You’ll have noticed that things have been quiet around here for a few weeks. Things have been a bit bonkers, to be quite honest. We’ve dealt with an exclusion from school, a stressful and frankly insane child protection meeting, all manner of ridiculous allegations from social workers about our ‘refusal to cooperate’, ongoing dealings with SEN about the girls’ EHCPs, and no real support from any of the professionals, including the ones who had told us privately they would be advocating for us. Aaaaarghh. Despite our best efforts, it seems to have become an ‘us and them’ situation. Here’s a summary of recent events to bring you up to speed.
CPV and respite care
At the start of June, the violence (mainly from Joanna) had become so bad that we asked post-adoption support to provide us with emergency respite care for her. Naively we expected a same-day response, so I tearfully packed a bag for her while she was at school. I needn’t have bothered. We had no response at all. Nothing all day, nothing all weekend, nothing for several more days. Our GP chased it, saying it was unsafe for us to be at home with our children. Still nothing.
A week later we were finally told that a potential foster family had been identified.
‘Great,’ we said. ‘Let’s meet them. We’re in their area tomorrow so could see them then if you like.’
‘No, no-one’s available to facilitate that,’ they said. ‘You’ll have to wait.’
A few days passed.
‘Sorry, that family have got another placement now. We’ll keep looking.’
Since then, nothing. This is their idea of urgent: seven weeks and counting. Oh, and we got told off for not accepting that offer of support. If you’re confused by that, then you’ve got the measure of what we’re dealing with.
A school exclusion
In mid-June, Joanna was excluded from school for five days, pending probable permanent exclusion, after she punched her TA in the face. Again. We decided that since this was on the cards for her, we’d take Charlotte out of school too and home educate them both, at least while the EHCP system runs its course for them both.
The next day, the Tier 4 Children’s Services team announced that we were going to be subject to a child protection investigation – not because they suspected us of anything, but because of the risk the girls pose to each other. (They repeated, again, that they don’t actually give a monkey’s about our safety as parents, because we’re outside their remit. Great. Thanks.)
They announced that they would be visiting the girls with or without our permission. We said they would not. We knew they’d try springing a visit on us despite weeks of explaining to them that for children with PTSD and autism and a history of being moved about by social workers, surprise visits would not go down well.
A camping trip
Since we were home educating, and given the stress of recent events, I wanted to start with a bit of time outdoors, which really helps the girls (and me) to relax. Pete stayed at home for work and scheduled meetings, while I had a little camping expedition with Joanna and Charlotte.
At 7.30 on Monday morning, after a bit of terrified vomiting on my part because of the social-worker-induced anxiety, me and the girls set off from home. Pete emailed school to say that we would be home educating the girls.
Shortly after that, the social workers turned up at school with no warning in order to try to see Charlotte, and finding her absent, came to our house unannounced to see both the girls. They then had a go at Pete, saying he was withholding access to the children and this was a statutory visit, etc. He politely explained that it was impossible for him to either grant or withhold access to people who were not in the house. He showed them around, pointing out all the damage to the house that has been caused by the CPV. And, having reduced him to tears with their accusations and lack of compassion, they left. The social worker later had the cheek to text me to say she was concerned about his wellbeing and that I should call him, as though it wasn’t her fault he was upset.
Our supporters spring into action
One of the joys in all this insanity is the willingness of our friends and family to spring into action in our defence and support. Pete and I put a note on Facebook saying that if anyone felt like advocating for us, here were the relevant names and email addresses, and if they wanted to write and ask for our situation to be dealt with with a bit of compassion, common sense and humanity, this would be a great time to do it.
We estimate about 30 people did that for us: our parents, Pete’s sister, our friends, our parents’ friends who have known us for donkey’s years, friends who are themselves social workers and youth workers and have followed our family’s ‘adventure’ from the start – they wrote passionate, well-reasoned emails about our situation and the way it was being handled by social services and SEN. We have never experienced an outpouring of support like this – we were, and are – so incredibly humbled and grateful for these lovely people.
More social services shenanigans
The social workers then started accusing us of being obstructive and refusing to meet with them. This is simply untrue – we just tried to coordinate several meetings to avoid having three with various subsets of professionals on different days. We were also told off for following our solicitor’s advice not to allow them access to the girls (because we have argued all along that social workers’ visits trigger more violence).
Pete called our solicitor, and the solicitor wrote to the council’s lawyers. We offered a compromise of a visit accompanied by someone the children know – their lovely OT – who would remain here after the social worker left to help with re-regulation.
But honestly. The heavy-handedness with which we’re being treated is appalling. We agreed to Tier 4 involvement only so that the residential aspect of the school we want for Joanna could be funded. Now we find ourselves without any contact from post-adoption support, who are apparently obliged to wash their hands of us once this other team is involved. Tier 4 have no prior relationship with us, are not experts in adoption, trauma, or attachment, and are trampling around all over our family life as though we have done something wrong. We’re just trying to parent our children with respect for who they are and what they need.
Enjoying life regardless
Anyway. Me and the girls proceeded to have an amazing week’s camping. They loved it, and we had the best behaviour they’ve managed for months. For five days, there was no violence. Nothing. The only ‘proper’ meltdown came on the drive home, when Charlotte took something of Joanna’s. Joanna decided the way to get it back was to punch Charlotte while they both screamed at each other at the top of their lungs as I zoomed down the M1. It was fuelled by transition anxiety. We’d had a lovely week and it was coming to an end. I stopped at the next service station, calmed them down, and that was that. All fine again.
But while we were there, we went swimming, we visited National Trust places with fantastic adventure playgrounds, and we sang along to the Greatest Showman soundtrack as we drove along more times than I can remember. The girls also decided they were going to attempt to sample every variety of crisps in the local shop, so every time I bought milk, we had a 20-minute crisp selection process.
We arrived home on the Friday evening, just missing Pete who left for a work trip in the morning. Home educating was going pretty well, the children were much happier, and we negotiated to have the social worker visit during an OT session so that I had some backup when the girls have the inevitable post-visit meltdown. The social worker only asked them (a) what they thought about being home educated (answer: two thumbs up and a big grin) and (b) what help they thought they still needed in addition to occupational therapy and psychotherapy (answer: help in getting Joanna into the school we have been fighting for). Nice work, girls – you made me proud.
My parents came over afterwards, and we took them swimming to help them re-regulate. It mainly worked – they were still unsettled the next day (quelle surprise) but it wasn’t on the level that an unplanned, unsupported visit would have been.
The child protection conference
Next, joy of joys, we had the child protection conference. I hope you never have to have this experience. It was horrible. We had a letter, telling us where to be and when (but not who was going to be there). Then another one, moving it to another date.
Then various professionals – social workers, the girls’ headteacher, and the school nurse, got in touch the week of the meeting to share their reports with us. The school one was fine – saying that we were good parents who needed support. The school nurse had very little info other than sharing that I’d had a conversation with her about CPV over the course of a few phone calls the previous year. SEN had nothing to share. Two reports from social services (one from PAS, one from Tier 4) pulled us to shreds with blatantly untrue reports of our failure to attend meetings (actually it was them who failed to turn up) and tales of our complaints to their management (but no mention of the fact that these complaints were upheld and they had apologised to us).
So I spent an entire day (about 14 hours) before the meeting writing a 9000-word response to these reports, in which I demonstrated that their accounts were inaccurate, quoting our emails and theirs, relating the truth of what happened, and correcting assumptions and misunderstandings as our case notes were passed from one social worker to another. It was a hard, often overwhelming task but it was finally finished, and four copies printed, and we took them with us to the meeting.
The day itself
Our GP had told us that she was keen to advocate for us and that she would ‘make damn sure’ she was there (her words). We naturally assumed that meant she would be giving the social workers a piece of her mind. She’d certainly suggested to me that that was her intention. We also believed that the girls’ OT and psychotherapist would be writing in support of us. But not only did our GP not turn up, but she didn’t submit a written report either. The OT wasn’t contacted by those running the meeting, and the psychotherapist said she had nothing to add that wasn’t already on file. These were the people we were relying on to advocate for us and we knew were supportive of us in private. I haven’t seen the GP since. I have no idea what to say to her.
When we arrived for the meeting and found out we were without that support, we were devastated. When we presented a copy of our report to the so-called ‘independent chair’ (a council employee who was really not that independent), he told us that not only would he not read it, he wouldn’t circulate it either. We’d been unable to submit it before the meeting because we didn’t have his contact details. I am still really quite irked about this. We read out some of it in the meeting, but he kept interrupting and disputing what we were saying. No-one was allowed to interrupt the professionals. It all felt so grossly unfair.
Accusations from the ‘independent’ chair
Our report included a contribution from Joanna using the MOMO app (which is designed for exactly this purpose). This was the only part that the chair presented to the meeting, and said that the help Joanna wanted was a place at the residential special school. And then the chair questioned whether she’d actually written it herself, because it seemed to be too well-written for a 9-year-old. How were we supposed to answer that? I told the truth: I had helped her with the spelling of ‘respite’ and explained what the questions meant when they were a bit ambiguous, but the answers were all hers. I don’t think he believed me.
However. When the vote came, at the end of the meeting, everyone except the Tier 4 social worker and her manager voted to retain the girls’ Child in Need status and not pursue a Child Protection one. So on that at least we were able to leave feeling vindicated, despite being upset by the whole business.
The social worker still wants to visit every three weeks, though we know that is not a statutory requirement. The girls are in holiday clubs so that’s not very practical, and their therapists aren’t available at the moment. One has no more funding from them, and the other only sees private clients on Saturdays, when the social workers are off boiling bunnies or whatever it is they do for fun when they’re not tormenting families. She thinks this means she can come by herself. We disagree. So we’ll see what happens there. I expect our solicitor may have something to say if she continues to harass us.
We still have no answer to the question of what support they are going to offer us which would justify these visits and the distress they cause to the girls. What is the point of this team’s involvement unless they are doing something to benefit the children? They remain silent on this topic.
We’re still home educating. Charlotte and Joanna keep saying how much they prefer it to school. They’ve been at a stage school holiday club this week and though it hasn’t been entirely smooth running, they’ve done really well. It’s the performance this afternoon and I’m looking forward to being the proud mum in the front row.
I’m feeling so much better now they’re out of school. If we could opt out of all contact with social services and other powers that be entirely I would be even happier. Alas we still need the ASF to fund the psychotherapy and CAMHS to prescribe Charlotte some ADHD medication. Otherwise we would be extremely tempted to sell the house and relocate and not tell any of them where we’d gone.
What’s coming up on the blog
- I’ll be sharing more of our adventures in home educating as I get my head around that.
- There’ll be some more book reviews (my ‘to be read’ pile is getting out of control).
- I’m hoping Charlotte and Joanna will contribute a few posts of their own to share their perspectives.
- I’ll be sharing some old favourite summer posts to help us all survive the summer holidays.
As ever, if you have questions or there are other things you’d like to see here, please do get in touch. I love hearing from you.