Friday, 16 February 2018

Blackpool Rock

Lotty asks 'how excited are you to be a grandad between 0 and 100? 0 is not bothered and 100 is total loss of control with excitement.'

I pause, this could be a potential trick, there may be a right answer.


She comes straight back, 'Ok, I'm 92 at being an aunty'

We are all anticipating the imminent addition to the family, little girls chattering with excitement at being aunties, giddy about what they're going go do and the plans they have. Generally fizzing.  Conversations turn to birth, how long, when will it start and what will happen.

I tell the story of my brother's birth, then of mine and we talk about the friend who gave birth in a police van we go on and on. All the stories are lapped up.

But then the conversation stops. The stories I want to tell aren't there, their stories. I can't tell if they are thinking the same.

I know dates, weights and locations. No more. I can't join those dots to make a story though. I've some photos for some of these little aunties to be, but not much. I feel robbed of the story of their arrival into this world, the drama, the excitement.
I look at the Giddy Aunts and feel a deep sadness for the lost days. I didn't make a panic dash to hospital, or get a call to come now.  That I didn't walk nervously our of hospital with them, hold them close in the first hours of life, nervously worrying about what lay ahead. Those joys and fears belong to strangers, they're all lost to us, they're lost to them. We've no stories to share and their absence is louder than ever today. I'm not sure they see the gap, not today anyway.

A missing story seems sadder than a sad story.

Like words in Blackpool rock there sometimes seems to be sadness running through our lives that cannot be extracted.

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 35 an interview with Carrie Grant

With much giddy excitement we finally present an interview with Carry Grant. She is a singer, singing coach and TV presenter amongst many other things as well as experience of parenting children with aditional needs as well as being an adopter. 

The conversation covers all aspects of adoptive parenting and reflects on the challenges that many families face. Carrie discussed why she decided to adopt and their experience of the process of preparation, approval and being matched with a child. As a family they have experienced a range of challenges and Carrie is open and honest about their struggles with child to parent violence and the help that NVR (Non Violent Resistance) has been to them. During the interview we discuss Carrie's experience of accessing adoption support and the needs of parents who look for support in dire circumstances. Amongst a range of subjects we discuss self care and most adopter's time old favourite of support in school and the challenges that many face in education.

As always there's a little light banter from Scott and I and we ask a few questions that people had given to us through our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here or on the Podbean site here

As always if you’re bored and feeling benevolent you could seek us out on iTunes here and give us a wee review!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Contact: a Cornerstone of Adoption?

I believe that 'contact' is the issue that is going to define the future of domestic adoption in the UK.

Even just saying that I'm conscious of the range of responses that people will have depending on their experience and perspective. Passions run high, in all directions, when we talk of contact. This week that has been brought into focus when listening to a fellow adopter talk of the impact of contact going wrong with adopters feeling betrayed and being 'glorified babysitters' for the state as their adopted children turned their back on them and returned to first family. Then reading the article in the Professional Social Work Magazine that considered contact in light of the recent BASW enquiry on the role of the social worker in adoption it feels like contact is a pivotal issue for contemporary adoption.

Contact is understandably tricky, as an adoptive parent it raises a spectre of anxiety that is hard to ignore. What if my child chooses or loves them over me? Our insecurities and vulnerabilities are laid bare. Why would we open the door to the world that caused the primal wound and trauma in the first instance? Why would we give access to the perpetrators of what are sometimes unspeakable crimes to their victims? All valid questions that I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered for my family.  But first families are more than one or two people, they're aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins and siblings. They can present as a safe connection to early lives and stories.

Knowing and thinking all that it is understandable that it is often reduced to what adopters can tolerate, a letter a year. That said, social care professionals also resist, risks to stability with realism about what can or cannot be facilitated are all at the front of their minds.

Speaking to a friend I described the contact that we'd built with our children's families as one of the hardest experiences of my adult life but it has also been one of the most rewarding. We have open doors to adults that are able to offer insight into the early life and circumstances of my child's journey to adoption that are invaluable.

I'm not alone, many have travelled this path. It's damn hard but it adds colour to a black and white picture and unites worlds that are sometimes poles apart. I look to my youngest daughter, she sees what we've built as normal. There's no competition between this family and that family  without wanting to sound cheesy we are all her family.

Being candid there was resistance from social care when we asked if we could see our children's sibling. The risk seemed too great and the benefits uncertain but having learnt from earlier experience we went with our gut and forged ahead. Tentative meetings with an aunt and sibling four times a year ultimately led to friendship and daily support that was uniquely positioned to hold insight to our child's world. It was hard, for them as much as us, but joined the dots of all our lives that no other way could. Professionals had said it would not work but for the sake of our children we made it work.

The current default of an annual letter feels like an appeasement, it's the most some adopters will agree to and pays lip service to the understanding that severing adopted children from their past may be adding trauma to trauma. I speak to enough adopters to see that letters are really hard to make work and often tail off for a whole host of reasons. I also know that asking first families to write letters isn't working for a whole host of reasons and to expect many to write is perhaps setting them up to fail.

In many regards adoption must change to meet the needs of society as well as the children that traverse the process and the adults looking for children. Contact is one area that must evolve to better suit the needs of children and safely allow them to hold the past with the present. Good contact slays the mythologies that deceive and the fear of the unknown that circles children as they grow. It places children in a story where the beginning and end can be seen and those elements are not in competition.

However, there are no blanket solutions. Creative and specific arrangements are needed and need to be facilitated. If we're committed to adoption then we need to embrace that without a change from the  severance dogma of the 50s and 60s adoption will falter and fail the children who travel this world. Positive and meaningful contact strikes against the old paradigm, it dares to hold the old and new in tension for the best interests of children, the unwilling commodity in all of this.

If contact is to be placed central to the future of adoption then we're asking more of adoptive families and birth families than ever before. Will that prohibit adopters coming forward, will they pay lip service to the notion of contact but slam the door shut beyond the adoption order? I don't know.

As always the future's unclear. If you're an adoptive parent you're probably considering the challenges and risks that contact invites to your child, family and you. That's right but like all risks we weigh them agains the benefits and to see clearly in matters of the heart can be hard.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Adopter Voice

Actually, before I start I thought I'd better warn you this post is not a set of minutes of the Adopter Voice meeting today at the Department for Education.  Reports and topics presented and considered hold specifics that will come out in the fullness of time when all the 't's have been crossed and the 'i's have been dotted.
If you want a blow by blow account stop now, go and make a cup of tea and read a good book or whatever tickles you.

Coming away and pondering the discussion I'm struck by the change in tone that has developed over the last couple of years in relation to adoption. Of course much had happened in that time with the coming and going of key figures in the adoption landscape as well as the changes in some of the structural elements of that adoption agencies are set into. Change is happening and like any time of transition there's uncertainty and tension. Not necessarily helpful if your local adoption support team is being shipped out to new offices and merging with another team from another county.

That's all well and good but sitting in your home with your children and 'experiencing' that system and trying to navigate those changes is a very different thing to talking about it and how to manage it. Nice conversations around tables don't necessarily translate to help and in fact may feel like a joke if you're at the sharp end of trauma informed parenting.

Talking today we touched on issues such as contact with birth families and the very real pressure on children and adults. With tangible benefits and the very real concerns, adoption cannot remain closed to the reality of contemporary life when small children can 'google' Tummy Mummy's name and have a world opened up to them before a life story book is even pulled from the top shelf.

Adopters are experts in what should have been said in preparation so we riffed on that for a while, the age old debate of how much truth it too much and at what point does that harsh truth become prohibitive to all but the brave few daring to adopt.

We talked about the ongoing relationships that adopters need with services, relationships with support    social workers and even the thought of annual reviews for support and families.
Talk is good and of course adopters.

As I said at the beginning not a lot of specifics in all that and it can appear to be exclusive to not share in the nuts and bolts of some of the discussion. To say nothing and not even note the meeting is perhaps worse.

That adopters are around the table at the big house cannot be underestimated. There was a time in the not too distant past when we were not welcome. The last few years has seen a change and that has to be good. Of course, we'd like more varied voices but for now we take what we've got, keep at it and prove the value of our voices.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 34 An interview with Catt Peace

In ths episode we speak to Catt Peace  an adult adoptee. 

Catt is a member of the Patches Family Foundation on Facebook and aims to raise awareness, help and offer practical support to families worldwide caring for children suffering from unattachment and developmental trauma.

Catt is very open and honest about her life before and since adoption, having been adopted in the 90's her experience is very contemporary and reflects similar experiences to the children of many contemporary UK adopters and adoptees. She is very frank about her own challenges as a teenager and young person but also comments on life as an adult, birth family reunion and relations with her adoptive parents. I can't recommend this interview enough.

As usual Scott and Al bookend the interview with a little news, chatter and comment. 
As always comments and reviews welcome. 

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here

or on the Podbean site here

As always if you’re bored and feeling benevolent you could seek us out on iTunes here and give us a wee review!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Beware ye the Chaos

It seems like good advice to share with myself, I keep saying it over and over again. Out loud, in my head and under my breath.

'Don't get drawn into the chaos'

I keep saying it to MrsC, I like to think it helps her. I won't suggest what she thinks.

The great joy of many adoption blogs appears to be the spectacle of ordinary people wrestle with the extraordinary, be that therapeutic parenting, school shenanigans, olympic level professional diplomacy or some such peculiar situation that us 'normal' folk find ourselves in. The blogs about normal stuff seems so dull. Nobody reads my posts about the nice time we had at the park, were we all played nice then came home, how very dull. We like the grit and the battle, it makes us feel normal. It's all precipitated bye these marvellous little people that we willingly fell in love with. They get big you know and the love grows, gets smashed into a thousand shards, stood on and then by some sort of magic reforms then limps along with a grinding determination.

But the chaos, oh the chaos! It is lapping at the shore of my sanity and my toes are getting wet. I keep stepping back, an act of rational common sense from the impending tide, but the tide is coming in and there appears to be naught I can do. I take a deep breath and resolve to not get drawn into the chaos, but some days there appears less places to step back to. Like Canute I've tried to halt the tide by by force of will but that's easy to say, matters of the heart seems to great a fog that befuddles reason and common sense. I've tried ignoring it to no avail.  This chaos pulls on the heart, it pulls you back in. Ankle, knee, waist deep.

Damn, blast and tarnation I'm in it again.

I'd like to go to adoption preparation groups and let it all out. I've seen the look in their eyes, they understand all my words but not when I put them together in that order. The chaos, oh the chaos. Zen and the art of trauma parenting, if I could find my zen I'd write the book Though it may be easier to just get underwear printed with 'don't get drawn into the chaos' on it. Then every day I could pull on my anti chaos pants safe knowing they're close and invisible to the rest of the world.

Friday, 26 January 2018

The Guardians of Adoption

With lots of media coverage of adoption and the release of BASW's report on the role of the social worker in Adoption and then the comments on reports from various trusted and influential voices I find myself wondering who's voice we should be listening too. I liked the report, understood its scope and focus and saw no 'hidden agenda' but I'm left wondering how we, the stakeholders, of adoption sift the range of views that are presented to us? Who's voice is the authentic definitive voice on adoption, who can I trust and believe?

Is it that all voices come with bias and vested interests that may or may not be apparent? So, is there one voice that can be weighed as the 'right voice'. Can we listen voices out of context? The more I think about it the more opaque it becomes, we talk of the members of the adoption triangle but they are in fact overlaid by the social care, legal system and political system, a triangle within the grip of larger forces.

Even writing this I'm conscious of my own vested interests, father to adopted children, social worker, adoption blogger, I've gained children from the adoption system but I've seen my children lose siblings to the adoption system and I've walked my own path. My voice has to be weighed like all others.

So, my question is this, who are the guardians of the adoption system? The motivations of all are viewed with suspicion by someone in the triangle.

Is it that the Government wants to save money and garner votes, adoption is a convenient solution. Judges are more concerned with law than lives; Judges are set against birth families or adopters or everyone. Social workers are in the pocket of the government working to 'targets' pulling children into the system or they're too concerned with parents rights and holding children back. Adopters want to travel the system with as little friction as possible and collect children as soon as possible, Adopters are a cheap way of saving money. Birth parents don't deserve a say and of course they're against adoption.
I'm overstating for affect but they're all words I've heard, I don't agree with them, but they are reflections on how the members of the adoption community perceive each other. Entrenched views that sometimes defy evidence set before us. 

Yet always, adoptees remain the silent common denominator, everybody wants them but we're not so quick to hear them.

Who do we listen too, are all stakeholder's voices filtered through their experience and inherent position? Many participants see a need for change and evolution of the system but our end goals are perhaps in competition. We also disagree on what needs to be changed and how to change it. Everyone has their views.

As a society we've decided that adoption is the vehicle that we are going to use to care for some of the most vulnerable and harmed children in our society when they cannot be cared for by their parents. However, it seems that society prefers to see adoption in binary terms, shocked by the scandalous injustices of tabloid headlines. 'Overweight prospective adopter refused children' and 'social worker makes terrible forced adoption error' and scream the papers but remain indifferent to the contemporary reality and challenges children face.

We need voices of reason and balance because the stakes are high, adoption touches all who come into it's sphere in the most primal sense, it's our children, biological or joined, our soul, our future and past. We can't fall into the binary traps of adopter good birth family bad. Can we trust politicians, or adoptees, or lawyers, or professors or mothers and fathers? Yes and no. We need voices of peace, reconciliation and reason. We need clarity of thought and hope. We need to talk of the financial and moral cost of adoption and of human rights. We need to be honest about crime and punishment, hope and redemption. We need to be rational, reasoned and reasonable. We need to consider the needs of children.

That all said, is the prevailing wind seems set against adoption in its current form? If so we need to be open to listen to others with open minds and willing to embrace views that may not be ours.