Having said goodbye (rather abruptly) to our first social worker, it took a little time for someone else to become available. We eventually had the first visit arranged for after Easter and met the lovely (let’s call her L). In our first session she outlined everything that would need to happen in order to get us to panel. We were having to start again from scratch as our previous SW had failed to take any legible notes or work to the correct criteria. The priority was to get our references and police checks sorted out as these can be slow and so can sometimes seriously slow down the process (not sure it could have been going any slower really).
L told us that we would need references from every place we had ever worked with children or vulnerable adults. From about the age of 12 I had been babysitting/childminding, worked with disabled young adults, taught piano and violin to at least 20 different children, worked in 5 children’s centres, volunteered in church youth and children’s groups (4 different churches) etc etc – the list goes on and on. Simon had done a similar amount of work with children and so getting all the references was a seriously daunting prospect.
Some of the people I’d worked for were easy to get hold of and were extremely happy to provide us with a reference. In terms of my teaching, this was trickier as I have an appalling memory and just couldn’t remember half the people I’d taught. We wanted to be totally honest as if we missed anything and it came out later it could be misinterpreted as us trying to hide something. When people received the reference requests it was slightly hard as they were just written to asking to provide a reference with no indication of what to say and no specific questions to answer. Fortunately it was all fine and everyone said nice things (or at least that’s what we assume anyway as we weren’t told of any problems!).
Simon’s were reasonably straightforward for the most part but had one that just ended up being a little ridiculous. As a student Simon had worked for a nursery agency (picture Simon (age 19) on his own with 6 babies and lots of stinky nappies – amazing he went on to have children really after that introduction! The agency he’d worked for had since closed down. Because he had stated that this was somewhere he’d worked, the LA really needed a reference from him otherwise it would count as a gap which is not good. Simon ended up asking his parents to go and see the building that the agency had been based in – a large office block. The building was closed and under re-construction so at the point when Simon sent our SW a google map photo of the building with a map reference and the details of the builders doing the construction work they finally caved and said he didn’t need to provide a reference for that job!
We were also asked to provide 3 referees that could be interviewed and fill in more extended question sheets. One had to be a family member and the others had to know both me and Simon well and us as a family. We had lots of very lovely friends so deciding who to ask felt a little tricky as we didn’t want to offend anyone by not asking them, but also felt like it could be a time consuming exercise and wanted to make sure we didn’t put pressure on anyone who would find it stressful. It also needed to be people that were totally behind us and totally supportive of our decision to adopt. In the end it wasn’t such a hard decision and we remain totally grateful to the people who gave up their time for us and were part of our adoption journey. We know some of the questions were pretty difficult to answer. One of the questions was “How do Kate and Simon keep children safe?” For one of our referees this was a slightly awkward question as the year before we’d taken their children on holiday with us for a week and managed to lose one of them. Fortunately they were found reasonably quickly but I’ve no idea how they managed to answer this question with straight faces! Thanks again lovely friends.
With all the checks and references taken up we felt that for a while we were possibly the safest people in our city to take care of children. These references then formed part of our report that went to panel. This was by no means the end of endless form filling…