New and sounding off!

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MandyLou
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Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:23 am

New and sounding off!

Postby MandyLou » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:22 pm

Hi
I’m new to this board and really just need to vent my frustration at trying to find a way through the world of children’s services.
My step-daughter is 18 and has just had a baby. She was referred to children’s services before the baby was born over concerns about her parenting capability. As a result she and the baby are living with us temporarily, with a plan for her to develop some skills and move back into her (not entirely suitable) council flat.

Only thing is, there was a bit of a blip when my husband and I went on holiday for a week. Everyone knew we were going, and extra support was in place, but she really let herself down. Reverted to being the teenager who plays up as soon as your back is turned. She can be quite selfish and doesn’t always think of the impact of her actions on others. She does have a learning disability, but she has never been assessed as an adult, only in school.

I know that if she changed her attitude a bit (or maybe a lot), and was willing to accept some teaching and support, she will be capable of parenting her child. I also know that the social services team should be looking at her capability taking her learning disability into account. They did say they would refer her for an assessment, but I discovered that they haven’t done this.

Now she is getting told that she can’t return to her flat with the baby – although this has only been said verbally, nothing in writing. And even though this has been said, nothing seems to be changing or moving. Everyone seems happy for the status quo to continue as baby is safe while they both live with us, but we have only agreed that they can stay for a short period of time as we don’t really have the space for both of them. My husband is also out of work at the moment, which is seen as a good thing by social services because he is around to provide support and supervision, but it is not a good thing for our finances and he needs to be looking for work.

I don’t want to push the situation to breaking point, but I wonder how long we can go on waiting for children’s services to decide what they want to do next. They have talked about us becoming more involved in the baby’s care, and that we would be the first place they would look to place the baby if they started care proceedings, but it seems to be all talk at the moment. Like a veiled threat – maybe they are hoping that she will respond and sort herself out, but it doesn’t even look like they are going to let her try if they won’t let her go back to her flat.

I know that the baby is not high on their priority list as he is safe, but if we get to the end of the agreed period for them to stay with us, does he suddenly become a higher priority or are children’s services hoping we will just let the situation continue and decide that she doesn’t have to go back to her own place? After all if she and the baby stay with us, baby is safe so no-one needs to do anything, the council can have the flat back and her benefits claims will be less for housing as she is living with family. The only people that suffer are us.

We are getting advice from various places and we have managed to ensure that she is referred to adult social services to get some kind of joined up assessment (following some advice from the FRG helpline – thanks guys). I just needed to ‘sound off’. It’s being in ‘limbo’ I find hard. If children’s services decide to act we then have something to work with – this feeling of knowing you are in for a tough ride but you just don’t know when it is going to start is driving me nuts! :?

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Robin D
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Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 12:58 pm

Re: New and sounding off!

Postby Robin D » Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:56 pm

Hi MandyLou. You are welcome here amongst friends who do understand the frustrations.

It's great that the help line was able to advise you, and perhaps now things will start to get some focus in Childrens Services.

Feel free to rant here whenever you need to! ;)

best wishes ...... Robin
Former F&F carer, foster carer, adopter and respite carer for umpteen children. Now retired and when with kids, making sure they 'go home' at the end of the day.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: New and sounding off!

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:52 am

Hello MandyLou

My name is Suzie and I am the online adviser at Family Rights Group. Just wanted to echo Robin's welcome to the board.

I can see that you have spoken to an adviser on the advice line so I don't want to repeat advice you have already had.

As you haven't posted since your initial post, though, I was wondering how things are going? Do come back and ask if you have any further specific questions (or call the advice line again, off course!)

Best Wishes

Suzie
FRG Adviser

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MandyLou
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Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:23 am

Re: New and sounding off!

Postby MandyLou » Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:03 pm

Hi

Well the next core group meeting is tomorrow and hopefully we will then get some idea of where children's services are going with this. The social worker hasn't contacted my step-daughter at all and have made no further attempts at anything which even looks like an assessment.
Obviously if my step-daughter can choose to sort herself out and put the baby's needs first, then we need to work with the agencies to allow her to try to care for her child herself. I'm not prepared to be the bad guy who takes the baby away - but it seems like children's services are waiting for us to do that.
We had a call from a family group meeting adviser who wanted to talk about the residency order that the social worker said we are going for - except we haven't said we are going for an RO - all we have said is that if children's services feel the need to place the baby with us we need to be sure we have the ability to make decisions about his welfare.
Plans to get an adult learning difficulties assessment have come to nothing so far. The main issue I can see is that she can cope, and can learn the right things to do, she just makes the wrong choices and always puts her own needs and wants first.
We still have nothing to fight against, but let's see what tomorrow brings.
MandyLou :?

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MandyLou
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Re: New and sounding off!

Postby MandyLou » Mon Dec 03, 2012 7:35 am

And..... the core group meeting was cancelled due to the social worker being ill.
The team manager was on annual leave.
On talking to children's services duty social worker we were told that they could not authorise my step-daughter going home with the baby. So she went back to her home (mostly to protect her tenancy and to see her new boyfriend) and we babysat for the weekend.

Frustrated and a little annoyed - but strangely not surprised!

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David Roth
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Re: New and sounding off!

Postby David Roth » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:35 am

Hi MandyLou

If the local authority is trying to push you towards making a residence order, they may have their own reasons for doing this. They would be able to say that a baby who had been at risk was now safe. But they would also be able to do this without taking on any obligation to provide any financial support or support services.

You do need to find out under what circumstances it might be safe for your stepdaughter to care for her baby herself - a proper assessment of your stepdaughter and her support needs will obviously be crucial for this.

If it begins to look as if she won't be able to bring up the baby herself, then you need to think about whether this would be something you would be willing and able to do. It is a very big long-term commitment to make, and will need careful thought.

If the answer is yes, then you need to get information about all the different legal options there might be for doing this. A residence order is only one of those options, and may not necessarily be the best one for you and the child. You would need to take advice about what different orders mean, and decide through negotiation with the local authority and through the court process.

My advice would be not to be rushed into anything. There are big decisions to be made about this baby's future, and you can take time to give them due consideration.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

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MandyLou
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Re: New and sounding off!

Postby MandyLou » Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:28 pm

We finally had a core group meeting where the decision was..... to not make a decision.
We pushed the social worker a bit as it really looks now like she is saying one thing to us and another thing to my step-daughter. Almost as though she doesn't want to tell my step-daughter that they don't think she can look after her baby.

We did manage to agree that assessment of my step-daughter is vital, and the referral to the adult learning difficulties / vulnerable adult teams would help with this. When we asked why the social worker hadn't made the referral (we ended up doing it over 6 weeks into the process) she said she hadn't had time. Hadn't had time to make a 5 minute phone call.

Ok... so we are not a priority. The baby is safe. Children's Services would only act quickly if the baby went home with his mother. Almost makes us want to suggest this just to see what happens. Except, we know the right support isn't in place for my step-daughter and we would worry she would not make the right choices without that support.

So here we are in limbo land (still) with a now 10 week old baby. I'm shattered and also holding down a full time job. My husband is shattered. My step-daughter, meanwhile, comes round (when she isn't seeing her boyfriend) and takes over care of her little one for a few hours before going back to her independent life. And I think she is enjoying having the cuddles with baby without the worry of whether he is going to sleep tonight or not.

I might be a little bit harsh sometimes with her. I think she would be able to cope if she wanted to and had good support. I just wonder if she wants to.

So... we have written to the social worker again and expressed our concern about the mixed messages. We have asked them to clarify their position on the case. And, so far, we haven't heard anything. I don't want us to be the bad guys telling my step-daughter that WE are going for a residence order because we don't think she can cope. That will cause more damage to the relationship between us and her, and surely it is for children's services to decide if they don't think the baby should be with her. They have verbally told us this is the case, but when pushed the social worker said they hadn't made a decision.

Oh... and we have asked for my step-daughter to have an advocate - and the service available to her won't begin working with her until a decision is made about the baby by Children's services.

Aaaarrrggghhhhhh! It just feels like we are going round in circles. And of course the closer we get to Christmas the harder it is to get hold of anyone. The only positive at the moment is that the next case conference is not all that far away...

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David Roth
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Re: New and sounding off!

Postby David Roth » Mon Dec 17, 2012 3:49 pm

Apart from all the dealings with social workers and the local authority, it sounds as if you need to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your stepdaughter.

As you stated, the current situation might be quite comfortable for her. However, she needs to understand that it can't continue like this indefinitely. If she thinks that she can continue to see her son as and when she pleases, and then one day when she is ready walk in and take him back, then unfortunately it might not work out like that.

Children need to grow up with stability and security. If you decide that you would like to raise your grandson, you will have some important decisions to make:
- Are you making a decision to bring him up throughout his childhood, through until he becomes an independent adult? If so, this could bring you into confilct with his mother, if she ever feels she wants to take him back again.
- Would you under any circumstances be willing to hand him back to his mother? It does happen in some places that children are raised for some of the time by their grandparents, before going to live with their parents. If you think this might be the case with you, what would you expect of the child's mother before you would be willing to hand him back to her? You would of course need to bear in mind the child's own wishes and feelings about this. Again, there could be conflict with the mother if she wants him back but you think she's not ready yet.

It sounds as if bringing up the baby is already having a tiring effect on you and your husband. If the baby were to stay on with you, it would be important to think about what support you might need, and talk to social workers about what could be provided.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

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MandyLou
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Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:23 am

Re: New and sounding off!

Postby MandyLou » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:26 pm

Well... we went to the review case conference and the decision is made that my step-daughter will not be allowed to have her baby living with her as the concerns for the baby's welfare are significant. She continues to live her life putting herself first - dropping in to see the baby when she can be bothered.

We are adjusting quite well to the little one now - especially as he sleeps through the night which has made a huge difference.

Next step is to secure his position with an initial residence order and see where we go from there.

I'm very aware that children's services want us to go down the residence order route rather than care proceedings and foster care - but we do have a written committment from them now to assess us for financial support. The key thing for us is to keep him safe and limit the influence his mother can have.

It is sad, but my step-daughter has very much gone off the rails. Some of the things she is doing are almost beyond belief - and explaining to her that if she cannot look after herself then she cannot look after a baby doesn't seem to have an effect. She is so detached from reality now that she thought that the case conference meeting was going to say she could have him back despite making no changes to her lifestyle.

We are just taking pleasure in the baby - and distancing ourselves from her. We cannot support both and the baby is totally dependent whereas she is an adult and has to face the consequences of her actions. Don't get me wrong though - it hurts like crazy.

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David Roth
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Re: New and sounding off!

Postby David Roth » Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:12 pm

The other legal option that you might want to consider is a special guardianship order. This is a stronger order than a residence order, without going as far as adoption - for example, special guardians have the exclusive right to exercise parental responsibility, which is not the case with a residence order, so it might be a better order if you think you might ever be in conflict with your stepdaughter about any decisions you want to make about the child. You can read more about special guardianship in our advice sheet 19: http://www.frg.org.uk/need-help-or-advice/advice-sheets

Whatever you decide, I wish you and your grandchild a settled future, and I hope you and the child's mother can get along as best as posssible - the relationship with the parents is often the most difficult part of being a family and friends carer.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser


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