Thoughts on Contact – A Guest Post.

I am really pleased to be able to bring you this guest post on my blog. On The Adoption Social we have had a special week dedicated to the topic of “Contact”. There are lots of posts on the site which see contact from many different view points. It has been wonderful to see the discussion it’s sparked and the need for people to share their experiences. This post is exactly that a mum who wants to share her thought and experiences.

We have two adopted children A & C. They are not birth siblings but are part of the same extended family. A is 7 and C is 3. We have a variety of a letterbox agreements with all sorts of family members; this mostly doesn’t bother me too much, I write one main letter per child and then adapt and alter as necessary. We receive some responses but not all. Again, this is okay, there are reasons I can explain to A & C for the non responses.

We have met both A & C’s birthmums; several years apart. One was a meeting that we left feeling that there were excuses given, but even after having several children removed, the birthmum could not understand what had caused it. I feel sorry for her, but I know and understand the reasons that A (and siblings) had to be removed and as she shows no remorse or regret and hasn’t changed, I am happy to write a letter to her once a year, but want to avoid anywhere she might be.

The second meeting was more heartbreaking. C’s birthmum knows why C was removed. She understands and accepts the reasons, but doesn’t think it is fair. It is harder still as C has 2 older siblings that have stayed with birthmum & birthdad, and C and 2 other siblings have been removed and adopted.

When we had the meeting with C’s birthmum she gave us the most precious photo of C taken within hours of birth. We gave her some up to date photo’s of C, that she could take away and show the older siblings. She is heartbroken & we were heartbroken listening to her. There are an awful lot of buts and if only’s in their story. We have (with the agreement of our social worker) agreed to send her photo’s with letterbox, they will be poor quality and not necessarily of his face, but she will see photos.

But it feels like it isn’t enough. I would love C to have direct contact with birth mum and birth siblings. We and our social worker sat there after birthmum left and discussed the idea (which she hadn’t talked about), and our social worker would have made it happen. But we couldn’t decide whether we thought it would be in the best interests of C, it would have been fantastic for birthmum and siblings, but we have to do what is best for C. C was removed at birth and had contact at a children’s centre until 14 months old. She has no memories, just photos in her life story book. So we didn’t progress any further with it.

But, should I see birthmum in a park (there is a real possibility of this) I will not hurry A & C away, but stop and say hello and let the siblings see each other and let her see how C is growing and developing. Should C express a wish to meet birthmum (before 18) I will move heaven and earth to make that happen, as long as C is old enough to understand the reasons that she was removed and the fact that you cannot unmeet someone.

As C gets older she will have questions that I will be unable to answer, and whilst her birthmum may not have the answers either, there is the chance that if we work together we can help her understand decisions that have been made for her life.

The Finishing Line

imageIt’s not that I am ashamed; please don’t get me wrong, I would tell you all the gory details if I felt it would help. However, I know that those parents out there who live with a child who can rage with such anger that they have to hurt themselves, you and deconstruct their surroundings, already know what that is like. Those parents will also know that once your child is in that apocalyptic zone; there is almost nothing you can do to entice them out. Usually we have to wait for exhaustion to wash over him before we can see the finish line. For those that don’t, be grateful.

Crossing the finish line is somewhat harder than just eyeballing it. I’m not sure you ever have a clear finish, often the line fades or moves. There is never a feeling that you’ve cracked this one, a heady rush of success, no, when you live with a violent child the finish line is often out of reach.

However, we move as close as we can to it; a place where there is peace and where our child feels safe again or just safer. How we do this, how we reclaim the lost confidence in our relationship, is with grit and determination, amongst many other things.

Sometimes it’s through clenched teeth. I remember the time Stig kicked off on a busy train, yes that was the time someone filmed us on their phone, thinking we were mistreating him. Well by the time we’d got home he’d calmed significantly and had moved into tears and shame. Because he’d been writhing around on the dirty train floor and gotten very sweaty, I ran him a bath.

“Will you get in with me?”  he begged. Inside I hadn’t yet come to terms fully with the repeated punches I’d received on that train but I knew, if I could, I should.

“Of course” I trilled. I got in and we had that skin on skin contact that made him feel better and actually, I found that it helped me too. On this occasion, that connection was our first step towards that evasive line.

Often I take him an offering, expecting hunger and thirst to be top of his needs after such exertion of energy; I offer a drink or a snack. It’s like a little peace offering. Him accepting it is a step towards that line and often opens a  channel of communication. Cleverly I’ve worked out food is a great leveller. Only this week, to avoid a possible explosion, I made fried eggs.

There are those occasions when, even with clenched teeth you can’t do it, not straight away. I hope, on these occasions that Mr H can make those first steps alone, whilst I recoup. On one occasion only, but fairly recently, because it was one of the worst outbursts we’ve seen, we made no contact after. We stayed away for him and us to calm, by the time we did make advances, he’d fallen asleep. This made things hard in the morning, he was still on edge, as were we, unsure of the firmness of the ground on which we stood. I also didn’t sleep on that night, not one wink. So that was a lesson learnt.

In the past,when we first entered a long period of “episodes”, when they occurred weekly, I had been terrified by the possibilities of our future. Whilst I still find any outbursts very traumatic, when I realise his mind has altered to “that” state,  I shake at the possibilities of what is to come, I am now able to make a reasonable recovery. I know that there are always lessons to be learnt.

There is the lesson’s Mr H and I discover on unpicking our own contributions to the escalation, often recognising our own failings, not quite being therapeutic in the heat of the moment.  We also de-brief with our son. We try to work backwards, to find out what the trigger was and how we could have changed the outcome. We talk about bodily sensations which indicate anger; we talk about making right choices. We hope that he can make a little more sense of his emotional make up. He says he’s sorry and we say ours, maybe we could have been more supportive at the beginning. We never apologise for hold him and preventing him from hurting himself, we make it clear that if certain behaviour occurs, then we have no other option.

He often needs to be close in the following day and I find jobs for him to help me with, to occupy us whilst we talk. We unload the dishwasher, make the tea, sort washing and do the recycling whilst talking about everything and anything, although I draw a line at the zombie apocalypse.

Now-a-days, it’s not long before we can almost imagine that the event didn’t occur, we come together at a family meal and share jokes or mutually enjoy a walk, a television programme or a game. But we’ve not crossed the finish line; we are close but also maybe a life time away. A little bit of us remains with the last time it happened, as a reminder of the possibility.

Will we ever cross that finish line?

In honesty, I don’t know.

The Golden Child

golden childHe didn’t want to go again this morning. He didn’t want to get out of bed, or get dressed, or come downstairs. He just didn’t want to do it today. His chin dropped low, his brow furrowed and he looked up at me from beneath his beautiful long lashes. Those brilliant blue eyes, like deep pools of salty tears, pleaded with me not to send him.

After a little coercing and tiny bit of deal making,  I pulled the front door behind us both. Instead of propelling forward, towards the car, he sunk down and sat on the doorstep.

“Please” he said, “I don’t want to today.”

Some gentle persuasion and a couple of promises later we got to the car, we got in the car and we drove to school. There was no conversation. I racked my weary brain to find that elusive nugget of conversation which would stop him thinking about how much he didn’t want to go.

We parked, got out of the car and walked to the gate. He hid behind the wall instead of going through the gate. His teaching assistant happened to be there, on hand.

“Are you coming in?”

“NO”

Through gentle guidance and some bribery we arrived in the main reception of the school.

Those eyes now glistened, as the pools threatened to overflow.

“Probably best if you go now “I was advised.

“Bet I’ll be back again soon” I thought, as I reluctantly turned away.

Twenty past three and I was late for school pick up. I was running, sort of, when I noticed the text on my phone from school.

“Your son has achieved a gold award today”

As I rounded the corner he was there waiting, beaming from ear to ear. He clapped his hands together and bounced up and down, as I was informed of his achievements. He’d been invited back into the school reward scheme, previously too hard for him to deal with.  Traffic lights and golden awards, certificates and special treats. He can opt out again if it’s all too much.

I am a VERY PROUD mum and more importantly he is super, amazingly impressed with himself.

“I turned it around” he thrills, those eyes now gleaming with joy.

I’m sure many of you will realise that there is a hesitation, a cause to be cautious, a moment of let’s just wait and see, as I suppress the thought “this could all go horribly wrong”.

But for now he is basking in the glow of just how golden he is and I must admit I can feel the warmth too. I’m also quietly crossing everything, saying a little prayer, preparing to sell something, anything, in hope of a gold rush.

My Return to Blogging.

blog1I’ve decided to try very hard to make more time to write. Specifically write here, in this space, my beloved but much neglected blog. There are many reasons for my absence from this space but I’m not going to go into them, it’s all in the past and that’s where the past can stay. As Harper Lee writes, on the opening page of To Kill a Mockingbird “When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident”. Whilst nobody has been in an accident here, yet, many events have occurred. I too often feel unable to look into the shadows of the recent past and be caught up in their horrors.  For now we are living amongst those shadows every day, they lurk just over my shoulder, close but still behind me.  No I live by the mantra of many an adopter I know, today is a new day.

So on this new day I’m returning to my blog to write. I really hope that doesn’t have you all too over excited, because I’m not completely sure where we’re going yet. I know it’s so far been a good day, a productive day and if it goes to plan, which we know it often doesn’t, it has all the possibilities of a big thumbs up day.

As part of this day, I spent some time reading blogs from #WASO, it would be called an occupational hazard IF, The Adoption Social was, what my husband calls, “a real job”. Like supporting an online adoption community is some airy fairy thing I do with my life, my Tupperware party. Believe me Mr H there is nothing, unreal, made up, amid the lines of the blogs I read on our Weekly Adoption Shout Out. Just to reassure, I am still married to the silver-tongued Mr H and I’m working on him. Who knows one day he may surprise us all, join the fold and give us all the benefit of his wisdom in his very own blog post.

Whilst we wait for this miracle, I will instead refer to some blogs which I have been able to read. One has helped me to make a decision I needed to make, and another two have caused me to reflect on recent occurrences in our family.  Okay you could say that this is looking back over my shoulder but it’s the good bits, so I’m allowed.

Firstly lovely Mama Bear held a birthday celebration for her son’s birth mum. It sounded like such a positive and natural thing to do and hand on heart, I thought yes, I could do that. Then I realised I don’t even know when our birth mum’s birthday is and seen as though both boys are at that “don’t even mention her” stage, lead balloons sprung to mind. However, it also brought back to my conscience that I’ve not written a letterbox letter for maybe four years. Cringe. So that’s it, I’ve decided I’m going to do that this week. You are all my witnesses and please hold me accountable.

Next to reflections. Mr Coates wrote a post for “sibling day” and discussed one of the many adoption conundrums, should they or should they not be kept together. I wrote a post way back in the early life of this blog shouting about how wonderful my sibling group are, stop laughing at the back. Since those times I have questioned, all be it only momentarily, if my boys should have stayed together. I absolutely felt the pain of poor Pink Diamonds, with her post, also from last week’s #WASO, about how the constantly niggling of each other and forever trying to be your favourite one, can drive you to insanity. However, two moments from the past couple of days make me know my boys belong as one.

We set out for a walk on Sunday morning, it was cold and windy and Tink was not in the mood. We walked up into the woods, where many dens have been built and the boys ran through the trees, throwing pine cones at each other. At this point it was harmless fun. The game progressed, each boy found delight in cornering the other inside one of the dens, their target now a sitting duck oh and stones became missiles. I’m sure you can imagine it was soon a full scale war.

I was a  little surprised, when only half an hour later, Tink asked me for three pounds of his own money, to spend it in the National Trust shop. He’d seen something he wanted to buy for his brother. Yes it was genuinely a gift for Stig, not something Tink wanted, pretending it  was for his brother, then a change of heart at the last minute. He handed it over and his brother beamed “thanks Tink”.

The second moment occurred during biscuit making on Monday. I usually avoid, at all costs, cooking with both boys, but this was Stig’s activity and as I’d said he was in charge and could do it all, he invited his brother to join in.  They worked very well together, dividing the tasks and Stig even kindly gave his little brother the much coveted job of cracking the egg and beating it. My older boy delighted at how brilliantly his little brother carried out his duty, stating “wow you’ve done it much better than I ever do”.

It was I, yes mother, who came along and rocked the boat, by getting a little bit touchy with Tink for being messy.  Tink took umbrage and ran off down the hallway and into the cupboard under the stairs. It was all okay though because his big brother rescued him and the situation, by encouraging him to come and add his egg. “It’s a very important job” he said.

It’s so important to savour these moments and etch them onto your mind, to recall during other moments, not unlike the one I faced this morning. I hid in the kitchen whilst Tink raged and ranted “That idiot brother of mine has gone to school in one of my shoes and one of his own; I’m going to beat him around the head when I see him.”

Enough blogging for today but I shall return soon, it’s good to be back.

The Phoenix

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Recently I publicly humiliated myself. It was a rather unceremonious unravelling of my sanity. Wine fuelled, my very inappropriate behaviour was a climax to a couple of weeks of free falling into the depths. Unable to grasp at the sides, or cling onto a thread, I reached for the wine and hoped for the best.

Very far from being one of my finest moments.

But we have to count our blessings, see the positives and move forward.

I have put a stop to wine time, which hasn’t been that hard because I’ve now given myself permission to” not be coping”. I’ve stopped trying to be “fine”. I’m really not fine at the moment and that is ok.

In the desperate moments of regret and sadness, I’ve had this week, I’ve allowed the feelings of pain to flow and I’ve survived them.

I’ve survived because there have been others there to hold me, share the weight of my sorrow and nurse my fragility.

The blessings I’ve found are these people. From the ashes of this wreck, a light has grown in me. I have felt the warmth and love of my family and true friends.

Together they have revived my spirit, lifted my chin, nudged a smile and eventually made me laugh. They have made me realise the importance and the lack of importance of my folly.

So where as last Friday, the day of my doom, I was wading through a quagmire of loneliness and despair but pretending I was floating on air. This Friday I sit still, here in the moment, experiencing my being. What I feel is loved and blessed.

Four Days and Counting.

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Things can slip so very easily, as I have recently discovered. One day you are strutting down the street, wondering how on earth you got yourself in such a fuss about one thing and another and then the  next, you’ve not washed your hair for four days and your eyes are red raw from crying, about one thing and another.

How does that happen?  How do we slip from taking it all in our stride to feeling like the sky is going to fall down? For me, this time, it went a little like this.

So we’re walking down the street with a spring in our step, my son is in school, ok not full time, but he’s going, he’s coping with what he’s being asked to achieve and within the time he’s there, he’s hitting his “targets”.

Ok now, my son is in school full time, he’s not coping, he’s not achieving what he’s being asked to achieve, he’s not meeting his targets and life for him must feel like a long string of failures, with a massive helping of stress.

As soon as the expectations are taken to a greater level, he is deregulated and unable to cope with the pressure which is being placed upon him.

This in turn brings a ramped up level of controlling behaviour at home, unable to affect change on his school life, he turns his attention to his home environment. He won’t go to bed, brush his teeth, take a bath, eat breakfast, brush his hair, go on family outings and the list goes on.

The boy is confrontational, argumentative and unhappy about a lot of things.

Cue parents under a greater amount of pressure and parenting differences between mum and dad become more exaggerated.

Boy and dad argue, boy has been rude to dad, dad is unhappy and boy uses unkind, hurtful language to push dad further away.

Dad is maddened by the increase in abusive language and behaviour.

Mum is anxious to make it stop, she steps in.

Dad does not like mum to step in. He wants to be able to sort things out himself. Mum should leave him to it.

Mum is worried for both dad and child.

Dad is now cross with mum for stepping in and being too soft on boy.

Older child, boy number two, is looking in from the outside, seeing people becoming tense. He’s thinking it must be his fault, it’s always his fault. He needs mum.

Mum is not always available because mum is either with his brother or sad because of it all.

Cue more increased anxiety, this time from older child, boy number two.

Boy number two also becomes a little more difficult around bedtime and other requests by parents. Agitation is a known method of producing attention.  He begins to sulk and look at mum with a sad face. He reaches out for a hug every time he sees her.

Mum is starting to feel drained, from trying to support everyone and keep the peace. The sight of boy number two sulking and asking for hugs is driving her potty. His neediness and her lack of desire to meet his needs, start to compound the feelings that she is not doing a good job.

Mum cries again. Dad knows she’s crying, boy knows she’s crying and boy two knows she’s crying.

Dad is frightened by mum crying, boy is frightened by mum crying and boy two is frightened by mum crying.

Dad tries to make it better but he’s not always sure how.

Dad really wants to fix this, he feels frustrated and tense because he can’t.

“I’m alright she says”

“Phew” says dad, boy and boy two.

This same dance takes place a number of times over one weekend.

Monday comes and boy does not want to go to school. Boy two however goes off happily, relieved to be escaping the madness.

Boy really doesn’t want to go.

“I don’t want to go” he says

“I don’t want to go” he says

“I don’t want to go” he says.

“I know” says mum.

He goes but his face is so, so sad.

Mum cries again, she feels like the worst mum in the world.

Mum doesn’t wash her hair for four days and counting……

 

#TakingCare100 – A Fresh Start

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It’s a little late in January to being doing the New Year’s resolution post and to be honest I’ve been bitten on the bum by those before. Being keen to start afresh on the first of a new year, I have blogged about all my best intentions for the whole year, only to be totally off track within days. So that is not what this is.

I’ve been joining in with the #TakingCare100, a photo challenge started by some members of the online adoption community. Every day, for a hundred days we take a snapshot of the little or big things we are doing to take care of ourselves. So what this has made me do is ensure that I at least do one thing a day which feels like I’m treating myself with consideration or giving myself a little treat.

So far this has included, eating a healthy breakfast, going to the gym, drinking my tea from beautiful china, eating cake and running myself a deep, relaxing bath. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done some of these things previously; however it has changed my appreciations of those moments. I’ve celebrated those small things in my life that give me pleasure and I’ve tried to be present in the moments which are for me. Really it’s all part of mindfulness, which is something I’ve been trying to prescribe to increasingly and this project is just giving me a daily nudge in the right direction.

So this fresh start is more about affecting change for the long term, creating happiness in the every day. The aim is that even on the days when everything seems dark and hopeless; my mind will look for that one little ray of sunshine which will light my way back to a more contented and grateful view of my life.

I’ve linked my posts through my instagram account which you can find here.

And why not take a look at some of the other #takingcare100 pictures here.

The First One Hundred Kisses

100 kissesI don’t remember all the first one hundred kisses we shared with our children but, there definitely were a first one hundred kisses and there have been hundreds more since. Those kisses brought intimacy to our relationship and have always been a huge expression of our love, gratitude, happiness, sadness, anguish and togetherness. Sharing a kiss with someone you love is a sealed moment of understanding, for both parties. Your lips touch, or their lips may touch you, your lips touch them or maybe lips don’t touch at all, but there is the understanding that a kiss exists between you.

On first meeting my children, I longed for that moment when I could first kiss them. It seemed so wrong to hold back, not brush my lips against their soft skin. It took great strength, on my behalf, to not overwhelm these damaged little parcels with my zealous need to show them love. Tactility is a badge I wear proudly. However we devised ways of introducing this explicate act of affection  without over stepping the rules of engagement.

The first was stolen; there is no doubt about it. A small child over confident enough and misguided enough, to move that close to an unknown adult, that physically close to you. You can’t resist gently and sweetly pursing your lips and tentatively disobey the rules. It’s a nuzzle of their hair, or a moment stood above or behind, when you lean in closer, stealing the moment for yourself.

How to introduce the idea of a kiss to a traumatised child?

In our house it started with what we call “little kisses”.

“Don’t try and kiss them” said the social worker “Not straight away”

But kissing is a big part of how we show we love.

So after a bath we came up with “little kisses”.

Stig loved these from the onset. Tink showed the indifference, or false smile, we now know as his armour.

After a bath, whilst wrapped in a towel, we started at the hand with the lightest and smallest of lips against skin. Again the tiniest touch of lips against skin. Hesitations as you wait, to see the response. No tensing, no pulling away, in again. Kiss, kiss. Kiss: the lightless of kisses.  Up the arm, slowly but surely. Not on the face.

Eventually when you do little kisses there is laughter and smiles. Result.

Then we would throw kisses, blown kisses from a distance, the challenge would be “Can you catch this?”

If you did happen to catch it, you could place it where you wanted it. Tentative steps and so much restrained and heartfelt love in those exchanges.

Mr H remembers the day, in the first six months; it was whilst we walked in our local park. This was something we did regularly, hand in hand, on our way to feed the ducks. He walked with Tink.

“Whilst we were holding hands he turned and kissed my hand”

You wouldn’t dare question it, he would only deny it, but wow, those moments from Tink told you the world.

When he started nursery, there was a little girl with many physical and mental difficulties. She couldn’t speak and was in a wheel chair. Tink used to hold her hand, a lot. One day he was witnessed gently moving his lips to that hand and bestowing a kiss. I have no doubt that it was a heartfelt kiss, maybe his first from a place of no concern. He knew she would expect little beyond that moment.

Stig and I moved on from little kisses and throwing kisses, we touched tongues. The idea seems so unpleasant now but, we had eye contact and giggles as we aimed the pointy ends of our tongues together.

I know those first one hundred kisses, however they occurred, laid the foundations for the thousands we have shared since. Now Stig leans into my face and looks into my eyes wanting my kiss, an affirmation of my love for him. My lips are prickled against the early signs of his adolescence.

Tink will move his head into my armpit as we snuggle on the sofa. In the adverts for the Simpsons he will turn towards me, raise his warm palm to my cheek and then draw my face to his pink, bow shaped’ lips.

They now want my kisses and those first one hundred kisses brought us to this point.

 

Dear Mr Timpson

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.

Yours Faithfully

Sarah H.

Adopter

Co-Founder of The Adoption Social

Trustee for The Open Nest

 

The Open Nest Conference – #TakingCare

takingcareI’m probably the last to write a review on The Open Nest Conference, #TakingCare and it’s a little appalling as a trustee for the charity. However, besides all the not so great stuff going on for us at the moment around school, I’ve needed this time to reflect, absorb and process exactly what happened in The Royal York Hotel on October 18th .

I was nervous, not only because I was speaking and right at the end of the day too, but because this was a slight leap into the unknown. Although a fairly intermit and small event, it felt like this conference would be the platform by which the charity launched its intentions to the world of adoption. Amanda Boorman (founder of The Open Nest) had a very clear vision for the day, it was to be informative and real, raw content that would make those there, feel included and understood. However, it was also to feel like a day away from home, you were to feel as if The Open Nest were Taking Care of you.

Stepping into the beautiful oak panelled room, in which we were to spend the day, with the beautiful table settings and the striking striped “goody bags”, I immediately felt we were somewhere special, I felt special. I know these may be considered small niceties compared to the content of the day but this attention to detail is what immediately set this conference apart from any other I’ve attended.

The opening film, Severance, detailing Amanda and her daughter Jazz’s adoption journey, shown through extensive home video footage and a candid interview, delivered a less subtle message of intent. This uncensored, no holds barred representation of two peoples adoption story was a sympathetic hand, reaching out to all those struggling within their own story.  The film claimed everyone in that room, in some way, parents, prospective parents, adoptees and workers, everyone could relate to some aspect of what they saw.

As the day unfolded we all travelled to some of the darkest corners of our lives and were shown the power there is in sharing them. Al Coates did this magnificently through humour, crafted to show us that we all have misgivings in the most challenging of times.

Fran Proctor, through bravely sharing her own story, showed us the courage our own children reveal each day, in facing their own trauma. This for me had the greatest impact of the day.

I felt empowered by all the practical, sensible and well thought out advice that Sally Donovan delivered. Clear messages on how to take care of yourself,  I was especially keen on the” no need to do housework” point but  may have been taking care of myself in this way all my adult life. The notes on how to advocate for your child in school were again enormously helpful and I will be making use of them very soon. It crossed my mind that social workers could take a leaf out of Sally’s book, in times of budget cuts, encouraging adopters to take care and relaying how best to support your child doesn’t cost anything and is far more useful than playing the blame game.

Marie Louise from We are Family, delivered an inspirational model on running an adoption support group, the important factor seeming to be they were “groups for adopters run by adopters”. Again I wonder if LA’s could look at supporting this initiative, especially if their own groups, if they have them at all, are not well attended.

Finally, Vicki and I talked about how we had discovered the use of social media as a support tool and what we aimed to achieve for the online community through The Adoption Social. Phew, I was relieved once that was done.

Apart from all the incredible content the day provided there was the meeting of other real life people, people we often spill with and tell all sorts to, via our blogs and twitter. There is, to me, no doubt that the bringing together of people, was more than just the icing on the cake. Knowing when you meet someone you don’t have to explain the whys and hows of what’s going on in your life, that there is acceptance. For me living and breathing that acceptance and empathy for and with other human beings is the core of what the conference gave me.  In making those meaningful connections we truly learn how to Take Care.

I had a real desire, when walking back to my hotel room, to lie down in a dark space for a long time to just take in the enormity of the day. I felt overwhelmed by the sense of momentum the day had gathered, the empowering sense that our voice not only matters, but that it will also be heard.

Instead I donned a posh frock, reapplied my lippy and headed into the night to let my hair down with my new found friends.