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.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A first but third birthday

Child 4 celebrated his third birthday recently, I don't know if you remember but the first time he met his new siblings was on his second birthday, so for us his birthday was always going to hold special meaning. We started the day with presents, something we kept low key last year as we didn't want him to associate presents and cakes with change. In reality a three year old doesn't need much especially one who has three siblings worth of toys stashed in the attic. Of course our farm loving little man needed a farm, his fantastic throwing arm loved the beanbags and the bubble monster chortled when he opened the bubble machine then there were the books, the cars, the real football and goal net and the tractor and trailer from friends, family and god parents.

After a breakfast of chocolate brioche, well it was a birthday, we let off the blue balloon just like his birth mum hopefully would. It was a beautiful September morning, the kind of end of Summer, beginning of Autumn morning that you read about in a book or a poem, we all piled into the garden high on our hill surrounded by a sea of mist which gradually disperses as the sun warms up, and eventually child 4 let go of his balloon and we watch it float above the laden apple tree, past the roofs of the neighbouring homes and then up heading for the clouds. Next year I will remember to buy two, one to let off and the other to keep.

Then off to mass, where the whole community wished him a happy birthday, home for a speedy lunch before the farm themed birthday party began. We filled the garden with farm style activities, a dozen bright pink balloons adorned with pig faces needing catching and returning to their "dog crate", the bean bag sheep needing to be herded into a hoop, treasure hidden in the bucket of corn, hunting for the chicken's missing kinder eggs and the planting of daffodils into pots to take home to get nurtured until spring. Then a party tea of pigs in blankets, cheese savouries masquerading as chicken feed, vegetable sticks planted in houmous, animal decorated cup cakes and the piece de resistance a pigs in mud birthday cake.

Once his little friends had headed home the after party began with the popping of fizz bottles not just a birthday celebration but an anniversary celebration, it's almost a year since we became a family of six. Would I change anything? Absolutely not!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Grieving but not for a bereavement

Woman's Hour this week had a discussion about fostering and the splitting up of sibling groups. Action for Children a charity that has being running for 145 years, supporting vulnerable and neglected children and young people in the UK had been invited in to discuss the findings from some research they collated in August 2014.

Taken from a Freedom of Information request by Action for Children to all local authorities in the UK between April 2013 and March 2014. The request, completed on Friday 15 August 2014, discovered that 11082 children from sibling groups were placed in local authority foster care and 3598 children had been separated from their siblings. (That's 36%) The response rate was 89%.

We first came across Action for children at one of our first adoption training sessions when a lovely lady who worked for them came in to discuss the importance of keeping up some form of contact with birth parents, the second time was when we met child 4's birth parents, the same lady joined them to support them through the meeting, helping them to ask and answer questions we had and to encourage them to accept that we were going to be child 4's parents.

Whilst I listened to the discussion, I was surprised, yet not, that so many children were split from their siblings, after all it is so very hard to find foster carers that can take on more than one child. It seems that children whom are removed by social services are expected to "just get on with it" yes there is counselling available via CAMHS, child and adolescent mental health services, within adoption there is the post adoption team  and for foster carers there is social services. All of this support though is over stretched,  understaffed and financially constantly short of money.  Children in foster care aren't in an environment where they are unconditionally loved as they would be by a loving family. They have their needs taken care of and they are no doubt loved, but I suspect that as a foster carer you have to hold back the emotional ties because the children you take care of are returned or moved on and to truly fall in love with your charge would lead to devastation when they left. Sometimes I think that we forget the grief those children must feel and that grief surely must be similar to that of children who lose a parent in an accident or through disease.

Not only do we remove children from their parents because they are not being cared for but then we split them up from their siblings, those children grieve for the loss of their parents and the loss of their brothers and sisters. They don't understand that it's for their own good or that they cannot be found a home with their brothers and sister because those homes just don't exist.

The system as it is seems to let down the children it is trying to save, but I don't have an alternative idea do you?

Sunday, 7 September 2014


Child 1 came home a couple of weeks before the summer holidays to announce that she was going off to Borneo and that she was going to raise the £3400 needed to go.

So we parents dutifully attended the meeting at school ran by an outside agency that run expeditions to amazing places all over the world. They along with the children plan the trip of a lifetime, a three week trip to a far off, completely alien environment where the children get themselves involved in conservation or community projects, where they have the opportunity to explore the natural habitat and where they have the chance to lead their teams.

If I was 15/16 I would jump at the chance to travel to Borneo, our girl is hoping to work in an orang-u-tan sanctuary, to traverse the rainforest of Sarawak and climb Mount Kinabola but to do so she is ironing, cleaning and babysitting and her little group of friends are bag packing in the supermarkets and organising community events, so far they have held a cream tea, a cake stall and have a Halloween Fayre, more cake stalls and a black tie dinner event planned.

So far she is on track to hit her first payment and she is really, really working hard fundraising. But, it's not just been about the money, she has also found the community aspect fulfilling. The cream tea event was amazing, the world war 2 theme encouraged the older population of our parish to all come along and a great time was had by all, in fact we are thinking of an old fashioned 1950s style luncheon event for early next year, and not just to raise money the opportunity to encourage the multitude of generations to come together and to spend time together is probably more important than the fund raising and I am really pleased to say that our teenage girl got that.

I know that she will raise all the money she needs for this, hopefully first of a lifetime trip but along the way she is learning the value of people, money and time. She is showing a work ethic that is full of positivity and just as importantly she is spending time with people from different generations, different walks of life and different cultures and she is loving every minute of it.

 One very proud mum.