Experience of extended introductions with a 2yr old?

(27 Posts)
Charlestons Mon 26-May-14 20:27:37

Hi - wondering If anyone has any experience of extended introductions with a 2yr old? LO lived with birth family for 13 months and has been with same foster carers ever since. She currently has a secure attachment to both foster carers but after 2 months of being placed with them they went away and she had a temporary 2 week placement which she struggled with and spent most of the 2 weeks screaming and refusing comfort etc.

We are going to matching panel mid June and due to start introduction 2 weeks later and due to the FC & SW concerns about how she will react to leaving them again they have suggested extended introductions, therefore the plan is:

- x5 2hrs (0ver 12 days) spent at FC house as friends of the family and introduced as Mr & Mrs Charlston
- then SW visiting to explain (as much as you can as a just over 2yr old) that we are now going to be new mummy and daddy
- we then have 10-12 days of full introductions

Totally understand reasons for doing this and fully on board, I just haven't met or spoken to anyone who have done introductions in this way for a child as young as 2. I am especially interested in experiences of being introduced as 'friends' before being Mummy and Daddy.

Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance for any advice, info and shared experiences ��

odyssey2001 Mon 26-May-14 20:38:36

It sounds barking mad if you ask me. And it is going to be very stressful and probably quite distressing for you. All you are going to want to do is take her home. 24 days will be excruciating. We were struggling after day 5 of 7.

mcdog Mon 26-May-14 20:43:15

That sounds awful to be honest. Both for the child and yourself. We were going crazy after about 5days, and so were our sons with all the to-ing and fro-ing.

I don't really know what to suggest, I would speak to your SW. How do you feel about it?

MerryInthechelseahotel Mon 26-May-14 20:45:27

I like the way they are looking to keep her stress to a minimum and to give you more of a happy start. I would have thought your meetings would be more frequent in the beginning though. I really hope it works well for you and your new ds thanks

MerryInthechelseahotel Mon 26-May-14 20:47:27

Sorry, dd

HappySunflower Mon 26-May-14 20:50:21

In theory it sounds okay aside from introducing you as friends.
To gain her trust, it really is best to be honest and introduce you as Mummy and Daddy from the start.
I'm surprised they ar not considering better preparation before introductions-for instance, use of a talking photo album, photos of you around the house, maybe a DVD of you showing her your house that she could watch each day, you sleeping with a muslin which is then put in her cot/bed, that kind of thing.

Hels20 Mon 26-May-14 20:51:58

Agree - sounds bloody awful. We were told we would have to have extended introductions - but it was 2 weeks in total - first 3 x were 60 to 90 mins. And it gradually increased to a whole day. But he was home with us by end of 2 week period.

I think this would be extremely stressful for everyone - foster carers, you and the child. Who is really suggesting this? I wonder if the FCs are having input (they shouldn't really be). The LA had a CAHMS report done before our 2 year old son was placed with us and CAHMS recommended a 6 month slow introduction period as ideal - of course they knew it wouldn't happen - but I wonder if someone external (ie not within LA has suggested this).

And to call you "Mr and Mrs" - awful for you. Our DS had a v secure attachment with his foster carers but the week before he met us for the first time, he was shown our DVD, read our book, saw our pictures about the foster carers house - and within 45 mins went and got a picture of my DH and looked at it for a bit and then said "Daddy" to my DH.

I would be saying 2 weeks max. Poor you.

MerryInthechelseahotel Mon 26-May-14 20:55:58

I agree you shouldn't be introduced as anything other than mummy and daddy

MissFenella Mon 26-May-14 20:56:56

This sounds FC led rather than based on what is best for the child.

How will your child react in future to any regular introduction to someone, if they think it could lead to moving home? This introduction is different, it needs to be. Keeping quiet on the fact that you are new mummy and daddy will hep no one - and build mistrust.

We had 3 weeks of intros, slow at start but DDs always knew who we were going to be. We had facetime instead f real time because of FC and in the long run it did not matter but we were messed around by them.

Are you sure FC are not struggling to let go?

Either way, prep needs to happen before they meet you, introducing you on a lie is a bad move I feel.

Hels20 Mon 26-May-14 21:01:47

What does your soon to be DD call the foster carers? I really think this is FC led.

Do not let them introduce you as Mr and Mrs. I think that will be a big mistake. Are the SWs relatively new to social work / adoption work?

Jennifersrabbit Mon 26-May-14 21:03:43

My Dc2 was 2 and extremely attached to their foster carers. While I can absolutely see what they're trying to do, there is a point where a 2 year old realises they are not going home to their secure family, and in my experience the only way out of that is through. Also, whatever the SW thinks she can explain to a 2 year old about getting a new mummy and daddy, understanding is going to be severely limited.

So whatever the length of introductions, prepare for having a very distressed little one and think about how you can help her through. Also, think about how you can maintain contact with the foster family in the future. It won't be easy to begin with, and SWs will not plan for or support it, but in my view it is hugely beneficial to little ones who have formed strong attachments to foster carers.

The introductions sound tricky and very hard on you. I've never heard of them being done that way, but that's not to say it won't work better. I would suggest one thing: can you be first names on the initial visits eg john and jane rather than Mr and Mrs X? A 2 year old will get ridiculously confused if you are introduced as one thing and then they are expected to start calling you mummy and daddy, so I think whatever you start as is what you'll continue with for some time. If you go with first names you can become Mummy Jane quite easily (which is what Dc2 called us for quite a while). Mummy Mrs Smith, more peculiar smile

Good luck to you and hope it works out well. May I reassure you that my DC2 who was so attached to her foster family is currently (not) falling asleep next to me and keeps bouncing up for unauthorised cuddles and kisses. We keep in touch with their foster family and I think they will always miss them at points , but I see that as a good thing in a child's life - you can't have too many people in a child's life who love and are there for them, and to have their foster parents as a sort of super-extended family seems a pretty good option to me.

MerryInthechelseahotel Mon 26-May-14 21:17:38

I would definitely insist on being introduced as mummy and daddy but go along with the rest. If they really believe it will help her then it will be worth it. It might not be ideal for you but at the moment they know her the best and it would be hard for you to contradict them. If it is fc led, is that so bad? They are just thinking of her stress.

Hels20 Mon 26-May-14 21:24:03

Merry - if it is FC led, then it could be bad if they don't want to let go. We had situation where the FCs called themselves Mummy and Daddy and so to have 2 sets of Mummys and Daddys was pretty hard for me - and who knows what DS thought of it!

Depends on whether you get on with FC. I really liked FC but was v thankful that our time in FCs house was kept to a minimum.

I am just remembering how hard it was being in a strangers house.

Charlestons Mon 26-May-14 21:24:40

Thanks for all your responses, you have all confirmed my thoughts and reservations!!
It is very FC lead and both mine and LO SW have acknowledged this. My SW has no experience of these types of introductions (with 15yrs experience) so us bringing another SW to meet with us next week to discuss further. We are going to talk about books and photos etc (basically the 'normal' way of doing thongs) then as my own SW couldn't answer this.

Also sorry to confuse I was just using Mr & Mrs as per my username, we will be called by our first names.

FC have said that they don't have contact with any of the 5 children that have already left them as they find it to difficult - so again something that goes against everything I thought would be best for the child.

Will keep you updated - thanks again for your support.

Haffdonga Mon 26-May-14 21:26:30

An adoptive lurker here with thoughts:

A. If you are introduced as Mr and Mrs X and 2 weeks later become mummy and daddy, then your dd will learn 3 things, first that any random visitor called Mr or mrs XYZ might suddenly become another mummy or daddy and take you to a new home, second that your role in her life is not consistent and your identity as her parents is a fixed not permanent fact, thirdly that people (foster carers, social workers etc) are not to be trusted.

B. A review meeting planned into a 'normal' length introduction period is in order to allow introductions to be extended if necessary. Surely you could plan for a shorter period than this with the proviso that it would be extended if LO needed. Likewise, with such an extended period planned, is there a review planned where introductions could be speeded up if it's goinf well.

C. LO was left with respite carers after 2 months of being with foster carers so was presumably several months younger than she is now. Presumably there was little preparation for this temporary stay and LO's understandig was much less plus she was very newly placed with all the attendant trauma. This in No Way compares with a planned adoption introduction and doesn't really give much indication of how LO will react now.

How strongly do you feel you can challenge this 'plan'?

Hels20 Mon 26-May-14 21:29:44

Do you know Charlestons if this is how the FC did the other introductions?

Poor you. Even if you have to do Intros for 24 days,
I would not let them call you by first names to start with. You can be "Mummy Charleston" but not just Charleston.

FamiliesShareGerms Mon 26-May-14 21:32:24

I agree with others that this sounds ridiculous and that it is crucial that you are mummy and daddy from the outset. In addition, it's not for the SW to introduce this idea, the FC should be preparing her for the transition to you. Photos etc would be great to help them do this.

Can you compromise on extended intrus but with a review point after, say, 5 days for you all to take stock on progress? I'd have thought by that point you should be close to full days and you should be pressing for DD to be spending time at your place (if not too physically far away) from the start of the second week. But building in a review lets everyone flex plans to ensure that they are going as well as possible.

Jennifersrabbit Mon 26-May-14 21:50:37

Oh, if it's FC led and your SW has no experience of doing introductions like this, I'd be a bit more worried.

I think others have made a very good point re how the little one may view 'friends' in the future. Either of mine might have taken that view - for eg my DC1 reacted violently for ages to any 'nice lady' figures who looked vaguely like a social worker (poor Inoffensive health visitors grin) Have the longer intros if you must ( and I know how vulnerable you will be feeling right now), but I'd try and push the importance of being introduced in your role as new parents from the off.

I agree that LOs reaction to a respite carer two months after being removed from birth parents is neither here nor there. I also think that however much introducing you as friends they do, you are still going to be comparative strangers. You have to start by everyone accepting that distress is likely and actually healthy (would you want a child to walk away from people who cared for them for a lengthy period and never look back?) The real work of building her security with you will come after intros over months and years.

All the best in finding a way forward.

Charlestons Mon 26-May-14 21:54:49

Hels - no they have said this is the first they have done it like this but are very keen on it.

LO calls the female carer by her first name but male carer gets called daddy although they don't correct her when she says this they do call him by his first name when talking about him.

Def going to call SW first thing and talk through my concerns again.

Hels20 Mon 26-May-14 21:58:05

It's almost like the LA is hedging their bets - that YOU might decide not to go ahead with the match once you have met the child - and so don't want to introduce you as Mummy and Daddy until you have confirmed your interest. I wonder if the LA has had a bad introductions experience recently.

Do let us know how you get on.

What an added stress to an already stressful situation!

Our child is three and a half and was very attached to foster carers. He was told of us as mummy and daddy from the start and saw a DVD and a talking book (the butterfly one!) a week before he met us. He has proved to settle very well called us Mummy and Daddy from the start.

I feel it is very worrying that you will be introduced as friends first and feel it could set up a long time of uncertainty for the child. I think you should be talking to the attachment or support team in your area about this.

Actually, introducing you as one thing and then you become another is just lying to a child and how can that be best?

If LA is worried they could always arrange an anonymous chance for you to observe the child at a soft play or toddler group couldn't they? I have heard of that.

Parsnipcake Mon 26-May-14 23:14:48

I'm not sure about being introduced as friends, but I am a foster carer who has done extended intros with several children. I am very experienced - more so than a lot of the SWs I work with, and I know my children well. For some anxious children, slow intros work better. A young 2 yr old won't necessarily get the inference of friends or mummy and daddy, but can build their confidence through gradual intros, where they see mum and dad with foster carers before interacting themselves. About 50% of my extended intros get shortened as we go through - and as a fc, I am usually the one who instigates it as I can see if the child is confused and unsettled, and needs to move.

In my, and many LAs, the adoption SW will have only met the child post placement order, for a handful of times. An FC's input is vital. It's not about being unable to let go, but about being child centred - at least it is for me! There is always a review meeting where plans can be changed if intros need shortening or extending.

Parsnipcake Mon 26-May-14 23:21:35

I will add, that extended introductions are usually something I use with children with disorganized attachment or complex medical needs/ FAS, so check you have all the info on the child if this is something you haven't been prepared for.

Kewcumber Tue 27-May-14 10:56:31

I had about 7 weeks of intros with ds (not in this country) who was one at the time. It is much harder on the parents but in my opinion ooften easier on the child.

But...

You should be introduced as new parents at the beginning - its not like previous foster carers were introduced as parents so she shouldn't have any association with parents.

Insist that the situation is reviewed at the end of each week with the process being accelerated if its going OK.

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