I have written before (this time last year actually) about the White Noise that comes with adoption; a sort of never-ending buzz that stays mostly in the background but sometimes pushes its way to the fore. A lot of the time we get along like any other family but, in reality, it's never possible to completely get away from the fact that adoptive families are not quite like other families. There's always that white noise.
Recently, with two unrelated looked after children in the house, an adoption in progress, and letterbox time upon us, the white noise has become considerably more noticeable. Each of these situations comes with its own set of professionals to deal with, paperwork, meetings, appointments, plans and schedules. I will pull out my mobile phone to discover a missed call from Children's Social Care and think, well, that could be from any one of eight or ten people!
This week alone I have spoken to Twinkle's social worker twice, Birdy's social worker, Birdy's IRO several times, my adoption social worker, a PAS social worker and my supervising social worker. And that was just a regular week with no extra meetings or appointments. That might not seem so bad, but bear in mind that, usually, an actual conversation with social worker will have been preceded by several missed calls, or a series of emails to set up a successful call. At times like this I get irrationally irritated that their switchboard closes at 4.45pm. Not 5pm. It's almost as if they're admitting that nobody stays in the office until 5pm so there's no point ringing.
I have resorted to contacting Birdy's IRO directly to try to cut through the issues surrounding the adoption process we are supposed to undergoing. I am concerned that there is no timetable for it, no final contact with birth family scheduled for her, apparently no accountability for whoever leaked my intention to adopt to Birdy's birth mum before her placement order had even been secured. She promises that we will discuss all these issues at the next LAC review which will be happening very soon. I had to ask her to personally ensure that I was told when it was scheduled as I was not invited to any previous review, despite my presence being theoretically required as Birdy's foster carer. The IRO admitted that there seems to have been "drift" in the process - an understatement I'd say since she remembers me discussing it with her back in March and there has been virtually no progress since then. She was of the opinion that there was no reason why we couldn't be at panel in ten weeks. I rolled my eyes. She has a good reputation but I haven't yet heard of her working miracles.
In the meantime, Twinkle's situation has done a complete reverse course. We had quite a dramatic few days shortly before we went on holiday (and she went to respite), and now it seems as though she will be staying here for quite a while longer. This will have implications for us all and I'm not sure what the best course of action will be as yet. She is a little girl full of challenges and yet I do think I'm beginning to see faint glimmers of progress. We will see. Mostly it's out of my hands anyway.
And then, earlier this week, we had a particular moment when the white noise became not just intrusive, but deafening, all-consuming. Driving to my close friend's house for a playdate with our children, I slowed at a junction to let a young couple with a double buggy finish crossing the road. It was only as they got on the pavement and turned towards me that I saw that it was OB's birth mum, her partner and their two tiny children.
She didn't see us. I'm sure about that. OB was chatting away in my ear, Mummy this and Mummy that, and I couldn't take in a word he was saying for the buzzing in my head. I only caught a fleeting glimpse of her face as she walked off, barely aware of our car, but I knew straight away it was her, as surely as she'd have recognised me if she'd seen me.
Of course I've always known that OB's birth mum lived locally - in the next town in fact. But not in the small town I was in that day. Not in a place I go to at least once a week. Not so close to my friend that they would share the same local park (a park I won't be visiting again any time soon). My dentist is in that town. We might even share the same dentist. We were, maybe, a quarter of a mile from my friend's house. I have always expected to find myself face to face with her again, but, you know, in a few years, when OB was older, when and if he chose to look for her.
Hoping against hope for reassurance, I phoned post-adoption support only to be told by a very kind and understanding lady (after several missed calls of course!) that the most recent address they had for birth mum (which of course she didn't disclose) was not in that town but was also, probably, extremely out of date. I suspected as much. She hadn't co-operated terribly well at the time of the adoption, so the chances of her keeping social services updated as to her latest address were always going to be slim.
Tonight, tomorrow night maybe, I'm going to write our annual letterbox letters to birth mum and paternal grandma. I'm going to write platitudes and moderately interesting anecdotes about OB's year, without hope of reply in birth mum's case anyway. And all the time I'm going to be wondering if her second and third children are playing at the same park as her first one so often does. I'm going to be thinking about that for a while.