I am not sure, all the same, that the particular theme park ride I seem to have been thrust onto during recent weeks – and from which I am still, no doubt, a little shaky – was really quite necessary for me to be able to claim to have had “the full experience”. Despite this, if you would like to join me as I share my recent particularly spectacular ride extravaganza please take your seats now …
It all began on an average but not spectacular summer’s day as I scurried into the garden to answer the phone to my Social Worker.
I often end up in the garden when trying to talk on my mobile, and I remember distinctly walking round and round outside half tidying away plant pots and idly pulling up small weeds with one hand, the other hand holding the phone to my ear.
According to my Social Worker she was looking at a profile for a little girl as she spoke to me. She was a mixture of a girlie girl and a tomboy. What did I think? I said yes please, find out more.
I saw a profile. She liked pink and Peppa Pig but also running around like mad. The photos were cute. She sounded lovely. I said how do I find out more please?
I read a Child Permance Report (CPR). Ouch. Enough said. (That’s how I generally feel about CPRs by the way – pain and sadness and emotion.) I asked what next please?
I went to an Exchange Day. I cautiously – and, interestingly, a little shyly – queued with my ever amazing mother near the stand for her Local Authority. Her Social Worker smiled as I introduced myself. We chatted. I watched a video. I smiled more. We chatted more. Mum also smiled. Mum and I talked over our sandwiches before driving off, and just as I weaved through the car park I saw the Social Workers stacking their car. We stopped and I put my head out: what was the next step, please, yes I was interested, what could I do? Please?
I emailed to say how interested I was.
I waited. (Mostly with patience, honest.) I began to lose hope, my thoughts full of “If I hear nothing by the end of the week then …”
A phone call comes in. The Social Worker wants to meet me. In about three days time.
I talk to family. I bounce. I fear. I dream. I wonder. Family come over and help me. We tidy. I make sure I have the makings of lunch.
They ask me questions. I answer as best I can. I ask them questions. To be honest they don’t generally answer, although I suppose I didn’t expect they would be able to in general. (As well as the emotional reaction to CPRs as above I’m also pretty analytical so I have a list of questions that I want to work through – I want to make a good impression by being interested but I don’t want to frighten them off!) We discuss time frames. Could we do realistically do Matching Panel in about 3 to 4 weeks? I look to them really. Could we? I will if they can.
Before they go I make clear I want this. What do I do next please?
Only a few days later they call. The Social Workers who came to visit say yes. Their manager says yes (although apparently they didn’t ask all the necessary questions as I have more to answer, in writing). She also says the turnaround is too short. Matching Panel would be better a month later. I see the reasoning and happy either way. More importantly though …
I think … I think this means I am linked?
(Who do I ask? Why don’t I know what linking is already? Why do I suddenly feel so unsure? It’s the weekend so there’s no Social Worker to ask. I hold back for 24 hours but then go on Twitter. The lovely and amazing people of Twitter respond quickly. The consensus is: I am linked!)
Excitement. Trepidation. Happiness.
What next, please?
A doctor’s visit is arranged. I meet the foster carers and the nursery manager. Papers are written. Some questions it appears cannot easily be answered even though I keep gently nagging. I so want this to be – but I know it must be right, above all, for this amazing lovely sparky little girl, so I keep asking everything I can think of to be in the best place to answer her questions in the future.
Papers are drafted, redrafted, spell-checked (by me mostly), signed in a last-minute rush. But we have hit the deadline. We are going to Matching Panel. The date in the diary is no longer pencil it is ink. I even get a letter to confirm when and where.
We also discuss, endlessly, the introductions plan which for various reasons will, we know, be pretty complex – complex enough that the Social Workers are anxious and planning a long way ahead.
My darling brother, who lives literally hundreds of miles away, offers to come to Matching Panel too, along with my Mum. Initially I am sceptical: I explain it may well last all of 15 minutes or less and neither he nor my mother will probably come in. He says he knows that, it’s fine. He’d like to come. I am immediately excited. How to make an amazing day even more special.
Matching Panel is upon us.
It is the day before: my last day in work. It is the evening before: my brother and my mother arrive and we all sit around, as you do. It is the morning: we are up and out early, first on (my brother has to get back, he and his wife have tickets out that very evening, and I am grateful that they have scheduled us early as I had requested).
We are early, so coffee shops and polite conversation intervene. The three of us (my mother, brother and I) end up around a table with all the Social Workers. By this point the polite conversation is largely between the Social Workers with occasional comments from one of us three. The Social Workers are invited to join the panel. Then I am fetched in too. It appears I manage to answer pretty all the questions they had lined up in my answer to the first one – as well as making several of the panel members laugh and others nod. A couple of further questions later and the Social Workers and I all come out. Minutes later we are invited in again. It is confirmed.
The panel are recommending the match.
I am so happy I cry. My mother cries. Others are teary too. Things are slotting into place: one week til the decision will be formalised by the Agency Decision Maker (ADM); ten days to introductions; three or four weeks to a little girl coming home.
The next few days are a bit of a blur as I tell everyone who has been waiting for news in a mass orgy of texting and many phone calls. Preparations are made. Secret smiles are shared.
Now we had been to Matching Panel I needed to make up the bedroom – which had ended up meaning a trip to Ikea. My fabulous sister joined me and we walked around buying a plethora of gear that had previously belonged in other people’s lives. I chose a bed and, tired now, we headed out and found both our cars, for we were heading home separately so she could get back to work the next morning having helped me build a bed. I was tasked with procuring takeaway as we knew we would be pushed for time – and it was another naughty little bit of celebration.
The takeaway was not to be however.
As I ducked into the car I realised I had missed calls from a vaguely familiar number – I eventually realised it was my Social Worker’s manager. I dialled voicemail. She needed to talk to me. Something had come up. It was urgent. I tried to call back but it was late and her phone was off.
Takeaway was no longer so appealing as fear took over. I called my mother and my sister. I drove home – carefully, soberly, regularly trying to see if my Social Worker’s mobile was back on. My sister agreed, no takeaway. When we both got in she calmly put together food from the freezer and we ate, quietly, then watched television feeling our way around the ignorance and fear that sat silent but huge in the room with us. Still no word and it was getting too late to expect a call now.
But yes, the phone rang. I went to the back room and out, again, into the garden. There had been a legal challenge, or something like a legal challenge, well a letter. No one really knew. I wasn’t to panic but it was worrying.
A few further details emerged over the next few days. Perhaps it would be ok and the challenge was more a request for information. Maybe not. Not only could I not see the letter even my Social Worker and my agency’s legal team apparently weren’t allowed sight of the letter, so everything was hearsay.
I was repetitively reminded this was not about me. Everyone was at pains to reinforce that the match was a good one, a really good one. This was not about me at all. I was to be very clear that I was a good match and everyone was happy with the match. (I do know they were trying very hard to help me at a very difficult time; I’m not sure it really did help though to be honest.)
It may not have been about me, but it was, it slowly became very clear, going to change my future. The ADM decision was postponed for a few days and then deferred, pending a new evaluation report. (Frustratingly the report was examining one of the areas I had repetitively asked, without getting a clear answer, as two whether it had been regularly re-reviewed and if so how. It makes no difference that I had asked of course, but it didn’t help my sense of trust in the process.)
It is of course important to remember, in difficult times, the truly good things in life as well.
One of the biggest questions I was asked all the way along – it goes with being a singly potential adopter – was about my support network: who would I turn to in times of challenge, who would truly be there when I needed them, who could I trust and talk to in hard times as well as good. Well if ever that had been in question before I hope it never will be again.
Every single day – every hour even – I was reminded quite how amazingly lucky I am. Family and friends were in touch constantly. I could have had company for every evening and every meal had I accepted every offer of support. I have truly good people in my life. I am very lucky. (I also received amazing support from my online buddies, especially any of you who may be reading this having come here from Twitter or The Adoption Social. Thank you. All of you. You know who you are individually – and who you are collectively is a truly astounding, insightful, caring and spectacular group of people.)
Slowly it became evident a new future seemed to be upon us.
Introductions were of course postponed. The report was, I presume, compiled. It looked more and more likely that an actual legal challenge might be on the cards – not that much more information was allowed to filter through.
Eventually the ADM made a decision and I was called to be updated by my Social Worker. I could hear it in her voice. She told me the match had been confirmed but I knew there was a but. And there was indeed a BUT. A huge BUT that meant that in the view of my Social Worker and her manager, manager’s manager and who knew who else this was no longer anything like the plan we’d previously envisioned.
It is no longer my story to tell. I shall share no more on here of the reasons for the change. Of course I had to listen, to think, to digest. I knew though that this seemed pretty final.
As far as I can see adoption is predicated on the provision of safety, security and permanency. These are themselves founded on and created through honesty, transparency nad keeping promises. It is enough simply to share that I no longer had confidence that I could truly make these things happen.
As such I had only one choice I could make. I could not potentially let down, even harm further, a little girl who had already known the kind of hard times in her life that make most of us despair (and no doubt for those of us already parents, hold our children closer than ever).
And thus, this part of my adoption story seems to have ended. It is still theoretically possible the situation will change again, but my Social Worker and I seem to be in agreement we do not expect that to be the case.
I am sad, but I am also, truly, ok. The whole undoing process has taken time as always and I have no doubt been grieving in different ways throughout. Perhaps less predictably I think it has also helped that I am so certain of the decision that I have made. Although at first I wanted my agency to make the decision for me – they were horrified at the new plan right from the moment it was put forward, whereas I came to my views over hours and days – in the end it was very much a decision I made because I believed it to be the only decision I could make. I still believe it to be right.
Each of us experience the theme park rides of life through our own quirks and in the light of our own history and sensitivities. We have our own vulnerabilities, and our own safe spaces too. I am back in work, and back to blogging – daily for the next month it would appear! I have self-indulgently this evening bought a new toy on ebay (an iPad). I am still touched, daily, by the love and support of my ever-faithful family and my fantastic friends.
And I am grateful to anyone still reading to you too for sharing in my story and my journey. I have been thinking I should bring my tale up to date, and have procrastinated, wanting to find the right time and the right tone, wanting to share my story with the lovely people who have in many cases shared my journey already – but conscious of the need to share only the story that is mine. Then today I checked out The Adoption Social #WASO theme of the weekend and saw it was “embracing online support”. How could I ignore such serendipity? This evening has been the time for me to tell this part of my story. Thank you for taking the time to read it.