Luckily Baby Billy is oblivious to the fact that I am not yet legally his Mummy. The question is, will we ever be his legal parents?
Not for the first time, we are the victims of the courts increasing reluctance to issue Placement and Adoption Orders. The courts are currently intent on doing everything they can to keep children with their birth families and seem to be more inclined to issue SGOs (Special Guardinship Orders).
According to the latest figures published by the ALB (Adoption Leadership Board), the number of children being considered for adoption has dropped significantly from 4,680 in March 2014 to 2,960 in December 2014 (See Adoption UK June 2015).
This trend, I believe, was initially triggered by a ruling in November 2013, by the President of the Family Court, Sir James Munby, stating “the six-month targets for adoptions should not be allowed to break up families unnecessarily and that grandparents and other extended family members should be considered before placing children for adoption.” (See Independent May 2015). This was followed by a couple of cases where Judges overturned existing decisions. The result is many courts are now very wary of issuing Placement and Adoption Orders.
Unfortunately the start of our second adoption journey started in the Autumn of 2013 coinciding with this emerging trend. We spent over a year living in limbo, bumbling through each month waiting for the next court date. Initially we were hoping to adopt our daughter, Winnie Whirlwind’s baby sister. But after three court hearings it was finally decided, in July 2014 that baby sister should go and live with her paternal grandmother, who didn’t appear until five months in to the process. Hopefully it was the right decision for little sis, but I can’t help but worry that placing her with someone with a life-limiting illness, who is in regular contact with the violent birth father, may not be the best decision!
Anyway, after we had picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves down, we decided to go ahead and adopt anyway. The timing was perfect, as our decision coincided with Baby Billy needing a new family. Perhaps it was fate? Was it just meant to be?! He was perfect for us and it seemed we were perfect for him.
Initially it was hoped Billy would be placed with us in September 2014, then it was hoped, November 2014. But the courts had other ideas. Despite the birth family not being an option right from the outset, the courts were reluctant to issue the placement order. It was finally issued in December 2014 and Baby Billy became part of our family at the beginning of January 2015.
Billy has settled amazingly well. It feels like he has always been here. Everybody loves him and he loves us. Baby Billy makes us all smile, even on a really bad day. And so our social worker was happy to support our application for the Adoption Order after 10 weeks of placement..
However once again the court had different ideas. The hearing took place last Wednesday and the Judge agreed the birth family is not an option. He had no issue with us, or our ability to parent. But he wants our social worker to speak to our referees again. Basically we have been told, he wants to ensure he has dotted every i and crossed all the ts, so there are absolutely no grounds for appeal.
Do these people have any idea of the impact they have on people’s lives by prolonging these decisions? Of the distress they cause by delaying decisions for both birth and adoptive parents? Judges make these decisions based on several pages of black and white facts. They do not know who the people involved really are. I understand they need to do everything they can to ensure they make the right decision, but isn’t this a bit excessive? Our social workers is just as frustrated as we are. She assures us it is just a box ticking exercise. But we can’t help but worry!
We now have to wait another six weeks for another court date. Another six weeks before we find out what the future may, or may not hold. Will a decision actually be made? I do hope so! In the meantime I will scoop Baby Billy up, cover him in kisses and do all the things a Mummy should do. And Baby Billy will babble, gurgle, toddle and laugh, fortunately oblivious to the turmoil that surrounds him and the uncertainty that surrounds his future.