Open letter to all professionals ........ Aug 9, 2017 12:58:31 GMT moo, mudlark, and 1 more like this
Post by jmk on Aug 9, 2017 12:58:31 GMT
Generic letter to all professionals on behalf of adoptive parents
Adopters are in most cases kind and thoughtful people who are survivors and have usually been through all kinds of hell that non adopters can only imagine. They have often been through a huge amount of loss through infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, ill health, or a combination of any of these and they have had to grieve for the children they thought they would have so easily like everyone else around them. It is a massive shock when you realise that all your hopes and dreams are dashed and you have to take time to recover, to grieve for your losses however long it takes and to get yourself together to face the battle ahead when you finally make the decision and feel ready enough to adopt, after counselling and lengthy heartfelt discussions with your partner/family/friends.
Then your long adoption journey begins.
Once you have made contact with your agency or charity you hand your life, your heart and soul, your dreams and ambitions, over to your allocated adoption social worker. Every single area of your and your partners lives are dissected in great detail by a complete stranger. Nothing is left to chance and nothing is sacred. You bare your soul to them in the hope that one day you may finally have the family you yearn for so much. You subject yourself to medicals, workshops, interviews, and endless home visits as you go through your home study starting right back from when you were born, right up until the present day, and at the end of it, you feel as if this SW knows you better than your own family as you have been grilled and questioned within and inch of your life. There is no where to hide during this process and later on you will see why this process is so thorough as it is a real test of your grit and stamina, because adoption is not for the feint hearted as you will learn when you realise your children need more help than your average child and you embark on the hardest journey yet, that of trying to get help for your child, be that educationally or mental health wise. I kid you not. You will look back and see that the approval process was actually a breeze in comparison, especially if you are now entering the dark depths of SEN provision and getting your children diagnoses or asking your LA for funding of any kind, that's when your battles truly begin.
People who give birth naturally do not have to do any of this. They fall pregnant easily, sometimes even when they've not been trying and they breeze along enjoying all the attention a pregnant lady gets from everyone. Where their biggest concern is what colour to paint the nursery, or which designer pram to buy. You need a licence to own a dog, but anyone can have a baby if they do what nature intended.
Then finally after going to panel, when they decide that you are competent enough to be a parent, you go through the agony of usually a very lengthy wait while SS search to find a child for you. You prepare your home for a child/children of your desired age range, not knowing of your future intended childs interests as yet. Your home gets visited and inspected to pass health and safety checks where you get critisied if your home is too neat and pristine being told that they cannot picture a child in such a tidy environment.
You then go through the thrill of hearing they have found you a match and you get a typed report about them which you pour over and re-read over and over again, trying to gain a little glimpse into your future child, eager to hear every little thing about them that your SW can relate to you trying not to let your heart rule your head. You quite often aren't even allowed to see a photograph of your future child, in case you are not approved for this particular child, even though you are already starting to form a bond and already feel some connection with them.
You question yourself over and over. Will you be good enough, will you be able to do this and you scare yourself silly with all the 'what if's' and 'but's' and self doubt. Then usually after endless bureaucracy and delays, as SW and FC's and those in authority don't understand how hard it is for you to accept that the SW, or FC, is going on annual leave, so meetings get put off and reports get delayed as a result. They have no idea of the torture of a wait or delay when you are itching to proceed as fast as possible. As you wait patiently, afraid to say anything that might jepordise your chances, internalising your anger at the endless obstacles and justifiable delays as the weeks and months go slowly by. It's agonising being at the hands of overworked professionals who hold your entire life and future family in their hands.
Then finally, you get meet your child/children for intro's, which are an incredibly draining and emotional time for both you and your child/children. They can be far away from home and you have to stay in a B&B or hotel, away from the familiarity of your own bed and home. You go to the foster carers house and you finally get to meet your child who can look terrified, despite you doing all sorts of age appropriate pre intro books for your children beforehand for the FC to show to your child. Some of these books are works of art and these days can have facilities where you can record your voice or record short videos and talk to you child so that they get used to the sound of your voice etc. You are a stranger to these little human beings and you look at them in wonder, being terrified of how they are going to react to you. Are they going to burst into tears at the sight of their new mum and dad? Are they going to like you? Are they going to runaway and hide? The list of doubts and fears are endless and differ for everyone.
Then you have the relationship with the foster carer to take into consideration. Like in any area of life, some are better than others, and some are absolutely fabulous and make you feel welcome immediately, delighted their LO's have found their new forever family, but some are not quite so accomodating and can even appear resentful of you. Some have had your LO's from birth and are too attached and they struggle to let them move on.
It is a complete minefield of emotions all round whichever circumstance you find yourself in. The best case scenario is thankfully the majority of FC's, who help the children move on and promote this move, but it is never an easy thing to do and I have the utmost respect for these caring people who have looked after our little ones and have the heart to let them go to their new families. I know I could never do this and I think those that do are amazingly selfless, loving people.
The emotions adopters go through during intro's are incredibly intense, including the guilt that you are now taking them away from all they have ever know. Even when you know it is for the best, it still kills you to inflict yet another move on them, even if you know that it is to be their last move. Adoption is all about loss and you feel their loss every bit as much as they do.
Moving day is usually agreed with the FC in advance, you arrive after breakfast, you probably have already packed and taken their belongings the day before, you quickly take charge and strap your new LO's in their car seats, trying to appear competent having practised it for ages, quick hugs all round and you leave as fast as possible, as everyone is putting on a smiling face, fighting to hold back the tears so they don't break down and fall apart and scare the LO's, so you drive off quickly not daring to look behind to see the FC waving a last goodbye to her/his charges, to start your new lives as parents to these precious little ones. It is one of the most unnatural things you will ever have to do.
You are over the moon, you feel like you've won the lottery, you are on cloud nine, all of your dreams have come true and you look at these little people and can't quite believe they are yours. You go through every emotion humanly possible, including feeling guilty that these little ones are not with their birth mother for whatever reason. You feel their loss for them, even though you know there are good reasons why they have been taken into care, you still feel it because now you are a mother, you would die for these little strangers that are asleep upstairs tucked up in their beds. You can't wait for the day their adoption order goes through as you still think someone will come and take them away from you. You are astounded at how quickly you have claimed these LO's as your own. How after such a short time it feels as if they have always been here, how you can't really remember what it was like to go to the toilet alone, as you now have two shadows that are glued to you like limpets, clinging on for life, that will not let you out of their sight. When they are finally yours and you say goodbye to their SW it is bittersweet. The SW has become such a part of your life and whether you liked them or not, it is still yet another loss for your children. Already they have lost their birth mum, their foster mum/mums, their SW and you hope and pray you can be good enough to give them the life they deserve.
You grow with them. You celebrate any firsts you have with them depending on how old they were when they came home. You try not to think about how much you have already missed from their lives and finally one day, without you realising it you fully claim them as "being yours". They have another family and you are always aware of that, and on special occasions like birthdays and Christmas it is very hard not to think about their other mother and how she must be feeling, but you have to remind yourself that you have them for a reason and you have to try and not feel guilty or let it spoil your enjoyment of them.
If you are lucky you get some relatively problem free years, as most adoptive children these days will have inherited some issues in utero through either drug/alcohol/genetics/mental health, and this can vary to a greater or lesser degree. You will never have the entire story or know the whole truth as some SW's won't divulge everything for fear of putting adopters off.
All adopters go into adoption with their eyes open, very few wear rose tinted specs these days, and all of them keep their fingers crossed that they will be lucky and that their children won't develop too many problems, but adoption is a lottery, and there are no guarantees.
We do our best. We join support groups and meet and talk to other adopters, read endless books, attend courses, and we educate ourselves as best as we can, but in a lot of cases, our children can appear to be ok and seem well adjusted and normal to outsiders. Many of our children are Angels at school, acting in and being delightfully complacent, often model children, holding it all together until they get home to their safe place where they can let it out, and they can, and often do have meltdowns, which no one but their parents ever get to witness as we are their safe people who love them and care for them and home is the only place they feel secure enough to let it all out after the effort of keeping it together all day at school.
Then sometimes when puberty rears it's head, things can go pear shaped. Teenage years are tough enough for most secure, well adjusted, birth children, with identity issues, raging hormones, and boundary pushing, wondering where on earth they fit in in this world. For adopted children this can be amplified 1000 times as they question where they have come from, why they are living with you and not with their 'real family'. Add to this the dreaded internet where nowadays, by simply knowing birth parents name and D.O.B, they can type it into a search engine and bingo, there she/he is, I've found her/him and I want to meet them now!
However open an adoptive parent has been with their children about their life story while they are growing up, a lot of children will still do this in secret because they don't want to hurt their adoptive parents feelings, and sadly this can be a disaster, as having unsupervised contact with birth parents or older birth siblings with no counselling or no one there to supervise or help you through it, can be a recipe for disaster if this happens when you are only 12 or 13 and too young to handle it. There are so many emotions involved and it needs careful handling and can throw the adoptee into a complete whirlwind with conflicts of loyalty between their two families.
When an adoptee goes into freefall and adoptive parents approach professionals asking for help what they need is to be listened to, they need unconditional support. They do not need to be judged, or asked to go on parenting courses, or blamed for their children's behaviours.
So many of us go to Social Services or CAMHS when we are struggling with our children and we get blamed for poor parenting, when actually we probably know more about parenting than the childless young SW who is lecturing us, as most adopters are members of Adoption Uk or other online support groups, and most adopters will have read numerous books on parenting adopted children, have attended courses etc before they adopted, so to have some well meaning, young professional , 20 years their junior asking them if they have tried sticker charts or whatever, can be like red rag to a bull. Far better to be less judgemental, and ask, how can we help, what can we do to make your life easier, instead of tarring us all with the same brush and branding us as failing parents because our previously compliant children have now seemingly gone off the rails overnight for no apparent reason. It helps absolutely no one to waste precious time blaming the parents and putting us through bog standard parenting courses, when actually our children need specialist parenting and specialist help but we are told there is no funding for this when we ask. I am currently attending a 'parenting for recovery course' provided by Tier 4 CAMHS and it is a world away from Triple P parenting courses as it is specifically designed to help parents of children like ours who have had mental health crisis. A completely different approach and not just for normal teens who fancy being a bit rebellious to wind their parents up.
Unlike boys who normally get diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum around the age of 3, often for girls Autism is not diagnosed until they are in their mid teens, when they have been acting out of character and are all over the place emotionally, running away, displaying risky behaviour etc, as these problems tend not to be apparent until they leave the relative home like calm of junior school and enter the harder world of secondary school where they are expected to act their age and fit in with their peer group, who can be really cruel if they appear to be even a little bit different. They are known as "The Lost Girls" and parents are left floundering suddenly realising their daughter who was doing so well at primary school, now has major MH issues which can be shown in alarming ways of eating disorders, depression, self harm etc.
This is where school refusal can commence, when a child realises they are struggling and that they don't fit in with their peers, as a lot of adopted children can be a few years behind emotionally. I read somewhere once that "you should deduct the age your children were when they came home, from their actual chronological age", as this gives their emotional age, and with most adopters I know, this has proved quite accurate when they apply it to their children.
Too many adoptive parents I know have had an horrendous time when they have approached SS or CAMHS asking for help, myself included, and this does not help any of us, least of all our children, as it wastes both time and money to always point the finger at the parents and to always assume from the off, that we are the problem.
No adopter takes the decision to re-introduce SW's back into their lives lightly, having already had the intrusion whilst trying to adopt their children still fresh in their minds, so when an adopter finally plucks up the courage to make that first phonecall to admit they are struggling and need help, the last thing they need is to feel they are under suspicion, that they are possible child abusers, that they may have harmed their children, that they are inadequate failing parents etc, etc. It takes real courage to ask for help and to then be treated as if you are the cause of your childs problems, especially children who may not have any diagnosis as yet, is the last thing adoptive parents need, and yet so many of us have been really badly treated by the very people who are supposed to be helping us and our children, and many parents have described it as feeling like they are on trial, and some of us, myself included, have actually been on trial, in a real court until I was defended by the court Pyschiatrist and Independant Parenting Assessor who both defended me, describing my children as highly complex.
It is hard to forgive and forget when for the first two years after I approached my LA asking for help, I had the finger pointed at me and I was blamed for all their problems, and sadly, as I said before, I am not alone in this, I know of so many other adoptive parents who have been through similar and are still currently going through similar.
Please remember, good parents do not approach their LA asking for help, admitting they are struggling. Bad or failing parents are the ones who avoid their LA like a plague, they hide away behind their own front doors neglecting their kids and hoping and praying no one notices and reports them to the authorities. I think SW's sometimes forget this and tar us all with the same brush.
CAMHS need to wise up too. They need to become more au fait with attachment issues and adopted children in general. The general concensus amongst the Adoption Community is that there are some areas in the country where CAMHS provision is better than others, but it does seem to be a bit of a lottery and it does seem to depend on whether you are lucky to get a clued up clinician or not. Like the LA, some are most definately experienced in dealing with adoptive children, but some sadly are not, and will use strategies that would only work with well attached secure birth children. Most clinicians are familiar with boys on the spectrum but there is still a long way to go to get them more familiar with girls on the spectrum, especially the higher functioning ones who mask their difficulties and appear to fit in, until they display other more alarming issues as previously highlighted.
I have one major bug bear with CAMHS which I constantly reiterate in every survey they ask me to do and that is, that they need to change their rules and move with the times, and in the case of teenagers, they need to provide online counselling by text/email/Skype instead of expecting reluctant ASD teens to sit in a room with a clinician to talk face to face for 50 minutes, when most teenagers struggle to do that with their own parents, let alone a complete stranger. CAMHS constantly say they cannot do online counselling "on grounds of confidentiality" and yet even Childline now has an app (currently, only for I phones) for teens to text and talk to a counsellor anonomously if need be, as Childline realise this is how teenagers communicate these days and very few teens like talking face to face. How often do parents say the best conversations they have with their teens is when they are driving the car with their teen sitting in the back and no eye contact? Why, oh why, can CAMHS not do this?
Think of the time they would save, with clinicians being left sitting there when weary parents have given up trying to cajole their child into going to their allocated appointment. How much easier would it be for the clinician to phone/Skype/email /text a child at say 4pm some afternoon when the child is in his/her bedroom, in comfortable, familiar surroundings where they will instantly feel more at home and will be more likely to talk. There is no travel involved, no wasted time, less stress for everyone all round. Surely this has to be doable in 2017, rather than have teens going online to awful dodgy social media sites to talk to random strangers sometimes in live chatrooms, where you have no idea who anyone is or anything about them. CAMHS have simply got to get on board with this. They cannot, as with my daughter who has severe social anxiety, just say "sorry I can't get her to talk, you can bring her back anytime she wants to return and we will be happy to see her", after they give up after weeks of trying to get her to talk when they get bored sitting with her in complete silence for 50 minute sessions.
They are letting children like my daughter down, by turning them away with no help because they won't make their internet phonelines secure. Wether they admit it or not, they are failing our teenagers and that cannot be allowed to continue with rising statistics of self harm and suicide in our teens. I will keep on, and on, about it until things change, as it it a pet bug bearer of mind.
I myself have done counselling by phone with a counsellor in the private sector, as it involved a 3 hour round trip to go and sit in a room with her for 50 minutes. If private counsellors can do it why can't CAMHS?
Also I believe CAMHS are currently giving out business cards to teenage clients from an online counselling charity called Kooth who have trained counsellors, some of whom offer their services voluntarily, where teens can log in, (giving their email and address for security reasons in case of safeguarding concerns), but where they can use a username to remain anonomous to talk to a counsellor about whatever issue they need help with. If this company is being endorsed and promoted by CAMHS, and I am assuming there are no security issues in them doing this, why then are CAMHS themselves so reticent to do the same, unless this company is taking the pressure off CAMHS and is doing their job for them?
On the subject of CAMHS, why can't they have an outreach team who can visit teenagers in their home? Why is this service not available for teens with diagnosed MH issues? Why do you have to wait until your child is admitted to a psychiatric ward or Tier 4 before this help is offered once your child comes home? Surely prevention is better than cure. If a parent is reporting serious concerns about their childs mental health and the parent cannot get their child to attend GP's appointment, or CAMHS appointments, why can no one come out to see the child unless it is a critical situation where a child has taken an overdose, or has self harmed, or is threatening suicide.
If this happens, parents have to call an ambulance and the police and then an on call GP and then specialist CAMHS dr's etc, etc. It is almost impossible to get a child admitted for a pyschiatric assessment unless they are in a crisis situation.
Professionals ignore parents warnings that their child is going downhill, these situations rarely happen over night, there are usually, although not always, many signs and most parents will be alerting the authorities to these warning signs a long time before their child acts on them. Why do professionals wait until the child is in dire straits before they will do anything? Why do they ignore the red flags, and how many red flags do they need to see before they take action? Why do our children have to reach rock bottom before anyone pays attention?
I get that mental health services are over stretched, I get that they are understaffed and over worked, but I also feel that too many of our children are being ignored and let down by services that are supposedly there to protect them and it is not good enough when young lives are at risk through no fault of their own.
They didn't ask for mental illness, they didn't cause it, it is sometimes genetic and sometimes random and sometimes due to traumatic life events, which most adoptive children have been through. We all know from the experts that the body holds the score no matter how young they were when they were adopted. Why should they not take priority, why should they not be entitled to life long support from birth as standard? Why should their adoptive parents have to fight tooth and nail to get them the support they should be entitled to? It is wrong to have to let them reach rock bottom in order to finally get some help, as quite often by the time they get it, too much long lasting damage has been done which can have life long consequences, not only on the child but on the adoptive parents as well.
Divorce is incredibly high in adoptive/SEN families where one parent usually leaves because the childs needs are too much, leaving the lone parent to struggle on alone without respite, often putting their own career on hold, becoming their childs carer if the child cannot fully function in the real world. It is a nightmare and is so unfair to all concerned and when the LA then tries to make out you are failing your child when it is them that are failing us, it just beggars belief.
Try and think of some of this when in court you judge us and make us decide which child gets to live at home and which child has to live in care and then you continue to neglect both childrens needs and you continue to make our lives hell.
Sorry I was going to keep it general and was not going to get personal, but it is so hard when the nightmare is continuing daily and the battle continues week by week, hour by hour, and there is absolutely no consolation when care home or hospital are recording how complex and difficult your children are and all of the professionals are struggling to make progress and the LA are finally getting it, that maybe it wasn't all down to mum being useless after all, but of course they can never admit to that can they, as that would be an admission of negligence now wouldn't it?