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Just a mum trying to do her best …..

Over 6 years ago Spud burst into my life. He is the best thing to have ever happened to me and I honestly couldn’t love him any more.

For 6 long years I feel like I have been fighting/battling and pleading for support.

Spud was over 7 when I adopted him. He is now the most georgous teenager.

Today I had a heated discussion with post adoption support manager and ended up crying and telling them that I had had enough of the fights, the battle and having to beg for support. 

I am not the one who caused my son neglect

I am not the one who abused my son

I am not the one who took drugs and alcohol while pregnant 

I am not the one who left my son to starve

I am not the one who put him in hospitial due to the injuries from abuse

I am not the one who who got high and couldn’t look after my son

But I am the one who is trying to put things right

Trying to make him feel safe, 

Helping him to learn to trust adults again,

Assisting him to make friends

Sitting for an hour every night rubbing his feet while he tries to sleep

The one who takes on the school to get the support he needs

Has a fight with the LA for the EHCP that is so desperately important

Sends emails begging for support to help him

Makes call after call chasing professionals for information/appointments and reports

I am the one who gave up work to ensure I could try do my best to meet my son’s needs

Who has cried so many times with sheer frustration

Who’s whole life bares no resemblance to the life I thought it would be

Today I decided that enough is enough and I can no longer go on fighting a system that should be there to support us. A system that is underfunded, short staffed and stretched to it’s limited but a system that made me cry again today. 

Today and everyday I am just a mum trying to do her best and being knocked back at every turn. 

Thinking ……

I have been thinking the last couple of day, I always find thinking dangerous! 

Anyway, I was thinking about how Spud would have been if he had been matched with different adoptive parents. We were in a competitive match for Spud. The other adopter was a single adopter who I know although did not know we were in a competitive match at the time. She couldn’t be more different to me. She is laid back, spontaneously, travels around with work and single.

I am a control freak and have found this side of me increase since Spud came home. He has needed routine, planning, information, structure and home time or has he? 

Would he have thrived with a very different life? Would he have preferred to have traveled around the world with the other adopter? Would he have coped without routine and a much more spontaneous life? 

Have I changed to meet Spuds needs or has this side of me just come out and I use Spuds needs as an excuse? 

Did the social workers get it right? 

I can’t imagine my life without Spud and so pleased that the social workers did decide that we were the right parents for Spud. 

Happiness is……..

If you had asked me 6 or 7 years ago what happiness was, I know it would have been very different to now. Would have entailed a beautiful beach, sunshine, friends etc.

Today happiness is very different.

We have been on holiday to Egypt for a week. Like many adopters we had to go through the pain barrier of holidays to even start to see the other side. We have had holidays where Spud didn’t sleep at all. Holidays where Spud spent most of it in tears. Holidays where I spent most of it in tears. Holidays where Spud would only eat spaghetti bologonasie and that included for breakfast! 

I am awake very early on a Sunday morning listening to Mr Football and Spud snore in unison. Looking back on the past week I have decided that my happiness is –

Spud sleeping in his own bed – yes it is 6 foot away from ours but he is still sleeping in it.

Spud eating anything and everything – yes that means 6 ice creams during the afternoon but we are all inclusive.

Spud making friends – yes they are younger than him and he can control them but they are having fun.

Family time playing in the pool – yes we are only a stop gap until Spuds friends come to play but we are playing.

Learning a new family holiday game – yes again until Spuds friends have have dinner but we laugh together. 

Being able to sit at a different table at mealtimes – yes Spud did spend the whole time giving death stares to the family sitting at “our table”.

We have had the difficulties like one day when it was windy by the pool so we had to sit on the other side. Spud could feel the difference, we explained why but for 30 mins anyone watching would have thought I had told Spud he was grounded for life.

Suddenly realising that the rules we put into place need to be given everyday and in fact, several times a day. I learnt very quickly that the rules I put in place on Monday, did count on Tuesday as it was a new day according to Spud! We now go through the 5 rules at every mealtime. It makes it sound awful having 5 rules but they are –

1 – Don’t climb up the water slides.

2 – Don’t swim under the water slides when people are coming down them. 

3- Don’t run along the pool bar.

4 – Have fun.

5 – Remember we love you. 

Not the hardest rules in the world! 

So back to my happiness, we have 4 whole days left and then we have made it! 

On a last note, I have discovered Gin 😀

The hamster wheel

Battles, fights, disappointments, being let down and misunderstands seem to have been my life for the past 6 years.

Before I adopted Spud I always thought I was a fairly strong person. Never has this been tested more than the past few months and it feels like it is ongoing. The told me during prep training I would need relisiance, be an advocate for Spud and stay strong for him. I didn’t realise they meant that this would be the case each and everyday. 

The past few months have seen me trying to get a referral for FASD. This was never even mentioned as a possibility during prep training. Drugs were, trauma was but nothing about FASD. Spuds birth mother died fairly recently and at a very young agefrom alcohol related disease. The coroner told me that there was clear evidence of very heavy drinking for the past 15-20 years. Meaning she started drinking in her early teens. Spud has a DX of ADHD and RAD both of which took a fight to get. There was always a feeling, a nagging I had that it was more. 

After I spoke to the coroner, I  started looking into FASD and to be honest, it was half hearted and reading documents through my fingers. A friends daughter was diagnosed and we spoke. I then attended a training session on FASD and it was like a lightbulb.  Spent the whole day nodding my head, feeling excited that this was Spud! Everything the trainer said and described I was agreeing with that Spud did it. It honestly felt a relief that there was something else. I was not just the neurotic mother I had been called. Suddenly there were people speaking the same language and understanding the subtleties of everyday life with Spud.

I made an appointment with the GP and poured my heart out. He looked stoney face and said that I had to take Spud back to see a GP before a referral could be made. I made another appointment, explained to Spud why we were going to the doctors and explained this in the best way I could why I was taking him. When we looked together at FASD he kept saying “that’s me mum, I do that!”

We went and saw the GP and went through the basics again although she had read the notes. Referral made to paediatrician – great! 

3 weeks later I call them check the referral had been received. I was told that the NHS had cut the funding and the paedtrician was not not commissioned for “just FASD”. She was unable to see us! Back to square one. No one in my LA or neighbouring LA’s has been commissioned for FASD.  I found a clinic a couple of hours away who would take an NHS referral but needed my GP to agree to fund £3500. This of course has to go to CCQ panel for approval and can take up to 4 months! 

I have written a very detailed statement to go through the CCQ and have my fingers crossed. In the meantime the EHCP is still not fully finalised despite us being in version 3 of the “final” plan. Errors, missing support details are just a couple of reasons we are currently on version 3.

We also had the communication and autism team not turn up for a pre arranged assessment due to them “being too busy.” For those of you that know me can imagine my face, the steam coming out of my ears and the shear desperation and frustration!

It really feels I am on a hamster wheel that each time I think I can step out, something comes along to speed the wheel up and I have to keep going, dig deaper and use much more energy just to try and stay upright. 

I knew adoption was going to be difficult but never thought it would be so hard to get the support and help we need.

Lying – being lied to and about

This blog is very likely to turn into a rant for which I apologise for. I am hoping once I have written it I will let go of some of the anger and frustration I feel.

Have been fighting with my LA to get an EHCP for Spud. He needs the extra help and support and understanding to feel safe at school and to even start thinking about reaching his potential.

The flight has been a fight and not easy. I feel that Spud was left down by the corporate parent during his 4 years in care and continues to be let down by the same organisation.

I could write a book about the difficulties with school but will save that for another time…….

This week I received the legal and formal ground of response from the LA on why they will not issue an EHCP.

I read through it and became shocked/frustrated and very angry over the lies in it. A “professional” who is in a power of authority has lied, not once but at least twice in the report. The very basis that the report has been based on a lies and huge great lies that can and are being disproved. 

I threatened a sit in at the County Hall where the LA are based unless someone saw me. It is not their first time I have had to do a sit in and I fear it will not be the last. I was seen and had taken the evidence I could very quickly gather to prove it was all a lie. I felt I was listerned to and it was taken on board. I went away feeling very slightly better. That was until I received an email from the said “professional” trying to cover their bottom with more lies and referring to the evidence I had taken to the meeting. This clearly demonstrated that the LA had gone straight back and told the “professional” about the evidence I had.

This made me feel rather uneasy but I guess I should not be surprised.

I then received a letter with the minutes in where they refer to Spud by a different name. Do they really care? Is it OK to get names wrong?

Again I went into Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory mode. I really thought I may burst with anger! This was a meeting that had been recorded to show the LA did care, they were interested but instead they couldn’t even get his name right!

I am now spending all my time and energy in compiling a huge report with evidence to prove they are  lies, they are great big lies and not “misunderstandings”.

I am not going to let the matter go, I am raising complaints and I want changes made but I want my son to have the education he deserves, to stop being let down and have a chance to reach the potential I know he has. Is that really too much to ask? 

NAW – Support

So as National Adoption week with the sub header – Support, comes to a close, I find myself typing this blog.

We adopted nearly 6 years ago. I feel that the prep training we had was so much better than it is now. However the post adoption support maybe better now. I remember the very early days of adopting and trying EVERYTHING to get the support we so desperately needed. I resorted to sitting the the reception in the main Council offices of my LA refusing to move until someone helped us. We did get support but should it really have come to that?

The ASF was like a present from Father  Christmas. It came with promises, hope and a way for us to get support all wrapped up in a big bow. Of course between us and the support we had to run a marathon, high jump some hurdles and wait, and wait and wait a bit longer but the support came. Last week we are told that Father Christmas is not real and his Elves can only allow a maximum amount of support per child. I think I understand some of the reasons but does not mean I agree with them.

Over the past 5 or so years I have found an inner strength to fight for my child and my family. It has come at a cost as I feel I am not able to be the parent I wanted to be. The fight for support takes so much time, energy and reliance that I seem to have little left to be a parent. This week I left my very part time, very flexiable job as I felt I could no longer carry on not giving 100% to either Spud or work.

School has been my biggest fight to date. EHCP that was rejected, TAF that no one was invited to, meetings where “managed move” was discussed without any warning or preparation to name just a bit of my week. Ironic as it was National Adoption Week – Support this week! Trying to help education understand our children. How the language they use impacts our children and us as a family seems an impossible task for me. 

No my child does not “chose” to ignore you but is has disassociated. Yes he does find change difficult and no “it is not on purpose he is unable to cope in class with an unknown teacher.” No my child is not “just naughty” or “have bad behaviour.”

I guess it is very difficult when you have a class of 30 children to change the way you work to help that 1 child but is it really so difficult to acknowledge him when he walks into class rather than have 10 minutes of him up and down in his chair trying to get your attention? 

Earlier in the week I attended training on how you can help your SEN adopted child, what support is available and what reasonable adjustments could be. That was run by adopters who work in education. Thank goodness I had thatntraining as it gave me information I needed to cope with the rest of the meetings that week. 

This week the support has come from amazing friends and my family plus the post adoption social worker. Without  the support from twitter friends as well I think we would be in a diffent place now. 

I don’t know what the next few weeks are going to bring, I expect them to be full of meetings, heartache, tears and difficult decisions but know support for us if there for which I am forever grateful.

If there was one thing I wish I could change about the support is the ability to access it in a timely manner, when we need it not when it can be provided. 

Without some of the struggles I know I would not have received the amazing support I have and I am very thankful for that! .

SUMMER 2016 – Keep Spud out of trouble

So Spud is nearly a teenager but emotionally much younger. He is easily led, gets bored very quickly and has a huge need to impress his friends. None of these are a good combination for the long summer holidays. Spud is a delightful child but needs help making the right choices. 

Back in January I decided that this would be the summer I needed to build my attachment with Spud, keep him from hanging around the streets and keep him busy. His peer group seem to be hanging about the streets for 12 hours a day everyday. His peers seem to spend all their time just hanging out and often getting into trouble. We don’t live in a particularly rough area but gangs do hang out.

This summer I have camped, camped and done a bit more camping. Spud is much better outside and away from electronics. We started the holidays at a large camp with other adopters that I organised. 28 adopted children with a variety of diagnosis, needs and ages. On paper it should never have worked but it did! It was a lot of work but @purdy2233 was brilliant and helped before, during and afterwards. The camp was so successful that next years is already being planned with a few more families joining us. 

After the busy camp it was great to have a very relaxed camp with @purdy2233 and @twoplusmunch. The kids played, the weather rained but we had chance to chill. I love spending time with them as we just laugh! 

A few day trips broke up the next couple of weeks and due to being away for the first couple of weeks, Spud wanted to be at home and not hang out with his friends – result! I was by this stage on countdown for the number of days I needed to keep Spud from getting into trouble.

At the end of the summer we had a week away with @purdy2233 and her amazing boys. We took the boys away abroad. We had a great week in the sun around the pool. For the days we planned the same routine. The boys sat at the same table for each meal in the same seats.  We kept everything very simple. The boys did so well and at times, it felt like a proper holiday with moments of chill time. It was incredibly hard work being away for a week and keeping everything as regulated as possible. At one point I was going to take Spud to the airport and put him on a plane home! 

Then the summer was over! Back to school and I could breath as I had managed to keep Spud out of trouble! 6 weeks of him having simple fun, building attachment, making memories and having fun but being kept VERY close to me.

I am still knackered, friends have commented how busy our summer was and I just smile. 

Summer 2017 is already being planned and lessons from this summer have helped with the plans. Camping being organised with other adopters, holiday again with @purdy2233 but we have booked a villa for next year. It means more work for us but hopefully much more relaxing and regulating for the boys with less pressure from everyone around them.

There is a need for Spud to spend time with his peers but too much time would not have worked for Spud this summer. 

This summer we laughed and made memories, positive memories. 

Social media – breaking the rules – me not spud! 

Spud is nearly a teenager in age, often a toddler emotionally but in his late teens in his head.

We talk about social media, how to stay safe, the implications, the positives and the negatives.

This weekend I feel like I broke every rule around Internet and social media safety!

This weekend I went to a conference with @purdy2233. The conference was held by the amazing Open Nest. So much of the interactions before the conference was on Twitter. For weeks people talked about who was going, the speakers, meeting up and the social side of the conference. I tweeted many times about the conference, tweeted I was going and shared information. 

I tweeted with others how much I was looking forward to meeting them, putting a face to their name and a voice to their tweets. 

We arranged to meet a fellow tweeter in a hotel bar and @purdy2233 even went off on her own to find her!

During the conference we spoke to many who we had previously only known via the virtual word.  It was amazing how quickly we were able to share personal information with someone who we felt we had known for years but in fact had only met in person 10 mins ago.

The adoption Twitter community feels very safe, secure, nurturing, supportive and full of people who just get it. Is this one reason why I felt it was ok to break all the rules? Did I think it was on to break all the rules because I am an adult?

Can you imagine what I would have said to Spud if he had –

Arranged to meet in a bar someone he had met online?

Shared personal information with someone he had only known in person for 10 minutes?

Listened to him when he said “it’s ok mum, I have been tweeting with them for ages ……”

Talked about people he knew via social media but didn’t know their real names?

Sat next to someone who has a Twitter name, uses 2 different alias and is still not sure what her name really is!

Told the Internet world where he was going to be all weekend, in a city he had not been to, meeting people he had not met before face to face …………

I love Twitter, the people on Twitter, the support, the community feel, the advice, the expertise, the understanding, the acceptance but on reflection, I do feel it so easily takes your guard away. 

I had the most amazing weekend, loved every minute of it, felt completely safe but it has given me the opportunity to see how easy it could all have been a different story and how vulnerable we all really are, especially our children in this virtual world of social media. 

“Help and support……..”

When I blog I try to blog positives even if it is a difficult subject. This blog I feel is going to be differnt! 

I adopted Spud as an older child 5 years ago. The journey has not been easy and could be described as “challenging” or, as I prefer “bloody hard work.” 

In the last 9 months  Spud started at secondary school and that was a very difficult transition. Just as I felt things were slowly starting to settle, Birth mum dies. This has caused the last few months to be vey hard for everyone. I asked for help as I felt Spud needed more life story work. Not only are the teenage years here but with the death of birth mum it was time for more support. 1st assessment of need was not worth the paper it was written on. Second assessment of need was better, or so I thought. I have not signed the second assessment of need but it was sent off to ASF. 

Various suggestions were made for support including 2 weekends of activity type respite so I could recharge my batteries while Spud had a good weekend away. Meeting arranged with the short breaks worker and then a leaflet is emailed to me to share with Spud. 

The aim of the weekend is to “prevent families breaking down.” WHAT? Who said our family was breaking down? How can I share this leaflet with Spud? He has had one placement that broke down before us!  WHO thinks this is a good idea to have the aim for the weekend around disoruptions? I can totally understand how for some families this is right and for the young people to have support and sessions around possible breakdowns but for a family not at risk and for a child who has been through one breakdown? Not on your life and I letting him go on this weekend. It would set us back 5 years, how would he trust us? 

HOW can professional who know our story think this is ok? I spoke to our PASW who suggested I spoke to the worker running the weekend. I did speak to her and she confirmed the weekend are for families at risk of breaking down and distrupting and this was why we had been referred.

I have either been totally misunderstood or our needs have been pigeon holed to meet a service that is available? I fear it is a bit of both. 

At this moment in time I feel –

Let down, hurt, angry, fearful of why we are seen at risk of breakdown, disgusted with professional that should be there to help, ready to cry, scream and shout and fiercely protective of my son and my family. So much so I have said I do not want to engage with any of their services. We have an assessment with an agency in a couple of months. It is over an hours drive away. When I raised this as a concern  I was told that others had raised it as well and it was not right, so why make the referral to them? 

Is this a sign of over worked/overstretched social workers?  A total lack of understanding of the real issues as text books can only teach someone so much? A case of making families fit into services available? Or a mix of it all? 

It maybe an over reaction from me but when you ask for help,you expect to get help and not be left in a state and not sure which way is up!!!!! Social workers ask why adopters do not ask for h LO and this is the reason why! The last few months I have cried so much I don’t think I have many tears left. The majority of my tears come from frustration with professions that are paid to understand and help. How can post adoption cause so much stress when we just need some help? 

Tonight is another sleepless night caused by the very people that say they will help ………

If Carlsberg did holidays ………. 

Ok the title maybe a slight exaggeration but it nearly sums up our holiday! 

I am writing this on the last day of our holiday while on the plane in the way home. If you count the night we spent in the hotel at Gatwick before we flew, this is day 13 of our holiday. 

That night away was truly dreadful! How can 1 pre teen roll their eyes as much as Spud did? I lost count of the number of tuts and oppositional behaviour shown to the point I was ready to leave him with the grandparents and go on holiday without him! 

Fast forward to the next day and the real Spud appeared. He was happy, laughed, joked and was great company. He even feel asleep on the plane for a couple of hours which is unheard of! 

When we arrived at the hotel it was very, very quiet with less than 100 guests and running at around 10% occupancy. I was very concerned that Spud maybe the only child here. Within minutes a mother and her 12 year old son came and introduced themselves. Suddenly Spud was off down the water slides with the boy and they had the time of their lives for 4 days. The other boy had his own quirks and he and Spud just clicked. They had fun the the pool, ate together, laughed,giggled and played cards. We had lots of relaxed fun. 

They chatted non stop which was lovely to see and hear. They were children without a care in the world. 

Then on the day that the other boy was going home we had a very sad Spud. He was sad his friend was leaving, had another loss to deal with and another transition. On the surface Spud coped very well but his eyes were sad.

Within a few hours another English family arrived. 1 teenage daughter, 1 pre teen daughter and mum. After what seemed liked hours of awkwardness from Spud, he allowed me to go and say hi to them. Spud took great delight in showing the girls around, taking them to the water slides, showing them the best pizza place and they quickly settled into a fun, easy friendship. Both girls have the longest legs you have ever seen and  towered above Spud which they would all laugh at.

They joined in with activities with Spud being a very good sport and taking a lesson on belly dancing.

The last couple of days have seen the number of guest rise in the hotel and this has linked with some increase in attitude, eye rolling and controlling behaviour from Spud. Of course it it also linked with Spud knowing the holiday is nearly over, he is going to have to say goodbye to the girls and more loss.

We have also seen a sudden dip in Spuds confidence and his need for reassurance and top up hugs, he has taken to launching himself in me while I am in the sunbed as this is an “acceptable hug.” Also a return of “my mum” instead of “mum.”

The positive to that is he has allowed us to get close again and go back to some of the games we played when he first came home.

One of his favourite games has been writing words on our backs with his finger and us trying to guess what he had written and then us taking turns to write on his back. Lots of acceptable closeness in the sunshine. 

He has eaten a wide variety of food, eaten well at the majority of mealtimes, chatted and been animated. He has joined in with poolside activities, laughed at jokes and been a delight in the whole. 

Tiredness is setting in and the need for control is creeping up. The selective listening is definitely there as is the need to be a bit more physical/sensory seeking.

The journey home has not been relaxed with the need to control rising, the not listerning increasing and the wall around him going up. The need to be fiercely independant is back.

We have had a very difficult few months since Spuds birth mum died and we all needed this holiday more than ever before. I feel the holiday has given us time as a family, time to relax and be us, time to heal and time to make memories.

It has given me hope. We start an assessment for therapy in June but to be honest, I think another holiday like this one would be as much therapy. It has given me the strength to get through the next few months as I know there are school battles waiting to be had on Monday – had emails over the school holidays! Assessments to go through and life to get on with. 

I think for this holiday we have seen glimpse of being an attached family and certainly fooled the majority who we met on holiday that we were “normal”!