200 days : a declaration

Today it’s 200 days since learning that our daughters’ birth parents had landed in our small town.  We are living a reduced, hypervigilant life. Every time we step out of the door with the girls we take a risk. Every time OH or I walk past the birth parents, they are totally high or drunk. Every day we scan the court reports to see if either of them have been imprisoned again. How desperate it is to hope that two other human beings will be imprisoned so that our girls can be safe! And what a damning indictment of the ‘caring’ services that we are still in this position, 200 days on.

The list of things our girls can no longer safely do in their own town is extensive. Go for an ice cream. Play in the park. Take part in concerts. Go to friends’ homes. Spend their pocket money.   Go to cafes and restaurants. Walk anywhere.  Take part in the Remembrance Day Parade. Go shopping with us. Use the sports centre. Go to kids clubs. Ride a bike. See the Christmas lights being switched on.  Visit OH at her work. Etc. Etc. Etc. 

Imagine being a child and not being able to do those things. How small your life would seem.  Heartbreaking, isnt it? Damaging too, when we’re constantly trying to help develop the girls’ attachment, confidence, social skills, and sense of safety.

A few weeks ago we finally got a completed risk assessment which, after months of battling, did not label or castigate us.  It says we’d be helped by having therapy.  We said ‘Yes please! We’d like therapy to help reduce the stress we’re under.’  Social work managers – the same ones who had signed off the risk assessment – said we couldn’t have it! The Social Worker had to ask them repeatedly, and then they demanded a report from our girls’ Clinical Psychologist about our stress levels before they’d agree to it!

Now The Adoption ‘Support’ Team are going further. They are refusing to even apply to the ASF for a sensory integration assessment for Bubble until our therapy is finished. Why? Apparently we wouldn’t be in a state to support her with it whilst we’re in therapy. But I’m currently supporting Squeak in her therapy, as they know. They tell me that’s ‘different’! And that they hope we ‘get over this crisis’ and then they will consider our request! 

Oh! And not forgetting their big fat ‘NO’ to respite so that we could have a break from caring for our disabled daughter. 

Why are we getting these responses from people paid to support adoptive families? The answer is simple. It is because we formally complained about their unprofessional and ignorant responses to our requests for support when the birth parents landed here. The big bullying local authority do what they always do when challenged: they become aggressive and intimidating.

So today, after 200 days of nonsense from the people who are paid to support adoptive families we are making a declaration: NO MORE!

We will no longer engage with petty, bungling and bullying bureaucrats who are so deeply mired in the flummery of this local authority that they have lost all sense of what social work is about. 

Like countless other adoptive parents, for the sake of our children we will go it alone. We want our girls to have fun, flourish, and grow up with confidence, believing that their horrific past does not determine their future. We can’t focus on that whilst we’re engaged in constant battles with workers who, far from doing what their professional registration dictates they should do, seem intent on increasing stress and trauma. 

So we’re stepping away. Far, far away from it all. We’re returning to living a considered life, away from the tangled, spiteful blundering of registered social workers who should know better, people whose job it is to protect and safeguard, and to promote the welfare of children. People who have lost any sense of the knowledge, skills and values that should inform social work practice, and who are instead engaged in punishing a family who has dared to complain. 


Bubbling up.

Bubble is an 8 year old bundle of agitated energy.  She’s our little warrior, who puts on a brave face every school day, and heads into the same old routines with a determined, if slightly surprised attitude. Fleetingly she’s brilliantly funny, a comic genius.  These moments are gems.  They are as if the angry skies that have been thundering for hours, stop momentarily, and a chink of glorious sunshine powers through. She has moments of inspiration in which the heavy burden of trauma seems to dissipate, and her brain is able to process clearly. Then the leaden skies return and obscure the brilliant shimmering gleaming thing that we have witnessed.

Most days it’s Groundhog Day in our home. By the time we manage to get out of the door on a school morning, there will have been repeated early morning thunderous rampages to the toilet, arguments about who will get downstairs first, battles over breakfast, fights over getting into the bathroom, lies about whether teeth have been cleaned, shrieking over getting hair into a bobble, huffing and puffing over whose turn it is to dry dishes, 10 minutes to tie up shoes, and then decide on boots instead, whilst instructing Squeak in the finer arts of tying a scarf, and skirmishes over who gets to open the front door.

Once we are out of the door there will inevitably be forgotten book bags, loud surprise at where the car is parked, clashes over who opens the car door, repeated slamming of said door, conflict over fastening seat belts,  rivalries about whether we have passed a police car or ambulance, protestations that nobody has told Bubble what the same old school timetable promises today, hostility over who gets out of the car first, and refusals to say goodbye to Squeak.

Bubble is angry and fearful.  This kid is operating from her limbic brain most of the time. She’s ready to fight.  She’s ready for flight.  She lashes out.  She jumps at sudden noises. She’s constantly jiffling, picking, scratching, stamping, slamming doors, running.   And when she isn’t, it’s because she’s disassociated.

Bubble has huge issues of control which erupt around boundary setting, sharing, any slight change in routines, and food.  Bubble simply does not appear to believe that she will get what she needs from us.  After 3 and a half years with us, she still thinks that parents are dangerous, that she is bad, and that the only way to be safe is to be in control of everything and everyone. Sometimes this emerges as rage, but most of the time  it is low level, grindingly annoying stuff. She gives us filthy looks, huffs and puffs when asked to do anything, or even just asked anything at all, about her day, about how she is feeling. She tells us ‘it’s not fair’, ignores us, rolls her eyes Kevin style at attempts to communicate with her, makes vigorous and loud attempts to do anything other than what she  needs to be doing at any particular moment, and constantly interrupts when Squeak is talking.

Given Bubble’s trauma history this is not surprising. Generally we deal with it fairly well I think, and strive to keep away from reward-punishment responses. In the 3.5 years Bubble has been living with us, we have sought support time and again. Last year she had a Psychology assessment, which recommended DDP therapy. We’re still waiting for the therapy to start. OH and I have met with the therapist, but the sessions with Bubble don’t start until next month. Three and a half years it has taken to get to this point.  Three and a half years. It’s not for lack of trying. We’re not expecting therapy to produce miracles.  If there is even a slight shift in attachment that would be great. We’re also awaiting an appointment with a Consultant who specialises in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

What I do not understand is why we, as a society, knowing the effects of trauma and abuse, allow this sort of wait to happen.  There is a mountain of research on the effects on children of abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.  Yet social services, health and education bodies seem content to pander to the government’s agenda of proving their worth through the gathering of statistics,  and wallow in risk-averse, cumbersome procedures, rather than focus on what children actually need right now.  Individual workers in any of these sectors have only limited powers and ability to influence positive outcomes for traumatised children, and the lack of strong leadership means they struggle on individually until they crumble.  As adoptive parents we are left feeling grateful if one of the professionals ‘gets it’, when all professionals should get it and be supported by their organisations to be positive and pro-active in their approaches to traumatised children.

Bubble deserves better. All children deserve better. Perhaps we as adoptive parents need to form a national independent pressure group to demand timely, positive support for our children. Perhaps it is time for us to bubble collectively.











Bubbling under

This week Squeak, who is 6, has become increasingly anxious, loud and an even more accomplished sleep-resister with frequent bouts of bed wetting.

Yesterday morning she told me that she had been thinking about old mum and old dad – as the girls call them – but she had not wanted to talk about it for fear of upsetting Bubble. Bless her! She decided she wanted to look at her life story book after school.

Usually Bubble runs a mile (sometimes literally) when Squeak’s life story book comes out. Yesterday though, she decided to have a look at hers.

I sat in the middle of the girls and whilst Squeak was asking me if old mum and dad liked taking vitamins (her word for drugs), and were they really allowed to have (insert a number) of children, and if they loved us why didn’t they look after us, and was the old house full of spiders,  Bubble sat quietly.

She flicked through her book, looked at some photographs, and sat devoid of expression, not fidgeting or jiffling. Normally Bubble is the jiffliest jiffler in Jiffleville. Then, as Squeak asked if old mum and dad loved them and I replied that they really loved them but could not look after them, Bubble announced she was going upstairs. To her bedroom. Alone. Bubble hates being in rooms on her own.

I gave her a few minutes and followed her up. She was standing by the window,  perfectly still, with no expression, still clutching her book. She didn’t want a hug. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t resist my hand on her shoulder, though. We stood for a while together, lost in our own thoughts. I made the usual declarations about how lovely she was and if she needed a hug or a chat to let me know. How useless and empty those words seemed.

This morning when Bubble Scowled In A Prolonged Manner at me over a Toast Incident I was almost relieved.

It’s hard living with an angry child. That’s what I’ve thought for years now. It’s so hard. But living with a child who won’t let you in is even harder. At least the anger gives you something to work with. So I embrace Bubble’s anger. I will ‘work’ with it, and try to support her the best I can. From it may come strength and resolution. Maybe not, but once again Bubble has taught me much.

And so our adventure continues…

Wouldn’ it be loverly?

In which we explore the joys and trials of being the subject of assessment.

I was on a mandatory risk assessment training course today -for my job, rather than fun or any particular hobby. (Just thought I’d clarify that – unnecessary perhaps, but, we don’t know each other, do we?) We were asked ‘what would you want an assesssor to know about you?’ I grinned inwardly (leastways, I hope my face retained its usual inscrutable demeanour), as I heard my colleagues offer various suggestions. My likes, family support, my care needs, health issues etc. Oh! It sounded so lovely, so relevant, so brief.

Nobody said ‘I’d like to be asked how often I have sex’. Nobody offered ‘please contact my exes and ask why we split up’. Nobody thought the issue of fire blankets particularly imperative, nor were they clamouring to be asked to attend medicals with a GP who didn’t know his hips from his waist. (No, I’m not being polite: that was actually the problem.) Equally amazingly, nobody requested that they write 500 words for a panel of strangers about the challenges they would face as gay parents. No shout outs for attachment style psychological testing either.

All very strange. My colleagues did not want hoops to jump through, hurdles to surmount, boxes to tick. They just wanted a worker to listen, to assess, to provide. In the words of Miss Doolittle ‘wouldn’t it be loverly’.

Our Social Worker was loverly, but that’s for another post……