Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Chapter 14 – Sorry Sir, my dog ate it – The Final Preparation Day

Moving on...

I must confess that the fourth Preparation Day is, ironically, the one of which I have the least vivid memories. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the day was taken up with what seemed like really dry information about the administrative and legal process. There were some more brief discussions around how to apply the PACE principles in practice but most of it was process.

What happened when, who had legal responsibility for what, what steps would be taken by whom to cross which hurdle... I’ve spent a good proportion of my working life in the public sector so I’m no stranger to the importance of bureaucracy. But even for me the content was dry, opaque and distant. Goodness knows how those with a lower red-tape tolerance threshold were coping.

But that was still to come. To celebrate the last of the Prep Days we were early. Stupidly early. All of the regular snarl ups and bottle necks that we left plenty of time to negotiate had been flowing like quicksilver. Jane and John had seemingly had a similarly blessed journey as they were already sitting in the meeting room when we arrived.

After grabbing a restorative cup of instant coffee I plonked down next to John. “Errr... have you been doing your homework.” “Pardon?” “Your homework from each week. Have you been doing it? I chatted to Peregrine last week and they haven’t bothered yet. Said that they’d do it some time when they got around to it.”

I’ve mentioned before our slight over-achiever tendencies. We had, of course been diligently working through our reflective diaries and homework each week in the evenings. To us it made sense. All the questions in the reflective diary and many of the exercises in the homework fed off our emotional responses to what we had experienced that week. It looked at how we were coping with and assimilating the new insights which we were gaining into the adoption process. So much easier to do that while the thoughts and emotions were fresh in our heads and hearts rather than to try to recall or manufacture them at a later date.

“Yeah, why?” “Um... How much are you writing for each of them?” I had a think. Looking back at the diaries and homework which we produced between us over the four weeks it was quite substantial. Each of our reflective diaries must have run to two or three sides of typed A4 each week. The homework was similarly comprehensive at three to four pages. Over the four weeks between the two of us that probably came to around 40 or 50 odd pages... John looked a little crestfallen as I described this and then fished a print-out of my latest effort out of my folder or him to look at. “Oh.”

“Why?” “Well, it’s just that we had our first home-study meeting with our social worker this week and she told us to do it again. It wasn’t detailed enough. Mine was only about half a side or so.” I could see why the social worker had marked it “D minus. Not sufficient effort. Redo properly.” The questions weren’t exactly designed to elicit Yes/No answers. There was no way you could begin to do it justice in that kind of space. So it was a case of back to the school books for John and...

Hang on a minute...

Hang... On... A... Minute...


I replayed the last couple of minutes in my mental video recorder. Homework – check. Peregrine – check! Social worker – check! Home study visit – check! You’ve started your home study meetings with your social worker already? But we haven’t even finished the Preparation Days yet. How can you have been allocated a social worker?

Jane leaned over with a cheeky grin. “Yeah, we call her The Wicked Witch Of The West... goodness knows how we’re going to put up with her for the next 8 months!”

It turns out that they had filled in their form and posted it off to the Social Services straight after the first Preparation Day. Within a week or so they had received a phone call from the office informing them of who their Social Worker would be and looking to arrange a first visit. All this despite us being told that we would need to go through the Prep Days before this would even be considered. Yet again the strict rules which the authorities kept telling us would be strictly adhered to were being respected more in the breach than the observance.

This seemed to become a recurring theme for John and Jane in particular. A few months later they attended their “Introductions Planning Meeting” the week before they were approved at Adoption Panel. Two days later they attended “Matching Panel” where they were approved to adopt a baby girl. As planned, intros began a week on Monday... presumably before they had formal ratification of the decisions from either of those panels. Try as we might we’ve never been able to find that particular order of business on any of the flow charts in our various training packs or on the Children’s Services website. If we’d had the temerity to suggest this to Denise (the simply wonderful social worker whom we were subsequently allocated) we would have simply received a patient smile and a figurative pat on the head! Others’ social workers, like Denise, preferred to cross every “t” and dot every “i”. But it, once again, highlighted the fluidity of the whole supposedly predictable process.

Looking back it seems odd that it mattered so much that some or other couple were “a week or two ahead of us”. We’d waited so long for this moment that surely a week here or there didn’t matter much. Once again, in a rational analysis, that’s completely right. However, from within the process it seemed that the stakes were so incredibly high that it was so easily to be thrown off balance emotionally.

Anyway, the day dragged on to a conclusion and we all said our goodbyes to Maureen and Doreen. All the couples swapped mobile numbers and e-mails, vowing to all have a meet up some time to see how it was going and to compare stories. Now all we had to do was wait for a phone call and to find out who our own personal Wicked Witch Of West would be.


Suddenly Mummy said...

I found the fluidity surrounding rules and procedures in both my fostering and adoption approval processes quite interesting too! Seems that the rules are there and we always have to stick to them, but the powers-that-be can bend them to suit their convenience. Ah well, as you say, it probably doesn't matter too much in the long run.

Sezz said...

Just reading this via From ThE Archives on Adoption Social. I do find it strange how the process differs from authority to authority and SW to SW. I'm just glad we didn't have to do reflection diaries, that would have been a piece of paperwork too far.