Flowers

photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

I previously wrote a blog about the break down of the long term foster placement and guardianship of our sons older sister, I ended by saying that we hoped that the the new placement the sister had been moved to was a good one and would offer her the security she so deserves.

Thankfully that appears to be so, it does seem like a good placement and the new foster carers are committed and seem to be giving her the family life she needs and indeed some of the security that has been lacking in her life recently.

Most importantly she just seems happy.

She is a sweet child who has spent much of her life caring for others and as a result is thoughtful and selfless. She has had it tough all her life and being 4 years older than our oldest was more aware of the neglect and the consequences of that while in the birth family. At the age of 5/6 she was attempting to ‘mother’ our boys, stepping in where birth mum was failing.

What we have now discovered is that the almost 5 years she spent with the previous foster carers were not as positive as we had thought and in fact we have really had to reevaluate our reaction to the break down of that placement.

We were aware that the carers were very strict and lacked pastoral parenting skills, but it seems that the situation for the sister was anything but ideal, we have been told that she was made to do most of the housework and ironing as well as various other chores, apparently time was dedicated for this before and after school everyday and most of Saturday and if this is true it strikes us as being quite inappropriate.

Again we question where social services were throughout this, but now she has moved from that placement and seems happy I feel we should all be looking to the future.

So things are good – or certainly looking so. However we are concerned about the effect the break down of the placement has had on the sister. Yet again she has had parents who have failed here, yet again the family she thought was for life has proven not to be so, yet again she has been thrown into the unknown.

She is aware that – all going well – the new placement will only be until she is 18 as the new carers are not offering guardianship and as yet we do not see any suggestion that they will remain ‘family’ beyond that.

We have been really concerned for her and when we finally met for contact – after a year of not being able to – we asked how she was doing and if she felt settled and happy, she was her usual cheery self and said that she was pleased to be where she was and that life was OK, we asked if there was anything that bothers her or that she had concerns about and her response shocked and saddened us as she opened up and expressed her concerns for being alone after she turns 18.

We assured her that her fears were unfounded and that she was loved by all of us and that we would always be there for her as she was our family. We hope that we offered some kind of reassurance, but somehow we are not convinced as it was evident just how alone she felt.

Her exact words will always stay with us:
‘I don’t mind never being adopted I know it’s difficult for somebody to take a child of my age and that’s OK, the only thing that really bothers me is when I think of the future and not being in a family it upsets me to think that if I was to die there would be nobody to bring flowers to my grave.

She is 12.

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Ask the 8 year old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been processed and passed by the adoption panel for two children and as first time parents we really hadn’t even consider taking on any more. We originally saw the details of our sons – where it was stipulated that they had to be placed together – with no reference to other siblings.

Of course when their full CPR came through their siblings and half siblings were included, as indeed were details of the close relationship the boys had with their older sister. It was explained to us that as they had not found an adoptive placement for the three together, the sister had been asked if she would like to stay with the foster parents in long term fostering, freeing up her brothers for adoption together.

She was just 8 at the time and she was being asked if she wanted to stay in the home she had known for – at that point – over 2 yrs with people who cared for her and offered her the only real security she had ever really known – at the expense of staying with her brothers. Or to continue to wait for… well, the totally unknown.

She obviously chose to stay.

Good news for social services, who’s life just got a lot easier as placing a 4 and 5 yr old together – although not easy – is a whole lot easier than when there is a third aged 8.

Good news for the boys as it gave then a better chance of finding a forever family,

And of course good news for us.

It seems the only one with not such good news is the 8yr old who’s decision made it all possible. She will never be adopted and technically at 18 (although at the time it was still 16) be ‘family less’.

The foster parents were caring, but quite elderly (60&70) and very old school, they were very strict and although great for short term fostering they seemed to have little understanding of the ‘pastoral’ care looked after children so require.

We were aware of this and if I am to be brutally honest I have to admit that we chose to ignore it. We had already been building an attachment to our future sons and didn’t want to complicate matters, anyway surely Social services knows what’s best.

Also, if we decided not to proceed because of the sister, that would not result in the three being kept together, but in social services finding other parents for the boys. The boys who were already starting to feel like our sons.

Regular contact between the three and also their baby sister – born after they had all been taken into Care – was arranged twice yearly with both sisters and their families. It was tough at first for our boys, but it did mean we maintained contact with their foster carers who they were very attached to.

Although not perfect, all was fine until 2 yrs later when the foster parents declare that they are giving up the sister because ‘she has become too much to deal with’. They site various episodes, but basically it boils down to an understandably troubled 12 year old defying their ultra strict regime.

We are angry. Angry at social services for not addressing what was clearly a problematic situation before the inevitable, angry at the foster parents for not respecting the commitment they made and angry at ourselves for sitting back doing nothing while it suited us and also now, not being able to take on the older sister because we just don’t feel ready or able.

In addition we are angry for all the children, the sister for the horribly raw deal she got and for our sons and their baby sister who experience yet another family breakdown.

The sister has now been moved to another long term placement and is apparently settling. There has been no contact now for almost a year and the boys are missing her terribly, it should resume soon.

We have said that we want more contact and that we want to take the sister away with us when we holiday, but we have no legal connection with her and social services have no reason to acknowledge us – and they don’t. They have ignored our letters of complaint and so far our requests to be involved in the child’s life.

To us that is a mystery, but no doubt they have their reasons.

Let’s just hope the new long term foster placement the sister in now in will prove to be the happy home she so deserves

Any Advice Gratefully Accepted

Having read theImage 1 recent blog about sibling contact I thought I’d write asking if anyone has had any problems with direct birth parent contact. I know that to most this may seem like a strange ‘problem’ to have but here goes…
When I adopted my daughter I agreed to annual direct contact with her birth father. I didn’t want her to hit teenage years with all the possible angst that that can entail and ask why I wouldn’t let her see him when there was no reason for me doing so other than ‘I didnt want to share you’. Had I not been a single adopter and had it been her birth mother who wanted contact maybe I would have felt differently, who knows. Anyhow for one reason or another we fell through the cracks last year and contact was not arranged. I tried unsuccessfully to contact social services leaving voicemails but no one returned my calls. I finally heard from them saying they would chase it up and get back to me but they haven’t and now another year has almost gone by.
I guess what I’d like to ask is whether anyone else has experienced this and also if any of you know whether it is my responsibility to be chasing up contact. I’m also worried that a gap of two years (spanning ages three to five) will make seeing him harder for my little one.
Any advice gratefully accepted.

Photo taken by Lili Gooch

Flummoxed, Perplexed and Bewildered

peppaI am perplexed…

Forgive my bluntness, and I’m sorry this blog won’t be more entertaining but I’m desperate for information so I’ve come here to get it off my chest and let it all hang out…
We brought our beautiful three year old daughter home 2 years ago as a 13 month old baby and were informed she was the youngest of five (to our knowledge) siblings and half siblings dotted around the country. All have the same biological mother but apparently (again – to our knowledge) one of them may well also have the same biological father making this a full sibling. This information was tantalisingly and casually dropped into one our many conversations with birth mum’s social worker who hinted at it but couldn’t say more than it was extremely likely.
Our daughter is an only child in our house and talks longingly of wanting brothers and sisters at home with her. I don’t want her to grow up not knowing these siblings if there is a chance she could have a real relationship with them. I also don’t want her thinking that we just didn’t bother; we have and are bothering and yet we are getting nowhere.
Social services did manage to track down one sister (which had me jumping for joy) but her adoptive parents made it clear they would reluctantly accept only yearly letterbox contact despite living not that far away and that this is non- negotiable. My partner and I were flummoxed, then angry; we cannot understand their decision. If it were the other way around, we would definitely be willing to support actual contact on a regular basis. We cannot help but think they are thinking of themselves, not their daughter. We cannot help but think their decision will backfire.

Another family seemed to be completely off the radar yet I was able to find them on a social media site with literally no information other than a name. I duly forwarded this information to social services who then used it to contact the family but got no response. It’s killing me that a sibling is so close and yet the family refuse to respond to invitations for contact.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a rose tinted picture of the Waltons all sitting round a big table in harmony, I just want the best shot at some sort of a relationship for her with her brothers and sisters but it seems impossible.
As far as the other two siblings go, one is literally nowhere to be found – despite having been adopted and therefore known and documented somewhere; and the other one is in the care of a member of the birth father’s extended family. Ironically, at a our meeting with birth mum she attempted to pass us the contact details of this closest sibling but it was intercepted and deemed inappropriate by the powers that be and we are now no nearer to having any contact with this one either.
I’m ranting I know, and it’s probably difficult to even follow the threads of all the avenues we have had to follow to try and find her brothers and sisters. But how do other adoptive parents feel? Is our experience typical? Normal? Do we just have to accept that she will not know her siblings until she grows up and even then, only if they and she feel like it? Couldn’t the biological connection of siblings be a source of security and warmth in her young world, and couldn’t it also have the very real potential to grow and develop into much more in adulthood? Her siblings all seem tantalisingly close yet out of reach and I find it really hard to just accept that it has to be this way.