When a child is first taken into care, it can take approximately 26 weeks for an interim care order to be turned into a full care order (if the child is staying in care) or reconciliation (if a child is returned).
That’s a really simple version of what could happen. In truth there are a myriad of options when a child is removed from parents and some are not as straight forward as others. They do, however, all have the child’s best interest at heart.
For the most part, parents/families work with professionals to try and resolve issues or decisions are made that mean children are unable to return. From what I’ve been told, for the majority or cases, parents are involved. One of the elements of fostering you are asked to consider when thinking about starting the journey is whether or not you will be able to facilitate ‘contact’. This could be contact with parents, siblings or even extended family members. I can imagine that balancing lots of contact arrangements can be a bit of a military operation for some carers.
So, 26 weeks is the approximate ‘norm’. Our children have been with us for 79 weeks. 553 days. With no final hearing. No decision. No closure. We have been close a couple of times to starting a final hearing but, with parents playing fast and loose with their solicitors it’s always fallen through.
Now, parents aren’t solely to blame here, Covid has played a massive part in the delays but it is not Covid’s fault that within that time the children have had virtual contact for approximately 13 minutes with their parents. Their refusal to work with professionals has meant our children have missed out, they themselves have missed out. But finally, our time is coming.
We could, within a week or so, have the result that we have been waiting for, that the children will remain with us. Just to be clear, my position as a professional, sits that children, if they can be safely, should be returned home. Ideally, families should be together. And if this can be done with professional support and in an environment of love and care then I’m all for it. We are meant to be a stop gap. A safe place, for a short period of time where we are, technically, working with the family to have them reunited.
However, this can only be supported if the parents work with social workers and also accept that what had been happening in their home previously was not safe for the children. Our parents do not think that. The children would not be safe. And hopefully, in a few short days, just before Christmas, we will have the definitive decision which can allow us to breathe. And to try and heal.