Friday, January 25, 2013

Job Done!

NB is going to be adopted . . . perhaps quite soon.  His profile is on various databases, and already one family has requested further information about him.

So I am delighted that this week we had two important developmental assessments and in both of them, NB demonstrated that he has made such progress that his Health Visitor is ready to state that it is unlikely that he will need special educational needs support when he starts school.

I blogged a while ago (during a bit of a rant about David Cameron) about the important job that foster carers do in preparing children for adoption.

Unlike many adoptive parents, foster carers receive specific training about caring for traumatised children, are often highly experienced in childcare and development, and are usually at home with the children full time.  This means that we are able and expected to bring a certain level of professionalism and commitment into our role as the primary carers of children who have experienced varying levels of abuse and neglect.

I take my role of preparing children for adoption or rehabilitation very seriously.  When NB came to me just over a year ago, he scored below his chronological age in all but one of the eight assessment criteria on the Schedule of Growing Skills Assessment, and over a year below in some areas.  Now he is significantly under on only two - his locomotor (he has a non-serious medical condition that accounts for this) and speech (very delayed due to neglect - but catching up!).

In four of the areas, he has scored significantly above his chronological age, and, significantly, the Health Visitor assessed his cognitive skills to be more than 6 months ahead of his chronological age.

Not bad for a child that was thought highly likely to have special needs.  Now it seems that NB will be able to grow up a normal, healthy child, able to achieve, fulfill his potential and live independently.

I'm not saying this to garner credit for myself.  All over the country, foster carers are welcoming children with a complex range of needs into their homes and working hard behind the scenes to turn their lives around.  They learn new skills, identify needs and formulate plans to meet them, work with other professionals, and make a huge difference just by providing stability, and a safe and healthy environment.

As far as NB is concerned, I have taken advice on diet and nutrition, since he was extremely overweight and iron deficient, and have worked through all the difficulties of completely changing his dietary habits.  He is now on the same centile line for height and weight! 

I have bought books to teach myself some basic Makaton signs and have taught these to NB so that he could begin to communicate on a basic level as he could only say one word (yes) when he came to me.

I have spent ages choosing age-appropriate and stimulating toys and activities as he did not know how to play.  I have worked with his Playgroup teachers to support and build on his learning there. 

I have taken him to countless audiology, orthoptic, physiotherapy, orthotic, health visitor and doctor's appointments.  I have become a regular visitor at speech therapy and completely changed my pattern of speech in the home in the hope of encouraging his fledgling attempts at communication.

I have taught him to feed himself, potty trained him, weaned him off his ever-present bottle, and encouraged him to dress and undress himself.  Soon I will move him into a big-boy bed in preparation for moving on to a new family.

I have entertained many, many social workers, special guardians, reviewing officers and other officials in my home for the multitude of meetings that are required.  And I have taken him to contacts with family members who have sometimes turned up, but more often have not.

I have been trapped in the car on the street while a non-approved person attempted to have an impromptu contact with NB through the car window, even though they had been forbidden by the Police from having any contact with him.

It goes on and on.

It's not that I don't think an adoptive parent wouldn't do all of this, it's that I'm glad that now they won't have to.  It's hard enough adopting a child.  Actually, it's hard enough for most people even going through the process needed to come to the realisation that they will become adopters, never mind the assessment and approval process.

If adopters are going to go through all of that in order to give NB a forever family, then it seems that the least I can do is to pull out all the stops to give that adoption the best chance of success it could possibly have.  And in NB's case, that has meant spending the last year working hard to release the beautiful, playful, bright, loving boy I could see was in there.

Now, when his family finder is looking for somebody for him, she won't need to focus only on those who feel able to take a child who could have significant difficulties.  This means that the pool of potential adopters has suddenly opened up wide so that he has a much better chance of being adopted more quickly and getting on with his new life without delay.

Like I said, I'm not looking for a medal.  I'm writing this because I think that the vital role that foster carers play in the lives of looked-after children should be recognised and supported.  We are not glorified babysitters.  We are not some kind of kiddy storage area.  We are a vital pivot between the sadness of what went on before and the joy that is to come, and any attempts to reduce or remove the part that foster carers play in the care of looked-after children will only place more pressure on adopters, with, I fear, the result that the already high rate of failed adoptions could increase.

I've read that if one family in every church in the UK fostered one child, then there would be no children waiting in inappropriate care settings.  In case you ever doubted it, it's an incredibly worthwhile thing to do.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snow and the Sea

We've had a busy few days as I simply can't resist taking the boys out in the snow!

On the first day of snow, we had things to do, so all we could manage was a walk down to the local shop.  This might not seem so exciting, but previously I've always taken the boys to the shop in the pram or car as the return journey would be a serious uphill walk for them, and also I haven't been sure of my ability to keep tabs on them both and there are plenty of roads to cross on the way.

But, OB has got better at not running away recently, and the roads were quiet with all the traffic going slowly in the snow, so I thought we'd try it.

The boys were very excited!

Making Tracks!
Running like penguins :)

Today we began a project that I've been planning for a while.  We're having an Under The Sea theme at our house for the next week or two.  In preparation, I had already bought a plain white sheet, some bright glitter paint, and a bucket of sticky foam sea creature shapes.

Today we painted our sheet using our hands and feet, and then stuck our glittery, foamy sea creatures onto it.  Once it was all ready, we had over an hour of fun playing on the 'sea' with our Noah's Ark, with sea creatures and boats, pretending to swim, reading sea-related books and singing sea-related songs.  All lovely fun :)

Getting our hands and feet dirty

Foamy sea creature stickers - we've saved some of these for future creations!

We also managed another walk in the snow - this time we ventured as far as the local lake, where it was bitterly cold!  We braved the freezing winds for about 40 minutes, but when it looked like the skin on their cheeks was going raw, we went off to the visitors' centre for a lovely hot chocolate :)

 The boys had enormous fun throwing snowballs at me.  Of course, they can't make snowballs and they can't really throw either, so what this really consisted of was them picking up snow in their mittens, me pretending to run away, them chasing me, me being 'caught' and then standing still for quite a long time while they wiped their snow on my trousers, laughing their little heads off!

Days like these . . . gold :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I almost got to the end of today without realising that it's an important anniversary for us - it is exactly one year since OB came back!

Considering the state he was in then and all that has happened over the past year, I can't help thinking that this date deserves a decent-length post full of stories, reflections and thanksgiving, but it's late and I'm tired so I think I'll just say this: thank God!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Gift of a Name

Shortly before Christmas I filled in my application to the family court for an adoption hearing and court order.  It was quite a bureaucratic nightmare for somebody like me, who finds even putting a stamp on an envelope a bit too stressful!  Thankfully my social worker had assembled all of the forms for me, so all I had to do was to photocopy the photo page of my passport and write out a hefty cheque (insert delay here while I unearth my cheque book!) and get it sent off (I got somebody else to help me with that!).

On the form was a space to write OB's current name, and another to write his new adoptive name.  I can tell you that it was quite a thrill to write his new name in that blank space!

I blogged last year about the thorny issue of the names that adopted children come with. OB of course has come to me with a name already, and it isn't OB!  Thankfully, considering some of the odd monikers that parents come up with these days, it's a pretty normal name - good thing since I'm not allowed to change it!

But of course, he will get a new family name - mine - and I was told that I was allowed to give him a new middle name if I wanted.  This left me in a bit of a quandary as OB already has a middle name.  Would I give him a new name?  And if so, would I retain his current middle name and force him to live a life burdened with no less than four names?

OB's first name was given to him by his birth mother simply because she liked the name.  I like the name too, so that's handy.  However, his middle name was more than that.  OB's birth mother chose his middle name after a family member who had meant a lot to her in her childhood - somebody who had cared for her when everyone else had deserted her.

I struggled for a while with this, but in the end I decided to keep that middle name, even though it wasn't one I would have chosen.  When OB grows up and asks about his birth family, I want to be able to tell him that his birth mother loved him, and that she cared enough for him at his birth to name him after somebody who had been so important to her.  Not only that, but this relative of OB's birth mother is his blood relative too, somebody whose history and life is connected to OB's regardless of his adoption, and it seemed good to me that he would carry this link to his identity in his name.

But I am also giving OB a new middle name.  I've said before that names are so important.  From the first moment that they know they are expecting a baby (and often even before!), parents begin to look through, sort, and choose names for their baby.  Giving a child a name is so much more than simply giving them a convenient label by which they can be known.  Names are invested with so much meaning, history, cultural identity and hope.  As an adoptive parent, my desire to invest my child with a name that has special meaning for me is no different to any other parent's.

So OB's new middle name will be Matthew.  It's not a name that I've thought about before, nor have I always wanted a son called Matthew.  But it's the name that fell into my head immediately when I was told that I could choose my own middle name.  When I explored its meaning I discovered that it meant "gift of God".  How appropriate for a little treasure that has come into my life as such an unexpected, yet cherished gift.

Yes, the poor little thing will have four names to carry around - his signature is currently bigger than he is!  Two of them, the first and third, will be gifts from his birth family, one, the last, will be his gift from me, and his second name will speak of the awesome gift that he is to me, and of the loving father who ordained that it should be so.

Some More Successes

A while ago (quite a long while actually!) I posted about some of the successes we've had in our house.  As I said at the time, I'd love to be able to post pictures on Facebook and on here showing what wonderful little men the boys are becoming, but sadly I can't.  So instead, I'll update you all on some of our more recent successes and achievements in another shameless show-off session!

  • Gymnastics continues to be alternately hysterical and horrifying!  But yesterday, after our Christmas break, OB managed to walk the length of the narrow beam (holding one hand) without falling off once, and NB did a real, actual jump off the bench (as opposed to his usual 'walking off forwards and bashing his bottom on the edge of it as he goes down like a sack of spuds' routine).
  • OB is soaking up vocabulary like a sponge and learning new words daily, but he still has some lovely mispronunciations.  I particularly like 'lo lo lo lon' (another one), 'saysoop', 'saypoop' and 'paypoop' (all versions of Playgroup) and 'papple' and 'piepapple' (apple and pineapple).  Some words he prounces correctly but in such a cute way that they are worth a mention, for example 'buttons' and, of course, 'mummy'!  Over Christmas he learned 'no like it', which I'm sure I will get tired of very soon, and also managed to string together a few three or four word sentences. Genius!
  • NB is also getting to grips with the talking thing.  He can manage quite a few two-word combinations now, including 'my_____' as well as '_____ there'.  I'm hoping the Speech Therapist will be pleased with me when we go again!
  • Potty training has been one of our best, recent successes.  NB is dry most days now, and since we discovered that he prefers to use the toilet rather than the potty for his poo, we have been free of messy pants!  With me, he still usually waits to be taken to the toilet, but when he's out and about with other people, or at Playgroup, he will ask, which is a major achievement considering where we started.
  • Both the boys have learned to say some numbers and enjoy counting out loud in their own unique ways: two, three, two THREEEEEEEEEE!  This is also a fun game with 'four, six'.  Five and one are quite out of favour at our house.
  • We have ditched spoons for most meals and got knives and forks - this is more for my amusement than for anything else :)
  • NB can drink out of a big boy's cup very proficiently!
  • I have been practising dressing and undressing with NB and now he can get his own pants, underpants and socks off and has a good try at removing his t-shirts.  He can also put his underpants on all by himself, although not always the right way round :)
  • OB is getting a lot better at staying with me when we go out and about.  This was previously a major problem as, once given a glimpse of freedom, he would run as far and as fast as possible without fear, showing no concern if he lost sight of me - very problematic (not to mention dangerous!) when you're trying to keep tabs on two of them.  Although he's not perfect and still needs to be chased fairly often, he has improved so much that I now dare to take them out sometimes without the pram, which is great as they are both boys that need to burn off energy by running and walking, not sitting around being pushed everywhere!
  • Both boys have a lovely reaction to music.  I bought OB a 'nano' (piano) for his birthday and they have great fun pressing the buttons to make the rhythms come on and then dancing, or playing along on their guitars and drums.  We make a pretty good band, if I say so myself!
Well, that's all for now - I'm sure I'll think of other things I should have written, but I can save them for another post :)