My Adoption Statistics

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

Adoption Statistics image

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

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

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

The reality in our family is:

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

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

Our Support History

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

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

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

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

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

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

School Issues

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

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

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

Adoption Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

 

 

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.

 

Charm Offensive (mostly just offensive)

So today we had our Assessment of Needs. This was triggered off the back of my biggey running away two weeks ago. Mind you, I did ask for it too. I wanted to highlight just how things have changed and attempt to get someone to be involved and help us with the school issues and her self esteem and rages.

She arrived – late. Introduced herself and then said “what a big house you’ve got!” (It’s a regular semi!) I felt like I was in a scene from Little Red Riding Hood although did wonder if it was her or me who represented the wolf!

Tea and coffee sorted and I introduced her to my biggey who is currently refusing to go to school. Then we shut ourselves away. I gave her a brief summary of my girls history between what we were told and what we now know. There is a vast difference (which matches the Radio 4 discussion which took place at the weekend).

She looked surprised, shocked even, and wanted me to clarify or confirm her suspicions about who or what were involved with my girls’ early life. I refused to be drawn into speculation and simply told her I work with what the children tell me and I have no space or energy to speculate, guess or assume anything outside of the information which the girls or professionals have told me. It felt like she wanted a scandal or some gasping horror story. I wasn’t about to give it to her.

I moved her on to where we are now. She started secondary school in September and from the start it was difficult to get meetings even though they said they would and said they understood the importance. The meetings just did not happen. I outlined the issues:

Within first month she broke her ankle on a trip. Granted, they suspected a sprain but on arrival back at school her dad had to help her off the bus. Biggey says they did not help her when she was hurt.

Incidents of bullying in early weeks (schools words to biggey) and they did not inform me, they took very little, if any, preventative or protective action. We later found out the child was excluded so he must have been doing something significant but my girl felt she got no help and was not kept safe.

When her behaviour deteriorated she was given sanctions, detentions and inclusion rather than have conversations with us or look beyond the behaviour or even put in the support she was supposed to have in accordance with her statement of needs.

I reported several times that she was struggling and saying she does not feel safe. I asked for meetings. They said “a meeting is not necessary”. After 5 requests and involvement of parent partnership we finally got a meeting – a few days before Christmas.

During Christmas break they put a photo of her on the website. A clerical error apparently. They apologise for any upset in a matter of fact way and simply do not seem to grasp that this is a matter of this child’s safety!

On returning to school in New Year she lasted 4 days before coming home distressed and then running away. Police were called. She was found and so we get to this assessment. We have told school and the LA that we are going to look for another school for her.

We talked through what happens when she strops and is violent. What works, what doesn’t. I explained how much therapeutic parenting I have done and continue to do. How much trauma therapy we have had (and paid for ourselves). How difficult it is to encourage her to do anything much. Apparently I have a kind heart! I can’t remember exactly what I had said to gain that accolade but it was around dealing with the difficulties and violence.

She had a look round the house and exclaimed how tidy it was. I chose not to read into that, or to respond either way. She commented on girls posters of pop groups in bedrooms. Then told me it was all Take That and Boyzone when she was their age. I just mmmm’d, again choosing not to respond. Then she slammed me with the comment ” I bet it was The Beatles for you!” Cheeky little ……… (Bleep). I know I’m run down and a bit tired looking but she didn’t need to add 10 years or so to my age for goodness sake! I bit my lip and carried on.

She wanted a chat with biggey. I let them get on with it. She came back to tell me what they’d talked about. Biggey had mentioned all school stuff except for fact that she thinks birth parents will come looking for her. Miss SW took great delight in telling me in much detail how she had biggey draw a bag of worries and write these worries in it; then she took the piece of paper and the bag away and so now my girl has nothing to worry about! Ta Dah! Super! She’ll be just fine then. I tried to smile gently (I’m not certain I achieved that) and suggested that perhaps if it was as simple as that then we would have already done that over the last six years and perhaps so would the therapists who have worked with her. She waved the paper with the drawing on it and said that since they were all school worries, then when we find another school then everything will be fine.

I managed not to completely lose the plot at this point and tried to explain that there is more needed and more that could be done to help her and us as a family. Reminding her that whilst I put in all the effort to find, brief, train and work with school, manage her transition, calm, sooth, explain, rebuild the attachment, continue with the other family stuff, ensure littley has some time and work a bit too; bearing in mind how long I’ve been doing this for without asking for help or support, then there is a limit to my energies. So would they like to look at wider support now or wait until she has run away again?

I asked for access to mentoring, clubs, activities and whatever will get here out and about to partake in social and or sport activities. Anything that will help here to feel good about herself and have the potential to raise her self esteem. She will have a look. Perhaps we might want to think about Relate!?? She will have to go and talk to people. She will come back to me when they have looked at needs, clubs, availability, costs, funding and other stuff. It may take around three weeks. Lovely.

That was only part of my morning, just a small part of my day.

I have a kind heart.
I have a nice, big, tidy house.
I am doing a great job.
When I find a new school things will be fine.

Great. I’ll try and hold those thoughts in my mind.