Category Archives: Family

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.

equilibrio[1]

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.

 

My Mum My Hero

My mum is amazing. I aspire to be like her. I have always wanted to be as successful and respected as she is. As good and honest a person as she is. To be as good a mum to my children as she was and is to me and my siblings.

Since I have adopted my mum has blown me away with her capacity to understand and show empathy both for my girls and for me. She has read up on attachment and has an admirable understanding of the impact of the girls’ past. She has shamelessly button-holed professionals she comes across in her voluntary work to quiz them on the intricacies of developmental trauma. She has driven miles not only to attend meetings with me but also to make valuable contributions in those meetings.

I know I can ring my mum and talk things through with her. She never gets tired of me repeating the same fears and worries, never offers unsolicited advice, she backs me up when I need it. Especially as a single mum it is amazing to know I can offload on someone who won’t judge me. She constantly expresses her belief that I am a good mum to my girls. She never makes me feel like a failure.

Circle of love

I have a very strong memory from my childhood of sitting on my mum’s knee and being comforted by the feel of her hug and by her distinct smell. It was a feeling of safety and security; being enveloped in her love. There’s nothing quite like that memory for me. My mum still has the ability to do that for me now even at my age. Just thinking about her makes me feel better!

Everybody should have somebody like my mum in their lives but I am convinced that she is one in a hundred million. My mum is definitely my hero!

Guilty as charged

I fight hard for my eldest daughter. I battle with professionals to get her what she needs. I take her out on day trips with her younger sister and we all have fun and make good memories. I go up to her room at bedtime to chat to her about the good things from our day and then tell her I love her and kiss her goodnight.

I use PACE a lot. I’m pretty good at wondering with her about what is going on under the surface; what’s driving her behaviour. I plan activities, structure our home lives etc. I try to parent her in the very best way possible.

At the moment I’m doing an attachment parenting course. Last week the psychologist running the course asked me if I thought the emotional connection was there for me. It was asked in a supportive way. Not in any way to criticise. And I answered truthfully.

Rejection1

How does a parent remain emotionally engaged after 4 years of rejection?

I’m sure there are parents who do. I try. I try very hard. But I guess if I’m honest then the answer is probably no.

I’ve thought about this all week. I do know that the fact she isn’t able to love me still makes me cry. So there must be something there.

I hope and pray she doesn’t know how much I struggle with this. I’m guessing the professionals would say that she must know.

What does this make me? Human? A failure? Unworthy?

I don’t know

 

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.

24 hours in 250 words

Positives

  • Bought a swimming pass for the summer today and they gave me an extra week free. Their cleaner said she’d bring a cuppa to poolside for me when I come on my own.
  • Spent a few hours with my friend and her funny toddlers while the girls were at school; stress free and a chance for a good chat.
  • DD1 managed to tell her new LSA she doesn’t like being tickled. Wow!
  • Took the girls out for tea tonight and they were in great moods. When we left not only did we get vouchers for a local attraction but they also gave me the girls’ meals for free.
  • In the restaurant DD2 said “I’m full. Can I leave some ice cream?” Wow again!

thumbs up and down

And the other stuff…

  • In DD1’s memory book of Year 2 they’d staged a photo of her sitting on her class ‘pupil of the week’ chair. DD1 said “that’ll always remind me that my teacher never thought I was good enough to really sit there”. Grrrr
  • This morning I was greeted by the sight of a decapitated wild rabbit in the living room. Guilty cat nearby. Lucky me getting to pick up a bunny head and bunny body before breakfast.
  • DD1 ate a huge amount without chewing, even when I pointed out she was full. Came home, spent an hour kicking off in her room and is throwing up every 10 minutes 😦

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!