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All posts for the month June, 2014

Forever

Published June 29, 2014 by thefamilyof5

There is a ‘Forever’ theme over at The Adoption Social for this week’s Weekly Adoption Shoutout #WASO

I asked big girl this morning, ‘what does forever mean to you?’

She said: erm it’s like us isn’t it, erm, like you being my mommy, cause you will be forever and that’s a very long time isn’t it, it’s like our family, we’ll be a family forever won’t we and we’ll love each other for forever won’t we.

And then she hugged me.

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The Talk, in School.

Published June 26, 2014 by thefamilyof5

Do you remember a while ago I had The Talk with big girl, well recently she had the same talk in school and last night I discovered just how hard she’d found it.

Lets start by going back a bit so you can fully understand.

4.5 weeks ago the anxiety began when I was approached on the playground by 2 teachers, who in front of the girls, spoke to me about how sports day was coming up after half term and I might want to consider keeping the girls off if they didn’t want to take part.

3.5 weeks ago, more anxiety because sports day was imminent.

3 weeks ago it was Sports day, which went relatively smoothly like it always has. That same week big girl came home with a letter advising that the school nurse would be visiting the following Monday to talk to them about puberty.
Later that week big girl came home with another letter advising that a steel band would also be coming to visit them the following week, and finally another notification of a planned trip to a local Caribbean restaurant to sample some of their foods.

2 weeks ago the Puberty talk took place, the Steel Band Played and they visited a Caribbean restaurant.

1 week ago Baby girl was told about her class assembly that was talking place the following week.

This week, Big girl was told about her class assembly that took place today and baby girl had her class assembly on Tuesday. Yesterday Middle girl came home and told me she will be having her class assembly (its 2 weeks away).

The last 4.5 weeks have been horrendously stressful for the girls which effects me and Mr FO5 also, with a constant stream of ‘stuff’ going on that’s set to continue until the end of term I fear.

Stress effects the entire family.

Stress effects the entire family.

So I didn’t notice the trigger, I wasn’t able to see specifically where it was coming from, sports day had passed, everything else went by seemingly uneventful, yet the difficult behaviors continued. I knew big girl was struggling the most, she wasn’t sleeping, her moods were awful and she was having regular tantrums at home. I asked and asked over and over what was worrying her, she just said ‘nothing’. Her sisters were anxious, there was a lot of things going on in school for them too but they were acutely aware of Big girls mood and it was sucking them in. I had 3 tired, grumpy, stroppy girls and no one could tell me why.

Last night after yet another foot stomping book throwing tantrum from big girl I cracked, I shouted, in fact I screamed, a lot, and sent her to bed, it was half past 5, I was emotionally exhausted and feeling every bit of her trauma. I calmed down and went up to her half an hour later. She was sad. I was sad. Eventually those all important words emerged, through her tears and from her frightened little mouth. ‘You know when the nurse came and I told you I didn’t have any questions after our talk, well, the nurse said my period will start at the same time my mom’s did when she was my age??’.

So much worry for someone so young.

So much worry for someone so young.

At a time that she was already feeling uncomfortable, emotional, worried and apprehensive she was made to think of her birth mom. She was made to wonder if it meant that she was going to be just like her birth mom in other ways too. She was left wondering how she’d ever be able to find out when her period would come because she wasn’t able to ask her birth mom. She was left feeling alone and isolated with her thoughts.

Big girl spends most of her time in school feeling lonely and she’s ashamed of her loneliness. She’s convinced that the children hate her and don’t want to be her friend because she’s a bad person, She doesn’t feel loved, liked or cared about in school and she brings that feeling home with her.

My poor poor big girl, she held it inside for 2 weeks, so scared, so afraid and helpless that she felt she had no one in the whole world she could talk to about this, not even me.

I’ve linked this post up at The Weekly Adoption Shoutout (#WASO) over at The Adoption Social

Sports Day

Published June 26, 2014 by thefamilyof5

A funny thing happened at school, for the first time ever, they proactively approached me about something they thought might be an issue, actually it wasn’t very funny at all.

Stood on the playground with all 3 girls at the end of the day just before May half term I was approached by middle girls teacher and the head of KS2.

‘We wanted to talk to you about sports day, Its straight after half term and we thought it might be a potential trigger for the girls so they may not want to take part’

I’m not sure if those are the exact words they used, but that’s what I heard.

My girls heard ‘you don’t have to do sports day if you don’t want to’.

I knew sports day was coming up, it had been in the news letters a couple of times and the girls had talked to me about ‘sports day practice’. Sports day had never been a major issue before, yes there has always been anxiety, but we’ve always coped and I’ve always been there to support them or give them a hug if needed. We’ve managed.

This time however, Sports day had just became a whole lot more stressful.
Big girl, who hates sports day, said as we walked off the playground ‘I’m not going to do sports day then ok mommy’
Middle girl gave herself pep talks all the way home ‘I can do, it’ll be fine, yes I’m sure it’ll be ok, I want to win but I’ll be ok if I don’t, I’m sure it’ll be ok, wont it?’ So much pressure.
Baby girl, well it was too much of a choice, ‘I’m not sure mommy, I might want to do it but I might not like it so perhaps I shouldn’t do it, but then I might miss out and regret it so maybe I should, but I might loose and be rubbish, so maybe I shouldn’t do it’.

This went on for several days, until I said ‘Your doing it, It’ll be fine, You’ve always done sports day before, I will be there, We’ll have a lovely time, It doesn’t matter if you don’t win, we’ll just have fun and enjoy it’.

So I’m now the horrible mommy that’s making them do something the teacher said they didn’t have to, great.

I love that school tried to be proactive, It shows me that they’re listening to me and trying, just a shame they didn’t think to talk to me in private.

Change

Published June 19, 2014 by thefamilyof5

I doubt there are many adopters that can read the title of this blog without a shudder of sheer horror running down their spine.

‘Change’ is difficult for most adopted children. In the same way that the Autistic child thrives on routine, structure and familiarity, the Adopted child feels safe when there is routine, structure and familiarity.
For the adopted child, this stems from their past traumas. At times of change in their past, bad things happened.
A new violent boyfriend moved in,
A change in mood was the difference between being safe or not,
Social workers changed everything when they removed them,
A change in foster carer turned their world upside down again,
A new family took them away from everything they knew, more change.

Change was always very scary, so why should they believe that change can ever be anything other than scary. Its not just a memory, a fear or a feeling, scientific evidence shows the traumatized brain of an infant develops and reacts differently to stress, than that of healthy typical infant brain.

Quick Science Lesson

Green: Neocortex - Thought (including planning, language, logic & will, awareness) Yellow: Limbic System - Emotion (feelings, relationship/nurturing, images and dreams, play) Red: Reptilian Brain - Instinct (survival, breathing/swallowing/heartbeat, startle response)

Green: Neocortex – Thought (including planning, language, logic & will, awareness)
Yellow: Limbic System – Emotion (feelings, relationship/nurturing, images and dreams, play)
Red: Reptilian Brain – Instinct (survival, breathing/swallowing/heartbeat, startle response)

The typical healthy child feels secure in their environment and operates from the Intellectual part of the brain called the Neocortex. This is the newest part of the brain. So during times of stress the neurons are ignited in the prefrontal Cortex part of the brain, this is the thinking part. This enables rational thinking and in-turn rational responses. Meaning the stress is managed.

However, the traumatized child is in a constant state of survival meaning they function from the Primitive parts of the brain. These are the parts of the brain that developed first, they kept us alive when we lived in caves and life was all about survival, they are the Limbic System and the Reptilian Brain. The Limbic System is the part of the brain which handles things like emotions, memories and mood control. The reptilian brain is the part that controls instinctive reactions such as freeze/flight/fight responses. So during times of stress neurons are activated in the Limbic system and Reptilian Brain, in particular the Amygdala with is buried deep inside the middle of the Reptilian brain. These primitive parts of the brain manage stress with emotional survival based responses without the benefits of rational thinking from the Neocortex. Meaning the stress is not managed.

See how the healthy brain on the left is functioning mostly from the Intellectual part of the brain at the front, and the abused brain on the right is functioning from the more primitive parts of the brain at the rear with next to no Intellectual brain function.

See how the healthy brain on the left is functioning mostly from the Intellectual part of the brain at the front, and the abused brain on the right is functioning from the more primitive parts of the brain at the rear with next to no Intellectual brain function.

Ok science lesson over, basically, change is hard for adopted kids and its not something they can learn to control overnight. In fact lots and lots of trust, love, consistency, predictability and stability is what is needed to help the primitive brain chill out, step aside and allow the intellectual brain to thrive.

We’re having a tricky time here at the moment, Change is attacking us from all angles. There was sports day, Mr FO5’s birthday, Fathers Day last week. This week is/was Health & Hygiene talks, school trips, visitors in school playing noisy oil drums and taking up space in the hall meaning schedules need to be changed, there are sporting activities taking place for tournaments meaning more changes to schedules and then there is the build up to class assemblies. Next week there are class assemblies, more sporting activities, and the build up to the end of the year. It continues like this for several weeks.

Is it any wonder my girls are fretting each morning about whether they need to remove their earrings for PE or not. Whether they’ll be doing phonics today or not. Whether they’ll have assembly today or not. Whether their teacher will be busy with a sporting activity leaving only the TA in class or not. It sounds so unimportant doesn’t it but in reality the primitive parts of their brains are in override, they’re in a state of panic because they don’t know what is going to happen next. They cant cope with the unpredictability of change. They contain this panic and fear all day, they hide behind their smiles and pretend everything is ok, because they reason that ‘if I’m ok, then your ok’ and that’s the best way they can keep themselves safe. Then they come home, emotionally drained and exhausted, they feel safer, and it all comes out. Its not much fun. There are lots of tears, sometimes mine too.

Their smile keep them safe.

Their smile keep them safe.

I put so much effort in to making my girls feel safe, we have the most predictable, consistent mundane lives you could imagine, I teach and pre-teach everything, I prepare and protect, I listen to them and meet their needs and slowly I’m seeing the benefits of this. Slowly, very slowly, they’re starting to feel more secure, they’re comfortable within their boundaries which is why they bring their stress home, they know they can safely let off stream at home without the fear of being taken away.

I also put a lot of effort in to helping others to understand the importance of helping the girls to feel safe outside of our home so that they don’t have to let it build up all day and bring it home. In particular school, after all the girls spend more of their waking days there and school is the primary source of all of their stress and anxiety. Change happens, I understand that, but these frightened children need to be prepared for change in much better ways. I cant be sure that all of their anxiety is driven from their past trauma’s, they all also have Autistic Spectrum Condition diagnosis’s so some could also be attributed to that, but either way the rules for ‘Change’ are the same, Prepare Prepare Prepare.

Managing the girls stress levels is draining and exhausting. There isn’t much energy left for fighting the same fight over and over, and I shouldn’t have to, It shouldn’t be this hard, I’m not making it all up, Its Brain Science!

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Adoption is not a quick fix!

Published June 3, 2014 by thefamilyof5

Im so tired of being faced with people that believe ‘adoption fixes everything’. The looks of disbelief when I try and explain why something may be more difficult for my girls to manage, or the eye rolling when I suggest they may need some extra support through a tricky period, or the sighs of exasperation when I try and explain how their actions impact on my girls emotional well being or the lack of interest when I ask for someone to be mindful of their words/actions.

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For example: Learning about ‘Family Tree’s’ can bring up all manner of issues, for a start it could leave the child wondering who they’re supposed to include in this family tree, which family? Topics about War and Famine, Deprivation and Loss, do I really need to explain why this might be tricky for some adopted children? seriously? Films like Annie, Despicable Me, Oliver, Rapunzel (there’s so many more) have themes along the lines of loss, abandonment and hardship and might not be appropriate for adopted children, films with ‘baddies’ can trigger those feelings of fear of the ‘bad people’ that they felt within birth family’s, NSPCC assemblies as great as they are can leave adopted children traumatised, frightened, reminded! Leavers assemblies can rekindle their own feelings of loss and abandonment, end of school year, in fact the end of anything has the ability to trigger those feelings. There’s more, so much more and each child is different, which is why its so important that adoptive parents are listened to and heard, because we know our children better than anyone.

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Adoption does not and cannot wipe away over night the emotional and physical damage caused by years of trauma and neglect. Nor does it repair brain damage, reignite cognitive brain function or even miraculously cure delays in brain development.

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I’m not saying that these things can never be improved, but I am saying moving a child to a new family and giving them an adoption certificate does not wipe their past, in fact, it makes things worse to begin with. To get that adoption certificate and that new family they have to loose everything, and I mean everything. Imagine your entire country being blown up and being the only survivor and having to move to a different country, alone, with nothing. Now imagine being only 4 when all this happened and imagine trying to make sense of it all and you may just begin to understand how that might feel, and that’s just the adoption part, what about all the devastating things that happened before they became adopted and the impact of all of that on their view of the world they live in, their veiw and lack of trust for the people that care for them and better still, their view of themselves. Its not pretty I can tell you!

So as well as unpicking and rewinding all the confusion caused by poor family life styles, neglect, physical and emotional abuse, there also needs to be Years and years of love, nurture, understanding and trust building and even then, sometimes its just not enough, sometimes the damage is too much for them to ever believe themselves worthy of love or even happiness or to ever be able to trust the people around them enough to live independently in society. Sometimes the damage is so great and so deep routed that it cannot be undone.

I believe that if people stopped judging, and instead worked together with parents, and stopped fighting them at every opportunity then things would get better for our children, the need for homeschooling for adopted children would reduce, the number of school statements for adopted children would reduce, school exclusions would also reduce and our children’s stress levels would be greatly reduced because they would have people around them that understood them and listened to them, which would mean a less likelihood of them requiring therapeutic interventions when they get older.

Raising an adopted child is hard enough without constantly having to explain and justify your actions to those entrusted with their care.

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I’ll leave you with a few statistics (I’ve linked them to the sources), sadly because so far no one has thought it important enough to actually check how adopted kids are doing after they get their pretty little certificate there aren’t many, so I’ll also include some great resources.

Between 1 April 2000 and 1 July 2012, 565 children were known to have had a post-order adoption disruption.
Nearly two-thirds occurred during the secondary school years; children were on average 12.7 years when they left their families (range 1.7 years – 17 years).
The majority (57 per cent) of the disruptions occurred five or more years after the making of the Adoption Order.

“A short survey completed by 210 adoptive parents from the 13 LAs taking part in the study and by 180 Adoption UK members which asked how their adoptions were going revealed just over one-third reported few difficulties; around 30 per cent said life was good but they were facing challenges.
About a quarter of parents described major challenges with children who had multiple and overlapping difficulties. Many were struggling to get the right support in place. Parents reported that they were physically and mentally exhausted and that there had been a negative impact on marital and family relationship.
About 9 per cent of the young people had left their adoptive home under the age of 18 years (average age 14-15 years old).”

“While those in the care system account for just one per cent of children, a quarter of those in prison were in care as children.”

Lets Learn Together

The Wall

Understanding Why

Calmer Classrooms

The Private Therapy Assessment

Published June 1, 2014 by thefamilyof5

Remember the Placing Authority agreed to fund an assessment for private therapy, well we had the assessment.

The assessment took place over a number of different appointments with us each individually.

The first appointment was me followed by me and Mr FO5. I met with the therapist in our home and Mr FO5 joined some time later. We talked about the girls, their back grounds, difficulties and what we hoped therapy would achieve. Around 2 hours later Mr FO5 joined the meeting and the conversation moved on to discussing our relationship and our own experiences of being parented as children. I actually find these sorts of meetings really theraputic, the opportunity to talk about and wonder out loud about my idea’s and theory’s as well as fears and emotions with someone who understands is always very welcomed.

The second appointment was myself and big girl, this appointment was held at a local village hall. In the room the therapist had placed some cuddly toys, some bean bags and a selection of clear numbered plastic wallets. After introductions and a little ‘getting to know each other time’, the therapist invited big girl to retrieve the first of the wallets, explaining to her that each one contained an activity for us to complete together. The first wallet contained 2 sets of 8 lego bricks and instructions for the ‘adult’ to build something, and for the ‘child’ to replicate. I built a small tower and big girl copied. The second wallet contained instructions for the ‘adult’ to draw a simple picture and the ‘child’ to copy. I drew a beach and big girl copied. The third wallet contained instructions for the ‘adult’ to tell the story of the first day they met the ‘child’. So I did, big girl found this a little uncomfortable and was eager to move on to the next wallet. The fourth wallet contained instructions for the ‘adult’ and the ‘child’ to play a game that they usually enjoy together. We played i-spy we each had 2 goes and then big girl decided it was time for the final wallet. The fifth wallet contained instructions for ‘adult’ and ‘child’ to put hats on each other. We were given a bag of hats and big girl was very happy to take part insisting that i took a photo of her with all the hats on. Big girl was happy to help tidy away all the toys when the session ended.

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The third appointment was myself and baby girl. The room was laid out the same and the activities in the 5 envelopes were identical. Baby girls was a little less compliant that big girl and often showed me she wanted to take charge and be in control. She also curled up on my lap like a baby when we talked about the story of the day we first met. Baby girl was also quite stroppy when the session ended and sulked.

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The fourth appointment was myself and middle girl. Again the room and activities were identical. Middle girl was very open about her adoption explaining ‘were’ adopted’ to the therapist a short way in to the session when they were getting to know each other. Middle girl, like big girl, was also uncomfortable when we talked about the story of the day we first met but unlike her older sister she didn’t try and hurry the conversation along she just sat uncomfortably and listened. When the session ended middle girl helped tidy all the items away and was very eager to leave.

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A report from the therapist has been sent to the placing authority which identified all the girls as having ‘overall difficulties well within the range of clinical significance’, her recommendation is 6 to 12 months (with a likelihood of 12 months being required) of DDP therapy (Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy) which will be facilitated with individual sessions for each of the girls and myself (and Mr FO5 when work permits) taking place no less than fortnightly with regular ‘catch up’ appointments with just myself and Mr FO5 when work permits. (So Im looking at at least twice weekly appointments for the next year.)

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The report has been forwarded to the service manager at the placing authority where by I assume they will read the recommendations and decide IF they’re prepared to pay for it. I envisage this will involve several months of debate between the placing authority and our local authority over who should pay.

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So, watch this space!

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