Sunday, 23 April 2017

Three words - Languishing in Care

So, I'm minding my own business enjoying a little light reading when three words jump off the page and slap me out of my holiday stupor.

"languish in care'

I was shocked at my own visceral response to a few words, I was livid and sickened by such staid, lazy and harmful rhetoric. 

Languish in care? 

I thought of my friends painting the flat of the young woman they'd fostered two years earlier. She'd left their 'foster placement', her choice, after trashing their kitchen. Two years later they still invite her to family parties, to stay over at Christmas and support her in all kinds of ways including painting her first flat. 

Languish in care?

I think of the family that I support who give every waking moment and many through the night to the teenager girl they foster with Cerabral Palsy, how every member of their family works to include them in to their family life.

Languish in care?

My mind goes to the family that cares for the two sisters under 13 months old, feeding every two hours, supporting daily contact and refusing respite though exhausted because it's not in the girl's best interests. The foster carers that tonight will get an unexpected call to take a child, no details, no answers just a child in desperate need. Foster carers that advocate and support and put up with an unending stream of professionals through their front door. To describe the children that they care for as 'languishing in care' is just plain insulting. 

Of course you can fill up my comments section with examples to counter this, of this and that and I can assure you that I'm under no illusion that foster care and foster carers have their faults. If you want I can list them and give you some examples. But to talk about 'languishing in care' is lazy and reprehensible and when we accept such twaddle why are we surprised that we read headlines like 'foster care in crisis' claiming we need 9000 carers and what seems like every roundabout in my town being 'sponsored' by the LA's Fostering Team.


Children who fall into the care system are there for a reason that is almost universally negative. We place unfair measures on foster care, by definition  and thankfully it's reactive and to consider the outcomes in terms of GCSE results at 16 is a blunt tool. The experience of those children are the very worst that our society has to offer and to compare their 'outcomes' at 18 to those of the general population is plain stupid. If you come into foster care at 15 years old then sit your GCSE's then foster care still takes the rap for your results, good or bad,  feeding the politicians who talk about outcomes.  

I'm happy to debate the failings of the system but to describe children as 'languishing in care' is downright insulting and lazy. 

Anyway, I'm on my holidays and feel much better for getting that off my chest. Let's see if I can finish this book. 

With all that in mind I'm interested in the recently announced  National Fostering Stocktake - Call for Evidence. Lets see if we can't make it all better. 




Thursday, 20 April 2017

Trauma & Dominoes

We'd been doing ok, of course the constant caveat is that when I say 'ok' I mean it's that sort of 'ok' that means we're not reeling from chaos to fear minute by minute. I mean that strategies are working and we were getting ready for our holidays.

The organisation and energy that it takes to get us on our holidays is herculean, mostly shouldered by the goodMrC,  it makes the moon landings look like child's play.

However, Flossy elected to remain at home, a positive move.
Positive that she acknowledges it's all a bit too changey, unfamiliar, transitiony and stressful.
Positive that those who go on holiday can remove the fences that we erect in our daily routines to keep Flossy safe and live a bit free.
Positive that she'd rather remain with her Grandma and big sisters.



Though Flossy remains at home we still have to get all our dominos in line and coach those who will stand in the gap. We also have to leave a happy child.

Then we had a wobble and a stumble as we drew close to leaving.  What it was over, like always, is lost in the struggle and melee that follows. Fiery words aimed to hurt me were spat out, but that wasn't enough words turned to deed. Did I say 'wobble'? I think that's an understatement.
Then it's over and we try to move on.

Flossy moved on, I struggled to.

It was all a bit reminiscent of the difficult days at the end last year, I could feel that trauma's script being replayed and its dark fingers tightening around me.

Strange that I've now my own trauma to add into the mix, I'd not thought of it in those terms til this 'wobble'.  I've kept myself busy and put my energies into work and all the other stuff. I'd thought that it had gone but there's a residual stain, that I'm reluctant to call a trauma, that hangs over me. By comparison to my children's trauma it's nothing, but comparisons are never fair.

More and more I speak to parents who carry their own trauma, not vicarious but first person. It's a result of their life and experiences parenting traumatised children, vulnerable but sometimes scary children.

It took a few days but I eventually put it all into the box marked 'later' in my mind.

We lined the dominos back up, waved Flossy goodbye and off we went.









Saturday, 15 April 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 14 An interview with Honor Rhodes

Honor Rhodes is the Director of Strategic Development at Tavistock Relationships. I interviewed her about the impact of adoption, and parenting in general, on the quaity and stability of parents relationships. An issue that is key for many families but rarely talked about.

Parenting and parenting challenging children can place high levels of strain on the relationship with our partners and spouses. Honor talks about this phenomenon and the work that Tavistock Relationships is doing to support couples as they venture into adoption.


As ever Scott and I sandwich the interview between a subtle blend of whit and banter, or at least we think so. 
If you think that you may benefit from the service then here's a link to their website that gives you contact details.
From their website
'Tavistock Relationships is offering FREE support for adoptive parents, funded by a grant from the Department of Education. The Adopting Together Service is OFSTED registered and is designed to help couples take care of their own relationship, manage the stresses of parenting and enhance their children's lives. We welcome both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Working with our experienced therapists in a safe and confidential setting, you can be helped to think about the issues that may be affecting your relationship.'



You can also find us on iTunes here

If you feel generous a review would be rather appreciated. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

They all go in the end

Lots of thoughts sloshing around this week, remnants of last week and being too busy perhaps.
We're ticking along ok. I mean like lot's of families our 'ok' isn't your standard cookie cutter Disneyesque ok with unfettered joy and squeaky clean behaviour. You know what I mean, no-one called the police, no-one got hurt. Result.

Anyway, I'm off the point. 

We found out that a professional is leaving our world. Another one gone.
Universally accepted as knowing what they were on about and genuinely stepping in at breaking point and holding it all together she will be missed. Her words brought hope to perhaps the least hopeful moment of our parenting lives. At one point I thought she actually was Nanny McPhee. 

But, she's off. No chance to say goodbye just gone, it would have been nice to say ta ta but sooner or later they all have to go. 

I started to count how many qualified Social Workers we've had across our door. 
18 allocated or involved. 


We cried with one when she left, went for a drink with another, slammed the door behind a few, recored an interrogation with one and in the beginning tidied up for them coming. Some have moved onto bigger and better things, others retired, others just went away. They all go in the end.

In my interview with Hugh T I asked what holds the future for adoption and he said many things, one that stuck was the need for enduring and potentially lifelong partnerships that adopters need to accept with services that support us and our children.  

That wasn't part of my plan when I set off, but it clearly is how the plan is unfolding. We're sad to see our latest go, I could have built a partnership with her, I fear it may not be so easy to build a partnership with a service rather than a person. I wonder if services have the capacity to build enduring and lifelong partnerships with us? I don't know. 

They do all go in the end but we remain,  I'll always be an adopter long after they've retired

Anyway, goodbye Nanny McPhee. We wish you well and thank you for what you've left, a belief that there is a way through. She pointed to it and left hope, a little hope goes a long long way. 

Yes, they do all go in the end but some of them leave a little something behind.  





Saturday, 8 April 2017

Definition

It's been a funny old week, as always there's lots going on I've been here and there doing this and that.  

What made it unusual was meeting people who where from as far away from this world as you can get. We talked and they asked me questions about how I came to end up where I am today.

Crickey, what a question, I'm not sure how to answer that. Sitting there I was struck at how every corner of my life is filled with all things adoption.

We knew adopting would be a big decision when we made it back in 1998 but I hadn't anticipated that it would define almost every aspect of the rest of my life. Having children generally changes a lot but for some of us adopters it changes everything.
Literally everything.
The house and location of the house that I live were all defined by the needs of my children. I do the job I do because I've been drawn into this world, the employers I chose were chosen because they get 'it'. Natural selection has laid across a large part of my friendship groups with getting 'it' sorting the wheat from the chaff. In the extreme I've invited those who wilfully and persistently didn't get 'it' to not return until they did. They did.

Getting 'it' is probably the most valuable commodity in my life, I'll not rehash my 'getting it' post*, but the short hand that cuts through all of the words and history is valuable beyond belief.

The books I read and the social media I engage with is all in someway linked by this thread. Almost every evening I chip away at something. Emails to this person and that person all to try and move the discussion forward, CPV, policy, opportunities and feedback.

On the train home last night I pondered all of this and more and wondered if I was drowning in it all and wondered who I even was and how I had ended up here, it certainly hadn't been my plan. It's funny how a little conversation with strangers can send you down a thought rabbit hole.


But as I write this I realise that for all that my life is woven into and defined by adoption most of my efforts and energies are to try and ensure that my children's lives are not defined by their adoption. Suddenly it all makes sense.

Today I'm going to chop logs, cut the grass, play with the kids, walk the dogs and pretend to be normal.



*Strangely, my second most read post of all.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

An apology to number nine by Colourful Carwen

A guest post by Colourful Carwen

I struggle with CPTSD. To survive my experience of the world I split my self up. 1-8 are the voices in my head. They are remnants of when I used to walk in 8 different personality types. Number nine is our body who has had no say for years. 1-8 could not cope with what number nine carries. For all our sake, so we were able to function 1-8 stayed in charge. This year marks the beginning of the journey we are all on to work out if it's possible to lay down swords and join each other.


We are well into body therapy now! (5 months)

Using a combination of psychotherapy exercises and massage. All nine of us are stumbling on our colourful journey. The aim is to integrate on all levels. Body and brain, neuroplasticity comforts our amygdala. Frontal cortex meets real life limbs and frazzled nerves and stays in connection still able to think.

We start by just trying to identify 'feeling / touch'.  1-8 being able to understand and no longer be scared of the trouble number nine may get us into. Number nine not melting down or kicking of our fight flight freeze fawn response.


As we journey number nine is starting to throw out emotion alongside feeling and sensation. We 'all' feel touch in our tummy, jaws, arms and fingers; managing all to stay present. 

1-8 struggle to put identification to these sensations and some of these sensations now come with memories attached to the emotions.

I guess this is where I need your help. I need to write to bring closure. Writing the process down and know it's been heard is really important to me. I'd like to share one of my first integration stories.

It all started about a month into therapy. A sudden convolution in my tummy exploded it literally doubled me in two.  I was in bed at home. I'd  had a couple of glasses of wine, Netflix was on but all I could do was groan as repeatedly our breath was caught. 

The next convulsion would come. Number nine would literally crunch in two. I knew this was coming from my tummy musclesand there was no pain involved. Strangely I did not feel scared.

 Being able to remain thinking allowed 1-8 to consider what was happening. Viewing the experience like medical students in a theatre gallery. 

Like birth contractions it kept happening. Even when I hadn't had wine and over days several unexpected times. We all tried to grapple with what on earth was going on. A conference was called, a body brain meeting.

1-8 pleaded not guilty, each voice presented what they considered to be going on. There seemed only one culprit. We all turned to number nine. 
  • What are you doing?
  • We can't function if you act like this.
  • We need to 'do life'!
  • Are you trying to cripple us?
  • We are struggling to stay civil.
  • If you keep behaving like this we will have no choice but to take over entirely and leave you!
  • You are too much trouble!
  • We are angry with you!
  • Aggghhhhhhhhh?
  • Stop it, stop it!

Then and only then after at least a week of squabbling and anger our hippocampus gave us all a pin point.  Number nine was trying to remind us of when we walked in a field.

 At the time we were visiting a neighbours farm to use their pool. The field In question sloped up the side of a hill. We are 10 years old. 

Roaming out on are own in the African bush was a normal pass time. No one knew where we were, but we weren't creating stress so it didn't bother anyone. Scrabbling through some bush scrub we found ourselves behind a group of horses. Not knowing about horses we walked up behind them.

All we can remember next is a dirty great thump in our tummy. The whole world momentarily went black. (One of the horses had kicked us in the stomach). The blackness reseeded, doubled up with no breath and smiling as we recognised this experience as being 'winded' (we knew we would breath again). There's was however an the extra problem of being catapulted down the hill.

The falling and tumbling was not our primary concern, as we knew we could take that. The thing that terrified us was this:_

We no longer had the ability to hide and someone might see!  
This would mean being in trouble!!!

Thankfully no one saw. Swiftly we considered how to make this situation 'not have ever happened'. Getting up we stood straight, blinked  and sucked in the pain. We then neutralised our face and walked back and over to  everyone else by the pool. 

Putting on our swimming costume in the toilet it came as a relief to see the scratches were not to noticeable. The horse shaped welt on our stomach already turning blue would be harder to deal with "No it won't" and we smiled again. "We shall keep it hidden". Occasionally we would have a look. What seemed like years and many colours later it had disappeared.

Numbers 1-8 real back a stare at number nine:
  • Out of all the things we have been through your choose that as our first hurdle?
  • What on earth are you thinking?
  • That is not important!
  • Your being ridiculous!
  • This is not a game you know!
  • We are still angry with you! why make such a fuss?

 Then we looked at number nine and realised it mattered to her. She wanted to tell us it hurt. It hurt physically and it hurt to not be seen. It made her withdraw from us all further as it was quite obvious she didn't matter. 

That it mattered to her should be enough for it to matter to us all. 1-8 took a a sigh. Guilty thoughts that we should be dealing with much bigger and important events will have to wait. If we are going to learn about each other and respect each other then part of the journey is realising that number nine is probably very sensitive and that's OK.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Final Report - Child on Parent Violence: Grappling with an Enigma

So, here it is:



The final report that was born out of the Child on Parent Violence (CPV) Survey that was completed at the end of 2016 can be downloaded here

It raises broader questions that need to be asked as we seek to address the needs of families that are impacted by CPV.
Primarily, how do we define CPV? Not as easy as I first thought and with the benefit of hindsight I'd not have used the definition that I chose for the CPV Survey. Why? well as this report notes the intentionality is not as easy to pin on many of our children and even if it is then is it appropriate or relevant to how we then go on to support those families.

This is the last of three reports could have easily been peer reviewed and published in an academic journal but then they would have remained in that sphere, behind paywalls, and privy only to those in that world. So we made them public access but they retain an academic slant to be used as required by professionals or parents. Don't feel embarrassed to skip the first couple of sections to get to the 'stuff'.

Read it, download it, share it. Be encouraged.

I have to thank Wendy, she has undertaken the writing with dedication fuelled by a passion to see CPV brought into the light. It's not taken hours but days, all voluntary and with no complaint.

Trawling through the data has been upsetting and challenging at times, responses are heartbreaking and all who participated represent struggle, pain and distress to varying degrees. A friend took me aside a few weeks ago and asked 'do you think you need to offload all of this stuff?' I'm not sure about that but every comment or reason given for a download fuels the cause, we will keep going. It is going to take time but I see that we've already made a change, when I first wrote about CPV in 2014 I felt like I was going out on a limb. Today, I look through my social media timeline and see conference schedules with the letters CPV and I take heart that we've moved on. We can talk about it we know we're not alone but there remains a long way to go.

The taboo is eroding.

We'll hold fast and keep on.

So, most of all thank you for taking part, reading and sharing.