22. “link maker, link maker, find me a match…”

It turned out that those boys weren’t meant to be our children. ‘Another match is being explored’ is how it was termed by the family finders. We were very disappointed, but got the sense that this was just the beginning in a long line of heartache and upset.

I’ve been fascinated to see the huge percentage of Aryan children in the UK, now I know I shouldn’t be shocked by this, but given the diversity in our population, there’s a lot of blue eyed, blonde haired kids out there! Cara and my preference is for darker hair and eyes, more like ourselves. Again, I’ve been surprised at the strength of a connection one feels, on the basis of looks alone. This is in complete contrast to our usual outlook, but it transpires that I am driven by aesthetics….which I hope is some kind of evolutionary trait for parents to recognise/nurture their offspring and not the fact that I am materialistic and shallow. Whatever the root cause, we are able to select our children on the basis of their physical attributes and that’s weird!

We also feel drawn to children with Downs Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy – which is not surprising given our work life and experience, but in conflict with what we originally agreed re. pre-diagnosed disabilities.

Unsurprisingly, given our predilection for darker children, we have come across a lot of mixed race children that we feel drawn to. Inter-racial adoption is highly controversial. As I may have mentioned before, adopting outside of your own culture is difficult to do: you need to be able to demonstrate strong links to a child’s heritage and an ability to promote this. We had come across a young boy whose mother is White British and Father mixed race, the lad had white skin and non Afro Caribbean hair. He was beautiful and we began to wonder if this was something we could support. To seek a rounded opinion, Cara was keen to seek adoptees insight on the issue and signed up to a group on Facebook where questions can be posed and answered. What followed can only be described as a vicious torrent of unadulterated abuse. This was obviously very upsetting, but we had to recognise that the people posting on this page were sad and damaged by their experiences, and using this as an outlet to vent their anger at the system. Regardless, it gave us something to consider and forced us to remember that we wield an unnatural degree of power to alter the course of a child’s life, and this is not something to take lightly.

I began writing this post a couple of months ago, we have now been approved for three months and have yet to find a match. Since the initial disappointment of the three boys, there have been many more; the system is flawed and fascinating – this is the side of the process that doesn’t feature in the documentaries. To date we’ve ‘registered interest’ in 17 children/sibling groups, and 41 enquiries from social workers on behalf of children; given that the majority of these are groups of 2 or more, that’s well  over 100 kids that haven’t resulted in a match for whatever reason. We’ve fallen head over heels for some children and never got a response form a social worker, or to be told that ‘better matches are being considered’.  Response times from local local authorities vary wildly, but the general rule of thumb is ‘three chases’ and if they don’t get back to you, they’re not interested.  We’ve been sent multiple CPR’s, which are unwieldy difficult to read. In one instance, our Family Finder shielded us from a report, recognising that the abuse the lad had suffered would result in lifelong therapy and support. Stories of incestuous sexual assault, non accidental injuries, systematic abuse, filthy homes and food denial are sadly recurrent. The  common factor is abused parents, often in the care system themselves, the reality of this cyclical pattern terrifyingly evident.

It seems that geography is a real factor in placing children, sometimes social workers will discount us on the basis of where we live – which is a real frustration given that we keep falling for children from Yorks and Humber! Laying awake at night, it’s hard not to wonder what impact being a same sex couple has on social workers opinions;  difficult not to consider my family history and mental health as a mitigating factor, but as Cara is quick to remind me, we can’t think that way. It’s non productive and unhelpful – we are who we are and the right children will come along.

We’ve been to an Exchange Day, which is where approved adopters meet with Social Workers and Family Finders, to share details of children seeking families. This was an interesting, but not particularly useful experience. We had seen the majority of the children on Link Maker already, but it was good from a networking perspective. If there is a particular child you are interested in, the opportunity to chat to their social worker would be invaluable.

We also went to an Activity Day, this is essentially a giant fun day for children awaiting adoption, where prospective adopters can go along and meet them in person. These days are themed, the one we attended was ‘Fairy Tales’ and fancy dress was suggested.

Diligently Cara donned a purple dragon onsie and I saddled up my trusty steed, Kevin the inflatable horse, equipped with shield and sword. As we entered the auditorium for the briefing, 40 nervous faces looked up at us, distinctly NOT in fancy dress. The swish swish of nylon horse echoed around the hall, as my fan gently hummed in the back ground. Cara sweated quietly under her hood. “Oh thanks goodness, I wasn’t sure…” murmured one woman, as she delicately planted a miniature tiara on her head. I think it’s fair to say we made an impression.

It was actually great: well organised, fantastic activities and some delightful children. We expressed an interest in a couple of sibling groups following the day, but it transpired that their ongoing needs meant that we weren’t a match.  Activity days are a fantastic way to meet children ‘in the flesh’ as it were, however it is worth bearing in mind that the majority of these children are here because they have more complex needs (certainly not always apparent) which has made it harder for them to find their forever families. We decided that we would certainly attend another event, even if the only outcome is that we get play lots of games and ensure some looked after kids have a great day out.

Now it is December – surely this must be the most protracted post EVER; we’ve been approved for five months, which have certainly not been without it’s frustrations. A key part of this has been, dare I say it, our inexperienced Family Finder. I’m sure he’s a nice bloke. but he is poor at responding to emails, actioning requests and sharing information. We’ve toyed with making an official complaint, but we’ve erred on the side of caution, because he is a) learning on the job, and b) RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR FINDING OUR FUTURE CHILDREN…and we can’t afford to fall out with him.

However, belt yourselves in folks, today, December 1st 2019 is the day that our search ends.

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