If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Behaviour Book

Since his return to school in January. Child 4 has been struggling, I am not sure what or if there has been a trigger but I do know we had similar issues this time last year. When it comes down to it, we have to deal with his behaviours regardless of whether we know what the triggers are. As do the school.
Since January, I have been into school at least once a week. We have had fighting, temper tantrums, defiance and a little boy desperately trying to do the right thing but when met with obstacles just can't manage by himself. The school as a whole have been trying to support him but some staff are so caught up with procedure that they forget that there is a scared little boy just trying to do the best he can. The last straw for me this week was when child 4 in an emotional outburst told me that he was put in the behaviour book, that he is in the behaviour book everyday, he is the only one in his class that is in the behaviour book and that he is the naughtiest boy in the school.
I followed this up with an email to his teacher asking what the behaviour book was for and what was the expectation for children put in the behaviour book and what would happenif there wasn't a change in their behaviour.  Apparently, the behaviour book is required as part of the school behaviour policy and is to keep a record of behaviour. That sounds like procedure and policy running the show, not what a child needs to support them. At first I was really angry and upset but once calm decided that I needed to help the teacher focus on one single behaviour that she would like to change with the most we could help child 4 through to the end of the school year, when he would move to another class and another teacher. I have also assertively requested that if there is a need for a behaviour book that child 4 should not be aware of it at all.

The teachers biggest issue is child 4's constant interrupting and shouting across the room. I went out to my Twitter and NATP groups and asked them for any ideas to help. Today I went into school armed with a 5 minute sand timer and a list of ideas and word patterns. I am jut just hoping that if we can help with this one thing, just maybe everything else will fall into place. Thank you to my wonderful support groups.
Little reminders that you know he is there, thumbs up, squeezing his shoulder, lots of smiles.
Giving him something special to look after so he knows that you will come back. 
Teaching him to put his hand on your arm, you then put your hand on his so that he knows you are aware he is there and will help him once you have finished your conversation. 
Using a timer to help work independently for a short while, knowing when the time is up the teacher can return to help.
I'll be glad to check in with you in a couple of minutes, once I have seen you give it your best independent try.  
I can't change what has already happened in school, I can however help determine what happens next to do this I have to have a working relationship with those that work closest to child 4. They may not be able to fully understand why he behaves like he does, they may not want to but if we can come up with strategies that help then there is the reason to persevere.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

I don't care

"I don't care"
"That's sad"
"If I care, I will cry"
"It's fine to cry if you need too, sweetheart"
YOU WANT ME TO BE HURT BECAUSE THATS WHEN I CRY!! THATS SO MEAN. I DONT CARE SO I DONT HURT"

(I know I missed my chance, I should have said gosh you don't care, that must be so hard)

Last week brought our first major incident of the year. Late on Tuesday afternoon child 4's school phoned me at work to let me know that he had been involved in a fight at morning break, a fight where two members of staff had to seperate him and a 7 year old. Earlier that morning a complaint had been made by a parent accusing child 4 of pinning her child (the 7year old in the fight) to the ground and then strangling him after school on Monday. According to the teacher child 4 had, had a bad day. After the fight he had taken himself off to the quiet book area and stayed there to calm down, he had been content to stay  with one of the TA's at lunchtime reading and playing games but he hadn't learnt anything! I  think he had learnt a lot, just not academically!!!
I wasn't picking up that day and child 4 had already left with his Nanna and Grandad to go to their home until I finished work.
There had been no investigation into either incident just acceptance that number 4 had done exactly what he was accused of. Interesting as I later checked with the child minder who collects on a Monday who was completely perplexed, she wasn't aware of any after school incident.

I was glad that child 4 was with my parents, safe, warm and surrounded be people who loved him, it also meant that when I picked him up we could have a chat  on the drive home about his day, no eye contact, non confrontational and no way to escape. Child 4 seemed to have no idea what I was talking about regarding the incident on Monday night, but was happy to say that the other little boy had been mean to him, trying to punch and kick him which then led to the fight. He had told the head teacher everything. I pushed too hard and his I don't care tirade began.
When I recovered from my heart cracking, I could at least consider the insight his profound words gave me. Just not sure what I am to do with them yet.


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Two Hats

Sometimes my governors role clashes with that as my parent role. Behaviour and exclusions policies is one such clash. I attended training regarding exclusions as there is has been such a huge increase of exclusions and this led to me suggesting that we tightened up our policies. Now of course because we are, when I read them I just think about how those changes could impact on my children.
I am very aware of the need to have policies that have strong boundaries and that we have to ensure that staff and children at the school are safe and treated fairly. I also know that the school doesn't believe in treating all the children the same, they treat them as individuals with different needs. But as I read through the reasons for exclusions and I can see my youngest son fitting the criteria, well on his very bad days. There has never been any talk of excluding him. But I worry that in the future it could be, especially now that we are being so specific in our policies. 
I could ask to not be involved but then I know that those children that need support with their behaviour need me standing in their corner, ensuring that exclusion is the final solution with the right steps in between. 

Fortunately, I have a very good friend who sits with me on the Governing Body, she is my phone a friend person, the person I call when I feel stressed about the decisions I am making, she reminds me that I am a good parent and a good governor. That I do not need to worry, that as parents we work with the school to ensure our son is doing the best he can and helping them support him when things are not going so well. As a governor I may need to put my mothering concerns aside but there are children that don't have parents to support them through their education and governors are there to make sure that every child matters. I can bring the best of both roles together to offer a skill set that compliments both parenthood and governor responsibilities. I am very lucky to have her.



Hope, peace, joy and love

 I love Christmas, the lead up, the preparations, the activities - the Nativity shows, Panto, family get togethers, church services, Carol concerts and so on. This December has been our hardest, child 4 has become obsessed by time. He demands to know what is happening each day and when. Then we need to calculate how many hours and how many minutes until the plan comes to fruition. We avoided talk of Father Christmas as much as possible, which was hard when the others particularily child 3 were so very excited.

We used the advent calendars to ensure that we took everything a day at a time. We planned daily events so that there was only ever one sleep before doing something that was out of routine. It could be his Nativity Show, visiting family, collecting the Christmas Tree or lighting the fire. I had bought dot-to-dot books, paper chain kits and Chritsmas Card making kits to offer quiet activities when life became to over whelming. Overall we managed, but it was at times exhausting. I think child 4 slept through in his bed maybe twice.

I hadn't realised how much I needed to kick back and relax. For the first time in what feels like forever my husband was at home when I went on a night out. Usually he is out DJing and either child 1 or 2 babysit. They are absolutely fine to watch their younger siblings and more than capable of dealing with most situations that could arise. At worst they call me and I come home. But, the evening of my work do I could go out and not worry, oh and what a sorry state I got into. Which led to an all day horrific hangover.

What I have learnt is that I need to look after me, I need to find inner peace, hope that all will work out. That we will be able to help child 4 learn the strategies to manage his behaviour. As a family I want us to find joy in the small things so that we can manage the big stuff. I hope that as the years pass, life becomes easier, big events become less over whelming but until then the love we have for our children is enough.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Roots and Wings

Child 1 has just booked her gap year trip. She and a friend fly off to India at the end of March, from there they fly to Hanoi and have 12 weeks to work their way through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore before they hop over to Bali then finish up in Australia. They don't have a specific return date but do have to be home to start their next exciting chapter at University. I am so very proud, she has worked full time since finishing her A levels and has already saved enough to pay for her flights.
Although, I have known about roots and wings it is now that I am really appreciating the importance of both. However, what I am now poignantly aware of is that without roots our children can't really develop wings.Roots are so important, for all children. A safe, secure place where they can try new things, knowing that no matter what happens there is someone in the background to support and help them. So far, child one knows her roots and has found her wings. 2 and 3 are still learning about roots but, they know we are here for them, they are just beginning to try new things and looking for their place in the world and this can be tricky from a parenting view. But, therapeutic parenting is something that is built into developing roots. Unconditional love, gentle giving of praise, natural consequences. All these help our children to flourish and thrive. My birth childen of course have an advantage, they have only ever known our desire to give them roots enabling them to try and fly, knowing that we are there to help them when life goes wrong. Child 4 comes from a different place and we have to help him recognise where his safe roots are and that they actually exist.  This is often difficult but also so very rewarding. With Christmas in the air, he is finding the change in routines and the building excitement overwhelming. He is clingy, demanding, quick to anger and just as quick to tears. But, he is learning to articulate his feelings. In between throwing his dinner at his sister, pulling chairs over and slamming doors  he has told me, well screamed at me that he is angry and I am making it worse and in the midst of a "tantrum" he has sought out my lap as a means of regulating his rage, calming down almost as quick as losing his temper. It is these moments that give me hope, he knows that he is safe at home with us, he even very occasionally will just find me for a cuddle and will quietly say sorry for calling me a bum hole.
We have to work on the roots first, making sure that they are strong and stable, that they can withstand the ups and downs of life, before our children can attempt to fly, it's just sometimes so damn hard working on the roots.


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Governance

I often toy with stepping away from my school governor duties, especially since I have become a "reluctant" chair. I was Vice Chair earlier this year and when the Chair resigned I had to step into his shoes and funnily enough at the next meeting I was voted in. Not because I am organised, efficient, and able to keep my distance emotionally, no because no one else wanted it! There is quite a lot of work and a huge amount of responsibility involved in school governance, regardless of position and when trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance it is our volunteering roles that get sidelined. However, every time the thought of resigning pops into my head something happens to stop me in my tracks.
I am not a school governor because I am generous with my time, no I want to be involved in the education of my children and all those other children that need someone in their corner. So at a Chairs meeting when we were informed that there has been a worrying increase in fixed and permenant exclusions of children from school, I decided to attend the next exclusions training session.
Many counties are moving the responsibility of fixed term (more than 5 days) and permenant exclusions from the Headteacher to the exclusion panel, (school governors) This is to ensure that the school behaviour policy has been followed and that each child is being treated fairly. There is a definite trend in schools not providing the right support that some of the pupils need. Not because they don't want too but because they can't afford too. With budgets being cut, less CAHMS available and SEND funds being reduced, I have to say that I do have some sympathy with school staff. Classes are getting bigger, getting children a place on the SEND register is harder and County are running on limited resources. All theses things will effect our children, my child in particular. So when a child becomes to big a drain on resources, finances and other children's education, exclusion is seen as an easy way out. Our trainer even said that permanent exclusions are a good thing for the child and their family because In many cases it forces County and the support agencies to up their game and put more support in place, but for the child the damage is done.

Being a Governor means that I am involved in policy making decisions, ensuring that the panels are made up of people who aren't afraid to question the status quo, who will ensure that decsions are fair and school processes are followed. With my involvement in the adoption world I know of attachment training and support and where the school can go for help - this is what our Pupil Premium Plus money should be being spent on. I can ask the questions about progress for all the minority grouping, English as Another Language(EAL), Pupil Premium children (disadvantaged). I remind staff that if we can't support childrens behaviour then the children can't/won't learn.  

I am very lucky, my school is pretty amazing, we work well together and Child 4 is very settled, doing well academically, and loving his sport. Behaviour is monitored and he is supported at lunchtime, which is when struggles the most. They are even having some "Transition" training from County Post Adoption team.  I do wonder though if they would be so open if I wasn't involved as a school governor as well as a parent, which is why when those thoughts about walking away are often ignored as I know that in reality my family are the only people in child 4's corner.


Sunday, 22 October 2017

National Adoption Week 2017

Four years ago I felt part of something special during National Adoption Week, child 4 had just arrived and all was new and shiny, we belonged to a new exciting club. Now, I am not sure that I even like National Adoption Week. In fact this year I've kind of ignored it, well as best you can when our Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of all that is adoption.

I am saddened and angry that siblings are paraded through the media looking for their forever families. Although, I know that adoption is probably the best outcome for them. I am tired of reading stories of adoptive parents desperate for support and help with their traumatised children are not believed, are blamed, ridiculed or ignored by schools, health professionals and those supposedly in charge of our society.

I guess the new and shiny wears off, not that we are having a particularily hard time. Life here is pretty fantastic most of the time. We have our moments of anger and rage but so far we are managing it. For us adoption has brought our immediate family unit closer together. It feels like child 4 has always been here. The bit I struggle with is other people, those that just don't get it and actually don't want to get it. There are those who are unaware of child 4's difficult start in life so don't understand why he reacts to certain situations like he does and then there are those that do know but think that he should be all better now.

Our eldest described her angst about how other people are in a nutshell not so long ago.
"How would they feel if  one night the police and social services arrived at their home, forcibly removed them. Carrying them through the house whilest everyone is screaming and crying. Putting them in a car  and taking them to a new house to live in with a very nice new family, who they will stay with for a little while, whilst others decide where they will end up permanently. So would they recover in a few days, a week, a month, a year. If an adult couldn't cope with what we do to these children how can they expect children too!!"

What we do to these children and how we expect them to be grateful is one of the biggest issues with adoption, if everyone accepted it as a horrific thing to be party to  and  understood that our children needed support, counselling, love and educating, then adoption journeys would be better for all those involved.

For National Adoption Week, would I do it again. YES I would.