Wednesday, 26 September 2012

In The News!



Post Adoption Support

 

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering has called for more to be done to support families after they have gone through the adoption process. 

The charity says further assistance would reduce the rate of adoptions that break down, which currently stands at one in five.

There were 4,734 adoptions in England and Wales in 2011, according to the Office of National statistics (ONS). 



Click here for statement from BAAF: http://www.baaf.org.uk/media/releases/baafs-statement-department-educations-looked-after-children-figures


Statement from Action for Children
 25th September 2012


In response to today's Department for Education statistics on Children Looked After by Local Authorities in England, Jane Butler, our Strategic Manager for Looked After Children, said:
"The number of children in the English care system is at an all-time high - and today's statistics, released by the Department for Education (DfE), flag that this number is continuing to rise year-on-year.
"While it is encouraging to see that more adoption and fostering matches have taken place in 2012 than in previous years, this welcome news is off-set by the increasing breakdown of placements which only serve to cause further disruption for children who have already encountered so much in their young lives.
"We support an adoption system that focuses on achieving the best outcomes for children, which means finding a stable and secure home for the long-term.
"As adoption and fostering specialists, we know that follow-up support is crucial to the success of these placements. Efforts must now be focused on achieving a system that enables agencies to provide the necessary level of quality support to meet individual children's needs, even if this means greater costs in the short term."
 Click here for link to statement from Action for Children: http://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/news/archive/2012/september/rise-in-breakdown-of-adoption-and-fostering-placements 


Statement from Edward Timpson on adoption statistics:

 On 25th September 2012 Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families, said:

The rise in the number of adoptions and adoption placement orders is extremely welcome, but it still takes too long for those who want to adopt and foster to be approved. The time it takes for a child in care to be adopted can be a significant period in that child’s life.

I know from my own family that parents who adopt and foster bring stability to young lives. That is why we are overhauling adoption, but I know that our reforms will take time to make a full impact.

So we are looking at measures to encourage councils to make use of adopters in other parts of the country. We will shorten the approval process and fast track those who are already foster carers.

Taken together I hope these reforms will, over time, encourage more people to come forward and volunteer to adopt children. I want more young children to have a settled start in life with a loving family. 

That way, they can make a profound and lasting impact on young lives.
Click here for link: Statement from Edward Timpson on Adoption Statistics

  

My Thoughts

I've linked these pieces of news together because I feel that they all impact on each other.  They are almost chicken and egg.  There is a breakdown in adoptions largely due to the issues faced by children and their adopted parents and the lack of post adoption support available.  I have heard from many adopters over the past few years who have had to fight to get support for their children's needs. Needs and difficulties which usually stem directly from the reasons why the child needed to be adopted. Issues that could be pre-empted.  The length of time it takes to address and resolve an issue can lead to greater issues in the future. It's interesting to hear that a court recommendation for support does not necessarily ensure that support is in place post-adoption.  Resources around the country are stretched to breaking point.  Not just for adopters either.  Parents seeking to access support from CAMHS teams often find they have lengthy waits before their child can be assessed and get support.  The delays make the situation worse because parents are left trying to work out a solution for themselves.  

For many adopted children many of the mainstream parenting techniques have to be carefully thought through because of the impact on already damaged and fragile self-esteems. For some children sitting on time-out can bring a sense of shame and failure.  I'm hearing a significant amount of adopters say that their children are struggling to understand the learning behind techniques such as "time-out".  This has not been my experience because Katie does not have these issues with her attachments but it seems to be widely recognised amongst adopters that adopted children are often emotionally behind their peers so techniques that might work on the average 4 year old may not be helpful for an adopted child.  It's very much hit and miss.  This is where more support needs to be given to adopters.  We are left to work this out amongst ourselves.  Maybe we don't all actually ask for support enough either.  We probably wait until a situation has become almost untenable. Thank heavens for the internet for that I say!!  Yes, we're approved to be adopters but we're not given a tool bag of special parenting techniques to use.  We stumble along the same way most parents do.  But our children aren't most children.  They have underlying emotions that the average child does not have to carry with them.  I recently became aware of this when Katie left pre-school.  She has really struggled with the loss of that routine and her stability of the friends and teachers she had there.  Her behaviour regressed and she started wetting herself again.  I realised that leaving pre-school to start big school was probably raising all sorts of emotions that stem from her leaving Grandma and moving to live with us. Issues she maybe wasn't able to acknowledge at the time.  I've noticed that she is more anxious again about when I will die and leave her. It's heartbreaking to see a small child carry those feelings around with them and to attempt to reassure them.

I welcome the fact that these issues are being raised this week in the media and hope that the government is paying more than lip-service to its consultation on the proposals for reforms in adoption and fostering. (see link here http://www.our-adoption-story.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/consultation-on-adoption-and-fostering.html).  It's interesting timing to have both issues raised simultaenously in the news and I'm not sure if Edward Timpson's statement could be overshadowed by the post-adopion issue. It certainly gives pause for thought about the timing of the statement. Regular readers will know that I recently wrote an open letter to David Cameron regarding the adoption system (click here for link http://www.our-adoption-story.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/dear-mr-cameron.html). I hope my comments in that letter will be taken onboard and I know they are thoughts that others share.  I will be writing my comments on the Governments proposals once I've read and inwardly digested fully the contents of the proposal.


Monday, 24 September 2012

I've got some "Spare Time"........

Today Katie has started school full-time!  I'm going to have the school day free to do all the things I've not managed to do over the last 2.5 years!  I'm going to:


  • Declutter and clear the cupboards out and get to the tip!!
  • Paint some of the house,
  • Remodel the upstairs of the house inc moving our bedroom wall and installing a new bathroom (I'm not actually going to do those things myself - my name isn't Sarah Beeny!)  I am going to project manage though (doesn't that sound posh?). I might even stay within budget!
  • Finally get a new front door and side gates organised!
  • Do some writing!!
  • Do LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of yoga!
  • Sort everything out for our next adoption,
  • See some friends and have some uninterrupted conversations (can't remember the last time I did that!),
  • Drink a few lattes!
  • Do some baking where I can crack the eggs myself! 
  • Do the ironing during the day whilst watching a film!!!!!
  • Mentally prepare myself for the time after school when Katie arrives home with a very tired brain and body and a right royal cob on.
  • Just enjoy a period of time where I can spend some time on my own....... 

Until we do it all again...........



Ssssh don't tell anyone but I do kinda miss her.......




...........the house is VERY quiet without her here all the time......




mind you.......so is my brain!!)








I'm off to do some yoga now ........





Friday, 21 September 2012

Consultation on adoption and fostering proposals

On Tuesday 18th September 2012 the UK Government, via the Department for Education, launched a consultation on adoption and fostering reforms.  This consultation provides an opportunity for agencies; adopters; prospective adopters and foster carers to add their five penneth and comments via a downloadable word document:  Here is the introduction on the website:

"The Government is consulting on a range of adoption and fostering proposals. For adoption these are the new, shorter two-stage approval process for prospective adopters, and fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters. These changes are aimed at increasing the use made by adoption agencies of the Adoption Register and changes to regulations to make it easier for prospective adopters to be approved as temporary foster carers – the 'fostering for adoption' proposal.

On fostering there is a package of changes to the foster carer assessment and approval process to make the process clearer, more proportionate and responsive to the needs of children coming into the care system; and to ensure foster carers are able to take everyday decisions about the children in their care (known as delegated authority).

For adoption and fostering we are consulting on proposals for the sharing of case records between fostering services and adoption agencies and are seeking views on whether the size of adoption and fostering panels should be restricted."

The consultation closes on Friday 7th December 2012.

I am currently in the process of reading the full proposals, which are also available on the website, and will be responding in due course.  I will, of course, share my thoughts here once I've fully ingested and digested all the information it contains.

The link for DfE website with the consultations detailed on is here:



This is our opportunity to have our say.  
Don't delay and comment today!! 
 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ears not working but mouth working overtime!

As I mentioned the other day, this week was the week that Katie started school.  The transition to Big School!  It's been a long wait because she is one of the older children in her class and she's been academically ready to start for quite some time.  Katie is a very bright and intelligent young lady.  She learns most things quite quickly and I think she has the capability to do anything she sets her mind to do.  Having said all that though, for someone who is so bright and clever, she's not been so bright and clever with her behaviour at the moment.  She doesn't always make the best choices about what to do with her time.

Now, all this isn't entirely unexpected and a particularly new thing.  She was definitely putting her talents to some interesting and quite frustrating uses during the summer term at pre-school and I was warned about the sort of behaviour I should expect once she started school and was very tired.  I was primed and ready to be an understanding and extremely patient Mummy.  What I didn't expect was that by starting school only in the afternoon session for the first week Katie would be a right royal little madam all morning before she went to school!  I will say I'm being polite here and that was a huge understatement!


Now I'm not sure I can blame tiredness on that although she has been going to bed very nicely this week which is a nice bonus.  The hardest part is that her ears seem to have stopped working completely at the moment and her mouth has taken over where her ears might have once worked in a supporting role.  I'm trying to ignore being told to "shut up" every 5 minutes and am walking away from some of the behaviour but Katie has still spent a considerable amount of her first week at school on "time-out" at home.  It's almost comical, well it would be if it wasn't so frustrating after a while.  For such an intelligent girl she doesn't seem to learn some stuff - or maybe she does and it's all just about getting some attention....any attention from me?  Maybe I'm the mug here really and I'm being played like a favourite song on endless repeat.  All I can say is that I feel very sorry for our cats at the moment.  Leo sprints off in the opposite direction at the merest sniff of Katie being in the room and Willow, bless her, is so long suffering but even she has taken to mewing for help from me when being loved a little too much! Mind you, Willow is currently in season and is mewing at everything that moves at the moment!  Katie is giving me lots of very undesirable behaviour. Lots of burping and farting; general rudeness; not doing anything she has been asked to do.  Trying to get out of the house within any timescale is a real challenge because Katie just will not comply.  To help with that I've created her a star chart for the mornings.  There is a section for each thing she has to do in the morning and she can put the star on when she has completed the task i.e. getting dressed; eating breakfast; cleaning teeth.  Eating is a major issue at the moment with Katie refusing to eat many of her usual foods.  I guess it's all about control.  Who has it?  Who wants it the most?  I'll be honest and admit that it really is pushing my buttons.  I'm proud of myself for staying relatively calm, most of the time.  I'm not a saint though and occasionally I do embrace my Inner Fishwife!

Of course, there are big changes happening in Katie's life.  Katie has already been through an enormous change in her life when she moved to live with us.  I am pretty sure that there are emotions being stirred in her that she is unable to articulate at the moment and the easiest thing to do is punish Mummy.  After all, I'm the one who takes her to school.  She has been missing her pre-school so we went for a visit on Thursday to say hi to all the teachers and for Katie to see that all her friends have moved on as well.  I think it helped her somewhat.  She loved being fussed by her old teachers and told how grown up she looks in her uniform.  I suspect there's a part of her that doesn't want to be a grown-up girl though and part of her is missing the security of pre-school and our routine.  I am continuing to try and be patient Mummy and fully expect that we have many weeks of difficulties to go before life calms down again.  She has been wanting cuddles and pretend milk feeding (bottle not boobies of course!) after bathtime so I'm allowing her to have a bit of baby-time to help her feel secure again.  On the plus side, Katie is starting school in the mornings this week so we can start to get back into our old morning routine. She is full-time from the week afterwards.

On a huge plus, she is loving her new school.  She goes in happily and leaves with a big smile on her face.  She is making friends.  Interestingly she has already developed school amnesia and seems unable to remember anything she has done whilst at school.  She is excited to be starting ballet at after-school club next week with one of her friends.  Katie's teachers all seem very nice and are very experienced.  I've been getting tons of homework that comes home in Katie's school bag each day.  I feel under huge pressure to be a more organised version of myself and do my homework instantly so that I can put it back in the bag for the next day (and not forget as I know I will be apt to do!).

Oh did I mention she looks sooooooooo cute in her uniform?


Thankfully we had an INSET day yesterday (yes in her first week of school - there is no logic!) so we did a bit of houseworky stuff in the morning and then met some friends at the local zoo in the afternoon.  It was an afternoon much like many others we've had over the summer.  Simple and fun with good company. I think I needed that as much as Katie did.  It was nice not to argue. It was nice to enjoy the sunshine and just "be".  It was a shame that Katie fell off her scooter at the end of the afternoon and is now sporting a nice graze on her chin but Mummy bought her a lovely "Doggymation" toy from the shop to cheer Katie up again (yeah yeah I know, I'm an old softie really).  In my defence I do get a 10% discount in the shop because I'm a season ticket holder and yes I do know that Katie already has about 100 soft toys and I'll end up spoiling her if I'm not careful.  It was nice to have a positive end to the week.

Today has been a not such a great day.  Started badly trying to get out for Katie's swimming lesson and missy was in an over-excitable mood when our Social Worker came to visit but I've handed Katie over to Daddy for some together time whilst I take a break and write this post.  I'm taking Katie out in a minute to buy her new ballet uniform which she is very excited about.

Week 2 beckons....*rolls sleeves up*.....wish me luck!




Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Thank you Britmums!

I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to Marianne Whooley at the Britmums Blog for featuring my open letter to David Cameron in this week's The Britmums Blog.  I am delighted to receive this support from the UK's premier Blogging Network.  Thank you also to everyone who has supported my letter by retweeting it on Twitter and for commenting here on my blog.

I am fully aware that calling for additional funding for the adoption service, at a time when the UK is deep into austerity measures, is a big ask, and possibly unrealistic.  There are a million worthy causes out there also asking for funding and very little cash to go around.  The primary reason for my frustration is not that the government is actively promoting adoption and is making reforms to speed up the process for children placed in authority care to be freed for adoption as quickly as possible..... 

My frustration lies in the fact that those reforms are not including the process for prospective adopters.  There are no set timescales for local authorities to complete the adoption process.  Many adopters are waiting years to be approved, let alone matched.  I don't really blame the local authorities for this because they are already strapped for cash and working under huge pressure with reduced funding due to cuts in public funding.  Many authorities are struggling to organise the staff they do have into a comprehensive and effective and organised service.  Many are using agency Social Workers to assess prospective adopters, as is the case for us.  The benefit to us in this measure is that we have a Social Worker assessing us who isn't distracted by an additional caseload. She is able to focus on getting our PAR completed (and doesn't get paid until we have gone to panel so she has a very clear incentive).  The downside is that this Social Worker will not be responsible for matching us with our child.  We will have another Social Worker employed by the local authority for that purpose.  This may mean that we will have a Social Worker who does not know us well and understand our family set up as well as an assessing Social Worker. What has frustrated me the most in our process is that we were unable to have the Social Worker who assessed us the first time around for our second assessment. Some might say it would make sense to have the same assessing Social Worker again (if at all possible) to ensure continuity.  That person would be best placed to see the changes that have occurred in our family since we adopted Katie and quickly understand how the dynamics are now working within our family unit.  That person knows our family history so we don't need to go over our past again.  Why do we need to go over old ground as second time adopters?  Many local authorities and agencies do seek to use the same Social Worker, ours does not have this policy.

Within all these issues lies the biggest issue of all.  I am a grown up. I can understand the reasons why I have to wait to be a parent.  I have a greater concept of time.  Children don't understand time in the way that we, as adults, do.  They just want someone to be their mummy or daddy and all the time they are waiting and possibly losing hope of that happening, damage is being done in their hearts and in their minds.

To any prospective adopters reading my blog I would ask that you don't let this lengthy and intrusive process put you off putting yourselves forward.  I understand why local authorities and agencies need to undertake thorough assessments of adopters.  I understand that more now, 2 and a half years as an adopter and having faced many challenges already, than I did when I went to panel. Adopting Katie has been the best thing that ever happened to us.  Yes, I felt so frustrated going through the process the first time (and do again this time, although have many more distractions these days to deflect the frustration) but it was worth every single moment of it.  All the angst and anxiety that I felt during our assessment the first time (and blogged about in my diary) has gone.  I won't lie and say that I haven't felt some anxieties during this assessment but I have far more perspective this time round.  Yes, you will feel judged.  Social Workers have a great responsibility in placing children with us, they need to think of everything that might happen.  It's worth it though.

National Adoption Week 2012 run by the BAAF takes place from 5th to 11th November 2012.  The link will take you to events happening in your area during that time.  BAAF are also running their adoption awards again this year so you will have the opportunity to watch short films by other adopters and vote for your favourite agency or Social Worker.  I hope that many more prospective adopters will come forward.  Don't assume that you won't be accepted as an adopter.  Do contact your local authority or BAAF for more details.

Once again, on behalf of all adopters I want to say 




for supporting my letter and for supporting adoption!

And also a Thank You goes to Clare Horton for featuring my letter in
The Guardian's Society Daily on 3rd September 2012



Monday, 10 September 2012

First day at school.....


Today is a very big day in the Life with Katie household because today is the day that Katie starts big school.

Her teachers came to visit her at home on Friday and that visit went really well. Katie ignored them for the first 15 minutes whilst playing on the computer but soon joined in with the conversation.

She is very positive about it all. She was delighted by the little toy puppy that her teachers gave her to keep in her book bag (the class mascot apparently had puppies over the summer - Katie looked at the picture of the toy dog and commented that it didn't look like there were babies in her tummy! Roll on the PSHE lessons!)
 
We've made a special day of it today to celebrate Katie being a big girl now. She got herself dressed in her school uniform and, as she didn't start until 12:30pm, we went to our local Waitrose for a cup of tea and a cake before school.  Daddy and I are going to take her to our local Harvester for dinner after school tonight to make a real celebration of it all.

Katie has been so excited today that she could barely contain herself. This follows on from major excitement yesterday as Katie went to her first ever wedding.  One of my longest standing friends was married yesterday and the excitement has been building for weeks! Katie (and me) had an amazing day and it was a lovely excitement builder for the other big event today.

She's been beaming from ear to ear constantly and chattering nineteen to the dozen about who she was going to see and what they might do at school.  We had planned to meet up with a few of her friends from pre-school in the playground about 15 minutes early to help them re-bond and forge their first steps together.  I hope with all my heart that her enthusiasm for school remains for the duration of her educational career and that she finds learning fun.  Daddy and I have ensured we are very positive about school and Katie is desperate to learn to read and write.  She already loves her books and I can imagine the amazing world that will open up for her once she can read.

When we arrived at the playground (in the rain - which was typical UK weather after such a beautiful day yesterday) the girls all skirted around each other a bit, looking a little shy and awkward.  They skirted for about 5 minutes before skipping off to play.  Katie was the first one in the classroom when her teacher opened the doors.  She found her name on the box for her book bag and quickly identified her coat peg and shed herself of her raincoat.  She then made a beeline for the one thing she had been coveting all summer long.......Acorn Dog, the class mascot!  She asked her teacher if she could hold the dog and huggled it close once this had been agreed.  Apparently sometimes Acorn goes home with a child for the night. Katie is desperate for that child to be her!

So I've come home from school and have about 2.5 hours before I have to pick her up again. Between writing this post, having lunch, working out some instructions to put a bush cutter together and chatting to Mrs VanderCave the time has almost gone and it won't be long before I will head off again to pick Katie up.  I don't know how working parents manage these short introduction days. It must be an incredible juggle for them.

One thing I haven't done is cry.  Is there something wrong with me? I've been told to expect that I will be sobbing my heart out. But I'm not.  Yes this is an ending but it is also the start of exciting new times ahead.  Having said that, I'm often on an emotional delay (especially after the emotional day of seeing my friend married yesterday and trying to build up the positivity for Katie starting school) and it might take a few days for it all to sink in.  Katie is only part-time for the next two weeks so it might creep up on me when she starts full-time.  Maybe the changes that school will bring to my daughter will make me long for the days when she was smaller and we spent all our days together?  Mummy and Katie, holding hands and exploring the world together.  Me protecting her.  She will start exploring her world with other people more now and I won't be there all the time for her.  I know I will find that bit tough at times.  I know that I will feel the loss when she starts dismissing the things I say in favour of her teachers point of view.  But that's how it's supposed to be.  Being able to have those attachments to other people is such an important thing for an adopted child.  I want her to bond with other people.  She will always be my little girl in my heart.  I have to let her fly a little bit now.  So no, I'm not sad.  There are plenty of emotions but tears aren't there just at the moment.

Having said that, I have tons of things planned to distract me for the coming months.  There is the house to re-paint and I have some building plans to bring to fruition; hopefully a new bathroom upstairs.  There is also the big subject of the adoption of our second child which is chugging along.  I am actually (can I admit this?) looking forward to a bit of "me" time.  The six weeks holidays were so intense that I'm desperate for a bit of time to chill out again and get back to my yoga.  My back hurts.  I need some daily stretching.  Maybe that's why I'm not crying? There might even be a tiny weeny smile on my face.  There is obviously some anxiety about the future and what it may hold for Katie. Will she fit in at school?  Will she behave herself? Will school be a good experience for her? She's full of attitude at the moment and that has been quite trying at times - will that attitude get her into trouble at school.

Anyway on this, her first day at school here are my hopes:

I hope that my daughter enjoys school.
I hope that it opens all the doors it should for her and that learning is an experience that she desires.
I hope she has lots of great friends and meets lots of positive people.
I hope that being adopted is not a stigma for her with either teachers or other children.
I hope that she is able to engage with all that school brings and that her confidence will soar.

I loved my infants school. They were the best days of my school life I think (aside from an awful teacher called Miss Valentine who told my mum I was a little madam who needed a firm hand!).  By the time secondary school beckoned me I was unhappy at home and school became a place that was somewhere I could get away from home.  I didn't value the intelligence I had nor the learning opportunity that offered me.  I did my homework at the last possible moment, preferring to be reading a book somewhere quiet or be with my friends.   I found solace dancing and in the theatre and through ice-skating.  I drifted through school, getting some passable results but not anything close to what I was capable of.  Adult education has brought me a far more successful learning experience and the knowledge that I am intelligent and capable.  It has also taught me that school isn't really everything. That there are other opportunities out there if you grab them and make the most of them.  I want Katie to have a wonderful life and school plays such a big part in shaping the person you become and the memories you have of your childhood.

I hope with all my heart that both her school life and her home life are happy experiences for her.

Update: Having just picked Katie up from school and asked what she did for the time she said "I had an apple for break." me "What with the skin on and everything?"  Katie: "Yeah"  Me "So what else did you do? Katie "We played in the playground for a while and drew a picture"  Me "Anything else?" Katie "I can't remember"..........and so it begins......getting blood out of a stone after school......

For all the parents out there....this gave me a little chuckle......


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Put That In Your Blog......

So now most of the children are back at school, it's time for the Christmas adverts to start running on television. This has resulted in Katie wanting everything she sees advertised. This morning, whilst giving a running commentary of what she wants for her forthcoming birthday and Christmas, Daddy said to her that she could pick one present for her birthday; one present from Father Christmas and one present from us.

Katie's face fell and she said "But I want a hundred presents, you gave me lots last year, that's not fair!". 

She then gave the matter some more thought and said seriously "OK I'll have 52".

She then renegotiated herself down from 11 presents to 10 after which she did a great impression of the Cat in the Hat and, waving her finger around in a circle and a waggle of the head, said "Oh yeah"

Daddy and I started laughing and I said I would write up about the presents in my blog and she repeated her Cat in the Hat impression and said, dead pan "Put that in your blog".

So I have........

Thursday, 6 September 2012

What's it like to be in the club?



This speech about adoption by an adopted teenager is very funny; powerful; positive and emotional. It's a must watch and it's wonderful to share something so positive from a young person about their adoption. We hear so many scare stories about Facebook and other social media networking sites but there are positives too as this young man demonstrates.......

What's it like to be in the club?


Some quotes from the speech....


“When it comes to adoption, I am no expert. I am only an expert in my experience.”



While talking about his biological siblings, 
“While we may not live together, they are a part of [our] family.”



“There is no one way to build a family. Family is more than blood and shared genes.
It’s relationships.
It’s about finding out who we care about the most and loving them as much as we can.”



“Adoption beautifully illustrates what is most important about family: 
LOVE.”

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Dear Mr Cameron......

Dear Mr Cameron

Three years ago my husband and I went through the adoption process with our Local Authority.  It was a lengthy but quite well organised process.  It took us 18 months to get from our information event to being placed with our daughter (plus a wait of one year post IVF-treatment).  The Social Workers who were involved with both our assessment and linking were clear about the process and what information they were required to collect and interpret in order to write the Form F.  Our Social Worker was extremely thorough and we sailed through panel.  The same Social Worker was then very involved with our matching process and stayed in our lives until fairly recently.

Fast forward three years and we are now a year into the adoption process for a second time.  At the time of starting the process we were informed by our Local Authority that it would take 8 months to get us through the process.  We are currently one year into the process and have only just started our home study.  The Form F has been replaced by the very lengthy PAR (Prospective Adopters Report).  Our Local Authority has been ravaged by public sector funding cuts and department reorganisations.  The cuts have been so detrimental to our Local Authority that they do not have sufficient Social Workers to assess the number of prospective adopters who have attended the Preparation Courses and are waiting to be assessed.  People who have been encouraged to apply to become adopters because the media is reporting that you want to speed the process up and find homes for the many children in care needing new families.  These same adopters were recently asked to find alternative agencies to perform their home studies.  For those of us who stayed with our Local Authority we have been offered home assessments by Agency Social Workers.  On the face of it this seemed like a good option to take but it is now becoming apparent that the Agency Social Workers are not being given full instructions as to what is expected of them and what information they need to gather. I am hearing tales of second time adopters having to go through the assessment process from the beginning and the information collected during their first assessment is being discounted.  We are yet to ascertain whether this is going to happen to us (despite having been placed with our daughter only 2 and a half years ago and most of our information still being current).  I am also hearing tales that assessment reports are not being read back at HQ and medical reports not being responded to or assessed.  Prospective adopters are having their panels dates postponed because the information collected has suddenly found to be lacking the depth the Local Authority wants.  As far as I am aware our referee requests are yet to be sent out despite the information being sent to our Local Authority three weeks ago.

Who, I ask, is to blame for this state of affairs? Do we blame our Local Authority? The Chief Executive? The Head of Children's Services? The Adoption Team themselves? Or does the blame go higher than our Local Authority? I have been puzzled for quite some time that you (Mr Cameron) have been publicising that the adoption process is to be speeded up. Children who are placed in Local Authority care are being assessed for adoption quicker and court orders freeing these children up for adoption are being granted. There's just one problem.  Where are the adopters waiting to adopt these children? Well, the adoption process is unfortunately being slowed down to a standstill for us because you (Mr Cameron) have cut all the funding to the teams that actually assess us.  Social Workers are in short supply and those who are still employed are probably fighting severe stress due to the overload of work they are being expected to do. This will only lead to delays and, worse still, mistakes.

I am a relatively intelligent person. We are living in a recession and cuts to public funding are required just to stop the debt this country has from increasing. The cuts aren't making inroads into the debt so this is an issue that will be with us for many years to come.

I'm not a politician but even I can see that if you funded enough Social Workers to assess the prospective adopters then this would save money on funding foster care because the children would be placed with adoptive parents more quickly instead of remaining in costly foster care.

There are an army of prospective adopters out there, ready and willing to adopt who are being put off the adoption process because:

a) the process is incredibly intrusive; prospective adopters have to answer extremely personal questions about their lives without the back up of emotional support.  I am a trained counsellor and I wouldn't put someone through this level of disclosure without proper emotional support.

b) the process is incredibly time-consuming; the assessment process takes a long time and adopters are often asked to do work placements in nurseries to gain more parenting experience, whilst often still working full-time.  There are also long delays between each section of the process.

c) Social Workers tell prospective adopters the very worst stories about children in care; this information is often very extreme and many adopters fall by the wayside fearing that they cannot cope with the challenges ahead.  With proper post-adoption support this may have not been an issue that required these prospective adopters to pull out.

d) Adopters are being turned away for being over-weight - even if they are very fit.  This seems to vary from authority to authority. Some authorities are more inclusive.

Mr Cameron, these are the issues you need to be addressing. It's a waste of everyone's time speeding up the court process for children in care if there are no parents waiting to adopt them. You need to address all these issues at once or be honest that the funding is not available instead of raising everyone's hopes.

Yours sincerely




Gem (ThreeBecomeFour)

Edited 3/9/12: Clare Horton added a quote from this letter on The Guardian's "Society Daily Bulletin"