Monthly Archives: May 2014

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.

 

But what if…

Today Kitten said ‘But what if‘ to me. It’s the first time she has managed that. Yes, another first! I received a note in Kitten’s home school book to say that she had had a tricky afternoon. Tomorrow the school have an Artsmark inspector coming in to school and he will be going in to classes and talking to children. Her class practised for the visit this morning in case he comes into her class tomorrow.

That doesn’t sound SO bad does it? But this is a huge problem for my little girl because she is petrified of men. Not scared, not frightened, she is utterly terrified of all men. To be fair to the school this is one thing they generally try to get right as they have witnessed the effects of getting it wrong. The teacher has ensured that the inspector will not be taken into Kitten’s classroom at all. But she could see that Kitten was very worried this afternoon, starting to bite herself again.

So after school I had a chat with Kitten and told her that the man would definitely not come in her room. I reminded her of a few other times when I had promised things wouldn’t happen and they didn’t.

And then she said it ‘Mummy but what if I need to go to the toilet at school and I meet the man in the corridor?’ What was even lovelier was that when we started to talk it through a bit she said ‘Hey Mummy did I just tell you a worry without even knowing it?!’ She was so proud that she forgot herself and climbed on my knee for a HUG!!! I can count the number of times she has climbed on my knee at home on the fingers of one hand and she has never told me a worry before.

I have blogged before about my struggles with acceptance and how I am trying to find joy in the small things we can achieve as a family. But today this small achievement felt very very big and very very joyful.

Guess How Much I Love You

I think most people have read Guess How Much I love You. It’s one of my children’s favourite stories. It was one of the first stories I ever read to the girls and we still read it regularly at bedtime. As Kitten struggles with being told that I love her, it’s yet another way to let her know how much I care in a less direct way.

Guess How Much

 

Recently Bunny, my little one, has said frequently that she wishes she had grown in my tummy. Then Kitten will ask me to tell them the sorts of things I would have done with them if they had been my little babies.

So today I decided to give the girls a special present each. I decided to give them a gift I might have given if they had been my newborns. I’m always trying to think of new ways to make a connection with both children, but especially Kitten, and thought it might mean something to them. This idea was suggested by a PASW to another adopter I know and had been received positively by her son.

So this evening firstly I read the story to them both at bedtime. As I sat in the middle of them, as usual Kitten was trying to make sure my arm didn’t touch hers.

Then once they were in bed I gave them each a Little Nutbrown Hare from the story:

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Bunny was very happy to get a new soft toy and settled down to sleep – her usual Teddy quickly abandoned on the floor.

But with Kitten I sat on her bed and reminded her why I was giving her that toy – that my love is for always, every second of every day, not just when she’s being good or happy or calm. I love her if she’s doing something she shouldn’t, if she’s dysregulated, if she’s angry and even when she doesn’t love me one tiny bit I still love her.

And my little girl got tears in her eyes as I spoke.

Kitten has rarely shown genuine emotion like that. In fact I’m sitting here wondering if it was the first time – and I think it might be. For a few minutes I felt like there was a real connection between us, that she understood that I meant it. She didn’t say I love you back and that’s ok. Tonight at least my 6 year old will go to sleep believing that her mother loves her. That’s enough for me.