23 02 2010

Lolly’s birth-parents named her “Lollo-Rosso” (lets say), and this is what she was called by the Mostly Functioning Parents and their extended families, until they found out that her foster carers had shortened her name to “Lolly”.  Little Miss Loud was given pictures of her younger sibling, when the Mostly Functioning Parents decided that they could adopt her, and all these pictures were referred to as “Lolly”, so that is what LML has always called her, although her full name is still used by other members of the family on occasion.

Two days ago, as clear as day, LML shouts “Lollo-Rosso” down the stairs.  She has been calling her that about 70% of the time since then.



Introductions Review Meeting

24 06 2009

The living room rapidly fills – three social workers, one foster carer, two adoptive parents and Little Sis, happily playing, smiling and gurning in the middle.

When CD tells the chair of the review meeting that the plans were altered slightly, Pat, the foster-carers almost chokes on her tea, knowing that she and GM sat down early on in the introductions and completely re-wrote them. The chair doesn’t notice though, as she says “but you’re supposed to tell me about any changes to ‘the plan’.”

“Oh, we just thought that Little Sis was ready to spend more time here” says CD, Pat nodding in agreement and adding that “it’s helped LML and Little Sis no end.”

The chair draws out her check-list, “so” she begins

“You’ve both given Little Sis a bath at Pats?” … check (and here too actually, every night for the past three days)

“You’ve both put her to bed?” … check (we started doing that on the second visit at nap times, and have been doing bedtime routine for about four days now)

“She’s eating ok here?” … check (except we just aren’t willing to give her white chocolate with her mash!)

“She’s due to spend the day here tomorrow. Everyone is comfortable bout this?” … check (well, we’re now on our sixth day of Little Sis being here for most if not all of the day)

“We are usually reluctant to move children on a Friday, are you all still comfortable with the move going ahead this Friday?” …

“More than ready!” bursts out of GM before she can stop herself.

The meeting concludes positively, with agreement that everything is going very well indeed.

The mostly functional parents are so ready for Little Sis to come home that the next two days feel like they will last a week each – roll on Friday.

The Gallery

9 06 2009

Not long after GM and CD moved into their current house they began a gallery of their friends and family on a wall in their hallway. The gallery has grown and changed over the years and is often a talking point for visitors. Many people stop to admire some of the photos and work out the relationships.

When LML arrived it became a tool to place her within the family, ‘Look’ the mostly functional parents would say, ‘Who’s this?’ Or, ‘Here’s grandma and granddad’.

The wall has been bare for the past few weeks after redecorating the hall. Last night CD and GM worked their way through cleaning their frames and replacing and refreshing some of the photos. There is quite a lot and it took a few hours to complete, so it was midnight before they had finished.

“Shall we put them up now?” enquired CD

“It’s a bit late” replied GM “the neighbours won’t be too happy with us banging nails in at this time of the day. We’ll have to put them up tomorrow, but if we do it when LML is up she’ll want to ‘help’. Maybe we should put them up tomorrow evening after LML has gone to bed.”

The next morning it’s CD’s turn for lie in. He stumbles downstairs at about 7.30 and wanders into the kitchen where GM is washing up some dishes. “The tea is a bit stewed, so you’d better make a fresh pot” states GM after saying ‘good morning’.

As CD goes through the routine, still half asleep, GM says, “I’ve decided that I can’t wait … I just have to put the pictures up this morning.”

needs analysis

9 05 2009

When I asked Big Sis earlier today what she thought her needs were when Little Miss Loud (LML) came home to us, she said she didn’t have any!!

She did of course and it took a little exploring before we got around to them.

She needed everything explaining to her. She needed to know where we were in the process. She needed to have an opportunity to discuss some of the more complex issues that LML came with. This would often mean Big Sis discussing issues with us then coming back a couple of days later and wanting to discuss it more.

Though she was a bit blasé about it, she was going to lose her no1 daughter status and needed to know that we were still going to be there for her. She needed some reassurance. In fact, one of the things that came out of our discussion was that she wants to go out for a meal with us – just us, without LML. As a family we have always put an emphasis on eating together and we would often take Big Sis out for a meal in a restaurant as a celebration of one thing or another. We have continued to do that with LML included – but to be honest, she just isn’t quite ‘civilised’ enough for it to be relaxed yet.

One of the things Big Sis identified was that she needed to think about her relationship with LML. Big Sis has a little sister that lives with her mother. Big Sis needed to establish a new relationship with LML and to understand that it would be different to that of her birth sister. That, like us, she had to learn who LML is.

Food for thought

5 05 2009

In the preparation for a child being placed with us, during the completion of the assessment form, the training and in discussions with our Social Worker, friends and family we talked a lot about what our needs would be. One of the things, on reflection, we didn’t spend enough time on was thinking about our need to communicate effectively with the child that was placed with us. Maybe we made an assumption that this wouldn’t be an issue.

In those first few weeks and months we had to learn a lot about LML, her needs, her routines, which was difficult when she had such a significant communication delay. On a very basic level we needed to learn how to communicate with her, to understand what certain actions meant. For instance there were lots of issues about LML’s eating. For months we tried to get LML to communicate when she had had enough at meal times. Her way of communicating this was to throw the plate or bowl at us. We spent months dodging accurately aimed forks and spoons. We had to learn the signals so that we could whip the plate and cutlery away before it came in our direction. Then we spent months trying to teach the sign for ‘finished’, without much luck at all. Eventually we came to an accommodation with her, which took her lead, and she began to push the plate away rather than throwing it when she’d had enough.

Birth parents may have similar challenges with their child but as adoptive parents we didn’t have the opportunity to develop that relationship with LML over the first 18 months of her life. Even though we did keep in touch with the foster carers and did talk through strategies with them we still had to work it out ourselves. We had no strategies, no experience or knowledge of what motivated her. No idea what those little signals, which indicated that she’d had enough, were.


29 04 2009

We have moved so far since Little Miss Loud came home to live with us both emotionally and intellectually. When we sat in the adoption preparation group three years ago, it felt as though we had made such a lot of progress to get where we were, made so many big decisions and we were learning so much.

Since LML came home to us we have had to learn so much more. Really, it is where our learning really began.

There is the intellectual journey. There’s the practicalities and medical stuff – learning about child development, medical conditions, speech therapy, what the hell portage, Hanen and Makaton were and how to use them.

Then there’s the emotional journey – as we have bonded with LML.

We had to get to know this stranger, who has now become the centre of our life. It didn’t happen overnight. We’ve had to work at it, grow and develop the relationship. If you asked Grumpy Mum when she felt that she had bonded with LML, when she felt that she was really ours, then she would say that it was the day we adopted LML. Which is such a symbolic gesture and didn’t take place until 15 months after LML had came home. For Crap Dad it was sitting on the settee, at something like 6am one morning, with LML snuggled up on my lap watching cbeebies; again well over a year after she came home. Adoption, for us certainly, didn’t mean love at first sight. How could it have been? It was something special but it wasn’t that deep and emotional bond. It had to develop with time and care.

We are aware that LML has had to, and will continue to have to, deal with a sense of loss. The loss of her birth parents and her foster carers. When she came home to us there was this look of confusion which would cross her face regularly and this lasted for months. It’s not there now but it was clear that she felt disconnected from everything she knew.

Adoption certainly is a journey which will continue to enthrall and surprise us as we continue along its path.

Waifs and Strays

27 04 2009

Crap Dad and Grumpy Mum had lived together for about a decade when Crap Dad’s daughter – Big Sis – came to live with them. Big Sis arrived about 6 years ago, about the same time as our cat, a stray we named chico and Little Miss Loud arrived 21 months ago.

Crap Dad has a brother, who has two children and four step children, two great nephews and a great niece. Grumpy Mum has 6 siblings and 14 nephews and nieces, some of which are step children.

Little Miss Loud (LML) comes from a large family.

LML has two full brothers, a sister and four half siblings. They are all adopted or in foster care. Once or twice a month we meet up LML’s bothers. Grumpy Mum and their mum also talk regularly on the phone. The kids are always really excited to see each other and are starting to develop a bond.

In the past year we’ve met up with all the siblings and their families twice. The first time was really weird. We started from the point that this is LML’s family and we wanted her to feel a part of it. To see them all together, too see the similarities, too meet them and their parents – nothing in our adoption preparation could have prepared us for that. We met at a Museum, this big incongruous group. There were four families, eight adults and 10 kids. There are strong similarities between the kids – you could see the confusion on peoples faces as they tried to workout the relationships that existed.

Throughout our adoption preparation we were open to contact with the birth parents and family, but in LML’s family’s case it was felt, by the social workers, to be inappropriate. We have had letter box contact with her birth dad and her maternal grandmother. This hasn’t gone entirely smoothly as the grandmother put her address on one letter and on another her mobile number. It is difficult, we agonised over the content of our letters, wanting to get the tone just right. We sent old pictures and talked in general terms about LML, trying to give them some idea of her new life, and trying to be as sensitive as possible. It isn’t easy but it feels like a valuable thing to do and the family seem to appreciate the information we’ve provided.

We have some pictures of LML’s birth parents and a video, which we show her periodically and although she is pre-verbal her family, both birth and adoptive, and her position within it are part of our everyday discourse.

Our family, from just the two of us, has now flowered in a way we never imagined only a few years ago. And it’s bloomin’ marvellous!

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