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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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.

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!

 

 

Headteacher Calling!

Biggey has been doing well with her integration into the new school (her second secondary school since September!). She has been reasonably calm and composed each evening and each morning. The transition has been steady and without pressure on her (or me) to get her into school full time. I’ve been so glad that they agreed to this as it is important that this time her experience is a success.

She has been going into this small unit every day for the last couple of weeks for part of a day and in the last week she progressed to four full days and a big chunk of the fifth day! After Easter she has even signed up for an after school cookery club!

All in all I have been very pleased with how things have gone and my view of this school has not changed since my first meeting as detailed in We Have a Plan and even in later posts of So Far So Good.  However, forgive me for gushing, yet I have been (nicely) surprised and amazed yet again by this school.

On Friday lunchtime I get a call on my mobile.  It’s the Headteacher.

Oh God!  What’s happened?  What has she done?

Well that was the first though that went through my mind.  I mean, Headteachers of Secondary Schools don’t just randomly ring parents as a ‘nice to do’ on a Friday lunchtime on the last day of term.  Do they??

Well actually, yes they do!  OK I know I have been gushing about the staff in this school but still, pick me up with amazement all over again…..

He said he was ringing to say how well he though Biggey had settled in and that it was progressing much better than they had expected and he was wondering what my thoughts were and how I feel it was going.  Just a moment …. rewind … he was actually asking for my opinion and views???  I need picking up off the floor again!!

So, whilst trying to contain my delight and remain a bit like a focussed sensible adult, I managed (I think) to tell him some of things I think have been good and helpful.  I praised the two key members of staff who are having the most input to Biggey at the moment.  I was able to tell him the latest piece of information I had got from her just a couple of nights before.

She said she was with a teacher in DT working on a 1:1 basis.  The teacher asked why Biggey had moved schools.  Now in Biggey’s usual way, she didn’t really give correct information and had said it was because they didn’t help her with her dyslexia.   The teacher then apparently said “oh, so not for behaviour then?” So Biggey said

Well I don’t tell people if I don’t feel safe or if I’m struggling or if people upset me and then sometimes I take it out on other people

The teacher apparently just said “Oh thank you for telling me”.  I was, at this point listening with awe and unable to say anything for a moment.   Eventually I wondered aloud if my child had been taken away by aliens to which I was told

No. This is me when I feel safe and when I’m not feeling worried and not worried about being told off all the time. 

Isn’t that amazing!  I told the Head this and that it is indeed because she feels safe and accepted and comfortable enough to be able to do this and that I was grateful for the team they are providing around my child in addition to the effort I put in.

It was a 10 minute call, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but covers a lot of conversation.  I was positively delighted when it finished.

When I collected Biggey later that day, I took a moment to begin to mention to the two members of staff.  They said they already knew because the Head had sent them an email saying well done for the good work!  What a great way to finish for the holidays.

Noticing … And More Waiting …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Look Back

A Look Back

I’ve spent a lot of time in the family and in my blog writing about my Biggey at the moment. However, as I write this in February 2014 and share with the online community that is The Adoption Social‘s theme of One Year On, it has made me stop and reflect a little as I take a look back over 2013.

My Little girl can step forward and take centre stage for this one! This has been a good year for her. This time last year she was struggling with many changes taking place in her little 9 year old life. There was a change in teachers in her class at school (for the better as far as I was concerned). However change is difficult and she struggled more with a fear of the unknown so that added to the increased anxiety she was experiencing. She was also having great difficulty with school work as they were looking at Victorians and studied The Street Child where there is focus on an orphan named Jim, with no shoes, no food, a mother who died and so on.

Later they also worked on Greek Myths so they’ve got Medusa and her head of snakes and the rest of those lovely stories. Because she is emotionally much younger it is hard for her to differentiate myth, legend, story from real. It also connects to her own scary traumatic early life too (of course!).

She was mentally and physically quite a mess

I spent much of last year in and out of school and she spent much of the time in and out of class. Working somewhere else, on her own, on a project. I’m grateful that they were so accommodating and understanding of her issues and trauma but she was mentally and physically quite a mess. This was easily seen by

  • her eczema being quite bad
  • she wasn’t sleeping as much (which is always the clue with her)
  • her eating pattern suffers
  • the fingers and toes are chewed and picked until sore
  • there were lots of falling out with friends
  • many days the tears and drama and meltdowns needed to be mopped up when she got home.

Mop it up we did and kept going, as you do.

Move forward to Summer 2013

More tears because she didn’t want to go into Year 6! She didn’t want to grow up! Bless! (Who does, was all I could think, but it’s not helpful for her.) She did manage a whole 3 days of residential trip at the sea-side which was amazing and gave us lots to be able to reflect on and boost her confidence.

Again we worked on transition, new teachers and all that and we got through it. I was thankful that the TA is the same and one she trusts a lot and one of her teachers (she has two) is the same as last year. Our summer holiday to the same place as last two previous years was the best holiday yet. Fewer big issues, fewer bossy, stroppy child.

Come September she struggled a bit with Year 6 and had quite a lot of friendship issues but we managed to contain them without massive explosions (most of the time). Halloween was still pretty rough and Christmas was Christmas (we tend to skim past it as best we can) and the New Year arrived.

We can see her flourishing

She was away on another 3 day residential in January and came back delighted with herself that she had managed every activity and in her words

even the scary ones!

Since then, we can noticeably see her flourishing. There’s been a definite upward improvement in her abilities, confidence, behaviour, sleeping and friendships. I do believe these residentials  have boosted her enormously and have Miss L and Mrs A to thank (and many other wonderful people in school) for their contribution toward my Littley’s progress.

Now, I’m not saying it’s all hunky dory and easy. However we have to come to a level of acceptance (mostly) about just how she functions and what she is and is not capable of. We still have the rages, the defiance, the trauma, the sleeplessness, nightmares etc etc. However, we had a fab parents evening last week, where she is doing very well and meeting all targets and is much less angry. I am not in school as often either. So, well done my darling! Fingers cross we can keep this going.

Take a Look Back

I often say to adopters in this world where everything is fast paced and always rushing onwards to ‘what next’ and what is bigger / better / faster we need to stop for a moment and just take a look back. See how far we have come and take a moment to reflect on the positive little things.  Give ourselves and our little ones an enormous pat on the back!

 

I’ve linked this with The Adoption Social Weekly shout out #WASO

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out