Sunday, 18 November 2012

Mad as a March Hare..


Be warned, I'm feeling quite fed up whilst writing this.  I'm going to moan. 

I actually wanted to sit down and write about Katie's lovely birthday party today and make a joke about the fact that Katie had her first ever sleepover last night so it really was a "Silent Sunday" in our house but this needs to be written down first - just to get it out of my system so I have some hope of re-finding my usual positivity about the adoption process and I can then write the other two posts in my usual upbeat manner.  I'm also extremely frustrated at having to write this one week after all the positivity of last week's National Adoption Week.

Today we had a visit from our Social Worker.  She came down from the north to visit us and some of our referees on this very chilly Sunday, having been ill and still not feeling well (and really should be tucked up at home in bed).  I'm feeling a bit guilty about the position she is in today if I'm honest.  The reality for her is that she doesn't get paid until we go to panel.  The joys of being an agency Social Worker.  She shouldn't have to be driving all that way whilst feeling ill - just so she can get paid and also to dig our LA out of the hole they are digging themselves into.

So what has got me all worked up (other than the normal frustrations of trying to get to panel)?  Well our Local Authority, it would seem, haven't been doing the bits of our process that they were suppose to do.  We signed our CRB checks in March 2012 after attending our prep course.  They were supposed to have been collected and sent off by our LA.  The LA never sent anyone out to check and collect them.  When I chased them they said that our SW could do it all for us.  OK that's fine (or so I thought).  It transpires that the signatures on our CRB checks were already out of date by the time our SW was allocated.  She did all the checks she was supposed to do and passed them to our LA to be sent off.  The LA told me recently that they were sent off in June but still weren't back.  I commented to them that I thought this was odd and I thought that the problems with the time delays in CRB checks had all been rectified now.  I find out today (and I'm sure you already now know where this is going) that they didn't even send the CRB forms off to be approved.  Our SW had to bring them back to us to re-check all the information so that they can be sent off. We have panel in December - this is unacceptable!  Who knows if they'll be back in time.  More importantly the SW at the LA lied to me about it.  Not only was I lied to but that lie had a lot of embellishment.  That is really unprofessional in my opinion.  I am now having to decide at what point this issue is raised with the LA.  The fear of adopters is that if you raise issues and complaints whilst going through the process, that this may hinder or even endanger your adoption.

I know that our LA are seriously understaffed due to financial cuts and also due to staff being off work with stress-related illnesses.  I am seriously cheesed-off however with the general lack of organisation and leadership.  The right hand seems to have no idea whatsoever of where the left hand is, let alone know what it is doing!  There seems to be no coordination of information.  Departments don't seem to communicate with each other.  No-one checking the cases that will be going to panel and whether all the information is present and correct.  There are no Social Workers allocated for matching after panel. If I'd known 6 months ago what I know now I would never have used this LA for this adoption.  We thought that it made sense to stick with the same agency with used with our last adoption.  We were promised an 8 month process (it's been 14 months so far).  They already have all our information and we were promised an update of our information but instead we've had to proceed as if we were first time adopters.  How ludicrous is that?  Thankfully we've had a very supportive Social Worker who has used our Form F from our last adoption and has updated that (although has since had to change the paperwork from the PAR document, back to the Form F and now to a new PAR document).  In addition to the concerns about actually getting to panel, I am now starting to have concerns about how much I can trust any permanence reports I may read about any children we are matched with.  If the SWs are so overstretched that they are unable to properly coordinate our adoption approval - how on earth are they coping with filling in all the information prospective adopters need on the permanence reports? Can I even trust that sufficient process has gone into a future match? I may be worrying unnecessarily but it is a concern that is slowly taking shape. One thing I do know is that Hubs and I will have to be really on the ball with asking questions when we are matched.

The annoying thing personally is that I watched a friend go through all this with them only recently and we made the decision to stick with the LA instead of moving to another LA.  I wish we'd moved at this moment in time.  I'm sure that when we get through all this and we're matched I will know that our instinct to stay with our LA was right but today I'm questioning just about everything.  Today I don't want to remind myself of my spiritual beliefs about everything happening for a reason and that we'll be exactly where we're supposed to be. I have no doubt that the right child will come and join our family but just for today, I just want to scream with frustration at the ineptitude of our LA.  I want to be emotionally mature and understanding about the funding cuts and the enormous pressure that the Social Work team are working under but today, I want to be immature and selfish and ask the universe why, after all the years of pain and heartbreak we've already been through we have to go through yet more waiting?

I'll live.  I'll learn and grow and all those other euphemisms we say at times like this but just for today, I just want to pout and feel annoyed and sorry for myself.  If I'm honest I'm fed up with being grown-up about it all.   I'm fed up with being understanding.  I'm probably not just talking about the adoption process anymore so time to stop and hit the "publish" button.

So in keeping with my strongly held Reiki principles of  "Just for today".......


Just for today I'm as mad as a March hare.......




Tomorrow I'll be back to being me again and following the Reiki principles as they should be followed......but I'll also be preparing my report of complaint for our LA when this is all over.  And I'm going to try and remember this.......













Friday, 16 November 2012

The Week That Was....


A week has gone by since the end of National Adoption Week 2012 and I've not had time to catch my breath, let alone write the thank you's that I need to to all the wonderful adopters I featured last week.  The writers shared their stories with honesty and openness and insight and I hope that for any prospective adopters reading this blog their stories will help you really see the realities of being an adopter at this time.  It's not all doom and gloom but it is hard work.  But it can be wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful, it was wonderful to see how many people around the country were promoting adoption and highlighting the need for more adopters.  A major well done to everyone who did their bit over the week.  If I'm very honest though I remain extremely concerned at the lack of funding going into Local Authorities to pay for the Social Workers to actually assess the potential adopters so I fear that, for many, expectations may be a big higher than the ability to deliver.  Our own panel date now looks in jeopardy because hardly any of the checks that need to be completed by our LA have been done (despite having many many many months in which to do it).  Our Agency Social Worker is trying her best to pick up the slack but there are so many things that the LA has to complete itself.  I'll let you know if our date does go ahead or not.  Our Social Worker, bless her, is having a last ditched attempt at getting everything she can possibly get ready (including coming down to visit us and our referees on a Sunday for which we send her our thanks).  If you are reading this Mr Cameron, PLEASE think about the funding issues we have here.  There has to be a solution.  Do re-read my open letter to you with my suggestions if that helps.

Anyway I have digressed from my original intention of this post........So without further ado I send my heartfelt Thanks to:


Huge thanks also goes out to all the people on FaceBook and Twitter who promoted the stories featured; to Clare Horton at The Guardian Society Daily and to Netmums for featuring Sally Donovan's story.  Special thanks also goes to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering;  Adoption UK; Coram and Beacon Hill Training for promoting and supporting the stories.

So why haven't I had time to catch my breath?  Well was Katie's 5th Birthday during National Adoption Week and everything birthday took over my life.  I will write up more about the big birthday in a separate post but it's been rather manic here.  I'm not really sure what my other excuse is for this week if I'm honest.  I've just been busy.  I've managed to hurt my hip and hamstring and am unable to sit at the computer for any length of time so I've been very socially networky quiet this week.  Willow, my baby Maine Coon, had to go into be spayed and you can imagine our surprise to find out that she was actually "with kitten" at the time of her spaying.  Considering the only Tom she's had access to was her half-brother who has been neutured.........yes I'm asking some serious questions of my vets and have asked them to check his neuturing.  I found it hard emotionally that she was pregnant and that pregnancy was terminated (they didn't know until she was mid surgery that she was pregnant and also her brother MUST be the sire so a bit icky and genetically not really a good idea). I'm very aware that I'm attaching human emotions to my little moggy but it did make me feel quite sad.  Katie has been full of cold and generally more grumpy due to that and the come-down after her birthday; plus a load of other family stuff.  So all in all, I feel quite stretched (and not in a massagy, relaxed kinda way).  I have just had a hot stone massage which I did prioritise over doing the usual Friday stuff on Twitter so I will also send apologies for not having time to do any Follow Friday's on Twitter this week.  Must do better next week...............

So that was the week that was....... thank you to everyone who made it an amazing week!

 
 

Friday, 9 November 2012

NAW 2012 Day 5 and a half: Our Adoption Story by Laurel Ashton




I thought I’d share some diary entries from soon after Amber came to live with us. After the first week, I wrote:

It’s flown. We were prepared to be very careful, to introduce her slowly to new people, to add new clothes, toys and bedding slowly. But it all got a bit confusing. She came with a ton of stuff, but we’ve had 2 more tons delivered or given to us in the past 5 days. I no longer know what she’s been used to. But she really doesn’t care. She’s happy with all the new faces, toys and animals. We’ve had a few screams. She’s teething. We’ve seen a couple too many 2ams. She’s bitten DH. And she throws pasta on the floor. But we don’t care. She’s just learning her way around the world and we want to be there with her as she goes. One week on and being a parent isn’t at all what it’s cracked up to be. It’s MUCH better!! Perhaps we’ve waited so much longer than most people for this, that we’re savouring every moment. And it still feels like a dream, like I’m writing someone else’s story. Thankfully, I can smell her on me all of the time, so I know she’s real.’
Two months on, I wrote this:

‘I thought I loved her the first time I saw her. Something did move in my heart. But I now realise that I’ve grown to love her in a very deep way. We share a special look, or smile. She holds her daddy so tightly sometimes that it seems as though she’ll never let go. And we only now have begun to notice that we’re actually growing together – and it feels amazing.’ 

I wrote a book, Take Two, to chronicle the build up to becoming a parent and can’t believe that so much time has passed since all of those life-changing events. Right now I’m planning 6 and 7 year-old birthdays, and see their outgrown clothes in the photos of children of close friends. All that time we spent waiting to become a family, cursing the adoption process and its endless frustrations and waiting by the phone is now almost completely forgotten. We’re just a family.
I won’t deny that it was hard to adjust to being a working parent and that we had to learn to juggle so many facets of life simultaneously. When Ellie came to us 7 months after Amber (they are birth siblings, hence the rapid match), we found ourselves with two mobile children aged 23 months and 11 months and it was a bit of a nightmare. Looking back, I’m not sure that we were able to give either as much time as she needed, but somehow we all caught up. More importantly, we all got to learn to be a family at the same time and these days I still look on in wonder at these playful little sisters.
Five years on, is there anything I would have done differently? We were in the unusual situation where DH took adoption leave. For us this worked amazingly well and to this day the girls have a strong bond with daddy. I have continued to work since they came home (apart from my subsequent adoption leave) and don’t regret it at all, but then I love my job and wouldn’t describe myself as a natural ‘earth’ mother. The time I have with the girls is directed entirely at them and I do try to appreciate every moment we have together. We would also not have mentioned the fact that we are vegetarians, or that we don’t have a TV, as both of these seemed to single us out as ‘weird’. Those issues turned into a debate during home study, but they didn’t hold up the process or affect our chances in the end.
The major ‘adoption’ issue in our lives today is contact with their birth sister, who is only one year older.  We meet up twice a year and all the girls simply accept their relationship, and behave entirely like sisters who live together – hugs and kisses one minute, bickering and recriminations the next. It’s magical to watch them together and wonderful to know they will always have one another in their lives.
I’m really struggling to find anything insightful to say about adoption when reflecting on our current life together. The problem is that we’re just an ordinary family. And while we do life story work with the children and regularly see their birth sister, most days the whole adoption ‘thing’ just sits quietly on the mantelpiece and lets us get on with daily life...........
 Daily.....chaotic.....hilarious.....frustrating....love-filled  
family life, that is!

 Note from "Life with Katie" author Gem: Laurel Ashton's book "Take Two" features in the Top 10 Recommended Reads for Adoption books as recommended by the BAAF. It was one of the first books related to adoption that I ever read and I cannot recommend it enough


If you are interested in finding out more about adoption then visit
and 
for more information

 

NAW 2012: Day 5 Our Adoption Story by Carole




It seems to me that I spend a lot of time trying to make people realise that it is my children who are special, and not me. And during National Adoption Week I need more than ever to help as many people as possible realise that it is not special parents, but special children who make adoption work. Why do I say this? Well, it’s because I don’t believe there is any such thing as special parents.... just parents who try their hardest, parents who do a great job some days and find it hard other days. And as the parent to one birth child and one adopted child, I can vouch for the fact that the origins of my children don’t make any difference to the days and to the situations that I cope with, and those that I simply don’t!

My husband and I were blessed with a little boy 8 years ago. He was a very much wanted birth child, but it was not a straight forward pregnancy and just hours after he was born he was diagnosed with Downs syndrome. The first couple of years of his life were not easy, dealing with all the things he found more difficult than other babies around him. We had to learn about hospital appointments, we had to learn how to give therapy and how to support his communication with sign language. None of these things were things we had ever imagined, but we dug deep and together we moved forwards.

When he was 3 years old our minds turned towards extending our family and at just the right time we met a family who had 2 adopted children, both of whom had Downs syndrome. It was the first time we had ever thought about the types of children who are in care and who need forever families. We had learnt how to parent one child with Downs syndrome, how much easier it would be to do it for a second time! How perfect to find a sibling for our little boy who would truly be just like him. But would anyone let us do it because quite frankly it sounded like rather a mad idea!

We rang our local authority and were met with a luke-warm reception, but from on-line forums we had already learnt to seek more than one view and so we went along to meet an adoption agency. Here we found social workers who knew all about children with disabilities looking for families. They helped us consider all the pros and cons, they supported us every step of the way towards approval and 7 months later we went to panel. And it really was that easy. I know all about the horror stories you hear about the process, I know all about the effects of the funding cuts in local authorities, but our experience of the reality of adopting a child with special needs through an adoption agency in the UK – well, it was 14 months from the first phone call to the day our princess came home to us and we have never looked back!

So, what is special about our family? Is it the strength we found as a couple to get through the adoption approval process? Is it the support we get from friends and family? Is it the pride with which we share our adoption story and hope more people would realise that they could do it? It is all these things, but more than this; it is our 2 shining lights, our beautiful children, they are what make everything truly special and whatever we went through along the way, they are worth it!

So what of them? Well our little girl has been with us for 3 years now and the two of them love each other to pieces. They have the sort of relationship I dreamt of, but never really dared to hope would come true; their faces light up when they see each other, they miss each other when apart, they hate sharing toys and enjoy winding each other up – what more could you hope from a brother and sister?! 

We have an outgoing, determined and confident little girl who doesn’t let anything stand in her way. She is definitely the one in charge, or at least likes to think she is! Both children now attend our local mainstream school and seeing them both ready in their school uniforms is a sight that makes me smile every single day. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when having 2 children with Downs syndrome is hard work. I can only take them both out on my own if I have a double buggy with me and then I find a lot of doorways too narrow for special needs buggies! So I make the most of local befriending services to give me an extra pair of hands as often as possible. But the glow of success and achievement are never far away from either of my kids either. It might be the little things that others might take for granted, like learning to walk or to ride a bike, but here in our family we celebrate everything! 

And what next? Well, adoption and Downs syndrome have changed our lives. We take as many opportunities as we can to make sure that everyone we come into contact with knows how special our children are. Could you parent a child with additional needs? There are (sadly) lots of children with a wide range of diagnoses looking for forever families.  Go on..... give it a second thought, there simply are no rewards in life so special.


If you are interested in finding out more about adoption then visit
and 
for more information

Thursday, 8 November 2012

NAW 2012 Day 4: Our Adoption Story by Maryam Lane


 

We spent 7 years trying to have a child. But in the last 15 months we have become parent to 3 children through adoption. This is our story....

Writing this all down is actually the first time I have done this although I have been blogging about our life since we adopted for a while now. My husband and I met over 10 years ago and got married after a couple of years. We were young but not too young to know that we wanted a family straight away and were ready for it. Like many people who have suffered infertility, we spent a long time waiting and hoping each month would be ‘the month’. It never was and we embarked on medical investigations which took a long time as well. Eventually, 6 years after our wedding we met the end of that road whereby we were told we would never be parents naturally and that all means to help us medically had been exhausted. This was a dark time for both of us and we took another year or so to recover, all the time surrounded by friends and family who fell pregnant time and time again at the drop of a hat. We grieved for lost dreams and licked our wounds.

We had discussed adoption previously but now we sat down and really considered it properly and felt that yes, this was something we wanted to do. Adoption doesn’t appeal to everyone but I can honestly say that it did for us, perhaps because our culture and the way we were both brought up really encouraged fostering and adoption. We chose a Voluntary Agency and embarked on the Home Study process – but not until we had been on the Preparation Course of 5 days. It was at this that we really fully understood that adoption is not about you becoming a parent but about a child (or children) finding parents. It is not a fix to the desire to mother, it is an opportunity and process whereby the needs of the child come above all else particularly due the background they may have come from. We were Approved in December 2010 and luckily found our children at the end of January 2011. 

Finding your child is a funny process – its rather like ‘shopping’ for a baby...you are presented with profiles and of course your heart tells you to take them all. Especially when you read their background and see their faces. But you have to put your emotions aside and be realistic...you have to consider properly the type of child you could parent which is something you investigate at length in the Home Study process. People also talk about how when you see your child’s photo for the very first time, you ‘know’ they are the one. Well in our case that was true....I went to an Exchange Day and their photo was pinned to a board amongst hundreds of others and hand on heart, it jumped out at me. I don’t know why – their faces, their names, their details, I felt a connection.  I still remember it now.

Our eldest son and daughter moved in with us in the Summer of 2011, aged 13 and 25 months. The first few months were really hard. We were first time parents and they were in chaos – not just because of the move and change but because of other personal factors. Attachment was hard with both but different. Dear Son 1 (DS1) resisted all attempts at attaching with me but clutched on to my husband. He was volatile, aggressive and violent at times. Dear Daughter (DD) was desperate and needy and angry. I didn’t know a small baby could feel such fury. The first 2 months passed in a bit of a haze as they and we found our feet. We instilled a routine and used therapeutic parenting techniques to help with attachment and we began to build bonds. Somewhere around month 3 we turned a corner and bit by bit we became a family full of love and it felt like they had been here forever. 

When they had been with us 7 months we received a bombshell. Birth Mother had had another baby. We were shown a photograph and asked if we would consider taking their full sibling on too. We spent a couple of months agonising over this – it was so soon since DS1 and DD had been placed and we worried greatly that it was too quick. We wanted more children – but hadn’t anticipated it being this fast! We worried also if it would be too much for us and if we could manage. But no matter the practicalities of it, which we were fortunately able to sort out, we kept coming back to the fact that this was their brother and they should all be together. So we proceeded with a fast-tracked Home Study and Approval, less than a year since DS1 and DD had moved in. We couldn’t believe we were doing it again! 

A few weeks ago, DS2 arrived. We are now parents to a 3 year old, 2 year old and almost 1 year old. 15 months ago we had no children and now we have 3! So far, things are going great, he’s settling in well and DS1 and DD have taken to him amazingly well.

Adoption is an amazing thing. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this all really happened. Life has changed so much from how it used to be but we love it. There is a happy ending in it all for everyone in our case but its not the happy ending most people imagine when they think about adoption. We have attachment issues we still have to take account of, contact with social workers and massive question marks hanging over all their heads for the future because of their genetic and personal backgrounds.  Like all adopters we have also had to accept that we ‘share’ our children with their birth family and yet we have safeguarding concerns to be aware of. Sometimes people praise us for what we have done but it makes me uncomfortable. Yes we deal with and have dealt with a lot. There are all sorts of things that we have missed out on and all sorts of issues that we have to deal with that biological parents will never have to consider. But we aren’t amazing super-humans, we just did what I believe most people would have done in our situation.  And for all the stress and tiredness and the fact I don’t sit down all day, life is good. We aren’t a conventional family but we are a family and whatever the future throws at us, I think we will manage somehow.  

You can read more about Maryam and her family at: www.maryamlane.blogspot.co.uk




If you are interested in finding out more about adoption then visit


and 


for more information