Saturday, 29 June 2013

Adoption Home Study Reflections - Summer 2011

After the affirming and fascinating 4 days of Preparation Group Training in April 2011, I began my home study preparation. I know that the home study assessment is changing with the upheaval of the adoption process, to have more emphasis on empowering the prospective adopters to drive this stage of the adoption process and hopefully make this part of the process faster - time will tell - but I hope that this post might be of some use to you, nonetheless.
I had 8 assessments home studies to complete, each week. They each followed a different theme - for example my own family history, previous and current relationships, work experiences, finances, my friends and support network, housing and local community, child and youth experiences and desire and approaches to parenting and potential adoption issues. I was given a page of questions for each of the topics to be covered each week and I then had to write my answers and email them across to my social worker each week a couple of days before our meeting up at home one evening after work each week.
It was hard work and thorough, as I spent most of my weekends on it and as you are reflecting quite deeply on your past and your values too it is also quite emotionally draining.
It took longer than 8 weeks as some weeks the sessions took more than one visit as they was so much to discuss and some weeks it was difficult to meet up each week with diaries or sickness or information gathering - writing down every place and worked and finding the right referees and building your support network map and your family tree - all took time.
all this ran alongside medicals, getting pets assessed by a vet, sorting out references, getting the house ready for all the health and safety checks and also building up a competency file - that filled an A4 file to capacity - the competency file took a while to complete as everything in it needed cross referencing to the competency they were looking for and the evidence - it was like doing a degree!
The biggest advice I can give is this - work hard, do as much as you can and be as honest and open as you can.
The urban myths are - the are out to get you - and they will dig and dig until they find something they don't like and then they will get up and leave.
The truth is, you need to work hard, be open and honest and a self aware as you can be and be committed to wanting to adopt. It is a learning curve for yourself too as you discover more about yourself and what makes you the person you are today and a chance to discover more about the kind of child you could - or could not - likely to parent as you face adoption.
I poured out my guts and heart and did as much soul searching and reflecting as I could and got others to help with all the practical things like fitting child locks!
My social worker and I started the first home study assessment in may 2011and had completed all the home study assessments by July 2011, leaving me the summer to get the room ready, the competency file completed and for my social worker to get all the references and all the paperwork completed and ready for approval panel.
We hoped to be ready for approval panel for September 2011.

Monday, 24 June 2013

School Transition Preparation

After 2 big school visits and an Information evening for parents, for the most part, that is the Introductions for PJ going to big school done.
The teacher will also make a visit to the various nurseries that this new reception year intake currently attend, if they attend one, to see the children in their current settings and there was an encouraged optional sign up sheet at the Information evening for parents to sign for a home visit by the class teacher or the teacher assistant to visit the children in their home setting during the afternoons of the first week of September.
Each child will have a buddy from year 6 in the school, who they will be linked to and they will get a postcard in the summer holidays to welcome them to their new big school.
Following the Information evening, parents are trying uniform on their children and making their selections and purchases and have the joys of naming everything with name labels within an inch of it's life to look forward to over the next few months - oh - and the trip to buy new school shoes to try and time perfectly with having the choice whilst not buying too soon that they feet are then too big for the shoes in September.

Bear with me, this will be my first experience at doing all of this, so wish me luck!

We have been given an All About Me book - presented to us parents at the parent Information evening which was complete with a photo of our children and named accordingly on the front cover and also an instant camera to take photos of what inspires us to share of our lives between now and the end of the summer holidays to take pictures of and for us to then compile it together on the pages to present it, complete, on the first day of big school in September.


This is all very exciting and for the normal, settled, secure child, this preparation for school is very good. Parents can talk about school and can help their child practise the getting dressed, fasten shoes, toilet themselves and wash their hands and use a tissue to wipe their own nose, alongside buying the new big school uniform and working on the All About Me book - and, for most children and families this will suffice.

Then there is PJ.
Where do we start with the All About Me book - and given that the book will be looked at in school by PJ, probably daily the teacher shared with all of us parents at the Information evening and is designed for themselves to have to share with peers, teachers, visitors etc. I suspect that this book will also be the springboard for their learning activities for the first term - the potential time bomb - for every adopted child - family, identity, life story, belonging, acceptance.

And then, there is PJ. There ain't no way we will be just turning up at school for the first day of big school, without some kind of further preparation for PJ or the school. Given that the centralised admissions team didn't pass on anything to the school, other than a name and a date of birth, I have already begun setting the ball in motion for as smooth a transition as is possible: hopefully it will all help us all.

So, I have met with the head, who is lovely and listened intently as I shared as best I could some of PJ's background, where we are at with the adoption process, her issues and challenges and some of the support and strategies we have in place so far.

I have arranged to meet her class teacher in a few weeks time - as all teacher's at this time are writing reports and have their current class to think of! I will try and outline some of the issues and strategies in greater detail for them to hopefully continue in the classroom to help maintain some consistency and parallels between home and school, so to ease the transition - if possible.

In addition to this, I am sending the school copies of the latest paperwork:
LAC review
nursery report
CAMHS referral and reports

What have I missed?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The P.E. Bag #Memory Box

We just purchased the new P.E. bag for big school.
You know the style, the one with the drawstring that hangs on a peg.
In the olden days, when I was a child, my Mum made me one and threaded old dressing gown chord through it to hang. Then she chain stitched my name along the bottom in the same colour.
I had a brown bag with gold/mustard yellow chord and gold/mustard yellow letters, that lasted for years. Very retro. Vintage now, I think.
I hated it but hated sewing more and I needed a P.E. bag for my hockey kit, which I loved more.
So the brown and gold P.E. bag lived with me for many of my Primary school and of my secondary school days.
It seems that, in the modern days, you buy a P.E. bag with the school logo on.
Ta da!
I tried to big up the idea of a P.E. bag to PJ.
I talked about her needing this lovely bag to put her P.E. kit in.
I tried to explain that her P.E. kit would be worn when she did lots of running around times at big school.
I tried to explain that at big school when you all do running around times you get changed into shorts and t-shirt.
I tried to explain that at big school she would keep her shorts and t-shirt for running around times in her new P.E. bag.
We talked about the colours she would wear and she nodded in agreement that the new P.E. bag was, indeed,  rather lovely.
Yes, and Mummy? she said: Do we put PEAS in it?

2nd Big School Visit

The second Big School Visit this week went well. PJ was a bit more reluctant to go this time but her protests were short lived. She did ask me to stay with her and even when she sat down on the carpet with the other children, she squidged over and made a space for me and patted the floor next to her and said - here you go Mummy.
I declined the offer and went to get her well loved toy that we use to remind her that I will be back from her Nursery bag and handed it to her. She obligingly took it and hugged it and I left her looking a bit bewildered.
This visit was again with half of her new classmates - and was once again for just an hour.
I had arranged to meet briefly with the class teacher, afterwards, to set a date in our diaries next month to update the class teacher on PJ and her positives and her challenges.
She said as we sat with diaries open: I take it that she is very strong willed.
Tomorrow I meet with the head teacher to fill him in on some of PJ's background, issues, needs to help them as a school prepare for her arrival and hopefully help me prepare PJ more for school.
Any pointers for what might be useful to pass on to school or to ask for?
I've thought to ask for a photo of the head and the class teacher and to take one of the school so we can add it to her book to look through over the holidays but. any other ideas gratefully received

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Uniform Challenge is on.

As those of you who have read my blog before will be aware, PJ is preparing to go to Big School in September as she will be starting school and her Reception year.
She has already done a huge transition to move to be with me in this last year and then to start at a new Nursery for her and now she faces another transition: big school.
We are getting to grips, s-l-o-w-l-y, along with the idea of uniform.
PJ doesn't do clothes well.
She used to scream with every item of clothing change. Every time.
She is getting much better.
We have worked hard at lessening choices of clothes to wear.
I set out her clothes for the day and we change in the same place.
I used to layer her vest and t-shirt and sometimes a pinafore dress too, so that it could go over her head as a one-er, to ease the amount of times I was having to go over the head and in the arms of a distressed child.
It hasn't been easy without our battles.
At worst, for me, she lay screaming and crying in protest for 45 minutes as I sat next to her with a handful of clothes for the day. We ended up in just 2 items: pants and a pinafore dress.
We have worked hard at doing coat or hoody options and in the colder winter days have managed coat and hoody - and even, occasionally a hat and gloves as well.
We are now pretty good at socks and shoes, although sometimes we have to wait until we have reached our destination in the car or the buggy, before we do these!
She doesn't like jeans, or cardigans, or anything scratchy.
We have come a l-o-n-g way.
I have been worrying about the whole school uniform thing, to be honest.
I have narrowed down the clothes we wear on Nursery days to dress or skirt option, for this half term.
I have pre-rolled up bundles in a drawer, ready, complete with vest and pants, ready to go.
Skirt = skirt and t-shirt top.
dress option = pinafore style dress and a t-shirt.
She is doing well with this, idea although we are still wearing leggings too.
I console myself by reminding myself of how far we have come with the whole clothes wearing shebang and that we still have a few more months before we start big school and actually begin to wear the uniform.
This week, our 2nd visit to big school, we tried on the school uniform tops and sweatshirts and cardigans for size. Briefly but just about long enough to get an idea of preferences and size.
I think we will going for the cardigan option - a hoody without a hood, I said. She smiled. It's a winner. Phew.
A big relief, as she doesn't really like buttons or pockets either, but perhaps in the excitement, or in the bewilderment, she didn't notice.
I think we will stick to my hunch that the sweatshirts will be too much around the neck for PJ's liking.
I found to my complete delight some "knitted" t-shirt type material skirts and pinafores - the non scratchy material!
So now, as well as practising with getting dressed and with getting dressed as calmly and as quickly as we can and in the either skirt or dress options for nursery days, I am ordering PJ's school uniform.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Mud #Memory Box

Thick, oozy, scquelchy mud.
You love mud.
You saw a puddle at the weekend and jumped in.
Squelch squerch you called as you waded in.
The mud on the outskirts of the mud oozed over and into your doodle pumps.
The muddy puddle - possibly the only one in the park - was deep.
In you went.
Right in.
Up to your knees.
Even if you had worn your wellies, I don't think they would have helped.
Not in that muddy puddle, that's for sure.
You lay down in it and kicked your legs, shrieking with delight and joy.
It was on your nose and in your hair too.
On the squelchy and squirchy walk back up the hill towards home, we passed a family.
The Mum's mouth dropped wide open as she stared.
The Dad smiled and said: that looks like you had brilliant fun.
A lovely Muddy Day, you said.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

First Big School Visit

This week has seen us going to visit Big School for the first time together.
PJ has been so very, very, excited.
I can't believe that after all the preparation I have done in trying to find the right school for PJ and after the school admissions process, that the transition to big school is finally starting.
I began searching for schools as part of my competency file that I compiled ready for approval panel!
I can't believe that PJ, having gone through transition to Nursery since she came to me a few month as ago, now faces another transition: to Big School.
We keep talking about going to big school soon and I often tell PJ that in September we will be going to big school, hoping that as we go through the months of the year whilst chatting about where friends birthdays lie, that some semblance of time will take place for her.
I started talking about our first visit to big school the day before.
She stood on the bed the night before, on tippy toes with her arms out stretched above her head, saying: and in the morning I will be really, really big.
Being big for big school, sounds like a big plan to me, I thought.
In the morning, the first thing she called to me after she called out: Mummy, was - I am really big now, aren't I?
Then she paused for thought and added: but I'm still only a little girl, aren't I.
Yes, you are PJ.
You are big and brave, actually PJ.
In she walked, excitedly, to meet the teacher and sat down so well and sensibly with 15 other children, who would be her playmates for the next hour, and who will be part of her class in September.
The teacher looked on her list and asked PJ who she was, and then quietly added her "birth surname" -  I quickly and quietly interjected her new surname back to the teacher - as hopefully the adoption order will all be through by then, so it will be her legal name - the teacher asked if I wanted all her books to have that name on and I said yes - she has been using her new surname for everything except dentist and doctor since placement and gets distressed when she is called by her birth surname now.
I assumed that the teacher had made the connection and knew more.
But she didn't.
More on that later!
I had chatted with PJ about whether I would stay with her for the hour that she would be at big school, or whether I would leave her during this first visit. I told her the teacher would decide - rather than say that it would depend on whether she would cry or not!
As she sat with her peers, no one said a word.
Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, said PJ to the teacher.
Can the Mummy's go now, please?
She meant me, particularly, I knew. Everyone else just thought she was being cute and was eager to get on and play!
We dutifully left our precious charges, at the teacher's dismissal and then all my fears kicked in.
Will she be OK without me?
Or will she become distressed or controlling?
Does the teacher know anything about her?
I went for a coffee armed with my mobile and returned at the given collection time.
Mummy, she said and beamed and ran to meet me.
Come and see my beautiful new room!
We went back in the classroom and had a quick look round together.
The teacher chatted to a few of us parents so I asked her if it would be easier for me to pass on to her PJ's PEP that is being written now, ready for our next LAC review.
Yes please, she said and I left, thinking, great. The system works.
Then at the Information evening for parents, the teacher came over to me and said she was sorry about not understanding what a PEP was but that she had done her research and wanted to start our conversation again. We shared a few brief sentences about me adopting PJ and agreed that after the next visit to Big School next week that the teacher and I will arrange to meet up again separately.
I asked if they had had any information passed on and they said that all they had were names and dates of birth.
So, we have a lot to catch up on!
I had assumed that the admissions team would have passed on all that was written as part of our school admission application... nope.
At least we have from now until the end of term to get up to speed with background, triggers, positives, areas of need.
One step at a time, for this process of transition to Big School to begin.
Deep breath...

Friday, 14 June 2013

The New Adoption Social

Have you seen The Adoption Social?
Check it out if you haven't already!
The new site for the growing blogging community of adopters hosting the Weekly Adoption Shout Out - or #WASO as you might know it if you tweet - has a new site for us all to join in with.
I am enjoying beginning to have a look around at it - it is looking great!
I can't wait to join in and get connected.
Adoption and parenting can be isolating - so it is great for breaking that isolation to be able to link up, read, write, learn and to gain some lovely new support and online friends - I have really valued their support and insight over these last few months since I began blogging - so thank you - and - if, like me, you value linking up with other like minded souls - link up with the adoption social
Go on, you know you want to!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Holiday Success

We had a fantastic holiday!
A roaring success by all accounts.
Sun, sand and sea.
We built sandcastles and paddled in the sea.
We watched the seagulls and the boats.
We ate ice cream and fish and chips.
We wrote postcards and brought some sticks of rock for friends and family.
We wrote in the sand and threw pebbles in the sea.
We played at our holiday home with our familiar toys we had selected together and miraculously crammed into the car.
The ups by far outweighed the downs.
PJ coped extremely well, for our first holiday together.
The few days of unsettled behaviours before and since returning and the few later nights of settling to sleep and the earlier mornings whilst on holiday fade into insignificance.
With all the excitement and unsettled times the holiday created, I did have to do a load of washing whilst we were away - and had to do it all again when we got home!
12 sets of pants and leggings = 2 days!
Memories created.
And the sun shone, gloriously.
It has been worth it.