Tag Archive | Post adoption support

Post adoption support Vs the Bermuda Triangle

Q: “What does the Bermuda Triangle and our current Local Authority post adoption support services have in common?”

A: “Things disappear, and requests for help and support often go unheard, or responses are too late”

mystery.jpg

Let me start by saying that this post is not an attempt to criticise Post adoption Support agencies and what they offer, but more an attempt to highlight the changes Bumble and I have experienced in the services that are provided by Post Adoption Support services in our area at a time when there is a heavy emphasis on support packages being built into new placements from the very beginning.

Okay in the interest of not wanting to turn this post into a great big rant, let me break this down a little.

I do not mind admitting that at the time of the boys being placed with us officially (obviously they had been staying regularly during their respite stays), Bumble and I were only too aware that we were going to need a robust support package and for the best part of the first 4 years, that is what we experienced.  The most important elements of support that Bumble and I found invaluable were:

  • Access to training courses and annual adoption conferences
  • Attachment training followed by access to a monthly support group facilitated by a very skilled SW and therapists, who provided a safe space for adopters to be open about their experiences and, where necessary, offer support and guidance free from judgement.
  • Access and support from a simply wonderful SW who was always only a phone call, text message, or an email away, and who would always respond almost instantly, even if it is only to acknowledge the message and let you know that she would ring as soon as she could.
  • The same SW would also be the first to ‘touch base’ if she did not hear from us for a period of time. Likewise she made every effort to support us at school meetings and offer valuable advice to both Bumble and I, as well as the boys’ schools on possible routes that could be taken to support everyone. In the event that she could not make a meeting then she would go out of her way to find a stand in for her.
  • As a family unity we had an experienced and supportive DDP therapist working alongside us, enabling us to regain perspective even at the most painful times.

8 years down the road and theoretically the baseline of our post adoption support is still there, but it has changed. In the past, the support elements that I have already highlighted felt like a stable foundation and supportive level of scaffolding.   Accessing support and feeling supported wasn’t something that we lost sleep over. While we were still had an uphill battle accessing services and interventions for the boys (particularly educational), knowing that we had someone and somewhere to turn to, gave us the strength to continue.

In recent years this has changed. With the introduction of the ASF and at the same time heavy budget cuts to local authorities seeing our own agency’s employees stretched beyond their physical and financial limits, accessing support has become an uphill challenge.

  • While there is still a support group, it no longer feels like a place of support. The dynamics have changed and from a personal point of view it no longer provides the supportive platform/environment to be able to discuss difficult situations. The group no longer has a therapist in attendance at every session (if you are lucky there is one every 3rd or 4th session) and the group is more of a coffee morning chatter and issues are often minimised or dismissed.
  • We do not have the relationship that we had with our original SW. Our current SW is overworked and there hasn’t been the opportunity, as before, to build a trusting relationship with her.
  • Unless we going chasing our initial communications, we can go months without hearing from anyone – in fact the only times we have had contact from PAS is when I have been ruffling Waxy’s previous school’s feathers and they go complaining to her.
  • And don’t even get me started on accessing the ASF!

Yes we still have the newsletters and they continue to recommend courses and conferences (at our own expense most of the time). They have their helpline which for some is useful, but not for someone who is barely ever on her own long enough to be able to have a private conversation detailing a problem, since Buzzbee is always with me.

I am at risk here of this #WASO post sounding like the selfish ranting of a tired and overwhelmed adopter who has spat her dummy, because she is no longer getting what she wants (at least that is how it is sounding to me while I read what I have written).

While it is clear that our experience of Post Adoption Support services has changed dramatically. Our day to day challenges, parenting two complex, traumatised and vulnerable young men hasn’t changed. The only difference is that before Bumble and I had the emotional and physical scaffolding available to us, giving us the much needed foundation which freed us up to support the boys emotionally, physically and therapeutically without burning out.

Recently I attended the DDP Connect UK Launch Day. I had the honour to listen to a wonderful presentation from a local authority agency, who have a couple of social workers who are DDP trained practitioners and provide therapeutic support to their adopters (they do not work with the children).  From a personal perspective, providing a safe space for adopters to discuss challenges that they may be facing, offers parents an invaluable service, which in turn enables them to provide the support to their children, that is so desperately needed (if often unwanted).

In fact, they are providing their adopters with the same level of support that Bumble and I experience at the start of our journey as a family.

*Apologies if this post is a little manic and disjointed. My tired and stressed out brain is not working as well as it used to*

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Moving on up through the tears

There has been a distinct lack of post from me lately and it probably won’t come as a surprise to some of you the reasons for this, but it hasn’t stopped me beating myself up about it. Yes! I know it is not helpful to anyone, me being so hard on myself, but as ‘Blame Honey for everything’ seems to be a common theme at the moment. I guess if I can’t beat them, I might as well join them. This way maybe I won’t feel the painful sting left by the unending feeling of desperation and isolation.

Last weekend was a difficult weekend.

NO WAIT! Last weekend was a complete mess! Decisions were made that I have resisted for so long, and as I sank deeper into the dark pit of failed attempts at trying to therapeutically parent an angry and emotional, vulnerable teenager, relationships and emotional health crashed and burned along with it.

I guess you would say…… We hit rock bottom! (I certainly did anyway).

hittherocks

Calling the police on your child was never going to be an experience that I could or would relish. After Waxy’s early life experiences, he is understandably anxious (and angry) with the ‘boys and girls in blue’, and for a very long time I have used this knowledge as justification for not drawing a line in the sand sooner – Some would say I was being too soft and making excuse for his actions, and in some ways they were right and I wish it was as simple as that, but as many of you will know:

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to living on ‘Planet Adoption’.

So if in the past I have been a repeat offender and tried to manage the consequences and restitutions ‘in house’, which has almost certainly backfired, what was different about the weekend this time that prompted me to change my mind and report Waxy to the police for criminal damage?

Was it, just simply I reached the end of a very long and crumpled straw and felt I was left with no other option?

Was it because this time it wasn’t just myself or an inanimate object of some kind that was at risk of harm? He had lost control and Buzz, Beedog and Waxy himself were all at risk of serious harm.

Or, was it the fact that this time Waxy had lost so much control that he was displaying everything for the world (okay neighbourhood, which he would never usually do) to see, and I no longer felt safe in my own home?

I could hypothesise and dissect the ins and outs of the events of last weekend but it wouldn’t help anyone.

Nor would be having a VERY long rant about Post Adoption Support, or should I say the lack of it (5 minute phone call, 5 days after the incident happened and complete disinterest from PASW about the impact the weekend had on Buzzbee or myself – she just wanted to tell me how she had had a lovely long and pleasant chat with Waxy and he only did what he did because he felt I was being too strict – Hmmmm so wanting to treat my sons to a day out with Nando’s for supper is being too strict is it?).

Anyway, this weeks’ WASO theme is ‘Moving on up’ and I suppose through all my waffling, I am trying to come to some kind of rational conclusion as to the fact that I cannot change what has happened in the past, and while it WILL this time take me some time to bounce back, we have hit the bottom so there is only one way we can now go and I need to move on and move up (and not move out as I was ready to do Sunday).

How I am going to do this?

I really don’t know at the moment.

I guess for now, all I can do is wait out the storm and not beat myself up so much for events and choices that are not in my control, and pray that one day our family’s equilibrium will be once again be restored.

lifeisabike

Windmills and whirligigs

mind windmill

Many adopters, Foster carers or quite frankly any parent who are parenting children with additional needs will have probably at one time or another felt overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of supporting our children and dealing with school staff, some of whom try their best to understand and work with you, or in the other hand completely fight you on everything and treat you like you are being a completely over-protective and controlling parent.

Where am I going with this? Why have I suddenly decided to turn on my laptop and start ranting (my apologies) about schools?

In truth this post isn’t really about schools.

It is about the frustrating and emotional rollercoaster, I find myself riding every Sunday night, Monday morning and of course Friday afternoons.

It is the electronic tears of a worn out, emotionally/physically broken mother, who is rapidly running out of steam and ideas on how to support her sons therapeutically while keeping a firm grip on her own sanity and identity.

But most importantly. It is about the trauma of transitions for my boys and how they manage their anxiety levels around it – or not as the case mostly seems.

Anyone who has been following my posts for a while will know that I regularly talk about the boys’ trauma bond and the devastating effect it has on the household and their relationship with each other, but something I haven’t talked about very much is the weekly ‘transition tornado’ that comes tearing though the family and uproots everyone from their stable grounding each weekend and each start of a school holiday.

There is a very good reason I haven’t talked openly about it and it is not for the reasons many would possible believe.   Some may read this and think that I haven’t written about it because I am worried about how people may interpret what I describe as evidence that, as the boys’ mum, I have lost control and am lacking any empathy for my sons. While these thoughts have crossed my mind, they are not the reasons I haven’t openly spoke about it.

The truth is. I don’t know how to describe it. How do you explain to people who are not witnessing first hand, the devastating transformation that overwhelms ‘the hive’ each week and the damage it is causing to our relationships and sanity?

At the moment it is all Bumble and I can do just to keep pushing through, support each other as well as the boys and pray that “next weekend will be calmer” – rarely are our prayers answered.

Beeswax is struggling at school at the moment but I don’t mean he is struggling academically, although he is finding the beginning of his GCSE’s more taxing than he had anticipated. He is struggling with the absolute chaos of the ongoing disruption and unsettling environment that has been created by a serious of catastrophic mistakes and decisions by senior members of school staff, and it is Waxy and his peers who are paying the price. while measures are put in place to rebalance the school environment. Sadly Waxy being Waxy, he has held on and pushed all his stress and anxiety deep down inside during his school week, only to then walk in the front door on a Friday afternoon and within minutes begin “dumping” all his baggage on the members of the household or to be more accurate, he takes all his anger and frustration out on Buzzbee, verbally and physically.   And, heaven forbid if I dare to parent him before he is ready.

If we are lucky, Waxy will unload his stress and then, other than being a testosterone fuelled, foulmouthed 14-year-old, he will settle down for a while, but by this time often the damage has already been done and the stress and angst has simply been transferred to Buzzbee, who in his current vulnerable emotional state, makes the ideal vessel to ensure the trauma hamster wheel continues turning for as long as is needed.

Buzzbee himself is as I have already said extremely vulnerable at the moment. He is vulnerable to the slightest disruption in his routine. He is vulnerable to the most insignificant whiff of unexpected sensory input, and more importantly, he is vulnerable to Waxy’s emotional dysregulation and the traumatic effects it is having on them both.

But Buzz’s vulnerability is certainly not Waxy’s fault, neither is it Buzzbee’s or even Bumble or mine. In the past year we have become increasingly worried about the lack of Buzzbee’s emotional regulation skills and the increasing developmental gap that has been growing between Buzz and his peers both academically and socially.

After a long road of trying to persuade professionals that there was a genuine cause for concern and not just two, tired and stressed out parents searching for answers and labels, and reading far too much into ‘naughty behaviour’, in the last 2 weeks we have received the confirmation that we had hoped to not hear, but completely expected to hear.   Buzzbee has been struggling for a reason (more than one to be exact) and while therapeutic parenting all this time has helped keep him afloat within the family to an extent, there are gaps that even I hadn’t noticed and these gaps are at the root of many of the reasons he is finding it so difficult to cope at the moment throughout the day and into the night.

I am not going to even start on the pantomime that is bedtimes in our home at the moment.

At the moment I don’t really see a way out of this mess other than going down a path Bumble and I don’t want to take.

In May we requested an assessment of our adoption support needs and indicated that we wanted to put separate ASF applications in for each of the boys to receive support from a DDP therapist. Early into term 1 of the new school year, Bumble and I filled in the forms to the best of our ability for our PASW.

Guess what?   We are STILL waiting to put in the applications despite the fact we have made it very clear that we are completely on our knees and desperately need support NOW!

 

“All the king’s horses”

I think I need to apologise in advance before I continue writing this weeks’ #WASO post. There is a very strong chance that this post will not turn out quite as I want it to or how the words are playing out in my head, and will instead end up sounding self-indulgent and pitiful. Over the past few weeks, my energy and motivation to write has been severely lacking and my ability to complete the most basic tasks has been quite frankly, an uphill struggle.

humpty

For weeks, months (okay, probably a couple of years) I have been treading water and trying to fool myself that I am doing Ok and my frequent state of melancholy can be directly connected to the latest instalment of the boys’ chaos and mania, or due to feeling overwhelmed by my personal high expectations of myself as a mother, wife, daughter, friend… to put things more simply! Humpty Dumpty has slipped off her wall, but instead of admitting she could do with a supportive hand to get back up on her wall, she has repeatedly, time and time again tried to claw her way back up the wall on her own, because she has become too concerned about how ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men’ will judge her.

The problem is every time ‘Humpty’ has slipped back down and has not had the confidence to ask for help or confide in others, she has become frustrated with herself and the self-imposed isolation she has brought on herself.

Okay back to reality. There is part of me that is questioning whether the answer is to make an appointment with our GP and ask her to prescribe “happy pills”, but realistically this is not an option and I know she will be reluctant (as would I) to do this because of past history. In any case I am not sure (for me) that this would be the best way to deal with the effects of the secondary trauma.

No, the only answer I can see, is to once and for all get ALL my family the assessments help and support we all desperately need. And, to do this I am going to have to stand up and face it head on. I can no longer let the opinions of ‘Negative Nellies’ and ill-informed, narrow-minded individuals and professionals from the past, control our future.

So where do I start?

In the past I have unsuccessfully tried to explain/describe verbally what it is like to parent Waxy and Buzz on a day to day/hour to hour basis, and explain the impact that has on us all. It has always fallen on deaf ears or it has been met with criticism and a dismissive tone – “reading too much into it”, “all siblings do that”, “if you weren’t so stressed than the boys would be more settled” – You get the idea.

The only answer that made sense to me, was for me to put it in writing and hope that if professionals read it in black and white, they maybe will begin to listen and take the situation seriously, and the Adoption Support Fund application form is just the place to start.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on Twitter of my irritation that our Post Adoption Social Worker had sent us the ASF form and asked us to fill it in as best as possible, despite us believing she had started doing this herself weeks before.

Filling in the forms for the boys was painful. Seeing written down on paper the reality of what we are all living with every day, was breaking my heart, but by the time we had filled in as much as realistically possible and sent them back to our PASW, Bumble and I were feeling oddly empowered and both our heads have never been clearer on what we need for ourselves and from professionals, to give the boys the best chance for the future.

After a few more timely nudges, Matilda (new PASW) is finally jumping into action, and after a brief visit last week to obtain the boys’ view and being rewarded with a trauma bond floor show for her “efforts” from them both (quite unusual for them to do this in the presences of professionals), she has asked us to consider allowing a specialist centre to asses our family’s attachment need, but Bumble and I are going to have to think very hard about it before deciding whether we want to proceed with it – if we do proceed, it has been made clear, we will be expected to act on the specialist’s recommendations. Quite frankly, the thought of this scares me to death and not just because my trust in professionals was destroyed a long time ago.

Only time will tell if the help from all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, can prevent Humpty from ending up as scrambled egg.

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Waiting for our Fairy Godmother

For weeks now I have been writing posts and dancing around topics, saying plenty but never really saying anything at all. Well, not what I really want to say anyway!

Why? Pride! Fear! Sheer cowardice! Or, as someone pointed out to me this week, have I skirted around the topic, because I am so hard on myself that I am expecting the same from others?

Just under 2 weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a 2 day DDP network conference and had the pleasure to hear many amazing speakers including Dan Hughes and Jon Baylin.

It was a wonderful opportunity to gain further insight into the practical side of DDP practise and remind myself of elements that were covered in the Level 1 course that I did earlier on in the year. Although at the time of booking it was not high on my list of importance, possibly more importantly, for the first time in a while, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with some lovely ladies that I have not seen for quite some time and in all honesty (gosh, I have just realised how often I actually use that word), I underestimated how much I have missed chatting with them about the boys, without having to explain anything about all their idiosyncrasies or feeling defensive about admitting how it is taking its toll on Bumble and I (there is very little they don’t already know about the boys, both good and bad). I can’t describe how refreshing that was at the moment, at a time when I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the boys’ needs and the chaos their ‘trauma bond’ is causing in the household, but at the same time there is a pang of sadness and grief for what we have lost (as in their wonderful support) and may never get back.

Maybe I am being selfish? Or maybe I am being realistic, but in the past couple of months two wonderfully different conferences have had me leaving with a very similar message – I need to start taking better care of myself, and that needs to start with asking for the support my family needs at the moment.

This has started me thinking about what would my ideal ‘post adoption support package’ look like, if money wasn’t an issue (LA or self-funding) or we had a fairy godmother who with a ‘BibbidiBobbidiBoo’ she could wave her wand and magic up everything we need.

Magic-Wand

Here goes with my wish list.

  • Relocation to a property with an attached beach, in a secluded area, with plenty of space around us for the boys to play and let off steam, and we can be a family without people scrutinising our parenting, making constant allegations, or making us feel like criminals in our own home.
  • Therapeutic/psychological support for Bumble and I from a qualified DDP therapist / psychologist.
  • Subsidised ad hoc childcare service, so that Bumble doesn’t need to keep using his leave to cover child care when I have to attend meetings (Must be CRB checked babysitters who have the hide of a rhinoceros, but experienced, caring and unflappable by the challenges they may face).
  • Complete Ed Psych, Occupational Therapy, and Therapeutic assessment for Buzzbee to finally assess his complete needs in order to return to school in the future if he should wish to.
  • 1:1 home tutor for Buzzbee to help him begin learning that mummy is not the only person who he can trust to show how ‘clever’ he is and not be fearful of showing the areas he struggles with.
  • Commitment to fund Specialist post adoption therapy, i.e. DDP qualified therapist (private as no longer available on NHS/CAMHS in our area) or other appropriate services until 18 and transitioned to any relevant/suitable adult provision.
  • Guaranteed specialist education placements/provision until 18
  • Ok I actually already receive some adoption allowance for Buzz but I would like to see adoption allowance payments which are in line with our LA’s foster care rates until children complete full time education.
  • ‘No questions asked’, Non-judgemental Post adoption handyman service that we could ring up after a violent outburst and arrange for them to come and repair damaged doors, walls, etc.
  • Access to holiday camps/activities with additional support funded (thinking of Buzzbee mainly on this one).
  • Proper and effective developmental trauma and attachment training for Waxy’s school.
  • Parent/school advocacy service to mediate disputes/misunderstandings – parent partnerships in our area not up to the job.
  • On-going opportunities for training (new skills, etc.), access to out of hours/in hours non-judgemental support/advice when needed (in person/email/phone)
  • Pupil premium for every child whether they are in full-time education or have been forced into home education because of the huge deficit in the way the national curriculum and ‘school rules’ are so rigid and unsustainable for some of our children.
  • On the ball Letterbox service – Oh hang on we actually have this already.
  • Access to a database signposting adopters to ALL support services and training available etc.
  • On-going support for us and NOT JUST when difficulties develop / Crises occur.
  • Crisis intervention support plan – violence, bereavement, allegations, sibling trauma bonds, and so much more…

Maybe I should also ask for:

  • The entire staff of Downton Abbey minus the backstabbing (I get enough of that already) to run my house for me.
  • Spa sessions at Center Parcs’ Aqua Sana at least 3 times a year.
  • Endless supply of chocolate and diet Pepsi for evenings and weekends when the boys are together (trauma bond survival kit), served by ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ male pros, bronzed Adonises, the ghost of Patrick Swayze, really any nice male eye candy, as and when needed.
  • Mummy rescue package provided by local Firemen.
  • Automatic hotline to Il Divo or Michael Buble to personally serenade me when I need an extra big slice of self-regulating/self-care mummy time.
  • Pocket sized Andre Rieu and orchestra, so he can come everywhere with me to keep me regulated all day long.
  • Pocket sized Dan Hughes, Bruce Perry, Jon Baylin, etc. who can be taken out as and when advice is needed.
  • Uninhabited deserted island with mute blonde Adonises waiting on my every need.
  • Soundproof, purpose built study for Bumble to play his online roleplaying games.

In the spirit of fairness, I have also asked the boys what their dream support plan would include.

Here it is:

  •  Weekly private training with a premier league football player for both boys.
  • Private street dance lessons with Ashley Banjo for Buzzbee.
  • Kate Upton as Beeswax’s 1:1 teaching assistant (lock up your daughters!)
  • ‘No Social Workers’ trapdoor/hidden ejector launchpad under front door mat.
  • Purpose built adventure playground and climbing wall for the garden.
  • Hypnotist to brainwash mum and dad into letting us play Xbox all day and night.
  • Girlfriend for Buzzbee (Waxy wrote “not that he has had trouble getting them in the past, LOL”) .

So that is our list! I am sure there are things I have forgotten but if you could do the same what you put on yours?

This post has been linked to The Adoption Socials’ Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO 

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Our ‘Shamrock’

This weeks’ #WASO theme is ‘professionals’ and in a way this post is a post about continuity of support from a professional.

Last year I wrote a What do you call a collection of professionals which detailed at the time of writing how many professionals we had already been involved with in ours and the boy’s lives.

I could probably add to that list now – although like with the last post, my head would probably start spinning with the thought of the sheer volume. But I won’t!

In my previous post I mentioned that we have been in the fortunate position of having the same social worker (or as Beewax calls her ‘Social Stalker’) –Shamrock, before and throughout the entire process and once the Adoption Order was in place, we all believed we had reached the end of the line and Shamrock would be moving on, and out support if needed would come from the Post Adoption Support Service.

Our family would finally be flying solo and Shamrock would be free to support new families in the way she has for us most of the time.

Well, that was the plan and what we all believed would happen.  However, destiny had different plans for Shamrock and our family – Shamrock was asked to move from the adoption family placement team and join the post adoption support team, and now she is our PASW.

Buzzbee believes she is part of the family because she has been his life since day one of being taken into care.  Was it fate or just clever planning?  Maybe it is not that unusual for a supervising foster care SW to also be someone’s FPO.

I won’t say Shamrock is perfect. She has her faults and some of them drive me nuts (smile through gritted teeth when the age of answer “All children do that” or “Do you think maybe you are being to oversensitive about Waxy breaking your glasses”).

But, while I can get a little irritable and feel that I am ‘hitting my head against a brick wall’ with her sometime. Most of the time she is wonderful and nothing is too much trouble for her.

  • If I email her with a problem or just because I really need to get something off my chest. She always makes sure that she makes contact in one way or another as soon as she can.
  • She will sit and listen to me rant and cry (usually a lot)and try not to see it as anything but the ravings of a majorly stressed out mother – sometimes she will end up crying herself (another self-confessed soppy human).
  • If she doesn’t have the answers or we are struggling to find our way past all the ‘redtape’, she will do what she can to help us – currently she is rereading Buzz’s file to see if there is anything we have missed in to that will give us leverage with getting him the correct assessments and support.
  • For me, possibly one of the most important things Shamrock does doesn’t do, is expect us to fit in with her timetable/diary – she goes out of her way to meet us when it is best for us. Even if that means she doesn’t come out until 8.30pm, once Buzzbee is settled.

I dearly hope that she realises how important she has become to our family, and yes, in a way Buzzbee is correct – she does feel like she is part of the family rather than a big scary authority figure.

And, even though there WILL come a day when she will no longer be directly involved with us. I don’t imagine that if there ever should come a time when we needed her, she would help, if she could (even if it is just to help with background history).

shamrocks

 

 

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out
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