Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Next weekend we are going to back to try something that we haven't been able to do in over 18 months.

After repeated requests from oldest we agreed to talk to social services and find out about the status of his older brother and whether they could see each other again. We had to stop contact because of a court review and contact between the older brother (still in foster care, lets call him BB) and their birth mum. Our concern was that this contact was unsupervised and that the children were old enough to know their surnames, school name and address - all details that we didn't want to be shared.  

Fast forward to today and the contact team and BB's social worker have been great. They have provided me with as much detail as they can - there is still contact and it is still unsupervised but there is no risk that he will return to her care and will remain with his foster carer - the same lady we met previously and got on really well with. They gave us some advise as to how we could move forward and offer to support us so we felt that we could make a date to see BB again.  

Oldest has been told that we have booked this and he can see it is written on the calendar on the kitchen wall. He has started to get excited about it and, from correspondence with the foster carer, BB is also excited. It serves as an excellent reminder that my children have another family out there and that they are naturally curious about that family and have an interest in the people that formed a part of their early years. We have a plan for a short meeting, over food, where the children will not leave our supervising so that we can steer conversations away from topics and information that can't be shared. There is no point saying to a 7 year old 'don't tell him . . . . ' because that would be the first thing out of his mouth. After that we will see how it goes as to when we see him again.  

In all this I have not mentioned youngest. I don't even know if she will go and meet him as she has no relationship with him and no interest in seeing him. I think that, if she goes, it will only be for the food.  

All this doesn't take away my nerves. My anxiety. My concerns.

All I can do is enter into it with an open mind. an appreciation of how oldest is feeling as well as his needs in terms of identifying himself and the people that are important to him. I will always support him in this, regardless of how I feel about it and hopefully it will help as they years go by.  
In other news both smalls are making great progress with their rugby - oldest has started playing proper matches, he is working really hard with the rest of him team and the improvement is amazing, Youngest is also improving and recently enjoyed minor success of being the best tackler when it came to tackling the practise bags, so much so that she had to demonstrate to the boys.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Formal Occasion - time to count some blessings

I do love a good wedding. This weekend were privileged enough to be invited (as a family of 4) to the wedding of my 2nd cousin.  

As much as I was excited to attend I was also very nervous, this was the first time that the kids had done a traditional wedding from start to finish. They have been to 2 evening receptions and wedding weekend but never a traditional church wedding followed by wedding breakfast and evening reception. I was worried about them getting bored, getting hungry, being tired, wanting to run about and generally making a nuisance of themselves.  
The run up as pain free - oldest loved his new trousers, waistcoat, shirt, tie combo with a smart coat over the top. Youngest was as much fun as a doll with a new dress, sparkly shoes, tights and cardigan. Both were brilliant with wearing their respective Christening gifts - necklace, bracelet, watch. They even let me do their hair, loose curls for youngest and spiky hair gel for oldest.  

They were even good on the car drive down - 2 hours into London to the hotel where the reception was and where we had a room booked. On arrival I was prepared enough with snack and drinks (nothing that we could get messy with) which served 2 purposes - entertainment and prevention of hungry in the short term. Meeting family was also a time waster until the bus arrived  

I have to confess the Bride and Groom had thought of everything - a red London bus to the church in the centre of the city which meant the kids had a great time and required little entertainment. The church bit was not so easy. We decided to go with the easy escape option of sets in the back row (I think my cousin's mum would have preferred us nearer the front as family but we apologies and went with our option) and once again my kids surprised me. We had another snack waiting for the service to start and I took the easy option of electronic games devices for the boring bits. They were quiet, the stood up at the right bits, showed interest in the best bits - entrance of the bride etc and were generally brilliant. At the end, register signing and a few photos I had ready a mini packet of love hearts and a lot of relief.  

Back to the bus and once at the hotel we were distracted booking in and looking at our room followed by drinks, canapes and some colouring sheets that I had packed. Oldest did a portrait of the happy couple which I hope they liked (they had orange faces as there was no pink crayon). Minor involvement in photos was another distraction as was getting them to find us on the seating chart (A Big Bang style periodic table) and they were allowed to borrow various cameras from various people to take photos with. Going in for the wedding breakfast led to another surprise - activity packs that were amazing and included activity books, disposable cameras and other bits that entertained between courses and during speeches. One again I was very grateful as they were brilliant.  

Next task was a return to the room, toy swap and refresh before back to the evening bit. Oldest sat to the table with this tablet and played quietly. Youngest switched from dancing, playing on her tablet and eating from the buffet at all times being as good as gold. 10pm came quickly and they were rewarded with sparklers, it was bonfire night! After that we decided not to push our luck any further and they went to bed with very little fuss, not accepting that they were tired but it was tantrum free. Sleep claimed them quickly. I listened to the band until they finished and then slept.  

Sunday dawned early, for all that they were hours late in bed the lie in lasted 30 minutes!  
Cartoons were a godsend for a while but hunger was the moving so we got up, sorted and headed for breakfast and that was when things started to go a little bit wrong. They wanted to be up and down to the buffet, not an option with the hot food and people carrying coffee about. They ate with much messing about and they tiredness was starting to show so we were as quick as possible and, saying our farewells we escaped and headed for home. 

I am lucky (and very grateful) that they were great for the important bit, annoyed with myself for underestimating how challenging breakfast might be. Sunday afternoon was hell but an early night and school should help. Now I can look forward to the next one.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A good start to the term.

Last week we celebrated the time old tradition of parents evening. Once again we ventured through the breach and onto school property for 2 meeting, each lasting 10 minutes each - one for each child. The school hall was full of parents and there were tables with the teachers waiting for us like predators waits for its prey.  

We sat in the first waiting area, looking over the school books that were on display. Oldest looks to have been working hard, there was lots of green and plenty of smiley faces, always a good sign. The teacher was free, we were summon to the table and, luckily, she smiled! The evening was on the up! He has been working hard, improving in all areas and he is meeting the expectations that are set by whoever sets the whole school curriculum decides. 
He is a pleasant child in class, they are no obvious behavioural issues (yet) and there are no concerns. The relief was overwhelming. Of his teacher I would say a lot of good things including her willingness to take time to listen to us, to try and understand some of our concerns and also to help him with little things like a pass to the chill out club at lunch times whenever he wants to go. Usually children are given a ticket when play time gets too much, he doesn't need to wait for the ticket but can decide and take himself when he feels he needs to. A real passive step forward.  

As we were concluding our conversation we were aware that teacher number 2 was watching intently - we were late for her table! Never a good start as we hadn't reviewed youngest books, they were still sat on the table waiting for us!  

We thanked teacher 1, quickly switched books and moved over to the next table. This was wasn't quite as smiley. This one was the one we were slightly less nervous about. Youngest has always tended to be the more compliant, the less challenging and overall a bright cookie. She still is a bright cookie, working ahead in her phonics and reading but meeting expectations elsewhere in her school work. It felt like we were being lulled into a false sense of security. We were, She has been in trouble for interfering with other children. Not a massive surprise based on her behaviour at home but we had hoped it was limited to her brother. Seems like not. Her teacher is acting according to school rules, youngest will learn and that is all we can do for the time being (other than speak to her about it, which we did).  

Walking out of school it was like a weight had been lifted and we are hopeful for next time, traditionally the second hardest of the year (after the first half term of the new year). We don't have to worry about parents evening again until the summer.

Book Review - A Forever Family by John Houghton

It was a freebie book that I picked up at Adoption UK's volunteers day and not usually one that I would choose but I figured I would give it a try as it might be valuable without being as full on as a text book (my usual adoption themed reading material).  

It is the account of an adoptive father - he and his wife adopt a sibling group of 3. This book tells their story of managing the confusion that social services can be, the nightmare of living with an abused child who then turns to being the abuser resulting in the placement breaking down and the oldest child being returned to the care system.  

Whilst this is not something I would usually choose I struggled to put it down and read in just 3 days. Part of me was wishing for a happy ever after but at the same time I knew it would not the case. It is well written, objective where possible but incredibly emotive with the author sharing openly his hopes and dreams as well as his fear and devastation. Whilst is presents a very realistic view of one family's experiences from one perspective it recognises that it is just that - one experience and not a reflection on all adoptive families.  

Is it worth reading? Yes. By potential adoptive parents? Yes. If nothing else it shows worst case scenarios that they might need to be prepared for and it might inform on some choices like accepting a sibling group or accepting a child with a history of abuse. Being armed with this ha to be in the best interests of all involved and might be helpful in preventing adoption breakdowns.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sticks and Stone

'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me' 

I think I have proof that this statement is not true, words can be really hurtful.  

But, stones can be a nightmare as well.  

Yesterday I arrived home after a rough day in the office. I figured I had some time to spend with oldest before collecting smallest from Rainbows but I walked into the house to see Nanny with a face like thunder. When he refused to tell me what he had done, she had to. The crime? Throwing a stone at a passing car.  

My heart sank.  

The driver had stopped, reversed and got out to check the damage and luckily there wasn't any and luckily he was reasonable and accepted when oldest was made to apologise to him.  

If could have been a lot worse.  

If I am honest I am really glad that it was Nanny who dealt with this one. I can't decide how I would have reacted and I am pretty sure daddy would have been livid and it would have ended in a lot of shouting.  

The next question we pondered after a very subdued little boy was safely tucked up in bed was what should the consequence be? I am not a fan of the word punishment but for actions that are this severe there does need to be a consequence. No sports club or Beavers? Doesn't work for me as this clubs are there for really positive reasons. No friend for tea? But that punishes his friend and that isn't fair. Is there any argument for the shouting he got from nanny and being made to say sorry to the drive was enough? I really don't know.

I wish that the whole parenting thing came with an instructions book.

Monday, October 10, 2016


It has been some time since our children had direct contact with their older sibling. Our choice as we wanted to preserve the security of their placement and based on the conditions under which the older sibling was functioning at the time. Looking back I posted in May 2015 about the situation.  

However, as our oldest has got a bit older and a lot more aware of himself and his surroundings he has decided that he wants to see his sibling and is repeatedly asking questions like 'how is he', 'where is he', 'when can I see him', 'does he care about me'. To all of these I have had to answer that I just don't know. Because I have no idea. Since we ceased the direct contact and asked social services to keep us up to date in case we could go back to it we have heard absolutely nothing,  

It feels like a common failing that different teams that deal with post adoption support and children in a care setting (foster or otherwise) just do not communicate with each other, Add the contact team with whom no one talks and you have a triangle where the points are just not joined up. And it is just not helpful.  

But, bearing in mind that I promised eldest that I would try I did call the contact team, explained our situation, position and history and I asked for her to help me more forward. She promised me that she would and I am hopeful. She has never let me down before.  

And she hasn't. I am now waiting for a different social worker to call me to discuss.

My worry is that adding to other conversations about birth family contact might not be the best plan. But I can't prove it without trying it and trying it might be catastrophic.

A conversation, part 2

It has taken me some time to get my head around my conversation with my oldest earlier last week, mainly because it took me completely by surprise. I wasn't expecting him to start questioning me about his birth family and his past until he was much older, maybe when he moved to secondary school. I have always promised myself that I would honest with the children, it is their history and they have a right to understand what happened to them and why but it is really difficult to make that story age appropriate.  

The weird thing is that he keeps coming back to the conversation every few days, adding a bit here and there and asking for a little more information as well. He realises there are letters and wants to know what their content is, he doesn't want to see the letters. He keeps telling me that he remembers her which I find hard to believe as he hasn't seen her in nearly 4 years and since then he has seen her photo once. He doesn't want to see it, he has a memory book detailing his life for us, we have never hidden it from him but he doesn't want to look at it.  

He has also realised that the statement 'I want to live with (insert name)" is a button pusher. It hurts my feelings and no matter how I try to hide it he has realised and can now use this against me whenever he is angry or in the mood to hurt me.  

My other concern is that these conversations have caused real distress for youngest. She really isn't interested and gets really upset whenever oldest starts making it even harder. At the moment lots of cuddles and affection are the order of the day so hopefully that will reassure her that she has nothing to worry about.  

Being an adoptive parent is really hard, harder than I ever imagined. Would I change it, not for the world but sometimes I wish life could be a bit simpler and I feel guilty wishing for that.