‘That’s your problem’

7 years ago Bubble and Squeak were removed from their birth parents along with two older sisters. The oldest two were adopted in one family, & Bubble and Squeak came to us. For years we ensured that they saw each other as often as possible, and this was flexible, fun, and brilliant for all of them. Our two families became good friends. The oldest sister is now back in long term foster care, whilst the other sister remains with her adoptive family. We attempt to ensure that all 4 sisters meet up every month. This has been scuppered more than once by the foster carer.

2 weeks ago the sisters’ meet up was postponed due to snow. Cue much upset. We immediately rearranged it & the other sisters’ mum agreed with the foster carer on the date.

A few days later in their weekly telephone call the oldest sister told the girls she couldn’t meet them after all as she would be in respite care that w/e. (Oh yes! The foster carer gets monthly respite. The adopters had previously begged for it but were refused it on the grounds that it would damage the oldest sister!) As oldest sister has ARND her memory is poor and she gets frequently confused, so we weren’t sure if the message was correct.

Neither the foster carer nor the social worker had bothered to tell any of the adults that the meet up was cancelled, so once again we were left to work out the facts, soothe our girls’ upset and pick up the pieces after the telephone call.

The other sisters’ mum established that what the oldest sister had told us was correct, and tried to rearrange the meet up but was given such a run around that she submitted a complaint. We are all meeting in a couple of weeks to once again discuss ‘communication’. Deep sigh.

Probably realising how pissed off we all were, the social worker then eventually agreed to keep the rearranged date, and said that the oldest sister could come from respite to meet up with her sisters. She would arrange a taxi for her.

All sorted.

Or maybe not.

On Friday I saw the weather forecast and sent a quick e mail to the social worker asking for the respite carer’s phone number. I explained that I wanted to limit the girls’ upset if the weather prevented the meet up going ahead. The social worker replied a few hours later that she had just arranged a taxi for the meet up. I e mailed back, asking her to respond to my initial query. An hour later another e mail: could I ring her? I couldn’t at that point. I was on my way to help my mother with something, and then to pick up the girls from school. I sent a quick e mail apologising that I couldn’t phone her, but needed a reply. An hour later another e mail came: could the social worker give our number to the respite carer? This time my partner answered it: yes! If we could have the respite carer’s number too. We received no answer.

Late last night the other sisters’ mum told us the meeting was cancelled due to snow. She hadn’t got the respite carer’s number either. So this morning we had to tell the girls once again they couldn’t see their sister. We couldn’t even say they could phone her. Because – try as we had done – we weren’t given the respite carer’s phone number.

This is the Lack Of Care System to which my family are now subject. The bumbling workers who seem to believe adopters have all the time in the world to engage in dialogue which gets us no further forward, and leaves us to once again to soothe the upset and pick up the pieces. As one social worker manager told us 18 months ago when we were trying to get a phone number so the girls could ring their sister who had just returned to foster care: ‘that’s your problem’.

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Homework

Bubble missed a lot of school in her early years and those who should have known better insisted at the time of her placement with us that she would easily catch up. If her assessment  had been at all probing, it would have been obvious that expecting Bubble to catch up with her peers would be unrealistic. At the time we followed the professional advice.  We wish now that we had not, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Bubble did not catch up. She continues to struggle academically and she always will.

Bubble has ARND, alcohol related neuro developmental disorder, which means she has problems with memory, storing and retrieving information, abstract concepts, predicting outcomes, and organisation.  Some days, some moments, are better than others.

Bubble has always had problems doing schoolwork and homework.  She’s 9.  This academic year her homework book has 3 tasks every week. 3! Multiplication tables (most of the time she manages 5x and 10x), spellings (most of which she cannot pronounce let alone spell), and project work. Every week. That’s in addition to the expectation that she will read most evenings.  Did I say she was 9? Did I mention she has been diagnosed with ARND?

Homework has caused rages. Bubble’s, not ours. Although, we have got pretty close to feeling the rage at times!  Homework, however creatively we approach it, feeds in to Bubble’s shame and low self-esteem. She resists, she dissociates, and if we persist,  she rages.

This year we asked for an EHCP. We were advised Bubble did not meet the criteria.  We asked for therapeutic schooling. We were advised Bubble would not qualify as she does not meet the EHCP criteria, and anyway there are no therapeutic schools in our local authority. We asked that Bubble stay an extra year at junior school.  We were advised that our local authority does not like doing this.  The SENCO advised us to look at privately schooling Bubble from year 7!

Last term our social worker suggested to school that in order to take some pressure off at home, they offer a homework club.  School advised they would look into it.  This week we were told by the SENCO that there simply wasn’t going to be a homework club this year.  We countered this with our fallback position that Bubble will not be doing the majority of the homework.  We will continue to support her when her anxieties are low enough to attempt some homework, but we will not be encouraging her to complete the homework at the expense of  her mental health or the emotional temperature of our home. I am not convinced that Bubble’s teacher understood this, but she accepted that we need only show that Bubble had attempted some of the work.

I remain perplexed as to why schools and local authorities are insistent that traumatised children just have to fit in to their systems. Bubble is doing all she can to survive at school, but I am yet to be convinced that school is doing all it can to become trauma and attachment aware.

homework

 

 

Dear teacher (again)

Dear Teacher,

On the first day back at school Bubble’s teaching assistant excitedly rushed up to tell me there was a bike course and Bubble was keen to be on it. I told Bubble’s teaching assistant that I was happy for Bubble to bike on the playground, but it would not be advisable for Bubble to bike on actual ‘real world’ roads as she cannot yet safely cross roads on foot.  In the previous 2 weeks alone she had cracked her head on a lamp post, twice attempted to run across a road without looking, and had to be physically stopped from walking into a cyclist.  She cannot concentrate if there are food or food wrappers, dog poo, insects, people, loud noises, sirens, or vehicles of practically any description about. Given that the TA could not guarantee the absence of any of the above (!) I decided that Bubble would not be cycling on the road.

On the second day back at school my partner was subjected to the same conversation with the same TA, and she answered with the same decision for the same reasons. (We’re annoyingly like that, my partner and I.  We find consistency is one of the keys to good parenting.)

In the second week back at school we were asked to complete a form to give our permission for Bubble to bike on public roads. We promptly completed said form, reiterating all the information we had already offered, outlining why we did not want Bubble biking on public roads.

Today you ‘phoned me to say Bubble had completed the first part of the bike course safely on the playground. Although you knew we did not want Bubble to go on the road, you wondered whether we would now change our minds this very minute so that you could rush out to the playground and tell the instructors that she could bike on the road?  Once again I explained why our decision remains as it was.

The tone of your ‘phone call was received loud and clear.  To you we are clearly over-controlling parents who do not appreciate our daughters’ abilities. So, for the second time in 2 weeks, we have decided to have a meeting at school. (The first meeting concerned your institution repeatedly calling our other daughter by her birth surname rather than her legal surname).

We would really like you to understand that the Bubble that you see at school is very different from the Bubble we see at home, and that we are not over-controlling parents.  We are intelligent but somewhat knackered people, attempting to therapeutically re-parent to provide a frightened little bundle of energy with safety, security, love and the opportunity to grow in the best way she can with the brain she has.

Bubble needs you to take the time to listen and reflect and start to understand what trauma has done to her.  She is helpful and compliant at school – fidgety, work-avoidant, and very behind academically – but as compliant as she can be. At home she is oppositional.  She rages, shouts, hits and kicks, throws stuff, and is very defiant. These behaviours are frequent and intense. This is not because we are ogres. It is not because we are controlling. It is not because we are crap at being parents.  It is because Bubble is working out issues from her previous trauma, and our home is a safe place for her to show her anger. Her anxieties are raised by many things, of which school is just one. She’s too frightened at school to show you how scared she is. So she shows us instead.

Bubble needs you to understand what Alcohol Related Neuro Developmental Disorder is, and the effect it has on her memory and ability to think logically. She does not need to be told that she needs a hearing test as she does not appear to be taking everything in. She needs you to learn from last year’s teacher, and the teacher before that, both of whom observed that Bubble did not really settle in the classroom until the last month of the summer term.

We have needs too, as Bubble’s parents. We need to be treated as the experts about our daughter.  Our knowledge of her needs must be respected if school is to become a safer place for her.   Our advice needs to be acted on. You are the experts academically.  But we know, more than anyone, more than Bubble herself most of the time, what lies underneath her presentation and behaviours. And we know that until Bubble feels safe, she will not be as open to learning as she can be.  It does not help us to hear in meetings ‘Oh, but she doesn’t do that at school’ (sub-text: what are you doing wrong at home?).  It merely demonstrates that you do not understand our daughter or the effects of trauma, and the damage done to her brain.

So, please discard your assumptions, open your heart, and listen to us when we meet with you.

Yours frustratedly,

Bubble’s Mum.