After Matching Panel, we sat in the little waiting room with our Social Worker (SW), expecting to exchange Christmas wishes and to set a date to get together sometime in January 2015 to talk matching.
Our SW pulled a single A4 sheet of paper out of his bag and told us that he had a profile he had received via email the night before, that he would really like us to have a look at. There was no pressure and he was more than happy to hang onto it until after the holidays, but he thought we should take a look some time.
Mr Six and I were both more than a little shocked, having just had a rush of relief at being approved by Panel. We weren’t expecting anything else to move for at least a month over the holidays and in some ways just wanted to stop for a while, breathe and enjoy Christmas with our girls. But how could we say no?
And there she was. A very out of date, grainy photo of a little girl aged about 18 months (she was actually rising three), with some boxes of generic blurb about her and about her LA. She had been linked with another couple through the same agency as us, who were pursuing the adoption until the day before our Panel. They had withdrawn citing too many unknowns and their SW had been asked by the LA Family Finder (FF) to circulate Little Legs’ profile to the rest of his agency team.
So we agreed to take the profile home and think and pray and rest. And see how we felt in the next few days and weeks. We arrived home to homemade posters and a little celebration party with the girls, my Dad and my sister and family. After my Dad had gone home, the kids all went off to play and we sat down with my sister and brother in law. And we chatted. About this little dot of a girl who we had been told about. Who may (or may not) be our future daughter.
In the days following, Mr Six kept Little Legs’ profile in his desk drawer. We kept chatting. And praying. And chatting. And praying. And peeking at her profile.
Our SW had agreed to speak to his colleague and request any additional information or documents that they had been given to be forwarded on to him. So within a few days we had a couple of recent medical reports, minutes from a meeting with the Medical Advisor and the minutes from the latest LAC review. Over the next few weeks we also received a copy of Little Legs’ Child Permanence Report to read through.
Knowing how to make sense of our emotions through it all was one of the toughest puzzles to crack. We saw numerous short profiles on Linkmaker during the next few weeks, but we felt we needed to keep pressing on with this little girl. We agreed that we would simply take The Next Step. And The Next Step. And The Next Step. Until we hit something that felt like a wrong fit. We had to hold our three girls at the forefront of our minds and emotions as we walked this road. Would this little one fit what our family could offer? Would they fit what our family could manage? Would our family be the right place for her?
So we took the next step. In early February, we asked our SW to contact Little Legs’ FF and ask for us to be considered as a possible family for her. Little Legs had no named SW at this stage, which slowed down the process and felt as if it made it immeasurably more difficult to get any answers from anyone over the next couple of months.
After four weeks of waiting nervously, we were invited to a meeting with Little Legs’ Foster Mummy. It was a positive meeting and we didn’t feel we had heard anything that would put us off moving forwards. It was also at this time that we were told we were in a ‘competitive match’ with an in house family, who were due to meet the Foster Mummy straight after our meeting.
That weekend, we decided that we had not heard or seen anything that was putting us off moving forward with Little Legs. On the Monday morning our SW contacted the FF and expressed our wish to pursue a link with Little Legs. We were also advised that the other family were in the same position. So we waited.
It was ten nail bitingly stressful days of waiting before we heard anything from the LA. Our SW rang every couple of days to see whether a decision had been reached, only to keep being told that the FF and SW Manager hadn’t been able to meet to discuss the case.
It was 18th March 2015 when I took a call from our SW. Mr Six was driving three hours away to meet up with his best friend at a motorway Ikea, so I had the bright idea of us all going on a road trip! The girls and I would shop and hang out and play whilst the boys met and talked and prayed and shared church leadership stories. And in the middle of the tin box that is Ikea, I took the phone call we had been waiting for. Our SW told us they had chosen our family.
WE WERE LINKED.
Barring undisclosed or new information being discovered by either party, the LA wished to pursue a match for Little Legs with our family.
I would love to say that everything then speeded up in working towards a placement as soon as possible for Little Legs. But it was another tortuous four months before she eventually came home.
From linking, we went through all the usual steps: meeting the Medical Advisor, meeting Little Legs’ new SW, a home visit from the involved SWs to see our home and meet our girls, linking meeting…and so the weeks went by. Again.
We eventually got a Matching Panel date for 21st May. It was a fairly bumpy ride from Linking to Matching Panel for a number of reasons. We were repeatedly asked the same questions by different professionals involved, especially around our home educating our birth girls, our plan for Little Legs to share a bedroom with two of her sisters and our plan to adopt a child despite already having three children.
Panel day came and we attended (in similar smart casual clothes!) with our fab SW. Little Legs’ SW was on holiday for the Panel date and we were expecting her Manager to attend, however on arrival at Panel it was another SW from the team who came in lieu of the Manager. One who did not really know anything about Little Legs or our match…
This Panel felt much more scary to me! The formal boardroom setting does nothing to settle anyone’s nerves and the room full of people was most intimidating. I recollect there being approximately fifteen people present as we walked into the room. We had to wait in the holding room for over an hour before being called in, at which point I had worked myself up into a state over what they were discussing.
I remember little about actually sitting in Panel, other than them asking the questions we had expected about home educating, how we were preparing our girls and why we felt we would be a good match for Little Legs. We made Preparing to Adopt workbooks for each of our girls and we had brought them with us to show to Panel. The workbooks went down well and helped to put us at ease. Panel expressed some concern that Little Legs’ CPR was not up to date and requested that her SW complete the report before the ADM’s deadline date.
I think the stakes felt so much higher at this Panel, as we were invested in the match after six months of knowing about Little Legs, reading everything about her that we could get our hands on and introducing her on paper to our three girls.
We only waited a short time following Panel, before the Chair came in to tell us that they were approving our match with Little Legs, pending the Agency Decision Maker’s decision, which would happen ten days later on 1st June.
Finally we began to feel that the end was in sight and we could relax and begin to prepare our girls for the next step. Introductions had been pencilled in for the week after the ADM decision and there was a rough outline of how introductions would look.
And then, ten days later, the ADM DEFERRED the decision. She wanted more information on a number of areas. She would make a decision on the 15th June. All provisional plans for intros were cancelled. Mr Six cancelled the start of his Adoption Leave. And we waited.
The 15th June came and went. And we heard nothing.
Our SW contacted Little Legs’ SW the following morning to be told that the ADM had requested more information from her and we should have an answer from the ADM by the end of the week. We later found out that the ADM was horrified at how out of date Little Legs’ CPR was that she was refusing to approve the match until she was happy that she had and we had seen an up to date version of the report.
Our SW had gone on annual leave that afternoon, having expected everything to be progressing following a yes from the ADM. We then took a call from Little Legs’ SW with a raft of issues that the ADM had raised with her, most of which should have been resolved before Matching Panel.
In desperation, I rang our SW’s Manager and cried down the phone with her, explaining the phone conversation I had just had with Little Legs’ SW. And so she sprang into action. By the end of that afternoon, our SW’s Manager had not only resolved the issues, she had spoken directly to the ADM and answered all of her questions. She had also gained a verbal
from the ADM and confirmation that we would have an official signing off on the match the following Monday.
So on 22nd June 2015 we were all systems go.
Because of the delays and deferrals, introductions were set for a 30th June start. The relief was unreal!