Sunday, 23 September 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Foster Carer Stories #1 Pip

We want to create a place where the voices and stories of foster carers can be heard with no agenda for recruitment, policy change or complaint. The voices arn't endorsed by an agency or filtered they are simply the story that the foster carer want to share.
In this episode Pip tells some of her story, with her husband and children they've been a fostering family for five years.
If you are a foster carer and want to share your story then Message us through our Twitter account ( @Adoption_pcast) or our Facebook Page.

As always, if you enjoy share, if you really enjoy review on iTunes here and if you hate it send Scott a private message. 

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Thursday, 20 September 2018

Workforce Development

Having faffed around all summer pondering the findings of the #CPVA2018 Survey and I'm convinced that the key issue right now in relation to violent and aggressive behaviour is workforce development.  More than that, I'd go as far as to say the key issue for all aspects of adoption support is workforce development. Systems and structures will take us so far but the knowledge and skill of the social workers that come into our homes is fundamental to support.

To that end I re read the Government's 2016 document Adoption: A Vision For Change as it lays out their vision for the adoption system in 2020 and how they'll achieve it. 

Workforce development is mentioned as a key element of that plan but a couple of things jumped off the page. The first being the commitment to:

'develop a robust programme to support social workers to develop or sharpen skills they need in order to make and support robust permanence decisions.'

It's important but it's also clear that the focus of the section and plan remains clearly on adoption pre order. 

The document goes on to list 7 specific areas for workforce development of which six refer to pre order skills with only one considering post placement adoption support. That is the stumbling block for me, we can stack adopters high and have a workforce that can rattle them efficiently and skilfully through the process of adoption but if support remains weak then it's often a house built on sand. Where are the ethics of pouring more adopters into a system that isn't looking to the well term welfare of the families that are created?

There has been a development of adoption support but that is often specialist external services accessed through para social work organisations and the ASF. For all the issues that adopters (special guardians and foster carers) face the fundamental skills and knowledge of the workforce in relation to educating, advocating and supporting children and parents seems to the the bugbear of many families.  If you want to start a heated debate ask about the knowledge of social care staff.

Of course there are many good social workers and most of ours have been at least good. However, to qualify as a social worker you go through a generic training with no specialism. In the three years of my degree there was one slide in one lecture that mentioned adoption. Yes, I did write that correctly. Social work is a cradle to grave service, there is a clear argument for specialising the workforce in my mind.
Adoption has it's unique issues, adopters are unusual service users and the challenges that brings is for another blog, but the power dynamics and the high level of need of the children are just a few of the challenges.

I'm rambling but my point is that I believe workforce development is a cornerstone of adoption services. I started the blog with the complexity of challenging and violent behaviour that too many children manifest. Children who are simultaneously vulnerable and frightening. We need a workforce who understand the underlying causes, the challenges that children and families face and offer effective support in the first instance of listening, believing, acknowledging and caring. Effective interventions remain illusive but the basic go a long way.

There's more to say, much more and this post feels a little rushed and incomplete but the busyness of life is against me. With this I'm hoping to start a conversation and dare I say ask the Gov what about the plan.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Ep 48 An Interview with Martin Barrow

After a much welcome summer break we start with a bang as we interview foster carer Martin Barrow. He is a vocal advocate for fostering and can often be found on Twitter (@MartinBarrow) debating the role, status and future of foster carers and foster care.

In this episode we get right to it and Martin's passion for the subject shines through, we discss with vigour, employment rights, transfering skills, market forces and many issues that face foster carers. We also discuss his experiences of helping children move on to other homes.
We end with a little catch up and some news from both of us, all rather exciting and ponder some upcoming topics that we'd like to discuss
As always thank you for listening.

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Friday, 7 September 2018

Five years down the tubes and that video clip

The descent into vanilla, I think that's what I should re name my blog, ha ha ha. Actually, I've been thinking about blogging and sharing what seems important to me and the Massive. It's all been kicked off by anniversary of me starting to blog five years ago this month.

I thought I'd write a reflective blog post to mark five years and I'd pick out my favourite post from each year and give it some clickbait title to drive people to my blog. That got dull really quick, there are lots of posts and only a few mean much to me, of course some are a little painful to read and some less so.

However, it all got derailed when I saw a video online of a child being told that they were going to be adopted on their birthday.

Oh, well that just about sums the whole damn think up doesn't it. Those few seconds of video (no, I'm not going to add a link because if you're that bothered you'd find it) scupper just about everything I've ever said ever. Honestly, it made my skin crawl even as I wept with joy. Yes, really.

There's me crafting away under the heavy burden of my self righteous, and self inflicted, cause for five bleedin' years. Trying to change the narrative and share my home spun, down to earth thoughts on contemporary adoption and it's all undone in a 30 second clip. Now,  I could unpick soooooo much about that clip, reinforcement of the 'Annie Narrative', the power dynamics, the voyeurism, the consent, the culture, the this and the that.......... come on, I'm a social worker and could do this all day.

But why even bother, by the time I've finished and put the whole damn thing into words someone else will put up another 'child is told they are going to be adopted' clip and we're right back to the start again.

I just wished I'd caught the beautiful and delicate exchange between me an Lotty on video that went like this:

Lotty at maximum volume: 

'Why should I do as you say? You're not even my REAL dad!'

With me responding with equal vigour I retorted:

'Tell me something I don't know! I signed the papers'

Not my best moment and unlikely to go viral, though it may feature heavily in parenting classes in the 'Let's think what we can do better' section of the course. It does feel a bit closer to many of our days. In the interests of truth, we still love each other and laughed heartily at each other later on.

Anyway, if you can be bothered I think there was a good post in late 2014, I prefer my early stuff before I became successful :-p

Railway Child

Friday, 31 August 2018

Adopters Stories by The Adoption & Fostering Podcast - #1 & #2

Welcome to Adopters Stories hosted by the Adoption & Fostering Podcast

All adoption stories are unique and all adoption stories represent the coming together of different experiences, motives, hopes and aspirations. They often don’t go to plan and many adoptive parents discover that their lives are taken in directions that they never anticipated.

In this, the first Episode, Clare tells her story, with her husband Steve they adopted their son Jake in 2011 when he was 7 and a half years old.

In this episode Paul shares his story of adoption of two boys in 2015 of two boys with his husband. 

Of course, there are other voices in adoption and we’re not presuming to speak for them and as we’re based in the UK all the adopters that we speak to have adopted through the UK's statutory adoption system.  If any of the stories in future episodes are different we’ll say.

If you’d like to share your story or would like to get in touch you can message through the adoption and fostering podcast facebook page or through our Twitter feed.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Babies and Birthdays

I've a long list of topics, stories, issues and thoughts that I purposefully and very carefully don't blog on, if I get close to them then I slip into vague and bland terms. It's mainly so I when I write my book I'll have something worth saying rather than re hashing my blog posts. It's worth noting at this point that it's an imaginary book right and in all honesty very likely to stay that way, there are no plans, secret drafts or hint of spare time or likely to be in at least the next 15 years.

Again I digress, infertility is a topic that I've never mentioned. Mainly because I'm not entirely sure that it applies to me. When I say that I mean that I wasn't even slightly bothered by the need to reproduce my genes so when things worked out the way they did (see, I'm being vague) adoption suited me just fine. 

Circumstances have conspired this year to mean that I've become a grandfather twice, once in February and once on Monday. It's kind of been an 'interesting journey' (again, vague) to put it in the most most anodyne terms possible. The last few weeks have taken us through the experience of packing hospital suitcases and stockpiling baby wipes and nappies. We waved my daughter off to hospital and became familiar with what is a routine passage that the overwhelming majority of families travel. At my ripe age and as a father of six it feels odd to be a stranger in the maternity ward and the tramlines of pregnancy and birth, all the systems and processes that feel alien yet are standard for so many. 

So, today I visited the ward and MrsC shared her experience as the birthing partner, a moving and personal experience.  I got all teary and I felt this little twinge. It could have been more. All this swirling unresolved mess inside that I really didn't have back at the beginning of our family's journey seems to have slowly grown into something. I'm not overwhelmed or bereft,  I've no regrets just the odd thought. 

What if things had been different? 

That's not a helpful thought so I tend to push it back down. I think a lot of my friends have that thought. 

After today's business I tucked Peanut into bed, it's her birthday eve and she asked to go early. I looked her in the eye and told her,

'Thank you for being the most, clever, creative, kind, beautiful, funny, silly, wonderful six year old in the world, its been a pleasure and a privilege to be your daddy this year and I am so exited for you to be seven'

As I got the end of my little speech her bottom lip quivered and she broke into a full on sob. 'What's wrong?' I asked. 
'I'm so happy.' She sobbed 

We cuddled tight. My thoughts went to a little girl's birth that started seven years ago tonight. 

Adoption sucks and adoption is wonderful but that's no news.

So, that's a story out of the secret jar. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Stress Test: Adopter Assessments

After 48 hours of having a child repeat every word I said I felt I had a unique perspective on my own capacity to parent like never before.  Quite clearly I was unravelling and my standard approaches of saying smart things to outwit the child had been brushed off many many hours earlier. This brings me to the delicate issue of adopter assessment. Sitting in a comfortable room discussing hypothetical parenting challenges is one thing, 48 hours of psychological acrobatics with a dysregulated child is another.

Would I make the assessment of adopters more vigorous, yes.

If your embarking on the process of approval to be an adopter or half way through it may feel like I'm pulling up the drawbridge after I've safely got myself into the castle. Yup, what you gonna do? I've been though the assessment at least four times and have completed a fair few fostering and the odd adoption assessment as a social worker so I feel like I have a fairly good perspective on the issue.

When prospectives are reaching out for the much desired prize, children, then what are they going to say other than what they believe the assessor want to hear. Diversity? of course. Contact, no bother. Good under pressure? like a concrete Supernanny. Do applicants dance around issues and skip over doubts because that desire for the prize is so strong. Did I, honestly yes I did. Did I lie or did I portray the best me on a good day? Parenting vulnerable children finds the truth pretty quickly.

The model of assessing adopters has remained relatively static and for, what used to be, the bulk of adoption scenarios fit for purpose. But scroll through the bios of adopters on twitter, read some adoption blogs, attend a few support groups and listen to the voices of the struggling third and it's clear that adoption has not gone to plan. Read about adopter's mental ill health, prescription medication, relationship breakdown, career stagnation or disruption and a whole host of challenges and the assessment perhaps was not fit for purpose. The needs of many of the children are so profound and consuming that many adopters are stripped to the core of who they through they were and having to call on resources that may or may not be there. Family disruption and relationship breakdowns are more common than I'd like to believe. Of course the underlying causes are complex but the assessment process is designed to be two fold, gather information and import information.

There are bright spots of innovation with adopters assessed for specific children. Assessment needs to reflect the nature of the uncertain  but largely predictable challenges that many adopters face. In an ideal world we'd stress test adopters, foster to adopt and foster carers who adopt follow that route by design or accident. I wonder if there are any breakdown stats for them?

Vigorous is perhaps the wrong word to describe what I'd like to see. I would say we need to unpick adopter's experiences and expectations, hopes and dreams, attachment strategies and vulnerabilities, strengths and weakness. Of course you could argue that's what we do but do we? Perhaps I am just pulling up the drawbridge.

We need to grease the stairs of the application process, hard to get in and easy to get out.