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.

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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.

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.

Noticing … And More Waiting …

So whilst Biggey has been at home since 10th January it has enabled me to spend much more 1:1 time with her. Whilst this is quite positive it has also been very enlightening. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

She never starts a conversation. Ever! She only joins in with others or responds (sometimes) when I speak to her. Now, the reason I haven’t noticed this is because Littley talks non stop. It’s only been during this time of just the two of us that it has become apparent. I can walk into the room and she doesn’t look up or speak or acknowledge anyone is there. We can walk down the street and she only chats if I start chatting.

She always plays the same things.. If I say go and play she will go and colour pictures, never anything else. If I say play on the Wii she plays the same game. Again, if Littley is around then she chooses different games and activities so Biggey must have been following her with that. I knew Biggey struggled in this area and thought her lack of imaginative play was down to early neglect but now I’m not so sure.

She never brings me things to show me what she’s done. Never, ever! She will tell me she coloured a picture (after I’ve asked her) and still doesn’t show it to me unless I ask to see it. When I think about, she never has brought me work from school or those plastic bottle models or anything else.

She strops when asked to get changed or struggles with getting dressed. Now I know some kids do this this. She will also put on the same clothes all the time. Yes, all the time! I have to remove them from her bedroom. If I say put a clean top on, she strops. It’s a little odd. Littley is like a fashion show model on contrast – she would wear all her clothes (and some of mine given the chance) in just one day!!

She has lots of obsessive tendencies . Again, these have become more apparent now I see more of her. I keep finding her wiping down the kitchen surface (and it’s not that messy!). She tidies my cutlery draw! These are just a few examples.

She has an inability to change it adjust her language for different situations.. So if she hears a boy in the street shout and swear, she will come in and tell me about it, but she repeats in exactly the same way she has heard it, with same volume, same venom and no abbreviation to “f” word or whatever. She also uses ‘playground’ talk with grandparents (which is a bit embarrassing).

There are more things I’ve been noticing too so when I was my Camhs meeting the other day I asked for referral for her to be assessed for Aspergers or Autistic Spectrum. The more I’ve looked into this, the more I believe she is Aspergic. If so, it would go a long way to explain some of the reason for her having had so much difficulty making progress in certain areas. It would also be really useful to know if she is and what would help her to be able to settle better when we get a new school sorted. Apparently Aspergic girls are also very good at copying other children so that the condition can remain undetected. I believe the Biggey has been copying others at school, certainly in Junior school. Yet this will be much more difficult to do in the busy classes of a Secondary school.

There are often a lot of things which help Autistic kids and also help traumatised and attachment issue kids so the cross-over is understandable.

A letter came yesterday from Camhs. They are not making appointments for Autistic assessment because the waiting is to long. They may come back to us in around three to four months!! More waiting then ….

We Have a Plan

I went along to the meeting with the Senco at a prospective new school for biggey. I’d had the local authority email a copy of her statement across beforehand so that she could peruse and hopefully be informed before the meeting.

The welcome into school was friendly and I already felt welcome (rather than an inconvenience as I have experienced elsewhere), so that was a good start. Mrs Senco was on time, had booked a meeting room and apologised for having to “wade” through the pupils on their break!

We went through the busy throng in the canteen area of kids being kids, chatting, laughing, pushing a bit, eating toast but generally seeming to be enjoying school life. Mrs Senco turned to me and said “I guess this would be difficult for your girl”!!!!!

Oh yes, absolutely. I like this lady already.

At the meeting room she positioned herself beside me, rather than across the table from me which I found to be a nice touch. I got all my paperwork out and I had prepared quite a list of things that I feel I would need. The first and most important for me was communication (since it was none existent in other school). Straight away she gave me assurance of different methods of communicating, email contacts, home school book discussed, and main reception will always try and find someone, yet she would be the main contact – no passing off to anyone else.

Yes, we’ve heard all this before and this time I was able to challenge a couple of aspects yet also put the information into context of what I had already experienced in making the appointments and having been in the school a couple of times already. I did get a better feel that I could believe what she said would happen.

Next, support. Straight away she said, quite honestly, that it will be difficult to assign an attachment figure or two because if Biggey came now it would be part way through the year. That’s said, she did not completely rule out being able to do something helpful from how until summer and then sort it better from September. Also said would identify a safe place for Biggey in school and provide her with photos and names of all TA’s and relevant people.

OMG ! YOU GET IT!! I managed not to jump up and kiss her at this point. Whilst containing those feeling I also managed to contains own self berating ones about why I didn’t choose this school before. So, (hopefully still outwardly looking composed) I raised something else on my list and she already had thought of that, and the next, and the next. All before I had to ask. Amazing.

When looking at the Statement she quite plainly and frankly said that we can put aside academic needs until we have her feeling safe in school. Until then, she knows she will not learn, yet we can still aim to have her in school! Oh yes please! That’s absolutely what I want and need! I now want to lavish her with chocolates (even though I nearly always keep all chocolate for myself!).

What areas of curriculum does she struggle with? Talked through all those, including the fact that she simply struggles just because of time of year (you know, the usual birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, Halloween) as well as struggling in some topics. When I mentioned that RE is nearly always an issue for her she did say that we could consider asking for her not to study that. This is usually done on grounds of religious belief but if it’s very difficult then … I said thank you, I’ll give it some thought when really I want to whoop loudly. I had never thought of that!!

Transition. She said it needs a steady approach to get her integrated calmly and safely back into school and school life (well, I know that, but brilliant that she does too)! Talked about her even just going in for an hour a day with me too and sometimes just sitting in canteen or the open library area and be able to watch everything happening then progress in small steps from there. She can have a buddy until she finds her way around, there are options for getting into classes and so on. How great that they will accommodate things at her pace (within reason).

At this point I wanted to jump on the table and do a little dance!

There was lots more discussed. Everything on my list was covered and I was more than happy with the answers and ideas and ways of approaching things.

She openly said they will not get everything right but they will work with me. I felt it only fair to then also admit that I will, at times, be a very stroppy parent and apologised in advance (although I still believe my Stroppy hat is a tool I use quite well). She seemed fine with that.

The next day I wrote to the Local Authority and asked them to consider moving Biggey’s named school from her current one to this one. We will have to wait about a week whilst it goes through SEN panel but they will come back to me and let me know the outcome. If approved, they would then have to formally approach this school and see if they will agree to take Biggey. It could all take about 3 weeks so no chance of getting her anywhere near school before Feb half term.

However, we now feel we have a plan. It’s important for me to feel like I have plan. Some of it is a waiting game, some is out of my control, but we have a plan.

The night that we made the request, my lovely hubby and I slept all night – for the first time in ages. Now that felt like a result!

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