Monthly Archives: January 2014

‘Little brother’ visits our home – a preliminary visit. Sam asks “Do you like peas?”

  Sam chatted happily to Jah in the back seat as D. drove them home.  Jah was making his first visit to our home.  If all went according to plan, he would be moving in within a month.

“Do you like peas?” Sam asked.

“Yes” came the reply.

“Oh. Well then you’ll set me an awfully good example”.

D. told me about this conversation between Jah and Sam.  I was amused, as Sam’s dislike of peas was legendary.

peas sad face + tearThere was no time for conversation when both boys arrived at our house and tumbled out of the car.  Sam had been telling Jah about the bedroom they would share and this must have impressed Jah.  All I heard was a great clatter and all I saw were two pairs of legs rushing past me up the stairs.

After quite a while both boys came downstairs.  They were laughing so much that their legs nearly let them down.  Sam had put a rugby shirt on Jah and it nearly came down to his ankles.  It looked like a dress and this amused them very much.

I don’t have a very clear memory of the arrival of the rest of the foster family.  We must have been twelve people all together.  I expect we went into the garden, the children played

barrel in gardenand the adults talked a lot about Jah and how much he had been looking forward to the visit to meet his new brother and sisters and his new home.

chn playing badminton in gdnThe older children soon began to talk to each other, had a go at playing badminton and generally people began to relax and then we had lunch.

I remember the visit to the park very clearly.  The fathers took over and organised a game of football and then oversaw a long session on the children’s climbing equipment.  This gave the foster mother and myself time to walk off and have a good long conversation.

She told me how Jah had been ‘too good to be true’ for quite a long time when he first came to stay with them.  She had brought him home from a big London hospital when he was just over two years old.  He had been ill with diarrhoea, hypothermia and general failure to thrive.  He did not understand where he was going when she collected him.  She remembered that he sat and wept silently on her lap all the way home in the train.

After all these years I have recently spoken to his foster mother.  She said that, as well as sobbing all the way home, he was almost rigid for a few days, because he felt so bewildered and strange and could not relax.  They had no chance to prepare him for that abrupt change from hospital to family home.

Fortunately, however, he gradually grew more confident and eventually began to feel much more secure in his new surroundings.  Then he felt brave enough to be much more like a normal child and even to behave badly at times!  All this background was helpful.

My head was reeling somewhat with all this information, although I knew that it was useful. I was grateful for the careful preparation we were all having

After this discussion we returned to the playground and somebody took a photo of us on a climbing frame.

It didn’t have everybody in, but it was a useful record and later we stuck it into a photo album that we were preparing for Jah.

climbing frame

However, by the end of the afternoon Jah grew tired, so he hopped into the buggy they had brought along and nearly fell asleep with fatigue.

It had been a good visit.  The next step was to plan the handover.  The foster family were preparing a photo album for him to bring with him, so that he would be able to gaze at their photos and remember them.  He would be able to remember all the good times he had spent with them and understand that now he was moving on.  Well into the future, when everybody felt that he had fully settled, we would plan an outing where we could all meet up, so he was not having to say goodbye for ever.

We felt that we had accomplished a lot in one day.  We needed to let our social workers know how the day had gone.  We decided that we would get in touch by phone another day in order to plan the details of the handover.

 We had a lot of work and planning ahead of us,but I imagine we all slept well that night.

Preparing for the visit by Jah and his foster family. Necessary steps to be taken in adopting an older child.

When I was writing the Memoir a couple of years ago about adopting our children in the 1970s and 1980s, somebody asked me “How would your experience be relevant today in 2013?”  It was a valid question.

Actually, although technology and many things have changed since then, I can’t help thinking that certain basic things must remain the same.  There will always be important steps that need to be taken when settling an older child into a new family with a view to adoption.

How many of us could contemplate being uprooted more than once into new families and surroundings?  We all had to ensure that this little boy did not feel that he was rootless.  He had to be helped to understand where he had come from and where he was going and the reason why. Both our social workers helped greatly in this process.

Jah already felt loved by the short-term foster family who had cared for him.  Their task now was to remind him that handing him onto a ‘forever family’ had always been part of the plan for his future.  It was something they had been very open about.

Our task was to do everything we could to prepare for his arrival and to reassure him that we were ready to love him and welcome him into the family.

So far in this blog I have told how we received the initial information about a child, followed by our decision to go and see him.

We visited and then decided fairly quickly that Jah was a child we could readily welcome into our family.

The next step was for our children to met Jah.  They were excited by the prospect, especially Sam, who throughout the long waiting period clung anxiously to his desire to have a little brother the same colour as himself.  He rearranged things in his bedroom, making sure that it would look appealing to a three year old.  He looked out the toys he thought Jah would enjoy.  These included a magnificent bag of wooden bricks.

 bricks

They had been played with and treasured by Lucy, Anna and many of their friends, long before they were thought of as Sam’s bricks.

He also found a treasure trove of picture books that he used to enjoy.

books photo

 His bedroom already looked different and full of promise to him, as we had recently bought some bunk beds. He installed himself happily in the top bunk. He explained solemnly that the top bunk would be ‘dangerous’ for a child as young as three.  Clearly he was going to be a most solicitous big brother.

Soon everything was planned and we were ready for the big day of the visit.  The foster family would come up to Leicester by train for the day.  We would have lunch, look all round the house where Jah would be living in a few weeks’ time. The foster children would want to see this, so that they could picture him in his new life and surroundings.

Leicester houseWe would then go to the local park for the children to let off steam and play together.  If we were lucky, we adults would be able to snatch a chance to talk and share useful information.

On the day itself D. took the car to the railway station to meet the family. There would have to be two trips.  We could hardly fit seven people in, in one go. Sam was chosen to go on the first trip, so that he would be the first to see Jah.  He had been jumping up and down all morning.  He just couldn’t wait to meet ‘little brother’!                                            To be continued

Seeing our new ‘little brother’ for the first time. He points “There’s a rock for Jah!”

It was springtime 1980. Once we had agreed to see Jah, the little boy who might come to complete our family, Pat his social worker sprang into action.  She set up a date for D. and myself to visit the foster family.  They lived in the South of England in Sussex.  I had a few telephone calls with the foster mother and learned quite a bit about this little boy before our visit. It was a long train journey for us from the Midlands where we lived, but arrangements were soon made.

train image by Simon HowdenImage courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was quite unnerving, waiting in the railway car park. I could feel myself trembling with a mixture of fear and excitement. Any minute the van bringing our future “little brother” would appear.  There were several false alarms, but in the end a van drove up. It was full of children.

ID-10042005(7)Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A little brown boy with dreadlocks was sitting on an older boy’s lap.  The small one was staring anxiously out of the window.  It was as if he sensed that we were significant people, even though I knew that the foster mother would not have spelled out why we were coming to visit.

Throughout the day Jah peered at us and seemed content that we watched all his activities.  He was keen to show us how far he could kick a full-sized football.  (He had prodigious strength in his legs!)  He also tried to impress us by his clever wielding of a croquet bat that was as tall as he was.

Jah + croquetWhen we sat indoors talking to the grownups, he whizzed endlessly past the window, checking to see whether we were impressed.  We were.

The foster mother saw that Jah was interested in us.  She told him that we had three children.  She asked whether we had brought a picture of them. Of course we had and we produced it.

3 children and a little rock 2

The photo showed all three children sitting on a big rock in Scotland.  He studied it carefully for a long time and then mentioned something that nobody else would have seen. He pointed to a small rock right next to them and said “There’s a rock for Jah”.  The simplicity of this statement moved all the adults.  We could sense his deep desire to belong.

D. and I felt that this little boy would fit in well into our family.  We knew that we should not rush into anything, but made arrangements for the next step.

The entire foster family, all six of them plus Jah, would come and visit us in Leicester, so that he could meet Sam, Lucy and Anna.  If plans were to go ahead for him to join our family, it was necessary for the foster brothers and sisters to see where he was going.  Each of those children had in their own way helped Jah through the transition from his original home, via the hospital, and in the hustle and bustle of their rich family life. They would need to feel that he would be able to settle happily in his new environment with his ‘forever family’.

Moving little Jah to a new family was going to be a life-changing event for all of us.

Reflections. The family story continued. “We have heard of a little boy who is longing for a ‘forever family’ “.

In September 1979 we were approved as would-be adopters for an older child.  I needed a job that I could do with a child-in-tow, so I applied to a local playgroup.  It was mornings only and was in the next road. I got the job and enjoyed it very much indeed.  We were ready!

September came and went.  So did October, November, December etc.  By March we were wondering whether there really were any children out there needing families.  We wondered whether we would EVER find the ‘little brother’ we were waiting for. The children we read about were either part of a sibling group, too young, or were not available to join our family.

daffodil_flowersEventually, on March 28th 1980 we had a long-awaited telephone call from Brenda, our adoption society’s contact.  She sounded quite breathless with excitement on the ‘phone.

“A London local authority social worker has just rung me about a little boy who has been waiting nearly two years for a ‘forever family’,” she said.

Brenda told us as much as she knew and asked whether we would like his social worker to come and tell us about him.  We certainly did.

The little boy was called Jah.  His social worker was called Pat.  She had known him ever since he was eight months old.  He was currently with a short-term foster family.  The foster mother said that he was wanting to call her ‘Mummy’ but she had to keep saying, as gently as she could, that Pat was going to find a ‘forever Mummy and Daddy’ for him. They would be the people he could call ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’.

Pat gave us a very thorough run down of all the events in Jah’s short life.  He had been virtually starved of food, as there were so many other children in the household. He had been in and out of hospital and eventually made a ward of the High Court of the land.  She said that if we proceeded with fostering and applying to adopt him, the local authority would pay all necessary legal fees for a solicitor and barrister.  She thought we might want to add another name and perhaps use that, as Jah is such a srong Rastafarian name.  This would be fine and she would encourage it, as long as the little boy was happy about it.

I imagine that nowadays families would be given videos of any likely child.  All Pat had available to show us was two photos.  They showed two aspects of his character.  The first photo showed a shy, rather sad and vulnerable little boy. The second one showed him ‘being Elton John’.  He was wearing sunglasses and looking enthusiastic.

Jah photo

Jah looked great to us!  We agreed to Pat setting up an occasion for D. and myself to visit him.  If we all got on well, another occasion would be arranged for our three children to meet him and we would see how this went.

THINGS WERE ON THE MOVE AT LAST.