We were getting to the end of our assessment and panel was rapidly approaching, it had been long, intense and surprisingly emotional. We had a great social worker who we felt we got along with very well and who we found to be professional and very capable.
Suddenly we hit a huge stumbling block and the process came to a grinding halt when our agency received an anonymous and vicious email saying that we were unfit to parent. The content of the email was relatively simple to disprove or render irrelevant, however the fact that we had somebody in our lives capable of sending such an email was of grave concern to social services, our social worker worked hard with us and got us over this significant hurdle and we do feel it could have been far more complicated and I guess even fatal to the process had it not been handled with such professionalism and determination.
A number of the issues raised in the email did relate to us being a gay couple and although we had felt that processing a gay couple was probably reletively new for our Social Worker (as indeed it would have been for many/most at that time) and possibly even quite personally challenging, we never felt judged or criticised in any way.
Except for this once that is. There were a couple of loose ends to tie up before our report was finalised and we received a phone call to give a response to two or three final questions. One of which was ‘how will you explain to your children that you are gay’, with very little thought I responded ‘well I don’t think there will ever be a need to explain it to them as such, they will be living with us and experiencing it first hand’.
The conversation that followed went like this –
SW – Well they won’t understand unless you tell them.
Me – Of course they will, they will clearly see it, it will just be part of their lives.
SW – But how would they know and understand what they are seeing?
Me – Well they will see us living and functioning as a couple and they will see the love that we have for each other.
SW – But how, what would make them understand?
Me – They would see the intimacy, see us showing our love.
Puzzeld SW – but how?
Me – Well, by going about our lives as a couple, by us embracing, by us kissing etc
Shocked SW – but surely you wouldn’t be kissing in front of the children!
It was very much a reactive response, obviously delivered with no real thought and as such it certainly didn’t feel as though it carried any kind of animosity. I think it simply displayed her true comfort level around homosexuality (as opposed to any kind of homophobia) and consequently I took no offence, I responded ‘Well of course we will, just like you and your husband, or indeed any straight couple kiss and cuddle in front of your children’ and this was enough to bring the conversation back on track.
It was one blimp in an otherwise totally professional handling of us and if it was an insight into her true feelings then I feel that it emphasised just how professional she had been over all.
I am sure it was just a lack of first hand experience and I feel sure that nothing of the sort ever happened in any another gay cases she has handled since.
Gay adoption then (7 plus years ago) was still relatively new and social workers would often have been dealing with their first gay adopters – which I think was probably the case with us – so of course it would have been a steep learning curve for many.
As I say, it was just one minor blimp and from conversations with gay adopters who have gone through the process more recently it is the kind of ‘faux pas’ that is now no doubt relegated to ancient history.