change of goalposts

worriedmum81
Posts: 36
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

change of goalposts

Postby worriedmum81 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:01 am

I've got 3 children currently in long term foster care. Last year it was decided that I could start taking my children out for one to one contact on special occasions. In February I therefore took my younger daughter out to a restaurant which worked well. It was supervised "just in case" but it went really well. The support worker stated that at the next meeting and said she doesn't feel we need supervising on these special occasions as there have never been any concerns.
For some reason on the next two birthdays I wasn't allowed to do the same for the older two children and was told it was because they had a new social worker, but they had had him for 18 months. And the children had already excitedly chosen where they wanted us to go so disappointed.
I raised it at my daughter's lac review last week and they were non-committal about if I can do it again in February and want to discuss it first with my older children's social worker and foster carer, even though they have nothing to do with my younger daughter.

A similar issue I've also had is I was approved phone contact over 2 years ago with my older daughter, when I raise that I haven't been allowed a single call they say she doesn't want to. She said a few months ago, within hearing of the support worker that she wants to, completely unprompted. I told her she had to ask her carer as she has my number. My daughter rolled her eyes and replied "as if that ever works" . At the lac review I raised this and was told again that she never asks, then was told she has broke her phone so can't anyway. My 12 year old son said he would like a phone for Xmas but when I mentioned that's what I was getting for him was told he doesn't need or want one, despite recently having gone missing for 2 hours and saying it was because he didn't have a phone to tell them where he is.
And was told very pointedly that he would not want to phone me anyway.

Over the past few years my children have said repeatedly they want to see me and each other more. These are during normal conversation supervised by the contact worker who agreed with me about these conversations in the lac reviews. But when asked by the review officer they say they are happy with how much contact we have so won't consider more, saying monthly is a lot of contact and my seeing the children takes time away from being with their new families (fostered not adopted and no plans for adoption). I was told if they ever requested more contact to either the carer, Social worker or lac officer it would be considered.
Just before Xmas, after contact my daughter left happily then got upset later asking why she has to wait so long to see me again and saying she wanted me.
unfortunately instead of listening to her she was told off for her attitude (apparently she demanded to see me, instead of asking nicely) then when asked by her social worker about it, put her head down. She is autistic and uses body language when struggling to express her feeling and the way it was described she thought she was in trouble so said she doesn't want to see me more, but there where tears when she said it.
this to me means she does want more contact but thinks she is in trouble for asking. But instead of seeing it that way, it was presumed (and also on the paperwork) that I must have prompted it at contact. I asked the contact worker and she agreed that I have never done that. There was a veiled threat that seeing me so often is causing my daughter problems, especially if I am antagonistic with social by asking for more contact.
Sorry it's such a long post but it keeps playing on my mind that they are trying to separate me from my children even more than they already have. Any advice would be gratefully received

ladyp
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 6:47 pm

Re: change of goalposts

Postby ladyp » Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:09 pm

Hi
I have been there lied to contact reduced etc etc all I did was find out what they should be doing and making sure they understood I was aware of there ways ....... I had to fight so much but bever gave up i had meetings with top managers kept every email and letter also try and get some other legal advice from anywhere u can and if u have to take it back to court yourself mske sure you get copies of paperwork from contact as they will have had to write down what your children are saying it all helps but never give up good luck

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 1961
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:57 pm

Re: change of goalposts

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:32 pm

Dear Worriedmum,

I can see that you are concerned about how children services are considering your contact with your children.
All three are currently in long term foster care placements and have contact with you monthly, as well as with each other. There has been discussion about contact increasing.
It is right process that the looked after children review should consider contact. It looks like your request is being explored by the social worker and the independent reviewing officer.
Here is our advice sheet about contact with children in care. Page 8and 9 sets out research and government guidance about contact that you might find helpful.

“Special occasions” contact
One way for contact to increase is by you seeing your children on special occasions. You saw your younger daughter on her birthday and it went well. You are waiting to hear whether this can happen with your older children (who have a different social worker).
By email, you could ask the social worker and independent reviewing officer whether they have reached a decision.

More contact
Your daughter who has autism seems upset over the contact. She says on the one hand, that she wants to see you more then (so she is not told off) says she doesn’t.
Again, the regularity of your contact is being considered. However, there is also talk that it might be reduced in respect of this daughter, due to her being upset.
I think your daughter’s autism will be relevant when considering the amount of contact she has with you. Children services should take this into account. They may want to consider talking to an autism specialist when planning contact. It sounds like they may be concerned about contact upsetting your daughter-for example separating from you at the end of contact. As what is in our daughters best interests in the main factor, you could ask how could you help with ending contact, given her autism-to make it easier for her? Would increasing contact over and above monthly be in her best interests?
Often contact only increases substantially, if there are plans for children to return home to you. You need to have this discussion with the social worker about what increase is being considered? What do they envisage? When will they tell you the outcome of their assessment?

Phone contact.
It does not seem clear how this will happen. Will it be supervised by carers? How is it envisaged? How often will it be and when?

To help you draft an email, look at our tips on asking for contact on page 10 of the advice sheet.
Best wishes,

Suzie

worriedmum81
Posts: 36
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

Re: change of goalposts

Postby worriedmum81 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:56 am

Thank you for your advice Suzie. I emailed my younger daughters social worker and the review officer about the special occasion contact for her birthday. She had asked if I could take her to the cinema. I got a reply that I am not getting this contact as I must have put pressure on her and that I am being unfair to her. I didn't raise the idea, we where talking about the next family contact when she mentioned it. I had handled it appropriately in my eyes by not making any promise, just said we wouldn't be able to talk in the cinema and changed the conversation back to our family contact. I spoke with the support worker who supervises our contacts. She agreed that I haven't said anything inappropriate and that I do handle these conversations well when they are raised. Unfortunately now when we have meetings about contact and lac reviews the support worker is no longer invited, so I get accusations without a professional who is able to support me about contact.
My children always leave contact happily, even if they try to run back for one more hug and kiss. The only upset is later, knowing they have to wait another 4 week's. I don't know how I can help that and cannot prove one way or the other if they do get upset and if they do, why they get upset.
The occasions contact for my older two children was agreed originally last year but despite the agreement being in the minutes I wasn't able to do it. The only reason given was its because they had a new social worker.
The phone contact agreed (and I've checked the paperwork, it was my older daughter who requested it 2 and a half years ago) was planned that the foster carer would have my phone number and supervise when they called. My daughter stated she had asked several times but the carer was too busy. A few months later she said she couldn't ring as her carer said she didn't have my number. I reassured her that I would sort it out. At the next review I mentioned it, gave my number again but was told my daughter doesn't want to ring me.
I thought as my daughter is nearly 15 her views would be taken into account. She was excited when my eldest came home as she thought she could see him more often but this hasn't been allowed despite him being back nearly 2 years. It was agreed that they could see each other but the social worker said it wouldn't happen as they are "different types of children" as my eldest went into a Care home rather than placement for a while. It felt like he was being stereotyped. I've been told I shouldn't have let the younger children know my eldest son has moved back in with me as they started asking when they can come home. Their foster carers/social workers told them not until they are 21. This seems really unfair to me but I have a meeting on Thursday, I am really hoping there will be fair consideration of our requests without unfair accusations

worriedmum81
Posts: 36
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

Re: change of goalposts

Postby worriedmum81 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:12 pm

I had the meeting on Thursday and have come away with very mixed feelings. Less than an hour before the meeting was due to start I got a call saying I couldn't go as the foster carers had now been invited and as they hold very different opinions to myself one of them had requested I be dis-invited. I made it clear how unfair I felt this was. Having then phoned my oldest sons Social worker about it, she was shocked as she hadn't been told this decision was made. She organized for me to still be allowed to attend the meeting about my contacts with my children. Obviously this had an impact on how I was feeling before I even arrived.
At the meeting itself the social worker I get on with couldn't come as she was tied up in another meeting but came for the last 10 minutes. I received lots of accusations, the only voice that defended me and tried to agree with what I said was the contact support worker who I had invited. She was the only one in that room besides myself who has ever been in my contacts. She agreed that the contact is great, that my children enjoy coming and she has no concerns, and has never heard anything that I was being accused of saying. She was then criticized that if she feels there are no concerns she "obviously can't be supervising properly". The decision was made that we are no longer allowed joint contact as supervising 10 people is a lot more difficult than supervising 9 people. She was instructed to supervise a lot more carefully and record anything that could be interpreted as a concern in any form. My contacts have not been recorded for 3 years so if anything negative is recorded, then that will be the only records of my contacts in recent times.
I was lucky that my sons Social worker came in at the end, she is the one I have known a long time and get on with. I was glad that she heard some of what was said, including my being told that when my children ask if they can have more contact or when they can come home I must "shut it down" by telling them that they are not getting more contact and are not coming home. I have always said they must speak to their social worker, but they feel that is not good enough as it leaves it open for the children to "still hope to come home". I was interested in those words as I am always told the children don't want to come home. The social worker was shocked when she heard what they were telling me to say and said it's unfair.
There was a lot of disagreement about my level of contact. One of the social workers and the foster carers voiced that I have too much contact at once per month, but I argued the case that it would be unfair to the children to reduce it further. There was an outright refusal to consider my 17 year old to be allowed to see my nearly 15 year old in a normal setting, such as shopping or the cinema, as there is too big an age gap.
I got an explanation about why I do not get invited to my younger daughters shows and parents evenings as it was agreed several years ago. The foster carer said it is because my daughters friends and their parents that the foster carer is my daughter's mum, they would be too embarrassed if I was their And have to explain who I am. I was reassured by the foster carer though that "she refuses to call me mum when we are at home"
some positives came out of the meeting though. They refused to consider changing the day or time of contact, which I asked for consideration for my son who is in college that evening, despite him being available any other day. His social worker had localised with my sons college tutor so he will leave early on the day of contact and we have moved where we have contact so it is closer to his college. (on a side note, I asked over 2 years ago if we could do contact at the place we will now be doing it, and told that was impossible, so feeling a little glad of this change)
but my biggest positive is that my sons Social worker said if I was to apply to discharge the order and go back to court she would support me, but as I haven't had any counselling except the cbt I paid for privately, the court would not agree that I am ready for the children to return. Surprised that I haven't been offered counselling over the past 6 years she asked if she could refer me for some, which I willingly agreed to.
Despite the negatives of the foster carers and some of the social workers I feel I have the backing of one of them, as her words where "you have done amazingly well, from being homeless and having depression to now have a nice home, your son is back, have a really good responsible career and a loving relationship with a really nice man, who we know is getting his children home, in a short time you can join your families together and be like the Waltons"
I think there can now be a plan put together so the children can be returned within 18 months

User avatar
Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 1961
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:57 pm

Re: change of goalposts

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:33 pm

Dear worriedmum81,

Thank you for posting back. I can see that the Looked after Children (LAC) meeting addressed a lot of your questions about contact.

As you say, alot of positives came out of the meeting-the contact supervisor –the only professional present at your contact continues to say how contact is beneficial to your children.

Also your son’s social worker has indicated that she would support you if you were to apply back to court to discharge the care order. She set out how you had turned your life around. She is also going to refer you for the counselling you may need.
Your son returning home seems to be a future plan. Was there talk about timescales? She says you will need to have completed counselling beforehand.
Before children return home from care, there will be an assessment to see what support might be needed to ensure it goes smoothly. An increase in contact would usually take place as part of the move home.
When you get the minutes of the meeting-check that her comments and recommendations are reflected in them.

Although, the contact worker has been asked to make records, these should show positives as well as any negatives. They may go a long way to proving how well contact has been going.

There had been discussion about reducing contact as well. When children are in long term foster care, there is often a lot of worry that contact with parents can de- stabilise the placement, and in the worse-case scenario, cause it to breakdown. That can have a detrimental effect on children because as well as moving placements they may have to move schools as well. So all round it can be very disruptive.
So I can understand why there was a discussion about how often contact takes place.

However, from what you say, contact is staying at the same regularity. So your argument about it not being in the best interests of your children to reduce contact was accepted. This is good news.

I am surprised at the last minute decision to try and stop you coming to the looked after children meeting. Often there may be disagreements about such things as contact, that’s why there is a meeting to share information and decide what’s in the best interests in relation to a child.
Guidance that governs looked after children (LAC) meetings sets out how parents should be consulted beforehand and invited to the LAC meeting. This is because parents have legal parental responsibility which means they can be involved in making decisions about their child alongside the local authority.
Only in exceptional circumstances should parents be excluded, and then a parent should have those reasons set out in writing. So you could ask for these.
Luckily, the social worker for your son was on hand to help you attend at least part of the meeting.


Best wishes,

Suzie

worriedmum81
Posts: 36
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

Re: change of goalposts

Postby worriedmum81 » Fri Feb 16, 2018 2:26 pm

My eldest son returned home in October, he remains on a care plan, I requested he continues to remain on the plan as I prefer to feel he has extra support due to problems he has had in his past. It's going really well with him and I get on great with his social worker, she treats him like an adult which he appreciates, while trying to ensure the other social workers remember he is only 17 and as such needs contact with his siblings. My middle children are getting a change of sw, which I hope will be good, as the new one is a specialist in autism, I have requested several times to have more specialist involvement as there are 2 diagnosed children and 2 in the process of diagnosis so will be useful and I am hoping to build a good working relationship with him as there felt like an issue between me and the previous one from the beginning.
With the issue of contact causing problems with placement, I have never said anything negative to the children about the foster family's, and have tried to encourage the children to be settled, but I do find the foster carers are unsettled by my level of contact. Both sets of foster carers voiced this at the meeting, and said it was unfair that my contact affects how much time they spend with "the family". One issue that was raised was the foster mum had a birthday meal on my contact day. My children came to contact then went to the rest of the meal. I knew nothing about this, and it was apparently middle of last year, but it was said that I'm being unfair insisting my children come to contact when it meant "part of her family missed part of her meal" if I had been told about it I would have suggested a change of contact date to accommodate them, although the foster families where informed a year in advance of all contacts so they could in effect have planned the meal better. There was also an accusation that I insist on seeing my children near there birthday and Christmas, when I have never been the one to arrange contacts, it's always been social workers. I do find that my children get taken away on holiday on there birthdays generally which often means I don't see them, but have never said they shouldn't go, but as they have their own caravans and a year's prior notice for contact, maybe the carers could try to plan a little to try to avoid the one day per month if possible. The only complaint I'm aware of was when my parents complained that my daughter missed every wider family contact consecutively for nearly 2 years. From 6 years old to over 8 years old as she was always taken to the family caravan. This has had a big impact on her previously close relationship with my parents. They where obviously very upset when they were told by the social workers that she has to get used to having a new family. This was made worse being told at the meeting that my daughter's friends have been told her carers are her family. I fought desperately to stop her being adopted but it feels like she is still being taken step by step into a different family despite the ruling. I know that sounds dramatic and I am really grateful that I still manage to see my children and shouldn't moan. I have my first counselling session in April so hopefully I'll start seeing things clearer and maybe feel more positive. Things can only get better


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