Monday, 29 March 2010

29-Mar 2010

We had a meeting with out social worker this morning and she was of the opinion that all would be well, that panel MAY have questions about it and that it is her and the childrens' social worker's job to convince them that we have investigated all possible avenues and that we are okay with it.  The thing is we are not, we are still unsure but we at least are thinking the same.  These ARE OUR CHILDREN and we will do whatever we can to ensure that we adopt them and we have to convince everyone that we CAN manage the situation.

The paperwork was completed and signed off ready for panel in eleven days.  We are going to spend the time finishing off lists of things to buy and working on the DVD and introductions books.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

25-Mar 2010

We had a phone call from our social worker later yesterday to say that the paperwork for matching panel needs to be back to the Local Authority by Monday afternoon so she has re-scheduled our meeting for Monday morning, not Tuesday morning.  And the most important piece of paperwork that we have to give our best attention to will have to be completed in two hours.  So the 10 days we are supposed to get have disappeared into the ether.  Apparently they 'forgot' to send the paperwork to our social worker and were chasing her up on it.  She said well it would be nice to be able to send it back to you but we haven't had it in the first place!  Not very happy, this happened to us for approval panel too, grrrr....

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

24-Mar 2010

Mungo phoned our social worker after hearing nothing and she was very matter of fact about it and said it was manageable. she hadn't heard from children's s/w who was going to speak with bf yesterday and then going to call her so its all gone a bit flat.  So I sent an email to our s/w asking lots of questions and she rang me saying she's going to meet with us on Tuesday and get either the children's s/w or the family finding s/w to come out and talk to us about it.

Both our and their social workers don't seem that bothered - probably because they can smell the money!  but who knows what panel might think and who knows if we think we can manage it on a daily basis? no-one seems bothered about that!  So I'm still confused and not really sure what's happening now, Mungo is very dubious about the whole thing too. Urgh.

We have received and sent back the forms for means testing.  The LA that we are applying through do not automatically give out an adoption allowance even for three siblings so they means-test you.  You basically have to give every piece of financial information to them for them to decide whether you will get anything.  It could range from a few pounds a week to hundreds and will continue until the children are 18, in full time education or until your circumstances change.  We are not expecting to get anything but if you don't ask you don't get, so we shall see.

Monday, 22 March 2010

22-Mar 2010

Today we saw the Medical Advisor from the Local Authority where the children are placed.  It is their job to assess all the medical reports and provide their opinion as to what medical issues there are and may be in the future.  They can advise what practical steps can be taken to assist children and yourselves in dealing with children's issues.  In our case, there is very little additional support that we might need and there was certainly nothing brought up that we didn't already know about.  In fact, most of the talk was about how we are going to be able to cope practically in the first few weeks and how our local Health Visitor and GP might be able to assist.  It was certainly a fascinating and very informative discussion.  The children's social worker and our social worker were there too and they were all so supportive and helpful.  It was a lovely meeting.

As the meeting came to an end, the children's social worker advised us that it had just been notified to them in the last few days that a birth family member lives two miles away from us.  At the moment we don't know how often they are in contact with the family and when they last saw the children.  We don't know whether or how often the birth family member they are connected to comes over to visit.  We don't know if the children might recognise these people or if they might recognise the children.  We therefore don't know how this may have to be managed in the future.

We always knew that the would is a small place and that there is always the possibility that we might bump into birth family anywhere at any time, even if we were at the opposite ends if the country.  But we felt that being as far away as we are, not hundreds of miles away, but still far enough, would drastically reduce the possibilities of an accidental meeting.  Now we have the potential of our own town not being far enough away.  We also have to weigh up the reality of bumping into them - how often do you bump into people you know in town?  As it happens, we don't go there very often but it was one of the places I was going to take the children regularly, as something to do.  There are also public parks and children's play centres that might be out of bounds because these people have a child of a similar age.

One thing that will come out of it is that we were happy to send the birth parents photos of the children as part of annual letter-box contact.  So that will be a definite no, because they might show the photos to the birth family and ask them to look out for them.  This is on top of the fact that they might post them onto Facebook or any other internet site and get people to look for them.  The risk is too great.

This is a big, big issue and could potentially be a show-stopper - what you might call a 'curved ball'.  So we have to really think this through and decide where to go with this, our social worker might suggest we break it off - in fact that's the first thing she said after they had gone, that we had the option to pull out now.  Of course, the decision might be taken out of our hands as we don't know yet how Social Services will react in terms of whether the link should continue and whether panel will approve the match because of it.

At the moment I can't see a good way for this to end.  Signing off, a very cross and sad Mary.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

15-Mar 2010

The meeting on Friday went very well indeed.  We met the foster carer and Midge's nursery school teacher.  They had loads to tell us and answered all our questions.  The teacher brought Midge's file with her of all the work he has done since he has been there and we got to see lots of photos of him doing his work and seeing how he writes his name.  We even got to keep a copy of the DVD - which we are not allowed to have but I think they have taken pity on us as the process has taken so long!

It was great to finally meet the foster carer and for her to share stories with us of what they are like.  It really feels like it is all falling into place and the children are more real than they have ever been.  I watched the DVD four times in a row when we got home!

When the meeting finished we had to be 'escorted' out the back of the building because birth Mum arrived at the front of the building for her meeting with them!  Our social worker has given us approximate dates for introductions, which are likely to start as soon as 11 days after matching panel.  You have to wait up to 10 days for the Decision marker to make their final decision before introductions can start.  So we could have them permanently home with us by the first week in May!  When we got home we felt so high and like it was all coming together at last!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

11-Mar 2010

Many, many congratulations to our friends G & F who were matched with a little boy yesterday.  We are so thrilled and excited for you!  You are going to make a wonderful family :) hurrah!

P.S. We are going to meet the foster carer and nursery school teacher tomorrow, for definite, yay!

Monday, 8 March 2010

08-Mar 2010

Had a phone call from our social worker today to provide a date for meeting the Medical Adviser from the Local Authority that we are adopting the children through; it's a week on Monday. We will also be getting the judge's summing up paperwork today and the minutes of the meeting on 22nd February where we discussed the viability of the match.

I also asked that the 'Life Appreciation Day' meeting be requested.  This is a meeting where the foster carer, health visitor, social worker and other professionals gather together to go through in chronological order the history of the children and what happened to them.  A social worker will take minutes and this document will help to form information that can be shared with the children in later life.  This information meeting usually happens for older children so we are not sure if we will get one, so we can but ask!

We have the meeting with the foster carer and nursery school teacher on Friday, times still yet to be agreed.  It's on the same day as a LAC (Looked After Child) review so everyone will be at the Local Authority offices anyway.

Our friends G & F go to matching panel on Wednesday for a little boy, so we are keeping our fingers firmly crossed for them.  They will make wonderful parents and their little boy sounds just lovely; can't wait to meet him!

Friday, 5 March 2010

05-Mar 2010

Wow what a meeting!  We went through every emotion imaginable!  First of all, the children's social worker didn't arrive and when we eventually got hold of her she was still in her office having just come out of another meeting, asking whether or not to come over.  We were holding our heads in disbelief that the meeting wasn't going to go ahead.  I was getting very angry!  We managed to persuade her that she should come so she had to drive the 45 minutes to get to us.  She ended up being an hour and a half late!

In the mean time the family finding social worker had got a list the list of questions back from the foster carer that we had asked for, which was brilliant and we hadn't expected to get them back.  She answered all our (97 - yes 97! Thanks everyone on AUK who contributed to the list!) questions and this gave us a wonderful 'picture' of what the children are like.  You may remember that the information we have on the children is a year old, so we were expecting some changes.  Most of the changes are positive, like Tidge's (the middlie) feeding issues have improved and so on.  A couple of things have surprised us, such as thinking Midge (the oldie) is in school but he is in fact in nursery.  Also, Squidge (the littlie) is certainly no baby any more, as he is running around!

As we were going through the list, the children's social worker arrived and Mungo made more tea!  Then they ran through all the questions that were asked of us back in July when we first met the family finding social worker and the children's previous social worker.  A couple of minor things had changed, one of which was the school choice we have since made.  As we haven't yet met with the nursery or received a nursery report we can't make the final decision anyway.  We also talked about whether we wanted to meet the birth parents and we agreed that we would.  The last contact between the children and their parents is coming up soon and we are disappointed that it is going to be held in one of our favourite photo-taking places.  But at least we know and we will ensure that we never go there by accident and risk bringing up lots of sad memories.  Bit sad really.

Then came the time for our social worker to do her stuff!  (Yes we had three social workers around the table all at the same time!)  She asked lots of questions about the paperwork that was outstanding and meeting dates that still needed putting in the diary.  The children's paperwork still needs to be updated; the CPR's for Midge and Tidge are done, just need Squidge's completing.  Their annual medicals are due this month so we are hoping that they will be done before we meet the medical adviser, so we can discuss up-to-date information.  We have a meeting pencilled in for 12th March (a week today) to meet with the foster carer and a representative from the nursery. And last, but by no means least, a date for panel.  They confirmed that we will be going to matching panel on 9th April!  Yay!  Let's hope it is third time lucky!

We also talked about finances and what support they are likely to give us.  Basically, it is likely to be £250 per child as a settling in allowance and expenses for introductions.  Their adoption allowance (like Child Benefit) is means tested so it is unlikely that we will get anything.  Our social worker said she might try to squeeze them on that, because I have given up work and intend to do so for a few years and the more money we get in the longer it will be before I have to go back to work and that's a massive benefit for the children.  They might pay for a cleaner for a month or two and they might pay for Mary's Mum's petrol for the first few weeks as she will be coming over to help out.  So we shall see what of that we will get.

We also talked about feedback from the judge's summing up after the Care order and Placement Order were granted and we have been allowed to have it shared with us.  So we are just waiting for our social worker to send it to us, for us to read and ask any questions on.  The judge has asked that we be asked if we would be prepared to meet up with and have contact with the children's half siblings and we have said it would need to be properly risk-assessed for the benefit of the children and we don't mind either direct (face-to-face) or indirect (letterbox) contact.

It was then time to do a tour of Mungo Mansions lol and show the new social worker around the place, explaining where the kiddies bedrooms will be and how bed and bath routines will work.  She was very impressed - we have a big house!  Whilst Mary was doing the tour, Mungo asked the family finder approximate dates for introductions and they suggested that after waiting up to 10 days for the Decision Maker's official response, introduction planning could start as early as the week beginning 19th April with intros starting that week.  They are likely to take about ten day to two weeks and so the children could be moving in at the start of May!  Still speculative, but very exciting!

Then came the special bit that will make you go all goose-bumpy!  They had photos and video of the children for us to see!  After the technology learning curve(!), we all sat around the TV and watched these three amazing children making paper aeroplanes with their foster carer!    Because the photos we did have of them were photocopies of poor quality pictures that were a year old, they looked completely different.  I wouldn't have recognised them if I bumped into them in the street!  They were beautiful, happy, contented and very well looked after.  They looked so much like us it was unbelievable and the two boys looked just like my younger nephew - it was spooky.  In terms of looks, we couldn't have had a better match!  I was in awe of these three little people and I did have a couple of 'cold feet' moments when I thought OMG we are going to be responsible for all three of these children!  They were so bubbly and chatty, playing very nicely, it was a joy to watch.  So we watched it again!

The social workers said the foster carer was very experienced and would be brilliant at preparing and moving them on.  So we are very relieved, as we have heard horror stories about how some minority of foster carers don't want the children to move and and so don't prepare them properly or go out of their way to mess up introductions.  It's shocking, as moving on the children is part of their job that they get paid to do.  Like I said, it is a small minority and we weren't sure what she would be like, but now we know and we are very happy indeed!

Whilst we were watching the video, I showed our social worker the plans I had for the introduction books for the children.  My feeling was that they didn't think much of them and gave me lots of other ideas, so it's back to the drawing board.  The 'Tomy Talking Baby Photo Album' was mentioned and that has been mentioned numerous times on the Adoption UK message boards so I think some more investigation is needed.

They also asked us if at any time we had wanted to pull out and we said no but that the process was very long and we suffered emotionally quite a lot when there were long gaps between activity.  That was the hardest thing to do and we said that we think they shouldn't have contacted us so early the second time around.  Let's hope they bear it in mind if they are in the same situation again.  Then we asked if we could have copies of the photos and video and they said no because we haven't been to matching panel yet.  I was very sad but knew it was the right thing to do.

They finally left at 6.20 after the meeting was supposed to start at 3pm and then our social worker asked us some questions like how did we feel now we have seen the children and are we happy to proceed - um that's a big fat yes lol  After wrapping up, our social worker left at about 6.45 and we got our shoes on and walked to our favourite restaurant where we celebrated with a lovely meal and glass or two something rather nice :)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

03-Mar 2010

Schools!  One thing I didn't mention is that when our social worker came to see us on the 8th February she said we could start looking for a school for Midge.  Midge is of school age and currently in school full time, so when he moves in he will need to go to school pretty soon after.  We have been looking at schools in and around where we live and there are a few he could go to.  For those of you reading who are new the the schools adimission policy, looked after children or children in care go to the top of the waiting list for school admissions and schools can and do take these children even when the school is full!  So remember that!

It was brilliant visiting the schools and talking about 'our children'.  It was wonderful and exciting to finally be doing something specifically relating to these children.  It was amazing to feel and sound like a Mum and Dad - goosebumps!  It also felt really fake talking about children that we have never met as if they have lived with us forever.  Such bizarre feelings!  In reality in our minds they have been with us for several months, we just need to get them here physically!

Introductions book and DVD.  Yes, that 'gulp' time!  Our social worker also discussed with us that we need to start making an introductions book and DVD.  These will be the books that each child will have that introduces us to them.  So, for example the oldest one will have sentences and pictures in their book, the middle one will have basic words and pictures and the baby will have mostly pictures.  The pictures will be of us, our house, car, kitchen, bedrooms, local park and garden.  The DVD will be about five minutes long and be of us in and around the house, with lots of talking and actions.  This will get them used to our voices as well as our faces.

The third thing we will do is find out from the foster carer what is their favourite soft toy / character and buy a brand new one of those for each of them.  Then we will live with the toys and put our 'smell' on them - take them to bed and cuddle them whilst watching TV for example.  This will be most important for the little one as he is still quite young.  Of course, whether these items are successful or not will entirely depend upon whether the foster carer does their job properly and uses them appropriately.  The are supposed to use them between matching panel and introductions - about two weeks, I imagine.  I have lots of stories of people who have walked into the foster carer's home for the first time to meet their children and one of them looks directly at 'Daddy' and his very first words to him are: "Daddy, you're in my book!"  Or "Daddy, you're on TV!" Bless!

I have already started on the books and we need to do a script for the DVD, but for now we have put that on hold until we have a date for matching panel.  If it's not until May then the garden will look greener and more inviting in a few weeks time so we can hold off taking pictures until nearer the time.  Well that's it for now, roll on tomorrow when we hope we will have some more information to tell you all.