Last week my sister graduated from university, with a 2:1 in Business Studies and Human Resources. As an older sibling, it felt somewhat weird to see this young woman, who I remember visiting in hospital hours after she was born, wearing a gown and mortar board. I felt a huge sense of pride seeing her hard work and commitment being rewarded with a degree certificate.
It was yet another occasion where someone was missed. I felt a sadness that our mum wasn't there to witness how this once tiny bundle has positively flourished in to a strong, clever, bright young woman.
It would of course be easy to suggest that our mum's death scarred us. That we went off the rails because of it and to wallow in self-pity and anger at the unfairness of it all. And for many years, I did, without realising it.
For a short time it gave me a sense of determination. It was, after all, her death which became the trigger for me to get a job, to move out of the hostel and then meet my husband. However, it also gave me an excuse to be irresponsible. To do things which I never thought I would do, to largely wear a mask, making myself vulnerable only to those I trusted.
For a number of years I was plagued my fear and insecurity. I was paranoid that every little disagreement would see the husband leave me, call our relationship off. He deserved someone who knew, always, that they were loved and adored. Getting engaged, then married and then having a child all briefly helped but ultimately that voice would win, the one that tells me I am not good enough. Except now it changed. Not only was the husband going to leave me, he would take Harry, I'd never see him again. Harry would grow to hate me, never know how much I love him. Maybe those naysayers were right and I haven't done my best to create a secure and loving environment for me. The mask of confidence and self-assurance is off in private.
More recently I have become insecure about my appearance. I have put on weight and whilst I am not overweight I am bigger than I would like to be. I took this picture of me at my sister's house last week.
Whilst people told me I looked nice, I didn't, still don't I suppose, believe them. I have found myself analysing this one over and over, pointing out the bits I am unhappy with. It's a strange place for me to be in as I have never really felt that I want to lose weight and I find myself working out ways to do so. I found myself comparing myself to my sisters, which is just silly because I am now in my early thirties and have a child (as well as having my mobility issues) whereas they are late teens and early twenties. I know before I had Harry my figure was very similar.
I am working on changing my perception of myself. A bit at a time I hope to have confidence that I have never had. To accept that I won't have the body I want but I can make the best of the one that I have. To realise that my husband does love me and works pretty darn hard to reassure me of that despite any difficulties we may have had. To prepare myself to be able to grab opportunities that come my way and not think I am not good enough or convince myself that I will fail. Most of all, to become the person I want to be.
My sister, that once small bundle wrapped in a blanket in our mother's arm, has proven that your past doesn't have to haunt you. Maybe I can finally do the same.
Long before the husband and I decided to start our own family, we discussed fostering or even adoption. I was in a place whereby I wasn't sure that I wanted my own child but felt that instead, we could offer a home for one or two of the many children who are in care. I knew people who had grown up in foster care and how much they valued those families. Even now, it is still something we will consider if we are ever in a better position in terms of housing (we only have a two bedroom flat).
If you’re considering foster care then there is a tremendous amount to consider and organise. However, one thing that might not have crossed your mind is exactly what type of foster care you feel is best. Some don’t actually realise that there are several types of foster care, all offering something a little different.
Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of foster care available.
This is probably the type of foster care that springs to mind for most people but is very different to other forms. With permanent fostering (or long-term fostering) the foster family will look after child until they reach adulthood. This option is often preferred over adoption if the child still has strong links to the birth family.
However, the foster carers have no legal responsibility for the child at any point. This is slightly different in Scotland, where the carers can share responsibility with local authorities and the birth parents.
Short-term Foster Care
This is pretty self-explanatory and involves the foster family looking after the child for a short-term, usually a few weeks or months, whilst more permanent arrangements are put in place.
Emergency Foster Care
This is a little like short-term foster care but is for an even shorter length of time and may only be a few days. This can be at very short notice so the foster carers would need to be prepared to take a child in at pretty much any time. This may occur if the child needs to be quickly taken out of their home for whatever reason.
This may sound a little odd to some, but private fostering involved the birth parents making private arrangements for their child to stay with someone who isn’t a close relative, usually for a period of more than 28 days. However, the local authority must be told about the arrangements and will still pay visits to check on the situation and the welfare of the child.
Remand fostering involves looking after a young person who has been placed under the care of a local authority by the courts. The young person would stay with the foster carers while they await court proceedings; this is usually on a short-term basis and provides an alternative to being in custody. The foster family will often be expected to work closely with youth justice officials.
Quite simply, this is where a child is cared by someone they already know, probably a family member or close family friend. This is what my Uncle and Auntie have offered to my two younger sisters since our Mum died and enabled them to continue to grow up together as they have different Dads.
Parent & Child Care
This is a type of care that many people might not know about but can be incredibly beneficial. This is where a foster family takes in a child and parent (often the mother) and helps them prepare for the future.
It’s important that you’re fully informed about all aspects of foster care if you’re thinking about becoming a carer, so it’s always best to speak things through with professionals such as Capstone Foster Care to get a complete picture.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.
I remember the day I met you like it was yesterday.
I had just moved into a flat after living in a hostel for nine months. It was a few short months after my Mum had died and at 21 years old, the staff at the hostel felt I had finally got my act together, that I was ready to move on, into one of the "satellite" flats. Where support staff turned up once a week to collect the service charge and rent and to go over any issues. I was nervous because in a block of five flats, I was to become the only female. I wasn't sure if I was ready to be around so many men. I had never really had any male friends, much less live with a man.
Our first meeting was brief but you made an impression. You were lying on your sofa in one your flat when we were introduced and you just glanced at me, smiled and said hello. I didn't see you for a few weeks after that between my working and partying, staying out late, leaving early. I learned later that you often dropped by to see my flat mate but it was an excuse to try to catch me at home.
The next time I saw you was on my return from a family break in Hope Cove. I was exhausted, the car journey home had felt like it had taken an age and it was raining. It was late evening and when I walked in my flat you were there. You and most of the men that lived in the building, all drinking and listening to music. It was unexpected and I felt vulnerable, uneasy. Once I'd bundled my stuff into my bedroom you offered me a drink and I said I didn't drink lager. So you asked what I did drink and merrily went to the off licence, in the storm, returning with three bottles of wine.
Later, as the party dwindled, I made my excuses and went to bed. You soon followed, knocking on my bedroom door, insisting you wanted to come in and talk to me some more. I protested, my bedroom looked like a bomb had gone off in it and I just wanted to get myself ready for bed and sleep. You wore me down and I let you in. We sat on my bed, talking and the next thing I knew, I'd woken up and you had gone to work.
That night was ten years ago today. Much of our early relationship was allegedly casual, yet there was no one else for either of us. I even ran away for a bit, confused as I was at the depth of my feelings. I visited family, only telling work I needed some time off for a few a days. The day after my return, I got back from work and you had remembered a conversation during which I said one of my favourite flowers was pink roses, that I thought a single rose was more romantic and thoughtful than a bunch and you'd left one for me outside my bedroom door, with a note asking to meet me at a local bar. Some point that night, this was played on the juke box and you attempted to sing it to me, told me that you loved me and knew you had from that night in my flat.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Way back in March, Harry's nursery teacher told us she felt that he would benefit from a Speech and Language Therapy assessment (SLT). She asked our permission to refer him to which we agreed. Whilst we know what he says, she said that sometimes the staff struggle to understand what he is saying.
In all honesty, it came as a bit of a surprise to hear that they felt he needed it and we were told that it was more of a "just in case" measure, that it may well turn out that a SLT specialist would feel that there would be no need for intervention. Like most parents, we only want the best for our son, to feel that he is supported and so we agreed.
The teacher went on maternity leave and I was assured that there had been a smooth transition and open communication, having been present at a handover meeting involving both the outgoing teacher and incoming one. Months passed. Every few weeks one or the other of us checked in and an update was given, mainly that NHS resources in SLT are stretched, as they are across the service.
After chatting with Rachel from Confessions of a SAHM and hearing her experience of SLT, we decided to have a private assessment. Harry starts Reception in September and we wanted to be in a place to support him if needed. We felt frustrated that we were no further forward with regards to the school assessment.
After a bit of research, I contacted Child Speech. Within 24 hours I received an initial phone call and was advised that it sounded like Harry would benefit from an assessment at the very least. An appointment was made for the following week, which was yesterday.
Kate arrived promptly and immediately put all three of us at ease. She had a warm, friendly manner and we were quite impressed that Harry was not in the least bit shy as he has a tendency to take some time to warm to people usually. The assessment consisted of her showing Harry a series of pictures and asking him to tell her what was happening. As is usual for him, he adored being the centre of attention and every now and again deliberately said the wrong word to get a laugh out of us.
She was here for a good 1.5 hours and was really thorough. It would seem that Harry has a vast vocabulary and no issues at all with language and understanding, just as we thought but it's always nice to be reassured particularly if issues have been brought up. Whilst he does not say the "p" sound (even in isolation) he can say every other sound and clearly has the ability to say it since he makes similar sounds easily, albeit not always consistently. He also has a tendency to talk quickly, blending sounds together and making himself difficult to understand.
Kate suggested a few things we can do at home with Harry, such as placing items into a bag, pulling one out and getting him to tap out the number of sounds (and say them) in order to slow him down a little, putting sounds into context, picking a sound of the day to practise and a few other things. She is going to send us some resources to help, basically a series of pictures in which every word starts with the same sound. Effectively, it seems that Harry's brain simply needs a little re-training to use the correct sounds in context consistently.
She noted his willingness to learn, his extensive vocabulary and understanding and unusually long concentration span, even suggesting that he is a bright boy who just needs a little help in a small area.
I am so happy that we are currently in a position to be able to afford the assessment and any intervention sessions, had they been appropriate. I liked how we were advised that in Kate's opinion, there is no need for further sessions, although of course she would be happy to help if needed. As a private therapist, I am sure it would have been very easy for her to suggest differently. We will be sent a report early next week, with the school, Health Visitor, SLT team at the hospital and GP all being copied in.
We had such a positive experience and feel much more confident in our ability to support Harry as well as just a bit proud that someone had such nice things to say about him! Hopefully he will be talking as clearly as his peers before we know it!
Just yesterday I wrote about how we felt somewhat let down by Harry's nursery. We were upset that a referral for speech therapy made in March had not yet happened, that the NHS team seemed to be waiting on information from the school and yet the school had told us they were waiting on the NHS team based at the hospital. We were also somewhat annoyed that Harry's report seemed to suggest he is developmentally delayed and we had not been previously informed. All of this lead to me wondering whether we had made the right choice over school since Harry's nursery is attached to the school he will be attending and operates pretty much as a part of the school community.
Having emailed the Head teacher of the school on Tuesday afternoon, I received an apologetic response yesterday morning. The Head apologised for the confusion caused and had spoken to the SENCO who was trying to sort out what had happened with regards to the Speech and Language Therapy referral. She also said that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) manager would speak to us with regards to Harry's report.
I was pleased to hear that my concerns were being taken seriously and there was an immediate attempt to resolve the situation. All we wanted was reassurance and we were pleased we seemed to have it although still concerned whether Harry's needs were being met.
As is normal, the husband took Harry to nursery on Wednesday afternoon, he was late coming back, I assumed that he had gone to the shop to get my lunch. It turned out that the EYFS manager spoke to him at drop off. Which would have been fine, if the husband had understood what she had said. He told me it mostly went over his head but it was warm and humid, she seemed flustered and rushed so he didn't want to clarify the things he hadn't understood. Instead I went to collect to Harry at 3.20 pm.
Harry's report was explained to me. The fact they had highlighted the age group 22-36 months and not 30-50 months merely meant that he had met all the criteria within the 22-36 months, that he is working at the 30-50 months level and, as the comments suggested, they have absolutely no concerns. They feel that to highlight the 30-50 months group would mean that his next teacher may not plan the right support, that perhaps he just needs a little more work to bring him up to that level and they did not want that to be missed in hand over to Reception.
Which all makes perfect sense I guess, once it was explained. It just made me wonder why this was not made clear in the report. The EYFS manager recognised that perhaps in future it may be worth explaining to parents and carers and seemed to understand the confusion we had.
We then moved on to the Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) referral. I was reassured that the school had believed that they have done what they should but that SENCO was working with the hospital to try to establish what went wrong, where there had been a failure of communication. As a result, the school have been promised a SLT therapist twice a week from September and Harry is to be prioritised. I was asked when our private speech therapy, assessment which I booked after getting frustrated at the lack of progress with Harry's assessment and after reading Rachel of Confessions of a SAHM post, was booked for and whether it was possible to cancel it. As it was booked for this morning, with less than 24 hours notice we would still have had to pay. The husband and I also decided that knowing where we stand and how we can help Harry was a huge priority to us. More on that another day.
It is safe to say that both the husband and I feel satisfied that the school are meeting Harry's needs. Yes, it is frustrating that there has been a loss of communication somewhere but I am happy that this has been (or at least is being) resolved. I am not often one who will speak up but I have discovered that where my son's education is concerned, I bounce into Mamma Bear mode, determined that he will get the best possible.
I have been impressed with how promptly the school addressed our concerns, particularly at what must be a busy time of year for them and feel confident over our choice of school once more. I also have no doubt that this will not be the last time I will need to discuss something that we are unhappy with but at least now I am confident that I can do it!
Then end of term is nigh and I can hardly believe than in two short months Harry will be starting Reception, full-time. I have no doubt that he will settle in easily although I naturally expect some level of tiredness for the first term or two. He already attends the nursery attached to the school 2.5 days a week, wears the uniform and enjoys going. He clearly thrives on going and asks every day what day it is, is excited when it is a nursery day, disappointed when it is not even though we do lots of things with him!
At the beginning of March we had a bit of a wobble after his outgoing nursery teacher informed us that she thought it would be worth Harry having a Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) assessment. Just before she left on Maternity Leave, she confirmed that she had made the referral and again reassured us that it was more of an early intervention "just in case" measure, than obvious cause for concern.
As the months passed and the new teacher settled in, I frequently asked if Harry was meeting expected levels and if there had been any progress with regards to the SLT referral. Each time I was reassured that the school were on top of it and that there were no causes for concern in terms of his development.
Having been frustrated at the lack of progress in terms of SLT intervention and not knowing whether further support was required, I have arranged a private speech therapist to come to our home for an assessment on Thursday morning. I was then advised by my Auntie to get in touch with the SLT team directly, to check if they had received the referral and whether they could give me an idea of when I could expect an assessment. I was pleased to receive a prompt response but disappointed when it quickly became clear that the school have been at fault (for want of a better word). I was informed that the original referral was not made until the end of May (remember, the first conversation was at the beginning of March) and that in June the SLT team had requested further information, which has yet to be forthcoming.
I was further surprised when last Friday I received his report "grading" Harry in all areas as at 22-36 months, having turned 4 years old at the beginning of May. These areas include (but are not limited to) "self-confidence and self-awareness", "making relationships", "health and self-care" "speaking" and "understanding". Whilst I understand that ANY school report, much less one made in nursery, cannot possibly cover all angles, I was, along with other people who know Harry well, quite literally shocked at him being graded as at BARE MINIMUM 13 months younger than he is. The comments are nothing but positive.
My husband and I both show an active interest in what happens while Harry is at nursery and regularly ask questions. I have voiced interest in becoming a parent governor, the husband was among the first of the parents to volunteer as a helper on a recent outing. We both feel that there have been ample opportunities, instigated by one or both of us for perceived issues to have been brought up before. Why wait until now?
I know I shouldn't worry but I do. Not so much that Harry is potentially delayed, I know children do things at their own pace and everyone loves and adores Harry, commenting on how polite and happy he is and at this moment in time, that is far more important to me I am however concerned because this is the school he will be attending, I worry that this has given me an insight into the support and systems (or perhaps lack thereof) that are in place. I worry that we have made the wrong choice over school, perhaps we should have thought about things like this back in September when we put our application in. Things change and then we picked largely based on not wanting to have to uproot him yet again, something we still do not want to do.
I have emailed the headteacher, who I am sure will be none too pleased to receive my request for a meeting with a week left of term. I hope that we receive reassurance somehow, that my fears are somehow unfounded.
I am not in a place that I expected to be in. I want to look forward to the summer holidays, to be confident again in my choice of school. Instead I find myself fretting, concerned that my four-year old son's needs are not being met and wondering if he would be better catered for elsewhere.
Have you experienced a similar situation with your child? How did you handle it?