Birth Mother’s Wishes

DURING the court proceedings for H and our SGO  (Special Guardianship Order) being granted, H’s mum, my niece, was adamant that she wanted H to be christened, like his half siblings were.

We were in agreement with this, despite neither of our children being christened.

We are not anti-church or anything, far from it. My whole family are regular church-goers and I, myself, am a born again Christian and My brother in law is a minister. My wife, however, comes from a Muslim background and her parents are devout to their own faith.

We made a conscious decision that our children would be brought up to know both faiths and then could make their own choice later in life as to which, if either, they wanted to follow.

It took quite a while to arrange and we were keen to keep the details away from the birth mother due to the impact she has had on the wider family and because of the injunctions that were in place.

We were to have him christened in September at my parent’s church and my brother in law was invited to carry out the service.

As the date came closer, inevitably, she found out and began to make threats to turn up and create a scene.

Naturally, this put us on edge and a number of my family members also. Disappointingly, it resulted in my brother and his family not attending and also one of my sister’s, her family and H’s half sister not attending the service.

We considered cancelling the service or even rearranging the service to happen at my brother-in-laws church 150 miles away. In the end, we decided to continue with the original plans and had assurances that she would not attend. The trouble with her mental health conditions is that she is unpredictable and there was the risk that she might just turn up.

She did not attend and neither did the birth father. Members of the birth father’s family did attend as they had been invited.

The impact on the wider family involved in SGOs, never goes away. Something straight forward can cause disagreements within the family, years after the granting of the SGO. It caused difficulties with those of my siblings who decided to not attend – and the manner in which they decided to not attend. 

We have rebuilt the relationships but the question will always linger in the back of our minds… no matter what we arrange for H, will family not attend “just in case” his mum “might” turn up – no matter how small the likelihood is.

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MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS

SO WE were thrown back into nappies and sleepless nights 6 years after deciding we were not going to have anymore children.

When you have your own children, it’s difficult enough juggling life, them, their sleep routines and relationships with – and visits to – family members and friends.

Most of our “Mummy and daddy” friends have children of similar age to us. Going back to a newborn after several years is almost like starting over with your first child. Your friend circles that didn’t have babies when you had your first, went on to have children but now they are much bigger and are now back to work. So many SGOs are typically grandparents so it must be even more of a challenge to them!

So, an SGO is largely not recognised by many workplaces. When you have your baby you get maternity / paternity leave. When you adopt, most companies have adoption  policies involving leave and fostering most companies have policies for that too. My wife works for one of the biggest supermarket chains in the UK and there is no policy in place for this scenario.

Fostering is classed as a job and there is an expectation that a single person fostering would leave their job to foster – and in a couple, the primary carer would leave their job.

An SGO is neither. So life must go on as it did before he joined us. When H joined us, it was on an Interim Care Order which wasn’t even an SGO so the area was even greyer.

I must say, Nadia works two days a week at this retailer and has done for 12 years. They were very supportive towards her. 36 hours after H arrived in our home she went to work. Nobody knew about it. It wasn’t too long until Nadia had a mini breakdown at work and she blurted out what had happened.

It left some head scratching and phone calls between the store and their head office HR department – they let her take the day off (paid) and would come back to her once they had looked at the policies and taken some advice. In the end they gave her 3 weeks paid leave.

I am self employed and am flexible with what I do so I wasn’t impacted as much but if I didn’t go to work, I would not have any money coming in.

This post is more about the relationships we are trying  to maintain for H but I felt the above information is relevant.

Hs Family 

So H has a half sister at one of my sister’s.

He has two half brothers at his Nanna’s house alongwith two aunties that live there.

He has another Great Aunt that doesn’t live locally

He has a Great Uncle also.

He has a half brother on his father’s side that he is yet to meet.

He has my parents (his great grandparents)

He has his paternal grandparents

He has a few aunties and uncles on his paternal side, not to mention cousins.

He has a mother

He has a father.

Mother and father each had supervised contact during the interim care order and for the first 12 months of the SGO.

The father managed two of the contact sessions before losing interest and, at this moment in time, shows no interest in seeing him.

The mother was a little more reliable only missing one session… but now having been told she needs to pay for supervised contact to take place at a contact centre, she is refusing to arrange anything.

The maternal half-siblings he gets to see relatively frequently. His Nanna often walks past our house and pops in – and is good friends with our neighbour. The half sister lives with my sister who is a single mum who works full-time still. The half sister sees her dad every other weekend so is difficult for him to see her regularly.

Paternal Nanny, Nanny J, has met H regularly. From when H first moved in, Nanny J came to meet him and comes once or twice a month for an hour or so.

I take my children and H to my parent’s home most Saturdays. My kids are both at school in the week so generally only get to see my parents on the weekend. 

If either Nadia or I worked full-time it would be very difficult to maintain the relationships that we are currently doing. This takes time out of what we do, the contact would often interfere timing wise with H’s sleeping habits and is, quite frankly, quite exhausting! But it is important for H to recognise his family who do want to have a part to play in his life.

With the contact, due to our court order we had – and my wife’s persistence with social services, H was always collected by a lady from the contact centre. This was extremely unsettling for him as he got a little bigger. He recognised the lady who came and what it meant. He cried as soon as he saw her. He would arch his back when trying to get him into the car seat in the lady’s car. He cried all the way there. 

H struggled to settle at contact with either of his parents. Dad had an hour every six weeks which only happened a couple of times. Mum would see him every six weeks for 90 minutes. The first hour or so, we were told, he was reluctant to interact with or play with mum, but by the last half an hour he would begin to. As you can imagine, this was quite hard for mum to deal with but she persevered and turned up to all but one sessions.

For H’s long term benefit we hope that both his mother and father, arrange for their contact to start again. He needs to know where he comes from and know who is parents. We were chatting last night about what we need to do if they don’t. Obviously this blog, unless deleted, is a record for him to look at in the future but we will also be putting a book together for him.

If Nadia or I had full time jobs, with H being so small, we would not have been easily able to maintain the relationships with his wider family as we have done. We may not have even been able to accept Harvey if I worked my old job where I was away from home 2 or 3 nights a week! 

Having a new ‘brother’ – the children’s perspective

We have a 9 year old daughter  (A) and a 7 year old son (L). My daughter wrote out her own questions and answers on top of what I asked her.

We are so proud of how our children have taken to H turning our world upside down. They both accepted him into our family and adore him! 

When he first arrived our daughter was very excited. She had not long grown out of dolls so this, I think to her, was like a real life doll! She is very maternal and loves to help out whenever she can. We thought the novelty would wear off but for now, at least, it hasn’t.

L was a lot more subdued. My boy likes to sit back and assess things before jumping in. The first few days that H was with us he was quite shy around the baby. He didn’t really know what he was supposed to do around him. He had not really experienced a baby. He would look over H from a few feet away. After a day or two he got much closer and then started to stroke his head when H was sleeping. Now they are completely inseparable!

A’s perspective 

“We had just got into the car after school when mummy and daddy told us H was going to be coming to our house, I was very excited. I hadn’t seen him before and I didn’t know what he would look like. I was excited as it was a baby and I love babies”.

“When he arrived I saw he was a baby-baby. He was so tiny. We had a little hold with him and then we put him in the Moses basket in our front room”

“Mummy taught me things like how to pick the baby up, how to feed him. As he has got bigger I have helped teach him to walk and say words.”

Now H is 18 months old, the bond between our daughter and H is amazing. Just as strong as her relationship with her brother L.

“When I am sad he is there to cheer me up 🙂 and he has cute dimples that makes my heart light up” she wrote.

“We usually play running around games with him and sometimes he screams really loudly (happy screams!). We play with his toys which is fun”

“I love H because he is always there for me and never let’s me go. He plays with me a lot! He loves me back. He opens my heart out to the world. He acts like I’m his sister which is nice and he calls me Yaya!”

“I love H up to everything and back”

L’s perspective

 I’m not sure if you have tried to ask a 7 year old open questions and try to get lots of information out of them!? It’s hard work! I had a general chat with him whilst he was having a shower and wrote down what he said.

[When I found out H was going to move in with us] “I felt happy because we would get to see a new baby. I like new babies.”

“It was easy at the start and started to get harder as he got bigger. Getting him to bed and nappies were harder” (L never changed his nappy but saw us doing it!)

[When I found out H was going to be staying with us permanantly] I felt really good that he got to stay. I was very happy. He is so cute”

“I like that he is fun to play with. He plays nicely. I don’t like it when he cries.”

“I think [growing up with H] will become easier  as he will understand us better, he will listen and we won’t need to change his nappy when he’s big!”

“I see him as my little brother as he’s staying with us forever but I know he is actually my cousin”

“[When he’s bigger] we can make stuff together like puppets and play board games together. We might share a room when he’s bigger. That will be fun as he is cute. It will be interesting to hear his voice when he is bigger”.

Final comment

We couldn’t have asked for a better reaction than how they warmed to the whole situation. We have maintained openness and honesty with the kids. The questions have come up about H’s mum and we have tried to answer with enough information relevant to their understanding. 

They are children. They have their moments, like all children do. Neither of them like it when he cries. When he was ill they really struggled as well (we will tell you about that at another time).

A has been amazing. She will take it upon herself to get him dressed or prepare his breakfast in the mornings.

We will share a post later about the kid’s struggles during the lead up to getting the Special Guardianship Order as things manifested within the kids. We were going to include it here but on review we decided it was important and significant enough to have its own post.

When H first arrived, the first few weeks H would settle better with A than he would with us. It was incredible. We were obviously quite anxious and stressed at the beginning which obviously H picked up on. He felt safe in A’s arms.

We have awesome kids.

SGO – ONE YEAR ON

YESTERDAY, Monday 17th July, we were visited by the social worker for the very last time.

We have held the SGO for just over 12 months. When an SGO is granted, when the child has come from the care system, they often come with a care plan for the child – and ‘support’ for the parent (s) looking after the child. Typically for 12 months but this can be extended.

This includes court ordered contact, frequency of contact for both parents, regular visits for the social worker and any additional factors deemed necessary.

I am pleased to report this care plan has now come to an end and the social workers are no longer involved with H and the care we give him.

Social workers often get very negative press despite the fantastic work that they do. Other than frustrations at the time it took to return calls – or when we needed to speak to her it always coincided with the times she was on annual leave; our social worker was fantastic.

The same social worker had been involved with all four of my nieces children so knew the circumstances, the family and, more importantly, the mother very well. As H came along later, things that could have gone better during the older children’s court process and care plan were faced and amended and averted when we went through the same process.

We had remained adamant throughout the entire process – and subsequently with the care plan there would be certain requirements that would have to be stringently adhered to – and things that we were simply not happy to happen.

These included, but not exclusively to

Birth parents contact – we would not supervise any contact with either birth parent. I had done this previously with the older children prior to H’s birth. Neither would we be involved in transporting H to the contact centre or where contact was to take place. 

Post care plan the contact has to be arranged and organised by the birth parents. We have a non-molestation order in place so we can not communicate easily with her with out it confusing her and the terms of the non-molestation. We also felt, if we were to turn up with her baby, the temptation for her to breach the order would be too much and wouldn’t be fair on her – or us.

We also insisted that our children and H’s welfare was paramount. We did not want our children to be negatively effected by the behaviour of my niece – or exposed to anything that would potentially harm or cause concern for them.

We have been open and honest with our children about why H was coming to live with us and why he lived with us. When they ask questions we answer them with enough information that they need. We haven’t gone into all of the detail or to the extent of my niece’s health problems. We have also, so far at least, managed to keep our frustrations and stresses away from the children – alongwith conversations about H’s mum and any antics that she had been up to.

It is a big relief to be free from social services but also a little overwhelming as if something happened, how would things go?

We have parental responsibility for H so we have final say in any decisions that need to be made for him. This includes, from now on, contact, frequency of contact and many other factors.

Contact is designed for the benefit of the child. Quite often the birth mother / father believe it is their right to see them. Unfortunately there will be times and situations where it is not appropriate.

From this day forward we are largely on our own – obviously with support of our families, friends and other SGO parents we have met via a Facebook page.

My side of the story           – part 1

When my husband suggested we tell our story of our journey I was a little hesitant, mainly because I didn’t think anyone would be interested really. But after seeing the responses we’ve had and knowing other friends are going through something similar, maybe it might help…or maybe not! Im not the best with words, i will just be saying it from the heart and how i felt So here it goes…

Andy’s already painted a picture of the events of last year involving baby H. So I will start with where I was before all this happened. 

2015 into Jan 2016 I was focused and passionately working away at growing my work from home business. I was going to events, going to meetings, holding my own meetings. I was pushing out of my own comfort zone. I was having the normal ups and downs of life. 

My 2 children had clubs and school run, so that was me. Like most mum’s I know…we juggle, we struggle, we smile, we laugh and it’s just something we do. 

I had planned where I wanted to be in my business so the activity I needed to do matched where I wanted to be, if that makes sense. I spent a lot of time with the kids. I had time one on one with them. I was basically at a stage where I had all the children I wanted, i was done with child birth, mopping up sick and changing yucky nappies!

So, Jan 2016… wow! What a whirl wind of a year we were about to have.

H’s mum and I do not get on at all. I’m not sure why maybe she thinks I’ve taken her uncle Andy away from her who knows. Despite our differences and my reluctance to have anything do with her I met up with H’s mum to talk about being at the birth. I had been present at another one of her children’s birth and for whatever reason she wanted me there for this one too. I remember her being calm and talking softly as she asked me to be at the birth of baby H. After a few tears and a hug I agreed but made it clear that it wouldn’t mean we would become best buddies or anything. Too much had happened.

A few hours later after that chat, mum went into labour and H was born! A week or so later I met H. I will never forget the first day I met him…he was a beautiful baby. As I cuddled him he smiled at me (yes it could have been wind but I prefer my thoughts on it) it was like we instantly knew each other, it was like we bonded on some level. Sounds strange but that’s how it felt.

I didn’t see him after that until he moved in. His mum’s mental health over the week had deteriorated badly to the point she couldn’t take care of him. All I can remember is the struggles that my husband’s parents had trying to keep H’s mum calm and focused on H. I can’t describe to you the verbal abuse, stress and pressure that followed. 

As a family everyone had tried to protect my husband’s parents from seeing her behaviour but now they were experiencing it first hand. It was a very stressful time as it started to effect their health and were worried sick!

So, if your still reading this…we now come to the week that changed our lives forever.

Monday to Wednesday of that week there were phone calls,emails, more phone calls and visits from social services asking us if we would be in a position to look after H. 

My husband approached me and asked me if we could look after him while his mum got better. I honestly don’t know how he must have felt asking me as he was fully aware I didn’t want anymore children! Both of ours were at an independent age and I could start looking at focusing my time on the forever business. My time. 

Without thinking I refused! I had plans, I wanted this, I wanted that! I was angry to have been put in a position where I could be the one responsible for this child going into care! No way! Thats not fair! I didn’t want another baby!…I know what you’re thinking, how selfish, but not at any point in this blog am i going to lie.  After some heated words between me and my husband I told him, you decide you can’t ask me to make that choice.

I couldn’t help but think of what it would do to my children, my son was the baby. How would he feel about another baby being in our home. My son is attached to me and I love that as much as he did. My daughter has been asking me to have another baby for ages so I knew how she would feel. 

I had so many questions, thoughts and mixed feelings about this whole situation and in some way just wanted it to disappear! I didn’t want any part of the manipulation, hurt, and hardship that I had seen the other sisters go through. I was always happy to support them and admired what  they had done but I couldn’t do that!

Thursday 28th January 2016, 3pm we received a phone call after social services had take the case to court deciding H couldn’t stay with his mum anymore. I was just about to get out of the car to pick my son up from school, the court official said, “the court have granted that H stay with you”. I left the car in disbelief. Picked up my son and went back to the car to continue school run. 

You know when your ears are ringing after a night out?….that’s how I remember the next few hours. Life was happening around me but I wasn’t there. That kind of feeling. 

So that was it, decision made. We had a baby coming home for 6 months. I decided then and there whilst driving up to collect my daughter that this was not going to have a negative impact on my children. We waited until both children were in the car and told them that baby H was going to be living with us. They were thrilled the excitement and love I felt from there innocent look on the situation made me feel ashamed that I dismissed it at the start. 

H arrived at 7pm that Thursday eve ing in a Moses basket, the clothes on his tiny body and a nappy bag with a few nappies but no wipes! We had  nothing at home. We didn’t have any time to get ready for him to arrive. I went to get wipes from the shop with tears streaming down my face. I had no idea how I/We were going to do this. 

How would we cope with a new born, going back to basics. 

It really hit me hard!

Family and an SGO child

FAMILY is vital for the whole SGO process. It is more common than not, that SGOs are granted to a family member or a close friend of the family.

When family members are faced with challenges it can get very complicated and can effect everyone in the family emotionally and cause major headaches between family members.

Helping baby H maintain his family dynamics as SGO parents is not the easiest.

So, H is my great nephew. His mum is my niece. My sister is his grandmother and my mum is his great grandmother.

I am one of five children to my mum and dad – currently ranging from aged 30 to 46. I have 3 older sisters. One is married with four children, one is married with three children, one is a single mum of two children, I am married with two children and my little brother has just had his first child.

H’s mum has four children in total. The eldest lives with the single mother, the two other children live with their maternal grandparents – another of my sister’s.

H has two maternal half brothers (aged 2 and 3) and a half sister (aged 4). As they are with my sisters he gets to see them relatively frequently. He also has a half brother on his dad’s side whom he has never met.

His maternal grandmother often pops round to see H and have a cuppa with her little brother!

Whilst we had the interim order, we would take H to see my parents most Saturdays. My Dad had quite a connection with H. I had never seen him bond with any of his grandchildren like he did with H. I’m not sure if it was because he was born in their home so he felt a connection – or whether it was because he had always been working when the kids were all small. He retired around 6 months before H was born.

During my niece’s pregnancy, she had moved into my parents who were helping her to put things in place, to engage with social services, the mental health team and other agencies. This unfortunately broke down soon after H was born and led to his removal and my niece being asked to leave my parents home.

Following the breakdown of my niece and my father’s relationship and the removal of H, my niece fell back into old habits very quickly which exacerbated her mental health conditions. H’s dad was sent to prison soon after H was born and my niece met someone else quite quickly.

The following months of her behaviour and actions had an adverse effect on my mother’s health as she had become very anxious about going out, going into town for example – in case she bumped into my niece.

As we had baby H on an ICO at the time, we received torrents of abuse, threats and harassment resulting in us having to get an injunction as a preventative measure. My niece maintained contact arrangements with H for the first four months of his life – these were around every 2 weeks, supervised, at a contact centre.

Around April 2016, my niece’s new partner got into some bother and they both eloped to Scotland. Things in the wider family began to return to normal.

A court hearing was arranged for June 2016 about baby H’s long term care. We did not know if my niece would make the trip and attend in person.

She did.

Understandably, she was extremely emotional for most of the two day hearing. She was also very angry at us for being there, for looking after H and for wanting to look after H long term – despite it being her recommendation when all evantualities were being discussed during the pregnancy.

On the final day of the hearing things got too much for her and she was taken to the local hospital by an ambulance after having an outburst in the court room and breaking down.

On our way home we went to my parents as they had been waiting on news. Whilst there, my Dad received a call to say she had walked out of the hospital and was on her way to their house. The long and short of it, she was not going to return to Scotland and she managed to convince my parents that she should move back into their home.

That day we gained a child, but lost my parents. We could not take H to my parents if his mum was there. Similarly, my two sisters could not go to my parents with the children if their mum was there.

We all had quite a tough time after that. Previously we all regularly visited my parents and would often all congregate at my parents over the weekends.

As part of the court proceedings we had successfully obtained a non-molestation order against my niece. She breached this order whilst residing at my parents and three times my Dad had to go to the police station as my niece’s responsible adult.

With five children, they had never had the police turn up at their home or ever had to attend the police station because of their children.

With the breaches of the order, my Dad asked me to not report it. Something I knew that I had to do because of how my niece would potentially use it against us in the future if we didnt.

A major rift formed between me and my Dad. We did not speak for around five months. I managed to see my Mum twice in this time. This time period included Christmas. You can imagine how tough this was. I would normally see my parents every weekend before H. After H, I would get to see them as often as I could when my niece was not there.

My Gran sadly passed away earlier this year. The funeral was the first time that my niece, me and my wife had been in the same room since H came to us. We received glares but managed to keep our distances.

Eventually, things between my niece and my parents broke down again and she was asked to leave my parent’s home in April 2017. They realised how my niece had managed to manipulate them over the proceeding 9 months, and the impact it had on both of my parents health – also the effect it had had on my parents relationships, not just with me, but my other siblings too. My Dad is a very proud man and we could not tell him. It was something he had to work out by himself… and, eventually, he did.

My parents wanted to help her, she was their first grandchild, they wanted to see her sort herself out. They wanted to save her and none of us could blame them for wanting to do that. And none of us did. We understood, even though it was tough for us and at times we felt that they had chosen her over us, their children.

H’s Father’s Family

H’s Dad met H soon after he was born at the hospital. He also visited him once my niece left hospital with him at my parents. Soon afterwards he was sentenced to a prison for misdemeanors prior to H’s birth.

We met him for the first time during the court hearing and he wrote us a letter after meeting us about getting the help he needed, reforming and being there to see his son when he was released.

Soon after H moved to us, his paternal grandmother – who had communicated regularly with my parents during my nieces pregnancy with H, asked us to contact her to thank us for coming forward to look after H, to arrange bringing some items she had been holding for my niece during the pregnancy and to ask if she could meet H as she was yet to see her grandchild.

With Social Services approval we arranged for her to visit us in our home, in H’s familiar surroundings.

It went well. Nanny J has visited regularly, every few weeks for around an hour ever since we have had him. Twice she has even been able to bring some of H’s cousins to meet him.

H also has a half brother on his dad’s side but at this time, he has not met him yet.

Unfortunately, contact between H and his dad since his release from prison was sporadic. Out of the 5 arranged contact sessions, only two were attended by his dad. One of them was because his mum took him there to make sure it happened.

The father of the older children had managed to put his life in order after his relationship with my niece ended and he now has a healthy, positive relationship with his three children, H’s maternal half-siblings. We hope that one day H’s Dad will also be able to be a similar rolemodel to his son as his half siblings Dad is to them.

GROWING UP CONFUSION

H is the luckiest child alive but confusion will come as he gets bigger I am sure with who and how he is related to whom.

Our children are 2nd cousins once removed to him but are like a brother and sister. He has multiple ‘Nannys’.  Nanny B (my wife’s mum), Nanny (my mum, his great nan), Nanna  (my sister, his nanny), Nanny J (his paternal nanny)

He has a mum and a dad who he will potentially continue to see on a regular basis – if they can be bothered to arrange further supervised contact. It would be good for him if he could still see them so he knows where he came from.

He has brothers and sisters that he doesn’t live with – but are still brothers and sisters.

I am a keen genealogist but at this moment in time I have no idea how to draw out his family tree!

A few months ago one of my sister’s created a WhatsApp group for all of the immediate family (my parents and my siblings and partners). This enables us to get information out quickly and so everyone is fully aware of what is happening. It’s not all been about the SGO children or my niece… lots of random stuff like the weather, old photos, my sister-in-laws new baby… and my Dad just can’t get enough of the GIF feature on WhatsApp either!!! The group has probably brought us a little closer together again and helped with us supporting each other. H’s nan (my sister) has found this particularly useful when she’s had a bad day with my niece / her daughter.

Non-molestation Order

WE HAD never heard of a non-molestation order before so I am sure many of you would not have heard of it either.

From the family-solicitors website, this is how they describe a non-molestation order

Non-molestation orders are civil court orders which aim to protect the victims of domestic violence from being abused, to stop the abuser from being violent towards the victims, either physically or by threatening and intimidating. It is a type of injunction made under The Family Law Act 1996 to protect named individuals from abuse.
 
The term “molestation” is not specifically defined but may include violence, threats and harassment.
 
A non molestation order carries the power of arrest and the penalty for breaking the order can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison

From the .gov website on who can apply for a non-molestation order…

Who can apply: non-molestation order

You can usually apply if you’re a victim of domestic violence and the person you want to be protected from (‘the respondent’) is:

  • someone you’re having or have had a relationship with
  • a family member
  • someone you’re living or have lived with 



These are usually time limited (often for a maximum of 12 months).

Now, not everyone who is looking at a special guardianship order needs to necessarily obtain one of these – many children are placed with family members where relationships are strong between the parties and communication can be maintained.

Due to events prior to the interim care order where H was initially placed with us and actions whilst he was with us under the ICO by the birth mother, we had no choice but to apply for one of these orders. The hearing for this order was included in the final court proceedings which determined where H would be placed.

My niece and my wife have had a hostile relationship for many years. My niece resented my wife. I am 11 years older than my niece. I had often received abusive messages from her due to my involvement with the older children prior to H being born. When H was placed with us we had to obtain an exclusion order for our road.

Once H was placed with us under the Interim care order we received numerous messages every day. Over a 4 week period we received over 250 messages and phone calls.

A few of the other things (not an exclusive list) that led to the request for the non molestation order included

  • Birth mother presenting at our home after making threats to kidnap
  • Birth mother taking an overdose on our doorstep whilst 5 children were in the house
  • Birth mother watching our house from a side road (not in breach of exclusion order)
  • Direct threats of physical violence
  • Indirect threats of physical violence towards us and our property
  • Further threats to kidnap child

Not only did we need to protect HER baby, we needed to protect our two children, each other and our home.

We have tried to protect our children throughout the whole process. One of the consistent conversations with our social worker was the need for there to be minimal impact and exposure to my niece’s behaviour for our two children, alongwith the baby too.

NON MOLESTATION GRANTED


We were granted the non molestation order . The solicitor representing us was unable to attend on the day of the hearing so we were given a Barrister. He managed to put forward a previous court outcome where someone was granted an open-ended non-molestation order – so not limited to 12 months. He argued that our situation would warrant a longer term and the extenuating circumstances were similar to the test case. To our surprise the court agreed! 

It also included an extended exclusion order so she was not able to enter an area around where we live.

BREACHES OF NON MOLESTATION


As in the excerpt above, a breach of the non molestation is an arrestable offence with a potential prison sentence. A police officer can not choose to not arrest if a non-mol breach has taken place.

Every breach has to be reported to the police or it can effect future allegations and prosecutions. Every breach is investigated by the police and statements and witness statements are taken. The accused is then interviewed by the police. All evidence and statements is then sent to the courts.

In the early months of it being in place we had 3 breaches and proceedings were brought against her. At the time, she lived with my parents. 

My niece living at my parents had already caused some difficulties in our wider family (3 of my parent’s children now had my niece’s children in their care) and us reporting the breaches drove a major wedge between me and my father in particular. Not to mention difficulties between me and my sister, the mother of my niece… It was a really tough time for me as you can probably imagine.

The non molestation order included

No direct or indirect contact with us by any medium (in person, written, verbal or via social media)

Exclusion order

Not using other people to contact us on her behalf directly or indirectly.

So, that is a little bit about non-molestation orders. Our social worker informed us about these and they arranged legal advice for us to decide whether it was needed.

What is a Special Guardianship Order Anyway?

YOU may be wondering what an SGO actually is.

An SGO is a ‘Special Guardianship Order’

In Lehmans terms, my interpretation of  Special Guardianship Orders is one of 3 options available to social services when a child can not be cared for by his or her parents – be it through ill-health, circumstances or being orphaned.

In Our situation, the child was under the care of the local authority once he was removed from his mother and a social services “Guardian” was appointed to the child. It was down to the local authority to find a temporary home initially and then a long term home for the child

The most common form that you would have heard of are fostering and adoption. Special Guardianship Orders sit in between the two but nearer the  adoption end of things.

SGOs are normally found from within the family or friend circles of the child. In our situation, the baby is my great-nephew.

SGO’s are a court order that follow a hearing where welfare checks, social services reports and a number of other factors are considered.

A Special Guardianship Order will usually last until the child is 18 and usually comes with a 12 month care plan for the child – where social services are still involved.

The parent(s) are able to maintain contact with the child as they grow up unlike in adoption where, legally, the parents don’t have contact with their child until they are over 18 and only if the new adult wishes.

An SGO can potentially be overturned following a successful application to the courts from the birth mother / father should their circumstances improve and they are able to show they can parent the child safely with out physical or emotional risk to the child.

Fostering a child, you are provided with training, ongoing support, required paperwork / reports that must be complied with. Foster carers are compensated accordingly. Some foster agencies offer up to £600 a week! Applications for fostering can be a long, drawn out process where you have to be approved by a panel.

In our experience, with an SGO you don’t receive training, you have limited support and there is no paperwork, as such, to file. You can apply for a means tested ‘SGO allowance’. This is means tested annually and, I believe, varies depending on the local authority. We were told by our local authority that this was capped at around £120 per week if you are eligible. Obviously there are thorough checks on your suitability, background and family life amongst other things.

Below is an example of local authority rates which i am informed that the SGO allowance is based on which i found from a fostering information website. This amount differs to what we were told by our social worker at the time.


With an SGO you usually obtain majority parental responsibility for the child – so you can “parent” the child largely as you see fit [unlike in fostering where everything needs to be approved or acknowledged / noted].

The main things we CAN NOT do with a Special Guardianship Order is change the child’s name or take him out of the UK for more than three months at a time.

When you obtain an SGO the child may, or may not, have been placed with you previously. Baby H was removed from his mother at 3 weeks of age and moved into our home on an interim care order. This was limited to 6 months (Social Services have up to 6 months to bring a case to court following the removal of a child).

Whilst on the interim care order we only had partial parental responsibility and the child was under the care of social services and their guardian. Baby H was classed as a ‘Looked after Child’.

During this time we were not entitled to child benefit or qualify for tax credits for him. We received an allowance from the local authority.

On obtaining the SGO you are entitled to claim child benefit for the child and also have them added to any tax credit claim you may have.

That is a very basic overview of what my interpretation and understanding of what a Special Guardianship Order is from my experience.

Feel free to comment or ask questions in the comments section below.

What having an SGO child means to me – Dad perspective.

Men often bring up another man’s child which is a big responsibility, but for a woman to bring up another woman’s baby, is rare.

Despite her initial dismay at my decision for us to take H on, within 36 hours of him being with us, baby H was one of her own.

20161001_183437My wife has amazed me. She put personal and business goals on hold to take on the baby. My wife is also not white and the baby is fairer skinned than Casper the Ghost! The first couple of weeks after taking him in, looks in the playground at the buggy she was constantly pushing led to some interesting glances and conversations. It had all been very hyperthetical until the 24 hours of it becoming likely and then the few hours of finding out it was becoming reality.

She will tell you more about her perspective in a later post but this is what taking a little one – my great nephew, meant for me.

I have 2 children of my own with my wife. I worked very much full time when they were babies. I left my full time job in 2014 and took a part time job whilst working a “work from home” business. My children had both started full time school at this point.

My full time job saw me doing long hours, two or three overnight stays most weeks and I missed a lot of their growing up.

Both of my children were 100% breastfed when they were born. They wouldn’t and couldn’t take a bottle.

20170130_092645Having H with us from 3 weeks old, he was obviously bottle fed. I no longer worked long hours.

For The first two weeks that he was placed with us i was finishing a part time night job before starting an additional flexible role with the same company I promoted for my work from home position.

I was able to do night feeds, look after him independently if my wife was at work and share a lot of the moments I often missed with my own children.

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He is family. He’s adorable. He is a happy baby, very bright. He very quickly began to sleep through the night (something that our two never did when they were babies).

He’s been worth the headaches, the stress and the drama. As I write this he is 18 months old. For 6 months he was with us under a temporary care order. Since June 2016 we have had a special guardianship order so he will be with us until he is 18.

As my great nephew he is a blood relative to me. It has been a tough process emotionally. Prior to H living with us I was very involved in my niece’s mental health, support, stepping in when someone from the family needed to, facilitating meetings and also supervising contact between my niece and her other children.

Going through the SGO court process was tough. We were allowed to be in the court room [it is quite rare for potential SGOs to be privy to the information at the court hearing and are normally only called in if needed]. It was emotional. We also met H’s dad for the first time. He was serving in prison at the time and was under prison guard. It is the only time my wife has met him.

Due to events that had happened whilst H was under a care order with us, we were successful in obtaining a non-molestation order against his mother, my niece. This meant she was not able to contact us directly, indirectly or even come into the immediate vicinity of our home. (Being a relative, she knew exactly where we live).

The non-mol order meant that our ties with her were cut. This was for the safeguarding of her child, my two children and also me and my wife.

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This whole process has amazed me and made me extremely proud of my own two children also. They both wholeheartedly accepted H from before they had even laid eyes on him in our home. They see him as a little brother.

The whole experience has brought us closer together as a family unit. More struggles and challenges will come I am sure, but, for the last 18 months the little one has found himself well and truly loved and has bound our family together even tighter than ever before.

 

Growing Family – how we came to have the extra child

WE ARE a “normal” couple in our 30s. We had a daughter in 2007 and a son in 2010. We were happy with our little family and my wife decided that we didn’t want to have anymore children.

Little did we know, our family was about to grow in the most amazing way possible.

It was 2015 when my niece, with long standing mental health challenges, had fallen pregnant for the 4th time in four years.

Throughout 2014 and 2015 her mental health and life choices had resulted in her 3 children being rehomed within the family. I had been involved in meetings, care plans and contact arrangements throughout the process for my niece and the family. This had been tough, emotional and quite a roller-coaster.

During pregnancy number four, my niece had engaged with agencies and was seemingly doing very well, with a place to call home and support from her maternal grandparents (my parents). We were asked if we would be assessed ‘just in case things should things fall apart’. I agreed, although my wife was not keen.

Baby H was born in January 2016 and the court granted baby H could remain with his mum. For the first two weeks baby H and his mum remained in hospital for a couple of reasons but mainly, for the baby’s health and possible withdrawal symptoms from mum’s medication during pregnancy.

On returning to their home, things spiralled out of control very quickly.

I received a phone call at around 4pm on the wednesday from social services explaining what had happened. I was driving home from work on my own. They asked if they could put us forward to care for baby H for the immediate future whilst they sorted out what happened next and it would be going to court the following day.

After being told we were not needed before, we had made plans for our life and our family. Both my wife and I worked part time and also ran independent businesses from home. We had planned the business growth. I asked what would happen if we weren’t able to.

The response was “he’s a newborn baby, no one else in the family have come forward. He would most likely be put up for adoption” [two of my siblings had recently been granted SGOs for her other 3 children]

Without checking with my wife I said yes. In my mind, I could not be the one to ‘condemn’ him to the care system.

The conversation with my wife when I got home was a difficult one. There were tears and quite a few choice words.

On the Thursday, we had just arrived at our son’s school just before 3pm when the phone rang. The court had granted the removal of baby H from his mother and for us to be temporary carers of him.

My wife broke down in tears. I was numb. We had nothing for a baby. After deciding we were happy with our two children we had cleared all of the old toys and equipment a few years previously.

Where would we put him? We have a 2 bedroomed house.

How would we tell the children?

How will the children react?

How would we cope?

What would happen with our businesses and work, whilst juggling a newborn?

How would my parents react with the removal of the baby from their home?

We had limited funds, how would we afford what was needed?

Just after 7pm he arrived in a car seat, with a Moses basket and a nappy bag with a few nappies in it and the clothes he was wearing. He didn’t even have any baby wipes.

Our life had changed forever.