Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Chapter 39 - Matching: Decision time


We had given ourselves a week or two to try to assimilate the information which was presented in this little boy's CPR form.  Yes, there were questions which we would need to dig into. Yes, there were small gaps which we felt we needed to fill in. Yes, there were some medical issues which we needed to check out. Yes, there were still a world of uncertainties to weigh up. But... and this was a big "but"... day by day, hour by hour and page by page we were coming around to a feeling that this might just be our son we were reading about.

Intellectually it seemed to make sense to say "Yes" but intellect can only take you so far in cases like this. Alongside all the weighed-up pros and cons we were both developing a feeling in the pit of our stomaches that this was somehow all... just... "right"! This was somehow meant to be. 

Over the years we had seen Juliet (our foster carer friend) take haunted, broken little children into her care and nurture them. We had seen the love, care and therapeutic work which she had poured into them and watched as, to one degree or another, some measure of healing was introduced into their fragile little lives. The extent to which this healing was obvious varied from child to child. However, across that time we came to realise that one factor was fundamental to that success. At the time we didn't have a vocabulary with which to put the concept into words. However, after a year or so of living and breathing the philosophies which underpin the modern concepts of adoption (albeit in a theoretical manner) we now had a word for it. "Attachment".

We recalled how we had seen little Jilly, one of her previous children, arrive as an emaciated little thing - unwilling to make eye contact with anyone but, at the same time, constantly vigilant. She scanned the world about her surreptitiously from beneath her dirty blonde fringe, wary of imagined dangers which could lurk around any corner. Sadly, only a few days earlier those imagined dangers had been all too real. We never pried into the details of her upbringing but over the two and a half years she was with Juliet a few things became obvious. The neglect she had suffered was obvious from her appearance. The effects of the emotional and physical abuse clear from her reaction to any sign of conflict and her extreme wariness of men...

However, over those two and a half years she slowly began to change and blossom into a wonderful little girl, devoted to her "Mummy Juliet". She eventually went on to adoption. One of the things which her adoptive parents had specified to their family finders was that any child with which they were presented should have demonstrated some ability to form a positive attachment to their primary care givers. As she had grown under Juliet's care that growing attachment had become obvious. That was a key foundation on which a successful placement could be built.

As we had discussed our matching matrix and moved into a family finding phase it was one of the criteria which we had discussed with Denise. An ability to develop an attachment. It had never been written down as a formal criterion but it was something which we were hoping for. From the paperwork which we were reading that box seemed to have been well ticked.

It was while discussing these issues that the usually super-efficient and uber-professional Denise allowed herself a small indiscretion. In one of our sessions with her we commented that it seemed remarkable that, notwithstanding the fact that this little one had found himself in a situation which no child should have to experience, he seemed to have been protected all the way through the process; that his ride through the system had been gentler than most. Suddenly Denise dropped her professional veneer for a second, "Oh, I absolutely shouldn't say things like this. I shouldn't try to influence your decision in any way... But frankly, if you pass up this little boy then you're never going to be presented with a chance as good as this again. Ever..." She blushed a little and looked down as if to say, "I shouldn't have said that. But I have... So there."

I wouldn't say that what Denise had said actually influenced our decision. That had been all but made in the days before that meeting and, in fact, that meeting was to confirm our decision to Denise and work out what happened next. However, it was the most wonderful confirmation that our intellectual and emotional decision was a sensible and secure one. Sure, all the paperwork seemed to be pointing in that direction but this was a decision which was way outside our experience, let alone our comfort zone. In our minds, this was probably the most important decision we would ever make - as individuals or as a couple.

It was still a leap of faith. A little confirmation of that leap was still welcome.

Denise made one more indiscretion that afternoon as we discussed this little boy's background - but, in this case, not a conscious one. Denise's great revelation had certainly broken the ice. Especially when we responded that our minds were already pretty much irrevocably set on pursing this match. Discussions seemed a little more relaxed.

It was in this more relaxed atmosphere that Denise made her second indiscretion of the afternoon. She mentioned that she had been talking to the social workers looking after the placement of this little boy. This had confirmed that he was really well settled in his foster care placement and had been for the last year. He showed all the signs of being really securely attached to his foster carer and the whole family doted over him. In fact, one of the foster carer's daughters had already expressed an interest in adopting him but had been turned down because she was still undergoing fertility treatment and had not gone through the adoption preparation process. Denise stopped short, wide eyed. The expression on her face said, "Oh no, did I really just say that? Out loud?" She looked at each of us quickly in turn, her eyes saying firmly, "That never happened. This is not a topic for further discussion. We shall never speak of this again."


Arrangements were hastily made for the next steps of the process. Possible dates for meetings with the little boy's social worker(s) were jotted down. Likely timescales for the road to matching panel were discussed and then Denise made her excuses and left. 

As we sat in the lounge after Denise had left we thought about what had passed between the three of us. A bridge seemed to have been crossed. Sure, if things went horribly wrong for some reason we would need to be ruthless about any decisions to stop the matching process. However, deep down we both longed for this not to be the case. Our heads and hearts had been set on this course. We had communicated this to Denise. Pain sailing was what we hoped for from here on in.

Mind you, that little revelation was a pause for thought. We had heard plenty of horror stories about prospective adopters having difficulties with foster carers. Stories of false allegations made in an attempt to scupper a placement. What would the next few weeks hold for us?

No comments: