Forever is a long time

Today’s optional theme on Adoption Social’s Weekly Adoption Shout OUT is ‘FOREVER‘. Goodness me this one has got me thinking this morning. My confidence is a bit fragile at the moment. And so the word FOREVER overwhelms me rather.

Perhaps I should think focus on the positives of FOREVER for my children first. I was listening to a recent interview with Julie Selwyn of the Hadley Centre at Bristol University and in it she referred to the study; Pathways to Permanence for Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnicity Children (2008). The majority of Asian children in the study had their adoption plan rescinded by the end of the data collection. In the interview she summarised findings from the research that found “Asian children wait the longest to be placed and they’re the least likely to be placed. Those who were placed tended to be very young, under the age of two. There was very little interest in older children…

My children are Asian – they were over the age of 2 at placement. Their FOREVER was going to be changed to long term foster care till I appeared on the scene. So for my lovely girls I hope that their FOREVER will be different because they have me and the logical part of me tries to remember that.

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But FOREVER has another meaning for me. FOREVER alone, FOREVER exhausted, FOREVER trying to manage the girls’ struggles on my own, FOREVER fighting the system for what my children need and deserve.

Do I sound negative? Please forgive me. I don’t mean to be. I don’t parent the girls in a negative way – honestly I don’t. I put a lot of time and effort into creating opportunities for them to experience success or make tiny steps of progress and I celebrate it joyfully every time it happens.

And I do access support where it’s available if you’re wondering. Though most support I find transitory and at the end of the day I am a single adopter, these are my children. It is for me to deal with this, to make the decisions and to try to ensure we survive as a family unit – which is the very least my girls deserve.

And for today at least FOREVER seems like such a long time.

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Fairies in the garden

The girls and I have spent a beautiful sunny day in the garden. I got a lovely idea for something to do with them from the TimberNook blog. So today they have made fairy teepees. You can find Angela Hanscom’s original post here. photo 1

I gave the girls wool, beads, ribbon, and some scraps of material. We used wooden skewers from the kitchen for the frames. Obviously I had to make sure they had EXACTLY the same building materials! They got very busy…

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I have a terrible imagination and would never have thought of this. It was such a simple idea but both girls really enjoyed making the teepees and Bunny has been checking all afternoon to see if any fairies have moved in yet!

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Tough times for my girls

Life is very tricky for both my girls at the moment. I’m doing everything I can to help them -  but sometimes sadly that’s just not enough. Both girls are letting me know how hard life is for them by pushing any boundary to the max.

Kitten also says she has a cold feeling in her tummy that she can’t get rid of. She is still unable to tolerate comfort or even touch from me. Yet things are so desperate for her that this morning she buried her head against my arm and stayed there for nearly 5 minutes – whilst I stayed motionless, barely breathing in case I scared her off, and tried to memorise every tiny sensation of this girl of mine touching me.

So today we headed out to the woods to try and find some peace we could sneak into our hearts and carry round with us next week.

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The girls found a fabulous den to eat their lunch – I was banished!

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We all had a great time, and loved exploring this new place. I’m hoping that this happy time together will have replenshed their resilience somewhat and give them strength for the week ahead.

Please God – all I ask is that you watch over my little girls next week and give them some peace in their troubled hearts and minds.

 

 

Nature’s power

There are some things that are never mentioned even by my parents or close friends. This is probably because they are considered as much a part of our lives as eating and breathing:

  1. Most days I am rejected by Kitten or have my things broken or destroyed by her. Seething resentment, fuelled by fear, sums it up nicely
  2. Many days Bunny has meltdowns and I am hit, kicked or spat at
  3. In our house we do not sleep and we are pretty tired

Some might think we would be miserable – yet we manage quite well and have our happy times. I’m honestly not sure if I parent therapeutically or not but I am trying to parent the girls calmly and respectfully; predicting, planning for and responding to their individual needs and behaviours. I wouldn’t say it’s easy – their needs are fairly complex but different and I’m very much on my own. Yet some simple things seem to help both girls.

Our number one success is being outside. My girls came to me with a shocking disdain for being outdoors and little Bunny at 2.5 years could only walk a few steps without falling down. It’s taken a lot of patience, hard work and daily physiotherapy at home to get us to the stage we are at now.

Whilst we enjoy our day trips to theme parks and discovery museums and so on I really believe being outside in the fresh air and amongst nature has an almost magical power. My girls seem to have a lot of sensory issues (though getting them seen by an occupational therapist feels akin to climbing Everest) and just being outside – exploring and adventuring – seems to have a positive impact.

I’ve recently been reading about peadiatric occupational therapist, Angela Hanscom, who is the founder of TimberNook, running nature-based developmental programmes in the US. Their philosophy is – Getting kids to think for themselves, challenge themselves, and explore nature unhindered by adult fears Isn’t that great – I love that! That’s exactly what I want for my girls. 

I’m not one for hovering – I let the girls go for it and trust they will find their own limits. But I always have their backs if they need me.

So we scramble and climb…

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We get wet and curious….

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We balance and dangle…

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We run and of course we get very very dirty…

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I’ve been told by someone at Camhs that we are avoiding intimacy by being out and about so much. That’s it’s not a good thing. Maybe that is so – I don’t know. It doesn’t feel that way to me. And to be honest It often feels that whatever I do someone is always waiting to criticise me.

But can it be wrong if my girls are released from their crushing anxiety for a little while? Is it so bad if they stand joyfully on top of rock piles and share the triumph of reaching their summit with me?  Or when they call me over to share in some wonder they have discovered? And is it really avoiding intimacy when we stand together high up on a hill looking out at the beauty of the view and sharing that quiet moment?

All I can say is that it feels right for us. That is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love letters

Most school days I write a short note and pop it in the girls’ lunch bags. I know lots of other adopters who do this and I know my girls look forward to them.

Most of the time they are very straightforward like these:

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But some days when I know the girls are struggling more than usual I write in our ‘secret code’. By that I mean I write in Spanish. The girls aren’t fluent by any means but certainly know enough to understand the notes especially as I tend to use words from familiar stories etc. This isn’t to be pretentious or a pushy parent. Using Spanish means their friends and teachers won’t understand what I’ve written; it’s our private ’3girlstogether’ way of communicating, reinforcing our family unit and giving us something special that we share just us three. So on tough days I write a Spanish love letter like this:

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But last week I came downstairs and was surprised to find these waiting for me:

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My girls had decided to surprise me and had written notes for me to read at lunchtime – that is the stuff that dreams are made of!

This post was written to link up with the Adoption Social Memory Box:

Memory Box

I nearly lost my girls

I recently blogged about my experiences at matching and introductions with my girls. I’ve decided that I should follow up by talking about what happened once the girls came home and leading up to the Adoption Order (AO).

Once the girls were placed with me it quickly became clear that all was not as I had been lead to believe. As an adopter I was well aware that some issues would only surface on placement and I suspected that not everything would have been listed on the CPRs. However even a post adoption support SW at the placing authority recently told me she was surprised at the lack of transparency in the girls’ reports.

Life with the girls proved very ‘challenging’. One day I made the mistake of mentioning to the girls’ SW (let’s call her Emma) that I was concerned that some of the issues hadn’t been mentioned pre-placement. All hell broke loose and due to that comment I came very close to having the children removed.

Emma refused to admit there were any issues at all with the girls. She began ringing people who had contact with us, seemingly trying to gather evidence of my many failures as a parent. This made life very difficult as some of the comments she made for example to the girls’ nursery made them treat me with great suspicion. There were unpleasant phone calls where Emma accused me of inventing problems and lying about life at home. It’s hard to explain what was happening without giving too much private information but I was made to feel like I was under suspicion of emotionally abusing the girls in some way.

My SW, Helen, and I decided I should lodge the AO immediately with the courts to ensure the girls couldn’t be removed so easily by SS. This resulted in Helen receiving an email from the SW’s manager, requesting an urgent meeting, threatening to oppose the AO in court and making it clear that they had no confidence in the placement. However the manager refused to discuss anything properly in advance of the meeting.

I’m not sure if anyone can imagine how this felt and I’m not clever enough with words to describe it properly. The girls had been home 9 months. Despite our difficulties they were my children. And now I might lose them. Worse the meeting was then delayed for a couple of months. I’ll never forget that time – every time I looked at my girls I would feel sick wondering what was going to happen. I desperately tried to create as many simple memories of family life for the girls as I could in case they were taken from me.

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Though my parents and a couple of friends were supportive, I was on my own as a single adopter and knew I would have to fight to defend myself. Does that sound too dramatic? Maybe – but that was how it felt. It was a very frightening and lonely time.

The meeting itself was long and tough. It began very badly and hearing Emma criticise me was not pleasant. Though I am far from being a great parent the things she was accusing me of were just not true. I tried to explain myself but was shouted down. Things only began to change when my very experienced SW was finally able to speak and started to defend me. Helen had spent far more time with us than Emma and was able to refute the misrepresentations and lies. In fact she pointed out it was she who had first identified some of the girls’ issues and drawn my attention to them.

The tone of the meeting changed, Emma was silenced, the manager backtracked and eventually it was agreed that they would support the AO in court. After the meeting the manager said to Helen that if she had not come to the meeting that day she had no doubt that the outcome of the meeting would have been very different.

Obviously I was delighted and relieved but I couldn’t understand how things had been allowed to get to this stage. This could have all been avoided instead of causing an immense amount of stress over a period of several months.

I was left wondering how this ended up happening to us and questioning my ability to parent my children. Even now I am far less trusting about what I share even with those who care about us and when someone tells me how cute or lovely my girls are what I actually think is ‘do they doubt what I am saying?’ I’m not sure that feeling will ever go away.

I Wanted A Family of My Own

I finally got round to watching the first 3 episodes of the new Nicky Campbell series on ITV Wanted – A Family of My Own. It brought back memories of my own approval and matching journey; some positive, some not so.

Approval: Within 2 hours of my approval panel at the adoption agency children’s profiles had begun to arrive by email via my social worker. I had been approved for 1 or 2 children aged 2 – 6 years old. Due to the fact I was in rather a ‘niche market’, I was sent huge numbers of profiles. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. But it was also exciting. I went from doubting I would ever be a mummy to realising that it really was going to happen and quickly too.

Then I received a profile of 2 little girls aged 2 and 4.

Linking: My girls love this next bit of our story. They had been in care for a long time. A meeting was held in which it was decided that they were going to change the plan for the girls to long term fostering. The family finder was disappointed because she had been determined to find an adoptive family for them. She went back to her office, logged on to her computer and the first email she opened had my profile attached. Apparently she shouted ‘I’ve found her’ resulting in the whole office grinding to a standstill as everyone wanted to know what had happened. She simply said ‘I’ve done it, I’ve found the girls’ mum’. And that of course was me!

The next step after being officially linked was to meet the foster carers. Sadly from here on in things deteriorated. I won’t go through all the details of that meeting but the foster carer pretty much refused to answer any questions. Her husband was asked how he felt. He said ‘That woman shouldn’t be allowed to adopt the girls. They’ll never be happy with anyone but us.’

Matching: On the day of my matching panel, before going in, the chairperson spoke to me at length about the issues with the FCs and said that intros were a major concern for everyone. After that I had to go in to the panel and give a good account of myself whilst wondering what I was getting myself into. To compound the issue, straight after panel the children’s previous SW walked into the waiting room and disclosed several significant facts about the girls and their birth family which had never been mentioned before. To say I and my social worker were shocked would be an understatement. Despite all this I still felt convinced that the girls were the right match for me and I for them.

Introductions: Fast forward to the day my introductions to the girls began. My SW and I drove over to the FC’s house for my first meeting with my children. I was nervous but excited. We pulled up and saw the girls’ SW on the doorstep.

The FC was nowhere to be seen!

No-one knew where she and the girls were. It was a long tense wait whilst the SWs tried to work out was happening. Not quite the same picture as the wonderful experiences of those adopters on the recent TV documentaries. Ironically I had been approached by a television production company to have my panel and intros filmed for a BBC documentary. In retrospect it was a good job I had decided to say no.

Despite desperate efforts on my part the intros were dreadful, with me being prevented from taking over any care for the girls, never being left alone with them, a constant stream of visitors coming to watch and critique every move I made, and some other very unpleasant incidents which I can’t include here. An emergency meeting was called to keep the intros going and we struggled along for the next few days. A final distressing event was on our moving in day, when a member of the FC’s family prevented the girls being removed from their house. There was a standoff for an hour before we were able to leave.

Here and now: I watched Wanted – A Family Of My Own feeling happy for those adopters featured, but a bit sad and I’m ashamed to admit a little jealous of their experiences. I didn’t have that chance and I would have loved it. I have spent hours wondering whether I did anything to cause the problems and if I could have changed what happened.

Having said all that, though I rarely have positive things to say about myself, I honestly believe that many people would have walked away mid intros and I didn’t. Looking back now it seems unbelievable even to me how bad those 10 days were.  I am proud of the fact I stuck it out on my own, that I didn’t walk away and that I did the best I could for the girls at that time.  And perhaps after all it was good preparation for the life with my girls that has followed.