During the approval process Denise, our social worker, asked us to tell her what our ‘house rules’ would be. In the moment of being asked the question we couldn’t think of any and it duly went into our PAR that we would have a house with no rules. That was quickly changed, as that would certainly not be the case! A few weeks later, when we were at panel, one of our questions was about how we would set boundaries and stick to them in a therapeutic way.
I think both Tom and I would naturally be relatively strict parents but we have shifted our thoughts on this through our prep day attendance and discussions with other adopters about therapeutic parenting. And whilst we very much intend to parent therapeutically there are some rules that I think we should at least strive for in order to make our children fully functioning members of society.
Some of these ‘rules’ may not come to fruition until years in the future and that’s OK - if we fail, we fail but surely it’s definitely worth trying…
So nothing too strenuous, but what about when we’re out in public? What’s important out in the big wide world…
All in all, I don’t think any of these are that unreasonable and can be pretty much summed up in one simple statement – ‘be nice’.
Like I say these aren’t things that I’m expecting straightaway, or indeed all of the time, but it’s the point from which Tom and I will start. And of course the children may well have their own ideas about the kind of home they want to live in, and rules that we as a family have created together will hopefully make for a happy and safe place to live.
What house rules do you have? Which rules have you abandoned? Are there are any you didn’t expect?
I would say I am quite reluctant to get involved in conflict. I don’t enjoy it and when I do get into an argument I can feel myself getting hot and my voice speeds up – neither of which engenders a confident or winning appearance. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally argue with Tom, or get into a ‘heated discussion’ with a ‘customer service’ representative on the phone who’s supposed to be helpful, or ask someone to lower the volume on their headphones on public transport – because I do (though I’m working really hard at ignoring the latter). But the point is if there’s a way to avoid getting into these confrontations, I’ll do my best to find it. So when it comes to fight, flight or freeze – my natural instinct is to fly but I am, when necessary, prepared to fight my corner. And as Denise, our social worker, pointed out during assessment it will be necessary to fight our children’s corners too when we need to.
I have seen anecdotal evidence on Twitter, in blogs and in newspapers that accessing services for our children can be an uphill struggle. Parents have constantly to fight for CAMHS referrals, the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), or other therapeutic services on an almost daily basis for months on end (situations where the ‘freeze’ – or stubborn – response might actually be helpful). Similarly, there are lots of stories about teachers and schools not working with parents or children in a therapeutic, positive or supportive way. I should point out that there are also lots of positive experiences of both post-adoption support and education services too – but I suppose it depends on the luck of the draw.
I had my first taste of local authority bureaucracy when, during the assessment process, Denise asked us to find out about local post-adoption support services. I duly contacted our local authority and asked to know about the services that were available to support adopted children. The social worker I spoke to said that as we weren’t one of the authority’s approved couples we would receive no support from them. I knew the placing local authority would fund any services for the first three years but surely it would be the local authority where the child lived that would provide the actual service and all I was looking for was information. He was having none of it. I found myself remembering why we didn’t go with our local authority in the first place and becoming irate with this guy who seemed willfully unable to help.
Somehow I remained calm (as who knew when I’d need to talk to him again in the future) and explained that I would not accept the local authority ignoring my children for the first three years of their placement. I like to think my commanding tone of voice swayed him but, whatever it was, somehow we managed to find an accord and I ended up being placed on a mailing list of events in the borough, receiving a generic list of available services and the promise that I could contact them about specific services when it was confirmed what we needed.
I felt deflated that I hadn’t received a simple answer to what I thought was a simple question but pleased that I’d held my ground and got something out of him. I also felt shocked that even a straightforward request for information was met with such hostility and difficulty. It doesn’t leave me feeling particularly positive for future interactions.
So, when it comes to our future children’s well-being my natural instinct may well have to be ‘fight’ rather than ‘flight’…something I’m not particularly looking forward to but will do regardless, to make sure they get everything they need to help them heal.
What has been your experience of accessing services for your children? What has worked for you?
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...