Monday, 3 June 2013

Chapter 7 – Marks out of 10; receiving the initial screening report

Shock horror!!!

Working many miles apart it was only on the very odd occasion that we ended up following each other up the road and pulling into the drive together. The day that we received Sandra’s report was one of those rare days – and a good job too as when we read her report both of us were pretty much fuming.

Lying at the top of a deep pile of the regular bills and junk mail was an ominous looking manilla envelope bearing a now familiar franking. We ripped the flap open in a mixture of eagerness and trepidation. A quick scan confirmed our worst fears. “The incident” did seem to have coloured all of her perceptions of us as a couple. The portrait which was painted in the report seemed at best a caricature and, at worst, a wildly inaccurate expressionist mess. We were clearly a buttoned up and anal-retentive pairing whose lives were ruled and regimented by our strict routines. This was a flag which would need to be explored in much more detail during any home-study period to ensure that this would not hamper our ability to adapt to life with a child. Great!

Sure there were some positive elements to the report but the tone seemed to us to be overall quite down on us as a couple. So much for our chances now. Our dander was truly up and we were all but ready to march down to the Council offices to complain at this clear prejudiced injustice. Where was the number of the ombudsman? Was there an ombudsman? What was the appeals process?

It was around about then that we spotted a second manilla envelope in the pile, also bearing the familiar franking mark. Oh well, might as well read the bad news in black and white.

Oh... Ah... We were being recommended to proceed through to the next stage of the process and would be invited to attend the next series of Preparation Days to be held the following February – pending the usual checks and medical reports. A couple of additional forms fell out of the envelope – medical consents and a standard medical report for our GP to complete. Glancing between the two letters it seemed inconceivable that one could have lead to the other. Still, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. We’ll bank that one!

It didn’t diminish our annoyance at the report though. And what had they told us at the Orientation Day? “When you submit your application form you will be assigned an assessing social worker and a screening interview will be arranged. Your social worker will be your main point of contact throughout the process through to panel.” Great, we were stuck with Sandra as our advocate all the way through to Adoption Panel and beyond. Well, maybe with some hard work over the coming months we could redeem her opinion of us and help her to gain a more balanced understanding of us as a couple. Maybe...

And it was a few weeks later that another truism about the adoption process was underlined, once more. Often the left and right hands don’t know what they’re doing and what is transmitted as being Gospel was rarely so. Once again, Douglas Adams' description of the "Hitch-hikers' Guide To The Galaxy" sprang to mind... Apocryphal or, at least, wildly inaccurate...”* Perhaps we should have taken note of that tome's most helpful advice... DON'T PANIC!

Still onward and upward. Appointments were booked for the medical. With Christmas looming we were keen to ensure that all the necessary paperwork required from us was done and dusted well before that. By the end of the week our medical reports and consents were dispatched to the local authority by recorded delivery. There was nothing more to do other than sit back, enjoy Christmas and wait information about when and where the Preparation Days would take place.

All we know for certain was that the Preparation Days were due to some time in mid-February. By mid-January we felt that we’d left a respectable distance from the Christmas holidays. We’d still heard nothing. Perhaps it was time for a little chasing. Steeling ourselves we prepared for the call. It went something like this.

Can we speak to Sandra please. [...wait...]”
Hello, why are you calling me?
Erm... well you’re our social worker, aren’t you?”
What on earth would give you that idea?
Well, that’s what we were told... we apply, a social worker is assigned to assess us and take us through the process... isn’t that how it works?”
Don’t be ridiculous. Your social worker won’t be assigned until after you have completed the Preparation Days and submitted your supplementary information form. I’m sure that they made that CRYSTAL CLEAR at the Orientation Day. Now if you would be kind enough to ring up and if you’ve got a general query please contact the main office. Goodbye. [ ...bzzzzzz...]

That left us both a little stunned. We quickly checked our separate notes from the Orientation Day. Nope, that WAS exactly what they had said: “Apply, Social Worker, Screening and so on...

So a valuable lesson learned about the system – don’t necessarily take things at face value and don’t assume that the assertion you are being given is, in fact, definitive in any way. Plus we had gained a little more insight into Sandra’s character. I must admit that there was a certain amount of dancing around the living room at the news she wouldn’t be our social worker after all.

A few phone calls later and the main office confirmed that our paperwork was, indeed, complete and ready to go forward to the Local Authority’s Medical Advisor for his consideration and effective rubber-stamping. So we were all set fair for the Preparation Days the following month... Or were we?

*   " In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and second, it has the words “DON’T PANIC” inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover."
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


Lindsay said...

Just found your blog through WASO:) Sounds like you've had quite the journey so far, I look forward to reading more (and holybanana what a...lady you're dealing with there!)

AdoptionJourneyBlog said...

Lindsay, thanks. Hope that folks find the story both entertaining and useful. Yes, "Sandra" was an interesting one. Fortunately the social worker we ended up with for our home study was beyond lovely and a pleasure to work with!