attachment

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Who’s to blame?

Published March 22, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I’m feeling really annoyed right now, REALLY annoyed, let me fill you in.

When we first heard about the girls we were told there were no developmental or learning concerns, we met with their school and nursery and were told they were ‘an absolute pleasure’, meeting all their milestones and learning inline with average expectations. Alarm bells should have rang in my head when Big girls year 1 Teacher couldn’t quite remember who her friends were or whether she wrote with her left hand or her right hand, or ate school dinners or packed lunches, ‘she’s a happy little soul’ we were told. Baby girl and Middle girl attended a nursery together and aside from lots of wishy washy information about how lovely they were and how pretty they were, they didn’t really tell us much either. Id never spoken to a teacher before that day, in fact the last time I’d been inside a school at that point, was as a student myself. I didn’t know what to ask, or what to look out for and none of the professionals supporting us gave us any pointers either, they were all too busy telling us how great it would all be. And we believed them.

We enrolled them all in school/nursery before we’d even met them, on the advice of the social workers that did know them. Apparently getting them in to a routine was paramount. No one suggested a period at home attaching to their new family, might be of benefit and I didn’t for one minute think it would be, why would I when I was surrounded by social workers that I believed to be experienced and far more knowledgeable than me about the needs of these 3 children, I hadn’t yet met. So they started school a few weeks after placement at the beginning of the school year in September with everyone else, apparently this was important to helping them feel they belonged. In hindsight, a year at home, attaching and building secure foundations would have been what would have really helped them feel like they truly belonged in this world, never mind in school.

It quickly became apparent that the reading that the foster carer had said big girl had been doing every day, was a lie. Turned out big girl did ‘read’ a book every night and she ‘got’ a sticker on her reward chart for doing so, but she read alone, in her head, with no one listening to her and apparently she never really got a sticker either because they didn’t get round to buying any (hardly surprising she finds it so difficult to let people know her needs is it). Big girl had become very skilled at being invisible, that’s why her teacher had been so vague, she barely knew big girl. She started year 2 at her new school barely able to read her own name.  The social worker and schools answer to this was to use a fund available for Looked After Children, aged over 5, for educational support to fund some additional tuition. So at ages 5 and 6 Big girl and Middle girl went off to a tutor for an hour a week for around 12 weeks (that’s all the fund would cover). Yes its true, I’m not making this up, and yes, I was stupid enough to believe this would be beneficial learning for them. Of course it wasn’t and had absolutely zero impact on anything other than the placing authority being able to tick a box. We plodded on. They fell more and more behind as their anxiety levels increased.

It was approximately 4 years before we requested the girls adoption files from the placing authority, they didn’t make it easy for us to access files and refused to share most of them with us. We discovered, along with some more alarming stuff, that Big girl and Middle girl had been in their nursery setting when the social workers arrived and took them in to care. No one thought to mention this, or how the impact of being taken away from their family, whilst in an educational setting, might impact their ability to feel safe in similar environments in the future ie anywhere away from home. I don’t know ‘how’ baby girl was taken, how traumatic that may have been, I guess that information is within one of the withheld files, given her issues with separation anxiety, I’m guessing it wasn’t pretty.

We battled on through primary schools trying to educate school staff about trauma and neglect and the lasting effects it has on children, whilst also trying to get to grips with things ourselves and navigate our way through an education system, with its confusing abbreviations that no one ever really explains to you; IEP’s, EYFS, EHCP’s, SENCO’s and SEN, with no one there to help us, or even guide us. There is no parent support school advisory service that is experienced, or even has a vague idea on the needs and rights of Adopted children. Hell, schools don’t even know this stuff. Your on ya own!

Here we are, 6 years later, battered and bruised, at our wits end and forced to Home Educate 3 traumatised children. They are all academically many many years behind their peers (despite cognitive results that say they’re more than capable of average progress, in fact baby girl should have been top of her class, not years behind), all completely unable to feel safe in a school environment, and at least 2 of which appear likely to be dyslexic. Its all now left to me to close those gaps, recap the missed EYFS, provide an education and do what schools have been unable to do with their loud busy unpredictable environments, oh and with zero help. Their entire future prospects now lie in my hands! No pressure eh!

Yes zero help, you did read that right! The girls are finally in a position whereby they actually CAN learn, their anxiety is at an all time low, they’re feeling safe in their environment and they’re finally learning! Our LEA have decided though that because we have ‘chosen’ to home educate, yes they feel its was completely our ‘choice’, that they are under no obligation to provide any support, not even via the EHCP that provided £1000’s of pounds worth of funding to school to support Big girls needs, or even a sniff of the £5700 (£1900 each) in pupil premium plus that schools got to support their needs, no, nothing, not a penny, no tutor, no help, no support what so ever. Because apparently ‘a school can meet their needs’. Pah!

Now is it just me that thinks that if a school could meet their needs then they wouldn’t have progressively fallen so far behind academically, that mental health wouldn’t have deteriorated to the point that Big girl needed antidepressants, just to manage school!? Does that sound like ‘school can meet their needs’ to you? No, I didn’t think so. It is in fact just a pathetic excuse for the LEA to absolve themselves of any responsibility for providing my already vulnerable children with the education they deserve and so desperately need due to not having had their educational needs met in school for the last 6 years!

So who’s to blame?

The placing authority for not being realistic about what my girls really needed in those early days?

The Local Education Authority for not providing a good enough education for my girls for the last 6 years?

The local authority for not helping us now?

Or me, for trusting them all?

I guess the real question is which one do I take to court first!

 

 

 

How are you feeling today?

Published January 16, 2016 by thefamilyof5

Emotions and feelings is something that middle girl and big girl really struggle with. Outside the safety net of ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ their emotional vocabulary is very limited. They also struggle with recognising emotions in others as well as themselves. Baby girl on the other hand knows all the different types of emotions, but sometimes isn’t able to put them in to the right context and is pretty oblivious to the idea that anyone else even has any feelings.

So I thought we’d incorporate some work around feelings and emotions in to our learning, The girls had great fun making these flip books and colouring them in.

We had a little play with the books and looked at all the different emotions we could make with them. Then I set them a task, I asked them to make a face each, decide what emotion the face was showing, give the face a name and then make up a story to go with it, they had to think it all up in their heads, no help, no sharing ideas.  It took a few attempts but we got there.

They  then shared their emotion/person/story with everyone else. It was so much fun, we laughed a lot!

Baby girl made Bob, Bob was soooo angry because he’d made a special trip to the lego shop and when he got there they didn’t have any lego!

This is middle girl, she made James, James was shocked because he went to his bedroom and found that his little sister had taken all of his toys!

IMG_20160112_1131173~2

Big girl chose Liam, Liam is feeling sleepy and happy apparently. He’s happy because he’s going to a party today and sleepy because the excitement kept him awake all night! (The face she pulled to demonstrate sleepy and happy was toooo funny, I wish I could show you!)

IMG_20160112_1133330~2

We’ve kept these books, I intend to re-visit this regularly with the hope of improving big girl and middle girls ability to recognize and express their own, and other peoples, emotions and hopefully baby girl will start to realise that actually, she isn’t the only person on the planet with feelings!

Ive linked this up with #WASO over at The Adoption Social where you’ll find loads of really great adoption blogs to read 🙂

*edit I found the idea here : http://blog.theautismsite.com/smarty-teaching-emotions-booklet/?utm_source=aut-autaware&utm_medium=social-fb&utm_term=010916&utm_content=link&utm_campaign=smarty-teaching-emotions-booklet&origin=aut_autaware_social_fb_link_smarty-teaching-emotions-booklet_010916

Our school to home ed Journey…………

Published January 8, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I have some new followers, I guess the new ‘Home Education’ tags have drawn interest from different circles so I guess I had better do a quick post to fill everyone in! are you sitting comfortably, you might want to go wee and grab a coffee before you start!

We tried school, it didn’t work for us, we now Home Educate

Of course there’s a lot more to it, so here goes……………….

The girls first came home at the beginning of summer meaning we had to get their names down for school before we’d even met them! We knew nothing of schools, or the education system never mind what the needs of our soon to be daughters would be so we had to rely on local advice when choosing the school/nursery. We opted for our largest primary, within walking distance, it came highly recommended by some of our older neighbors who had sent their, now grown up, children there. We visited, had the guided tour, I even took my mom along! It seemed lovely, they had lots of space, lots of staff and lots of experience with SEN apparently. We filled in the forms.

It was fine for about a year, well kind of, but then, so were the girls, kind of, it took about a year for us to realise that they were ‘too fine’. We soon realised this was compliance. Once they realised that we’d realised they were faking it, well the masks came off and the games began. We paid more attention to the subtle clues they gave us, we connected the dots and we noticed more. Baby girl, well she was a unraveling at school. She didn’t feel safe, there was too much going on, too many faces, too much time where she wasn’t supervised, and she knew it, she was stealing food/milk, cutting up her school clothes, being disruptive in class, being unkind to her peers, her name spent more and more time in the ‘red zone’ on the classroom wall. ‘She needs to know your watching her and keeping her safe, think toddler’ we said, ‘We are’ they said ‘So how did she manage to cut her dress up in class if you were watching her, she knows your not watching her, and your behavior system is making her feel ashamed’ we said.

Big girl was also struggling, she didn’t have any friends, she was constantly falling out with people in her class, her work was falling more and more behind, she was getting more and more frustrated, she began self harming at break and lunch times, she shouted at teachers and ran away from lunch time staff. She was scared and didn’t feel safe.

Middle girl was invisible. ‘she’s so helpful isn’t she’ they said. ‘she’s trying to please you because she doesn’t feel safe’ we said, ‘she’s got such a lovely smile’ they said. She became more and more invisible, hiding her fear behind her smile.

I cant blame it all on the school/staff, this was before the Pupil Premium, they had no real experience of traumatised children and neither did we. We didn’t know what they should be doing to support the girls needs and neither did they. But we knew the girls didn’t feel safe in school, we gave it 3 years before we realised we needed a smaller school with less faces, less space, less visitors, less everything.

So the hunt for a smaller school began. We narrowed it down to 2. One within our local area and one further afield. The closest one had a warm family feel about it, but the head openly admitted she knew nothing of attachment or trauma but would en-devour to do her best to support their needs. The school that was further away was marginally bigger, had that same warm friendly family feel about it and a head teacher that said she knew all about attachment and trauma as they had lots of adopted and looked after children in school. We signed the forms.

September came, by October it was very apparent that the head teacher, nor the staff knew anything about the needs of truamatised children, the open door policy the head teacher claimed to have was more like a door slammed in your face policy. Thankfully November bought her resignation. It took the best part of that academic year for a replacement head teacher to be appointed, it was a difficult year to say the least, a wasted year really, no relationships were made, no trust was gained so no learning took place. We then had quite possibly the worst summer ever, the anticipation of the return to a school that didn’t understand them was just too much for the girls. We entered a new academic year weary and tired. Thankfully that September bought a new head teacher and with it renewed hope. My hope wasn’t misplaced either, he was/is amazing. He listened, he accommodated and he did his very best to understand. He put measures in place, the most important of which was a Key Worker, she was/is also amazing. Between the two of them they did their very best to support us all as a family during what was Big girls last year in primary school. They used some of their pupil premium money on attachment training, removed the girls from their behavior modification systems, put in specialist support at crucial times throughout every day, added flexibility/consideration to the curriculum and vast amounts of extra learning support.

So the hunt for a high school began. We researched all the local and not local high schools, we knew a big school would be too much for her so we opted for a smaller one (same size as the first primary school but smallest we could get) outside our catchment area but everyone agreed it was the only suitable place for her, well everyone except the LEA, without knowing anything about her, they were adamant our local high school, 3 times the size, would be fine so they refused to support us with transport. We knew our daughter best and applied for the smaller one, it was there or Home Ed, we knew that much. We got the EHC plan the high school said she’d need and we did our best to make it through the year. Big girls tantrums worsened as her anxiety increased, baby girl got closer and closer to school refusal needing more and more support each day and middle girl finally found the courage to remove her mask at home and tell us and our therapist that even though she said she did, she really didn’t like school at all, she found it scary. There was a lot more to all of this, I’m simplifying it, many incidents, many indicators, many sick days due to stress, many tears and much hard work and relentless support from the school.

September came and before we even got big girl to high school, there were problems. Aside from discovering that the tutor she’d met during her transition meetings was going on maternity leave, We discovered days before school was due to start that the crucial key worker that they’d assigned to big girl, the one person that had the ability to help her feel safe in school by taking the time to build up a trusting relationship, was also key worker for many many other children most of which outwardly displayed their needs, unlike big girl who would need time and patience and trust before she would be able to even consider to ‘open up’. I feared she would become invisible, her needs over shadowed by the needs of those more secure needy children. I wasn’t wrong. By mid September Id already had a meeting with school, exchanged several heated emails and already requested an emergency review of her EHC plan. Her needs were going totally unrecognised, they were utterly unable to see past her compliance. Her anxiety was very apparent at home, once she got home and felt safe it would all come out, often in violent rages. Things were also made worse because despite her EHC Plan being in place with details of 17.5 hours worth of support including social skills support, reading support, emotional language support, classroom support, she received nothing more than a room to spend break/lunch times in, where she would build a den under the desk in order to feel safe, and a busy key worker to share with various other needy children. She’d scraped through a level 3 in SATS just a few months prior, yet was expected to do level 5 work, or at least try, without any support. By October things had become completely unmanageable for all of us. Big girls anxiety was through the roof and it was effecting the entire family. Middle girl had completely stopped ‘learning’ and was needing more and more support, she was withdrawing and showing signs of underlying anger, baby girl wasn’t sleeping, crying, clinging to me each morning and not wanting to go to school and becoming more and more ambivalent in our relationship. CAMHS had agreed to prescribe big girl with medication for her anxiety 😦

Half term came and the week was spent agonizing over what to do. Id asked both the LEA and high school for a review of big girls EHC plan several times, no action was ever taken. I was about to medicate my child ‘just’ so she could manage school. Middle girl was withdrawing from ‘relationships’ and becoming ‘shut down’. Baby girl was a mess, she was angry with me for making her go to school, but clingy and needy at the same time. All of this, just for school! We had to draw the line. We’d spent 5 years trying to get the girls to feel safe in school, things were getting worse not better. How much more of their childhoods could we spend unhappy and stressed out, just because of school!? They needed so much more joy in their lives, they deserved happiness!

So we made the decision to home educate. It wasn’t a snap decision, it had been on the cards for over a year, we’d discussed it with several professionals as well as family members, Id made no secret of it. It certainly wasn’t my choice, but I knew that we might at some point have to accept that they were just unable to manage a school environment. Id really hoped that the high school would get it right, if they had, well maybe things would have been different, if things had been going well for at least one of them, maybe it would have given us enough ‘hope’ to carry on. But it didn’t, it was falling apart from all angles, even with a super supportive primary school, baby girl and middle girl just weren’t improving and big girl, well she didn’t stand a chance at a high school that couldn’t even see her needs, never mind meet them. If we’d just de-registered Big girl, well, there was no way Id have got the other 2 in school, and if I’d forced them, the damage to our relationship would have been catastrophic. This was a make or break decision for our family.

So here we are. Big girls anxiety has reduced so much that we no longer feel she needs anxiety medication. Baby girl is happy, I can almost see her heart smiling, middle girl, well, her confidence has soared!
My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner!

PS remember the LEA that insisted our local huge high school was the best place for big girl, and as such wouldn’t support us with transport to the smaller further away school, well since I asked again for her EHCP to be reviewed in November, with a view to name Home Education and apply for a personal budget for tuition, they’ve now decided that the smaller high school, that they refused transport for, is the best place for her and are still refusing to review her EHCP (Education Health Care Plan)! Couldn’t make it up could ya!

Our schools need support too!

Published November 10, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Its hardly surprising some of our school staff feel so unwilling to expand their knowledge and understanding of trauma and attachment issues,  if this is how they’re feeling. (see link to news article) Perhaps this was the reason behind the issues we faced at High School, perhaps they just didn’t have the time and energy required to consider that big girl was really struggling.

ITV News Article

Taken from ITV News Article Above

Taken from ITV News Article Above

Our schools need better support if they are to be able to better support our most vulnerable children.

There needs to be better guidance and monitoring around the effective use of Pupil Premium Plus funds, schools need to be held accountable for each and every penny to prevent it being added to the general ‘pot’. Parents need to be included in the plans for spending, afterall, they DO know their children best.

Teacher training at universities and colleges at all levels needs to include vast amounts of training on the lasting and devastating effects of attachment and trauma. There also needs to be a requirement for compulsory annual refresher training for ALL school staff, yes, even the lunch time supervisors, sometimes their input can be hugely valuable to a child at lunch time when they’re struggling, without the knowledge and understanding it can also be hugely detrimental.

The ‘Virtual School’ (VSH) support from the Local Authority needs expanding to include schools with Adopted Children, as well as those schools with Looked After Children.

Flexible schooling and Home schooling needs to be encouraged, promoted and supported where needed. Some of our most vulnerable children struggle to manage a school environment, that shouldn’t mean that they’re unable to access the education system and the support that that provides.

An Adoption Order doesn’t take away the past and the role of school staff can have a huge impact on a child’s life. Knowledge and Understanding is the difference between whether that is a positive impact or negative impact!

Things need to change, NOW!

I’m ONLY the mom!

Published October 19, 2015 by thefamilyof5

So things are not really going to plan at High School. My big girl is finding it very difficult and school are finding it very difficult to see past her fake smile and provide the support she so desperately needs, which is mostly free I’ll add, just a little bit of empathy and lot of understanding and a little forethought is really all she needs, We’re not talking laptops and 1:1 staffing here. She’s coming home tearful and sad and feeling inadequate, I preferred it when she was angry I think, at least she still seemed to have some fight left in her. In just under 6 weeks of big girl being at high school, communication between home and school has become quite strained. I’ve been labelled as the neurotic parent that makes shit up. Its all in my head it seems!

So, there is a meeting that’s been arranged by the Senco at high school. Its a very important meeting. Its a meeting to discuss how to support my girl I’m told. Everyone will be there, all the professionals. A lot rests on the out-come of this meeting. Among the lucky attendees will be the autism support services, the head teacher from primary school, our post adoption social worker, even someone from the local authority SEND team is going. Its going to be a big meeting I expect, they’re going to need a really big table, lots of chairs to I expect, probably someone on hand to make tea and coffee and serve the odd biscuit. Everyone will sit around together, work together and discuss my girl, her needs and how they can work together to best support her. Id imagine someone will take minutes, which is a bloody good job really because according to the Senco, I’m not invited, apparently its a meeting for professionals and as I’m ‘ONLY’ a parent, he feels it wouldn’t be ‘appropriate’!

Happy National Adoption Week Everyone! #NAW2015

Homework

Published September 16, 2015 by thefamilyof5

So big girls homework tonight, after a whole 6 days in high school is ‘draw a time line of your life from birth to now including any special events’.

So here is a timeline of an adopted child (I’m making it up so you get the idea of why this homework was so inappropriate). I wonder how they’d feel if this was what she handed in.

Born in 2004 I had to stay in hospital for a while because I was addicted to heroin the nurse that cared for me was called Mary.

Christmas 2004 I was hungry and left to cry for 8 hours in my car seat whilst my parents got drunk and smoked weed.

Jan 2005 The police came to my house because me and my siblings had been left home alone.

May 2005 I was abused by my moms friend, he said it was a secret but I think its ok to tell now.

Christmas 2005 my dad hit my mom until she was unconscious and we spent the night in hospital, the nurses were kind and fed us, I had coco pops.

March 2006 the social worker visited and found me and my siblings wearing dirty clothes and dirty nappies. Mom was asleep upstairs drunk, Dad was out.

November 2006 was the first time my dads friend showed me porn on the tv.

June 2007 my dad was sent to jail for stabbing my grandad, my grandad died.

Feb 2008 my mom tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists. There was a lot of blood. My older sister called an ambulance. At the hospital I had a cheese sandwich.

March 2008 my baby sister was born, she had to stay in hospital for a while because she was poorly and kept crying.

July 2008 I had to go to hospital with a broken arm, my mom told the doctor I fell, but I didn’t.

November 2008 the social workers and the police came to my house and took me and all my siblings to another house and said we had to live there. My mom didn’t come with us and I forgot to get my purple teddy.

June 2009 the social worker told me I’ll be having a new family.

November 2009 my baby sister went to live with a new family, the social worker said I’ll never see her again.

Feb 2010 I went to live with a new family, my brothers and sisters didn’t come with me, the social worker says they’re too old to have a new family and I’ll never see them again.

September 2010 I started at my new school, it smelt funny

March 2012 is the last time my birth mom wrote me a letter, it was on flowery paper and smelt of her

Feb 2013 my birth mom killed herself, they told me she took some pills

April 2014 I got a letter to say my older sister hanged herself because she was so sad

September 2015 I started high school

I don’t think I really need to say any more about this do I.

** Edit**

I urge you to share this fictional timeline post far and wide, spread the word, lets educate our educators.

I’ve linked this up with #WASO over at The Adoption Social where you can read lots of new great adoption blogs.

The Affirmation Cards

Published January 29, 2015 by thefamilyof5

If you follow my facebook page then you will know that I’m currently taking part in another photo challenge #takingcare100.

Last week, for day 10, I decided we’d give the ‘Relax Kids’ affirmation cards a go.

I bought a laminator, trimmer and got to work to make these

They seem to be going well. All 3 girls have a new card every morning, they read it and pop it in to their shirt pockets. Their teachers are aware of the cards and use them as an occasional opportunity to talk to them and share a positive moment. Which the girls tell me they enjoy.

Baby girl thanks me for her card every morning and tells me she likes having them.

Big girl keeps telling me ‘they’re really helping me mommy’.

Middle girl (I’m told by our fab key person/teacher) enjoys an occasional quiet moment looking at her card with a smile on her face.

So well worth the hours stood in my kitchen cutting and laminating I’d say!

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