The Things We Do

imageWhen Jazz was little she found fitting in with her peers extremely difficult. Her upbringing meant she was unable to feel much empathy for others or to concentrate or relax enough to notice their reactions to what she was saying or doing. When she did notice people it was with intense staring observation, usually when something about them felt threatening to her. This made social occasions a minefield of potential upset for her and others.

This situation was compounded by increasing exclusions from school. First came a day at a time, then a week or ten days and depressingly, eventually racking up to three permanent exclusions by the age of eight.

One of the strategies I used to teach her socialisation was to vocalise each of her pets personalities. We had two dogs and two cats in the early days and the menagerie grew as her friends diminished.  I would speak for each ‘person’. An example would be that she would be shouting really loudly and inappropriately. I would do a voice for each animal like a play:

Hampi (old cat) “Ooooh dear you made me really jump then my false teeth nearly fell out. Please be a bit quieter it’s not good for my nerves.

Kinky (naughty Siamese cat) “Ha ha you are so funny Jazz! Hampi is a big old stupid bag lady!”

Madge (sweet soft dog) “Kinky I don’t think it’s fair to encourage Jazz to be naughty because she gets into trouble”

Kinky “You’re so boring Madge you goody two shoes”

Dargo (wise lurcher dog) ” No Kinky I agree with Madge. I think Jazz shouting does scare some people and you should help her to learn new things and not be so selfish”

Creating this group dialogue helped Jazz to see that the world was made up of lots of different types of people who would have different reactions to the same thing. Some people were shy, some were moody, some were physical, some were wise, some were nervous, some were funny. There was nearly always a chance to laugh at, and with, the cheeky character so that part of her was also accepted without shame. It taught her to manage her social responses depending on different circumstances and context. By practising in this enjoyable form of play over many years her emotional intelligence eventually grew beyond that of her same age peers.

The game also extended to soft toys who came alive as monkeys who swore a lot, tigger’s who couldn’t stop moving and touching things, wise old granny wolves who explained big stuff and calm donkeys who wanted to whisper.

Over the years some extremely difficult subjects have been talked out via our pets and toys and still to this day a great bad mood breaker involves me with a very well worn cheeky monkey called Bardy saying a few very naughty swear words and dancing about in a whizzy way throwing stuff.

Jazz “Now come on Bardy let’s not be silly. Lets calm down before it gets out of hand”

 

My Name Is Jazz: My Work

Me At Work

 

I work at a animal recque place. I some time find it hard because it brings some fellings up like me been recque by mummy bear bear but I love it because it giving not tacking all the time. I all so find it hard because the animals have been mist triad so like I said it brings flash backs but my favour dog is Harry he is a staff+ Rocwrler+ German Shepard and he loves me and he likes going on long walks with me and he likes hugs and kiss.                                                                                                        But he is like me he dissent like his head been touch and cart have his water in with him because when I’m not ther he throws it a round the place lol! then there is Rusty he like to walk to. he is my second fav because he a staff+. Ridgeback and when he Duse a poo he spins around in serculls 3 time wich macks me laugh. he barks a lot then there is Tyson he is a Gary Hound he like to jump a round and pea up every thing. then there is Roma he is a lurcher. he is very cuddle and soft and ten ther is 7 ginny pigs but my fave is rusty and patch. patch is my best fav because he is inquisitive he like to explor and go in my hat and sit on my hear and be hold like a baby. Rusty like to be on his on like a popper man lol! then we got 3 geese and hens and ducks they do what birds do. then we got a blind goat. he got the foot and math desees and then 3 cats smokey Tom and stripey and finly 3/4 rabbits. I just love it

It’s Mothers Work

For many months now I have been following a blog by Sara Siobhan called “mydaftlife”. It is a blog that painfully unfolds to tell the harrowing and outrageous facts about how Sara’s amazing and healthy son LB was allowed to die in an assessment unit for adults with learning disabilities.

As a mother to a young adult diagnosed as learning disabled I have had to fight the system all the way. Even about whether she had any disability. Some thought her just plain “naughty” or me a ridiculous and incompetent mother. Her eventual diagnosis came so late in her childhood that her SEN educational support was practically nil and support to me in parenting her mainly punitive.

To many of us our children are not disabled, they are just who they are. Often amazing, intelligent, challenging and independent characters that others find difficult to pigeon hole. My daughter does not consider herself disabled or a slow learner, she is mortified and confused by the label. She believes its mainly the rest of us that are peculiar.

During her transition into adulthood, she like many teenagers, found life very challenging and as a result her behaviour expressed this. Suddenly my worth as a parent and her worth as a family member diminished. She was suddenly treated as an adult now responsible for her actions and I was no longer validated despite my extensive knowledge of her needs, individual likes and dislikes.

We are a large, close and happy family and are generally very creative in our problem solving on each others behalf. Because my daughters behaviour was becoming more aggressive and risky in public it was twice suggested to me, and to her in my absence, that she should go into an institutional setting.

The last suggestion discussed with her was an assessment centre for learning disabled adults. I voiced my horror and concern at the thought as television programmes, such as the one about Winterbourne View and all it portrayed, were quite fresh in my mind. I was reassured that things were different now. High standards of care etc etc. As it happens at the very last minute a family member stepped in financially to help me get some respite and a meaningful needs assessment from Family Futures. This private support bought me fighting time and my daughter is now living independently with the help of Direct Payments.

LB and his family represent the ones who have not been afforded this basic and very reasonable outcome. It is an outrage beyond measure that this tragedy happened to Sara and her family but as if this weren’t enough she has been subjected to torturous, disrespectful and cruel treatment by the health authority as a consequence.

We just wanted support to keep safe at home. We didn’t get it and we all paid the price in one way or another. My daughter came to serious harm but she didn’t die.

Many of us adopters will find we have children with at least “additional needs” even if we didn’t know at the beginning these needs will become apparent as time passes and our children don’t fit into the rigid systems provided to them.

Learning disabled children and adults deserve better support. Please share Sara’s story linked below with anyone you feel may be able to highlight the campaign for a cultural change.

http://mydaftlife.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/the-sound-of-candour/

Solutions

I know we at ‘The Trauma Train’ are not always known as blogging about the happier sides of adoption, but we always try to let the love and truth of our family life shine through. The truth is not always easy or pretty but it’s our truth and we feel it has beauty in its imperfections.
I suppose adopting and fostering has made us very passionate about the rights of adoptees and adoption support, as it has other adoption bloggers who share their stories warts and all.

I want this post to be one that shows the solutions we have found during our own personal experiences over the past fifteen years. This is in the hope of offering positive and creative support to other who are dealing with issues of anxiety, attachment, trauma and developmental delay. 2014 is the year we begin to deliver our support services through the charity http://www.theopennest.co.uk
We are working with adoptees, adopters, foster carers, psychologists and social workers to develop the services we offer so please share your thoughts and ideas with us.

PROBLEM: I know my child cannot help their current struggles but I am exhausted and just need a break. Standard respite services would not suit my family as my child would be very anxious if sent away from me at this stage.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We will be offering short breaks in beautiful Whitby, North Yorkshire. There will be a choice of a comfortable rural camping barn with room for four or a three bedroomed apartment in a town centre hotel. Parent/parents will come with children but get whole days or evenings off whilst children are cared for and entertained by expert carers who understand the specific issues.

PROBLEM: I have been assessed as needing support but there is nothing suitable forthcoming and I feel it is down to funding and availability.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: Short breaks and other services will be free and funded by our charity. Those who feel able to contribute to the costs of their respite or support can support us with a donation ( We will trust people to assess this themselves).

PROBLEM: My child has contact with birth family members but I wish it could be in a more neutral, private and safe space.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We can offer 20 acres of beautiful National Park as well as beautiful indoor spaces to families who wish to have contact with siblings or birth parents.

PROBLEM: My child finds a lot of situations difficult but professionals do not always believe me or fully understand and this triggers my child. I feel am not listened to as I’m “just the parent” and I don’t have the time or energy to battle the system.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We offer a free advocacy service for families. We will contact agencies, schools etc for you with positive information and literature that will help your individual child. We can also send you literature to give to teachers, social workers, family members etc. We can also advise on potential benefits and legislation. We can be assertive on your behalf and can contact local MP’s.

PROBLEM: Sometimes I just need someone to talk to who has “been there”

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We will have a confidential telephone helpline for those who need to chat through an issue, moan, cry, laugh or be directed to other appropriate support agencies or individuals.

PROBLEM: I would love to meet with other adoptive families in a safe space.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We will organise small short break social gatherings (up to 22 people) for adoptive families. These will be free of charge including accommodation and food. There will be activities for children facilitated by expert sessional workers. There will be options to do “grown up” activities for parents/carers.

PROBLEM: I would like to attend a conference specifically for information, support and learning around adoption but cannot afford the cost of a ticket.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We will be hosting an annual conference for adoptees and adopters. The conference delivery will be dynamic and original and will be strictly delivered by adoptees and adopters. Attendance will be free (as in all our service provision a donation can be given if appropriate). There will be child care if it is needed for accessibility.

PROBLEM: My child’s violence has reached a level that makes me scared that I may not be able to cope anymore and our adoption may break down.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We can fund and facilitate specific in house training for individual families in crisis. This training will address issues of behaviour management for your individual child and safety strategies. The training will be delivered by a recognised National provider who is expert at conflict management.

PROBLEM: It upsets me that me and/or my family is not reflected or represented truthfully in cultural arenas.

OPEN NEST SOLUTION: We will be facilitating and hosting cultural events, with National coverage, where the “voice” of the adoptee and adopter are represented over and above the agenda of any other group. We also aim to support other projects and individuals with this aim.

The Open Nest currently raises the largest part of its funds by selling holidays to the general public at http://www.larosa.co.uk @LaRosaHotel
Our family set up this vintage hotel and campsite business ten years ago to address the issue that due to our difficulties in dealing with trauma it was hard for any of us to fit into mainstream employment or educational settings. We are now able to use this business which has a loyal customer base to support others.

A proportion of our sales go directly to fund post adoption services. This independent fund raising allows us to be creative and means service users are not at the mercy of assessments or funding shortages before accessing support.

We also organise smaller fundraising events and very much appreciate others who do the same for us. We are a registered charity and this year will become a registered adoption support agency.

Anybody who wishes to fund raise for us, share advice or ideas, or would like to be on our mailing list please contact us at info@theopennest.co.uk

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Trust Issues And Resolutions

It’s was a funny old year 2013. There was more change than I could have imagined with Jazz finally getting funding to support her move towards independence as an adult. This of course meant that after being a constant carer for many years, under extreme circumstances, I had some of my own time back.

My initial thoughts were to use this time to take strident legal action on her behalf for the lack of post adoption support she received, the lack of support to keep her in school, the all round general dogs dinner the local authority made of listening to her needs and protecting us from harm. After a good think though, I knew it was far better to put that energy into creating something positive, something inspired by the strength of our relationship and the love rather than the regrets and the angry bits.

So we began the setting up of The Open Nest and the opening up of our experience to others. This took a lot of trust on Jazz and I’s part. Using blogging, Twitter and Facebook was something entirely new to us. Our lives laid bare, in some ways to illustrate and advocate for the fact that we knew we weren’t the only ones. Of course it soon became apparent that we weren’t and that trust was rewarded. We have met some wonderful people through Twitter who have supported and advised and been all round good guys in the setting up of the charity. They really represent the word “trustee” in the true sense of the word.

On the other hand 2013 highlighted the dangers in trusting people. Employing support people for Jazz has been so much harder than we could ever imagine and getting the wrong ones at times has had very negative emotional affects on her and her trust issues.

One of the most shocking things to happen last year was that a “friend” in the guise of supporting the charity, publicly raised funds in our name and then refused to give us the money. Even though I am old enough to know there are untrustworthy people around this really did make me question everything.

Whilst dealing with the aftermath of both losing a friend and a big chunk of faith, Jazz’s lovely birth dad Fred died. The timing was always going to be bad but ten days before Christmas was cruel. Life stuck the boot in further when the funeral was scheduled for Christmas Eve. The only saving grace was that it bought her and her siblings together. A lot of preparation was done before the funeral around healthy goodbyes and trusting those around her to keep her safe through the emotional storm of loss and death.

We were floored when at the funeral Fred’s older children from his first marriage had arranged the service to omit her and her brothers very existence. My heart broke as the service unfolded and Fred was remembered as a loyal and loving father to A, B, C and D but no mention of the three young people who sat huddled, clinging to each other in grief and humiliation. Their chance of a healthy goodbye was stolen from under our noses.

I knew the first family disapproved, with some good reason, of their fathers second wife ( she was asked not to attend the service to avoid trouble) but he loved her and his children. He spent many Christmas’s and birthdays with Jazz and my family and friends over the last ten years and took his parental role towards Jazz seriously despite her mums failings. We looked after him as he grew weak and we loved him. Again our faith and trust in human nature was dented.

In the past few weeks I’ve had to question myself, am I too trusting? am I naive? am I too soft? I even thought I needed to make serious resolutions for the New Year to harden up and not trust people so easily.

But then I thought…… “bugger that”.

I like being a trusting person. I like the openness our family has and the trust and honesty I believe I have encouraged in Jazz. I like being a big softy and having faith in human nature to do the right thing.

So my New Years resolution is the same as ever. In 2014 I will count my blessings and not let the bastards grind me down.

Adoption Stories: Fact & Fiction

Adoption in itself brings together the many stories and experiences of several people. Birth family, adoptee, adopters and adoption workers. All family stories are important and often treasured, hidden, embroidered, repeated, or celebrated, but when a continuity is broken they can also become confused, muddled and mistold.

My adopted daughter came into my life with a scrapbook put together by her brilliant foster family, showing her time with them, happy events and fellow foster children. There was no detailed life story book. It was as if she were born aged four. The social services gave me verbal stories of her inadequate parents, chaotic and abusive home life…her mother had “knocked her front teeth out” and how she may have been born out of prostitution as her skin colour suggested “another ethnic background to that of her siblings”.

I was shocked and quite scared when I was told to avoid certain geographical areas due to the threat of potential attack by her mum.

After a few months of placement I felt I really needed more background to “the story” in order to understand my daughter properly. It took me a long time to piece together the bits of information I could get hold of. It helped enormously when I was able to contact a birth aunty who was a calm and reasonable police officer. I managed to get enough history to feel comfortable enough to meet Dawn and Fred. One of the most important things was hearing that Jazz lost her baby teeth when one of her siblings accidentally let go of her toddler reins and she fell over. I heard Dawn had a learning disability and behavioural problems which made her hard to engage with. I heard Fred was a lot older and his pride got in the way of him accepting support.  Another important piece of the jigsaw was hearing she had an African descendant, maybe a great grandfather, and her mums skin colour was beautiful like hers. How this became translated into her mother being a prostitute I still don’t know.

I was still really scared to go into the social services office to meet the parents, especially as the social worker was not altogether impressed with the idea due to the “no birth family contact” order given in court. My heart was racing feeling sure they would hate me for having their child. Instead Dawn hugged me and we cried together.

From that day on we have worked together to give Jazz a fuller picture of her life. It hasn’t been easy and I have had to encourage Dawn not to blame everything on the social services and own up to her failures as well as to own her successes. Jazz has needed support and to be given control over the level of contact.It has resolved things for her and bought about forgiveness, mainly of herself. I have grown to love Dawn and Fred like I do my birth family, sometimes we bicker and annoy each other but the ties are strong.

Jazz’s family history is much like many others. It has sad bits, happy bits, bits that bring shame and bits to be proud of. Now it has melded into my family history and become a part of my story and my history.

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Hope For The Future

We had some great training this week from Geraldine Casswell who is in the group of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy therapists who work alongside Dan Hughes. dyadicdevelopmentalpsychotherapy.org

It was positive and reassuring about having hope for the future of teenagers and young people who have experienced attachment issues and trauma. Of course we had to fund privately and were given a very fair deal but just knowing there are people out there who want to spread the words of hope and love is encouraging.

We hope to raise funds through The Open Nest Charity to help other families access training with wise mentors like Geraldine but in the meantime would like to share a video we were shown.

My Name Is Jazz: The Future

Whell I have moved in to my on house as u all no but I all ways won’t a house by the see side  because  I love walking on the beach and having fires and felling the lovely soft sand and the smell of the see and swimming and tacking the most wonderful stafferbull tears out.

And my ideal car is a soberro but well have to bee realistic so voxyl cosa red and black Matted and big lound spieler and orange wells and black out windows  And a massive speaker in the boot.

And Ideil job is army or police but yet ageing we have to bee realistic so a macanick with my new friends and me to bee ther boss for ones not mother hen!!!!!!

And my ideal stile is rally skinny jeans and long hire and one side saved but I cart grow my hire past a grade 4 because its rally annoye me.

my i deil body is big rip mussels and my idel tatto is marvel comics sleeve and my ideal  Holiday is New York withe the most wounde full fiend and mum ever

And my ideal laptop is a Appel Mac.

me and one of my best fiends we are starting a caffe at the hotel and I’m go to do a club with no acihol.

i work at a resqiew center for dogs and birds and a blind gote and stuff and we got a Gary hound in on whensday and he is in a rate stat so I rally won’t to help him get better.

My  one dreem that I’ve all ways won’t I’d is a baby girl calls Tilly Kat Boorman or a son call Jason David Boorman the end.