Tuesday, 15 April 2014

No, I grew in YOUR tummy Mummy.....

Over the past few weeks there has been a change in how Katie is talking about her Birth Mum.  Actually she's been quiet on the BM front for a little while now, where she used to talk about BM and ask lots of questions over the past few years.

We were chatting about her freckles whilst getting dressed a few days ago and were admiring Katie's beautiful freckles over her nose and cheeks.  I said "Do you know where your freckles come from?  She replied "From being kissed by the fairies"  This is my usual comment about freckles.  I agreed with her but then added "Well I think they also came from your Birth Mum because she has lots of freckles as well." Katie was interested for a moment or two and then changed the subject.

Later that day, on the swing, Katie said to me "Did you know that ******* (name of BM) is dead?"  I replied by saying "Is that what you'd like to think is true?".  She replied vehemently "No she is Mummy" so I just said "Ok honey" and we left it at that. I didn't want to push her whilst she was clearly making a statement about her feelings.  She is now 6 and entering the age where she may want her life to be more straightforward, with no loose ends.  Her BM is an almost Disney-like figment of her imagination so I can understand her need to make life have more clarity.

Today whilst coming home in the car with some friends Katie said to my friend's teenage son "Do you know whose tummy I grew in?".  She then started saying the initial "G G G G".  My friend's son looked a little confused, unsure what to actually say because he knows Katie is adopted and also knows the name of her BM.  I should just add at this point that this family are Katie and Pip's legal guardians so know their full story.  Katie then said that she grew in my tummy.  I replied "Would you have liked to have grown in my tummy?".  "I grew in your tummy" was the reply.  I'm thinking rapidly at this point as to what to say.  I don't ever want to lie to her.  "You definitely grew in my heart" I said to which she replied "I grew in your tummy" to which both me and my friend paid replied "Yes you grew in my tummy".  She then said "I did" in a tone that suggested she was actually saying "Don't you go paying lip service to me you two!".  She then went back to chatting to my friend's son as if nothing had happened.  There was clearly a very big statement going on from her though.

A third issue that has arisen is relating to contact with her middle sibling.  There is the issue that Kip might be attending the same school as Katie from September.  I asked Katie if she was happy about this and she has been quite non-committal about it.  I then asked her if she wanted people to know he was her brother.  She said "No" to this.  When I asked her why she said "Because I'll have to play with him!".

It seems very important to her at the moment to clarify her relationships in her life.  This is coming off the back of several weeks of very difficult behaviour yet she has been brilliantly behaved over the past few days. She has gone from rejecting to loving and cuddly.  I'm not going to complain about the beautiful behaviour but I am questioning what is going on in her mind at the moment. I think she wants to cement her place in our lives without any intrusion from complication and checking to see if we're going to reject her.  She definitely tests this issue far more with TCM who leaves her on a daily basis to go to work.  She was very perturbed that TCM wasn't coming with us on our lovely day out to Paultons Park today.  I understand that and I share that feeling wholeheartedly.  This does make me ponder about the training we receive about using the Life Story Book to talk about the children's history and I do wonder if it can feel like rubbing salt into a wound of being different.  I know how much I hated having two Dads when I was growing up because I had a Birth Father and a Step Father. I just wanted the one.  It was emotionally far too confusing.

I am going without knowing on this occasion and will just be led by what she says and does and see where we end up.  There is an inner anxiety within me about getting it right but I'm not sure there is a right.  I think Katie needs reassurance that she is loved.

Adopting an Older Child.......

I was watching the second part of 15,000 Kids and Counting the other day.......well sobbing through it is probably a better description.  The stories within the documentary were incredibly emotive and the reactions from the Social Workers hard not to empathise with.

I found the programme to be very emotional viewing.  Watching adoption introductions is the equivalent to watching a birth story for me.  Seeing the "Two Mummies" meeting little Tommy for the first time reduced me to a sobbing wreck as memories of our first meetings with Katie and Pip flooded back into my memory.   I remembered how excited and hopeful and emotionally exhausted we felt.  The stress of Katie's challenging behaviour over the past few weeks melted away as I remembered the little girl with the easy smile and our early ventures out together.  I thought about the close relationship with have with our Foster Carers and how much they both did for our children.

The programme really got me thinking about a few things though.  I was interested in Tommy's Foster Carers being allowed to be called "Mummy" and "Daddy" and my feelings of how confusing this might be for a child who is then moved on to adoption.  The Foster Carer in the programme noted however that she had moved many children onto adoption and this was never a problem yet I know of someone for whom this issue has caused a massive problem with the attachment of their adopted child.  This particular child has already called two people "Mummy" before being adopted and refused to call her adoptive Mummy by that name for quite some time and why should she?  What was the importance in that name for her at that point?  I would be tempted to challenge the Foster Carer on this very issue.  I noted that the Social Worker in the documentary pointed out that a change of name from "mum" was required but that seemed to be met with an unchallenged and somewhat belligerent response. It was probably a little confusing and late in the day to change the name of the Foster Carer at that point.  Surely these sorts of issues should be raised at the start of a placement with a Foster Carer.  It's a big issue.  What will the child call the Foster Carer?  In Katie's case she copied the word used by the other children in the house "Grandma".  Most of the children she knew in her Foster Carer placement were her Foster Carer's grandchildren so she used the same word.  My feeling is that "Grandma" is a word less loaded with connotation.  In the case of little Tommy though he would have grown up hearing his Foster Carers called "Mum" and "Dad" by the couple's other adopted daughter so would have naturally copied her.  I am left with feeling that this is an issue that needs to be discussed and highlighted more with Foster Carers.  I'd also be interested to see any research on the subject or psychological reports on whether it is damaging to the long term attachment of the child.

Several programmes on adoption recently have highlighted the plight of older children in the care system who do not get chosen for adoption because of their age. There is often an accusatory edge to be heard in the voice of a Social Worker who comments on adopters only wanting to adopt younger children.  I cannot stand in judgement here because we were adopters who wanted to adopt a younger child.  But why was that?  Well of course there is the obvious emotional desire to want to experience a child from as early in their life as possible and just fit in with your friends who have had birth children.  We went into adoption on the back of years of infertility so there was obviously a longing for a young child as part of that.  People who knew we were going to adopt commented that we should have a younger child (amongst a lot of other statements that I would now challenge).  I know I wasn't overly bothered about having a baby but I wanted time at home with my child before they started school to bond and get to know one another and do all the things that parents and younger children do.

But there is another reason why we didn't consider an older child and that reason is due to the training we experienced on the prep course we attended when going through the approval process.  On our prep course we were given lots of case studies to discuss.  Many of these stories were of older children or sibling I groups with multiple needs and emotional difficulties that would need specialist parenting.  They were scary stories and I know of people who pulled out of the adoption process because of the anxiety caused by those stories.  I know that the thought within the case studies was to get trainees thinking about how they might parent challenging behaviour but the over-riding feeling left over was that of fear.  When we attended our second prep course during the approval process for Pip I made considerable effort to highlight to the first time adopters that very few children ever present with all the issues highlighted in each made up case.

In 15,000 Kids and Counting I felt incredibly emotional watching the story of Lauren and Liam and the long search to find them adoptive parents.  Their Social Worker quoted that all Lauren wanted was a Mummy who didn't smoke or take drugs and would be nice to them.  That sounds simple right?  Is it that simple though?  The feeling I was left with from our prep course was that it wouldn't be that simple due to the child being emotionally damaged and unable to attach well and having painful memories from their early experiences that might bring about really undesirable behaviour.  Our prep course's favourite example of difficult behaviour was smearing excrement over the walls.  I'm pretty sure that put everyone off.  I am someone who is really well trained in supporting teenagers with significant problems but even I felt nervous about living in such a situation full-time.  But is that a fair representation of an older child needing to be adopted?  If you go by the story of Lauren and Liam it would seem not.  Lauren pulled at my heart strings and I realised that, had I known of a situation like Lauren and Liam during our adoption process, I would have been willing to discuss adopting an older child as part of a sibling group but our desire to adopt a child under the age of 5 was never challenged.  I have also since met a lady who was adopted at the age of 11 years and she is happy and well adjusted and speaks lovingly of her adoptive parents.  She is incredibly appreciative of the gift of her adoptive parents and the love she was shown by them.  She admits that she was a challenge at times and I've not had the chance to go into more details with her than that currently. Might she be the norm rather than the exception?  The thing is, as an adopter, I have no idea.  I was never given that information, probably because the adoption of older children is so uncommon these days there isn't data to provide.  I will say though that I was delighted to see that adopters were found for Lauren and Liam and I really hope that their lives will be happy and full of love.

I have discussed the issue of the information given at prep course with our Social Worker more recently and feel happier to hear that they are now changing their presentation of the prep course including those case studies.  I am also going to attend some future prep courses as the adopter and am excited to have the opportunity to do that with our Social Worker and be able to present our story to people.  I am already helping by chatting to prospective adopters which has been organised by our Social Worker.  Our story isn't straight forward and our lives aren't picture perfect.  We have some challenging behaviour to manage and emotional issues to support but our story is very far from the stories we read about in our first prep course. There are of course lots of adoptive families I know who have incredible challenges on a daily basis but these aren't necessarily children who were adopted as older children so I do feel that older children should not be dismissed in favour of younger children.

My message to any Social Workers reading this is to ask you to look at the training you offer adopters and the one-to-one conversations you have during the home study and think about the messages you are giving adopters about adopting older children.  Present real case studies of older children needing adoptive homes and explain what sort of help and support the children might need.  Help adopters see how their skills are transferable for an older child and present an honest reality of adopting an older child instead of constantly focusing on all the negatives.  Don't just blame adopters for not wanting to adopt older children when the messages we are given are often very negative. Most of all there needs to be money in the pot for post-adoption support if it is needed. Oh and that support needs to be ongoing for as long as it's needed. Not just for a short period of time!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Pip's Medical.....

I took Pip for his LAC medical today.  Of course it could be noted that he shouldn't even still be a Looked After Child but that will hopefully be rectified by the end of this month *gives an excited squeak and crosses fingers tightly*.

Pip is a very healthy and happy little chap.  He is well attached and is incredibly content.  He has a smile for nearly everyone he meets and his personality is noted by everyone who is lucky enough to meet him.  He is developing well and doing everything he should do at the time he is supposed to be doing it.  I shouldn't be anxious about a medical then should I?

I knew I shouldn't......

..........but I was.......... 

.....because it meant getting him weighed.

I've held true to my mutiny after Pip's 1 year weigh in.  I'd had enough of the pressure put on me to reduce his weight by that point and, after the Health Visitor noted that she felt we were doing everything we could to help resolve his weight at that check-up, I've not taken him to be weighed since.  I will just note that that decision was made with the Health Visitor's blessing because I shared with her how anxious and pressured I was feeling.

Today was the first weigh-in in nearly 6 months.

I noted to a friend that this was worse than being weighed in a slimming club and joked about whether I should starve him before his weigh-in.  Only joking of course.  The one thing I have been clear about since Pip joined us was that he was not going on a diet.  That is unthinkable to my mind. You don't put a baby on a diet.  We have watched his food intake very carefully though and his diet is very high in veg, fruit and carbs and low in sugary treats and crisps etc.  He has full-fat milk twice a day just as any other baby and water in-between.  To be honest, as a baby/toddler, that's exactly how it should be anyway. Children shouldn't be eating tons of sugary snacks.  He does get a lot of rice cakes though.

Everyone has commented on how much better Pip is looking these days, mostly with an incredulous look on their face.  I predicted that his weight would stabilise as soon as he started walking and I have been proven right.  He looks almost like a regular sized child.  He has gorgeous chubby cheeks still and snuggly-wuggly, cute legs but barely any additional tummy weight now so I shouldn't have been concerned about him being weighed but there was a big hope that we had reduced his centile placing.

The medical was a breeze.  There are a lot of questions but there was nothing to report because he's so well and healthy and meeting all his developmental goals. He's actually only gained 6lbs since he joined us and now weighs 2st.  He's still on the 91st centile for weight but this has dropped from being above the 91st centile to just being on it.  His height has jumped up from the 50th centile to the 75th centile so his height and weight are starting to meet each other again now.  All in all the Health Visitor was delighted with him and told me categorically she is not worried about him at all.

*takes deep breath*


I really shouldn't be sitting here in tears should I?

That shows me just how stressed this whole issue has made me and it makes me angry because it was unnecessary to put me under such pressure.  I have told my Social Worker and the Health Visitor my feelings and I hope by sharing this here that other people will feel more confident in their abilities than I did initially.  I am much more confident now and I know that this tapped into anxieties I have about my own weight but I don't always think that people involved in adoption (particularly our Medical Adviser) stop and consider how the adoptive parents feel and actually how long it might take to resolve an issue.  Rome definitely wasn't built in a day. It's taken us nearly 11 months to get to this point and I feel that this issue has robbed me of some of the enjoyment of my son in our earlier days because of the anxiety around his weight.

It's good news though now and I am stepping into the future without a backward glance now although if you look closely you might see me giving the bird to the people who contributed to all the stress.

To Tigger......

 I was in the shower the other morning when Katie came in to show me a letter she had written to Tigger, from the Winnie the Pooh stories by A A Milne.

We had been reading the story of Tigger and his family tree the evening before.  In the story Tigger feels sad that he doesn't have an album of family photographs and goes in search of the people who look like him because he feels he is the only one of the gang who doesn't have photographs of his family.  There is some confusion created because he thinks he has to look in the trees to discover his family tree.  Tigger's friends worry about him whilst he's gone and when he returns, feeling sad, without having found his family, they write him a letter pretending to be from his family to say hello.  Tigger anounces this means that his family are coming to visit and Winnie the Pooh; Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Roo decide to dress up in Tigger suits and pretend to be his family.  The ruse is soon discovered and Tigger realises that his true family are his wonderful friends who live with him in Hundred Acre Wood.

It was a bedtime story that I have read many times and didn't give much additional thought to until Katie read me her letter.

Katie had obviously been thinking about the story and felt some empathy towards Tigger and his lost family. I wondered if this was just empathy or, as is often the case with empathy, it had struck a seed of similarity within Katie.  Was she simply showing kindness towards Tigger or was she expressing an inner need within herself?

I responded, as best I could in the circumstances baring in mind I was in the middle of washing my hair with the shower water running over me, by commenting on how lovely the letter and her writing were and how thoughtful she was. I then asked her if she remembered how the story ended.  She remembered Tigger's friends dressing up as Tiggers so they could look like him and we talked about how Tigger hadn't realised that his family was right there with him all along and even if they didn't look like him they were still his family.  Katie seemed very happy with this and skipped off to do something else and discarded her letter.  It's actually since occurred to me that only Roo and Kanga are birth family within the books anyway, but I could be accused of overthinking this whole thing although I am suddenly seeing the books in a whole new light.

As I finished my shower I pondered on the reasons why this story might have resonated with Katie.  The similarities within the story to adoption don't need explaining but one thing I did realise is that I am unlikely to ever hear my children comment on things like this without wondering if they are expressing their own inner need regarding their birth family.  There can be no innocence in what they say for me in all honesty.

In reality, for all I know, Katie might have simply just shown some of the first signs of proper empathy she has shown since she was about 4 years old.  It might just be that her ability to feel another person's emotions has started to develop.  It might be the shared link in the story that has triggered that in her but she may have given it no deeper thought than that.  She certainly hasn't started any conversations about her birth family as a result of reading the book and she generally speaks her mind and asks questions when she's worried about something.  I decided not to ask her any further questions because I wanted to preserve her own interpretation of the story and not colour that with the direction my thoughts took.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The National Fostering Agency: Part 3

In the third and final part of a 3 part series about Fostering the National Fostering Agency write about the support that Foster Carers give through the Adoption Process.  If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of the series then click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

How Foster Carers Support Children Through 
The Adoption Process

Many people confuse the role of foster parents with adoptive parents. The two are not the same and the responsibilities and roles of each have many differences, as well as some similarities, of course.

However, foster parents often have a role to play in the adoption process, either by choosing to adopt the foster children themselves or by preparing the kids for adoption at a later date.

Fostering is about offering short- to medium-term care for children who require it. This could be in the form of respite from their normal living conditions, or on a more long-term basis. It all depends on the circumstances of the individual child. In many cases, the child will go back to living with its natural parents once the circumstances have changed but this is not always the case.

In some cases it will be decided it is in the best interests to follow the adoption route. As a foster parent, it is often the case that you might choose to adopt the child. If you have come to develop a caring and loving relationship with the child, it may seem like the natural thing to do. However, there are no obligations and adoption may not be an option. In these circumstances, the child may be adopted by other people who are in the position to do so.

As a foster parent, you can help by talking to the child and using the relationship you have developed to prepare them for the adoption process. It is a very important role because as you might imagine, adoption is a very significant process for everyone involved and it has to be prepared thoroughly at all levels.

Listening to the child’s needs, concerns and hopes for adoption is very important. As is communicating how the process works and making sure they understand what is happening at every stage of the process.

Of course, there are some benefits to foster-adopting. In fact, it is often a very good idea for prospective adoptive parents to try fostering first, so that they understand what may be required. Foster parents who later adopt have the advantage of being able to develop a stable relationship and happy situation before the next stage of the process. This continuity is very important.

For the foster parents who become adoptive parents, it is often better to be able to know you can care for the children without the constant oversight from an agency, although there will still be some level of monitoring to assess how things are going.

However the process works - and as mentioned it is different in almost every case - the role of the foster parent is very important and can not be underestimated. Foster parents should speak with other foster carers, adoptive parents and agency workers to understand how best they can help to ease the transition. The needs of the child are paramount at all times but the fact that everyone involved is emotionally involved should never be overlooked. 

Would you like to be a Foster Parent?

If Fostering is something you are interested in doing or you would like to talk to us further then come and check us out at: 

NFA Website at http://www.nfa.co.uk/  or
Email:  info@nfa.co.uk or
Phone: 0845 200 4040


Editors Note from Gem at Life with Katie: 
This post was written by the National Fostering Agency

No fee or recompense was received for sharing this post.


Friday, 4 April 2014

15,000 and Counting: Part 1

Last night Channel 4 aired the first in it's new three part series looking at the different aspects of adoption. The first episode followed several people whose children were taken into care following child protection orders being granted.  It was very emotional viewing for me as an adopter knowing the story of my children and, judging by the response I've seen on Facebook and other social media, for many others as well.  The programme has people talking and thinking and asking questions and I am sure effected many people in many different ways.  If you haven't watched the programme, here is a link to the 4OD service to access the programme.

I think it's important for people to think about adoption and the circumstances that lead to the outcome of children being removed from their Birth Parents.  It's not pink and fluffy.  In the UK it rarely involves a Birth Parent thinking that adoption is the best option for their child.  It's brutal and deeply upsetting for all the people involved.  It's important, I think, to consider the issues and stories with empathy and understanding. It's easy to demonise people but once upon a time that Birth Parent was a child as well.  The odds are that child wasn't treated as well as they should have been by their own family and they possibly grew up without the skills they needed to look after themselves properly and make choices that would keep them safe and well or maintain good boundaries of behaviour.  Bringing yet another child into that chaos is a recipe for more damage and a never-ending cycle of repetition.  I think Channel 4 highlighted this well in their programme and I felt sad for most of the Birth Parents whose stories were shared whilst understanding why the children needed to be taken into care.

I felt a dawning realisation whilst watching the programme at the level of evidence that is required to remove a baby from their Birth Parent at birth.  This is a story that is very close to home for us and I suddenly felt the story that is written down in our Permanence Reports come alive and the enormity of the evidence hit me hard.  I also felt the emotions of each of people involved from the Birth Parent to the Social Workers involved.  Social Workers have an incredibly difficult job to do.  It's a wonder that anyone would want to put themselves into the firing line they way they do. I can imagine that there is a passion to help and protect people that keeps them in their jobs.  I felt this came across from the Social Workers in the programme. One of the Social Workers noted that she wasn't perfect and isn't right 100% of the time and that she and the courts can only go on the evidence that she has at the time but she doesn't always know whether the decision is for the best or whether the child will grow up and question the decision to remove them from their Birth Parents.  That must be hard to live with because there will always be times when there is a miscarriage of justice but the need to protect the children has to come over and above anyone else because they have no voice and are unable to make choices for themselves.

I think often of Katie and Pip's Birth Parents and a conversation in the programme with one of the Social Workers and a Birth Parent highlighted how complicated adoption can be for everyone involved.  The Birth Parent said that she was her child's mum and nobody else would ever be his mum and the Social Worker agreed with her and said that even when a child is placed for adoption that doesn't change.  This is tough to hear as an Adoptive Parent because I am Mum to my children and I have legal rights for them and I love them every bit as much as I would have done had I given birth to them myself. Yet this is something that I reflect on especially in my conversations with Katie about her Birth Mum.  As an Adoptive Parent I have to be an ordinary mum for my children yet I also have a foot in a world very different from my friends who are Birth Parents because they aren't Mum to children who also have another Mother.  They don't have to write contact letters twice a year and not have those letters answered; they don't have to explain to their daughter why she needed to have a new Mummy; or have conversations about issues that a 6 year old child shouldn't even know about. They won't have to answer the question "Why couldn't my Birth Mum make the changes she need to do in order for me to stay with her?" Yet she will always be the person who carried them and gave birth to them with feelings for them and that makes her important and it's important to keep that in mind.

This issue has raised questions amongst friends regarding the Birth Mum in the programme who didn't attend her final farewell with her child.  There was also a need to understand why some of the parents didn't fight for their children or leave abusive partners in order to keep their children. Mums trying to understand how another mum didn't do everything she could to keep her child.  I can understand their feelings because I know I would do anything for my children and fight to the ends of the earth for them.  However I have some self-esteem; I have a stable relationship with TCM; I have boundaries about what I will accept from other people and I know I have a voice and choices.  I have overcome the issues from my past with counselling and lots of support.  That's not the situation for everyone. Often people don't feel that they can fight because life has taught them it's pointless.  They may not feel able to leave an abusive relationship because they do not know how love really feels. They may be in so much emotional pain themselves that they are unable to see beyond numbing that pain.  How can someone in that situation take care of another person when they can't take care of themselves?  Some people are able to rise above all of that and make the changes needed to keep their children but many aren't.  We often wonder how many more children will be born to Katie and Pip's Birth Mum before she will be able to make the changes needed for those children to remain with her.  I feel sad for the life she has had and understand why things are the way they are but there is a part of me that wants to shout "Why can't you engage with the help available to you and make those changes for yourself?" It's not that simple though and that makes me feel so very sad for her.  I felt particularly sad in the programme for Emily who showed such empathy about her daughter's attachment and not wanting to contest the adoption because of the impact on her.  I felt so frustrated for Emily because she couldn't see the damaging relationship she was in and that she didn't leave her partner in order to be able to care for her daughter.  I wondered where her outside support was and why she was in this situation.

Several times in the programme the Social Workers were called "scum" by Birth Parents.  It's understandable why there is so much anger fired towards the Social Workers but they do a job that few of us could do.  They are, for the most part, pretty amazing people who want to help.  I know from my work as a Counsellor and Personal Adviser for Connexions how frustrating it can be to put enormous amounts of energy into helping people who just aren't able to participate long-term in that process. Our Social Workers have always done everything they can to help us.  It might not always be enough due to limitations in the service and limitations in their time but I have never doubted their commitment.  I am going to end this blog piece by saying Thank You to all the Social Workers involved in our adoptions and recognise the tough job they perform.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

National Fostering Agency Part 2:

In the second part of a series of three posts from the National Fostering Agency the question of what qualities children look for in their foster carers is answered. If you missed Part 1 of this series then the post can be found here:

What Qualities Do Children Look For In Foster Carers?

Parents often want their children to be clever, polite, sporty, successful and countless other qualities. Some even go to some extreme lengths to ensure that this is the case. However, being a foster parent it’s not about you or what you want, it’s about the children and what they need from you.

Most foster parents do what they do because they love it. They enjoy having the children around and get just as much from the relationships. After all, they’re just people and not saints, and they have their own reasons for wanting to foster. But the bottom line remains that they need to do what is best for the foster children that come into their lives.

Now in most cases, this involves being consistent and laying down rules and regulations that create a stable environment. Foster children have to abide by the rules of their foster parents when in their homes. You might think this is not quite what the children themselves would want but you’d be wrong. One of the main things that any foster child says about the qualities they look for in a foster parent is consistency. They want to be able to trust the foster parent and know where they stand. More important than that, they want to be treated as if they were their own children – and that involves rules and stability.

Foster children want their foster parents to be kind and happy, always smiling and generous too. They want to be made to feel welcome and they want the foster parents to listen to what they have to say and to learn to trust them.

In short, foster children want exactly the same things from foster parents as any child does from any parent. Children are often very intuitive and have a clear understanding of what they really need from foster parents. And as a foster parent, it is your duty to try your best to provide this for them.

Parents might want their children to be all the things mentioned above but they also know that more importantly than that, their main job is to ensure they provide their children with all the things they need to make them feel safe and happy. As a foster parent, you need to know that this same for you. There may be some subtle differences but the essentials remain the same.

If you think that you can offer these qualities to a child who may need them desperately, then you may be the right kind of person to foster children. It is not always an easy job and while children all need the same things deep down, they don’t always necessarily recognise this at all times. Your job is to offer a consistent and stable environment built around the main qualities the children need. You can only do your best to offer them this - and you might just find that doing so is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

Would you like to be a Foster Parent?

If Fostering is something you are interested in doing or you would like to talk to us further then come and check us out at: 

NFA Website at http://www.nfa.co.uk/  or
Email:  info@nfa.co.uk or

Phone: 0845 200 4040


Editors Note from Gem at Life with Katie: 
This post was written by the National Fostering Agency

No fee or recompense was received for sharing this post.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Layer Cake of Mothers Day....

Stop if you will, just for a moment.  Close your eyes and take a breath and ask yourself...

"What does Mothers Day mean to me?"

What emotions do you feel in your stomach and heart and mind?  Do you feel peaceful and full of love?  Do you feel irritated or sad?  Are you conjuring up happy memories or are your thoughts more complex?

The word "Mother" is an emotive word in adoption.  It's a big word for everyone, as is the word "Father".  I'm going to focus on "Mother" today because on Sunday it's Mothering Sunday here in the UK.  It's the annual day where mothers everywhere are supposed to be dreaming of having breakfast in bed, along with a home-made card and some flowers and card makers; flower sellers; restaurateurs and publicans are hoping to turn a good profit.  Facebook will be awash with pictures of these flowers and cards and Hallmark-esque pictures with sentimental quotes about how wonderful mothers are will be liked and shared by the masses.

Mothering Sunday in the UK sort of has its history in the Christian Church.  A High Anglican called Constance Smith (1978-1938) was inspired by a campaign in the USA by Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) to introduce a day to honour Mothers.  Anna Jarvis was motivated by honoring the death of her own mother on 9th May.  Constance Smith believed a day for mothers was "was fully expressed in the liturgy of the Church of England for the fourth Sunday of Lent".  This link went back centuries to the Pre-Reformation connotations of Laetare Sunday on which the Introit, the first prayer of the Mass, says: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her ... and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.”  Constance wanted the day to be spread throughout all the different church faiths and this then spread via the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, along with emotional feelings from mothers who's sons had been lost during the First World War.  As an addendum The Telegraph noted that neither Constance Smith nor Anna Jarvis ever became mothers themselves. Anna Jarvis regretted the growing commercialisation of the day, even to disapproving of pre-printed Mother’s Day cards. “A printed card means nothing,” she said, “except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”

That's quite a history and it sends a powerful message about honouring our mothers.  But what if we don't want to honour our mothers or think fondly of them?  What if the word "mother" is too emotional and complicated to be able to link with hearts and flowers?  What of the people in the world who have been abused or removed from their mothers? What if your mother has died? What if someone doesn't have a mother but has two fathers? What if someone has two mothers? What of all the single parents?  How might they feel on this day?

For adopted children, during their life, it might be a day of very mixed feelings.  On the one hand they may love their adoptive mother deeply and want to be involved in all the traditional ceremonies.  They may have spent the past week in school making their beautiful card (I know Katie has!).  What if they were adopted by a single male adopter or have two fathers? Does that cause untold anxiety for the teachers trying to work out what to do who are probably panicking about getting it right for the parent(s)?  I know I will treasure that card but how might Katie feel in years to come about Mothering Sunday?  Might this day be one that raises sadness and questions about her Birth Mother?  It does beg the question of whether both Mothers Day and Fathers Day have gone the same way that Christmas has and become more about cards and presents and a picture postcard image of what a family "should" look like.  Many of the people I know now have non-stereotypical family life.

I have no issue with Katie or Pip asking me questions about their Birth Parents and TCM and I will answer their questions to the best of our ability but I do wonder how this day might make her feel in years to come.  You can't hide from painful emotions really but having a day to really highlight them is really tough on so many people. I also wonder what this may all mean for me as their Mum.

Mothers Day is a cake of many layers for me.  It is a day I dreamt about with hopeful yearning for many years whilst we were trying to start our family.  It was poignant that we were having our introductions with Katie over the Mothering Sunday period four years ago.  It was so special spending our first Mothers Day together.  Yet the day is bittersweet for me.  It highlights that my own mother and I have not seen each other or spoken in over 20 years and the reasons for that.  This year it is also a reminder that my Mother-in-Law's memory is deteriorating and we don't know how long it will be before she is unable to hold onto the memories of her life and her family.  Throughout my life I've probably spent more days trying to avoid the day than I have actually celebrating it.

When TCM asked me what I wanted to do on Mothers Day this year I looked at him with some confusion in my eyes.  I realised it wasn't about what I wanted.  It was about honouring his mother.  The only way we can do this as a family is with a family meal at home.  Nana isn't able to really eat out these days and I've written before about the stress that is created between Katie and Nana when we eat together so the meal probably won't exactly be a cheery affair but it's TCM's mum and I want to try and ensure he has those last few memories of his mum whilst she is still able to enjoy the meal with us.  Don't go thinking I'm all altruistic though. It's taken me all week to stop feeling childish about my own feelings of loss of what I might want to do on Sunday (yay for the lingering feelings of depression!).  I childishly just want to just be able to do something "normal" on Mothers Day but the universe moves in its own little way and things are what they are.  I do feel like I've spent a lot of my life having to make the best of situations though and I would love to be able to celebrate this day with my rosy-tinted glasses on.  Even writing this blog post has brought up a myriad of emotions in me from anger and sadness to bitterness and all the way up to love and happiness.

But then, having said all that, I am the person that I am because of all the experiences I have had and without those experiences I wouldn't have walked along the path that brought me to the two wonderful children that I have in my life and who I love with a love that is the fiercest I have ever known in my life.  Mothers Day is more than just a meal with added portions of stress on the menu.  It's not about a Hallmark snapshot of perfection.  It will be about feeling the love in the card that Katie has made and kissing my gorgeous son on our first Mothers Day together and giving thanks for the many blessings that my children bring.  I know I won't be getting a lie-in or breakfast in bed on Sunday but that's OK.  I will light a candle to acknowledge the journeys that brought them to us though, both theirs and ours.  Before you say it, I recognise that I am an over-thinker.  It's a blessing and a curse (as my lovely remedial massage therapist says of her ability to incur the most awful yet healing pain on me).  If I didn't think as much as I do then I wouldn't write this blog and reflect on our lives in the way that I do.  I would sometimes like to just be able to go with the flow, without the baggage of questioning and thinking; to not carry the "what if" with me and just enjoy this specific Mothers Day for all that it brings. I take the world onto my shoulders and try and understand everyone's point of view and feelings and that's a tall order to cook up.

Now I've gotten all my thoughts out of my system and out into the ether I'm going to try to celebrate being a Mum and enjoying all that that brings because I'd actually hate to miss out on all the good stuff because my head is too busy thinking about the bigger stuff.  

What does Mothers Day mean to you?  Do you want to share my layer cake with me?

Monday, 24 March 2014

The National Fostering Agency: Part 1

Today I am presenting the first of three blog pieces written by the National Fostering Agency.....


A Few Things Foster Parents Would 
Like Other People To Know......

When you tell people you’re a foster parent you can usually expect a reaction. These reactions can vary greatly but almost everyone has something to say, a question to ask or an opinion they want to express. These can range from the knowledgeable and interested to the sometimes rather ignorant and offensive.

As a foster parent, you learn to expect some kind of reaction from people because the job you’re doing is different. It’s just that sometimes you really wish some people would think a few seconds longer before they open their mouths and say something silly.

It would actually be wonderful if more people were able to understand why it is we do it and try not make assumptions based on their own lives and value base. But by talking to us about our role people can really begin to see what it is like and why we want to do it. If you’re reading this and you’re not a foster parent, then here are some things that most foster parents like for you to know:

We’re not special....

Honestly we're not!  It gets a little frustrating being told that you’re a saint or an angel just for doing something you really enjoy. It’s simply not true and it can feel a little embarrassing although we do understand that mostly people mean this as a compliment. If the postman enjoys delivering letters in all weathers you don’t tell them that they are an angel, so why us? The majority of foster parents do it because they love having the kids around and get just as much back from the relationships with their foster children.

What concerns us is the more we link fostering with sainthood, the more it puts ordinary people off doing it. And that is a real shame because the truth is that we’re far from saints, we’re actually just like you.

Please don't assume the worst about Foster Children....

Many people assume that because the kids are being fostered that they are somehow troubled or flawed in a serious way. Of course they are not perfect but then in reality no-one is. We’re all people and we all have problems. Our aim is to help the children recover from their problems so they're not held back in life. It might surprise you that, despite some of the trauma in their lives, foster kids are some of the brightest, funniest and kindest people in the world.

Please don’t judge our children.....

People make a lot of judgements about the kids we foster and they're mostly inaccurate assumptions. Many people have no real idea what life is like for these kids or indeed their parents. Making judgements about people when you don't know them or their situation really doesn't help, and it especially doesn't help the kids.

Letting go is really hard.......

Part of the fostering role is that the children move on sometimes. They may move on to adoption or back to their birth family or another relative.  This is hard for us and it isn't something you get used to. It doesn’t ever get any easier over time and please don’t assume that we somehow become desensitised to it. When you say that you could never do it, it might surprise you to know that it can make us feel like we are somehow uncaring – and nothing could ever be further from the truth.

Fostering is actually a hard job .....

Some people have been known to make comments about fostering being ‘easier than having a real job’ or ‘getting paid to babysit’. These folks really don't know how wrong they are. Fostering can be challenging, emotionally draining and very, very tough. And many of us often do this while having other full time jobs to hold down too. It can be really hard to juggle all the different roles. It can be tempting to challenge the people who make such comments to a job swap for a few days!

This is small percentage of the things we wished other people knew about fostering and us as foster parents and there are also a lot of rewards in the job we do. It’s ok to ask us about being a foster parent but if we could ask just one thing.....please, don’t make up your mind before you do or make assumptions about what it must be like - you simply don’t know until you have tried.

Would you like to be a Foster Parent?

If Fostering is something you are interested in doing or you would like to talk to us further then come and check us out at: 

NFA Website at http://www.nfa.co.uk/  or
Email:  info@nfa.co.uk or
Phone: 0845 200 4040


Editors Note from Gem at Life with Katie: 
This post was written by the National Fostering Agency

No fee or recompense was received for sharing this post.