I have been quiet for the last few months despite there being plenty of activity around our adoption application. I think that I was perhaps a little superstitious, in that if I wrote about what was happening the result of most recent efforts might not be what we had hoped. Strange, but then so is Ireland’s stepparent adoption process. It has been incredibly difficult, and I am very, very angry. In my frustration I thought that perhaps I should abandon the blog. But having finally seen some lovely comments left by readers in a similar situation, I am encouraged by their bravery and commitment to their children to continue writing. If there are any others out there reading this, please connect if you feel comfortable in doing so. We need to keep talking about this.
Once we changed my son’s birth certificate, we submitted it to the HSE. We received a phone call saying that they had added the birth certificate to our file and that we were now officially through to the next stage. Fantastic, we thought. The expense, the inconvenience, and the stress of a third DNA test had finally brought us closer to securing our son’s future. We were more than ready to make some progress after handing in our original application over six months ago.
The next stage was informing the birth father.
This has to be done regardless of how much contact he has had with the child. In our case, there has never been any contact between my son and his biological father. In three years, the man has never asked his name, whether he is in good health or if he can provide any practical or financial support. They have never met. When I informed him that he was the birth father, he did not respond to my e-mail(his phone number was no longer in service when I tried to call). If I acted in the same way and refused to care for my child for three years my son would have been taken from me, placed with another family and I would have eventually lost all rights to him. But the birth father still has the right to be notified. He also has the right to halt the application and take the family to court for access and/or guardianship. It would mean dragging the process of adoption even further.
We asked when contact would be initiated as we had provided what contact details we had for the biological father in the application form . The social worker replied “Oh, there’s a waiting list to be allocated a social worker who will contact the birth father on your behalf. You’re looking at six months at the very least”. I didn’t shoot the messenger, but I made her very uncomfortable sobbing down the phone. We would be trapped in the country until the process is done, my son would have no security with his dad if I were to die and this process did not serve my child’s best interests. She apologised but said that there was nothing she could do as they were understaffed.
Livid, my husband and I sat together that night and discussed our options. There had to be another way. There was. We just weren’t told about it. My husband rang again and this time spoke to a regional supervisor, who informed us that if we had the biological father sign the form ourselves, we would not have to be allocated a social worker. This would cut the six month waiting period for us. I had to fill in a form stating the nature of our relationship previous to my pregnancy, his current contact with my son and how much maintenance, if any, he paid. This form was quite bare for us.
Why on earth did the original phone conversation not result in us having this information? Why did we have to speak to a supervisor in order to find a better, faster alternative for our family? Surely each social worker working with the adoption board should be familiar with the rules and processes. It was very worrying and showed desperate lack of communication skills within the team. I wonder how many families have had to wait unnecessarily simply because their social worker did not impart useful information?
You can find the second part of this post here