Tag Archive | meetings

Unprofessional

I am going to apologise in advance for any potential offence I may cause or personal ranting that I may do in the course of writing this weeks’ #WASO, but after stewing on things for the last few days, I really need to get this off my chest.

There are several people who have known me and shall we say, they have seen more of my ‘passionate’ side than I probably would like them to have. It is definitely something I am working on, but it isn’t a personality trait that I have always had. Okay, I am not ashamed to admit, I used to be a bit of a doormat. I would have done anything for a quiet life, or not to encourage conflict. I guess that is why my sister STILL thinks she can be a pain in the backside and I won’t say a word (tough luck girlie, the old Honey is gone).

It would be easy for me now to put the blame at Adoption’s door and say that my need to advocate for Buzz and Waxy to get their needs met, as well as trying to keep my family together and happy, has turned me into someone who I am not always very proud of, when handling situations with professionals or individuals who have come into our lives for whatever reason.

While the ‘adoption’ process was not the spark that originally ignited the passion (that would be a very difficult story to tell), over the last 8 years its repeated fanning has certainly kept the flames flickering along, and every now and then someone or something comes along and gives the flames a few prods, turning flickering flames into a raging inferno of frustration and tears, and more often than not my own fight and flight responses kick into gear and I have to run (okay walk out) from the situation because I know I have or am about to make a complete fool out of myself and at that point I am certainly not helping my sons one iota.

Okay so why am I telling you this again? Oh right yes! I know why it was.

I have lost count of how many times I have heard so called ‘professionals’ comment or directly tell me that I am being ‘unprofessional’ when I have struggled to keep my composure while trying to advocate for my boys in a room full of people who just ‘DON’T GET IT’, and each time I have just wanted to scream “I am not a professional. I am their mum”.

Anyway, I still haven’t got to the reason for writing this and I honestly do apologise for rambling.

On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to attend my second DDP Network Southwest study day. I had enjoyed the previous study day and was looking forward to another enjoyable and informative session surrounded by professionals and a couple of adopters/foster carers in an inclusive environment where no one person’s job or role was any less important than another’s. In fact unlike several conferences I have attended over the years, at the study days, your role is practically anonymous. No name badges. No job titles. No badges labelling you to a specific classification of involvement with fostering or adoption.

Bliss!

However this time my experience was not so positive and not because of the content of the study day or the presentations or the professionals who had work tirelessly and voluntarily to put the day together.

No! My experience was marred by 4 very rude so-called professionals, who were sat directly in front of me throughout the day and whose behaviour I feel was more than a little unprofessional (and a professional sat beside me agreed also). No that is wrong they weren’t a little bit unprofessional – they were downright and completely unprofessional countless times throughout the day and, if my memory serves me correctly, 2 of these professionals were on my table at the last study day and I ‘may’ have spoken my mind to them then about their negative attitude towards adoptive parents who may be having a tough time.

meeting-clipart-clip-art-meeting-340741The main discussion point and presentation for this study day was based around NVR and the principals applied to it, and while there were several people in the room who were clearly anxious about some of the conflicting and counter-intuitive advice that was being discussed, the questions were largely productive and created insightful discussions (some were definitely being a little closed minded but hey, I can’t judge, I can be a little set in my ways and adopt a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ stance at times), but the ‘unfantastic four’ weren’t following the flock, they were rarely challenging viewpoints or airing their concerns about conflicts in method ideas in an open forum. No they were leaning on and calling across each other, like naughty school kids, sniggering and making inappropriate comments, at inappropriate times, at levels that were audible to everyone surrounding them, and on the odd occasion that they did raise a comment openly, the theme of their comments was always the same “sort out the parents because they are the problem not the children.”

I have to confess on one occasion, I allowed myself to be affected by one particular professional from this group (I wish I knew what her role was), who spoke about parents with such repulsion and dismissiveness of the impact of child to parent violence, and later making a comment about how adopters are far too emotional and have no place attending events that are designed for professionals. While I may have shed a few tears over the first comment and it had done nothing for my view point that professionals cannot be trusted and will screw you if you dare to ask for help. Their wonderful comment about adopters having no place attending this event on the other hand I could quite smugly say ‘’As someone who has completed her DDP level 1 training, I have as much of a right as you have to be here today”.

While I am not always the biggest fan of certain professional bodies, especially when they love to suggest that my meltdowns are ‘unprofessional’, until this week I don’t think I have ever encountered professionals that I would suggest had conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner and further compounded the negative reputation that professionals involved with looked after and adoption services already receive at times.

But before I start sounding like a ‘Negative Nelly’ or ‘Moaning Minnie’ myself, I have to say a huge congratulation to Jemima (our previous DDP therapist) and the members of DDP UK for arranging another wonderful study day.

 

 

Doing what has to be do.

I really should begin with apologising for the rant that is about to unfold with this weeks’ #WASO post.

Earlier last week our PASW and I prepared ourselves for yet another school meeting where the expected end result was that, at the best, we would leave with lots of empty promises and the feeling that we spent the majority of the time ‘hitting our heads against a brick wall’. Or, I would end up having to excuse myself from the meeting with a river of tears pouring down my cheeks, in order for me to avoid coming across any more neurotic and ‘over-sensitive’ than they already believe I am and avoid me telling members of staff what I really feel about them and their professionalism.

This meeting has been a long time coming and dates back to before school broke up for the summer – OK really it dates back a couple more years than that, but now it has come to a head and I need to see an end to it before it, not only makes me ill, but ends up resulting in more serious implications for relationships with home, school and Social Services. Prejudices and personalities need to be checked at the door before Beeswax slips through the net.

So with Beeswax and his welfare, front and centre of my mind:

I sold my soul to pay the devil.

I fell on my own sword in the name of my son

I sacrificed my self-respect just to keep the peace.

Or would it be a more accurate description to say. Today I took the higher ground. I can’t continue the sentence with “and it felt good” because it most definitely did not feel that way.

OK I know I am not making any sense, am I?

Over recent months I have been having more than a couple of issues with Waxy’s school and their understanding of his needs (or lack of it more often than not). As a result I have been on the receiving end of some pretty horrible treatment by several members of staff – sometimes I wonder why I put myself through this carp. When he joined the school I could have easily put him on transport with the intention of (with exception of parent’s and sports days) only having indirect contact with staff. Maybe if I had, we wouldn’t have had to get to this position. Who am I kidding! Waxy’s default mode is ‘Splitting’. He cannot bare home and school working together, and in his mind mums are the easiest target – heck I am definitely not perfect and have definitely made mistakes over the years, but you would think I was some kind of Dickensian matriarch who wants her children to be ‘seen and not heard’ and do as they are told always and every time.

OK I’m getting off topic and veering towards getting on my ‘soapbox’ about the complexities of the traumatic effects of both boys’ early years’ experience on their attachment history and how vicarious secondary trauma (at the darkest time – blocked care) can illicit reactions and responses in you that can give people the wrong idea about you – it is amazing how quickly school especially can put me into a defensive mode and I can then come across as ‘negative, cold and neurotic’ (I hate it and beat myself up afterwards every time), however NEVER at any point has school come to me and expressed their concern and instead they have drawn their own conclusions from the fact that while Beeswax is in school during the week he is a ‘model pupil’ (completely compliant) and all the problems are at home, so my relationship with him and my parenting is believed to be the problem. Of course it is! Nothing to do with the fact that he is terrified of the implications of acting out at school, feels unsafe and the fact that, throughout his life, Waxy believes that mums can’t be trusted (OK it is far more complicated than that, but it is his story and not for me to share, but I hope you understand what I am trying to say).

So why did I leave the meeting feeling like I had sacrificed my self-respect?

Quite simply, everyone and I mean EVERYONE, including myself and Shamrock (PASW) was expecting me to go into the meeting and open a ‘can of whoop arse’ on school. I could feel their tension and Shamrock and I had already come up with an ‘exit strategy’ if it got too much for me. So no one was more surprised than myself, when I found that I was in control of the meeting and the staff attending were very quickly thrown off guard by my responses and questions, rather than the dialogues being a barrage of pointless ‘he said, she said’ and lots of misunderstandings, miscommunication and Shamrock having to step in when a comment or two finally gets my heckles up. I believed I was going to have go into the meeting and ‘justify’ myself and I was worried I would make matters worse, but instead school became Beeswax and ‘therapeutic, supportive PACE mummy’ came out to play, and school were thrown – I wasn’t defensive, I wasn’t emotional (inside I was screaming) and I was completely honest with them, without telling them that ‘I think their staff suck at supporting and understanding children with complex emotional, social and behavioural difficulties despite it being a BESD school’.

So why had I requested this meeting? At the end of last year school had written a complaint letter to SS, which they refuse to show to me. As I covered in a previous post Dark clouds and shiny metal, apparently I lacked emotional warmth when collecting Waxy from school at end of each week – translation, I wasn’t all hugs and kisses and squealing with delight at his return home. Two main points here (which have been pointed out to them before and were again by Shamrock) 1st: Waxy cannot tolerate hugs from me most of the time, let alone very public displays of affection (that is a one way ticket to trouble later in the evening) and 2nd: I have often complained to Shamrock and Bumble that I never have a chance to even say ‘Hi’ to Waxy before the member of staff who is doing handover is bombarding me with over the top positivity about his week at school (don’t get me wrong that is great but I would prefer to hear it from Waxy himself and not have it presented to me in a manner that has me feeling I am being judged for his horrendous weekends). They have also complained about how, on a couple of occasions they have witnessed me being less than regulated when dealing with Waxy turning on his brother the moment he is out of ear shot of school staff and Buzzbee biting back – I admit I am not perfect and, yes, on occasion I have been upset or had to raise my voice to get the boys back in control. Do I like doing that? No! Have staff ever bothered to ask me if they can help or talked to me about what was happening? No! They just go running to SS and make ridiculous complaints about me (I know I sound really self-absorbed and angry at the moment, but this has been their default mode for a couple of years and never have they shown me the slightest bit of respect in coming to me and talking about their concerns – they never believed Jemima’s (Waxy’s previous therapist) explanation of the complexity of Waxy and my relationship and the ‘blocked care’ that I was experiencing at the time and working through. They saw a bad mother and still believe that to this day.

OK so I am guessing that anyone reading this will be confused by my comment that I feel I sacrificed my self-respect during the meeting – I did what any mother would do. I fought to get my child the support he needs and did it with decorum – everyone who knows how much I have been struggling with this situation, have told me how well I did and ‘this is what mum’s have to do for their kids’ – and they are right. The problem for me is school’s last complaint almost finished me off – I have been teetering on the edge of a deep depression cliff for several months and clinging on for dear life to what was left of my self-esteem and their character assassination left me feeling hopeless and I felt my feet beginning to slip on that edge of the cliff for the entire summer holidays.

Did I fall? Not yet, but at that time, in my mind, the only way I felt, I was going to claw my self-esteem and self-respect back was to tackle school and their accusations and backstabbing head on and change their minds about me, whether they wanted to or not – instead the result was I found myself biting my tongue and giving school the space to explore their feelings in a safe, accepting environment free from judgement (again, inside I wasn’t quite so calm and I was finally connecting the dots between some of the interesting nicknames Beeswax has given staff and his reasons for choosing these names, but all the time I managed to maintain a PACE mindset).

So what have I learnt from this?  First of all – I am stronger than I think, and secondly……. Well the picture says it all.

When they stop talking

Bittersweet moments and new beginnings

Ok first of all.  This post is not the original post I wrote for this weeks’ #WASO.  I appear to have some how lost it on my journey to Birmingham at the beginning of the weekend.  Hopefully it will turn up at some point, but enough about my ditsy brain.

Since returning to school at the beginning of September, relationships with Buzzbee’s school have been nothing short of stressful for all involved.

It would be so easy for me to write long angry paragraphs, stating in explicit detail every mistake they have made, but it wouldn’t help either Buzz or them, and heaven knows I don’t need to stress myself out any more than I am. So why am I writing this?

A short while ago another emergency meeting (PEAR) was held to review Buzz’s statement and Bumble went in my place (I recently I found it difficult to contain my emotions long enough with one head-teacher – 14 professionals no way!).

At the very beginning of the meeting Buzz’s head teacher threw a curveball into the purpose of everyone being there. She FINALLY admitted that his needs were too great and that they no longer felt that they were being fair to him. She told the professionals that although she and her staff were committed to him, she feared that without specialist input he would eventually end up being permanently excluded.

Although we do challenge her analysis that `his needs are TOO great’, we do feel that they are in completely over their heads. Despite all the training and advice they have been given, the staff still appeared to be ill-equipped (it does feel sometimes more like they weren’t even trying). They wanted a nice compliant little boy who trusted them, who they could understand, and who would be a joy to teach.

What they got was a very mistrustful, frightened, emotionally unpredictable, avoidant boy whose fear of failure they had activated. They had encouraged his avoidance of learning for so long because of their own fears of his emotional outbursts and the repercussions they were having within the school community. They had got their selves into a difficult situation and didn’t tell us until he was so far behind that they were all trapped on the hamster wheel of shame and despair. By the time we were told, even we were lost for answers.
Anyway fast forward a few weeks to the present time. Since this meeting things have moved on, a SEN panel did agree to look for a more specialist school for him, but they openly admitted there is nothing around for him.
Hmmm, this is where it all gets a bit messy, and please forgive me if the rest of this post is a little disjointed or rambling. I want to keep my feelings of anger at how he has been let down by so many people in his life in check for a minute, but at the same time I am currently feeling very emotional about the whole situation, and about the difficult decisions Bumble and I have had to make in order to support our youngest child.

As I said within our area there is no provision for 7 year old boys who need that extra input but do not fit into any of the SEN criteria or are too young to attend a specific school. The only school that they ‘plucked out of a hat’ was a school in a different LEA that is a primary EBD school, which in all honesty would have traumatised him even more (if we thought an EBD school was appropriate, we would be fighting to get him into Beeswax’s school).

Ok, rambling again. Anyway, this school is oversubscribed, so I needlessly had to make myself even more unpopular than I already was by voicing my concerns about their suggestions.

Rather than keep waffling I need to get to the point.

After several weeks of toing and froing, and an overly complicated flexi-schooling timetable, which school were constantly adjusting, so some days even I couldn’t tell which end was up, let alone poor Buzzbee trying to manage all the changes and different transitions.

I am not saying that the whole flexi-school plan was completely useless or that none of it had a positive effect on Buzz because a couple of the alternative learning activities have been great and not only has he come home happy and chirpy, rather than showing his usual resistance to go somewhere, he is not only eager to get to his destination in the morning, but he also doesn’t want to leave at the end of the day. One of these activities is a forest school and he adores it (although this shouldn’t be a surprise to me – he is an outdoor child after all). He also loves his hour with the ponies each week, but sadly this is coming to an end as it is only a short-term programme.

Back to our big decision! Bumble and I have decided to formally remove Buzz from school and I will, for the time being, educate him at home until a time when we feel he is ready to return to school.

Am I mad?

Maybe! Both Buzz and Beeswax are hard work and the only time I really get a break is when they are at school, but in reality at the moment I am not even getting that with meetings for the boys and transporting Buzz here there and everywhere, on top of needing to cover school work with him on the hours/days that he is not in school. I have had to be his mum and teacher but without the pay.

Do I think we have made the right decision?

Definitely – we couldn’t let it go on any longer. Not only was his education being damaged but more importantly the current situation was having a dramatic and damaging effect on his social and emotional wellbeing; and his self-confidence and self-esteem have hit rock bottom.

Will we come up against a lot of resistance and criticism for our decision?

Probably! Buzz himself at some point will buck against the idea of having to work at home but I can soften him with the knowledge he will still be able to attend forest school. My guess is the LEA will not be very happy and will try to make my life difficult for me for a while, and all I can say is “bring it on”! Thankfully both our families understand why we have taken this decision and are fully supportive of it.

I am actually quite looking forward to the challenge. Hey, you never know -maybe I will learn something new. What are my chances of being able to avoid covering Dinosaurs?

Although it is the right thing for us to do, it is bittersweet because it is not what we really want for him, but we feel we have been forced to do this, in the best interests of our child.

And so begins a new chapter for our life in the hive.

Time to learn

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out