Keeping it real.

Brace yourselves: it’s going to get ranty!

We had a hard emotional day today, so to stop issues whirring about in my little whirligig head, I thought I’d listen to ‘Open Book’ on Radio 4 whilst I prepped tea. I love that programme. Usually.

I couldn’t even tell you what book they were discussing now.  All I heard was a woman say something along the lines of ‘she was adopted, so she went to look for her real parents’.

I know, I know, deep breaths, adopter folk.  Breathe in 2 3 4, and out 2 3 4. In… and out.

Better? No, I wasn’t either.

Maybe the speaker was well-meaning but naive. Maybe she knew exactly what she was saying. She used the phrase more than once.  So who knows?

What I know, though, is as an adopter I am real parent.  Our children have birth parents, who they refer to as ‘old mum and dad’, and us.  They have no contact with birth parents: sadly it would not be safe.  We are their parents.  We are real parents. We are actual, genuine, authentic, bona fide, pukka, legitimate, undeniable, certain & true parents.

Rant over, I’m off to do some real parenting.

Connection

I’ve blogged previously about not thinking in terms of ‘attachment’. It’s too big and too woolly.  I find it easier to celebrate ‘connections’. The only problem is the connections with Bubble are few and far between at the moment. 

At the weekend she initiated a conversation with me that didn’t involve her seeking sweets or telly once. Once. All weekend. I had a moment of hope on Saturday afternoon when she said ‘Mummy, you know when…’ but this was quickly dashed as the sentence progressed ‘ you said we could have some mints…’.

When we try to talk with Bubble she responds with one word answers, if at all. When we switch to talking to Squeak, Bubble interrupts constantly. 

How on earth do you connect to a frightened anxious little girl who doesn’t trust anyone? Nothing we say or do is reaching her at the moment and this has been the case since her sister returned to foster care.

When we ask her to do something, she does something else. It is as if she is testing us as much as possible. When we don’t respond, or when we set a boundary, she takes it out on Squeak. 

We’ve decided to separate the girls as much as possible to ensure Squeak’s safety. If they are in the same room one of us is with them. 

We’ve also decided to minimise verbal input with Bubble in the hope that she will have more space for her own thoughts or just ‘being’.  If it doesn’t work we’ll have to find another way through. Again.

It feels like crisis management. It’s horrible but we’re going to have to ride this latest storm. Hopefully Bubble will decide eventually that she wants connection with us. Until then we’re hunkering down. 

Trauma fatigue

I don’t know if it’s even a thing in adoptive families. If it is though, I’ve got it. 

We were turning a corner last Autumn. For 6 glorious weeks Bubble laughed, was less anxious, less disregulated, even apologised to Squeak for being ‘violent’ to her, & promised she’d never hurt her again. She stopped lying. She talked to us even if she didn’t  want food or TV. She told us she loved us, for crying out loud. We’d worked hard for 4 years to get to that point. 

With her sister moving back to foster care that’s all gone now. We’re in a bad place again. 

This weekend we made a silly mistake. We offered to house and dog sit for my sister. 2 nights in a house not far from us,  which the girls know very well, and have stayed in previously. Silly us! 

Cue high anxiety, tears, sleep resistance and sleep walking. Nothing we can do or say provides comfort. 

It feels worse that in Autumn we had a glimpse of how it could be. A lovely adoption group friend tells us that at some point Bubble will return to that way of being. Right now that seems an unobtainable dream. 

I feel bone tired. A great weariness has descended, and I know that somehow I have to pull myself out of it. But after 4 long long years, I just don’t have any energy left. 

No More Mrs Nice Adopters

Last month, you may recall from my ranty blog & tweets, one of our girls’ sisters returned to foster care. The social work team ignored our offer to support her here until a long term appropriate placement could be found. 

We had to battle so that our daughters could talk to and see their sister.  I’m glad to say we managed a meet up just before Christmas. 

The SW team then decided there would be a weekly phone call between sisters at a particular time on a certain day. They hadn’t bothered to ask us if it was convenient. As Squeak is busy imitating Olga Korbut – or perhaps that’s Ronnie Corbett in a leotard full of hormones – at that point in the week it certainly wasn’t going to be happening then. 

Surely the catalogue of incompetencies was complete at that point? 

Err, nope.

Today we discovered The Most Astounding Social Work Decision Made Without Any Consultation With Us.  Here it is (brace yourself!): at a LAC review last week they decided we will be giving our girls’ sister’s foster carer overnight respite each and every month! 

Yep! You read that right! It was the first we’d heard of it. We were not at the meeting. We had not been asked if we would like an arrangement like this. And, if we hadn’t been the lovely people we are, it could have caused serious fallout with our daughters’ sisters’ mother, who was at the meeting & was astounded to hear the decision. 

So, just to be clear, we’re not playing ball anymore. Our girls will be seeing their sisters regularly – as they have always done.  Their sisters will be coming on sleepovers. We will do everything we can to ensure their relationships are nurtured. But it is not ‘contact’.  And we will not be dictated to.  

No More Mrs Nice Adopters.

No matter what.

Our daughters’ sister went back into foster care a week ago.  We begged social services that rather than return to foster care, she come to us short-term.  Our pleas were ignored,  and totally contrary to the legislation, social services did not even present this option to X.  They would not give us the foster carer’s telephone number, or ask them to contact us.  For the first 8 days of X’s return to care we had no way of reassuring X that we love her and will always be here for her.

As this week and the arguments progressed, our own social worker agreed to send X a card from us, and our DDP therapist tried to impress on social services how important it is for X and her sisters to be in contact asap.   Eventually it was agreed that the foster carer would phone us this evening so the girls could speak. We have spent hours wondering and talking about how best to tell our girls what has happened, and worrying that the foster carer might not call.

This afternoon we sat down with Bubble and Squeak and told them the news. Predictably Bubble was furious, and Squeak was distraught.  They had questions, many questions, and we tried to answer them as best we could.  They are worried for both their sisters, one of whom remains with her adoptive family, and they are worried for themselves.  We used the phrases ‘no matter what’ and ‘together forever’ a lot. We are all drained.

Thank goodness an hour later the foster carer rang.  She seems a lovely woman, and is obviously doing a lot to build up a positive relationship with X.  The girls got to chat – on speaker phone as stipulated by social services. A bit stilted at first, but they eventually got to the nitty gritty – is the food ok?  Are you having sweets?  Are you getting take-aways? Have you had any chocolate? (Notice any pattern here?!) And then: what is your bedroom like? Are there any other children there? Have you seen your sister?  They planned birthday parties, they talked about good times they’d shared, and what they were going to be doing this weekend.  Squeak told X she has made her a snow globe. We all told her much we loved her.  Afterwards Bubble and Squeak wanted big hugs, ‘family hugs’.

Since then, we’ve kept close, we’ve eaten chocolate cake, and we’ve answered, as best we can, questions about when we will see X and how will we get Christmas presents to her and when will they be able to see X and their other sister, and and and…

Obviously – and annoyingly – the foster carer has to take the lead from social services as to the type and frequency of contact. But I have impressed on her how much contact we’ve previously had, and that we will do anything we can to ensure it continues.  We’ve also told X’s mum and dad that we will do whatever we can to ensure all 4 girls see each other together. The foster carer won’t give us her phone number yet, but she has agreed to phone again on Sunday.

I hate that all the girls are having to endure this.  They’ve been through enough in their short lives. This situation should never have come about.  We tried our best to prevent it, and we offered a really great short term ‘solution’ when the worst happened.  That we were ignored, and that X was not given any options is truly appalling. We’ll continue to do our best for the girls. We’ll help get our girls through this any way we can, for we are family. No. Matter. What.

 

Adoption breakdown

The Children Act 1989 is clear about social workers responsibilities when placing a child who can no longer live with their parents. The Act is clear that the social worker is required to consider preferable placements with wider family/friends. Indeed guidance is clear that this will always be the first choice, provided that the welfare of the child is never compromised.

Two weeks ago I informed a post adoption support social worker of my concerns for our daughters’ sister and her adoptive family.  I was clear that we had offered and would continue to offer to take her on a short term basis should the adoption break down.  Surely it would be better for her to be with her sisters and two adults who love her, and with whom she has a positive bond, than in a placement where she knows no one. From this place we could help ease her transition to a longer term placement.

This week the adoption broke down. Instead of coming to us X was placed with emergency foster carers. We have spent the last 2 days re-iterating our offer to support her short term until a suitable long term placement can be found.

Our offer was ignored. We persisted.  Our phone calls were not returned.  When we finally managed to speak with him, the social worker would not even agree that the post adoption team’s social worker had spoken with him about our offer! He hid behind ‘confidentiality’.  He told us he could not place a child without assessing the potential carers.  Come and assess us! we begged.  We’re here.  We are adoptive parents.  I am still  registered as a social worker and my partner works in the care system. We have nothing to hide.  We are concerned for X’s welfare.  He did not even reply.   Later he advised he would speak to his manager and get back to us.

I gave him 2 hours to phone back.  Of course he did not.   I contacted the head of service.  Immediately the situation looked brighter.  Perhaps we could be approved as temporary foster carers through regulation 24.  A manager would call us back.  No phone call was forthcoming.

4 hours later we finally managed to get hold of a manager. As far as she was concerned X was safe and ‘calm’.  I asked how they knew X was calm. She’s extremely compliant, and even at the happiest of times would say anything she thought an authority figure wanted to hear. This was met with a tirade of how experienced the social worker is.

This manager had made her decision.  She was not going to change it.  We enquired whether X had been asked if she would like to come and stay with us on a temporary basis.  She had not. We questioned why she had not been given this option and pointed out that the Children Act 1989 dictates that the views of the child should be sought. Silence. Then we were informed that the manager will be considering future options for X on Monday, but that would not include her coming to us.

We asked for contact details for X.  She refused to give us them. She wanted X to be ‘more settled’ before she had contact with us. We pointed out that X had nobody she knew to speak to this weekend. Point blank refusal. Why?  X has been suddenly wrenched from her adoptive family to a placement where she knows nobody.  She has not got a mobile phone.  She has no means of contacting anybody she knows.  We cannot offer her any comfort: this weekend she will not hear us tell her that we love her and will always be there for her in any way we can.

We’ve submitted a complaint.  I have no doubt it will be treated with the callous disregard already amply demonstrated in the last 48 hours. And, anyway, the damage is done.

Today I am going to buy a scrapbook.  We are going to fill it with photos and messages and love and happiness.  And next week we will get X’s contact details, and will be visiting her, and giving her the book, and reassuring her that we are here for her no matter what.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A week in cake.

mummy-needs-cake

 

Monday –  Planned to meet up with Bubble and Squeak’s sisters.  Only one of them turned up due to  a last minute realisation that it was actually a school day for older one.  Cue an upset Bubble. Pulled it back with equine therapy and a slice of just-moist-enough Victoria sponge.  Cake points: 3

Tuesday – our Together Forever Day.  4 years in and we know better than to make a big thing of it. Instead we had salted caramel cake and chocolate fingers.  Cake points: 4

Wednesday – Intro to Non Violent Resistance training.  Have yet to be convinced about NVR, but this is mostly due to the evangelical zeal with which ‘graduate parents’ (yes! they really were referred to as such!) harped on about its effectiveness.  No cake available in training – had to make do with a Bourbon biscuit.  Cake points: 0.5

Thursday – Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy session with Bubble, who was very brave.  All of us in tears. Managed to break psychologist’s new sofa as Bubble launched herself at me.  Sofa repaired by @proseccosue (she’s a marvel, that woman).  Everyone very tired. Went for cappuccino cake, and a cappuccino.  Cake points: 4.

Friday – Assessment visit from Social Worker, who had closed our case only the week before.  Went swimmingly, and am expecting a positive result for Squeak in the not-too-distant future. Smashed social services’ paltry mid-week Bourbon offering with some extra posh chocolate cookies.

Topped off the week of cake by a visit to mum’s. She had made cheese scones. If there’s one thing better than cake it’s a decent warm scone baked with a loving heart. Cake points: 5.

Adoption? Its (easier with) a piece of cake.