The Gap… Part 2: Winter ’19-Spring 20

Out hardest part of the year is always the last couple of months as birthdays (which trigger the children), Halloween (which scares Caitlin as she still has that young belief that things are real – and the props and decoration could burst into life and get her), fireworks (sensory nightmare) and Advent/Christmas (mega trauma trigger) occur. So to combine that with the aftermath of a safeguarding enquiry (see The Gap… Part 1) whilst fighting the LA for funding for the perfect school. UGH! If I wasn’t burnt out enough already, these months definitely added fuel to the fire! The LA were shocking. Delays, saying one thing toy face and doing another in action.

My sanity was saved by our Post Adoption Social Worker; this type of social worker can be referred to as a Family Support Worker because of the stigma attached to the phrase “Social Worker” but that is what they are, Social workers, however they aren’t there to judge the safety of the family (although they would definitely need to report and relay any safeguarding concerns) they are the contact point for support following the placement and adoption of a child. In some circumstances they will have very little contact with the families they are allocated to as they family are able to go on as normal. However, in cases like ours they may need to be heavily involved as the children’s needs require a high level of support and intervention that can only be arranged through post adoption services. She attended meetings with me, visited me frequently between meetings and generally acted as a sounding board, the fact that she was hearing and seeing the same discrepancies and lies from the LA and was as frustrated with the situation as I was made it easier to keep fighting for sure. And I have no doubt in my mind that her letter/email to the LA tipped the balance for us gaining funding. The letter wasn’t something she had to do, but was something I had asked her for, I never saw it but I know it highlighted the cost of a therapeutic foster placement on top of the school placement and pointed out that I was doing the job of multiple people with no respite… so at some point a family breakdown was inevitable and that was why we were so intent on fighting against it now. And I know she personally spoke to the LA’s SEND team on multiple occasions to fight on our behalf.

Mess ups within Logan’s process means I managed to back them into a legal corner, to avoid court (which I would have won as I had clear evidence of a lack of legally required action from them) they agreed to a tutor for him whilst the continued investigation, and hunt for suitable school provision occurred.

After 6+ months of fighting Caitlin got her placement at the school. She had about 4-6 2 hour transition sessions of school and then… BAM! Pandemic!

The Gap: Part 3 – PANDEMIC – no one panic!

So after the burnout of the education and lack of support crisis, which lead to home education and lack respite, the fight for an appropriate school provision (which had only just been won for Caitlin, but Logan’s journey was still outstanding), and a safeguarding enquiry… We roll straight into a global pandemic! Wow! What can you say about that really? Impeccable timing!!!

But the impact on us was different to many families (a few examples to highlight):

  • “Educate from home”…. Ok well, we know how to do that, but at least someone else is in charge of curriculum now
  • “Find a reduce children’s anxiety triggers” – that’s a familiar one, so out come the usual but slightly tweaked to fit visual timetables and daily routines
  • “Stop seeing people – and stay distanced when you do” actually, we “see” people rarely and social distancing works quite well for us, especially Caitlin who has quite enjoyed it

But there were a few things that caused issue

  • Panic Buying angle one – these are kids who’ve “been without” seeing the supermarket so bare caused huge anxiety that they would not be able to have basics again – so I had to empty our cupboard of all non perishable goods and out them in the cellar (so they felt we had ample back up) and we lived purely on perishable stocks. And actually it meant I found the veg deliveries I’d been looking to get but not had time to arrange previously, and other avenues had opened up too (like meat deliveries).
  • Panic buying angle two – whilst we were buying toilet roll (I don’t mean panic buying, literally 2 rolls per toilet as we were on dregs and I’d have moved to rags if necessary) both children were quite literally grabbed and pushed out of the way but a panic buyer trying to stash. I didn’t physically harm the person who’d just been so physical with the children (despite an overwhelmingly strong desire to do so) but the look I gave the person was enough for them to down stash and walk away sheepishly.
  • Grief over loss – Logan had a new tutor, Caitlin a new school and both were now taken away (though going to remain in contact virtually, it took a while to convince them and help them to realise they were going to remain in these setups and that it wasn’t just them subject to new arrangements but rather the entirety of the children. But they still had a period of grief, these are children who’ve already lost 2 families, 2 schools and 3 home towns. So loss feels huge to them.
  • Freedom to explore – this is a coping strategy for us; when things are getting stressful at home, it can get very tense and we have learned to diffuse this by heading out for an adventure and an explore; a happy distraction. This is a lifeline and it was no longer viable.

Phil and I were really poorly at the beginning of lockdown 1, and we think that we may well have had covid except we were unable to get tested at that point as it was still very limited groups who could be tested. But we were more poorly than we had been in along time; 4 weeks later we called the docs and got antibiotics as things had shifted (was either covid or another virus, followed up with a secondary illness or what we now know to be long covid). I shall not outline how we’re were etc. Cause people have blogged that to max. Neither child showed any outward symptoms, though both complained of tight chested-ness.

The Gap… Part 1: Summer-Autumn 19

So I’m back… A couple of posts over the coming days will explain my absence, some changes will be made to our blog and much news and updating necessary! Here we begin…

With all the issues surrounding the children’s needs (lack of sleep, high maintenance behaviour issues, needing constant 24 hour supervision, the fact there’s 2 of them and only 1 of me) combined with home education and so forth I was fast burning the candle at both ends. I was screaming for additional support, in terms of respite really. I didn’t mind how that respite came so long as the children’s needs were front and centre; I don’t mean that the person/people looking after them paid them and only them attention, I mean that the actual function of the respite was beneficial for the children and a consequence of whatever it was meant that I got a break, rather than me getting a break and the children dealing with the consequences. However, as they couldn’t attend regular classes and groups unsupervised, I needed professional input.

For example, if they were able to attend a class, special needs group or even an alternate provision where they didn’t need me to supervise then activity would be for and about them, but I wouldn’t need to be there. But I needed someone with the correct level of skill and understanding regarding Logan and Caitlin’s needs, no easy feat.

It was fruitless and disheartening. They aren’t the only children out there with these needs, why was it impossible to access services and support? That’s another debate entirely which I shall side step and maybe come back to on another day.

But… A random Google search (something I do often when trying to do fathom what my brain is trying to figure out) brought up a school one with a more therapeutic approach. I visited, it seemed perfect! No other school (in a reasonable distance) had the same approach and level of understanding, combined with a low impact sensory environment, flexibility to adapt curriculum based on emotional state, and individualised curriculum pathways to ensure that all needs of both children would be met. Their approach to behaviour management mirrored my own beliefs and strategies. And after less than 5 minutes in room with my children, the said “what lovely children” (initial internal reaction “here we go, another person who sees their charm and is fooled by it”) but it was immediately followed up with “but they are very anxious aren’t they?” (Hoooooray! She can see past the superficial front). Also, the kids were hesitant to leave the building. They had been separated from me in a new building, with a new adult whilst I had a tour and a chat. Not only did they not want to leave, but when we did they were not dysregulated!!!

So that was it, I knew I had to fight to get in… But in the interim a safeguarding enquiry had been thrown against me all blown out of proportion by a community organisation who simply did not have the training to understand what they were seeing with my children.and through a process of asking leading questions they built up a case against us. An accident lead to an injury, albeit an avoidable one, but definitely not something that was intended and that was enough for them to start a witch hunt about how unsafe I was as a parent. The level they had presented it at to Social Services called for immediate investigation as to whether the children were safe to remain in a home with me. It was all very unsettling for them (and unpleasant for me). And whilst our therapy team were able to step in and point out discrepancies and the whole safeguarding enquiry was thrown out pretty quickly, it didn’t stop the damage that had been done to the children; whilst the children were able to remain with us in the initial stages, they understood what was happening and were scared they were leaving the only place that had actually felt safe.

And so began the challenge: fight the LA for funding for the school and settle the children back into the sense of safety and permanency they had found with us.