News from Court

So many things have happened in the last two weeks I could pretty much write a blog post for every day. We've had two professionals meetings, two CAMHS appointments, a visit from two social workers, a police interview, a hospital appointment, and a court hearing.

From all of that, it's the court hearing that's left me reeling - even though that's the one that we didn't attend in person.

It's been three months or so since our original court hearing that was adjourned. Initially, Social Services were very supportive. We had a meeting to outline the support we felt we needed - we gave them our 'if we had a magic wand' wish list, but were heartened to hear from Tickle's Social Worker that it all sounded pretty reasonable, actually, and she couldn't see any particular problems.

That attitude lasted a matter of days. Suddenly there seemed to be a shift, and although nothing was said directly to us, our Social Worker grew more worried as she reported to us that SS had 'concerns' over the level of support we were asking for, and seemed to be questioning our commitment to Tickle, whether we were coping - they even told our SW that we were refusing to engage with the support that was being offered, which was simply not true.

Then there was Toiletgate, in which Tickle's SW had become fixated with a smear of rust underneath our toilet seat (I can only assume because she believed it to be poo) and, rather than mentioning it to us directly, took covert photos of it under the pretence of 'using the toilet' and then sent them to our SW saying she had concerns about our level of hygiene. This is what our toilet looked like on the day this was raised with us:



That blew over eventually; our IRO got involved and told them to stop being so petty and focus on what was important, but even that wasn't enough, as it was brought up later in a professionals meeting under the guise of an apology for the upset it had caused. I say a 'guise' because in actual fact it quickly became a refocused attack; even when we'd explained about the rust we were told we ought to replace the toilet seat (as if that hadn't occurred to us), and that the toilet was incredibly dusty, and SW wasn't saying that *you* have to do it, Mum, you know, because Husband is an adult too!! (Yes, she actually said that. No, she has no idea Husband does the majority of domestic chores in our house. No, Husband still hasn't forgiven her.) And, *even though* the IRO had told them to stop being petty, and that they'd been coming to our house for over a year and if they'd only just noticed the state of the toilet then they should be ashamed of themselves, SS *still* stood by the awful SW and said she'd done the right thing.

In all of this, we have been asked, repeatedly, and aggressively, whether we are 'committed' to Tickle. When we asked for help, we were met with 'you do realise this is only going to get worse as he gets older' and 'if you need this much help now, just imagine what it's going to be like when he's a teenager'. We were told that we had unrealistic expectations: of Tickle, of the outcomes of the therapy that they hadn't even identified yet; they seemed to think I was asking them to wave a magic wand and make all our problems go away.

I've asked for help with understanding how to parent a child who has been seriously abused - books, courses, any advice at all. Tickle's SW told me there is nothing; that sort of thing doesn't exist. A couple of weeks later I found a course online and emailed her about it, but she never replied. (I'm going on a course next week, organised by the lovely SW from our local CAMHS.)

Even in last week's Professionals Meeting, we were *still* being accused of failing to engage with support services; SS seem to have completely forgotten that it was their Resource Panel who refused our Early Placement Therapy sessions, focusing only on the fact that when these had finally been reinstated six months later they only offered us one day in which they could see us, which was obviously the one we couldn't do, and painting this as our fault.

At our last contact visit, Tickle's SW directly contradicted something I'd just said to him, a parenting decision that I had made in his best interest, which she then undermined. When I emailed her afterwards to explain my reasoning and ask her not to do this again, she responded that she would have to speak to her managers about my 'views'.

But if I had to pick out one thing, *the* one thing that has enraged me, baffled me, and made me feel totally impotent, it is this: Tickle's Social Worker had developed a habit that whenever I tried to explain to her that things were really difficult, her immediate response was "Does this mean you're not coping?" "Do you want me to find another placement for Tickle?". The trouble was, as SS were totally failing to properly support us, things became more difficult, we struggled more and more, and SW became more convinced that breakdown was imminent and she needed to remove T and place him with a family who could cope better. It became such that I no longer felt able to go to her with worries, because I feared she would interpret this as further evidence that we weren't coping.

As we continued down the path of endless Professionals Meetings, the approach started to change. It felt like Social Services' tactics were to shift the attention away from the support they still hadn't put in place, and to try and focus the spotlight on us: the parents who couldn't cope, who were demanding support but refusing to engage with it, who were throwing tantrums because they didn't have the idyllic family life they had expected. The Court had set a Directions Hearing (one where the Judge wants an update on what's going on, and then decides what needs to happen next), and as this approached, SS appeared to be getting more and more desperate. Despite deciding at one Professionals Meeting that we were going to take the time pressure of court hearings off the table and just focus on getting the support in place, within days I was getting emails from SW and her boss asking me how long we'd need to keep doing the CAMHS appointments, because they 'needed a timescale' to give to their legal department. At that stage, we'd only had our initial meetings with CAMHS, so had only a vague idea what they intended to do with us, and said as much to SS.

This is where it gets dark. Because at this point, SW starting telling us that the Judge 'might' ask her to find another placement for Tickle. As you might imagine, to us, this felt like threats: like she wanted us to say that actually we only needed our six NHS-funded sessions and then we'd be perfectly happy to breeze ahead with the Adoption Order, and actually we'd just made a big fuss over nothing. She kept talking about 'permanence', about how she had no idea what the Judge would say, but that he would want 'permanence' for Tickle so he 'might' tell her to find another placement. I don't think I'm reading too much in to that statement to feel that the implication in what she said is that she'd find another placement where the parents were more committed, more capable.

What makes me utterly furious about this is complete lack of ANY sort of consideration of what is best for Tickle. It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that taking Tickle away from another set of parents, ones he has lived with for over a year, ones he has trusted enough to disclose his abuse to, who he has felt comfortable enough with to call us Mum and Dad... I mean, I don't need to say it, do I. It's not rocket science. When I challenged her over this in last week's Professionals Meeting, she first denied she'd said it (despite saying it three times in the previous meeting, in the presence of the same people who were sitting round the table that day) and then played dumb, insisting that she didn't know what the Judge might say, and that this was just one of the options. By this point I'd pretty much lost every last scrap of patience I'd been trying my best to hold on to; I pointed out to her that we are all supposed to be on the same side here, and despite all the difficulties we've had, the one single thing that we are all supposed to be working towards is what is best for Tickle, and if she actually thought for one minute that what she was suggesting was a real possibility then *surely* she should be doing everything in her power to make sure the Judge understands the situation fully in order to prevent it from happening - in her role as Tickle's Social Worker and the person who has been tasked with responsibility for his entire wellbeing. This is his *life* we're talking about, his life, our life, Fairy's life. It's not some some silly game to us, it's not a power struggle, or a case of 'bargaining' with the Adoption Order (yes she said that too). They quite literally are playing with our lives.

The fact that Tickle's SW *wasn't* rallying round to make sure she presented the Judge with reams of evidence of our love and commitment to Tickle (our lovely SW had even emailed her some examples) was causing us to doubt whether Social Services were even in support of our application to adopt him. Which is ridiculous, as they are the ones who chose us. I sat in that meeting, and I looked them all in the eye, and I said that I genuinely didn't know whether SWs report to the Judge was going to say we're rubbish parents and they think Tickle should be removed.

SW wouldn't meet my eyes. "Of course it's not going to say that."

I was invited to write a letter to the Judge, so Husband and I could feel like our voice was being heard in the process.

That's all well and good, I said, and I'd be delighted to do so. However, it still doesn't address the fact that we have a team of professionals sat around a table, who's sole aim for being there is to support us and our child, and I don't even believe that half of you have any confidence in us as his parents. That is an issue.

If I, as Tickle's adoptive mother, am sat here telling you that I don't know whether Social Services are secretly regretting choosing us for him - that is an issue. If I genuinely think there is a chance that Social Services are not correctly representing us to the Judge - that is an issue.

The Chair of the meeting wrapped things up. I was thanked for my honesty. It was suggested that sometimes a change of Social Worker is a good thing, and that Tickle's SW is leaving anyway, so... but we'd like to thank her for all her hard work of course. (That was weird.)

And so to court. Well, not really. Lots of things happened in between but that's another story.

We don't attend court ourselves, so I was waiting for an email from Tickle's new Social Worker to tell us what had happened. This is what she said:

"The Judge has ordered that Social Services provide a statement describing the concerns you've raised in relation to support, and what has been done to address these."

He also wants them to produce an actual plan of support, so as to guard against the adoption breaking down in the future.

I read the email, and my insides did a little happy dance. Then I wasn't sure I had read it right. I gave it to my dad to read, to double check. Then to the Headteacher at Tickle's school. Then to my mum. I'd forwarded it to Husband at work. Everyone seemed to take the same thing from it - the Judge is on our side.

It took over 24 hours for this to fully sink in, and actually it wasn't until actually writing it out above, and having to paraphrase slightly, that I could actually read it and believe that I do actually understand what it says.

The Judge is on our side.

And obviously it's not really about sides, but Social Services have made it so. The Judge believes us. The Judge wants to hold SS to account, to *make sure* that they are doing their jobs, and putting our support in place. The Judge accepts that we have had concerns, and sees that these have arisen from a lack of support from professionals, rather than anything lacking in ourselves. The Judge is not going to let SS deflect the attention away from their own shortcomings.

The Judge is on our side.

This post has ended up much longer than I'd intended; partly because I just like to waffle, admittedly, and partly because I don't think I'd realised the amount of stress I've been carrying over this. The last three months has been unimaginably difficult, but the thing that has turned it into a complete nightmare is the constant battle with the very professionals who've been tasked to support us.

Husband has found us a counsellor. I've spent all day in bed. I need to cry, but it won't come.

The Judge is on our side.

----
Edit: Husband found the button to let some of the tears out. Tired now.

Comments

  1. This is exactly our experience as well. We live with high levels of CPV and inter-sibling violence, often in similar scenarios to how you've described and we have also had the same response from SWs, that the level of support we are requesting raises concerns... it is so hard, trying to do our best for our children within such a shamefully inadequate system. sounds like you are doing amazingly, wish the system could be better.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. It's frightening how many people have had similar experiences. Have you been able to get any help at all?

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  2. I think social workers just do not understand the effects of trauma. I mean, really?! Another placement?!!? That is harmful to a child. In the states we just use the children's insurance and fax the social worker for a signature. Now that they are adopted we don't need the signature. That's about it. I wish they had given us a copy of "The Connected Child," at the beginning. Or told us to get it. But of COURSE their are books and research and webinars. www.empoweredtoconnect.org has some great video clips and a blog to follow. I am terribly sorry this happened to your family. The ignorance is ridiculous!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, yes it's been horrible and the battle with Social Services has been just as bad - if not worse - than anything Tickle can throw at us.

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