If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Letterbox Connection

From day one I have been a massive advocate for contact, I believe in the importance of our children having some contact with their birth families. All children need to know their roots, what they choose to do with that information is for them to decide, although I pray that they will involve us, so that we can support them when the time comes.

At the very beginning of our adoption journey I thought that contact would be easy, just a couple of letters a year and child 4 would have a link to his roots. I didn't really think about the impact on me. For me, the writing of the letters was easy, I would write about child 4's favourite books, songs, TV programmes. I would share his achievements and milestones. I wrote about visits to the farm, his love of animals especially the ones we own. We would make pictures to share using his handprints and footprints so that they could see how he had grown. A chicken with a handprint for her crown, a dinosaur based on his hand prints. Child 4 would decorate the carefully hand written pages with crayon and I would feel like we had done a good job. But then we would wait for their response. The first couple of letters were full of anger, sorrow and loss and it was relatively easy for me to read them, the untidy, grammatically incorrect letters full of spelling mistakes, inappropriate language and confusion. those first letters supported the need for child 4 to be removed and then placed with us, in a way it gave me the higher ground on justifying the need for adoption. But, now the letters are more coherent, this couple are becoming more grounded and although in some ways I am pleased, I am not callous enough to want them to suffer more than they already have but, in all honesty I prefered those initial disconnected ramblings.

As child 4 grows, he will be able to read all these letters, I have copies of what we have sent and have kept all the responses, I feel that he would understand better that there was no choice but adoption when he reads those first letters but as he reads the later ones will he question why he was taken into care and then "placed" with us. In some ways I hope that they will stop responding or they will revert to anger and despondency.  I will continue to write but if they didn't write back or if their letters became full of Resentment I will once again take the higher ground.

I know I am being selfish, unjust and downright mean but he is now mine, I guess I don't really want to share him, although I really do understand that there is no choice, I have to take this on the chin, I kind of knew what we were getting into, I just had a rose tinted view of it. It is so important to put child 4's needs first, it is important for him to know that his birth parents love him and that he understands that they just couldn't keep him safe. But that doesn't stop me worrying. On one hand I worry that they may stop writing making him feel that they didn't care enough, on the other that they won't stop and he will ask why he had to be snatched away from them in the first place. I guess that I have just realised that no matter what he is the loser and I love him yet can't protect him from what has already happened I just have to hold his hand and be with him when the time comes for him to make sense of it all.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Attachment Aware Schools

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend a conference held at Bath Spa University on Attachment and Trauma in Schools. the university along with Bath and North East Somerset County Council have been working together to create attachment aware schools. It was wonderful to listen to the speakers share their passion about the importance of attachment and how schools can help.

Having learnt about the importance of  attachment and how trauma in children affects their learning and emotional growth during our adoption preparation, I have gone on to actively seek out as much information as I can, reading books such as The Primal Wound, Bubble Wrapped Children and the Science of Parenting I have sought out media articles that highlight the new research investigating how trauma can have a huge impact on the develpoment of children in our society. I have attended therapeutic parenting courses run by followers of Dan Hughes and I have tried and tried to share that knowledge with those around me, particularily in school. I have found the lack of interest or desire in teachers to even give much more than a cursory glance my way disheartening. And I honestly believe that this is because I am viewed as "just" a mum, who is over protective of her youngest child. So I now back every theory I share with specific research to show that it's not me just talking rubbish.

Whilst on the conference I found that my basic background knowledge into trauma was far superior to the many teachers, school leaders and teacher assistants who attended. I have a better grasp of how the brain develops and why some children struggle in school. With the knowledge I also understand that for our traumatised children to achieve in school we need to change how we talk to them. I was shocked and saddened that all the research and knowledge that is only a few clicks away using the Internet is pretty much unknown by many of those who are working in our education system.

When I listened to those who have heard, who have understood, share their stories of success in helping children  in schools using therapeutic methods and emotion training I felt that the sun had come out but, it's not happening everywhere, this conference was shouting from the roof tops about "Play, Love, Acceptance,Curiosity and Empathy" it was showing that these new methods were changing lives. In Stoke On Trent an area full of children living in poverty, a council who have suffered huge financial cut backs have by using therapeutic methods reduced Behaviour incidents by 80%, violence in schools by 50% and have not permanently excluded a looked after child in the last 6 years. Absolutely EVERYONE who talked about attachment and supporting children with that as the central theme talked positively.

Tony Clifford shared a wonderful analogy. If a child comes into school with a nut allergy, every member of staff, including the lunch time staff will be trained in what to do in the event that the child comes into contact with nuts and parents will be asked not to send any nut related products in lunch boxes. Schools have the same responsibility to look after traumatised children, these children will be the runners and if they do go into flight mode nothing will keep them in a school setting, not fences or gates and if they can get out then they are at as much risk as the child with a nut allergy.

We need our schools to understand the importance in using new ways of educating children, they are not all the same and we HAVE to ensure that they feel safe before we can look at academia. The government are certainly aware that there are issues, which is why all looked after children are eligible to claim pupil premium and the new adoption fund has been released to support traumatised children should they need it. None of this will help our children achieve their potential if our educators don't understand trauma or worse don't realise that it exists. It still remains for the parents to educate them and I am finding that really really hard.