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.

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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!

 

 

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.

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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Meeting with School

So, since 6th November, made five requests for a meeting with current secondary school. Three refusals (“a meeting is not necessary”), one made then cancelled by them and now we may finally have a date – although that’s still a week away yet!

This morning I have telephoned two other schools, first school put through to Inclusion and appointment made for end of this week! Second school, left a message and call returned within a few hours and appointment made early next week!

Speaks volumes. I will say no more for now ………..

Going to bake

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