often come with being in church leadership.
He was very clear that our Stage Two sessions were for us to focus on our individual personalities and experiences, our attachment styles, our relationship and our birth children. He was thorough and supportive and challenging. And encouraging and forthright and positive.
He walked the road with both of us and also our girls. He listened to their voices and their thoughts. He coined our ‘Team Six’ moniker.
He took us to Approval Panel and spent the best part of an hour championing our family before we even were allowed in. He spoke loudly in support of our family as a Christian, home educating, family of five when members of the panel weren’t completely certain that we were a good fit.
And he found us the profile of our Little Legs.
Again he fought for us through the linking and matching processes. Probably no more loudly and forcefully than in Matching Panel, when we were again waiting for over an hour of debate and discussion before we were called in.
Panel approved the match.
Then the Agency Decision Maker.
We waited for a decision, which at times felt like it might not come. Because of Matching Panel getting delayed a handful of times (*sigh LA *sigh), N had annual leave booked for what should have been a few weeks after placement, when in fact it ended up being during our month of waiting for the ADM to review the Panel decision.
And so A took over our case for a week. She was N’s Manager and a lovely lady who wasn’t about to let it get strung out any longer. After almost four weeks of waiting for contact from the ADM, A took the reins and ended up having a lengthy telephone conversation with the ADM to discuss our case and the ADM’s concerns. We will forever be thankful for A and her hand in Little Legs coming home.
N gave us incredible support throughout Introductions and Placement. It was a tricky few weeks. Trying to manage our meeting Little Legs for the first time, knowing that no prep work had been done with her by the placing LA. Being about ninety minutes drive (in good traffic) from home. Being away from our three girls and not being able to help them manage their emotions and fears. Working alongside Little Legs’ fabulous Foster Parents, despite them initially being fearful of us taking her from them after loving her for over three years. Working with a placing LA SW who was clearly not fully invested in the process.
And yet N was there, at the other end of the phone every day during Introductions.
He walked us through the first three months of our life as a family of Six.
And then he moved on.
And we still miss him!
Thankfully our case was allocated back to the lovely L, who was back from Maternity Leave by then and keen to see how we had got on.
L has picked up where N left off and has worked hard for us, especially in the face of the fairly ambivalent staff of the placing LA. She has chased and harried and supported and guided us.
She has got to know all four of our girls. They still talk about last Christmas when she did a card making session with them to see how they were all getting on.
She continues to work hard on our behalf. Chasing the placing LA for our Letterbox Agreement, outstanding photos of Little Legs’ birth family, her Later Life Letter and an Assessment of Need from the LA PAS team.
We had contact with our agency’s PASW R fairly early into Little Legs’ placement and she was a calm voice (usually via email) in the early weeks when I just didn’t know what to do with the scared and confused little girl who was screaming and kicking and biting me.
We also had a wonderful gentleman cross our paths, in the form of our IRO (Independent Reviewing Officer) P. He was a brilliant source of support from the moment he first walked into our home for the initial LAC (Looked After Child) review.
It was a joy to have our Social Worker L and our IRO P present at Little Legs’ Celebration Hearing during the summer. To see our full circle from first contact in early 2014 through to our Adoption Order celebrations in summer 2016.
We are so thankful for those Social Workers who have been (and still are) a part of our adoption journey. They will always be part of the adventure that brought Little Legs into our family. And for that we will be eternally grateful.