Friday, 17 October 2014

The difference a year makes

It's just over a year since Peter moved in with us which feels like a huge milestone. I remember when we were talking about the referral before we'd even met Peter we said "Give us a year, he'll be a completely different child," and it became a phrase repeated frequently by our friends and family and even other professionals.

Well, it was certainly true, there's just no comparison!

October 2013 aged 4

  • Full time nappies with no awareness of wet or dirty
  • Very skinny, in age 2-3 clothing with no strength in his limbs or hands
  • Wouldn't brush his teeth, couldn't go to the hairdresser or dentist
  • Self-harming behaviours (head banging, slapping his face so hard he'd burst his lip)
  • Dummy and comfort blanket full time except at school
  • 10 single words, numbers to 10 and the alphabet
  • Any change, transition or ending an activity would trigger a mega meltdown
  • Total refusal to walk outside
  • Unsafe near water
  • Tried to escape from any building or park we went to
  • Communicated in screams or taking our hands to show us what he wanted
  • No response to his name
  • No crunchy foods - would only eat puree, tinned veg stew or tinned spaghetti
  • Couldn't use fork or spoon, ate by scooping with his whole hand
  • Drank from a lidded no-spill beaker, and would only drink chocolate milkshake
  • No pincer grasp to pick up small items - whole hand grip only
  • Took medication to sleep
  • Addicted to the iPad
  • Very little eye contact and showed no affection
  • No self-care skills - couldn't get dressed, wipe his face, put shoes on

October 2014 aged 5
  • Dry and clean in the day, nappies at night
  • Tall and strong, in age 6-7 clothing
  • Brushes his teeth every day, happy at the hairdresser and dentist
  • No self-harming behaviours
  • No dummy, comfort blanket only for bedtime
  • Hundreds of words, talks in short sentences and learned phrases, counts past 100 and can spell some words
  • Very rare mild meltdowns now - change and transition are no longer an issue for him
  • Walks outside happily holding an adult's hand
  • Stays near us or keeps us in sight in parks - no longer tries to escape
  • Safe near water, he can be trusted to wait for permission to paddle if it's safe
  • Communicates verbally and using a few signs
  • Responds to his name, and can read and spell it!
  • Varied and healthy diet including a range of textures
  • Uses a fork or spoon appropriately
  • Drinks water, milk or diluted fruit juice from an open cup
  • Pincer grasp is developing
  • No longer medicated to sleep
  • Enjoys using the iPad when he's allowed to but will happily move on when it's time.
  • Excellent eye contact, loves cuddles and kisses
  • Gets himself dressed, wipes his own hands and face, puts on his own shoes

It hasn't been easy for any of us at times, but we are beyond proud of Peter for how well he's done getting used to a new home, new boundaries, new school, and now having another little person around and being a big foster-brother. We absolutely adore him and are so glad that he's part of our family. We love nurturing, teaching and encouraging him - we can't wait to see how much he grows and progresses over the next year!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Emotional baggage

Tonight was another instalment of "things foster carers do that other people never have to do". Belle's social worker arrived this afternoon with all of her belongings - several bin bags and a huge plastic tub full of mostly clothes, but also bedding, toys and bath bits. She asked us to go through it and decide what to keep to use for Belle, and the rest would be collected and returned to Belle's mum.

This is not something we've done before - Peter and Andy both came from another foster placement so had an appropriate amount of clothes and toys, and Jack-Jack arrived with absolutely nothing from home.

It was an emotionally tiring and heartbreaking task. Belle's mum had packed up absolutely everything - from the tiny baby first clothes that she's long grown out of, to bits and pieces in the next size with the tags still on. Warm coats and padded trousers for winter. Hand-knitted bootees and cardigans. Pretty dresses that might have been worn to a party or wedding. Tiny little pram shoes. Piles and piles of vests and sleepsuits, dresses, trousers and tops.

Of course, not everyone has the same taste and we needed to sort them out without any judgement or opinion - this wasn't "would I put my own child in this?", but rather "is this seasonally appropriate and in the correct size?"

We've ended up with lots of really lovely little outfits - some for Belle to wear day to day, and some which will be saved for her to wear at contact sessions with her mum.

We arranged the belongings nicely into groups and took some photos which we'll put in Belle's memory box for her to take with her when she moves on.

It's good for mum to see her daughter in clothes she's chosen so she still feels involved, but it will also be good for Belle to know when she grows up that her mum loved her and provided for her even when they weren't able to live together.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

New baby

We have a second placement! An eight month old baby girl - Belle, for the purposes of this blog - moved in five days ago (it's taken this long to get over "baby brain" and get ourselves organised again to post on the blog!) She is absolutely adorable but has some feeding issues and is severely underweight, so we've been trained in NG tubes to supplement her nutrition.

Peter is coping really well with the intrusion of his home and having to share us, (although a couple of days in he did say emphatically "Bye bye baby Belle! Baby Belle go back home!") we've made sure he's had extra nurturing and special time with us so that he doesn't feel jealous. There have been a few sweet moments between them - this morning he let her hold his finger whilst he watched television, and he puts up with her wanting to grab his nose and pull his hair. He keeps a keen eye on what we're doing, although he pretends to ignore Belle most of the time, he's very quick to notice when there are cuddles or feeding going on and pipes up with "Peter's turn!"

We don't know how long Belle will be staying or what the plan for her will be yet, but we're really enjoying our time with her and are looking forward to seeing her grow and progress.