There are undoubtedly many good, committed, caring and sensitive social workers in the field, and those individuals are worthy of praise. Our experience was a different one, a very bumpy road that started the day before Adoption Panel when we met our new social worker, and carried on till the end of the process. The relationship we had with our social worker Dominique left me resentful and bitter, and I cannot let go of the sense of indignation I feel.

In January 2015 we finally started to settle down, to form a stable routine, we were happy, and hopeful for the future. Ben was almost one year old and he was doing great, he showed a strong attachment to us, he started walking and talking. Everything was looking up: we felt like a family for the first time!

We still had social workers coming to visit every 4 to 6 weeks, and we were looking forward to our Celebration Hearing in March. Life was close to perfect.

Suddenly perfection disappeared. I will always remember the 12th of January. Something happened that day that would shake my husband Diego and myself, that would change us forever. Definitely something that would make us despise social services, and in particular our social worker Dominique.

That day in January was the day we were informed M had died. My husband Diego called me from work, he never does that, and started talking to me in Italian. I knew there and then something had happened, he never talks to me in Italian: M è morto. I just hung up trying to make sense at those words, M is dead, and then emotions took over.

Diego and I met in 1996, when my life-long friend Annika asked me to accompany her on a double date. That day not only I met my future husband, but I also met the person that would became our dearest friend. M was my witness when I got married, and the person who was always there for me if I needed help; the person I shared my secrets with. M was my best friend.

We shared a friendship that lasted 19 years, we had big fights, lots of laughs, plenty of tears, long chats, and millions of texts exchanged. His death came completely unexpected, and I couldn’t accepted it. He was about to turn 40, and he died of an heart attack. How was that even possible?

I never knew what losing someone this close meant, and I was completely devastated by it. I didn’t really know how to handle the situation, what to do to feel better, and to be able to cope with the day-to-day life. I cried for days, I still do sometimes. I was struggling to look after Ben, it’s hard to be playful and cheerful for your 1 year old boy when all you want to do is just hide and drown in sorrow.

The day after the appalling news, Ben’s social worker Katriona was due for a home visit. I explained what had happened, and I asked if there was a way for us to attend M’s funeral. I knew perfectly well it would have been close to impossible, but a part of me was also sure social services could find a way. Aren’t they there to support you when you’re struggling after all?

The funeral was going to be in Italy. That meant to leave Ben for two days, one night only. That would have given us just enough time to fly there, attend the funeral, and come back home. Katriona told me it was the first time she incurred in such a scenario, and she had to check with the office. In her opinion I should have stayed home, while Diego was free to attend.

I wasn’t happy with her answer, I needed to go to the funeral, and even if I could in part understand her motivations, I thought that emergency situations would call for emergency solutions. After all I wasn’t asking to go on holiday, or out for a party, it was my best friend funeral we were discussing. I needed to say goodbye, I needed to be there to support Diego and all our friends, I needed to be there for M’s family. I just needed to be there.

Katriona returned to the office and as promised she made a few enquiries. She spoke to our social worker Dominique, who soon after called me on the phone. That’s when the lies, threats and insults started.

Dominique opened the phone call telling me that I wasn’t behaving like a mother, that I wasn’t putting Ben’s needs before my own. Needless to say I was in such a bad state that looking after Ben properly would have been hard. Dominique wasn’t willing to listen, she was just repeating over and over you are a mother now and you need to act like one. It was like receiving a slap in the face. I never claimed to be the perfect mother, but since the day Ben was placed with us he became my number one priority.

She wasn’t quite done yet. Dominique carried on saying that the Celebration hearing was just a couple of weeks away, and if I was leaving to go to the funeral, she would have told to the judge that Ben’s placement with us was not a continuous one. She explained that the judge could stop the adoption application to go any further, and social services would remove Ben from our care, and put him up for adoption again. A second slap right in the face.

She probably felt slightly guilty for insulting and threatening me, and a couple of hours later she phoned me again to ask me if anyone from our networking circle could have looked after Ben. I was hopeful she was trying to find a solution, so glad she was trying to help. I straight away suggested Fran and Mark, who gave us references at the start of the adoption process and met with our first social worker. They are a married couple, stable and reliable. Dominique turned them down because they have a 15 years old son. She didn’t feel comfortable in placing Ben in the same household of a teenager. It was mad and outrageous! She was talking about the son of our good friends as if he was a pervert!

She explained that the only acceptable solution was for Ben to be placed in emergency foster care. We asked if he could have stayed with his former foster family. We were visiting them often after placement, and Ben refers to them as Grandpa and Grandma, but Dominique explained that a child that leaves a foster family cannot return to them.

I gave up, I couldn’t deal with Dominique any more. Clearly social services weren’t prepared to find a viable solution. Diego left for Italy alone. It was incredibly hard for me to stay, as it was for Diego to leave alone. From an idyllic moment in our family life, we found ourselves in the middle of a nightmare. All we wanted was to just wake up.

Diego said his goodbye to M, he spend some time with M’s family, and shared a few drinks with all the friends that M’s life touched. There were tears, but also lots of laughs remembering the time they had with him. Diego started to work through the stages of loss during his trip to Italy, and he’s slowly coming to a state of acceptance. It’s not the same for me.

I still hold on to my anger, and I cannot forgive Dominique, and the social services. It was bad enough I could not attend the funeral, but it was understandable under the circumstances. I’m a reasonable person. What I cannot forgive are the lies, threats, and insults.

One day I will let go of all these bad feelings, and I will be able to forgive. One day I will come to peace with what happened. That day I’ll be a better person. But that day it’s not today.

I want to end this post with a smile, and with a warm feeling in my heart. Today would have been M’s birthday and I want to remember him through the lyrics of song he loved, and that made us all sang together plenty of times.

“The Parting Glass” by The Pogues

Oh, all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They’d wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Goodnight and joy be with you all

In loving memory of M.Z.
(18/03/1974 – 12/01/2014)

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4 Comments

  1. Suddenlymumof2 19th March 2016 Reply
    • Laura Boccaleone 19th March 2016 Reply
  2. Gareth Marr 20th March 2016 Reply
    • Laura Boccaleone 20th March 2016 Reply

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