In the summer of 1967, soon after taking up my post in Kingston Children’s Department as an Assistant Child Care Officer I found myself, for one reason or another, the only fieldworker in the agency.
My senior told me that with no experience, I had earned my post by selection from more than 100 other applicants. Although there had never been a time in my life when there was not a child, for example a younger sibling, for me to learn from, and I was now a single parent, I was surprised to be thought qualified.
A good and experienced Child Care Officer, Morlais Thomas, had provided me with the only training in adoption assessment that I was to receive. I had asked him to tell me what areas I should be examining. It is no fabrication for me to state that he wrote a series of headings on the back of an envelope. They were in fact very comprehensive and stood me in good stead as I set about my task.
Throughout my professional career I will refrain from providing any identifying detail of clients, but offer enough to indicate the nature of the work, early examples of which include matching, vetting, placement, and removal.
I was inundated by responses to an advertisement I placed in a local newspaper that was taken up and circulated nationally by a newshound of the paper. One elderly woman who must have had some knowledge of wartime evacuation offered to meet children at her local railway station if they bore notices of their names. After lengthy narrowing of the scope someone who already knew the subject took up the placement. One child who had languished in a children’s home for many years was eventually provided with missing history and successfully placed; but not before I had felt obliged to remove him from the first prospective adoptees.
In those days the local authority had the role of guardian ad litem as appointed by the court to look after a child who was the subject of adoption, and was required to present a report on this. On one occasion I was offered a bribe to support an application which I opposed.
Over the years subsequent legislation has provided for advances to backs of envelopes, and qualifications for the task. I was to become a consultant for various agencies and to chair two adoption and one fostering panels – systems which were to take decades to evolve. More will follow on these in due course.