Lindsey Ford (pictured) will never her first adoption case and the caring efforts of all concerned to give a little girl with a sad beginning a happier life.
As a children’s services social worker, there are certain aspects of the role that are harder than others. Personally, I have found the responsibility of the adoption process very difficult but very rewarding.
I am reminded of my first adoption case, which has stayed with me. Not because I made a mess of it, but because of the tremendous hard work that was undertaken by foster carers, the adoption agency, health professionals, the birth mother and myself to secure a family for a little girl who had experienced a very sad beginning.
The little girl was born withdrawing from a cocktail of illegal substances, which her mother took during pregnancy. Due to major concerns over the mother’s inability to care for the baby, the local authority took action to safeguard the child. I proceeded to find a specialised foster carer who had experience in caring for babies who suffer drug addiction.
The carer was excellent she had patience and was so nurturing throughout, including the very difficult six months of withdrawal that the baby suffered. It was very upsetting to observe, but her carer sang to her, held her and was there 24 hours a day – nothing was too much for her. I could talk to the carer openly, as could the baby’s mother without feeling judged.
The hardest part of the process was the search (following the outcome of the court proceedings) to find an adoptive family for the baby. I remember the sleepless nights, looking through all the paperwork from the adoption agency with information on couples who must have been hoping I would choose them.
I felt like I was playing God and I hated it. What if I got it wrong? What if I met them and didn’t like them? Or they didn’t like the baby? Again, the foster carer was there for me to talk to and she gave me encouragement.
The baby’s mother spoke about her hopes and expectations about a family for her baby, which she loved dearly but knew, because of her own issues, she could never care for.
This was so valuable as I felt she was part of the process, as did she, and in some way I feel this also gives her comfort knowing that here was a social worker who wanted the best for her daughter.
Eventually, I found a family I felt would be able to care for the child and give her all the love and nurturing she needed. They didn’t have an expensive house or live in an exclusive area they were working-class people who wanted to offer themselves to a child. They were committed I will never forget the expression on the adoptive mother’s face when she saw a photograph of the baby girl – it was very moving. They attended all the dates, including early morning and late night visits. The foster carer again was there to support them and guide them through the “getting to know the baby” stage. What was more, she approved of my choice.
Now, four years on, I still wonder how the little girl is doing and hope I made the right choice – a choice that changed the lives of many people. I did ask the adoption agency how the child was and the good news is, she is thriving, happy and settled. She has grown into a beautiful girl. I will never really know if I made the right choice, but by using the strengths and expertise of others involved, I feel I was able to secure the best outcome for that child.
Lindsey Ford is a children’s services practitioner in the NSPCC’s child protection team at Barrow-in-Furness