Monday, 13 November 2017

Contact - A guest post

I've blogged before about our unwanted contact from birth family and it was well received, I suppose it's most adoptive families worse nightmare and can be scary at times. It's important though to recognise that not all contact is unwanted or negative and I've been lucky enough to be given permission to share this anonymous blog. I really wish them well. 

By an anonymous adopter

I need to get this out of my system, but I am doing it anonymously, as there are so many risks involved with sharing this, but so much information that may help others in the community.

We have been a family brought together by adoption for over 10 years. There are a few of us in the family, however, it always struck me that given we read our children’s CPRs and all the other information we receive, if we are lucky enough to receive it all, there are extended family who naturally become our family.

My children’s siblings are always a part of my life, they are family too.
Over the weekend we were lucky enough, after three years of trying, to meet the now adult siblings of our children. A surprise message out of the blue 3 years ago instigated this meeting. It has taken us all this length of time to be able to feel able to do it. Our children were not involved. You may think that cruel, but right now they are not read for it, and they may never be.
We met in a train station coffee shop – we felt that it needed to be somewhere that we could all feel as comfortable as possible in – as we all knew that the anxiety for us all would be immense.
I hugged sister – I was not sure how it would go, but she hugged me back. I got emotional but kept it together.

We bought coffees and we began to chat. There were no awkward moments…. It flowed.



Our first lesson: We knew all about them…. They knew nothing about us – NOTHING. They lived for the first few years not knowing what had happened to their siblings. No one had told them they had been placed for adoption. Youngest was removed from a holiday he was on – and that was the last she saw of him.

Our second lesson: Appreciation that they had been adopted. Despite the first few years of their not knowing, they have learnt enough about our children to know that they have been well looked after, and cared for, attempting to repair the damage that they have all experienced. They acknowledged that the trauma will have been more intense for our children as they had differing placements and the worst experience of our care system you can imagine.

Our third lesson: If only we knew then what we knew now… Yes, contact is a scary thing…. And it would have needed careful planning, facilitating and reviewing… but had I known that these siblings sat not knowing, not knowing where they were, who they were with, were we monsters, were we cruel, did we love them – that could have been easily remedied.

Their first lesson: Their siblings have been loved and cared for… to see the relief on their faces was worth every single minute of over ten years.

Their second lesson: Their siblings have very similar issues with attachment, trust, anger to them.

Their third lesson: Never assume adoption is always a bad thing. Family and friends had been rather critical of adoption….. as you would expect, and that was the siblings impression as a result. They see the difference it has made.

I did cry… I felt so patronising and insulting to these two brave souls in front of me, who had been through just as much in their childhood as my children – and I was the one crying. To be told that they are grateful that their siblings have such fantastic parents blew me away. I sniffed, sister held my hand, and I gave myself a good talking to – this was not about me.

We spent three hours together, and we have so much in common. We will meet them again, and that was a mutual decision by us all. We feel they are more a part of our family now than ever.
Their decision to share what their message will be when they do all eventually meet was upsetting, and I leave you with some of it:
“If you are expecting to meet our parents and for them to be the parents you hope for, then don’t – you will be very very disappointed.”

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Befuddled for 13 years

13 years ago today as I walked up a foster carers path I could already hear my new son shouting 'new mummy here' and as the door opened he landed in my arms.

I've always been really positive about adoption as it gave that little boy the mummy he so desperately wanted and needed and gave me the chance to be a mummy.

Little did I know then how the next 13 years would pan out. It was never easy but the last 2 years have been harder than I ever could have imagined. This is because of a mixture of childhood trauma, a lack of post adoption support and little or no understanding from professionals of the impact of trauma and adverse life experiences on children and adults.

Yet again we've had another appointment where I've ended up in tears at the lack of support and understanding as ' hes making choices' or ' hes an adult and has capacity' which I can clearly see isn't the full picture of what's going on with my son.

That little boy is now 19 and although his early life experiences make it difficult to support him at times I hope he knows that I will always be here in his corner and i will never give up on him. That's what I texted him this morning.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Befuddled by the benefits trap!

Oh my word! The boy wonder has a part time job! Amazing! He found it himself! He's earning! He's managing to hold it down! I'm proud of him!

But.....

He has little concept of the aggro its caused me as his financial appointee!

He claims Employment and support allowance, he's been deemed not fit for full time work (do you know how hard it is to be assessed like that?), but of course he has to be awkward!!!!!!

So he's allowed to work up to 16 hours per week, not 16 hours per week, up to 16 hours per week. Believe it or not as a quite intelligent person I thought 'up to' would have meant he could do 16 hours but no! He can do 15 hours and 55 minutes at the most. Bloody great!

So now I'm stuck as I have to persuade him to only work up to, not 16 hours and trust him to tell me the truth when he's being decidedly iffy as he wants to earn as much as he can without thought or care that its me in bother if he doesn't. I also have to get him to fill in the PW1 (permitted work 1) form so I've asked his social worker to pick up the crap to hopefully ensure its not something else I can be blamed for as it sounds distinctly dodgy to me without details of his employment to go by.

So he's 19 and a half I'm still here being mum unless I get locked up for fraud. Although huge thanks to the advisor whose helped me sort it all out so I won't. I fell lucky getting an adoptive parent in similar circumstances when I rang panicking , I do love our supportive community.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

19 years old! Are we getting there?

I suddenly realised last night while enjoying the company (and a nice tea) of @meandminimees that I haven't written anything for a while. That isn't because life has been great I think it's more because life is the same old, same old and quite challenging at times even though Boy Wonder is now 19 (do i need to change the name of my blog I wonder?)

The much of a muchness is he's back in another educational project as he still wants a job with little understanding of the requirements of that so needs work based skills to be learnt to enable him to hold find and hold down even a very part time job.

His relationship with me can still be very challenging and his friendships are still very exploitatitive and one sided.

But then yesterday at yoga I bumped into a social worker I haven't seen for 2 years who knows us well and I focused on telling her the positives as she reminded me he is now an adult and so living away from home isn't now unusual and I should  not feel guilty that he is!

So here are the positives for a change

His social worker has realised that I know what I am on about and has backed off to remain working behind the scenes and leave the support staff who know him well to support day to day with me.

We still go for breakfast once a week and spend other time together now with no aggression or threats of violence (this is huge!)

He is still (sporadically) attending some sort of activities to maintain some structure to his life and I keep hoping this will improve.

I have worked out when to step in and equally when to step back for my own sanity and the continuation of our positive relationship.

So not much happening but loads happening at the same time to give me hope that out lives are settling and most importantly I AM STILL MUM !!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Testing boundaries and planning to contain

Teenage years are a funny time. In theory they're a time where teenagers are learning the skills that will take them through to adulthood so they are naturally becoming more independant and moving away from reliance on parents and family. This is great if they a) haven't suffered trauma and the resulting damage to their neural pathways and b) can learn from their mistakes. Herein lies the problem with boy wonder and his peers with similar backgrounds.

At the time when most teens are moving away from their families and are becoming more influenced by their peers I've found that teens who've suffered trauma need more support, structure and boundaries that they don't necesarily want. They know it all, they think they can have it all and think their parents are out to ruin their lives.

So we get the staying out past curfew, fudging where they are and disappearing acts with the added melt downs and abuse when they finally reappear.

What helped here was clear plans that he knew in advance and as reminded of before he went out.  He had a time to be in that was the same every night with no variation. If he wasn't in and hadn't made contact to say he would be late he was aware he would be reported missing to the police as a vulnerable person. This was explained as me being his mum who loved him and who had responsibility for him. I'd tell the police who he was with and they would take it from there. Tough shit if they knocked his friends up or annoyed them - they soon started to make sure he arrived home on time.

Hint - the police have also been great here at kicking ass with the social workers when needed 😉

There was no discussion on it and I was clear and have had to follow through twice.

I'm not saying it would work for everyone but it certainly did here. Now he's in supported living and over 18 it's still the same procedure as he's a vulnerable adult and so they have a risk assessment. Unfortunately they've had to use it more than I ever did because now he's over 18 and allegedly an adult he thinks he can do what he wants.

Herein lies the second issue. As an alledged adult he can to an extent do what he wants but social care have a duty of care too. And as soon as they realise that he still needs structure and boundaries I'm sure me and them will sing from the same hymn sheet. Wish me luck?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

2 steps forward and 1 step back.

And it's going to be that way for some years to come. All I can do is keep picking up the pieces and allow him to make some of his own mistakes and (hopefully) learn from some of them.

He's learning
That if he spends all of his money then he's got no money until his next benefit payday. As I'm his financial appointee I make sure he gets half his money every week instead of a lump sum every fortnight. He's never been one really for expecting lots of 'stuff' i.e. designer trainers but he's never gone without either. Now hes got little choice as he is financially independent and my contribution is breakfast on a Sunday morning.

He's still learning how not to be exploited by his 'friends' as he has frequently and with different groups over the last few months. This has been a tricky one too. He is so desperate to have friends and be included that he will do anything to have friends. Give them money, no problem. Give them cigarettes, that's fine. Sell his belongings for more money, ok! He's often left with no money because of this and I find this really difficult but I've learnt not to get involved and not to provide more, he needs to work these things out for himself.

He's also learning that if he's abusive I'll withdraw until he can respond to me more appropriately and when he's ok with me that's when we can spend time together and I can support him more. This is a tricky one for me and it doesn't sit comfortably, I'm used to being there for him whatever sh#t he throws at me but actually what does that teach him? That it's ok to use and verbally abuse me and that was one of the things I really worried about having witnessed DV in his birth family. I knew it would be, and has been, an issue as he got older with a single mum.

What about me? I'm learning that I can't fix everything for him and I'm learning that actually I'm important too. That the world won't end if I withdraw a bit and I have time then to build my own strength back up.

So we're getting there slowly and surely. It's not easy and we've got a long way to go. But we're hanging on in there, I'm still mum and he's still my boy wonder 💓

Thursday, 2 March 2017

How school can get it right!!

Last year I wrote a guest blog for Al Coates as he asked for what works in school. As a teacher I've spent lots of my time supporting adopted and fostered children in school so naturally it was something I wanted to be involved in. I see lots of adopters struggling with schools all over Twitter and Facebook so I'm hoping this can give hope that some of us try hard to support children. Unfortunately college has somewhat but the dust again here as boy wonder struggled with his peers and the lack of support as he cannot 'suck up' his trauma as his tutor would like him too. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 Guest Blog - Supporting adopted children in school: What works for us By @sgsuzanneh

 I’ve been teaching for 10 years and through that time I’ve supported lots of children who’ve suffered trauma who have either still been with their birth family, in care or adopted. I currently co-ordinate a life skills course for Sixth formers with SEND (Special Educational Need and Disability), all of who have additional needs and some of who are adopted or CLA. I’m also an adoptive parent of a now 18 year old. He went through the school that I teach in and held it together mostly to come out the other side with a good selection of GCSEs at level 1. The big thing that works for all children is structure, routine, consistency and care. For children who’ve suffered trauma this is more important than ever to keep them feeling as safe as you possibly can in a school environment. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need shows that safety and meeting physical needs comes before the ability to learn. Hypervigilance is exhausting and leaves little brain activity for anything else. Structure and routine are provided to young people so they know what is happening next. Surprises, even nice ones, are the worst thing ever for many of these children. It feels unsafe because they don’t know what will happen next, this is scary. How do they know if it will be something nice or something scary based on their previous experiences? Previous experiences are the only thing they have to go off when it comes to new experiences and what to expect. Consistency and care are important to show young people that they are important. Dan Hughes talks about in a room of 50 people, the child whose suffered trauma will pick out the one face not smiling. They seem predisposed to only recognise negative experiences because of their early life experience, this knowledge can keep you safer than knowing who’s nice. You look out for danger! We have the same adults all the time (TA and teachers) so that young people know the expectations and don’t have to worry about different expectations for different staff, it’s consistent within 7 adults as much as it can be. Social time supported by the same two staff every day. We pick up on issues quickly as we’re ‘clued in’ to young people’s behaviour and emotional well-being. No cover staff if teacher absent. The teacher will set the work and TAs supervise it being carried out. Routine of timetable which is gone through every morning in registration so young people know what is happening for the day Pre-warn of change (ie new people coming in, especially visitors) I am key adult in the class room for the young people who are most vulnerable. I will work with them if we have visitors come in to work with the group. TA’s have naturally picked up PLACE, tag teaming strategies Families are important to consult and empower and I speak to families regularly with positives as well as concerns. This is done by text, email and through coffee mornings every six weeks. This means families keep us informed if things are tricky at home and we try to support in school but not take over. We also keep an extra eye on students at this time. We’ve found that with putting in structure, routine, consistency and care most of the behaviour issues have been avoided but any that continue are dealt with using natural consequences. These include finishing work at lunchtime in a safe environment of the classroom, ‘time in’ with a safe adult for issues with other students so keeping them close rather than pushing them away and me being the only one to deal with them so they know what to expect and I can manage their anxiety through my knowledge of them and how they will react rather than a member of SLT (School Leadership Team) who don’t know them and who they don’t know. In a worst case scenario with exclusions I go out to visit at home to do the reintegration meeting the night before. This means that young people don’t have to come back into a ‘hostile’ environment to be told the expectations again. They know they will get a positive reaction from us all when they return ‘hi glad you’re back, this is what we’re doing today’ kind of thing. It doesn’t work for all but on the whole I’m proud of what we do and the difference that can make to young people’s lives.

Can someone please do similar for my boy and his peers?