They describe an example of one of their foster children who was recently moved into adoption in a way they had felt was very distressing to themselves and to the child. The child found the parting very upsetting, and when the foster carers visited, her attempts to engage with them was clearly deeply upsetting for her new adoptive mother.
"The mum tried to keep the child separate from us, not very successfully however, as the child's insisted on being picked up, held and interacting with each of us."
After this, they describe how their request for a second visit was refused. The child’s social worker supported this decision. These foster carers felt that the system was working against the best interests of the child and support our attempt to challenge these procedures:
"You are putting the child first - something we don't always see in the complex world of Social Work, Sheriff's Courts, Children's Hearings, Parental Human Rights, budgets and performance targets."
Please find their full email below (printed with Syd and Elaine's permission:
My wife and I have been local authority foster carers for 8 years.
During October, we moved on a child who had been with us from 17 hours old to 2 yrs and 2 months. We loved her like our own.
The move did not go well. Over the course of 10 days she was introduced to the new Mum and Dad, spent time with them at our home then their home, and then watched us leave her.
It was very difficult emotionally, she cried and hung on to my wife as we left her after the final visit.
The new parents did not keep us in touch with her progress - (Our Social Worker told us the child was doing fine!!) - and only reluctantly agreed to us seeing her again 3 weeks after the handover - but only then on "neutral territory."
During that visit, the mum tried to keep the child separate from us, not very successfully however, as the child insisted on being picked up, held and interacting with each of us.
We had explained to them during the early stages of the importance of allowing her to see us after the handover, to withdraw slowly so that she didn't think all important adults left her with strangers and didn't care about her. However, the Mum clearly had become threatened by the child's obvious affection for us and had decided a clean break was better for everybody. Our request for a second visit was refused, this decision being supported by the parents' Social Worker.
We know this was a mistake and experience tells us that long term damage to the adoptive parent/child relationship is a strong possibility.
We have shared our distress with other, very experienced, foster carers who have all had similar unsatisfactory, (and much worse), outcomes.
We all want to get together, to pool our ideas and then to approach our local authority with the aim of changing the standard operating procedure, (developed 20 years ago when children moved on after 6 to 8 months?), to meet the needs of today, when due to the strong representation of parents rights in the courts, the children are with the foster carer for 2 to 3 years and attachments are therefore much stronger.
Your recent paper "The children were fine" has put into words what we all feel instinctively, and has been of great help to us.
Finally, can we, as a group of concerned Foster Carers, thank you for the lead you have taken in this area. You are putting the child first - something we don't always see in the complex world of Social Work, Sheriff's Courts, Children's Hearings, Parental Human Rights, budgets and performance targets.
Syd and Elaine Gardiner