Contact with the birth family…. Not an easy subject, but not exactly controversial in the UK at least, and Local Authorities routinely employ people specifically to handle arrangements for such contact. So how long should we reasonably expect to have to wait for the Local Authority to respond to a request to make contact with J’s birth family?
A day? A week? A month? Or more?
We hadn’t heard from J’s birthmother, V, for five years. The last contact with her had been with J’s Guardian Ad Litem at the time of J’s adoption by me in early 2009. She was sad then, having suffered extraordinary trauma that year, by any standards. The Guardian and I both felt deeply for her. Then she had disappeared, not for the first time. V has consistently failed to maintain contact with J over the years, though I have never doubted her wish to retain some kind of contact with him.
At the beginning of this year I blogged about our desire to re-establish contact with V, which you can read here. The problem was that we had no idea where to contact her and the Local Authority would not commit any resources to looking for her.
In the end, it only took a minute or two for me to track her down using Google. The press had reported that she had been up in the Crown Court, so in front of a jury, in early January 2014. In April I called the Court and learned that she had been sentenced to eight and a half months in prison. I explained to the woman on the end of the phone what I was trying to do, and she helpfully told me that most women convicted in the Court in question went to Xxxxx Prison. I called the Prison and unsurprisingly, they weren’t able to tell me whether V was imprisoned there as I was not professionally involved.
Not much to ask then that the the Post Adoption professionals at the LA call the prison and ask whether V was indeed incarcerated there, so we had somewhere to write.
I called and emailed the Local Authority about it on 22nd April. I followed up on 30th April. I emailed again on 5th June. I heard nothing at all. Finally on 17th June I received the following email:
May I introduce myself as the Post Adoption Social Worker dealing with your request, this is a note to say hello- as I will be on leave until the 27th June. I have made a start by contacting the prison and leaving a message- however I have not heard back from the prison as yet- I will contact the prison again on my return.
What’s the betting it will be another 2 months before I hear again?
Post adoption contact is just one aspect of post adoption support, but it is an important part of it. This level of service in post adoption support is completely unacceptable. But how bad does post adoption support have to be before we challenge it?
I am linking this post up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO week 72 which is always worth reading.