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.

Getting the Best for Adopted Children in School

So, I was at the PAC-UK / Yorkshire & Humber Conference (Being Family) on Monday about Getting the Best for Adoption Children in School.  Can I stress that these are only my notes (with my views in blue) there may be errors and omissions. Please don’t hold me to account! 🙂

It was a packed agenda where a selection of Social Workers, Adopters and Schools from the Y&H region were invited to attend.  There was reasonable attendance from all areas, although I would have liked to have seen more from schools if I’m honest.

Being Family Logo https://adoptmum.wordpress.com

Even if you are not in Yorkshire & Humber, I hope there are some nuggets in here that everyone would find helpful or provide hope of this type of support eventually becoming more widespread across all schools and Local Authorities!  I’ve attempted to give the highlights.

Mick Gibbs, Chair of Regional Adoption Board began with some comments, most notably a mention that

Instead of School Inclusion and Exclusion,  think about School Attachment

Contrary to popular belief, care does make things better

Next up Sir Martin Narey.  He talked about adoption changes over the years and the number of myths surrounding adoption and breakdowns.  He said adopters were not treated well but that the process for recruitment has changed to improve that. There are still significant challenges with time taken for matching, behaviour of courts and the support fund being only available for one year. Personally, I believe we are still not treated well, we are still not respected and recognised as being a powerful force that can create a change in these children.

The issues are schooling can be solved quite easily with few changes because the issues do not disappear overnight.

There is nothing else like adoption for the ability to transform a life.

Sir Narey said that he is happy to be contacted by email and he attempts to answer every one received!

Education: from Rainbows to Reality

logopacukPAC-UK’s Chief Exec, and their refreshingly straight talking Education Psychologist Emma Gore Langton talked about there being a disconnect at all levels that there is a misguided view that adoption is ‘lovely’. Key things were that

  • Brain structure changes our view of the world – all this we know.  (We do!  I’m not sure everyone knows, certainly not all schools and educators).
  • A teacher will hold on to information about a child in misunderstood ‘confidentiality’. (They do!  I’ve experienced that more than once much to the detriment of my children!)
  • Schools are anxious about parents’ expectations, so they don’t communicate.  There is particular difficulty in secondary schools.  (Really?  I agree they don’t communicate, agree secondary schools are particularly difficult.  I’ve heard schools saying “we deal with in school” which may be a bigger reason for not communicating.  I’ll give this the benefit of doubt!)
  • On exclusions, no real data but Adoption UK Survey said
    • more than 50% were at secondary schools
    • 1 in 5 children were age 6 or younger
    • there is serious impact on the most vulnerable children.
  • Education is a key reason for seeking post adoption support (true for me!)
  • Transition from primary to secondary increases stress on families according to Selwyn report. (absolutely!  It has nearly broken my family)
  • Curriculum issues can trigger crisis (yes, and schools will not listen)
  • There is a DFE grant for schools in the Y&H region to become Attachment Aware. (Brilliant!)

Pupil Premium

Alan Clifton, The Virtual Head from North Yorkshire talked about Pupil Premium and even though I thought I knew lots about Pupil Premium he had some interesting perspectives.

There are 152 Local Authorities across the country and all have a Virtual School Head (VSH) responsible for Looked After Children (this is statutory now). That means that there are 152 ways to allocate Pupil Premium and it’s uses!  DFE Guidance (from 2009) says “it is good practice for adopted children to be monitored”.

  • All adopters should find out who your local Virtual Head is.
  • Personal Education Plans (PEPs) are a good monitoring tool (although not statutory) but helpful for progress, attainment, outcomes, relationships and even friendships, because it should cover Social and Emotional Wellbeing too.  You can get a sample PEP from your VSH or from him (Alan Clifton).
  • Pupil Premium money is NOT ring-fenced for your adopted child.  Schools can pool PP money for staffing, tracking, nurture groups etc.
  • You should work with the school to identify
    • barriers to learning,
    • specific learning needs,
    • how to ensure your child progresses
    • your child’s feelings (that’s a big one for me, I find teachers talk ‘at’ rather than listen to my child)
  • The key thing is relationships! (Absolutely right, this is what is missing in their early lives and as human beings we all need those relationships, our children need them more so.)

A Special School’s Approach

There was a really lovely presentation by a Leeds special school about the work they did with a particularly troubled child.  They had some training from Family Futures and talked about what helped and what worked.

  • Key Needs are Communication, Consistency and Care.
  • Provide choices
  • Model behaviour, explain what that behaviour should look like and what it means.
  • Set limits and explain expectations
  • Be specific with wording (rather than “well done”, say “I really liked how you lined up”)
  • Pick your battles
  • Address the child’s sensory needs
  • Be aware of anxiety and stress

The most valuable resource?  HIS PARENTS! and the Adoption Social Worker.

(I wanted to jump for joy when they said parents were most valuable resource, because I, and many of us, feel we are ignored or not listened to.  Yet there still seems to be a lack of understanding that we don’t all have social workers any more or any other professional support!)

Adopter Experiences

From the wonderful ladies Sarah, The Adoption Social and Amanda, The Open Nest.

Amanda and Sarah said everything I wished I was able to say!  Both highlighting the inability to work when we have adopted children who struggle with life and school.  Sarah mentioned there has been perhaps 3 weeks this year when both children have been in school “where they should be”.  It is a full time job being “on call” for school so she can bring her child home.  (Oh yes, I know that approach!)

Many adopters talk about schools trying to “force a square peg into a round hole”.  (I wanted to stand up a cheer at this point!  That’s exactly what I have been saying!)

Sarah went on to say that our children have a right to an education and they way they are treated does not help our children’s self esteem.

Can schools please find some square holes for our children?

Amanda explained about her issues with 3 different schools by the time Jazz was 8 years old before resorting to a version of Home Education.  Highlighting that there are big groups of adopters who home education because they feel they have no choice.  (I know!  I’m been close to that many times.)

If you do feel you have to Home Education, ensure your child stays on the school register so that you still have links and can hope to progress to a slow integration back into school.  Amanda had the same teacher at home for 10 hours and then the same at school.

It is useful to have some days at home as Therapy Days so families can invest in that time and reduce school stressors, work on attachment and have calm down time.  (Whoop, whoop Amanda.  That’s exactly what I arranged for Biggey last month.  Although, it only happened because school said they can’t cope!)

When Amanda talked about friendship issues and the fact that “sometimes the only people at birthday parties were the teachers” there was a big ahhh all around me.  Will it be enough to create a change though?  I certainly hope so.

There’s more.  That will have to follow in blog part 2.  For now, I’m linking up with #WASO.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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?

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

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 ….

The Stroppy Hat

I like my stroppy hat a lot
It’s comforting and familiar
A very useful tool I found
More effective than a Rottweiler hound.

I didn’t used to like that hat
It made me squirm and shy away
It did not fit or suit me much
Though now it has a familiar touch.

What changed to make this turn around
From reluctance to familiar
Adoption is the reason
Not just the hat wearing season.

I fight for meetings to be heard
I strop to get that meeting
I take my hat along with me
As I try so hard for them to see

The traumas that my girls have suffered
Should never be inflicted on another
Nor should they be reminded daily
By schools and sanctions handed out so freely.

A little kindness, time and care
Will help my child to build repair
It also keeps my stroppy hat
From landing on that teachers mat

So please all schools,
Do not judge me
I wear my stroppy hat with pride
It helps my children to survive