Friday, 16 November 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Adopter Stories #Lisa

Adopters Stories is a short podcast where adopters tell their own stories. There's no filter or edit, no motive for recruitment or drive to raise a specific issue.

In this edition of #AdopterStories we speak to Lisa. With her husband they adopted three children. Lisa shares her reasons for adopting, her experiences, the hard bits and the best bits.

If you want to share your story then please do get in touch, DM us through our Twitter account or Facebook page.

Thursday, 15 November 2018


Peanut was rather pleased with herself as she showed me the contents of her box of secrets, she read out a letter she'd written.

My name is Peanut, I am 7 years old, I am adopted and I am special. 

Oh, is that a secret? I asked

No she said, I told my teacher that's why I'm special. 

Heartwarming, well kind of.  Of course, she is special and I can wholeheartedly agree.

The perspectives of adoptees on adoption feels illusive to me. The perspective of my children more so, I wonder if they dance around their true feelings to protect me. Like us all they grow up in a world where they have limited choices about the decisions that are made over their lives. What can they say, what perspective can they have, I can recall overhearing my then 7 year old eldest daughter being asked if she was happy if she'd been adopted. A stupid question but she didn't skip a beat and answered 'yes'. Heartwarming, but what else could she have said and what else did she know. It affirmed our relationship but is no measure of all that had happened to this little girl, it really was an inappropriate question.  I wonder what she'd have answered at 12, 18 and 25 years old if she'd been asked. Like all people our views change and perspectives are informed by life experience and time to consider bigger pictures. All of us are allowed to change our opinions.

National Adoption Month comes round from the US and the voices of adoptees are more prominent on the web. It never fails to surprise me that heated discussions rage as some of the voices tussle and for one true perspective on adoption. It spills into other arguments and sometimes turns ugly and people are hurt. I watch but feel it's wholly inappropriate for me to do anything other than listen.

Back to Peanut, right now she's special because of her adoption but as she grows her views may change and one day she may speak out against adoption. One day she might rage at the sky for all of it, and why not. I hope that she feels that she can, it doesn't change how I feel about her and I'm sure it won't change what she feels about me. That's the thing that seems most important, court orders come and sometimes go, decisions are lost in the fog of children's social care filing systems but our relationship will endure.

Friday, 9 November 2018

The A & F Podcast - Adopter Stories #5 Frances

In this episode Frances shares a unique story of adopting a little girl through the New Zealand Social Care system. The language is shared but practice and underlying values and ethics contrast the UK's.

Stories are potent and can expand our understanding, listening to Frances her story asks us to question our assumptions around parenting other people's children and where the boundaries of family lie.

As always, if you enjoyed this and would like to share your story then please do contact us through Twitteror Facebook.
If you're feeling really warm and fluffy towards us a review on iTunes herewould help share the joy.

Friday, 2 November 2018

A&F Podcast - #AdopterStories Louise

Adopters Stories is a short podcast where adopters tell their own stories. There's no filter or edit, no motive for recruitment or drive to raise a specific issue.

In this edition of Adopter Stories Louise shares her experience of adoption with her wife though the concurrency route (Foster to Adopt).
If you want to share your story then please do get in touch, DM us through our Twitter account or Facebook page.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Adoption Roundtable: Expectations

Firstly, I’ve been up to the DfE quite a bit over the last three years and sat in a range of meetings for a range of reasons and I’ve learnt some things and observed lots. Expectation management is at the heart of what I've learnt. 

There are lots of things on the adoption community’s wish list, and hear me correctly, we do pretty well by comparison to other parents of equally challenged children.  Never the less, there are things that we’d like done and things we think need to be done. As a community we have broad consensus on big issues but we’d perhaps identify specific issues within them that are important to us as individuals. That all sits in a complex dynamic within central government where what is possible and practical is influenced by current legislation, Treasury requirements, realms of influence, responsibilities, legislative windows and timeframes. Not to mention political will and competing demands on time, money and energy. 

So, that all said to my mind managing our expectations as to what can be done is essential and creating consensus and effective, justifiable and solid arguments for what we want is paramount. 

Being invited is a weighty privilege and all adopters present were conscious that we’re representing 1000s of families with the complex struggles and challenges they face. Adoption UK were chairing the event and laid out the issues that were to be addressed. Of course, you could debate what went on the list and perhaps you will* but that was the list: Adoptee’s challenges in education, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and the need for ongoing support and awareness were the key areas that were focused on. Generally, it was received well by Nadhim Zahawi, who was clearly aware of the issues and engaged in discussion. As a group we highlighted key points then fleshed them out with lived experience. I’m sure that the reality of the challenges carries a weight that a straightforward briefing would not and the minister certainly understood, empathised and engaged with our arguments for continuation and development of support etc. 

It’s easy to see all that as a little vague and no doubt it’s too vague for some but the reality is that there are rarely revolutionary changes in this world, we see evolution and development. That is unfortunately too slow for many of our children but it is what it is and disengagement does not seem like option. What will be the outcome to the meeting? I'm not sure, I’m not going to pretend that the minister slammed the desk declaring something’s got to be done then sending his minions off to implement radical change. Perhaps we'll see an influence on the longevity of the adoption support fund, on raised awareness and CPD among social care professionals of Childhood Challenging, Violent and Aggressive Behaviour and FAS.  We will have to wait and see. 

What did I say, not much really. I used my trump card I told my story in all its gory detail, no clever words or insight I’m afraid just a dad looking for a touch of professional empathy and a little help.

In the past these little updates have been accused of being a little unsatisfactory or vague. I accept that but pragmatically think that is better than nothing which is the alternative. 

Anyhoo, thanks for all the words of support and encouragement and keep up the good work.

*The list could be very long and many important issues remain low on the agenda. Incredibly frustrating and sometimes upsetting but we have to accept adoption is one form of permanence and an issue that impacts on approximately 55, 000 children in a national cohort of 11, 000 000 children. Do we stop pushing? no. However, we have to prioritise our issues.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Guest Post - Does labelling support the notion of ‘divide and conquer’?

By Ren
I often wonder where our obsession with labelling started especially in education. Personally, I find the term SEND limiting not only for the child because it tells me absolutely nothing about a child, but limiting also for all those who are involved in the child’s care and support; because in reality it is such an impersonal way of thinking about a child or young person it dehumanises them. I also ponder why we call this SEND anyway- given it stands for ‘Special Educational Needs and Disability’ because in reality the child does not have an educational need they have a LIFE need- after all you can’t realistically leave your ADHD, ASD or Cerebral Palsy at school – so its not and never has been an Educational Need or and Educational Disability, it has always been a LIFE need or disability, Myelomeningocele spina bifida doesn’t disappear when you leave school for example it stays with you for all of your life, so it cannot just be an Educational Need, yet there seems to be a complete disregard for the social and care needs beyond education; in so much as parents and carers are fighting and struggling on a daily basis to get their child’s needs met and without an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) even more so. Here again the emphasis is on Education, in that without being identified as SEND then it is highly unlikely families can get an EHCP. The term is for schools and ministers to use to define a specific group of children and young people- but what does it offer the child or young person other than another label? These children are awash with labels, and often buried under them, from chronic medical conditions (generic term), SEND (generic term) to more specific ASD, FASD, Cerebral Palsy or ADHD (more specific but still general terms and often several applied at the same time) in addition they may also have further labels attached such as Conduct Disorder, Mental Health alongside Key Stage levels and indicators or assessments that outline just how much these children don’t measure up to their peers through the use of more labels. This over labelling obsession often buries the very child they are supposed to be used to help. In a country where testing and measuring up to everyone else is the primary focus of education provision, irrespective of whether or not educationalists (such as teachers) agree to this approach, we see outcomes rather than individuals, we look to achievement of only those things assessed rather than achievement overall and we focus on what someone fails to do rather than celebrate what they can do; in a hope to encourage them to do more to meet the desired tick box. Yet I can’t help but wonder if this is why so many children are failed by the ‘system’- in our mad rush to apply all the labels we can we seem to forget EVERY INDIVIDUAL CHILD IS DIFFERENT and every individual child has ‘specific needs’ -  just some children have more specific needs than other children, or more individual needs, or more special needs but every child is special to their family, is individual to other children and will have their own quirks and characteristics specific to them- as we all do. I would argue then that it should be our job as adults and as a society to ensure they get all of the encouragement and support they need to use the skills they have to enable them to achieve, not highlight their failures or add so many labels to them we lose sight of the child altogether because we are too busy trying to address or fix the ‘faulty parts’ labelled by adults for our adult attention.  
This leads me to my 2nd ponder, what if we simply stopped calling children by their legal status too, first and foremost they are not adopted, or child carers, or kinship care children- they are children. They may be children in need, but every child is a child in need are they not? What is overlooked frequently is that it is not the fact they are adopted or Asylum/ Refugee children or in Guardianship or Kinship care but that many of these children have experienced circumstances the majority of society have never had to and for some children circumstances the majority of society could never imagine either. Very many of these children will also be identified as SEND for the purpose of education or for the purpose of ‘grouping’ them into predetermined categories. Yet, they tend to be divided from those birth family children identified as SEND, for statistical purposes. So much so that these children become the ‘adopted’ children or ‘looked after children’ or the refugee children’ rather than being included into those children with SEND per se. Yet the statistical outcomes for these marginalised groups such as educational achievements, risk of exclusion or ‘behaviour difficulty’ should be seen as part of the SEND outcomes, which are failing all children who require additional support irrespective of where these children reside. This makes it difficult to determine if the indictors for the children who are ‘looked after’ or have been ‘previously looked after’ are as a consequence of their unmet SEND or as a consequence of their legal status. Published indicators tend not to separate how many of the group – such as Adopted (Previously Looked After Children) – who have experienced school exclusion or with regard to their GCSE outcomes, have a diagnosed SEND and how many do not have any SEND. By nature of their legal position, in that their history suggests there was need for them to be ‘taken into care’, it would be anticipated a significant proportion would have a number of SEND labels diagnosed or under assessment. So what would happen if we left the legal status label to one side and actually saw the child underneath, this won’t remove their additional need or any diagnosis they may have such as FASD or ASD or ADHD or Global Developmental Delay, but it might enable the actual need to be more readily seen rather than being hidden by the legal position label. What’s more if all of these families spoke as one rather than as an ‘Adoption Community’ or a ‘Kinship Community’ or a SEND parents forum for example they would make a lot more noise than as individual groups. 

I get that for many families they need the labels to be attached so they can get the help and support they need for their child, and totally understand how the current system fails so many children daily. I just don’t quite grasp why this has to be so, why we need to fight and push and argue to have children labelled simply to gain support. As a developed country we should be able to support all of our children in society and recognise not all children are the same. We should acknowledge all children have different strengths that enable them to excel beyond their peers as well as areas where they are not as able as their peers- this is their uniqueness, something we need to not only recognise but encourage, so that all children are able to achieve to the best of their own individual ability rather than be demoralised by not being ‘equal’ to someone else. So the next time you are working with any child or young person with individual needs, try to ‘see’ the child instead of the ‘label’, recognise the child is unique and individual, accept the label is for everybody else’s use but should not define the    child into predetermined boxes and whatever their legal position remember they are a child 1st and foremost, they may have very complex needs and if they do, we as a society, should be looking to support this not label it, predetermine it, or make this the main focus of how we respond- because if you do not see the child you will never know what they may just be capable of. 

Friday, 26 October 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - National Adoption Week

This is episode we recorded a few thoughts on National Adoption Week as we sat on a wall outside the National Adoption Awards at the Foundling Museam in Central London. We also managed to grab the winner of the Adoption Blogger of the Year, Adoption BlogFox, for a short interview.

It's a shorter episode as we're all caught up with half term and the business of family and stuff. We will be back to normal in the next episode.
As always thank you for listening, give us a share and if you're inclined a review on iTunes here.