Care and Support

  What is it about the system that is supposed to 

care and support

us, adopters and our children that ends up making things worse?

I know no-one can answer these questions and this may be totally rambling as I have neither time nor energy to create space in my head for this really. 

Biggey was 3 years 5 months old before being removed. They knew the mess going on the family for some time. In fact they knew when Littley was born. Some 22 months earlier, there was a load of emergency situations going on which meant Littley was born, and yet they put Littley right back into the family. Into a family already broken where it was heavily reported that there were huge issues; a family where Biggey was already suffering. What was that about?

What was it that meant they didn’t tell us all this? What was it that meant we only found out 8.5 years later that this was known and documented? How was that helpful to anyone?

Within 6 months of placement, when Littley was launching herself over the bannister, down the stairs, into busy roads, they still didn’t say. When we asked for help they said ask your GP for a referral to Camhs. That’s it. That’s the help.

At one year in they demanded the therapy was stopped because it was more important that Littley went to school. How is that helpful. 

At 18 months in they refused to support the adoption order and demanded a psychologist assessment of us. How did that help?  

At 4 years in when we asked to see the files they said “it will not be sensible”. What were they thinking?

At 6, 7, 8 years in when we asked for adoption support and they gave us leaflets. How is that helpful?

At 8.5 years when Biggey has been back in the care system, they’ve broken her, destroyed her self esteem, almost ruptured the only steady relationship she ever had (with us), and taken 7 months to agree to specialist schooling. How is that helpful?

7 months in 5 FC placements with 2 more schools which the LA had to PAY FOR – out of my council tax!!! Not helpful – a downright cheek (not to mention the cost to her mental health).

The FC rang last week to ask us for help. Biggey was smashing her room up. When I managed to speak to her she’d taken the broken mirror and cut her arms. It didn’t help her. 

Do you know what is helpful? When I called the SW last week and told them I was going to collect her from the FC. That she was staying with me – temporarily – until we find the next new school. The SW said

“Oh thank you so much, that’s really helpful”


So, Biggey has been with us a week. It’s been calm – ish. She has said she now knows that we are the ones who help her. The ones who are always there for her. The ones who really know what she needs. She feels safe with us. 

She gets eczema when she’s stressed. Her arms are red raw, it’s on her eyes, ears and even her scalp. Her head is so sore and itchy she thought she had nits but didn’t dare say. It probably reminded her of early days when (we recently found out) she had lice, scabies and impetigo. That must have been so uncomfortable. In fact uncomfortable is just not a strong enough word. 

She feels rubbish. Like no-one else wanted her or wanted to help her. Not helpful

She says she understands she needs a school that will help her. She wants to come home in the holidays, if we will let her. Now that would be helpful.

Did she (and we) have to go through all this to get the right kind of help and support?  It doesn’t make sense. 

Torn Apart by Trauma

TornApartBy Trauma

Biggey has been home for the weekend.  She’s been lovely.  Who would know, if you saw her these last two days, what had been going on these last few weeks.  Our family are torn apart by trauma.  This is the effect of adoption breakdown, disruption, lack of understanding, poor support, trauma, neglect, abuse and learning difficulties.

She’s been going wild, completely uncontrollable, running away, staying out with ‘friends’ all night, abusive and violent.  One person said she’s feral. She’s now suspended again from school and this time I don’t think the school will have her back.  The FC can’t cope and has been asking for more support and better intervention since November and still nothing.  I know how she feels.  I reckon the FC is going to insist on moving her too.

The authority are supposed to be looking at a special needs residential school. Finally!  We asked for this before the breakdown even happened; then again in August, September, December ….. There aren’t many of these types of schools in the country, they could be absolutely anywhere and even if they find one, they will need to do an assessment of Biggey to ensure they can actually accommodate her, her needs and that she will fit with the children they already have. That’s a big ask.  The LA are dragging their feet – probably because it costs a lot of money.

During This Breakdown Period

We’ve been accused of

  • spoiling her (with holidays and a pop concert!)
  • punishing her (by not sending her horse riding gear)
  • giving in too easily (when she was angry)
  • not putting firm boundaries in (when she ran away)
  • being angry (with social workers)
  • being too fussy and anxious (with Biggey and Littley)

and of course, the one we all wait for ………….

have you tried sticker charts?

She’s 14!!!   She has had 5 Foster Care placements in 7 months and missed so much school she’s 2 years behind.

How Does She Feel?

We had a chat with her this weekend and here’s what we discovered (these are her words):

She didn’t like staying out all night, she was cold and bored but daren’t say no in case her ‘friend’ dumped her.

The school don’t want her because she has a statement.  There are worse kids there,  just they don’t want to help her.

She’s sick of people sitting around talking about her like she’s not there (at review meetings).  It makes her feel useless, rubbish and that no-one wants her.

She wants to come home, she misses us, she misses someone caring and listening to her but she’s worried she’ll keep exploding and ruin everything.

She really wishes her SW would stop asking her if she wants to see her birth parents, it frightens her, they are not safe, they hurt her and she thinks the SW will tell them where she is.

Well, that’s a sad set of statements and all completely understandable.  Whilst I don’t agree with the way she is behaving and responding I can totally see the reason she is doing it – it’s textbook responses.

  • I’ll push you away before you push me away.
  • I’ll destroy this before you take it away.
  • If you think I’m rubbish I’ll show you that.
  • I’m actually really frightened but the explosions look like angry ‘choices’

So What Do We Do?

I daren’t bring her back home because the Social Workers are likely to leave us to cope with the mess of her trauma, along with Littley.  I don’t want her wandering the streets at night, she’s a prime target for exploitation.  I don’t want her to be moved again, and then again to a residential if they find one.

What a bloody mess.  No doubt I’ll be awake through another night and then spend most of tomorrow on the phone.

In other news

Littley has a horrid cold, sore throat and temperature.  She thinks she’s going to die because she’s poorly so that brings its own tantrums and challenges caused by fear and flashbacks to early life reminders.  The good news is that as she’s older I can get some adult medicine down her which seems to numb things for a few hours before it all kicks off again!

She was off school on Friday and is not going to get there tomorrow.  That will bring more issue when school talk to her about her attendance – that’ll be the least of our worries!

Thank god for half term coming up

and oodles of Prosecco!


Being Thankful

It’s been quiet on the blog for a while. It’s been far from quiet in the Safe House though and as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I just have to decide where to put my time and energy. Oh boy! Have it had a few other places to put my time and energy recently!!

The Breakdown

Dealing with Biggey’s breakdown and her move into Foster Care has been huge, tiring, insulting, upsetting and a relief. Dealing with Littley’s response to the breakdown has also been a juxtaposition of challenge and ease.

Since July Biggey has now been in 4 placements. The first was meant to be short term but Biggey didn’t want to come back so they had to find a place for longer. The second place broke down when after a month Biggey exploded and threw stones (rocks I think) and damaged the FC. Then she was in an emergency “bridging” placement whilst they looked for somewhere else. (Interestingly, this bridging placement is not official counted as a place!  Let’s not get into how numbers are fiddled ….). So then she was found a place with a private FC who is an absolutely lovely, strong understanding lady. It’s in a different City so over an hours travel from us, but still.  She’s fantastic and has communicated and worked with us greatly (which is significantly different to the other experiences – but that’s a whole other story!).

In all this time Biggey has not been in school. Part of the issues around breakdown was that school couldn’t cope and plans were being made for her to move  schools. So, no school since July.

A new school was found and I went to look round. It was fantastic!  Specialising in hard to reach children, no class size bigger than 8, staff ratio of 1 to 4 children and vocational classes every afternoon in hair, beauty, cooking and mechanics. Sounds perfect.  She started at the beginning of November.

She’s just been suspended for dangerous, threatening behaviour. They don’t think it’s the right place for her.

School say they’ve never seen a child with such constant rage and difficulty. They have angry kids there – just not angry ALL. THE. TIME. She rampaging through other classrooms, not just in her own or in corridors.

Foster Carer has given her 28 day notice. She threatened to harm the FC’s 3 year old grandson.  It’s too much risk.

Of course it is.  She is dangerous.  She is such a destructive mess.  What a shame.

So, I lie awake at 5am.  What can be done?! My sleeplessness is not going to sort it out. It’s in the hands of authorities but still she is a huge concern to me.

She is still placed under Section 20.  Which I have concerns about (there’s another blog!)  The LA will not provide any help, support or respite so she cannot return to us. We cannot keep her safe or meet her needs and must consider Littley’s in all this too. Yet it seems that others cannot help her and provide for her either.

So, we wait again, to see what will happen next with her.

I’m grateful that we no longer walk on egg shells every day as we did when she lived here. I’m grateful that Biggey has had a period of being calmer (before she went back to school).

Littley is also calmer and being able to do some “normal” things, like have a friend round, without worrying about Biggey’s sabotage, rage and destruction.

I’m thankful I’ve done so much personal therapeutic work which helped me to stay strong through all this.

People are saying I look well.  I feel well (which was a bit strange until I got used to it!!).  I’ve lost weight (yay) not from stress but because I have energy to shop properly and plan meals and cook!  OK I’ll stop boasting …

It was thanksgiving day yesterday. Even if we are not in USA it can still be good to take a moment and notice the things we are thankful for.

The breakdown seemed really terrible at the time.  It was rough at times and we have been treated appallingly in meetings. Overall, things are better.  For 3 out of 4 of us.

My Adoption Statistics

It’s been a hell of a week and we’ve been increasing the adoption statistics.

Adoption Statistics image

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about I Can’t Believe It but this is the biggest time of disbelief I’ve ever had.

A while ago Julie Selwyn published Beyond the Adoption Order.  The report showed that children from adoption and foster care who were most likely to become disruptive were

  1. Children aged 11 and up
  2. Who had come into care aged over four or over and
  3. Those who experienced delays and multiple placements.

The reality in our family is:

  1. She’s 13 and we’ve been struggling for ever really but definitely since starting secondary school at age 11! Tick!
  2. She went into care at 3 years 6 months- almost a tick
  3. She wasn’t placed with us until she was 5 years 7 months after 3 foster placements and a previously matched family who backed out at last minute. Oh I think that’s a big tick!

The report also talks about the harsh reality for the minority of families where placements collapsed under the strain with too little support from social services and adoption agencies.

Our Support History

Within the first 6 months of being placed with her sister we had running away, kicking, biting, punching, spitting and more. Our local (very good at the time) CAMHS psychologist told us they should not have been placed together!  The placing LA told us it’s both or none. We delayed the adoption order to try and ensure we had the right support in place. It didn’t help in the end. The placing LA social workers were so obstructive that I began to wonder what their real priority was – helping the children or covering their backs?

We got no support, so paid privately for therapy. That business is now recognised provider under the Adoption Support Fund. Therapy helped and we discovered just how desperately and horridly neglected and abused my girls were.  This came from their therapy, not from files and LA information. When we got to the really big stuff she got so violent that we were asked to leave! So therapy stopped.

Skip forward to the last two years when I started writing this blog. The list of blogs which highlight the issues, struggles and fights I’ve had to get support. All this takes effort and there have been times when I have to decide where my efforts need to go and I stopped doing blogs for a bit or stopped fighting for a bit.

In the last two years – since she was 11 (there’s that statistic again) her violence and difficulty have escalated and escalated.

She already regularly attacks me which I’ve written about in Child to Parent Violence.  She’s re-enacting everything from birth family and she totally hates her birth mum and what she did yet now, that is being played out again but directed at me.

She’s threatening her little sister and that’s scary – for her and us. She carries out most of her threats these days.

School Issues

School (her second secondary school) have said they can’t cope and even though I put my cards on the table with suggestions she ended up under the PRU- Pupil Referral Unit (for those who don’t know – that’s the school where children go if excluded or with severe emotional / behavioural issues when all other schools cannot have them).

Even when I am working with the Local Authority to try and get City-wide help for all adopted children in school, it hasn’t been fast enough for Biggey.

Part of the answer for schooling was to leave her home with me Monday morning and All day Friday’s!  Didn’t help us at all. Where an entire school of staff cannot cope, the little alone me is supposed to!  Its ridiculous.

Adoption Support

We have repeatedly asked for support and mostly been offended by their responses.  The latest request in March was a bit more successfully and we thought change would be coming when we persuaded Social Services to allow us to apply for the Adoption Support Fund (even to get to that was a struggle).  I’ve repeatedly told our SW we are struggling, we need respite only to be told it’s not available under the ASF. I don’t care who provides it – we need it. No-one listening.

Earlier this week she stropped, kicked off and ran away (again). We found her, got her home but still violent and aggressive. I escalated (again) through Social Services and eventually two Social Workers came.

They asked her what she wants. She wants to go into care. She’s asked this before, several times.

The SW offered to see her daily if necessary to help her and us.  Where was that when I was on my knees?  When I kept asking for it?  No matter, Biggey was adamant, we are knackered / traumatised / worn out and same as last September, wondering Why Bother?

So there we have it.  We met the final statistic.

Placements collapse under strain with too little support from social services and adoption agencies.

She’s in “voluntary care whilst our family is in crisis” they said. I don’t know how long for, I don’t know what will happen next.

It’s calmer and quieter in the Safehouse, although Littley is still terrified Biggey will be home any day now to carry out the violent threats.  I don’t know where this leaves us except feeling sad, let down, disappointed and failed.


I’ve got abandonment issues you know.

Even my mum needs to be told this, so I shout it at her so she hears me.

Abandonment Pic

It’s two weeks to end of school and then everyone will leave. All the teachers will leave. My safe person has already left me. It doesn’t matter that people tell me she’s gone to hospital for an operation. She’s left me. I don’t believe them that she’ll be back. Loads of other people have said things to me and left me anyway. My mum calls it “endings” sometimes. Why can’t I remember that people do come back?   It’s all going to be so different. I’m really worried about being alone and I won’t know my teachers and I can’t manage Year 8. I don’t want to look like a baby but I feel like a baby and I need my mum and she’s not there at school because it not cool to do that. I fuss a lot when I feel like this and so my friends walk off and then I’m alone again.

It’s so very tiring living this way. Wondering who will be there are the beginning and end and middle of the days.

So on Monday morning when I wake up tired and grumpy and say I don’t want to go to school my mum hugs me and says

ok baby. Don’t go.

I look at her a bit funny because she doesn’t usually say that.

We crawl into her bed and she puts her arm round me. I think I go back to sleep.


My arm is numb but I daren’t move it. I’ve got loads to do today yet here I am laid in bed with baby attached to me like a limpit. She’s boiling, but if I move she moves with me. She needs to “feel” attached. Even in her sleep she  knows if we move and will follow us or wake up.

It’s 8:55 am on a Monday morning and the abandonment issue is well and truly in force.

In that split second this morning I made a decision – I really did not want tired girl. Tired girl means she’s feels unsafe anyway because she never got much sleep when she was little. Tired girl thinks she’s back there and has to work much harder then she already does to make sure we know she’s there. Then she’s even more tired. Most of all, Tired girl has the most enormously loud cry. We’ll, it’s a wailing actually but still incredibly loud and you really really cannot ignore it.

I don’t want her to wake up. She’s so much better when she’s not tired (aren’t we all!) and she can deal with things better when she’s not tired (so can I). So she’s laid asleep beside me (the dog at the other side). Ideally I’d like to rearrange the pillows so I can be comfortable. I’d also liked to have had chance to get a cuppa but I didn’t. So I stay here, drafting this on my phone, being uncomfortable, so that she sleeps.

Then eventually, hopefully, we will be able to get up and cope with the adandonment that the day throws at us.  The other stuff I was going to do probably won’t get done.  It wouldn’t have got done if there’s been an  almighty kick off which took up some time and left me feeling drained for rest of day either!

All the transition / keep in mind tools are already in use again. She has a photo discreetly tucked in her bag. She wears my perfume and sometimes I put a plait in her hair or a pony tail and tell her that she’s got a little bit of me with her all the time in her hair and she can feel it.  She’s got extra money for toast at break time to help her regulate. She takes pack-up so she doesn’t have to wait for the food at lunchtime and can get straight into a calming sensory soothing strategically made lunchbox that is also filled with love and kisses and crunch and sucky things.

She will meet me again at the end of the day (and oh boy I will have to remember to do the big hugs and full on attention).

Then we’ll start all over again.

The good news is that we don’t have to do this all the time. After 8 years, we don’t always need to ” do the perfume and stuff” (as she calls it). Now we just do it when things go wobbly until the wobbles stop for a bit.

I Can’t Believe It!

I can’t believe it!  I can’t believe it!

The first words we heard from our beautiful daughter when she came running out of the foster carers house.  She was fairly closely followed by big sister who stumbled towards us saying nothing and keeping her head down. They couldn’t believe their new family were finally here to meet them.

Well, we couldn’t believe it either.  After about two years going through the process of approval and matching, we were finally meeting our girls and becoming a family.  This weekend we went out for a family meal to celebrate our 8 years together.

Littley is still chatty and dramatic about events although much quieter than when we first met; Biggey still, mostly says as little as possible and although she doesn’t keep her head down these days, it’s very quick to go down at any given moment.

In those 8 years there’s an awful lot of things that have happened that I can’t believe I’ve lived through and experienced. It has been the most incredibly steep learning curve and one that I was not prepared for and could never have imagined.

When I began learning about effects of attachment, trauma, neglect, abuse, loss and how the children respond it made perfect sense to me.  Yet even when it all made sense, when I went to more conferences and training events I got to know more, I implemented everything I could, there’s still so much to content with.  I’m glad I know what I do, goodness knows what state we would be in as a family if I didn’t!

We lost friends and even family support along the way, yet we’ve gained some truly wonderful, supportive friends too.  Adoption has filled our lives in more ways than with just the girls.  It has also restricted our lives too and we certainly live life very differently to that which we imagined when we started the process.

So, here’s my top 10 things I can’t believe.

I can’t believe:

  1. That we were told “they just need firm boundaries”.
  2. That in 8 – 10 years since we entered the process things haven’t changed much.
  3. That it’s apparently OK that even now we are finding out crucial information from files which would explain just how terrible their early life was.
  4. That the education system is not able to accommodate my girl even with a Statement of Needs.
  5. That we are well known to the police (but they are very nice and helpful about it).
  6. That I have had to learn to restrain my children – I certainly wasn’t told that on the prep course!
  7. That there are so many days when I say I can’t do this anymore, then get up again the next day, finding strength from somewhere to carry on.
  8. That instead of continuing to work in the corporate world that I now have my own very small, but very flexible business.
  9. That I am campaigning for change in our LA so that the Virtual Head is involved with adopted children.
  10. That we have dog!  This really would never have happened if it wasn’t for Biggey’s intense needs but he’s almost the best thing we have done since the girls came.

Our Puppy

Please Minister, help our children in school.

Once again, another wonderful piece of campaigning work my @garethmarr.

In summary, Edward Timpson is on a Webinar at 6pm 17th June 2015 discussing adoption. He will answer questions posted on twitter and send by email. This is our chance to ask for further support for our children in schools and continuing the work Gareth and I are dong with getting Virtual Schools on board.

If you missed my posts on Facebook and twitter, please do have a look at those today or Gareth’s blog and send a email or twitter asking the question.

Thanks Everyone
Emma – Safemum

Gareth Marr

There is an opportunity to get a powerful message to Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, that adopted children need and deserve Virtual School support. He will be on a webcast this Wednesday with First 4 Adoption.

Details here :

Questions can be emailed to and the conversation can be joined on Twitter @First4Adoption using the hashtag #meettheminister.

Please, please, please use this opportunity to contact Edward Timpson and ask for the scope of Virtual Schools to be extended to Adopted Children. I do believe Mr Timpson understands the need and is sympathetic, but this is an opportunity to reinforce our concerns and ask for change. It is also timely. There will be a new Adoption Bill going to Parliament before the summer recess and this change could be part of that Bill.

The Case for Change

Here are the arguments:

  • Virtual Schools support Children in Care recognising the challenges they have resulting…

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