Western Bay's Lockdown Diaries Part 3

August 14, 2020
Following on from last weeks humorous and personal account of lockdown life by our adopter Karina Baldwin*, here’s the next instalment in our #LockdownDiary series.  Rhian Howes 40, works in our brilliant recruitment and assessment team, she took time out of her busy caseload last week to give us her #LockdownDiary – enjoy!

 

“March began like any other really didn’t it? Although the month can definitely be split into two. Early March I remember a strange concern that toilet paper was now along the same lines as gold in terms of value. Listening to the news with increasing worry that this horrible virus was hurtling through Europe and making its way to us – here in South Wales? No, surely not.

The service kept going throughout these early rumblings. We took precautions early on – making sure to contact people before we undertook any visits, staying home if we had a cough or a temperature, hand-washing like you’ve never hand washed before! But other than that, early March felt very much ‘business as usual’.

Brave new world

15 March was when things really felt as if they were going to change – imminently. We had already been prepared to work from home where possible. We were introduced to Microsoft Teams for the first time. With TEAMS for work and Zoom for my weekly family ‘pub quiz’ as a means of staying in touch I began to very quickly tire of seeing my own face pop up staring back at me. (Still, at least it was from the neck up only – as let me tell you now; Lockdown weight gain is a very real phenomena! I know – I’m living proof.)

23 March – I don’t think this day will ever leave me. I had to collect my mother’s pension and, along with my daughter, we walked through our local town to the post office. Not a soul. Every shop was shut. It was eerily quiet and so very still. We turned the corner and found a solitary line of people all waiting 2 metres apart, silently. We joined the queue. I told my daughter she had to stand 2 metres away from me. She said ‘but I live with you Mam’ with a quite typical roll of her eyes.

Overcoming doubt

Quickly adjusting to a new way of working was imperative. I remember most of my questions in terms of work started with the words ‘but how?’

But how could we still have an adoption panel? This was the first question that week. I had assumed it would be cancelled. But no, it went ahead. Virtually and exactly the same level of scrutiny applied as before.

The preparation course went ahead –but how? Again virtually and with the usual excellent feedback for our wonderful trainer Mary.

Our assessment visits continued, virtually. (Again, thankfully from the neck up as I have worn some questionable lockdown outfits I can tell you!)

But how could we match children? We have and continue to do so. We still have our regular linking meetings where the recruitment team meet with the family finding team and explore any potential matches. We’ve successfully matched quite a few children since lockdown.

But how could we place children? This did turn out to be the most difficult question, especially during the early weeks of lockdown. For our adopters and children who had already been matched, lockdown was extremely difficult – everything felt as if it had gone ‘on hold’ and in those early weeks there was a sense of not knowing for how long. We needed to find a way forward so that we could move our children on.

The National Adoption Service produced guidelines and Western Bay used these to form a new risk assessment process. On a case by case basis we carefully planned how introductions might look and how children might be placed and families supported.

New normal’s

The concept of virtual introductions was born. This has actually proven so successful it’s something we could continue into the future.

Western Bay have so far placed a number of children during lockdown. We’re having reviews and putting court applications in. Court hearings are going ahead and Adoption Orders have been granted.

Our post adoption support team have been supporting all our children and families throughout these really challenging and traumatic months. Support groups have continued virtually throughout all of lockdown.

So, everyone has adapted and found a way of carrying on.

Other than the weight gain, strange new hairstyle and questionable eyebrows, there have been some surprising benefits to this weird new ‘normal’. Gone are the days when we’d spend 3 hours travelling to a meeting and 3 hours back. They can happen quickly and effectively (with no one actually knowing you’re wearing spotty leggings and fluffy slippers).

I’ve talked to some of my colleagues more than I ever had before and some real friendships have been forged. We’ve become a really close and supportive team.

Now – someone get me Joe Wicks on speed dial please!!! ❤

 

What did you think of our latest #lockdowndiary entry?  Let us know on our social media. Could you adopt a child? Click here to find out.

*Names have been changed to protect identities, these are however real life first hand accounts from Western Bay staff and adopters.

Western Bay’s Lockdown Diaries