Category Archives: 3 girls together

An appeal

Many readers will already know that I am mum to 2 wonderful daughters aged 9 and 10. Both of my girls are adopted and have complex needs including Developmental Trauma Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Sensory Integration Disorder amongst other things. Things are very difficult for us at home and, just like with many other care-experienced children, my children work hard to contain and mask their feelings in school and then explode once at home with me in their safe place. Recently the children’s paediatrician has written a letter in which she said she believes unless things change it will soon become impossible to keep the girls at home and that she believes we will need secure residential placements for them.

I am currently trying to gain for support for the children on 3 separate fronts all from Leicestershire Local Authority:

1) An appropriate educational provision with the support Emma and Sophie need to feel safe, nurtured and to be able to make progress

2) Therapy which many highly trained specialists have recommended after thorough assessments of Emma and Sophie

3) Practical support for us to enable us to keep the children at home.

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I  am now in the horrible position of having to crowdfund to try to get the support the girls and I will need to stay together as a family. Some readers will have witnessed my struggles over the last 5 or 6 years to get help for my family. I have sold my wedding and engagement rings, I have 2 or 3 things I can sell on EBay and can hold a car boot or yard sale. After that we don’t have anything left to sell; I’m not a person with many things of value. I hate doing this with a passion. I feel like I am begging. But I don’t know what else I can do 😦

I innocently thought at the beginning of this process that if the girls needed support in school, therapy etc that there would be help out there for us.

THIS IS NOT THE CASE

I need to fund any extra private specialist reports, a solicitor to help me preparing to go to tribunal, and another solicitor to ensure the girls get the specialist therapy which all their assessments say they need and to try to get us some practical support at home. This latter may well involve taking the Local Authority to judicial review which would be a very expensive process.
Please click on the link to read more details and to donate even a small amount. Every penny will be appreciated by all of us:

Fight for Emma and Sophie

This little pair will be incredibly grateful and so will I xxxxx

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Is this the end?

We went to see my parents yesterday. My mum talked to me about the girls and told me if they end up going back into care over the next couple of weeks she will come to stay with me for as long as I need so I have support. And both my parents gave the girls special hugs as they said goodbye. My dad is a very traditional 80 yr old but as we drove off I looked back to see him gesturing to show he was still holding me in his arms.
Is this the end?

Is this the end?

 
At the time I was calm but I am sitting here sobbing now. I don’t want the girls to leave me, even temporarily. They will never forgive me, it will break them, it will break me. They are so little and they didn’t choose this, they didn’t choose to be the way they are. I don’t choose this either. I choose to have support for them and for us as a family. I choose for them to be given the therapy they need and we need as a family and for them to stay with me. This isn’t fair on the girls, on me, on my parents.
 
But this is where we are. Within a few weeks of my girls being placed in the specialised care placement they would need the LA will have spent many many times the cost of a year’s support from FF.  My solicitor is writing a letter to remind the LA of their statutory duties and to state that without them funding their FF therapy package the girls will imminently need to leave home. My paediatrician has already written saying the same thing.  I am writing to my MP  to update him this week but really we have no more options left.
And I am left asking how can this possibly be happening to us? 

Self harm

Last week we were getting changed after swimming and a sauna. Eldest asked Small about some scars she has. Small explained that when she can’t get her clothes on because they are hurting her, she instead scratches herself as hard as she can. Small said the pain from scratching till it bleeds stops her thinking about the sensory pain from putting clothes on.

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Small asked Eldest about some of her scars. She was curious as Eldest doesn’t have the same problems with clothes that she does. So why would she have hurt herself? Eldest was confused for a while and looked me, not knowing what to say to her little sister. I wondered out loud if Eldest could think of other things she might want to distract herself from by hurting herself. Eldest thought then said yes maybe to stop herself thinking about difficult thoughts or when she feels anxious. She said she likes to use sharp things to scratch or cut herself.

 And my girls stood comparing scars and chatting about when and how they did them, as though this was the most normal thing in the world to do when you are 8 and 10 year old little girls.

And I managed not to cry. But only just.

 

 

 

Back to school

So how has going back to school been for your cherubs? For us it has been a mixed bag really and has reminded me that the summer holidays at least gave me respite from the stresses school brings to both the girls and to me.

This weekend I have reflected on what is the minimum I would like from my children’s teachers? I have narrowed it down to five things! Perhaps this applies to all parents of children with any SEN and not only those with adopted children.

  1. Read the professionals’ reports. I know you are busy. You have 20 children in your class. I am also a teacher and I will teach about 150 students this year. I’ve been back in work 3 days and I have already read and made notes on key information for any SEN students I will teach next week. I have a list of students I need to find out more about. Isn’t that what teachers do?

 

  1. Accept that the professionals know more than you about their specialisms. I know you are probably an amazing teacher. That’s because you went to university and trained for that career. There are other people who have become OTs, SALTs, psychologists, psychotherapists and paediatricians. They are specialists in their fields and you need to accept what they are telling you. You do not know better than them because you read a book or an article online.

 

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  1. Listen to my child’s behaviour. My child is trying to communicate how she is doing. It’s too hard for her to tell you but she can show you with her behaviour so observe and then support her accordingly. If my 8 yr old is sitting under a table then I think you can see she is having a hard time and needs a break from the classroom. If my 10 yr old is chattering non stop about everything and nothing she is showing her anxiety about being in class and she needs a break from the room.

 

 

  1. Fiddle toys are not the answer to everything. I have provided both my girls with sensory boxes to use in class and you are very accepting of my child having free access to them in class. For this I thank you. But these are just one of the recommendations from professionals. I know it is easier for you to believe they are the answer to everything. But they are not. They are one small part of the package of support my child needs.

 

 

  1. Trust me as their parent. It seems difficult for you to accept that I know my children inside out. I know what they can manage and what they cannot. I know what they struggle with and how far they can be pushed them before they will crack. I support you and I can help you if only you will let me. How about it?  I’m up for it if you are!

A blog return

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that there may be nobody left to read this! I think it reflects how hard the last year has been for us at 3girlstogether. There came a point where I felt that nobody would want to continue reading me talking about lack of access to ASF, lack of support from SWs and other profs, and patchy support at school.  I was even boring myself talking about the vicious circle we were trapped in.

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Today I have decided I will try to think about how far we have come since my last post. For this post at least I will gloss over everything else. So here is what has changed in the last 9 months:

  • We have survived another year at school.
  • We have accessed ASF for assessments by specialist providers and have (nearly) got the finalised reports and costings for therapeutic input and further assessments.
  • I have tribunal dates for the LA’s refusal to assess for EHCPs for the girls.
  • I have finally found a nanny/support worker who will enable me to work and also give me one to one time with the girls each week.
  • Our local peer support group is going from strength to strength and now has over 60 members.
  • The girls now have a paediatrician which means they can quickly access other specialist referrals.
  • In term time I do something that I enjoy one morning a week

Actually when I look at that list I feel a little bit proud of what I have achieved in 9 months. Maybe I should blog more often!

 

 

To my daughter’s amazing LSA

Things have been up and down with the girls’ school this year; some great moments and frankly some dire ones. One thing that has been consistently wonderful this year is the support from the Learning Support Assistant (LSA) in Small’s class this year. Without her Small would not have got through the year. This lady met Small every morning and patiently chatted to us until Small was ready to leave me and go in, whether that took 5 minutes or 20.  And then end of the day she always took time to let me know how Small had been during the day. She understood Small’s needs better than anyone ever has in school and could tell how she was feeling just by how hard Small bounced against her in the morning! She tried to be there for my girl as much as she could (though we could have done with her all the time!) and gave her vital emotional support as well as sensory breaks which she introduced herself after reading up at home 🙂

At the end of the year I sent her some flowers and wrote her a card. What I wrote isn’t amazingly poetic or beautiful, because that’s not who I am, but it was heartfelt.

 Thank-You

To Mrs X

If I say you’re one in a million you will think it is a cliché but I actually mean it. We both know Small would not have survived this year without you.

Thank you for giving my little girl what she needed when I wasn’t there to do it. Thank you for listening to her, squeezing her, dancing with her and bouncing her. Thank you for gently reminding her of the boundaries without shaming her and thank you most of all for instinctively knowing what she needs and making sure she gets it. You have made it possible for Small to come to school this year.

We will miss your kind and intuitive support for her.

Thank you!

 

The quest for access to the ASF

We had an initial meeting with therapists at the beginning of March 2016 after which a series of recommendations were sent to me and my LA. In essence the report highlighted the high level of risk in our family due to the girls’ complex needs and the urgent need for intervention. The Post Adoption Support manager agreed that we should proceed with applying for funding from the Adoption Support Fund (ASF).

Since the end of March:

I have tried to ring over 25 times where the PAS manager’s phone has not been answered and there is no opportunity to leave a message.

I have sent 7 emails which remain unanswered.

I have managed to speak to him twice, both times where he evaded answering the one question I would like answer to:

‘have you applied to the ASF for our assessment funding?’  

The last time I spoke to him after 1 minute he said he would ring back in an hour. I’m still waiting 3 weeks later….

I recently read Rachel Wardell’s excellent blog post on the ADCS website Relationships, Relationships, Relationships in which she talks about how important relationships are in social work and emphasises the power of good communication with clients. It really struck a chord with me and you won’t be surprised to hear that I wholeheartedly agree.

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As an adoptive parent I feel I am walking a tight rope when dealing with post adoption support. If I don’t keep trying to make contact then we won’t get the assessments we need and therapy will be delayed indefinitely. But if I annoy or upset him he can make things very difficult for us and even block access to the Adoption Support Fund. I’m finding it incredibly stressful trying to work out what the magic formula is.

I want to build a positive relationship with the PAS team for the benefit of my children.  I know they are extremely busy, underfunded and under pressure.

I have been full of empathy and understanding up to this point. I’m not some bitter adopter lashing out without thought or consideration against social workers.

I am a mum who needs help and support for her children NOW.

I’m shouting out for help for the girls and I’M NOT BEING HEARD

What does Acceptance actually mean?

I blogged about acceptance before, in fact you can read my blog here. That was 2 years ago now. And I think acceptance for me is changing.

Recently I had a break from social media for a few weeks to give myself time and space to think. I wanted to be sure that I am able to manage the girls long term. And I am. I know I am. My lovely GP has been helpful in talking through these issues and making me realise that I am doing a good job and I should stop putting pressure on myself or allowing others to do so. FullSizeRender

Parenting Small can be draining. The older she gets the more pronounced her difficulties seem. She is clingy with an insatiable need to be near me or on me. Her sensory issues, inflexibility, need for control and obsessions all seem to be getting steadily worse. I am accepting that this is just the way she is, and it’s ok for me to find it a little claustrophobic sometimes. I know how to prioritise my girls’ needs and do what is best for them. But I need to do the same for myself too.

But perhaps the biggest part of acceptance for me has to be learning to accept the status quo with my eldest. Many kind adopters have messaged me saying that it is fear that stops Eldest from showing love to me, that it will come in time if I persist with therapeutic parenting, that parenting children with trauma is a long game and if I keep it up eventually there will be a breakthrough. All those things are true for many adopters and many children. All those messages are sent with love, care and a desire to give me hope.

But what if it isn’t true for my family? What if Eldest does not have the ability to develop love or empathy for anyone? What if, in her eyes, people are like are objects or possessions, and she just isn’t able to develop beyond that? And what if she is unable to modify her negative behaviours in any significant way? Then all I am doing is putting pressure on her with my expectations. And pressure on myself too. I believe that is the case for us. There are a few who know us well who think I may be right.

I am still parenting therapeutically. I know we can have happy times, and I can make positive memories for us as a family. But I am no longer waiting for that elusive magical breakthrough with Eldest. I am trying to accept her limitations and love her for who she is and accepting that this is who she will always be.

I’m not there yet on this journey to acceptance but I’m getting there. I feel generally at peace and that can only be a good thing.

 

Back to school – an adoptive mum’s perspective

Lots of parents are getting their children ready for going back to school. Some children will be excited, some nervous, some happy and some sad.  For my children going back to school is complicated. They are not nervous. They are not scared.

THEY ARE TERRIFIED

The girls have known too much change in their lives, too much loss, too much fear and too much rejection. Going into the unknown can only fill them with all consuming fear. Of course we adoptive parents know that exposing our children to these experiences develops some resilience. They will survive and know that they survived. But to see how they suffer to get there is tough for me as their mum and even tougher for them to experience.


So what have I done to help them? I gave the new teachers pupil profiles for each of my girls detailing their behaviours and suggesting ways to deal with them. The girls had lots of extra transition work before the holidays. They also did extra visits to their new classrooms and met their new teachers several times. And I had a long planning meeting with eldest’s new teachers.  Youngest was given handmade presents from her key teachers. Over the holidays we have had postcards and letters from old and new teachers.  They have had transition books to look at over the holidays with photos of the new teachers and classrooms. I have gently talked about school and what will be the same and what will be different. We have thought about the nice things at school. And we have talked about what their bodies are telling them about how they are feeling.

And so we are here. Tomorrow they go back to school. You can imagine what the last few days have been like. We have had the full range of behaviours and emotions. I won’t share the details but they certainly have been struggling with all those big feelings and I am the only safe person to direct them at.

Today I have been quietly packing their bags. There seems to be a lot of stuff! Between the two of them they will be taking back:

Transition books

Weighted lappad

Transitional items – Small has my teddy with her at all times in school. I’ve slept with it all summer so it definitely smells of me!

Photos of me and grandparents

Visual timetable cards which school lent me over the holidays

Chewigems and spare Chewigems

Fiddle toys

Spare underwear and socks as both wet in school

Emergency snacks – the girls keep a snack bar in their books bags at all times so they know there’s always enough food for them

Notes in coat pockets – telling them I love them

I think that’s it! I’ve done all I can to prepare them. I hope that school are equally as prepared to play their part tomorrow and that the girls have some positive experiences on ther first day back.

Working with Schools – a balancing act

This year I moved the girls  from a large multicultural city school who had lots of experience with children with attachment disorders to a small village school where they admitted they had none. The previous school looked great for the girls but failed to put anything concrete into action.

I have to admit that I’m a fairly demanding parent but with good reason:

Firstly I have already had to move the girls twice already – once while they were at nursery and then again at the start of this school year. I can’t let that happen again.

Secondly I was open about the girls’ difficulties before they were accepted at the school and the HT promised they would care for them and was prepared to do things differently for them

When the school gets it wrong it has a devastating impact on my children and on our home life

Lastly I am a teacher myself and I am expected to provide an outstanding level of care for every individual I teach, I expect nothing of them that I don’t do myself for any of my students who need it

School 2

So how has it gone?

Well it’s not been perfect. There have been a couple of teachers who seem unable to grasp the reality of the girls’ high levels of anxiety in school. This has been very frustrating to say the least and has sadly caused considerable damage which they seem oblivious to. But to be fair the school’s leadership have stepped up to support us and one teacher now emails every night without fail to tell me any arrangements for the next day even if just to confirm it’s a normal day. This means I can let my daughter know what is happening the next day and also head off any issues I can foresee that the teacher does not. Things are still very difficult for her in school, I know she does not feel safe or contained. I have had to accept that I cannot change these teachers’ opinions so I just need to work round them and minimise any impact on the children as much as possible. Happily neither will be with the girls next year.

But there are some wonderful teachers/LSAs too. The LSA who has devised a secret signal for my 6 yr old to let her know she isn’t coping. The teacher who will call my daughter to her side to offer gentle calming support during a challenging activity. Comments to me saying – we are doing X topic in PSHE and I know it will be a sensitive topic for both the girls. Or another saying – I realise you may have considerable fall out at home this afternoon after we do Y in school. And emails saying – we really want to support both you and the girls. These things are priceless to me as they show there are staff who are starting to understand how much the girls struggle despite the smiles they plaster on their faces at school. Crucially these members of staff accept that I know what the girls need to function in school and they don’t blame me for their tricky behaviour at home.

I guess it’s as simple as this – iinstead of blaming me they believe and trust me.

I knew that this would be a steep learning curve for the school. And I was right.

Happily staffing for the girls has been carefully chosen for next year and the school are also having training soon on trauma and attachment. I have great hopes for next year!