On one ordinary Saturday morning I opened a letter from the court dealing with Star’s adoption – Star’s birth parents were asking for leave to appeal the making of an adoption order. It was a short letter, no details. Dates for them to lodge their reasons. Deadlines for the local authority to respond.
And for us, all we could do was wait.
We weren’t invited to court. Many months before we had met Star, the court had decided that her birth parents were not able to safely parent her and the Social workers were instructed to find her an adoptive family. They found us and Star had moved in.
Now we were only referred to as the “prospective adopters,” despite the fact that she had lived with us for 4 months, and called us Mummy and Daddy.
There was a wrestle in side of me. On one hand if they really, truly had changed- and as a Christian I have to believe in the power of God to change broken lives; then hearbreakingly, I wondered, should they be given another chance ? But there was another part, the part that did not want to believe them capable of lasting change, did not want a judge to risk her whole future because biology trumped everything else. Did not want her to return to a home where she couldn’t communicate, or thrive. Did not want to have to say goodbye to our gorgeous daughter.
It was so hard: here was a momentous decision that would affect the rest of our lives being taken without us present. This wasn’t about us. It was about whether the birth parents could prove they were now good enough, safe enough, to care for her.
Days, turned to weeks and eventually on a chill Autumn day came the day of the leave to appeal hearing. Due to be heard at 10am.
The social workers said her birth parents wouldn’t attend. The social workers did not think they had made lasting change. The birth parents had been told that the local authority believed she should stay with us. That they weren’t capable of parenting her safely.
I dropped Star at preschool and as I walked home alone I KNEW they were headed to court. In my minds eye I could picture them saving all their money for a week or two to afford the bus fare. Standing in the court to beg the judge to let them have their daughter back.
All day I waited at home. Lunchtime came and went, then school pick up, finally at 16.15 while collecting Hannah from hockey practice a text came through.
The birth parents had attended,
the judge had allowed them to address the court despite them not doing so beforehand in writing.
Their application for leave to appeal had not been granted.
Another date had been set for the adoption order to be finalised. They were told not to attend. We were not called to attend either.
The relief was like a physical release, but I remained worried. Reports about us were now submitted to the court. Her Social worker said “I can see how much she has thrived in your care. There is no greater advocate for Star, than you.”
But I didn’t let my self believe that it might all be over, in case there was another delay, another hearing.
Finally the 2nd court day dawned. Star was again at preschool and I had a meeting with her Speech and Language therapist.
I came out of the meeting , grateful for the care and concern of the therapist and glad to have had my mind consumed by syntax and strategies for extending verb vocabulary etc.
As I was leaving the preschool building I realised that Star was having her photo taken in a Christmas photoshoot. The date had been rearranged and I had completely forgotten about it. Star saw me and immediately wanted me to come into the room and join her for a photo. The lady photographer kindly took a couple of us together. Star on my lap, Star and I cheek to cheek smiling. I was given some proofs, thanked the lady, said goodbye to Star and walked out to the car.
As I tuned started engine I noticed the time on the dashboard clock: 10.32.
I drove to a local cafe with free wifi, planning to have a cup of tea and a slice of cake until Star was ready to be collected. Before I got out of the car my phone rang – it was Star’s social worker.
The adoption order had been granted.
I was legally her Mum.
As I hung up, I picked up the photo proofs from the passenger seat next to me. Star’s face smiled back at me – Star had one of those enormous, heart melting beaming smiles and we were cheek to cheek, my arms wrapped tightly around her middle.
I realised that photo was taken at the moment the court proceedings had started.
The moment I legally became her Mummy.
And I wept and thanked God for his Unstoppable Grace to me.