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Friday, 11 April 2014

Did someone say the word Freedom and Adoption together.?

FREEDOM , the title for #WASO this week .Freedom is not a word I believe goes hand in hand with the complexities of Adoption .
Only the other day , Amy approached my hubbie John ( pushover dad ) with the idea that it would be nice if we had Georgia to stay once a week .! Much as I love my little Grand daughter I nearly choked at the thought of being tied down every weekend after finally getting a bit of my life back after years of the tribulations of bringing up two Adopted children .

Freedom is something you dream about when you are in the thick of Adoption Mayhem .I remember wishing so many times that I could just turn the clock back and had been able to accept that I couldn't have children .I wished I was travelling the big wide world that could so have been my oyster .I wished for freedom to go for a wee without one of the girls rattling the door and crying a Mum, Mum ,MUM!!!!!!! The very word that I had always dreamed to be called , I so wished for the freedom of being just plain old Fi again .

Alas as soon as you decide to put your foot on the ladder of the Adoption World you lose every bit of freedom you ever had.Social workers want to know every little detail about your past life pre children .If you have been through the mill in relationships , infertility and family issues they want it all , every little bit of the gruesome details .Many times you will find yourself reliving the pain of every failed pregnancies or failed IVF treatment .No there is no freedom in Adoption.

The Happy day arrives and you are accepted by the panel who now also know every little detail of your sad little life and it dosnt stop there as your details are passed on to every hopeful Adoption Agency you approach regarding finding your  little family .
Never mind ,once the children arrive you can get on with your proper job and finally have the freedom of not being branded childless .
The children are now with you , the dream of Freedom now a distant memory .
No longer is your time yours , no longer can you walk out the door with your mobile phone and your keys just for company .
Life is now a juggling act ,a military operation and if there is a change of any arranged plans , a war zone of screaming children hellbent in showing you every little bit of the pain they are carrying in their little souls .

Ah but wait ,the Social workers are now gone you scream with delight ! Wrong you still only have looked after children ,months of stress awaiting the Adoption hearing and assessing your ability to parent the children is still on the agenda . 
Finally you rejoice the making of your family is now complete , grasping that certificate you can finally breathe .You are free you are a family at last .
Next day reality sets in , You now hold the certificate but the problems are still there .RAD doesn't dissapear with the signing of the judges pen . Contact issues still exist , Loss is highlighted they now have new parents and they cannot live with their siblings anymore .Where is the freedom in that ?I 
ask . 
As the years go by , time is taken up with weekly therapy , school meetings and fighting to get support.Holidays take a different meaning with Adopted children , no longer are you free to relax and let your troubles melt .No they come with you !

Time goes by and the children grow up into young adolesants , boys , drink and drugs and the freedom of a whole nights sleep replaced with anxiety and ear strain , and the boundaries you worked so hard to place shattered as they force their new found independence and well chosen peers upon you .
Finally they fly the nest and a little glimmer of the effects of your parenting starts to shine through ,they come to you for advice , a place to cry and offload their early adult problems . They return to their roots and reconnect with their siblings and birth parents ,a period where freedom from stress and sleepless nights is a normal every day occurrence .
Thankfully we survived Adoption , both our girls have come such a long way .Amy turned 21 last week and parents Georgia with confidence and love .Lauren has got a nice new job and has her old sparkle back so for the time being , I really do feel that I am getting a bit of freedom back into my life and much as Iove spending time with Georgia , I also enjoy handing her back to her mum .

I end this post with not  a glimmer of guilt at not being the perfect Grandmother , Adopttion is tough ,coming through it in one piece and surviving it takes a long , long time .
 I am going to enjoy every little bit of the freedom I waited so many years to reclaim ,For that I offer no appology .
Many of you will relate to what I have mentioned in my writting , I wish you all the Hope of Freedom , it will come eventually , just hold that thought .




Thursday, 20 March 2014

Adoption .No such thing as a perfect recipe .

it's been a little while since I have published a post.This weeks Adoption Social topic was recipes .I thought about what that title means to me regarding Adoption .

I tried to recall favourite recipes the girls liked and all I could think about was the control battles over food at mealtimes and the teenage years when they refused to eat anything I prepared .
Lauren still very rarely will eat a meal with us and she has been back at home for eight months .I used to take it personally but now I know it is a means of control and even now Lauren still has to always be in charge  especially when food is concerned .

In December we took a young person in to our home . The nice thing is when I bake or make meals she loves to eat them .After over fifteen years with my girls it is a relief to have somebody living with us who will actually  eat my food .
Incase any of you were thinking that they might have been trying to tell me something , I can inform you I come from a family of amazing cooks and I am trained in patisserie and confectionary .

I also have vivid memories of baking days with the girls in the kitchen , The picture of a yummy mummy in a Cath  Kidston  Flower adorned apron was as far from the real scene as you could get .
I wrestled  with two  power crazy siblings determined to get every little bit of my attention to themselves and Woh behold the child who was in charge of the wooden spoon . Baking sweet delights in our kitchen was not on the agenda .Our projects were often abandoned due to meltdown of either girl and I ended up wondering who actually was the adult in the kitchen as I quickly dissolved into an emotional wreck .
Eventually I found separate baking days with the girls was the only way forward and even then due to Amy's attention levels resembling that of a Knat  , I was often left knee deep in Sponge mix as she stormed off to her next drama.

Cooking at school was also an experience  in our house , I remember very clearly Amy's GCSE Food Technology antics .
Cheesecake . Gosh cooking had changed since my Home  Economics day 's .I could not get my head around why making a cheesecake every week with varying ingredients of differing fat and sugar levels would give my daughter experience in her future domestic life in the real world .
Regardless of my fury over this , my angst at being handed the list of ingredients at 8.30am on the day required was often enough to drive me to breaking point.
I was seen  at the schol gates at break time pushing the dreaded cheesecake ingredients through the school gates as even though I threatened there would be no cheesecake today I couldn't quite ever carry my angst out and leave Amy the only child with no ingredients .

Never mind, you are all thinking we would have lovely deserts to consume at tea time .I am saddened to say a complete cheesecake never quite made it home intact and believe me there were many of them over that GCSE time !!!!!On the positive Amy passed her GCSE with flying colours .

Regardless of my lack of happy memories of cooking with the girls , I do believe there are certain ingredients required for a successful Adoption,

Patience ,
Resiliance
Trust 
Strength 
Cooperation &
A sense of humour  
Most  of all , you will need an inner belief that you will make a difference in these children's lives .
It may take time but as the years go by with a lot of unconditional love you will see a light at the end of that very long tunnel .
What ever recipe it takes to make your family work , handle it with Love and Respect , Bake it till secure and well formed and relish in the knowledge and words of the great Helen Keller.

Alone we can do so little ; Together we can do so much - Helen Keller.




Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Safer Internet ( vital in Adoption )

Today is Safer Internet day . As an Adoptive parent I wanted to draw attention to the vulnerability of the internet for children who have suffered early life trauma .When we adopted our girls sixteen years ago the popularity of mobile phones was only just starting ,in fact during our placement we purchased our first phone between us !!!!!!!! That would be unheard of in our house now .

Who would have thought that technology would have moved at the speed it has .Who would have thought we would witness children as young as five with their own phones!

As my girls were growing up ,pester power began and eventually we gave in and Christmas and Birthdays changed from Barbie and Polly Pocket to arguments about the latest electronic equipment.
Initially they were more of a status symbol to keep up with their peers but eventually the introduction of BBM and Facebook we noticed a change in the way the girls used their phones and computer .
Lauren was able to multi tax at a speed that enabled her to convince us she was doing homework but was holding a large line of online friends on hold .On looking over her shoulder I then came across a language I could not understand and believe me I tried . The computer at that time was a family computer and we monitored time spent , but the girls were so fast and so techno Savy that we soon got left behind .
We soon began to lose control on their online social lives and resorted to communicating on the dangers .

We were often involved in incidents when arguments got out of hand with friends and a barrage of nasty exchanges would end up with parent interaction and grounding .

As Lauren got older it became fashionable to take pictures with friends pouting in less than appropriate  clothing , it became hard to keep tract off as they were all doing it . 
The incident which I believe taught Lauren the best lesson on the danger of the Internet was when during a sleepover with a friend a picture of a boys attire was forwarded to them as a trade for a topless picture of Lauren .
The problem escalated when her friend told the boy my daughter had posted the picture . 
In revenge Lauren's picture was sent to the boys contact list and as you can imagine this then escalated virally .
Unaware of this teenage game , I was very surprised to receive a call from the school advising me that there was a picture of Lauren inappropriately dressed .I explained to the teacher that this modelling behaviour was something I was aware of and I would try my best to get the message across.
When Amy got home , I discussed the phonecall with her . I was completely shocked when she announced that Lauren actually had no top on !!!!!!
Lauren suffered the backlash from this incident . It was interesting  the boys didn't give her as hard a time as the girls in her school where she became the brunt of their nasty female teenage tongues.
This was not a good time for Lauren and going to school became very hard .
 As I knew the incident would blow over and Lauren learnt a very important lesson on the danger of displaying her body on the net .
 We were lucky ,we communicated openly on the dangers of what she had done and she was able to learn from it . Many others are not able to communicate with their parents and become insulated and withdrawn . The incident could have ended in a much different way with the bullying and shame leading my child to self harm or even end her life .

We had many issues during the girls early teenage years ,and we were amazed at the number of young boys who see phonographic material as the norm ,ironically this leaves young girls with low self esteem as they view images of airbrushed adult bodies and leaves the young man thinking that this is what he has to conquer to get to manhood.

Facebook enabled the girls to contact their older siblings which resulted in a return to the birth family by Amy at just 17 and their was nothing we could actually do .
My girls are now 19 & 20 and the teenage crazes are now in the past . 
Amy still posts every mood and event she experiences on a daily basis .Like most parents she does post pictures of her daughter but believe me I have made it very clear that their are no sweet little naked bath pictures as I have seen posted many times by people , naive of the damage this may cause now and in the future.

Technology is here to stay and as Adoptive parents you have to be hyper aware of the vunerability of the children you have taken in to your lives . It is a well known fact that children with Attatchment issues don't make friends easily and an escape to cyber world can give them a network of so called friends often as vunerable as them . (Like attracts like ,believe me ) . 
It's very easy for a birth parent or sibling to pose as a prospective new friend under a new name .(Lauren's birth dad tried to do this through somebody else's page ) 

We have survived the ups and downs of the growth of the internet , and I personally couldn't live with out my friend Mr Google .

 I still point out dangers to the the girls but they are now adults and it is now their job to make sure their children stay safe .

 I somehow fear that this will be something that will be way out of any parents control by the time this generation reach puberty .Being aware and keeping ahead of what is trending in our children's lives will enable us to hang on just a bit longer by that rapidly disappearing privilege of knowing our children lives inside out . 







Wednesday, 5 February 2014

How blogging has changed me ?

I'm feeling the need to blog tonight .I recognise how much my blog has evolved since I began it a year ago .I initially started it to offload and reflect how much my experience of Adoption over the last sixteen years had effected me .
I also felt it would be useful for many of you struggling in the earlier stages to see that there is a light at the far distant end of the tunnel .

I started off sharing my story and found the process very cathartic .Blogging has helped me to see that a lot of my experiences although painful have been worth while .I was able to see how far my girls had come and how close we had bonded as a family and grown as individuals .
It allowed me to share my feelings with my girls and they have enjoyed reading about memories which were often so clouded by there trauma that they had forgotten or blocked those earlier years with us .
I think what I had underestimated was the effect connecting with other bloggers and receiving feedback on my writings would have on me .

Many adoptive parents , adoptees , and care leavers are still really struggling to make sense of the experiences they are going through and struggling coming to terms with the lack of support and help they have received over the years.
Many young care leavers find themselves after years in the care system unable to hold down jobs , relationships and quickly fall into a life of crime ,or drugs and alcohol dependency .

Having adopted two children from a very large family group ,I realise how hard it is to break the cycle of  
years  of trauma , abuse and alcohol and drugs dependency .
We have worked hard to install in our girls that it would be very easy for them to fall into a life of addiction due to family history .Both Amy and Lauren can see the traits they both have ,they can see how they have a tendency to sabotage and if things are not going well in their lives still have a tendency to dump their xxxx on us .
As their Adoptive parents , I see the importance of being their as a committed parent to carry on supporting them now they are in adulthood .I believe that is the secret of Adoption .

Adoption is a life long commitment . I step back when things are running smoothly but as soon as they are not coping , letting their appearance slip or not wanting to get up and go to work I am there just like ai always was when they were small children .
I believe as a society we have to realise that looking after a child in care is not just something that we do until they reach 18 . A  support package has to be put in place to help these young people cope once the protection of socia services deminiches .

Amy and Lauren  have just been back for another birth family visit ,although it went very well and they loved seein Kirsty and her six children .
What was more apparent was the effect a life in care has had on their other siblings .The two older children who stayed in fostercare until 18 both have drug problems and mental health issues ,they needed far more than a roof over there heads until they reached adulthood .
I remember their foster carers very words during a contact visit ,she announced " you've got yours for life , I ve only got them until 18 " Where was her long term support ? I question whether money was her main driver .

The girls also have an older sister who has had many children who eventually have ended up being taken into care .Recently she spent time in Rehab and did very well whilst she was getting support but shortly after leaving ,yet another of her children was taken away from her.
The most difficult incident that they experienced during their visit and I personally find very hard to understand Is that their sister is pregnant yet again . Although allowed to carry this child to full term under the influence of drugs and drink she will not be allowed to see or keep her child .
Decisions for the future of yet another child are  being made ,to protect their long term well being .
This child may become one of the very few babies that becomes available for Adoption .
Prospective parents will feel excited that they are getting an undamaged child ! Will they know that the child's birth mother may already be putting her child of drug dependency or even foetal alcohol syndrome ?
Will they know enough about the family history or genetic addictive behaviours ? 
Dont get me wrong as I know about mums history , I do have compassion as history is repeating itself and this continual self sabotage is tragic . 
What I don't understand , Is , When are we going to learn that every child is an individual ?  support given needs to be the right type or we are just throwing yet more public money down the drain .
When are we going to open our eyes ? and see that healing  complex early trauma is a life long task and family traits and history must be included when putting these support packages together .

I know I sound cynical but this last year has made me see how important it is that the government put their money where their mouth is and provide Adoptive parents with the support they require to do the hardest, most important job they will ever do .

A year on I realise I am not frightened to speak up and say how complex Adoption can be and my original aim of telling my story had changed to pioneering for us all to wake up and face the true picture 
of what is going on in the real world of Adoption .

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

After the parties over .What then ?


 

“Whilst watching Channel 4's recent documentary  

"On Finding Mum and Dad " it would take a very insensitive person not to feel moved by the plight of brothers Connor and Daniel, 5 & 6 who have been in care for nearly two years, and Scott 7.

 

The programme focuses on a pilot scheme of Activity days to help the most difficult placed children.

 

My husband and I adopted two little girls about fifteen years ago. The girls were of similar age to the children in the film.

I found watching these children particularly poignant as I thought back to our past.

The complicated family situation and the number of siblings whom we agreed to have contact with had made them difficult to place.

 

Personally, although these activity days may be the way forward in today's Adoption world. I question whether I would have felt comfortable being involved in what I see as a very sensitive grey area whilst placing children especially with more complex needs.

It would appear that due to our government’s urgency to place children in a quicker time period, some of these children wouldonly suffer greater rejection and disappointment the more of these parties they attend.

I am sure the picture we were being painted showing the success of these days, may well encourage this practice to be part of the norm in a few years.

 

Being matched with children is a very small part of the reality of taking on children who have suffered early life trauma. One thing I can guarantee is that every child in that room will have already suffered their fair share of loss and rejection in their short lives.

Scott (7) had seen many other foster children in his home placed with new families, never mind the decision to place and separate him from his sister, as she was easier to adopt. We can only wonder at how that will effect him as he grows older.

We adopted two children who suffered that exact trauma .I can foresee only upset for both Scott and his sister for the rest of their lives.

 

We also witnessed a happy Adoption day for another couple.

My memory of that day was the wettest day you can imagine, being sneaked in through the back door due to the family contesting the Adoption Order. The girl’s social worker never turned up which delayed proceedings and Doctor death the court clerk kept us from taking things too lightly!!

 

I do realise a positive picture has to painted in these films or nobody would come forward to adopt. I also believe that Adoptive parents need to be aware that the in-depth preparation needs to be as thorough as possible. Being placed with your children is only the very beginning of what at times can be the biggest roller coast ride you may ever take in life.

 

Karen the boys foster carer was wonderful and I am sure without her input we would have seen yet another sibling separation.

Karen described nightmares, and stated the boys very rarely cried when they were first placed.

Those behaviors don't go away.

 During times of change, especially when the children are first placed in a new home or when changes of routine occur in their everyday life all of those earlier feelings of insecurity will raise their ugly head. The new Adoptive parents will be left to unravel the maze of these volatile emotions. They will find that dramas follow them everywhere and picking up the pieces becomes their everyday reality.

 

 

I may sound very negative but I have been there.

I would like to think with the promise of support from Day one; today's Adoptive parents will have the resources and tools to deal with all eventualities.

My true feelings are very different.

Twenty-four hour support is just not possible.

What is underestimated is the effect these volatile episodes have on your own mental health.

 

Looking after yourselves in Adoption is vital.

I admit I was my own worst critic and my self- esteem, due to the constant volatile everyday changes often left me feeling pretty worthless and depressed.

Another point to remember is that these children are very clever and will find that very spot of sensitivity you carry and hit the spot with exact precision adding to your feelings of inadequacy every time.

I believe in this promised support package, Adoptive parents also need help. Help to deal with living on a constant knife-edge, never knowing when the next outburst may occur.

Help to recover after long periods of severe behavior problems.

Help also needs to be available to let go of any perceptions that you will ever have a perfect family life.

 

I talk a lot about rose tinted glasses in my blog posts. I believe as perspective new parents we wore the biggest, pinkest pair available. 

There were no activities days when we adopted .I can still hear my husband’s very words on how he wanted to adopt girls because they are much easier.

Believe me I have never let him forget those words! 

Our social worker almost stopped us looking at pictures of children.

We would easily be put off by bow ties, names or haircuts (Very Shallow!)

 What would we have been like at an Activity day, with children ecstatic with excitement and dressed as Spider-Man?

Our girls had white blond hair and blue eyes. At an Activity party they would have been snapped up instantly.

What would have been omitted, was the Rage Reactive Attachment Disorder my oldest daughter was diagnosed shortlywith after placement. The grief they felt from being separated from their three older siblings .The grief that would occur every Christmas around the time they were placed and the heartache we would witness after sibling contacts and cancelled days out.

 

No we should never underestimate what Conner, Daniel and Scott feel whilst they wait for new parents. Every attempt must be made, no matter how bizarre it may look to us on the outside.

Maybe, just Maybe they will get a new family who will have the resilience, patience, trust and courage to fight those very authorities that placed the children. 

Maybe just Maybe they will get every bit of the vital support they all deserve to allow them all a Successful chance of lasting the long haul on the Rocky path of Adoption in 2014.”

 

Fiona Ferguson

Fiona-ferguson.blogspot.com

Twitter: @adoptsuccess

Saturday, 4 January 2014

2014 A very different Year .

2014 Happy New Year to you all who take  the time to read my many rants on my experience of Adoption .
A New year always fills us full of hope of new beginnings and a chance to put the past in its rightful place . Behind us .
No more has that been needed than this year .A kick up the bum to 2013 was definitely needed and having been the year that turned our lives upside down I was never happier than when those bells rung at the dawn of the new year .

So what are my hopes and plans for 2014 ? For most of my life , I have been in a self improvement battle with myself .I always felt there was something wrong with me .It probably started in my own childhood due to sibling rivalry and a perfectionist mother .Anything I did never seemed quite Good Enough .
My struggle to have children and the multiple miscarriages added to the feelings that there was something wrong with me .
Finally my chance to feel normal and be the mum I always wanted to be came along and we became the proud parents of Amy and Lauren .
I remember thinking how I was going to be as a mum . Loving , nurturing and Happy .I would not make mistakes with my kids and we would all live Happy ever after .

The problem of wearing the rosé tinted glasses and the residue of my perfectionist past parenting is that I was destined to continue my cycle of self berating behaviour and disappointment when things didn't go according to plan .
Adoption was the hardest step I took in life .Who would have thought that the one thing that I thought would be the answer to all my problems would become the biggest teaching tool and my road to self acceptance .
My girls tested me to the limit , they taught me that I was stronger than I thought .The issues we dealt with on a  Daily basis pushed me to limits I never knew I had .
Then there was Resilience  .Adoption takes masses of it , the ability to hang on on in there when you get to the point that you can't take another minute living with their trauma and behaviours . Fortunately, In your  heart you know that you cannot give up ,as the alternative for these children is just too awful to even contemplate .
I learnt Compassion for their pain . When they hurt I hurt there was no escape from that one as it was every time we had a reminder that life as anAdoptee is far from normal .
I learnt Patience , being happy with the few steps forward they took in their healing process and I learnt trust when events like contact , Xmas ,Birthdays and life changes would send them spiriling into regression ,reminding you that the journey was a long one .
The most important lesson I learnt from my children was that there is no such thing as perfection .We are all doing our best with the tools we have been given .As Adoptive  Parents we are not supposed to be Saints but that's sometimes the pressure we put on ourselves .I thought I could do it all ,I took their  pain , I pushed myself to limits I never knew I had to get them support and the help that I beleive should be there for all Adoptive parents and their children .I cried when they were let down by those in authority and disappointed when they couldn't see their siblings .I realised that Adoptees are healing slowly and sometimes when you think they are never going to be able to read or do certain tasks ,a light will shine though and Hope will help you carry on .

2014 is going to be very different for me because all the Compassion , Love ,Trust ,Patience and Resilience I invested into those fifteen years of bringing up our girls is now going to be directed to where it is needed most and that is to myself .I have neglected myself for too  long  and it is now my time .
As 2014 begins I have no big goals to be a better person .I learnt that through my many years bringing our children up , I was ok all the time but never had time or courage to accept it .
The girls have come through those years , we did our best to help them on there way .Unfortuantly we cannot undo all the pre Adoption damage that is ingrained in their souls and I beleive genetic imprint they were born with .Knowing this now is helping me move into 2014 knowing We did our Best ,and that was Good Enough .
We are only into day four of the year , we started the year with our lovely Grand daughter Georgia sleeping over .
Lauren is doing her usual avoidance of work duties using her comfort blanket of illness as her coping mechanism .
Amy is doing a great job learning how to parent Georgia but realising herself now that being a parent takes far more of a person than she thought .
In a few weeks they are all going up to see their Birth Family and this time Georgia is going with them .On hearing the news last night the old butterflies stirred within in my soul  reminding me that this book is far from closed .
The difference is , They are now young adults able to make their own decisions .We have done our job to our best abilities .
They will find their own lessons and strengths in this very Unperfect World and no doubt our job will be to sit back and wait to patiently to pick the pieces up when life goes pear shaped just as it has always been .
So to all you Adoptive Parents out there struggling with Perfection issues , cut yourself some slack and give yourself a very firm pat on the back that you are really doing a a good enough job.