Post-adoption support and the special school saga

It’s now 18 months since we first discussed a residential special school place (at an SEMH school) for Joanna at her EHCP review. (You can read about that experience here.) We’re still going. It’s been a bit of a saga, to say the least, with a sprinkling of school exclusions followed by a 1:1 tutor who has since been withdrawn with no notice – obviously not a kind or thoughtful way to treat someone with a severe attachment disorder. The problem seems to be, as ever, that the people with the power are not the people with the understanding. Those who understand are very much in agreement with us, but they don’t hold the purse strings. And so we have to go through the palaver of discussions and multiple drafts and appeals and mediation and almost certainly a tribunal with SEN, while also fighting social services – who are supposed to be supporting us – to get them to pull their weight too. It’s ridiculous.

Hogwarts letters

If only Joanna had received a Hogwarts letter instead of us having to fight for a residential school place.

The problem seems to be that the people with the power are not the people with the understanding. Click To Tweet

Who is actually going to support us?

Last December, post-adoption support, which is a ‘tier 3’ service, handed our family’s ‘support’ over to the local safeguarding team, which is a ‘tier 4’ service. This was intended purely so that they could do the assessment required to get Joanna (then aged 9) into a residential special school. After a couple of false starts (one social worker turning up on our doorstep unannounced, another failing to turn up as expected), post-adoption support did the assessment themselves using the safeguarding team’s form, which was largely unfit for the purpose it was being used for in our case. They agree with us that a residential school is necessary. However, they have no authority to make it all happen or to fund it.

The current situation

Nine months later, having achieved absolutely nothing other than a whole lot of stress including a bizarre child protection conference, last week we were told our family are being returned to the ‘care’ of post-adoption support because the safeguarding team apparently can’t be bothered to fund the attendance of the required professionals at meetings. Naturally this makes absolutely no sense at all. To say we are fed up with the so-called professionals is to understate things quite considerably. We’re waiting for someone to meet the identified care needs in Joanna’s EHCP. We haven’t seen any yet.

So who the heck provides the identified 'care' aspect of the EHCP? We haven't seen any care yet. Click To Tweet

The only positive outcomes are (a) we no longer have to fight against the social workers who wanted to visit (which upsets the children) and (b) having deregistered Charlotte from school partly to prevent them springing surprise visits on her there (as they tried to the first day we took her out), it turns out we actually quite like home educating. So in that sense it’s a win. But a pretty hard-won one.

What next?

We’re still fighting for the right school for Joanna (we’re currently at the mediation stage of the appeal process, and if that doesn’t get the right result we go to tribunal, causing more stress and considerable expense). Meanwhile we keep going, endeavouring to hang on in there until we get the girls the support they need.

As well as the appeal process, we’re appealing to the virtual school head, asking her to get involved. We’ve research grant-making bodies but they only seem to cater for secondary-aged children. We’ve written to our MP, to the head of children’s services, even to Kensington Palace.

I know we’re far from alone in the battle to get the right special school place. So if you’ve been there already, I’d love to hear your experience of the EHCP appeal system and any advice you have to offer. Please leave a comment below so we can benefit from your wisdom!

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2 Comments

  1. Roselle
    24 September 2018 / 9:51 am

    As a foster parent I started a tribunal appeal against an underfundedEHCP this was supported by child’s SW but as hearing approached head of fostering services in LA told me to withdraw as ‘can’t have one bit of council suing another’. When I refused she wrote to tribunal to try and withdraw the case and made a serious complaint about me.
    Tribunal is still on going… SEN dept offered some concessions on funding but not enough so we battle on fearing further repercussions from social care… the Tribunal threat is the ONLY thing that galvanised any action so I would do it ASAP. I know a few parents in our area that have succeeded at Tribunal.

  2. J
    11 December 2018 / 11:10 pm

    Hello Hannah
    We’ve just started looking through your blogs and they’re fascinating. Massive credit for providing so many insights and support. We adopted two children. Our oldest has attachment disorder. Behaviour had become very challenging at school and at home. An expulsion from mainstream primary school followed and then there was a placement in a special class in another primary school. They were ace but our child was making no progress and the fundamentals weren’t changing – in effect a school refuser. We felt our child was merely being contained. We had a long battle to get the council to fund a three year placement at a residential school called the Mulberry Bush School in Oxfordshire. It’s a long way away from where we live and it has been difficult to be separated from our child in term time, but it is amazing. It is a three year programme in a therapeutic setting. They promise no miracles but they do wonderful work with children who have faced a number of separations and in many cases have witnessed traumatic events. Most of the kids struggled to function in an education setting. It’s worth looking at. It’s a significant cost but it’s worth the fight, in my opinion. They take kids for three years and most are 8 to 11 (i think). They have to finish by the time they’re 14. More details on their website which is pretty good.

    To get the place – we compiled a lengthy but focused dossier – pointing out the many, many experts that we had constructively engaged with. We featured quotes from those experts. We ensured that no one could turn round and suggest ANOTHER parenting course! We second guessed all their questions and provided the answers in the document. We were at the point that we had exhausted all the options and we really feared that our adoption would disrupt because of the complexity of the behaviour and the impact on our other adopted child. We stated that. We were at breaking point and were worried about our long term ability to parent. In our emails, we copied in key people who had the authority to make things happen. I worked out who actually made the decisions, who sat on the funding committee and their email addresses.

    Roselle makes a good point about the tribunal system. I also think it’s worth stressing right now, that you will take this all the way and that you’re the kind of parent who will successfully take it through the tribunal and that surely they will want to save the expense of that. I’m sure that will be a consideration.

    I’m still reading through all your blogs but thanks for providing such a brilliant blog. It’s a great comfort and for what it counts, I think it’s really well written etc.

    J

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