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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.

Yawning-Smiley-Face

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!

 

 

ASF (again)

Before I start a few ‘yes I know’s:

Yes I know we are lucky to have access to an Adoption Support Fund at all and those in Wales Scotland etc do not

Yes I know that therapy is not going to ‘fix’ my children

Yes I know there are cheaper providers of therapy available but those who know the girls, including professionals, have agreed on these providers as being in the best position to support us as a family

Yes I know that social workers have a difficult and often thankless job, have far too big case loads and too little time and in some cases training.

 

I applaud the introduction of the ASF and am delighted that it is available to adopters like us.

ed-timpson-quote

Here are some facts about the process we have been through to access ASF funding

We have had 2 assessments of need by 2 different local authorities in less than a year.

Both assessments of need conclude the same specialist provider should conduct comprehensive multidisciplinary assessments of both girls

We had to have an initial consultation from this provider, due to the complex needs of both girls and of our family as a whole, which proved stark reading but seemed very accurate to those who know the girls, including two different PASWs from different local authorities.

This should be great news shouldn’t it!

 

Except this process has spanned 66 long weeks so far.

There was a 24 week delay between my current LA first submitting costings to ASF and them resubmitting the same costings after conducting an assessment of need that confirmed everything in the previous one.  They resubmitted on the day Edward Timpson announced new rules for ‘fair access’ to the ASF

Of course we meet the criteria for exceptional circumstances that the ASF sets out. That goes without saying.

Of course the LA ‘are not in a position to contribute to the funding’ so they will not match-fund for us.

Their suggestion is we have some assessments now and the rest in April 2017. That will be week 88 of the process. 88 weeks! How can this possibly be right?

I am going to have to borrow money to pay for some assessments which the ASF no longer funds but which it did when our application was first submitted but I can’t borrow it all.

 

I apologise because this is a pointless blog. I guess it achieves nothing except allowing me to vent a little.

But I feel like screaming:

MY GIRLS NEED AND DESERVE MUCH BETTER THAN THIS!

 

 

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.

 

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.

Vulnerable

Do you sometimes look at your children and get overwhelmed by their vulnerability? I’m guessing all parents not only adopters would answer yes to that question.

I watch my 7 yr old and the general turmoil which is her usual state of being. I see her tip from calm to calamity in seconds with alarming regularity. In public places I see her make a beeline for unfamiliar older children and adults following them round and trying to ingratiate herself. At home her every action screams notice me, give me more and more of your undivided attention but she is unable to accept that loving attention when it is proffered by me. Yet when we’re out and about she demands and welcomes attention from total strangers.

Generally the calm and rationale part of me says:

I should concentrate on the here and now,

I should try not to think too far ahead.

I can’t be sure what the future may hold.

There’s no point worrying about things that may never happen.

 

But she is my little girl. She may not want to be but she is. She is difficult and challenging, often wishing she was not my daughter. But she is indeed my daughter – unconfident, frightened and incredibly vulnerable. I want to gather her in my arms and protect her from those who might harm her as she grows up. I want to lock the doors and keep her away from the world.

padlock

Every now and again, in weeks like this one, questions jostle into position in my head, crowding out my more reasoned thoughts:

How do I continue to show my love for this child who believes she is unloved and unlovable?

How do I meet the needs of a child so resistant to me?

How do I keep a child safe whose very pores scream out her vulnerability?

How will I protect her from herself and from others as she gets older?

 

There are no definitive answers to those questions.

I will wait patiently for the fear to pass

 

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!