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.

Abandonment

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Parent Power

When Biggey was having all this trouble with the old school and had been out of school for several weeks we applied for a place in the new school.  Now, because she has a Statement of needs we had to ask for local authority approval to move her. The new school said they were happy to begin getting her meeting people whilst we were still waiting for formal approval. The school had also said they applied for more hours on her Statement to support her. So I then went home and sent an email asking for more hours and increase to the maximum support of 27.5 hours and gave a variety of reasons, taking information for the previous school’s report and other areas. I hit the button and thought ‘what the hell – if you don’t ask …’

Her introduction to the new school is documented in my post So Far, So Good

Weeks later, I hadn’t received formal confirmation so chased the LA for an update and was delighted to get an email that said they had awarded the extra hours.  I was even more delighted when I got an email from the school to say Thank You for my contribution to the request.  Apparently school had originally been told that the hours would stay the same, then the LA got my request and said they would give it some further consideration!

So Parent Power is effective.  Challenge does get results.  Certainly in my area.  Always worth asking.

ParentPower