I'm in total awe of the foster carers, celebrated the steady stream of newspaper items celebrating their retirement noting the care they've given to countless dozens of children across decades. My awe is not so much for the care that they've shown the children, which of course is inspiring, it's the resilience they've demonstrated as they've given their lives over the system. Even if every one of their Social Workers has been exceptional managing the faceless and nameless system is the thing that grinds you down.
I come from a nice family, a nice working class family from the right side of the tracks. So starting out on the process of adoption was our families first involvement with Social Workers, agents of the state, and the system. It was all 'nice biscuits and doilies' to start with, nice strangers sifting through our inner workings and life stories. We didn't mind it one bit as we had volunteered and we were ultimately in control as we could always say no. We didn't mind the odd bit of inconvenience or the odd mis step as this was the path to our desired goal, children.
So, children come and no adopter will forget the tangible feeling of utter joy as we shut the door behind the Social Worker for the last time, breathed a sigh of relief and got about the business of family.
It wasn't the end for us. We had dip our toe back into that water, the system, more like we are pushed headlong into that world. This time our choice was removed and it is no longer 'biscuits and doilies' it's voicemail, left messages, emails and meetings. I didn't realise when I stepped onto the adoption conveyor belt was that I would be negotiating 'the system' for the rest of my children's lives. Schools, Post Adoption Support, Children's Services, Police, CAHMS, CYPS and various branches of medicine, all the system. The overwhelming majority of professionals, across all disciplines, that I've gone to for help have been good and some exceptional. However, they come and go and the system feels brutal at times and perpetually set against us and the professionals that we work with. I'm sure it's not but it feels like that at times.
As parents we do what we have to do, we read policy documents and school entry guidance; write nice letters, call councillors we rant, rave, campaign and blog. All the time we're drawn into this system that is alien to most of us and we find it is woven into our lives. We become experts in policy and guidance in negotiation and advocacy all to get through the system. I'm a white middle aged professional man and people listen to me, I'm articulate and reasonable and I have agency. I know the regulations and the systems of social care (it's not an accident I'm a Social Worker). We all do what we have to do.
I worry for those who don't those that struggle, don't keep their ear to the ground, can't shout and scream, are intimidated by professionals and don't know their rights. I fear for those adoptive parents that become 'problems' to professionals and the system because they say no, or have a clash of personality or opinion. I sometimes think about how my children's parents managed it. Of course that's an impossible question but reading the files I sometimes wonder how they would describe the system that they found themselves in and if it would be very different from my description. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be 'doilies and cake'.
A bit of a rambling post.