I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the protracted procedure involved in deciding whether I am 'financially viable' to adopt Birdy, the little girl I have been fostering since she was 4 days old.
The issue first came up at my Adoption Viability Assessment meeting way back at the end of July. I was told I'd need to fill in a financial assessment form before being allowed to begin the adoption approvals process. I had to chase them up for the form, which took over a month to arrive. When it did arrive, it was clearly the wrong form, being an application form for Adoption Allowances. I had already been told I was unlikely to be awarded allowances, but I dutifully filled the form in anyway.
Several weeks later, I was sent an email requesting 'additional information' and another form to fill in. This form was clearly the financial assessment form I should have been sent in the first place. I returned it within the week.
I heard nothing for some time.
Then I received a phone call from the Adoption Practice Manager. She had some queries about my financial viability. "We need to decide whether you can afford to adopt a second child if you don't get any adoption allowances," she said. I pointed out the currently healthy state of my finances as evidenced on the form I had filled in several weeks earlier.
Her response was to make inaccurate assumptions about the information recorded on the form and then to present me with a range of increasingly unlikely scenarios and ask me what I'd do to put food on the table in each case. It was not a great time - I was standing on the pavement in the rain trying to get the children in the car one-handed - but I didn't dare ask if I could call back later as it had taken no less than four attempts to set up this 'urgent call'.
I have three sources of income. One is fostering allowances. Another is directly dependent on my continuing to work. And there's a third. My problem is that the LA apparently considers that none of my income sources are reliable. This is ironic since they are the ones who recruit foster carers under such strange working conditions that I feel sure we could challenge them successfully in the courts if it didn't mean that we would bring the whole system crashing down around our ears.
I have provided them with all the information they have asked for. But now they are asking me to prove my financial viability not just for now and the foreseeable future, but also for the unforeseeable future. Crystal-ball like, I am suppose to gaze into my own (apparently quite dystopian) future and predict my responses to a range of disasters.
After nearly 15 minutes of this questioning I frustratedly commented that in the unlikely event of total disaster I could always get a job and go out to work like other parents do. After all, I'm still a qualified teacher. She was surprised to hear that I'm a teacher. Well, you will have these little surprises if you get involved in someone's adoption approval process without even a glance at their files from the two previous approvals they've been through with the same LA.
But earning a living isn't the right answer either apparently. "We'd have to consider whether spending all day in nursery while you were out at work would be in [Birdy's] best interests." To which I responded that if they believed that Birdy's needs were such that she needed a full-time parent at home and could not attend nursery, then this seemed to make a good case for adoption allowances to be granted.
There was some spluttering at this. Apparently the person I was speaking to has nothing to do with the award of adoption allowances. She can't comment on that at all. It's outside the purview of this telephone conversation.
Several weeks have passed since then. It is now two months since Birdy's last LAC Review at which the IRO set a 2-week deadline for the completion of financial assessments. I have heard nothing from the Adoption Team since that phone call.
However, I did arrive home from our trip to CenterParcs last week to a letter informing me that Adoption Allowances will not be granted.
I am now seriously beginning to wonder whether this is more than the usual attempt to crush the spirit of a prospective adopter. Are they seriously considering not allowing me to commence approvals for this child? Are they seriously considering letting this baby hang around in foster care for months and months after a placement order has been granted, and then sending her off to complete strangers when the foster carer is willing to adopt? Seriously?