Thursday, January 24, 2013

Picking a route

After much nagging and pestering we have finally had a response from the SW from our LA following up from the initial home visit she made in the middle of December.  According to the email, her children have been ill and so she has been off work for 3 weeks.  As a result of this, she still hasn't spoken to her manager about our case, and no decision has been made about whether they will take us on as prospective adopters. Although I have every sympathy for the SW, it is very frustrating that our journey is being held up for so long.  Obviously I don't know all the details of her situation, so I am not really in a place to judge, but I have to admit that I find it strange that she hasn't been able to discuss anything with her manager by phone or email, even if she has been unable to get into the office.

On a more positive note, on Monday we had went to an information evening held by another LA - one based in another nearby city.  The majority of the information presented was stuff we already knew - the adoption process is broadly similar whichever agency you work with, but there were some details which have made us wonder if we should sign up with them, rather than the LA for our home city.

  1. The second city seem to be working on a much faster time scale - they reckon they have a period of about 6 months between the preparation course and linking children to families.  Our home LA told us they aim to do that in 8-10 months
  2. They offer training/information courses to friends and family as well as to the prospective adopters.  I don't know how useful the course is, but at the very least it seems to be a sign that the LA have a focus on help families prepare as much as possible for the challenges ahead.
  3. They offer training courses on various topics after prospective adopters have been approved by panel but before a link is made and offer lots of support after the link as well.  I'm not certain if our home LA does the same, but they certainly didn't promote it as actively.
  4. Because they are a small LA (even smaller than our home LA) everyone in the office is aware of most of the other workers cases.  Although some people might find that a bit off-putting, Patchwork and I liked the idea that if our SW wasn't available, other people at the LA would still be able to help us.  This seems a very significant difference from our home LA, especially given the issues we've had already!
We've decided that we will ask the second LA for a home visit and see how that goes.  If our own LA get back to us before then, we may have to think hard about which authority to work with.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Know where you can walk

Today the government are releasing a map showing which local authorities have large numbers of children waiting to be adopted (BBC news article). The map makes mildly interesting viewing, but as it is just a raw number of children, with no allowance for population size or other factors, it is fairly meaningless from a statistical point of view.
Equally I think the map makes no difference to prospective adopters either.  In theory we have the right to ask any local authority to take us on as prospective adopters, train us up and prepare the 'Prospective Adopters Report'.  In practice it seems that LA won't take on prospective adopters unless they live in their region.  It seems that despite all the talk in the media about the need for people to adopt, LAs can't train and assess all of the people that are applying within their area, so they don't have the resources to take on people from outside the area.
This is frustrating, but you wouldn't think it was a major issue - surely we can just apply to our LA?
We live in a city that acts as its own LA - the size of the city means that if the LA placed children with adopters inside the city, there is a strong chance that the child would bump into the birth family when going shopping etc.  Therefore, the LA is very reluctant to take on adopters from inside their area.  They haven't actually said no yet, but it looks like we are in the situation that our LA won't take us because we live in their region, and other LAs won't take us because we don't!
Add into the mix all the delays and poor communication we are having to deal with, and its not surprising that people are being put off adopting from the UK - Another blog I read has an open letter to the Prime Minster on a similar topic. 

Deciding which way to go

It's been a while since I updated this blog, but I thought I had better give a few updates on what is happening. 
Since my last post we have had heard from a number of local authorities who won't even consider us as we live outside of their area.  I'm going to talk about the implications of that in a second post, linked to all of todays media coverage.  We have finally heard from a local authority we approached in mid-November, inviting us to an information evening in a few weeks time.
More importantly we have had two intial interviews, one with the LA we live in and one with a VA who cover our region.

The LA meeting took place about a month ago - the social worker came round to our house, discussed our situation and what would happen if we went forward with them.  One the whole it was a positive interview - we were worried that our flat wouldn't be deemed suitable for a child as we don't have a garden, but that didn't seem to be an issue.  The SW was worried about some aspects of my wife's medical history and felt they may want a medical report before we went on a preperation course.  Patchwork was a bit upset by this, but I think it is just a reflection of the SW lack of knowledge of the condition in question - I can't imagine that the medical report will flag up any problems.  The other issue we have is that as the LA covers a very small geographic area, we have been told that they can be reluctant to take on prospective adopters from within the area.  I understand the reasons for that - it makes it less likely that the child will run into the birth family whilst going to the shops/park etc.  However when we asked the SW about the issue, and whether the LA would be able to take us on, the answer we got was a convoluted "No because...but yes because...but no because...however yes because..although no because...etc etc" leaving us with no better idea of whether or not they would take us on.

The interview with the VA just after Christmas was much more useful - we went to their office and spent a few hours talking through how they work and answering questions about ourselves.  I think its fair to say that Patchwork and I both found the process much more pleasent and helpful, and got the impression that they were enthusiastic about taking us on.

That left us with a decision to make about whihc agency to go ahead with - although we had a more positive experiance with the VA than the LA, we will be working with different SW to the ones who interviewed us, so we've had to try and discount our impressions of the two people.  The disadvantage of the VA is that it limits the pool of children that we could potentially adopt - basically the children that are easy to place are placed with parents working with the LAs.  It is only when a child can't be placed within an LA that they look to other LAs and VAs for suitable placements.

After much discussion we have decided to approach the LA first, if they will take us.  However, we left the SW a message 2 weeks ago, saying we would like to move the process forward - since then we have heard nothing from them, not even an acknowledgement that the message has been passed on.  I know that LAs are underfunded, understaffed and overworked, but the delays we have had in following up contact strikes me as very unproffesional.  As a teacher, I often struggle to find time to chase up issues, phone parents etc.  but there is an expectation that all the staff respond to parental contact within 2 working days, even if it is jsut a holding response along the lines of 'I'm looking into this and will get back to you in a week"  Is it unreasonable to expect a similar timescale of response from the LAs?