This morning we took down the photos of Alice from "her" bedroom door and have officially gone back on the duty boards as having a vacancy.
We were first approached to take Alice as a permanency placement in August last year. We agreed in principle, but despite lots of conversations back and forth between our social worker and hers, nothing ever happened. We found out in October that her current carer had decided to keep her permanently. In February 2015 we were approached again as Alice's carer had again decided she could no longer keep her, so they were looking for permanent carers. We spoke to her social worker, the team manager and Alice's OT came out to visit us, and we all agreed that we could provide an excellent home for her. Introductions were planned, and although we heard a rumour that her current carer had changed her mind, we were told the local authority were definitely moving her to us as the constant change of plans meant that the placement was no longer stable. We decorated her room, bought personalised bits and pieces, and purchased equipment we were told she needed but didn't have. We met Alice on the first day of introductions and fell in love with her. Permanent fostering is a step down from adoption but is similar in many ways - it's committing to a child until adulthood and beyond - they're part of your family. We had mentally welcomed Alice into our family, prepared Peter for her arrival and were looking forward to our future together watching them both grow up.
On the Monday of the week she was due to move in, we were told that her current carer had registered a surprise interest in adopting her so although the local authority didn't support their application, legally Alice cannot be moved until the assessment is complete. We don't know why this has happened. The carer had been given so many opportunities to express her interest to adopt, and she chose the first day of introductions after we had met Alice to do so.
The impact of this on our family has been huge as you can imagine, and we've had to grieve both for the little girl we'd been thinking of as our daughter, and for the life we won't have with her. We've lost our enthusiasm for permanent fostering for now as we'd emotionally invested so much into this match and are nervous about it happening again. This experience will change our approach to placements - there will be no assumptions and minimal preparations until the child walks through our door and the paperwork is signed.