To say that there are a few hoops to jump through along the road to adopting would be the grossest of understatements. Sometimes the whole thing seemed like one great big, ever-changing hoop. I can understand it. For any organisation the personal and corporate responsibility for the outcome of decisions and actions is a heavy weight to bear. That’s heavy enough when the decisions are over some corporate investment portfolio or a business proposition. But social workers are literally playing with people’s lives. They have to get their decisions as right as possible because when they go wrong they can go disastrously wrong. The errors which social services make can literally be matters of life and death. Just look at the case of "Baby P".
And so we come back to the game and how it is played. The system plays the game itself and part of the game is to protect the backs of the system and those who operate it. To minimise risks of things going wrong or, if they do go wrong, minimise the risk of blame rebounding back on the system and its operators is a key objective. There are two ways to do this. There’s the practical route – upskill your staff, hone your procedures, pursue excellence and efficiency. Then there’s the legal route. Cover your back, deflect the blame and allow yourself the ability to say, “Well, we did tell them so!”
The adoption process has its own share of these disclaimers built in. As yet another seemingly surreal request came for us to fill in a form or answer some questions arose it became our own little game. What previous corporate catastrophe had led to them having to cover their backs in this way? We’d already endured the Health and Safety questionnaire and had theorised on what catastrophes had put some obscure dangers in scope while leaving other obvious hazards out!
The social worker suggested that our friend should undertake a short course of therapy to work through any residual problems. Our friend was furious. Indignant, in fact. “HOW DARE THEY? There’s no way I’m going to a shrink just to keep them happy!” This anger was vented to us with the expectation of a slap on the back and a “Quite right too! Stick to your guns!” Our response was somewhat different. “Well why not? What will you achieve by sticking your heels in?” The response was largely indignant bluster. We continued. “Surely all you will do is stick a big red, flashing warning light on your paperwork which screams ‘UNRESOLVED ISSUE! UNRESOLVED ISSUE!’ at the Adoption Panel? Where will that leave you?”
“So do you think I’m a basket case too, then?” “No, that’s not what we said. [*Thinks...* Actually, I really doubt it’s what the social worker had said either... but emotions do run high in this adoption business!] You’re the single most sane person we know. But right now you need a slip of paper that says so.” It’s not even as if the solution was difficult to achieve. We both had a mutual friend who was a qualified counsellor (and would have equally scoffed at the need for our friend to submit to a shrink).
So there’s so often the dilemma. When to fight the system and when to service (even subvert) it? Each occasion will require a separate response to that question. And the answer may differ from person to person. To us it always seemed that the big question you had to ask yourself first was “So which route will most effectively take you where you want to be?”