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The right thing to say...

(12 Posts)
Educatingmarmalade Fri 21-Dec-18 22:03:17

I hope it’s ok to ask on this board not being an adopter myself.
I am a teacher, and the parents of a child in my class have had two babies (younger siblings to the child in my class) taken into care.
They have been having regular contact with the babies but the mum came to me last week to say they had found adoptive parents for them (she wasn’t sure if they were being adopted together or not).
She wanted me to take photographs of the child in my class and to make cards to go into the babies’ memory boxes.
They have their final contact in January and I am wondering what I can say to support the mum. I don’t want to be patronising or to suggest I know how she must feel or to say anything that will suggest the babies will be better off. Any ideas?

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Jellycatspyjamas Fri 21-Dec-18 23:50:17

To be honest, I’d liaise with her social worker around things like school photos etc for memory boxes, the expectation would usually be that mum did that with her resident child rather than having school do it. It’s important for you to know what’s happening from the point of view of supporting the child in your class but I’d be engaging with mum on a very limited basis - I don’t know that it’s your role to say anything to her about it other than you know it’ll be hard for her, then bring the subject back to how she and you are supporting her child.

It’s very hard but keeping really clear boundaries will help everyone concerned.

darkriver198868 Sat 22-Dec-18 06:26:27

As a birth parent there is absolutely nothing you can say. It's going to be a horrendous and painful time that will take many years to recover from.

Educatingmarmalade Sat 22-Dec-18 07:43:25

Thanks for your replies, you’re definitely right that there is nothing I can say. It’s such a tragic situation. The mum comes into my classroom to chat most days and I just wish I could support her by saying something that would give her even an ounce of comfort. Of course we (and social services) will be doing our very best to support their remaining child (who is refusing to talk about it but did tell me she was worried the babies would be sleeping in different beds and wouldn’t be happy). So sad.

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darkriver198868 Sat 22-Dec-18 09:41:17

It's nice you want to help but, I think she needs to be referred to birth family support. The service I have received was invaluable.

A lot of people are well intentioned but often say the wrong things. It got to the point where I had to ask my friends to stop saying certain things.

Ted27 Sat 22-Dec-18 10:50:27

Its an odd request I think. Making cards and taking photos for the memory box should be something she does with her child, or the child with a social worker, otherwise it forces the child to focus on the issues in an inappropriate environment.
There is nothing you can say to her and really its not your job. I don 't mean that in an uncaring way, you just happen to be her child's teacher. Any responsibilty you have is supporting the child in school.

Educatingmarmalade Sat 22-Dec-18 12:18:22

You are all right, I need to try and keep a distance I suppose.
The mother wouldn’t, I don’t think, have the capacity to print out photos or have the resources to make cards. Her reading and writing skills are limited.
She doesn’t engage brilliantly with social services and as I teach nursery I do have quite a supportive role with a lot of my parents as nursery is more of a partnership than higher up in school.
I will take your advice and will try to steer all conversations towards supporting her child.
Thanks x

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Jellycatspyjamas Sat 22-Dec-18 14:24:01

Thanks for your replies, you’re definitely right that there is nothing I can say. It’s such a tragic situation.

It is an awful situation for birth mum however, is she was able to care for the babies, they would be with her. Adoption is a very last resort so she will have had opportunities to try and care for them and for whatever reason she hasn’t been able to do that.

She can choose to engage with social services, or not, to make things for her babies’ memory boxes - they will provide help for her if she lacks capacity to do it on her own. I know staff in nursery schools engage a bit more closely with parents but that still should centre around the child in your care. The difficulty with offering support to this parent in this situation is that it’s a complex issue, and one that requires specialist training. You could inadvertently make things much worse.

If the child in your care doesn’t want to talk about it, I’d go with that and I’d gently steer the parent back to her social worker. With respect parents can really split professionals into good guys and bad guys in terms of how the engage, leaving you feeling like you’re the only person who sees it from their point of view, or if you don’t help X won’t happen. It’s a tragic situation for her, yes but don’t loose sight of the children here or the fact the mum isn’t engaging with the services there to help her.

Ooplesandbanoonoos Sun 23-Dec-18 12:19:17

I agree with @jellycats.
It would be inappropriate to get involved. You do not know the full story and it could confuse matters in the long term.
Redirect mum to the child's Social Worker with any questions and if she seeks emotional support from you perhaps suggest she talk to GP about counselling. She is going through a very difficult time and needs help but you are not in the right role to begin supporting with this.
With regards to her child I presume there is a social worker involved with them if there has been a need for the siblings be out of mums care. Talk to them about how to support the child.
It sounds like this is hard for you emotionally. This is understandable and I would seek support from your line manager for support and guidance.
Hope the child you are working with manages ok.

topcat2014 Sun 23-Dec-18 19:13:43

I would also mention to your line management that this is occurring.

A problem shared is a problem halved.

phinnphord Sun 23-Dec-18 21:36:55

@educatingmarmalade I would say something different, or different in some respects. You say that babies were removed but that an older nursery aged child is left in her care, and that her reading and writing skills are not great - it sounds as though the babies were removed because the mother was not coping - perhaps PND perhaps other - it doesn't sound as though she is trying to get you to play good cop or manipulate from what you have said. I think that as long as you stay aware of boundaries, and keep in mind the more stark warnings you have received in this thread, you should not change the way you do things, not steer conversations any one way or the other (unless you feel boundaries have been crossed), stay in partnership, as normal, because of the child who is with you.

Assuming you give photos to other parents too, I think it is fine to give her photos - I am not so sure about cards, but photos would be a good start for her and don't cross any lines.

I don't think offering condolences is a good idea, or raising anything with her, but in your shoes I would continue listening and reacting in a human way as well as a professional way. If she asks your opinion or for advice (and if she hasn't so far I can't see that she would) then you can very honestly say that you have no experience.

I think you need to get advice in real life about how to talk to the child about it, if it does come up, as you won't be able to steer her away if she has chosen to talk to you.

I am wondering if you are the manager, but that there is someone or an organisation you could get advice from?

There are groups out there which help people in her situation which may well provide her with more emotional support and guidance than the SWs involved, and so hopefully she has been pointed in the direction of these by someone.

Educatingmarmalade Sun 23-Dec-18 21:54:05

@phinnphord thanks for your reply. The nursery is part of a school and I am the teacher so I have support from above if I need it. I have no contact with the social worker but my Headteacher does so I may ask her for advice on how to support the child I teach. I guess the social worker will know of organisations I could steer mum to for support.

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