Where to begin (this is going to be a long one!)…
As it turns out in my post Linked when I said we were officially linked apparently I was wrong, it was just a provisional link. I have now corrected that blog post. We have since learnt that our agency have something called a Family Linking Meeting (FLM) which is where the link is made official.
Just after the aforementioned blog post we had a meeting with the Family Finder (FF) social worker and the children’s social worker (CSW). While we didn’t necessarily feel that meeting went very well, we were given the distinct impression that everything was fine and going ahead. During the meeting we had been given dates for our diaries leading up to and including possible dates for introductions and by the end of the meeting we had a date for the FLM of just over a week away. Given that information, why on earth would we think anything other than it was all going well?
Three working days later (the meeting had been a Friday), we received a phone call from our SW telling us that the FF had concerns and had decided not to continue with the match, before the FLM which is designed to iron out and get to the bottom of any concerns. Confused? We certainly were. Our SW gave us a rough indication of the reasons, none of which we saw as anything other than poor excuses. We were being told how we felt about the children rather than being asked, along with a few other concerns – NONE OF WHICH WE HAD BEEN TOLD OR ASKED ABOUT by the FF or the CSW. We were told that there was no real hope of that decision being changed. Still confused? Yes, us too, not to mention angry, upset and pretty devastated.
Our SW arranged a meeting between us, her, and the senior practitioner assigned to us (remember our SW is a student), both of them are technically our social workers so they both know us fairly well. Before this meeting I managed to (mostly) put aside my anger and wrote a fairly long summary of why we felt that the decision was wrong, attempting to address the concerns that had been raised. I’ve reread that email countless times since and there was so much more I could have written in it, but it’s too late now. At the meeting the first thing we were asked is if it would be ok to share my email with the FF and her manager, so it must have had some impact. We also found out that our SWs had already involved their manager and the FF manager to try to establish what exactly went wrong. We said our piece to our SWs about how we felt, about how confused we were, and about how we thought their reasoning just wasn’t right. Emotions were still very raw at that point and although we had tried to put aside our anger I think it showed through quite a lot still.
Ultimately we wanted what was best for the children and us being angry at being treated so callously wasn’t productive in achieving that. I think that attitude helped a lot in the events that followed.
Our SWs supported us, clearly what we said convinced them that the decision was wrong and that they would attempt to do something about it, even if that only resulted in an apology (which was the best we had hoped for). The senior practitioner had a meeting with the FF’s manager and set up a meeting between us and her. This was presented as a ‘second opinion visit’ – a chance to get her to overturn the decision, all we had to do was show her how we felt about the children in the same way we showed our SWs.
We had a few days before the meeting so we read and reread all the information we had about the children, wrote lots of notes and discussed literally everything we could think of about how we’d deal with different situations and circumstances we would encounter. Most of this we had already been through with the FF at the first meeting we had with her in February, so we hadn’t really felt like we needed to go over it again with the CSW, and she didn’t ask about it, so it didn’t get discussed.
The meeting came, and we found out that both the FF and the CSW had been doing a match for the first time, the FFs manager admitted that she made a mistake by not attending the meeting with the FF as she normally would have for someone doing it for the first time. This in itself started to make things make sense, everyone was in that fateful meeting with expectations (us included) and none of us had them met, but at the same time none of us expressed that we hadn’t had them met, leaving both the FF and the CSW feeling a bit dejected. That still doesn’t explain why we had been given so many dates in advance, and I don’t think we’ll ever have an explanation on that one. The manager said she shouldn’t have done that, so that’s that.
The manager also took responsibility for us being dropped, I’m unsure of whether this was actually the case or whether it was because she knew that we will have to work with the FF so didn’t want us to feel any animosity towards her. Either way, she took it and did her best to explain why, we have done our best to put aside any animosity towards the FF, she clearly knows the children well, and if she can get behind us then will be a brilliant advocate at matching panel.
We expressed concerns that the sheer speed at which they had been trying to force the match through had left us with very little time to process everything that we were being told, leaving us at quite a disadvantage when it came to showing our true feelings about everything. The manager said that she had already discussed that with her team and told them to slow down a bit to give everyone a chance (as this wasn’t the first time a situation like this has come up).
We discussed the children a LOT, we didn’t need our notes, it just flowed. I’m quite an introverted person so I only talk a lot when it’s a subject I feel very strongly about, and the children are definitely one of those! We also spoke about how great our support network has been, including my employer who has given me a lot of leeway recently to attend meetings etc.
We must have done something right as, before she left, the manager said that we would be going to FLM, putting us back in the position we were in before the meeting that changed everything so much. She assured us the FF would support the decision she’s made and that she would also be speaking to the CSW to let her know the decision.
The meeting had been first thing in the morning, and at the end of the day we received a request from the CSW to meet us again in a few days time, with the manager and our SW present. That meeting has now happened and it pretty much followed the pattern of the one with the manager (except she chipped in now and again to help put our points across!), and we think we have addressed the CSW’s concerns too – at least that was the impression she gave us – but that’s not all that comforting given what happened last time!
So, now we have to wait for the FLM to happen before we find out if we are officially linked with these children. Having addressed all the concerns we’ve been told about, and as far as we know still being the only family in contention, hopefully we will have the support of everyone attending the FLM. We don’t know when that will be yet, but should find out when the FF is back from annual leave. The manager also said that the FF would probably want to meet us again soon and we’ll no doubt need to go over the same things for a 3rd time.
Nothing is certain, we still have hurdles to jump, but at least we’re being given the chance to get to them this time, rather than have the ground swallow us up just before beginning takeoff, which is how it felt. As a consequence we are being more guarded than we were before, and if we’ve learnt anything from this it’s that SWs can change their mind quite suddenly without fully discussing it with everyone involved.
We do feel that our SWs have acted very professionally throughout though, giving us the support we needed; without which getting the decision overturned would have been much more difficult, if not impossible.
I sincerely hope I don’t have to retract this all again, we’ve been very open about everything that has been going on which has been a double-edged sword. It has helped us get support when we needed it (for which we are thankful), but also been a little bit humiliating because of the sudden changes.
So… watch this space.