If you follow our life drama you will know that at the end of the last post things were not going too well for us. Both husband and I got to the point where we realised unless something drastically changes, the placement will not survive our turmoils. Therefore Sunday night we wrote a very honest email to both Social Workers and requested a Disruption Meeting.
If you are unfamiliar with this term, from a council’s website: ‘The term disruption is used to describe an event otherwise referred to as a placement breakdown or a placement ending that was not part of the Child’s Care Plan. Placements rarely disrupt as a result of the action of one individual but usually through a combination of several factors. Therefore, the objective of a disruption meeting is to take a hard look at everything and agree to a way forward. Participants need to know that the process is not an exercise to apportion blame… ‘
Meeting the Head of Services
Normally such meetings are chaired by at least a Senior Manager or higher; in our case it was the boss of the boss of the boss of our children’s Social Worker. Our SW, the boys’ SW and the two play therapists were there. When the meeting room table has sandwiches and plates set up already you know that it’s going to be a long and hard meeting. When I wrote on Twitter that we have requested this meeting several people commented on how brave we were. This got me thinking…
I have written already about the power dynamics between an Adopter and their Social Worker and from that post you might get the impression that it is ultimately a fight between THEM and US. I believe the system is set up correctly, but somehow along the way sooner or later the adoptive parents and council workers find themselves on the opposing sides. Perhaps it’s because the Child’s Social Worker Job Description and the Adoptive (therapeutic) Parent to a Traumatised Child Job Description are different. The SW’s biggest (I don’t want to say ‘only‘, but it often feels that way) concern is the Risk factor for the child, while the parents have to juggle a few other main concerns, too. I feel our boys’ SW isn’t particularly the top of her class and that might be only my subjective opinion (and it could be lots of different reasons, bureaucratic or others why she can’t do certain things), nonetheless we needed to work together.
Getting ready for this meeting hubby and I realised something important. If we continue to look at them as THEM vs US we all going to fail. We had to work hard to find some common goals that could unite us otherwise we don’t have a chance and everybody will loose. This common thing that should unite us all was the welfare of our children. Putting our differences aside we had to agree to work towards this common goal and if possible, insert individual agendas where appropriate. I strongly believe the LA team also had similar thoughts (heaven forbid instructions from above), because the meeting took place in an open, friendly and professional atmosphere.
Not assigning blame
This is a hard one for me, as I think I can pinpoint some failings on the LA’s side that led us deep down the rabbit hole and consequently a very serious Disruption Meeting had to be called. But for the sake of getting results we didn’t voice them. From their side (see, I keep referring to them as ‘them‘, oh dear me) neither the Chair, nor any of the ladies around the table said anything negative about pretty much anything. I think they also realised that unless we look at each other as equal and fair partners instead of opponents we will all fail the children.
They thought our request for respite was absolutely fair and above debate. Apparently (as our SW said it after the meeting) money wasn’t even considered when they first discussed our request a day before – well, let’s wait and see). To my utmost surprise the Chair came up with a few options and variations of respite for the coming weeks and months. Option 1 was their preferred version of how things should play out for the next chapter, while option 5 was our preferred version. They have been presented with a neutral tone and we did have the impression they were willing to go even to the extremes if we ask for it as long as it is reasonable and will benefit everybody’s goals (that is for the placement to continue and to be successful).
Honest talking can lead to a good action plan
We said to them honestly that unless they come up with reasonable offers and an immediate support package we have no options but to give notice on the placement. They knew we are not just giving empty threats, that we aren’t just milking them for more money and most importantly, that we are not doing it for our own benefits! Sure, a nice long holiday just for hubby and I would be lovely, but ultimately the goal is for us, parents to recharge our empty batteries, do a little self care and reset our emotional balances so that we would be in a good enough place mentally, emotionally, physically to provide the best care and support for our children.
In addition to regular respite we were given assurance that some targeted Play Therapy sessions will commence to help the children with their Life Story Work. This has been a particularly welcomed action point! They also offered some therapy for hubby and I by a third party who is not on their payroll. In September and Independent Assessment will commence to find out our needs so that a more tailored support package can be offered. And the best bit is that these things are already sent to me in writing! 🙂
The conclusion is a mixed bag, though. On one hand it is wonderful to see the council has a long term view and they treat us as reasonable partners. It IS great to know that respite is coming! It makes it a tiny bit easier to tolerate the punches if you know it’s coming. On the other hand, I still need to borrow energy from somebody so we all make it till the respite starts…