A week passed, and we started to put meetings and meeting times together. We were offered the opportunity to meet the Foster Carers, Teachers and the Children's' Respite Carers. The Children were 60 miles away, so it was important that we did as much as we could in that day. It was all set, we were to meet our Social Worker and her Supervisor at the Children Services Centre, to look through the Children's' Life Story books, whilst our Social Worker and Co looked through as much of the Children's' files as possible.
There is two part to this, that are very important to anyone who is considering Adoption:
- Life Story Books - There is a lot of controversy over these, not because anyone disagrees with their function, which I will come to in a moment, but the fact that these documents are really needed from prior to a Child being placed with their prospective Adoptive Parents. Sadly, a lot of the time, this is not the case, and in some cases, it is not until after Legal Adoption (anything up to 2 years post placement) that these documents are handed over. Having been through this process, I am a firm believe that these documents are a great tool for bonding with a Child placed for Adoption. Onto the function of a Life Story Book. Of course prior to it becoming common for older children to be adopted, it was generally babies that were adopted, with older Children being placed in Children's Homes or Permanent Foster Care. In the past Adoption was hidden from the child that had been Adopted. This has changed now, and in most cases is best. The function of the book is to allow the child to know that they have a past, it is ok to have a past, and most importantly, it is ok to discuss this past with their new families.
- Children's Files - A little bone of contention for me, however, it is imperative that, where possible, a Prospective Adopter's Social Worker can view these files. Now, I am not saying that these files can unearth lies and cloak and dagger stuff, but they may happen to unearth some tiny little piece of information that may come up in the future. A Social Worker MUST spend as much time as possible looking at these documents, for the sake of a successful placement. My bone of contention is that under the "Data Protection Act" (please don't get me started on it!) as these are details of the Birth Family and other 3rd parties, Prospective Adopters are NEVER allowed to view their own Children's Files! Even as Legally Adopted Children, we, as their parents, are not allowed to view them even now!
So, Tris and I were delighted to get there, and we were sooooo excited! We got to look at photos and information about these Children legitimately! Up until now, we tried, ha, not to attach ourselves to these children too much....... impossible.... We were in love already, we just got to express it a little more, and of course, looking at baby photos of these Children was just a dream! We learnt so much about them from this book, and found a lot out about their lives up until now, which saddened us that they were in this position, which sounds like a contradiction, I know, but you would have to have a heart of stone not to realise that these Children have been told that they can not go back and live with their Birth Family. All I could think about was what would that be like? I tried to imagine it...... it is possible if you want to try it..... go on, imagine, you are 5 years old, and you are taken away from your Mummy and Daddy........
After over an hour of researching more about these Children it was time to go and visit the School that they both attended. There was a big problem with this, and that was that we turned up at play time! Doesn't sound like a problem...... but when you are walking through the Playground with a child's Social Worker, this is a chance you can be spotted by aforementioned child! We had to go through the school, almost covered with a blanket! The Children would not know us, but we would know them, and Children aren't daft - they know what's going on! Tris was very fortunate, being a little bolder than me, he actually spotted both of them playing in the Playground through one of the windows - Pah, I missed that opportunity!! That really excited Tris, to a point I was getting rather jealous!
So, we were ushered into a meeting room to have a chat with the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) who had all of the information that we needed about the boys. Up until now, we had very little negatives about either of them, however, that was about to change.
I am going to provide names for these Children now.... but not their real names! The oldest will be called Fred and the youngest we will call Bob! (I can't help myself!)
The SENCO advised us that Bob had a full time Educational Statement, which meant that at that point in time he required 1-2-1 assistance all day every day, due to his behaviour. We were quite shocked that this was the first we had heard of this. Apparently, this teacher, who was SENCO and Bob's Teacher, had been black and blue in the past, as Bob had extreme behavioural issues. Regrettably I can not go into too much details on this blog, mainly due to some of the details being very sensitive, and of course, I am trying to hide their identity. Needless to say with this new information, we had even more to consider, because there was a chance that we could also be subjected to the same kind of treatment as Mrs SENCO. Hmmmmm..... Our Social Workers were rather concerned about this, and whilst we had a lot to think about, it had certainly not changed our opinion of whether or not we would be willing to parent these children.
As quick as a flash we were all squeezed back into a car, all 5 of us, in a VERY small car.... I am sure it was illegal actually, but there you, and it was time to pop round to the Foster Carers. This was what we had been waiting on, as this was one of the most important meetings we would have that day, for two reasons:
- They would be allowing us to more or less live with them if we decided to go ahead, for the time of the introductions, so it was very important that we made a good impression, and of course that we liked them!
- The Foster Carers know these Children better than anyone at this point. Having been in their care for over a year, there was nothing they didn't know about them. A point to any Prospective Adopters: Whilst you may not agree in full with the way a Foster Parent parents you prospective child, please do not try and change anything during the Introduction periods. I will come to that in later posts on this blog.
They had a huge surprise for us, well, at that time, it was a huge thing! They had filmed the Children playing football the evening before for us, so that we could actually see them! We were thrilled, it was only a few minutes, but it made us shed a tear, to see them, more or less in the flesh! They also had album upon album of photos for us to look at! Now, it felt right to be looking at more photos of them. Our Social Worker had a lot of questions for the Foster Carers', of course, we were getting too close to keep any perspective on this huge thing we were doing! The more we found out the keener we were, the keener we were, the more our Social Workers cringed! Getting too close too early, and making it known is kind of frowned upon! Looking back I can see why, but at that point we were in seventh heaven!
It came to the end of our meeting with the Foster Carers', due mostly to the fact that the Children were due home from school! There was one last thing that we were offered the opportunity to see the Children's bedroom! We were actually getting closer and closer to them! Walking into that bedroom was one of the most surreal things I can honestly say I remember doing. I can remember the smell of these two little boys, touching their football duvet covers.... their pillows, and of course their little teddy bears!
These was one last thing to do that day, and that was to visit their Respite Carers. These people were almost like Grandparents to these Children, and looked after them on every other weekend, to allow their full time Foster Carers' to have their own family time. Sounds mad, but they were first time Foster Carers' and having to children who were a little older was not what they signed up for, so they needed a break every now and then. This woman, we will call her Mary, gave us the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle - these children were very mis-understood by most of the professionals that they came into contact with...... they loved cuddles and kisses, as well as being naughty every now and again. Sounds just like a normal kid I know, but in these circumstances there is never anything "normal" about it.
It was time to go home.... Phew, what a day! We stood out on the road waiting to go home, absolutely buzzing! Our Social Workers were still trying to bring us down to earth, but they just couldn't - Tris and I had made up our minds, and they were not going to change them.....
These were OUR children, and we wanted them!