education

All posts tagged education

What’s plan B?

Published May 24, 2018 by thefamilyof5

I tweeted recently, wondering about how or where adopters can go for support if the relationship with their county’s post adoption department breaks down.

Peer support is great but realistically other than a listening ear from other mentally and physically exhausted parents experiencing the same difficulties, there isn’t much they can do to help.

Adoption UK is a great place for facts and sign posting, but they can’t help you access the adoption support fund or attend meetings or offer respite or therapy.

Someone suggested approaching a local voluntary agency, and whilst I’m confident they would like to help, realistically who would fund them to support an adoptive family that’s not on their books.

So where can we go, when the relationship breaks down with your local support service it seems there is no where else to go.

Our own county has 1 manager and 2-3 actual social workers who work alongside 2-3 family support workers. When the newly assigned social worker told us that child on parent violence was normal teen behaviour and we needed generic parenting training our confidence in her was lost. When their manager backed her up and agreed the issues we were experiencing didn’t fall with the post adoption remit, we lost all hope. When the generic local parenting support team that they referred us to said that the difficulties were experiencing were way beyond anything they could help with, we were left feeling abandoned by the very services that were meant to be supporting us.

So where do we go?! When we need someone to help school understand attachment and trauma (because we all know schools don’t listen to us measly parents), where do we go? When we need therapeutic advice or support services, where do we go? When you’re confident almost all members of your family are suffering some kind of ptsd, where do you go? When your children are experiencing difficulties managing their feelings, where do you go? When you need support for siblings, where do you go? There is no where.

The system designed to support us does so conditionally, there’s no plan B.

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Let there be light….

Published December 1, 2017 by thefamilyof5

The second bit of good news from this week came yesterday in the form of a phone call.

Last year, when we were fighting to get funding for tuition from big girls ECHP, we built a really supportive and understanding relationship with a manager in the local authority SEND team. She really took the time to get to know us as a family and really heard us when we explained what the girls needs were. I’m confident if it wasn’t for her, taking the time to really listen to us, we’d still be fighting for tuition now. 

After visiting our local special school with that same manager from the SEND team this week, it was agreed that it wasn’t suitable for big girl. The upshot of this, is that the school we really feel is the most likely to be manageable for big girl, is now considered our nearest suitable school. This means that the local authority will provide transport! (If none of this makes sense, go back about 3 posts and all will fall in to place, I think).

The plan was always for her (and her sisters) to return to formal education, this is perhaps just slightly sooner than we planned, but it feels right and even more so with recent events.

Big girls attachment difficulties impact her ability to receive an education from me and inturn that can impact our schedule each day. Her autism makes socialising more difficult, and her attachment style means she avoids it. This really isn’t helpful for her, she needs friends, she needs  ‘no strings’ connections and social interactions with peers. I’m hopeful that she will eventually feel a sense of belonging at this school once she realises she is with children just like her, and who make no emotional demands of her (unlike family, inadvertently, does). Hopefully she’ll find herself.

So now we plan the transition. Big girl is still unaware of this plan, until we have concrete plans to share with her it’s better kept quiet, she’s far too emotionally fragile at the moment to manage such uncertainty. I’m hoping that we can start things pretty quickly, ideally before Christmas with a full time timetable implemented early January. 

I can’t fix everything for her, but I can do everything in my power to give her everything she needs to be the best that she can be. 

If only she knew how much she was loved.

What price should we pay for an education?!

Published May 10, 2016 by thefamilyof5

Why must everything be one long continuous fight!?

In the last 6 years I don’t think there has ever been a time when I’ve not been fighting for support for something for my children! Social care, medical support, education, its never ending!

I’ve been through some pretty tough things in my life, but being an adoptive parent is by far the hardest. Its a really lonely journey, and not many people, professional or not, truly understand the difficulties faced by children suffering the long term effects of neglect and trauma, which makes getting any support nigh on impossible.

We were forced to home educate the girls last year, it wasn’t planned, and it certainly wasn’t choice. Id hoped that the Local Education Authority (LEA) would help us, Id hoped that they’d recognise that I’ve done, am doing, everything I possibly can to help my girls achieve the very best they can. It seems not. We requested some help to fund some tuition via big girls EHC Plan (education health care plan, replaced the statement of special educational needs), not a lot, just a few measly hours a week, I think I said 3hours. It seems that even though they were giving schools thousands of pounds to support her in school, plus the £1900 for her Pupil Premium, they cant even pay for a few hours of tuition. She’s only 3+ years behind though so what the hell eh! Who needs an education anyway!

I also applied recently for an EHC Plan for middle girl, school had planned to do it just before we removed her. The LEA wrote to me today, apparently they don’t feel she qualifies even for an assessment, something to do with mostly achieving a level 2a in year 4 and being seen by an autism service to be chatting to a peer at school on one occasion and seeming to understand the instructions in class?! Mostly nonsense, the Level 2a was probably the only accurate part.

I currently pay £20 a week for 1hours math tuition for my girls. All I wanted was 3hours! 3 measly hours of tuition!! £60 a week! I’m fairly sure all the EHCP panels and tribunals they’ll make me attend will cost a hell of a lot more than £60 a week! They all attracted £1900 each in pupil premium at school, that’s without an EHC Plan, apparently I cant even access that, so where is that money now, what happens to it? The government set it aside for my children’s education, yet they can’t access it unless we completely risk destroying their mental health, and our family unit, just so they can be in school!?

My LEA would prefer I put big girl on anxiety medication (the real cost of which would no doubt be life long and provided by a different department) and sent her to school, rather than provide a few hours a week in tuition! They would rather that middle girl withdrew back in to herself and spent every day scared and confused in school (with therapy paid for by someone else for her foreseeable future), than provide her with a few hours tuition! They would rather my baby girl gave in to the chaos within her, detached from the world and survived in school (with services funded by all manner of departments throughout her life to keep her on the straight and narrow), than support her in an environment that she feels safe. My LEA don’t care if my children are achieving, feeling safe, happy and content (they weren’t in school) or having a mental breakdown, being medicated, or even if our family breaks down, because the cost of all that comes down to a different department!

It shouldn’t be this hard. ALL of my girls deserve an education and the opportunities that will provide them with, but they all also deserve a mommy that isn’t completely exhausted from providing it.

 

 

 

 

Trust

Published March 18, 2016 by thefamilyof5

TRUST

Firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something:relations have to be built on trust

I have spent the last 6 years trying to earn the trust of my girls, we’ve engaged in services designed to encourage the relationship and promote trust. I have engaged with professionals from various departments always maintaining a very open relationship. Secrets aren’t helpful are they. Helping my girls has always been my one and only agenda.

I have spent the last 6 years trusting that the professionals and support services around us were focused on supporting us to the best of their ability. I have been open, honest and trusting. I have placed my faith in the system.

I made a SAR (subject access request – request for files) with the placing authorities adoption department last year. I also made one with our local authorities education department last month and the high school we withdrew big girl from last October.  They made for interesting reading to say the least.

Trust. Seems it is possible to be too trusting.

I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to place my trust in the very ‘systems’ designed to help and support us. It seems their agenda is different to mine. Theirs involves a lot of finger pointing, back covering, box ticking and secrets it seems.

How can I help my girls to invest their trust in me, in this world that we live in, how can they know who they can turn to for help, when even I am unsure of who I can trust and who I can turn to for help.

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!

Big School, Huge Decisions!

Published October 3, 2014 by thefamilyof5

I mentioned a week or so ago that we were currently looking desperately searching, for a big school for Big Girl for next September.

Well the search is over!

I’d love to tell you that we’ve found the perfect school and that I’m totally confident with our decision and that its a school she’ll thrive in, but I cant, Its just the best of what was on offer. When I say ‘best’ I don’t mean it has great achievement records or that all the teachers teach to the highest of standards or that its a school with amazing facilities, In fact in all honestly I have no clue about any of these things because none of these things are important to Big Girl, feeling safe is all that matters, without that, the rest is unimportant. So when I say the ‘best’ school, I simply mean, its the best of the bunch to suit Big Girl’s needs. In fact it is the only school that I think she has even the remotest possibility of managing. So we’ve submitted our application, its a school way outside our catchment area but it is the only school we have put her name down for. All the other schools wouldn’t be manageable for her at all, so we felt there was no point in naming 2 other schools on the application, it really is this or Home School, I really hope she gets a place. She stands a good chance because being adopted, in the same way as being a looked after child, she will get priority over all of the other applications.

I’d like to tell you why we chose this school over all the others, and it really did just come down to size. All of the local high schools here have over 1000 students on the roll, and are situated in very large very complex buildings, this one has less than 450.

This school feels small, in fact when I first arrived I sat in the main reception area and I thought to myself how much it felt like a primary school rather than a high school, the floors were carpeted, the walls nicely decorated, it felt quite homely. So that was the first box ticked.

I was invited to the ‘Student Support’ department which is where I expect big girl will become quite familiar with, It was a small area with small tables and lots of friendly looking staff on hand. Next box ticked.

I was invited to walk around the corridors during one of the ‘class change’ times, I was surprised to see how calm and quiet it was, it wasn’t over crowded like all the other schools Id visited, the ceilings weren’t low, the corridors weren’t narrow, I didn’t feel claustrophobic. Another box ticked.

I was shown pretty much around the entire school which really only took a few minutes, the school is pretty much a square shape and mostly all on 1 level with only a library, staff room and couple of computer rooms on the upper floor, so really easy to navigate and not much chance of getting lost. Another tick in a box.

During my walk around the school I noticed lots and lots of lockers, so no having to struggle with coats and PE kits and bags and books, cause honestly, this would be too much for big girl to manage, she’d be super stressed hauling her stuff between classes and then be expected to sit down and learn. So big tick in the box.

They allow the vulnerable children to spend time in the ‘Student Support’ department during lunch breaks and have specialist staff available in the lunch hall to sit with vulnerable students whilst they eat, so no more feeling scared and lonely for big girl at lunch time. A huge tick in a box.

Just before I left the bell went for morning break time, I walked through the dinner hall and was greeted by lots of hungry kids looking for their morning snacks and toast. I didn’t feel intimidated, cramped or deafened, I felt relaxed, it was calm. Another tick!

I couldn’t tell you what Ofsted think about this school, and I couldn’t tell you what exam results they have produced over the last few years, I don’t know what subjects they specialise in and honestly, I don’t care. I just know that of all the schools I’ve visited, this is the only one she has even the faintest chance of coping with.

I’m not sure when we’ll tell Big Girl, most of the children in her class seem to already know they’re going to the local feeder school, she only knows that she is not.  She isn’t the same as most of the children in her class though, she is emotionally many years behind them so whilst they can manage this information so soon, I’m not sure she can. We wont get confirmation of her place until next March, but I’m not sure we should should wait till then?!  will telling her sooner be too much for her to handle!? I really don’t know when will be the right time to tell her, this is the next hurdle for us to figure out and hope we get right.

So is the this the right school?  did we make the right choice?  have we got it right? I don’t know. But what I do know, is that If big girl manages to see out her full education here, no, in fact if she lasts a year, I’ll be happy with that!

 

 

 

The futures bright…….. well, brighter!

Published May 31, 2014 by thefamilyof5

I was very privileged, along with a few other adoptive parents, to meet with Sir Martin Narey recently.

Sir Martin Narey has been advising the government on adoption issues since 2012, more recently he was chosen to chair a new board that will advise the government on how to improve the adoption process including post adoption support.

A small number of us were given the opportunity to share our stories and concerns. Education and Post Adoption support being the most talked about area’s.

Sir Martin Narey spent most of the meeting tentatively listening to the stories of unsupported families, he expressed sadness and disbelief to most of what he heard, he offered empathy and promised to take on board all of the information that was shared with him, and I believe he will.

Sir Martin Narey is a key figure in the future of adoption, if your involved in adoption and you don’t know who he is, then you should. He tweets and he emails but most of all he listens and acts.

If your a teacher, or head/virtual head, social worker or family support worker you also need to know who this man is, because he’ll be suggesting changes to your roles/training/processes too!

I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet the man that has had such a huge impact on the level of post adoption support we receive as a family, I feel hopeful that the future of all aspects of adoption will be better and brighter for everyone. Perhaps not today, or tomorrow, but I am confident that things will get better.

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