Dear Mr Timpson,
I really don’t want to seem ungrateful, I know they often say it is the thought that counts and for the small thought you gave me, thank you. However, in my case and in the case of many adopters, your thought is not enough, not by a long stretch of the imagination.
Yes I understand that measures are being taken with the impending adoption support fund and I’m also sure schools are very grateful for the pupils premium plus. However, I have many concerns and desires which are not being answered and I wish to details them here.
My first concern is regarding PP+, how are you ensuring these funds are allocated appropriately?
My own experiences has been as follows:-
My youngest son was fortunate enough to be allocated a key worker from his funding, employed especially to support his particular needs. This was beneficial to his time in school, in which he very much struggles and with this support he was a much calmer little boy, on most days. This support has now been removed and he no longer has a dedicated support worker because the funds only lasted one term. His introduction in to year six has therefore been extremely rocky with his behaviour almost resorting in a permanent exclusion and he is now only in his mainstream school for one hour a day. To me the allocation of these funds were therefore mismanaged by the school.
For my other son, in Key stage 3, at a school which already has additional resources for special needs children, I’ve been told that the money goes “into the pot” of all funds allocated to children with special needs and my child is accessing this support. However I know that he would still have been able to access these funds without PP+ and feel the allocation should be made to specifically benefit his needs.
I feel that it should be a mandatory condition of the funds that parents are consulted as to how best allocate the fund and best support their child’s education. It is a sad but true fact that most parents have a better understanding of how their children should be supported in education and I feel that the educators should be made to listen.
Whilst we are talking education I think it should also be compulsory that all teachers receive some basic training in attachment and also the therapeutic approach of supporting children. Often simple adjustments to how a child is approached, spoken to, the choice of words and body language, can make an enormous difference to our children. I also have no doubt that this understanding would be far reaching, supporting not just adopted children but also other vulnerable children in schools.
So what else would I really like?
I would like a dedicated well trained social worker. NOT a social worker,
Who sits on my sofa and tells me about how their own parenting style is not affective with their own children.
Who refers me to departments where the personnel have no understanding of developmental trauma.
Who tells me “that my children are the worst behaved children they’ve ever met and that the other children they have worked with live in far worse circumstances than mine”
Who sits on my sofa, pointing their waggling finger at me and telling me “you spend too much time talking to them about adoption, they’ve been with you seven years and they are yours now”
Who thinks that bringing a sticker chart with the morning routine on will make sure my nine year old dresses himself each morning because the fact that I still help him is “unacceptable”.
When I tell them I am worried about the increasing violence my ten your old is showing towards me and level of destructive behaviour in our home (broken furniture and holes in walls) reply with “Does he have a grandfather that could take him fishing?”
And say “it sounds like you and your husband need a holiday, could you get away for three days”
I could tell you of many other inappropriate and even damaging things that have been said to myself and my family but the under lying implication is that we feel completely unsupported, unimportant and very much to blame for the challenging situations we find ourselves in.
Whilst the mental health of my children is of utmost importance to me, my own health is very much compromised. Through extremely difficult times, my husband and I have both found ourselves suffering from depression and have had to fund, privately, the treatment which is leading to our recovery. I know we are far from alone, many other parents, under the strain of the daily challenges adoption brings, find there is a major impact on their own health.
What would have made the difference?
For me, a trained, dedicated Social Worker :-
Who knows about Trauma-related behaviour.
Who has attended training to support their understanding of children struggling with early life trauma and continues to train and update their understanding.
Who knows that you are trying your very best to support your children and will listen emphatically and sympathetically and who will give knowledgeable and astute feedback.
Who knows your family and is able to offer a shoulder to lean on in tough times and will help you feel less alone in the world.
Who knows what suitable and applicable resources are available, even if they sometimes require us finding funds to access them.
Who is prepared to fight for funding so your family can access specialist support, when needed.
Someone who will advocate on the behalf of you and your child, in school meetings and with other institutions.
Someone whose direct phone number you can have, so that you don’t feel you are constantly leaving messages with a voice at the end of the phone who doesn’t know you.
Someone who works more than two days a week.
Finally what I want is access to respite care, where those providing it full understand and know your children’s needs and are supportive in the fact, that as parents we work so very hard that we deserve a break.
I feel that whilst it would be easy to ridicule your letter as patronising and even insensitive (sent during National Adoption week which, focuses purely on recruiting new adopters into an already ailing and decrepit adoption support system and also chooses to ignore the opportunity to celebrate the hard work of existing adopters), I have instead decided to make realistic and considered requests for support. These requests will not solve all problems; many families do need to access extensive specialist care right now. However, I feel that offering simple support of the kind I’ve detailed would prevent some families reaching a point of breakdown and minimise the struggle so extensively experienced by so many families, on a day to day bases.
It would help adopters feel valued by the very institution we save millions of pounds for each year, by taking these children into our hearts and homes. These changes would represent a government that’s sees that the adoptive parents are often the very best support for these children. See that we develop the important, meaningful relationships with our children, previously missing and distorted by neglect and abuse and we are therefore the governments most valuable asset in adoption. An asset that needs to be cared for, supported and made to feel appreciated, respected and understood.
Finally, I understand that you have experienced adoption on a first hand bases, within your own family. I ask therefore that you truly consider what could have helped your family, think about the effect not having this support made on your family and how damaging that has been for the individuals concerned. Then I ask you to prioritise the change that is required to ensure all our children can for fulfil a future they justly deserve.
Co-Founder of The Adoption Social
Trustee for The Open Nest