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.

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.