Parents' Perspective 1
Part Two: What did the adoptive parents, foster parents, and birth parents tell us?
We spoke to the foster parents of 55 children, the adoptive parents of 51 children, and the birth parents of 9 children who had returned home.
Involvement in care planning: What helped?
Children’s care plan arrangements were important issues for foster parents and birth parents.
What foster parents said:
Most foster parents felt involved and consulted in the decisions taken around the care plan, but a few said that they did not feel sufficiently involved and felt as if they were ‘at the bottom end of the brush’ in this process.
“I think Social Services try to push in things that we find maybe aren’t important ... we consider ourselves as the long-term carers … we are the ones that know them best and sometimes they come in and you feel as if they are disrupting things rather than trying to make them better.” (Foster parent)
“I suppose that is one of the good things about Social Services: they are there to speak for you if you need [them].” (Foster parent)
What birth parents said:
Only a few birth parents felt confident in expressing their views. Some said they believed they were listened to. Others did not feel involved in the decisions taken around the care plan. Some said they felt unwelcome, powerless, and threatened at LAC (Looked After Children) meetings, and found Court processes stressful and lengthy.
“then a couple of times, they [LAC meetings] actually came out to the house because it was easier for, handier for me … They [Social Services] were very, very accommodating, they were very good, so they were.” (Birth parent)
“No matter what I said at them reviews, they never seemed to listen … you were there to voice your concerns but they only wanted you there so that they could dictate to you and tell you what to do.” (Birth parent)
Relationships with social workers
For adoptive, birth, and foster parents, experiences of the care system often appeared to depend on the relationship they had with social workers.
“Our social worker used to come and baby-sit for us … that was very practical and great, because in the early stages you don’t really know who you can trust to look after your adopted child” (Adoptive parent)
“The social worker’s the one person in my life that never, ever judged me … she always seen me as individual, as a person, not just as a mum.” (Birth parent)
“There were social workers sitting, senior social workers sitting here in this house, trying to convince us that they were acting in the child’s interest ... in my opinion, they weren’t ...” (Foster parent)
The descriptions that foster parents gave of social workers went from ‘a disaster’ and ‘too nosey’, to ‘brilliant and great’, ‘helpful’, ‘fantastic’, ‘second to none’ and ‘very supportive’. Similarly, while some birth parents had very bad relationships with their social workers, a few had extremely positive relationships with them, above all when they felt the social worker did not ‘judge them’ and ‘treated them with respect’.
Foster parents and birth parents reported constant changes of social workers, which often caused disruption and stress for families.
“It’s stupid because you get another one and they don’t know what they’re doing, when there’s one that knows ... what all parents are like, and then this new one comes along … I hate them changing all the time.” (Birth parent)