Meeting Summer at 5months old, and the first time since she was taken from her parents at 3.5 weeks old.
This is my story on how we became special guardians of our little princess, Summer - our Granddaughter.
Summer was taken into care when she was only 3.5 weeks old, my husband and I immediately discussed the situation, and we agreed together that we would speak to the Social services and ask for Summer to be immediately re-placed with us. So Saturday morning came, and we rang the number I tracked down online, but as it was the weekend, only the emergency team were available, the lady kindly explained she was unable to do anything that weekend, but she would get someone to ring us first thing Monday.
No call came Monday morning, so early afternoon we rang the Social Workers, and we were told that the Social Worker was not available and they would pass on our message and get her to call us. No call, so we rang again Tuesday, and we were promised the same thing, no call so we rang again on Wednesday - we were getting quite desperate and very panicked - not having any experience with this, we feared we would lose our granddaughter forever. It was lucky I found the http://www.frg.org.uk/ website, as I called them a few times, and they were able to give me lots of information, and support me throughout this difficult time.
Finally after our persistent calling, the Social Worker finally rang us back! But it was not what we was expecting - you would expect an empathic, understanding, and polite response - is that too much to expect from a Social Worker? I think not. I could tell immediate by her tone she was not going to be any of these things; in fact she came across very accusing and very matter a-fact - just generally very cold. First she wanted to know why we were calling so much - REALLY??? I took a big breathe and tried to remain calm - but I had tears in my eyes and the shear panic brewing up in me was unthinkable. She made accusations of us of having Summer's Dad in our home often, and I had to explain that we had a 'at arm's length' relationship with he and my step-son had not been in our home for over 2 years (This is another whole different story, which I won't go into). She then said Summer had settled down with the Foster Carer; heartbroken to hear that, as there was no need for her to have gone to a Foster Carer in the first place! The Social Worker explained that if we wanted Summer to be re-placed with us, we would need to go under an assessment, I said yes please, can we do the pre-assessment, which should take 6 weeks (I got lots of advice from frg.org by this time), and she said they would look into it for us.
We heard nothing for over a week, and after a week we kept trying to contact them, until we were finally told that the Social Worker had left, and a new one would be taking over the case soon - this took another week before we heard back, and this time the new Social Worker was much more friendly and approachable; he rang us, kept us updated, and was quick to organise a time to come see us so he could start the assessment.
We done the first assessment interview which took a couple of hours of intensive questions and looking around our home, and then it went quiet again, 2 weeks later to be told that he had left abruptly, and now the Social Services could not find any of the assessment he had done with us! We therefore would have to start from the beginning again - at this point, we had come to terms that we were not going to get a immediate replacement with Summer to our home, she had been too long now with the Foster Carer and made a bond, but we still moved forward, and now focused on getting through the full assessment and getting her with us ASAP, but as advised by the social services, it could take up to 3 months.
We meet the new Social worker (3rd one), who again was very nice, and helpful, and things quickly got rolling. The assessment itself was a long, intensive and very invasive process - we had many interviews with the Social Worker, and with Summer's Social Worker Guardian - the interviews were done as a couple and individually, they spoke to my 2 older boys, they spoke to my boys schools, we had medical history taken down, criminal record checks, intensive and very personal questions on our wider family and both our childhood - how we were disciplined as children etc. We were questioned about our relationship, our past relationships, how we handle disputes with each other, how we discipline our children, our financial situation, and lots more! but you get my gist. 3 months this went on.
All this time we had not seen summer since she was 3.5 weeks old - we were not allowed too, as parallel to our assessment, they were putting her forward on the adoption register - this is a safety net as such, in case our assessment failed, then there would be no delay in finding her a family to adopt her - And I read some horror stories online, where grandparents failed assessments, and lost children - which didn't help! Not until the final phase of the assessment were we allowed to meet Summer, which was done in a sure start centre. Finally we got to see Summer for the first time in 4 months, the Social Worker would be in the same room assessing us for that hour, and how we are with Summer (also the Foster Carer stayed, to support Summer, as we were strangers to Summer). She was nearly 5 months old at this time, and to be honest both my hubby and I was just so excited in seeing her, we didn't focus on the Social Worker being in the room watching us, and as soon as the Foster Carer brought her in, and Summer looked at me, and I put my hands up to gesture that I would like her to come to me, and she leaned towards my gesture - the tears started streaming down my face. My heart swelled and was full of love for her.
Finally, we passed the assessment, the judge ruled in our favour, and the steps were organised to slowly introduce Summer to us and the boys. As you can imagine it was a very exciting, scary and life changing time for us all - but we pulled together as a family and supported each other as much as possible. It was an intensive few days of visits, first starting out with an hour at the foster carers home with Summer, and then slowly working to half day with her, until then the Foster Carer was dropping Summer off to our home, and leaving her for the full day. This was done over 10 days, and then finally we went to pick her up and bring her home!
That was in February this year, and soon after she quickly settled in, and became part of our family. The boys adore her, and I am so proud of them all on how easy they made it for her, they show her so much love and attention, more than I could have hoped for - she has them all wrapped around her little fingers (smart girl she is).
Our happy little princess