Cards on the Table

After the last blog post where I was waiting for a social worker to visit me on the Monday – they actually came on the Thursday!  No surprise really and that probably only happened because of my husbands skillful handling of phone calls and explainations.

Meanwhile, on the Monday, Biggey didn’t come home after school. School were so concerned about her they checked at4pm and asked me ring the police (again) and so we made yet another report of child missing. She rang home eventually from friends house and we collected her about 7pm.

On Tuesday whilst I was at work, school had rung hubby to say she had left school site and could he come.  It wasn’t even lunchtime. He had explain this to his boss too!  On his arrival at school, Biggey was back on school site but running rampage and managed to take a significant bite out of hubby when he tried to get her to car. As awful as this is, we were kind of pleased that school witnessed this.

Their final words were that they couldn’t cope with her in school and she should stay at home until after our (pre-planned) meeting on Thursday. Oh dear!!!!

Wednesday was difficult as both hubby and I were supposed to be working and in our type of work it’s not easy to just not go, to phone in sick or something else. Reluctant Grandparents stepped in from 25 miles away and juggled Biggey around caring for 90 year old Nanna.

Thursday arrived and so did two Social Workers. One from Safeguarding and one from Post Adoption. They were sorry that the Adopter Worker from last October was not available so sent someone else. Didn’t matter to me!  Turns out to be a bit of a result that we got this lady. She knew her stuff.  Saw us and Biggey could see the shame in Biggey straight away. I got Biggey to say a few words about how she was and what she thought of school. I then got Biggey to take puppy for walk. During that time I played them my videos of Biggey in meltdown. She totally got that we had a teen replaying early trauma. Yippee.   Poor Mr Safeguarding just sat and took notes!

We persuaded them to come along to the meeting at school that morning.

Later at school

12 of us squashed round the table (school were not expecting my entourage!). I’d even managed to get Camhs to come along too!  After introductions the new school Senco drafted outline of agenda.  I felt for her, she was new, was trying to make an impression. She would have done OK too, except recent events made this no ordinary review meeting.

I let her have about 5 minutes of her planned agenda the interrupted and explained that things had moved on significantly.

I played my videos, first of Littley saying how scared she was to live in our house at the moment. The second of Biggey in full meltdown. It lasted 50 seconds.  50 seconds until someone said can you turn it off.

I did turn it off. At the same time I pointed out that we are living with that noise, that violence, that aggression, that trauma, every single day. That particular episode lasted for over 3 hours the previous weekend and started again later in the day. I asked them to keep that sound in heir minds for duration of the meeting.

OK. So now I had their attention and I wasn’t about to let it go.

I reminded them that they had now said they couldn’t cope with Biggey. We were struggling to cope with Biggey. I wanted her at that school if they will still have her, yet we have to all acknowledge that she is struggling and currently plans are not working. I also pointed out that her Statement says it has concerns about whether she will manage Secondary school at all.

I was on a roll, I told them I was putting my cards in the table and it’s up to them to push back and tell me what can and cannot be done. (Deep breath)

She needs,

  • 2 days at school in higher support with specialist provision and more training of staff
  • 2 days in specialist therapeutic provision of (a local) farm school
  • 1 day at home with me to ensure time to re-connect / build attachment / work with Adoption support.

They nodded!  They bloody well nodded.

What? Really?  Surely it’s not that easy?

No, it’s not that easy!!

They did admit she is the most complex child they have ever had. (Wished they listened to me in first place then)

They also said its going to take time and need approval to get these things in place and that means protocol and red tape and Education Panels and places to be available. They did agree to make phone calls that day to speed things up.

In the meantime they will also request a provision for home tutoring (although home tutors do not tutor at home!!)  so that will need to be somewhere Biggey feels safe.  Libraries are often used apparently but may not be suitable for Biggey so I’m going to have to sort that out and pull some strings somewhere (slightly peeved that I have to sort that).

They have now asked that I go into school and talk to staff involved with Biggey – oh yes, that’s fine I said. (Slightly peeved that I offered last year and was told – by different people – that ‘it would not be appropriate’).

At my request, Adoption Support are going to begin an assessment in readiness for the Adoption Support fund rolling out in May.

I haven’t even mentioned the bits where I tweeted the Chief Exec of LA or emailed the Director of Children’s Services and Head of Special Needs.   I think they know who I am now. 

So the ball is rolling for change. A lot of this is what I asked for in October last year. Yet I asked different people with different evidence. Such a shame that it came to this.  So wrong that it all depends who you ask, when you ask, how you ask, how pushy you are and how bad it is.

That said, when schools go back on Monday after Easter holidays I have no idea where Biggey is supposed to go and I am probably left to sort that out myself too.

 

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Thinking about Chocolate

Well, it’s Easter weekend.  Life in the Safe House is $*.7!  The one consolation is that we have more than the usual amount of chocolate.  Awesome.    I couldn’t bear to blog about life’s ups and downs, so I’ve distracted myself with this little bit about my favourite interest!

Research shows that, on average, adopters Britons enjoy about 11kg (24lb) of chocolate a year, making the UK one of the biggest consumers of chocolate in the world. Only the Swiss and Germans eat more.

It’s not a new thing. There are stories through history about cocoa and chocolate and under “discovering chocolate” section on Cadbury.com they say that “in the 17th century, the Dutch … brought cocoa beans from America to Holland, where cocoa was greatly acclaimed and recommended by doctors as a cure for almost every ailment…”  [Bring it on!]

Some researchers say that Dark Chocolate

  • Has many powerful antioxidants
  • Is rich in minerals such as Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Copper
  • May reduce risk of heart disease
  • May improve brain function
  • Increases “feel good” chemicals

There’s a neuropsychologist in US who wrote about “The Resilient Brain” and she works with and writes about people with brain injury and says that dark chocolate is great for brain health. So I do wonder, given that our children’s brains need healing too, if similar applies. It probably can’t do any harm although I’m not sure I can spare my good quality chocolate for them!

What makes us reach for chocolate in times of stress or difficulty? How come we use chocolate as relaxation or calming aid? Well, when we look at it in a sensory and psychological way it may explain.

IMG_2700

What senses are most active when we eat chocolate?

  • There’s the look of it – highly attractive packaging, smooth dark sultry shapes …
  • There’s the smell – chocolate, vanilla, sweet, bitter …
  • There’s the taste – firing all those taste buds across your tongue, sweet, bitter…
  • There’s also texture – that smooth, silky, sweet, stick to the roof of your mouth

In addition, we know what to expect, there’s a learned response in use, so we think about chocolate and our mouth waters; we remember the previous experiences of calm, joy, comfort, relaxation or whatever.

So we enjoy the feeling that eating chocolate produces in us.

Here’s the other thing: when we are babies, our first soothing experience is when we get milk sensation in our mouths, with the smell of our mother, the taste of familiar sweet, smooth, comforting milk. So it’s one of the closest things to replicating our early soothing experiences.

We know when we are born our brains are hard-wired to respond to certain things in a certain way and that soothing is one of them. We just don’t realise that chocolate provides that for us too!

Do you prefer your chocolate with nuts in or hard and cold from the fridge? Then the need for crunch is, in sensory integration terms, related to other emotions being associated too! (That’s a whole other blog of information about sensory eating.)

What about the psychological stuff?

Chocolate does also produce those “feel good” chemicals yet some scientific people would argue that our bodies regulate those chemicals so that if we have too much our body try to create a balance. These researchers at University of Texas say that we could become desensitized to the effects if we have too much over time! Well, I for one, am happy to be their guinea pig in that study!

However, remember too, we can learn behaviour from our experiences.  So were you, as a child, given a ‘treat’ for good conduct? This practice of using food as a treat or as a mood enhancer then means that when we find ourselves feeling stressed, tired, fed up, our mind is wired to desire those same foods because it believes that is what makes us feel good again.

 

Whatever is driving your chocolate eating, remember the sugar intake that goes alongside consuming large amounts of chocolate is another issue. Consuming more dark chocolate – that is over 85% cocoa – is considered much better because of the higher amount of cocoa, so has more health benefits than milk chocolate although there are similar calories in both dark and milk chocolate!

Interesting eh?  Will this change your chocolate eating?  It doesn’t change mine!!

 

I linked this with The Adoption Social and the Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO

 

 

Could Change be Coming?

It’s been pretty rough in the Safe House.  Actually it’s been like this since September if I’m honest.  That wonderful school I’ve blogged about this time last year in So Far So Good and Headteacher Calling decided, in their wisdom, to just put Biggey into mainstream school last September, without word or warning to me or her.

It all went off the scale then with lots of unpleasant phone calls and meetings and people thinking she “just needed to make the right choices” and she was displaying “chosen behaviour“.  With a meeting where I was advised that she “just needs to follow 3 rules”.   I can’t remember those rules now, she was never going to manage them anyway !!!!

I need to talk to you about her behaviour

I then spent ages giving them information about her background, how it affects these type of children, etc etc.  They cried.  It was all pointless, though because that meeting was followed by almost daily phone calls from a Head of Year saying “I need to talk to you about her behaviour”.  I responded with “she has a Statement of Needs for – BEHAVIOUR”.  It all got very difficult and tense so I stopped answering my phone to her calls, since they weren’t listening anyway and it was beginning to feel intimidating.  The result, was her exclusion!

More difficulties, yet in short, I got her back into the supportive unit in school, had meetings with Head, Deputies, SENCO, etc, etc.  A wide variety of people have been involved to be honest, and that’s a problem in itself.  The Ed Psych in Feb advised Biggey should have no more changes and some other helpful things.  They didn’t get passed on to the people on the ground dealing with her on daily basis (not very helpful at all).

We’ve had her making false allegations that I hit her (cos she didn’t want to come home and face me after a bad day at school).  We’ve had CAMHS involved, supposedly helping her with anger (nothing helpful or different to what I had already put in place and so no change in her at all).

Fight, Flight, Freeze

We now have school ringing or texting me every day with updates.  She is aggressive, she leaves school site frequently, or sits in classroom and refuses to move so they have to empty other pupils from the room!  Can you recognise the Fight, Flight, Freeze responses here? Yes?  Sadly, they can’t.

There’s been minuscule progress with school working with me using strategies, tactics and ways of speaking to her to begin to be helpful, but it is not consistent and across the board.  So every bit of progress we make, someone comes along and undoes it!  She is really struggling in school and, needless to say, takes it out on me at home.

This week, culminating over this weekend, we just haven’t been able to calm her down at all and my goodness she REALLY HATES ME!  She has definitely got me, Safe Mum, confused with the Birth Mum.

She wants to leave.  Just like many other weekends, bit by bit we cancelled everything that was going to happen this weekend.  It wasn’t much, horse riding for her, walk the dog, go out for tea maybe, buy some arsenic (just kidding).  We have pretty much barricaded ourselves in the house and dealt, blow by painful blow, with her fight response; all to no avail.

It had escalated to another level

Whilst hubby and I were both trying to do small tasks around the house, him gardening, me cooking and cleaning up in kitchen, she came at me with the floor mop and attacked me with it.  It was like gladiator games but it really hurt.    This was more than screaming, shouting, hitting, punching and throwing.  It had escalated to another level.

So this afternoon, I rang social services.  I’ve had enough.  If this was my husband who was being so violent and abusive I would have left him by now.  If I leave her I will be failing her as a parent.  If I let her run away, I still have to get her home and be her responsible parent.

Whilst the man at end of phone asked me what had been happening, I explained we had cancelled everything, all doors locks to prevent her running.  He said, “oh, did you have visitors planned or something?”.  “NO” I said.  “These days they only visitors we have are police and social workers.”

He laughed.

He bloody laughed.

I’d been quite composed til then.  I let rip.

“Did he really think that I was just some pathetic parent who’d had a bit of a rough hour here and there?  Did he stop to think that here am I, plucking up the courage, on a Sunday afternoon, to ring an Out of Hours provider, to ADMIT that I want and need help?  That I really want to tell people that my daughter is out of control, that she frightens me?  None of this is funny – not in the slightest.”

I demanded an apology and some reasonable amount of professionalism from him.

We have a social worker coming tomorrow – apparently.  We shall see (I bet they don’t respond that quick).  I wonder what they will do.  I wonder what they will propose.  What great ideas they will come up with or advise.  Maybe change is coming.  Maybe it’s a change she thinks she wants, yet has she any idea at all?

Biggey, still wants to leave ………..  She has packed a bag.

I’m Proud of You

This is what my mum said to me the other day. What a lovely thing for any mum to say to her daughter. Yet, it didn’t sit comfortably with me; I didn’t feel any sort of good, warm, pride-like feeling inside.

Now, Mum pops round regularly to see me and the girls after school, she brings chocolate or sweets and we chat and catch up. It’s lovely.  The other day she was telling me about her time at her sewing group and there is one lady there who always asked about us and how we are getting on. The girls were there at this time so I guess mum’s answer was tailored to be appropriate to all ears, so she simply said I told her

I’m very proud of you

I just kind of smiled – maybe it was more a grimace – I’m not sure, yet it didn’t feel comfortable hearing that. Eventually I was able to say

It doesn’t feel like something to be proud of

Mum nodded, in an understanding way and at the time the conversation moved on and around to other things – because the girls were there.

Later I reflected on this. When I thought again about mum’s words and what was going on in myself. There’s an awful lot I’m not very proud of.

  • I’m not proud that the psychologist in the local CAMHS team told my daughter she is scared of me – because I was having to strong and firm and demanding to get my daughter’s needs met (It didn’t work though).
  • I’m not proud of the fact that we are on first name terms with local police, because my daughter runs away so often.
  • I’m not proud when I crawl the streets in my car, following my run-away, feeling like some sneaky stalker or a sleazy kerb-crawler.
  • I’m not proud that I have to sit on my children when they kick, bite, hit, spit, hiss in the throws of their traumatic fight flight response.
  • I’m not proud when I have to man-handle them into the car or tackle them to the floor in the middle of the street or in supermarkets just so I can half restrain half cuddle them to calm them down.
  • I’m not proud that my parenting very often feels harsh and restrictive, even though I know it’s what they need and what they can cope with.
  • I’m not proud that I swear so much
  • I’m not proud of having to be forthright and demanding of other people – like schools, teacher, social workers.

I’ve blogged before about wearing my stroppy hat and in that I said I wear it with pride, and occasionally I do, yet as with our children, there is only so many times I (and many other adopters) can continue to be knocked down without being left with the negative affect of it all.

I have to remind myself daily that there are things I am proud of – like the fact that I do keep them safe, I do advocate for them, separately and us as a family.

In my work I tell people that it’s important that we work on our own thoughts and feelings, that we are kind to ourselves and have positive self talk.  It’s very important I practice what I preach! (always easier said than done!!)  I do realise that we often spend so much time with our children’s issues we easily forget about ourselves.  Self talk is so important to us too.  So each day, with renewed vigour I will be trying to find something I have done that I am proud of.

I am proud that we are still together.   What about you?

Sibling Adoption

My Littley is scared of fireworks. So I didn’t bother to attempt to do bedtime tonight and let her sit with me. That way I had less stress for us both. Biggey went to bed, she sleeps through everything. So whilst there was some particularly loud bangs Littley told me she was fed up with having problems. After chatting (she’s really good at chatting) about fears and feelings I explained that this week was National Adoption Week #NAW2014 and that the focus was on sibling adoption and the reason for that. Then I simply said

What do you think about being adopted with your sibling?

This is all her own words….

When she (Biggey) explodes I get scared and want to hide away. I don’t like it and I’m too scared to do anything and even too scared to tell you.

It’s better to have someone who knows my experience and understands so I can talk to them about kids stuff. I’m not lonely.

Better to be with someone I was born with than be on my own.

I know she’s bigger than me. But she talks big and clever and tries to tell me what to do all the time but I don’t like her telling me I’m wrong all the time.

When she does stuff (outbursts) in the street and in the supermarket then I’m really embarrassed. Why does she have to do these things it’s so embarrassing?

When I have to walk with her to school and stuff it’s like on outside she’s bigger but inside she’s a little girl. She only does stuff, like get a glass milk, or go out to play, when I do. Why can’t she do it for herself or just learn like I did? I try to understand but sometimes the things she does makes me feel like she relies on me all the time and this is a lot of pressure on me to do things and do things for her. I try to encourage her but she gets stroppy and upsets me and I don’t like it. It feels like too much pressure which makes me upset. When I get upset I get tummy ache.

I do want more people to adopt children because it stops us having horrible lives and it tells us that there are people out there who can care for us and not people who hurt us all the time.

Before you adopted me I had a horrible feeling in my tummy all the time. I used to eat to try and get rid of it. I used to eat crisps every day and even that didn’t help. I used to try and play and do things but it didn’t work cos I was so upset. Since I came to you I know that you love me and care for me and I feel much better, even though my behaviour is sometimes very bad, I know you will keep safe me forever.

My advice is : adopt a baby cos it must be much easier. Then you won’t have to catch up with learning by doing peek a boo and things like that when they are big.

Be patient because we have to adapt to you but you have to adapt to us as well. Do be calm and kind because it is hard if we had a horrible past and been hurt or not looked after enough.

Please do get us new toys and warm comforting things as well as toys to fiddle with. It helps us to feel safe and happy because it makes us feel safe and loved and comfortable.

It may take a while for us to settle in but no matter what we will begin to feel safe and be able to tell you we love you.

By Littley Safegirl age 11.

Helped by Safemum (age 21 again). Immensely proud, quite sad, totally blown away.

Dear Edward Timpson

This week all adopters received a “letter” from Children’s Minister Edward Timpson.  Well, I say letter, (for those who were not in receipt) it was a link to an website where I could download the letter!  So already, we had just another little thing to do …..

Read it here, if you didn’t get yours! Edward_Timpson_Letter_to_adopters

I read his letter with an open mind, yet my ‘coping mechanism’ of sarcasm soon made an appearance.  I was disappointed to be reading a curriculum vitae of what he has done, it was all me, me me.  So, here’s what I would have liked to be reading..

Dear Adopter

I wanted to say huge thank you for:

  • Saving the government millions of pounds by adopting these children and doing it for free!  (You’ve no idea how much they would have costs us, the government, the country, if these children had stayed in care).
  • Increasing the taxable income by consuming copious amounts of alcohol in order to sooth the day in the life of adoption.
  • Educating our educators in nurseries, schools and colleges all around the country by teaching them about attachment, trauma and loss, how it affects and how to deal and help heal.  This is saving us millions in training and development costs.
  • By holding our schools to account by personally asking them and checking on their spending of the pupil premium (because we know how much you like to have more challenging conversations!).
  • Doing it alone, mostly quietly, yet very tenaciously and saving us more money in SW support.  By adopting we don’t have to assign and pay for Social Workers so we can continue to reduce funding and reduce numbers of Social Workers needed across the country.
  • Putting your heart and soul into these kids and keeping them off the streets and so saving yet more money from police, criminal and justice systems.
  • Making your home like a prison just to keep these kids safe, helps them learn, encourage reform as it keeps our prison numbers and costs down.

In recognition of all the above that you, our wonderful adopters do, here is what we are doing:

  • Making it mandatory that all school staff, teachers, assistants, support staff are fully trained in attachment, trauma and loss within the next year.
  • Have mandatory training too for all Education Psychologists, Social Workers, Welfare Workers.
  • The Camhs task force will in place in the next 6 months and will be fully funded, trained and educated to provide the very best care, understanding and regular appointments.
  • Make it a criminal offence for anyone to be judgemental, derogatory and generally unkind to adoptive parents whenever they try to engage in any of the above services.

In addition, we are setting up FREE regular monthly deliveries of chocolate and wine or beer to every adoptive household, for the rest of your lives.

Finally, every summer holiday there will be fully funded holiday camps / cruise ships for you to engage in your regular summer holiday.  At these places all staff will be trained in dealing with behaviour and trauma so that you can relax and enjoy your holiday.  We know that providing this will still be much cheaper than paying for these children to remain in care, so

thank you, thank you, thank you!

Your Government Loves You!

Yours,

Teddy Timmo

choc and wine

I’ve linked this with The Adoption Social Weekly shout out #WASO

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Headteacher Calling!

Biggey has been doing well with her integration into the new school (her second secondary school since September!). She has been reasonably calm and composed each evening and each morning. The transition has been steady and without pressure on her (or me) to get her into school full time. I’ve been so glad that they agreed to this as it is important that this time her experience is a success.

She has been going into this small unit every day for the last couple of weeks for part of a day and in the last week she progressed to four full days and a big chunk of the fifth day! After Easter she has even signed up for an after school cookery club!

All in all I have been very pleased with how things have gone and my view of this school has not changed since my first meeting as detailed in We Have a Plan and even in later posts of So Far So Good.  However, forgive me for gushing, yet I have been (nicely) surprised and amazed yet again by this school.

On Friday lunchtime I get a call on my mobile.  It’s the Headteacher.

Oh God!  What’s happened?  What has she done?

Well that was the first though that went through my mind.  I mean, Headteachers of Secondary Schools don’t just randomly ring parents as a ‘nice to do’ on a Friday lunchtime on the last day of term.  Do they??

Well actually, yes they do!  OK I know I have been gushing about the staff in this school but still, pick me up with amazement all over again…..

He said he was ringing to say how well he though Biggey had settled in and that it was progressing much better than they had expected and he was wondering what my thoughts were and how I feel it was going.  Just a moment …. rewind … he was actually asking for my opinion and views???  I need picking up off the floor again!!

So, whilst trying to contain my delight and remain a bit like a focussed sensible adult, I managed (I think) to tell him some of things I think have been good and helpful.  I praised the two key members of staff who are having the most input to Biggey at the moment.  I was able to tell him the latest piece of information I had got from her just a couple of nights before.

She said she was with a teacher in DT working on a 1:1 basis.  The teacher asked why Biggey had moved schools.  Now in Biggey’s usual way, she didn’t really give correct information and had said it was because they didn’t help her with her dyslexia.   The teacher then apparently said “oh, so not for behaviour then?” So Biggey said

Well I don’t tell people if I don’t feel safe or if I’m struggling or if people upset me and then sometimes I take it out on other people

The teacher apparently just said “Oh thank you for telling me”.  I was, at this point listening with awe and unable to say anything for a moment.   Eventually I wondered aloud if my child had been taken away by aliens to which I was told

No. This is me when I feel safe and when I’m not feeling worried and not worried about being told off all the time. 

Isn’t that amazing!  I told the Head this and that it is indeed because she feels safe and accepted and comfortable enough to be able to do this and that I was grateful for the team they are providing around my child in addition to the effort I put in.

It was a 10 minute call, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but covers a lot of conversation.  I was positively delighted when it finished.

When I collected Biggey later that day, I took a moment to begin to mention to the two members of staff.  They said they already knew because the Head had sent them an email saying well done for the good work!  What a great way to finish for the holidays.