Friday, August 5, 2016

My IRO Fairy Godfather

The saga of Birdy's adoption process could fill a multi-volume tome. It has been at times brutal, incomprehensible, upsetting and frustrating, but now the end is tantalisingly close. We are daring to hope.

Today we had what I sincerely hope will be Birdy's last LAC Review. It was just me, the IRO (a new guy), and her social worker (also new) sitting on sofas in our playroom, surrounded by brightly-coloured plastic toys.

The social worker called in advance to say that she was going to be unavoidably detained, which left me entertaining the IRO alone for nearly half an hour. I made him a brew. He decided to fill himself in on the background details as, in his words, there are some aspects of the paperwork that "seem rather irregular".

In particular, he wanted to know why I, as a foster carer and previously approved adopter, was pursuing a private adoption for Birdy. An excellent question I thought. So I told him the whole tale. He raised his eyebrows a lot. He seem perturbed. He interrupted several times to say things like, "Why would they say that?" and "That doesn't make any sense!"

I cannot express how gratifying it was to hear someone in a position of authority say that, yes, all that we have been through for the past 16 months has been, well, ridiculous and unnecessary. This professional used the phrase 'best interests of the child' several times and actually seemed to have an understanding of what that means, day to day, in our real lives. I could have hugged him. I didn't.

When the social worker arrived, one of the first questions he asked her was what steps the LA are taking to learn from their mistakes in this process. To be fair to her, she has only picked up this mess of a situation in the last two months and has been the one to get it sorted out, so she takes no blame. The IRO acknowledged that, and suggested that he would make those enquiries himself.

Then he asked the social worker to make sure that she wrote a Post Adoption Support Contract for me. I have been told several times that PAS won't be an option for us (despite legal advice to the contrary). The IRO wanted the PAS contract in writing so that there could be no question about eligibility in future.

Then a thought occurred to him. He turned to me and asked me very sincerely if I felt I would be able to approach the LA for PAS in future, considering the way I had been treated. If not, he would authorise for our future PAS to come from a different agency. Wow. I got that urge to hug again. I resisted.

As it happens, I am already accessing PAS through the LA for the boy, and it's going rather well actually (so far), so I declined his offer. Anyway, I'm too feisty to just let them off the hook like that. But how reassuring to know that this option could be made available.

I've sat in meetings with quite a few IROs now. They can be shadowy figures from a foster carer's perspective, blazing in for reviews, all efficient, and then disappearing for months. Sadly, I've experienced their excellent recommendations being completely ignored in the meantime. I know what they are supposed to do, but sometimes I've wondered what tangible effect their work really has. Today I found out, and I like it.

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