Day 38

It was day 38 yesterday.  38 days of knowing that Bubble and Squeak’s birth family had moved to our small town. 

Day 1 – We tell the Adoption Support Team. 

Day 7- Social Worker and supervisor meet with us in a shambles of a meeting that leaves us feeling angry and unsupported.

Day 11 – Incompetent Risk Assessment presented to us. It makes no mention of girls’ history  or long term impact on them if they saw their birth parents here. The assessor believes I have no resilience, and my partner is castigated for telling me the birth family have moved here. We submit a formal complaint.

Day 14 – ‘Amended’ Risk Assessment shoved through our door.  Only two minor changes made and still complete rubbish.

Day 30 – Response to our complaint received. In summary, ‘we’re sorry, we’re sorry, we’re sorry, you’re too anxious, we’re not going to do anything, but we’ll send a couple of managers round so you’ll shut up. Maybe you could move house.’ We move to next stage of the complaints procedure. 

Day 38 – Two Adoption Support managers visit with the Risk Assessment, which they have clearly ripped from the supervisor’s hands and amended. This time it even bothers to mention why our girls were removed from the birth parents! Hurrah! But I still have low resilience and my partner has still put her employment at risk by telling me something I need to know to keep our children safe. We protest calmly. We agree to e mail them our thoughts on their Risk Assessment Version 3. 

The managers are keen to express that they want to work with us, and ask us what we need. We tell them. They agree they can re-allocate our old, brilliant Social Worker but what is our ‘work plan’ and our ‘time scale’? We dont shout at them that we are parents not workers. We calmly advise we’ll discuss that with the Social Worker. More prodding and poking about timescales. I enquire about the length of a piece of string. That’s clearly not considered helpful. Eventually my partner utters some magic words which seem to satisfy them: ‘3 months initially, to be reviewed’. 

We tell them what we’re doing to keep our girls safe. We tell them all the things our girls can’t do because of the birth family presence.  The managers have no suggestions, and can’t tell us anything their enquiries have uncovered,  but hope our ‘confidence will grow’. My partner and I look at each other and simultaneously reach for the pre-arranged ‘don’t respond to any bollocks in an exasperated way’ signal, a hand on the other one’s arm. We extract our hands and arms and move on. 

Their enquiries have only focussed on the possibility of abduction and violence. Even here their conclusions are based on 6 year old evidence. What about the recent numerous convictions for assault? we ask. They seem surprised, even though we have previously told them, the Social Worker, the supervisor, and written it in our complaint. 

Their enquires do not appear to have concluded anything about the possibility of significant harm and re-traumatisation of our girls should they walk past their birth parents in the street or glimpse them from the car. We start talking about the long-term psychological and behavioural impacts this would have. Clearly they either don’t understand or don’t agree. One of them suggests we could give the girls a hug and re-assure them if they see their birth parents. We advise that whilst we have devised a safety plan that deals with any immediate situation, we are concerned about the long term impacts on the girls. They don’t appear to understand.

They bang on for a bit, reiterating the girls’ safety is our responsibility but they have a duty to help us. Then out it comes, the suggestion we’ve been expecting, the suggestion they clearly believe is the best solution, the suggestion which would be the answer to their prayers. We could move house. Not should. Just could. They can’t tell us we have to. We tell them we’re not moving. We give them heaps of valid reasons. One of them says something like ‘I had to move house once, and it was a relief’. I take a deep breath, put my hand on my partner’s arm, slowly look from one manager to the other, and calmly repeat ‘we’re not moving’. 

We tell them that the summer holidays are going to be a nightmare as we can’t use any local facilities including kids clubs. Though Bubble has hightened anxieties when we go away as a family we will have to do so in the summer. We have organised house swops, PGL etc but we have 2 weeks that aren’t covered. They offer to pay a percentage towards a cottage somewhere. We thank them and agree that we will let them know when we’ve got some ideas and costs. We are told this is not a ‘long term solution’ and what are we going to do in the future? I bite my lip and my wonderful partner tells them we’ll discuss that with our re-allocated Social Worker. 

Time is up. They have to go. We thank them. We shut the door. I’m left wondering, once again, why people who work in an Adoption Support Team don’t understand the impact seeing birth parents would have on the girls at this stage of their lives.  Why do workers think it relevant and helpful to draw comparisons with their birth children? Why do they talk in jargon that is meaningless to parents and families? 

I believe that the managers who met with us yesterday really did want to help. But they didn’t understand how this situation is impacting on our family. They didn’t comprehend the long term effects of possible re-traumatisation. And they wanted us to solve the situation by dramatic action that we had already said we had considered and discounted. 

It’s necessarily true that unless you have lived with traumatised children, you haven’t got a clue about the crushing reality of adopters’ everyday lives. Wouldn’t it be so much better for adoptive families if workers acknowledged this, listened to us, and worked with us to find ways forward together? Wouldn’t it be better if adoptive families weren’t left feeling judged and unsupported?

Advertisements

Sobbing in the shower

I’d say I was pretty resilient.

In the last 4 and a half years since our daughters came to live with us we’ve been through various stresses and trials. 

Until the ASF was introduced we had to fight for everything the girls needed from SS. We were told that Bubble’s presentation was ‘typical’ and that we were ‘anxious’. Turns out she has ARND. Not really typical then. We were promised support that never materialised. It wasn’t until we complained that a SW was then allocated. 

Both our fathers and a granny died. My adopted niece went for respite and never returned. The girls’ sister returned to care. We’re still fighting SS to ensure our girls get to see her regularly. 

My flexible hours were suddenly stopped and I had to leave work when I challenged a manager’s decision which left a vulnerable young woman in an abusive situation. I fought back, and when they then made up some totally false disciplinary charge against me, I won.

We live with trauma, deregulation, anxiety and highly controlling behaviours from both our children 24/7. 

We have been battered and bruised by Bubble just because we decided to go on a family holiday. 

And now the girls – and us – are under threat of significant harm by their birth family. We’re coping with this the best we can, doing everything in our power to protect our girls and keep us together as a family. Tomorrow we are seeking legal advice. Again. 

Yep, I’m pretty resilient, but this morning I sobbed in the shower. 

Questions questions everywhere, when we’re on the brink

From the girls: 

Mummy, why can’t I walk into town with you? Why can’t we go to the park? Can we go scooting? Can we bike? Can I go to spend my pocket money? Why can’t we go to see mummy at her office? Can we go to the cinema? Can we go for a babycino? Can I help you in the shop? Why can’t I have the car window down? Why do I have to wear my baseball cap all the time? Why do I have to put my school bookbag in a rucksack? I’m not cold, why do I have to wear my coat? Why can’t we go to the adoption group family fun day? 

From Adoption ‘Support’: 

Why do you want a TAC meeting? What do you mean ‘what legislation are we working to’? You’re not very resilient are you? Do you want therapy? You do realise by telling the ‘third party’* you are in breach of data protection? We can’t exactly walk up to their door and ask them why they’re here, can we?

From us:

When you’ve repeatedly told us birth family are a danger to our children, and now to us, why are you not fulfilling your statutory duty to work with other agencies and us to do everything in your power to safeguard them and promote their welfare?

*Me. Yes that’s right I am a ‘third party’, not the ‘other mummy’, not ‘partner’, just a ‘third party’.

Taken Away

You’re 9 years old. You live in a house in a street in a town in a country in a world in a planet with your sister and mummies. You go to skool  because you Have To and you Hate maths and spelling and sitting down. PE is brilliant, and this week in PE you’ve thrown a long stick thing with a spear at the end. You’ve thrown it further than anyone in your class and you feel good. You feel so good you tell your mummy when she comes to collect you and she is happy and hugs you and says ‘wow! You are fantastic!’ You feel a bit weird when your mummy hugs you. 

Anyway she’s Wrong. You’re not fantastic. You’re very VERY Bad. You know you are because your Old Mum and Dad didn’t want you and were nasty to you.  When you were little the police took you away with your sisters and it was your fault and you had to live somewhere else for a Long Time with lots of other children. Then 2 of your sisters were taken away again by a man and a lady and you asked the lady to take you too but she said she wasn’t allowed to. And you think That’s Strange! Super Strange. Because adults can do anything they like. Unless the police tell them not to. Your mummies say that police are good people who protect everyone. That means keep them Safe. But they didnt keep you safe, they just took you away and you don’t like it when you see them now. The siren thingy on their cars is the worst. It means they’re coming to Get You.

When your sisters left, some babies came and then ages and ages later when you were 5 or 6 or something you were taken away with your littlest sister by your two new mummies and you are still living with them now. You haven’t been taken away again yet. 

It’s ok where you are living now. It’s clean and you don’t get locked in the attic, and you’ve got your own bedroom and it’s very big, like Humongous or something, and nobody hits you or throws spiders at you but you have to eat broccoli and other Green Things. Your sisters used to come over all the time and sometimes they’d have sleepovers but then Something Happened. You don’t know what and now your oldest sister got Taken Away Again and that is 3 times now. And you don’t see her much and she hasn’t been for a sleepover since she got taken again. 

You feel really really angry All The Time like you want to hurt someone but there’s no way you’re going to punch your punch bag especially if your mummies say ‘I wonder if you’re feeling like you need to punch your bag?’ You have only been taken away two times and so has your other sister and your littlest sister so if you do anything angry or bad you will probly be taken away again but you don’t know how to not feel angry or when it will happen or who will take you or where to. Or if you will see your sisters. Or if you will still have to eat broccoli.

Your mummies said that you’re Not Going Away and you will Never Ever go away from them until you are an Adult and even then they will Help You but they’re Wrong because soon you are going away with skool for a weekend. So they are not right. It’s ok here and you don’t want to go away forever again but what if you have to? What if someone just comes and takes you away? You’ve only been taken away two times so far. What if Old Mum and Dad come and take you away? What then? What if you are walking in the street one day and there they are? BAM!! And they just take you back to the attic and the spiders? What then? 

Waiting to be beaten up

Bubble and Squeak have been living with us for 4.5 years now, and were adopted 3.5 years ago.  They are 9 and 8.  They were subject to abuse and neglect in the birth family home, and are developmentally traumatised.  Bubble has Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder and huge attachment difficulties. Squeak is highly anxious and very controlling.

When the girls were placed with us we had to confirm that we would avoid the birth family’s home town.  It was not deemed safe for us to meet the birth parents. We were told not to send photographs with letter box contact. Birth father sent us a letter through social work to tell us he would never give up the fight for his children.

Both birth parents are heavy drug and alcohol users.  They have a string of convictions, including recent assault charges. And last week we discovered they had just moved a mile away from us.

Aside from phoning the police to set up a quick response alert should we be harassed, threatened, beaten up, or our children snatched, social services appear to be doing nothing to help us protect the children. We strongly suggested a TAC meeting last week.  WE suggested it.  Not social services. They agreed to set something up.  We haven’t heard anything from them. Our phone calls are not returned.  When I phoned a manager last week I was informed this was not deemed ‘high risk’! How have they assessed the risk?  They certainly haven’t approached us about a risk assessment.

We talked with lawyers.  One stated an injunction couldn’t be enforced until something had happened, and one offered to write to social services on our behalf for £1000 plus VAT. Both seemed to think there was no legal route out of this.  In other words, it’s down to social services to help protect us.  And social services aren’t answering the phone.

So here we are, 2 adoptive parents who have fought and fought to get their adopted children what they need over the years, and now we’re just waiting to be harassed, beaten up – or worse – so that our children will get some protection.

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!

School.

There is a SEND review for Bubble this week. It will be a tick box exercise: meeting held ✔.  We’d asked for a meeting in January: this is it. In April. 

I was intending to write a few bullet points for the teacher about how ARND impacts on Bubble, and some practical strategies for the classroom. But then I reflected on said teacher’s attitude, and I decided not to waste my time. The one approach fits all mentality is clearly not going to be shifted by my insistence that Bubble has individual needs. 

Living with a neurologically impaired child is exhausting. On top of this, we’re battling social workers to enable our daughters to regularly see their sister in foster care. I simply don’t have the energy for another fight at the moment.

I’m trying to believe that I’m not letting Bubble down in this. I aim to meet with her next teacher early in September in the hope that they will be receptive to our understanding of her ARND and attachment disorder. I’m hoping the next teacher will be open to working with us to do the best for Bubble. 

Hoping. Not expecting. 

The ‘care’ system.

When one of our girls’ sisters re-entered the care system in December we had to fight to ensure that all the girls met up before Christmas.

We fought again to get the foster carer’s phone number. It took 3 months to get it.

We’ve asked at least 5 SW bods for the foster carer’s address so that Bubble can see where her sister is living, which we believe will help to reduce her anxieties. The girls also want to send their sister cards and letters. We still haven’t got the address. Nor have we been given a reason for this. The girls wrote to their social worker about this 5 weeks ago. She hasn’t replied. 

It’s been suggested to us that we attend a meeting about the girls’ sister: a meeting to which her parents weren’t invited. We said we would not participate in such a divisive meeting. 

We’ve endured ‘contact’ meetings in which the foster carer has all but ignored us. I’ve asked why the foster carer has to be at these meet ups. The last SW manager I spoke with agreed there didn’t seem to be a reason and she would phone me back. 3 weeks later and there hasn’t been a call.

The foster carer insisted  that there had to be a routine weekly phone call, and she should phone us, rather than us phone her. She wasn’t prepared to be flexible about this. Yet there have been weeks where she hasn’t bothered to call. That happened again this week and when we tried to phone we were cut off.

Now apparently the girls’ sister can’t meet them for 8 weeks. Why? Presumably because nobody in the system is actually bothered. Our Adoption Order stated the sisters must meet up every month. We’ve done this – usually much more frequently – for 4.5 years.

The result of all of this for our girls is that they are far more anxious. Parenting them is made harder, and what little energy we have left is taken up with dealing with this constant nonsense from the local authority.

Meanwhile social work managers continue to ask us to provide (free) respite for the girls’ sister! And we keep saying that we will be very happy to have her for sleepovers – as we always have – when they acknowledge that it’s not ‘respite’ or ‘contact’. It’s just the sisters doing what they have always done since being adopted. 

I’m coming to believe that all the sisters are victims of a callous institutionalised incompetence. The term ‘Best Interests’ is bandied about when it suits, but very little that is happening now appears to be in any of the sisters’ best interests. Quite the contrary in fact: trauma is heaped on trauma. The ‘care’ system simply isn’t working. 

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.

 

 

 

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.