I recently had a micro moment with my adopted son. A micro moment is a moment of pure joy in the life of a parent. My son, who is 21 years old, woke me up at 5am to tell me that he had been out for a walk. He has barely left the house for four months – so this was a monumental achievement! And I was so pleased he told me about it too as I have many sleepless nights wondering what to do to help him. He had been for a walk with a friend who is high functioning autistic and in a similar position – lives at home at 21, and spends most of his time in his bedroom. His friend does manage to go out alone though, to the shops, which my son has never been able to do.
Why are so many of our young people living lives of anxiety and fear? The internet explains a lot. They have online friendships and connection. They can shop. And they are cared for and loved by parents – unless they cannot live within a family, which is often the case with the children of my friends and peers in POTATO (Parents Of Traumatised Adopted Teenagers Organisation – a peer support group for people like me parenting adopted teenagers and young people).
My son is a care leaver and on a post 18 EHCP. He has a long list of medical labels. We should be getting help as his problems are due to a traumatic early life of abuse and neglect. Instead of help however, everything has been a battle and it is as if the purpose of the social care professionals is to prevent us accessing help and support – to make it as hard as possible for us to get anything at all. The post adoption support professionals do not attend my son’s EHCP reviews – and the education professionals who do attend are clueless about the impact of early life trauma. He does receive weekly therapy now at least but the providers, who have a contract to provide therapy to adults with autism and ADHD, don’t come to EHCP meetings. My son doesn’t go to the meetings either – it would be far too much for him. I attend but when I explain that his problems were the result of professional error – and him being removed against his wishes and mine – and put back into care because he couldn’t cope with mainstream school – they tell me that this was nothing to do with them and I should forget this and move on. They do not seem to realise the impact this had on my son – or care about it.
I can’t seem to get any sense out of professionals, and when I did manage to get an Adoption Support Fund application in to Mott MacDonald to support me as a mother to help my son, it was point blank refused. It is as if I am an annoyance to the professionals with my son being over 18 – someone who must be pushed aside to get to my son. Yet without me to support him none of this would work.
Although I am expected to support my son I am currently locked out of benefits in the pandemic – having switched from Working Tax Credit to Universal Credit when unable to work in the lockdown. I await a tribunal to decide if I can receive Universal Credit, which was suddenly stopped last November, with a letter informing me that I wasn’t entitled to it anymore – it was just at the start of the pandemic that I could get it but the rules were then changed. I cannot go back onto working Tax Credits now that I am able to work again, as this benefit is being phased out. Apart from £67 per week Carers Allowance I get nothing.
The LGO (local government ombudsman) and local authority refuse to accept or investigate formal complaints about what happened to us when I asked for help – as my son became a teenager and struggled to cope with school. The local authority would not accept complaints from me and asked that my son write in. The LGO would not accept a complaint I made because (the allocated LGO officer) said ‘your son has not provided consent’. Two years later when my son was finally able to cope with the re-traumatisation that making a complaint would entail and put pen to paper to write down his complaint, with witnessed consent provided (a neighbour witnessed it) – the LGO refuse to investigate it because consent was not provided previously. This is insane! How will there be learning from cases if this is how the LGO operates? Our MP has written to say they cannot not help us with regard to the past – but they can help us going forwards. But without the understanding of what went wrong in the past there is no going forwards in the right way with the right help!!! It is as if the MP does not want there to be learning from the past. MP’s are often described as being as much help as ‘chocolate teapots’ in SG&AT, and this includes Gavin Williamson the Secretary of State for Education!
Will the Care Review help? Well the review team have, to some extent, appreciated that social care professionals are behaving in adversarial ways towards parents with children with complex needs at least – but I don’t feel they have really grasped the way the system makes parents the adversaries of our children and allows us to be marginalised and bullied by the state – so that private organisations can profit from our children’s difficulties. The evidence for this in our case is unequivocal. Over £1 million was spent trying to break up my family in my son’s adolescence. Goodness knows how much the court proceedings cost. The Care Order (the threshold of ‘beyond parental control’ was met – as it would be with most teenagers at some stage), made it far harder for me to expedite help for my son. There were four care proceedings altogether, with three where I was a litigant in person as legal aid is gone. My son refused to go back into foster care and the residential care home cost over £5k per week – yet I can’t access a single penny as a mother to help my son now – not even benefits. And no one wants to talk to me about how removing a securely attached child from his mother at a critical stage of his development has made things worse not better.
Without an understanding of the impact of technology on our lives we will not help children with complex needs who need the help and support of loving parents like me. Policy and legislation, and legal frameworks that don’t work, are separating parents and children – when we need to be supported together. Businesses and corporations thrive. Families struggle. Organisations become defensive. Professionals who really want to help us – cannot do so.