Forewarned is forearmed.

Well here we are. The beginning of the ultimate nightmare scenario for us as adopters has happened. Our daughters’ birth parents are now living just one mile away from us. We live in a very small town. The likelihood is that we are going to come across them.

It is not safe for the girls to have any contact with their birth family. Enough said. 

I can’t say how we found out that they have moved here. But if there is a positive in all of this it is that we did find out. 

We’ve spent a frantic day ensuring school put additional measures in place, and desperately trying to get hold of the social worker to ask her to set up an alert with the police. Our adoption group was timely last night, and allowed us to vent and to take on board their wise words and support. 

We’ve realised that we’re not going to be able to take both girls out together, especially if there is just one of us around. We’re going to have to decline any offers from friends of taking the girls out locally. We’re going to have to avoid certain places,  the town centre, sports centres, local soft play and so on. Activities with local clubs will have to be closely monitored or curtailed. We won’t be able to use local kids clubs. In short, our world will shrink dramatically. 

This feels dreadful. I feel a horrible anxiety pervading every fibre of my being. Goodness knows how this is going to play out.  The most important thing, of course, apart from keeping the girls safe, is that they don’t pick up on our anxieties. 

So we carry on, attempting to re-parent as therapeutically as possible. And to look after ourselves. We’re going to have to keep calm, hold fast and just do the best we can. Wish us luck!

Great Expectations.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Charles Dickens, ‘Great Expectations’

I was thinking today, whilst I was pottering in my potting shed in an attempt to regain some mental equilibrium, that the weight of expectations on adoptive families and on individuals within those families sometimes seems overwhelming. Some of those expectations are of our own making, but there also seem to be a lot of outside pressures bearing down on us at the moment. Here are a few of them:

Both Bubble and Squeak are going to therapy sessions.  Whilst Bubble’s is currently focused on building our attachments, Squeak’s is aimed at reducing her anxieties, and helping her make sense of her story so far.  Therapy is draining for all of us, and our therapist clearly expects us to be Super Therapeutic Mummies All Of The Darn Time.

Squeak is having problems at school.  She’s the smallest girl in the school, and she is attracted to ‘trouble’. This is not a winning combination. Recently having left her at the school gate as usual,  she did not appear in the classroom.  She was found 30 minutes later playing tig in the car park, with another girl. Her teacher dealt with this really well and agreed with me that she needs extra support for the beginning and end of the school day, as well as at playtimes.  Of course the school can’t put this into place until after Easter. Why on earth would I expect otherwise?

Bubble’s teacher has just admitted that perhaps we were right that Bubble needs more direction and support at the end of every school day (just as she had had in previous years).  Better late than never, but we don’t expect to see this realisation translated into action.

Bubble was just beginning to show the first small signs of settling down a little after the upset of one of her sisters returning to foster care. But this week we will be celebrating Squeak’s birthday, so Bubble is currently feeling jealous and acting mean. Cue extra vigilance to ensure Squeak is not physically hurt. I am expecting at least one family member to comment on how well Bubble is coping with her sister’s birthday celebrations later this week.

We continue to ensure that our girls see their sisters, and with one of them having returned to foster care, this has become increasingly complicated.  After enduring 3 months of nonsense from social workers about ‘contact’ and a refusal to give us the foster carer’s phone number, they now expect that we will provide free respite for their foster carer! It is also expected that we will facilitate ‘contact’ with all of the sisters.  We don’t see either of those things as our role, so we won’t be doing them.  What we will be doing is focusing on the best way forward for our girls, and doing what they need us to do.

I’m going to attempt to throw off all expectations over this week.  It may help.  It may not.  I don’t have any great expectations either way.

 

 

 

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. 

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.