Monday, 28 April 2014

Adoption Order

Today at 10:30am 
the Judge ruled that Pip has been 
officially adopted 
by us.

It's felt like a very long wait with several setbacks and lots of stress but we finally got there and we couldn't be happier.

We love both children with everything we have and are beyond delighted to be their Mummy and Daddy.

Welcome officially to the clan Pip! 

I feel so emotional that's pretty much all I can write.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Brothers and Sisters

One of the things I find the hardest to deal with is that of life story work.  It's not because I don't want to discuss it with Katie but it's more because I worry about how much information to give and when to give it.

This is being discussed between TCM and I at the moment because of the contact Katie and Pip are having with their half sibling Kip.  I've written before about how well that is going in the obvious sense.  The children get along really well and their relationship is developing positively. I do think there is a fall-out from it all though which I wrote about in "No, I grew in YOUR tummy Mummy" and also in "Chick or Egg?". Thoughts are clearly whirring around in Katie's head and things are definitely coming out of her mouth.  This morning, after a very challenging and argumentative start to the day which included Katie peeing on her bed, Katie flounced in and announced that I wasn't her Mummy so I couldn't tell her what to do.

"You're my step-Mummy!" she said.

Clearly she's been watching too many Disney films for this to be her frame of reference!

"******* is my real Mummy" she added

I stopped drying my hair and swivelled around to look at her.  She was swinging on the door with a triumphant look on her face which clearly said "I've got one over on her!".  This is her raison d'etre at the get one over on me.  She's such a 6 year old!

I took a breath and said "Honey I am your Mummy.  ******* is your tummy Mummy and she grew you and helped make you beautiful.  I am the Mummy who gets up with you in the night when you're poorly; I take you swimming and to gymnastics; I tuck you in at night and do everything a Mummy does.  I am your Mummy honey and I love you very much".

She seemed satisfied with this answer and nodded and went back to her bedroom to finish taking all the bedclothes off her wet bed.  She later came back to say she was sorry and tell me she loved me.

I knew this would happen one day.  I've run over the scenario in my head from time to time.  I thought it
might be a few years later down the line but Katie is currently challenging everything about TCM and I so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  It also highlights that she is feeling unsettled and is trying to make sense of her world.  She differentiates between Pip and Kip by saying that Pip is her twin and Kip is her brother.  I think there is a way to go on these issues and I'm not naive enough to think that there will be a time soon where Katie accepts without question the fact that she is adopted. I can't say I blame her either.  She's coming to an age where children want to be the same as other children and they want everything in their life to be ordered. I remember having a biological Father and a step-Father around the age of 8 and hating that I had two Dads. I didn't want two Dads. I just wanted the one.

With all this in mind there is a part of Katie's life story that we haven't really shared with her yet.  This is the fact that her Birth Father has had another child. Katie has a sister.  When I've shown her pictures I have shown her the baby and told her that her BF has had this child with his girlfriend but I've not said she is her half-sister.  With Kip it always felt more straightforward because we knew we would have direct contact but with her sister that is unlikely to happen.  With her sister it will also raise the questions of "Why can't I see her?" and "Why is she living with BF and I wasn't able to?".  It's a good question and the answer is one of BF getting a bit older and a change of circumstances and a different BM.  How can you explain that to a 6 year old though?  TCM and I have discussed this situation on several occasions and debated what we tell Katie about it.  At the moment though I feel she has far too much on her 6 year old plate to come to terms with without adding a scenario that we are unable to influence for her.

This leads me onto a wider issue.  When you adopt you are encouraged to be as open as possible with your children about their adoption.  This is the current thinking.  I'm aware from my own training that psychological practises change and adapt all the time as more research data comes to light.  My parental instincts are shouting at me not to tell her about her sister at the moment but then that leads to us someday having a big reveal where we share the information and wonder how Katie will react.  There is also the issue that we have no background information on Pip's BF whatsoever and I doubt we ever will get any updates. This will give us siblings that are half-blood related yet with very different stories on their BF side.  My instinct is almost to organise Katie's LSB so that the pictures and names are there and wait for her to join the dots and ask the question.

The over-riding message we receive from Social Workers is to speak openly about our children's adoptions so that they never experience a "finding out" moment but where does that advice stand when siblings come into play?  Katie was 2 when we adopted her and has always known she was adopted. I have started telling Pip stories about how he came to live with us so that those stories are part of his awareness too.  The ever-changing nature of Birth Families however means that we will always get information second-hand (if we're lucky) and we will probably often face this dilemma of what and when we tell our children.  I am also very aware that each time a piece of information is shared it rakes up emotions that our children may not always be ready to handle.  It's a huge responsibility as an adoptive parent knowing when to share.  We are already seeing how unsettled Katie is.  She's had to deal with an unsettled school month when her teacher was away and all the emotions of seeing Kip.  She is clearly unsettled about her Birth Mum at the moment.  I think that's enough for anyone to handle, let alone a 6 year old child.

I would welcome any thoughts and comments and stories of how other people have handled these situations. I feel very under-prepared to manage all these issues.  I know we will fumble and stumble our way through it all as best we can but I want to do better than fumble and stumble.  Advice and recommended books to read would be really appreciated.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Chick or Egg?

We have a saying in our little family when someone takes on too much and tries to save the world.......

"You're wearing your underpants outside your trousers!".

TCM and I are both as bad as one another really and both driven to be all things to others for the wrong reasons.

The trouble with over-extending yourself if that you can start to feel resentful and, if you then add other stresses to the mix, the melting pot can start to overflow.

I think that's pretty much what has happened this Easter.  As I write this I am still very unwell and exhausted after having an asthma episode over the weekend of the first week of the holidays but the stresses started before that event and have culminated in me just really wanting to take to my bed.

About a month before the Easter holidays Katie's school teacher went off on sick leave. The school organised some alternative teachers to job share but I started to get a little nervous as to how Katie was coping.  Katie is pretty resilient with changes for the most part.  She takes most things in her stride but I started to notice her behaviour slipping at home as the month progressed and her teacher didn't return to school.  I asked her how she felt about the teachers and she said she liked them and I think she's done a good job of coping at school but we've definitely seen the fall-out at home with rudeness and aggression slowly creeping in and over the Easter holidays I realised she has been peeing on the rugs around the house. This has led to us having to throw out our lounge rug and her bedroom rug is currently in the wash in the hopes of salvaging it.  On top of the peeing Katie has been drawing on furniture and smearing her lip-glosses over the sofa with her fingers to wipe them clean.  The house is slowly being trashed which is really upsetting me.

On top of this Pip has morphed from a compliant little baby into a toddler having endless toddler tantrums. In fact when he's not having a tantrum he's often to be found holding his little arms up to me sobbing for me to pick him up. He's also learned to bite.  I'm sure he does play happily some of the time, he must do, but I'm feeling very, very needed emotionally and physically at the moment and also rather bruised from having his teeth sunk into various parts of my anatomy.

So back to the holidays......

We had a quiet first week of the holidays but over the weekend I developed a cough virus which I kindly passed onto Pip.  Within days I could barely breathe from an asthma reaction and have been taking steroids to get my lungs back to normal every since.  The down-side of steroids can be insomnia and nightmares, both of which I had so I am incredibly sleep deprived and feeling pathetic.  Pip was waking frequently on top of that with his cough and all the kids were waking up early because of Pip crying.  We had a visit from my friend and her son for three days at the start of the second week which really was lovely and I had some decent energy from the first few days of the steroids and we had a lovely trip to Paultons Park.  Katie was actually well behaved for the first two days, until we introduced another young person into the mix and it went downhill from there.

This is where the chicken and egg issue starts to come into play.

Last week I was feeling unwell and, quite frankly, beyond shattered.  On top of that I was having a really bad time with my hormones (an issue which I hope will be permanently resolved soon).  I would have preferred to be locked in a room on my own where other people were not, if truth be told.  Instead this is what we have packed into the second part of our Easter period whilst I was feeling ill.
  • Visitors to stay for three days which was a lovely visit and much needed time with my bestie but tough nonetheless for a poorly person.
  • A long afternoon on Saturday with BBQ at our house with Kip (Katie and Pip's middle brother) and his Dad.  There was a lot of conversation and it's clear there is a lot going on there.  Issues about future siblings were raised which gave TCM and I lots of food for thought and lots of concerns.
  • A full-on Easter Sunday with me and TCM; the kids; my sister and nephew; my MIL and FIL.
  • A visit to Katie's old FC for a wonderful Easter party with all the family.
  • An incredibly stressful visit to the shoe shops to buy Katie new sandals (you won't even believe how much stress is involved in negotiating the temper tantrums over which shoes she's going to have) plus endless negotiations over a pair of "Glamorator" sandals she wants (that's Gladiator sandals to the rest of us!).
That's just four days worth!  

There was a lot of fun involved in those events but it was very tiring and there was also far too much stress at times and lots of difficult and challenging behaviour from both children.  I won't go into lengthy details but it will definitely be the last time we have a big family dinner with my MIL.  Her Alzheimer's is just too bad now. There is a lot of emotional adjustment to be made in that statement though and a lot of guilt and upset that will need to be traversed. We wanted to have the lovely Easter dinner with egg hunt and egg decorating for the children though but the children argued for much of the day and my MIL spent the afternoon effectively telling everyone to **** off!  I will laugh about it at some point I know. 

TCM and I spent much of Easter Sunday looking at each other with vacant and overloaded expressions on our faces as we slowly started to disengage emotionally from everything going on around us.  Rather like being in the eye of a hurricane.

I drove the children to see Grandma (Katie's FC) yesterday (about 45 mins each way) and it was a lovely visit with them but I'm so tired it took everything I had in me just to get there and back and run around after Pip.  I could barely function by the time we got home.  Katie didn't want to leave all the children when it was time to go and kept hiding from me (whilst I was chasing after her with Pip attached to me) so it took a lot of effort and negotiating (and attempting not to get angry) to get her to the car.  I tried to put on my therapeutic parenting head, Worzel Gummidge stylee, on the way home to support Katie's feelings about leaving Grandma's but my supportive head jumped off and hid in the garden when I saw the smeared chocolate all over my car seats after kindly letting Katie eat chocolate in the car on the way home.  

By the end of yesterday afternoon I just wanted to be left alone and could have literally ripped the head off anyone who came within a 5 mile radius of me.  Of course I wasn't able to be alone so I then just felt resentful of everyone around me.  I am completely and utterly emotionally overloaded at this point in time. Of course my tired and grumpy mood then triggered bad moods in everyone else around me which meant we had more difficult and challenging behaviour from both children until bedtime.  I could see my mood impacting on everyone around me but almost just hating them for their reaction. Chicken or Egg?

There is lots more I could write about this past week but actually it's just all the decorations on the top of the cake.  The real issue is the cake itself.  TCM and I allowed ourselves to be pulled into a holiday of lots of events which we really didn't want to do and shouldn't have even entertained the notion of because we wanted other people to enjoy themselves and because we felt guilty about the perceived needs of all the other people involved and the fact that it's always us that cooks and entertains everyone else.  I can't blame anyone else for that - we've created this scenario!  The result of that though was too much stress; a tired and overloaded TCM and myself which then fed into how we managed the children and the time we had to spend with them.  It then becomes a chicken or egg situation with no clear reason as to why everyone is stressed and angry.

All I do know is this.....

Of course children are going to misbehave when their Mummy and Daddy are distracted and stressed and grumpy themselves.

Of course we're going to end up feeling resentful of everyone around us and all the demands we feel they are putting on us.

It's our own fault for trying to do what we thought was the right thing and not putting our needs first.

We should have stopped and thought about how poorly I was and about Katie and Pip's behaviour and just stopped the clock and taken some quiet time as a family instead of wearing our pants outside our trousers and trying to be all things to everyone.

Lesson learned!

For now I'm going to get well and regroup.  Katie's teacher was back in the classroom today and Katie's beaming face told me how much she has missed her.  I'm going to get back into our normal routine and see where we are after that.  Katie is earning beads in her pot so she can have her Glamorator sandals when they arrive but she is losing beads for smearing lipstick on the furniture (enough is enough on that one!).  If that doesn't work then I'm throwing them all in the bin!  Once we've reached the point when I feel human again I'll ask the question as to whether any new parenting techniques are required.

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  or
Email: 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  or
Email: 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.