Saturday 29 March 2014


We've planned a holiday and come what may we're going.

Previous experiences of going away with Flossy, Lotty and Peanut have been mixed to say the best.
Before the wee two/three arrived it was not uncommon for us to go away on proper holidays like proper people. Normal strains with children but on the whole good family fun.

But since the day Flossy and Lotty arrived in 2006 things have not been the same.

Firstly, they where in the Looked After system and it was just too complicated.

Secondly, we had become the size of two families.

Secondly, Flossy does not do holidays.

In her little head she loves them, she has a wonderful time.

However, the safe landmarks of her life are removed. Her routines, culture and familiar surroundings are replaced with restaurants, campsites, other peoples homes, strange beds, scary men....I could go on.

Every attempted trip away has ended in hyper vigilance, red line rage, inappropriate behaviour resulting in free fall parenting.

The consequence being that often we pack up early and dart for the relative safety of Coates Towers. We escape back into our humdrum routines and patterns, a safe place.

A few nights away here and there and the odd long weekend have been the most we've attempted and have all led to the realisation that the best we can hope for is to be shouted at with different background scenery. At worst its been gloves off, no holds barred war.

So, with a scant regard to history we are trying again.
We've payed our money and we're taking our chance, we jet, yes an aeroplane, off in two weeks.

We know that from the moment we step through our door to the moment we return fear, worry, anxiety and panic will prowl round Flossy. But we all want to go and be like a 'normal' family.

Flossy is excited, we're excited/nervous.

But his time we're optimistic, there's been a change in the air. Flossy is a year into DDT and though I have no idea how or why there is a subtle shift in Flossy. Over two weeks since the last redline, which is a long time around here, a record in fact. Its still no cakewalk I assure you, but it is a green shoot. Self awareness is awakening and a genuine desire to be the "boss of her cross"  is beginning to emerge for the first time.

We are accompanied by two families who get "it", accept "it" and love her all the same. Safe people for us and her.

Ginger, Gracie & Queenie have opted out (cutting us down to a more manageable six)

The Big One is coming, though our eldest child it & technically gives us a 1:1 child to adult ratio if things turn ugly.

We're going to trial run trips to the airport. We're explaining why, who, how, where and when.

Empathy and patience turned up to 10.

We are determined to be chilled out therapeutic "Dan Hughes" kind of parents.

A few months ago we had a routine meeting at the local CAMHS HQ we raised the topic of the planned holiday.

Flossy's CAMHS lady was encouraging, she advised write down the things that may be stressful for her.

Mrs C and I laughed...........nervously.

CAHMS lady laughed.........knowingly.

There is not enough paper in the world

We all laughed.

So, watch this space, watch the skies.

Note: If you have to have "it" explained then there's a fair chance you don't get "it".

Thursday 20 March 2014


I read an interesting article on when to tell your adopted children about their birth parents. Reading it made me think about our own experience of shepherding our children through the facts of their early life and journey to us. Like peeling an onion.

Each of our children, though two sets of siblings, have unique stories. For ease I will share the story of one.

From the very beginning of our journey Mr C and I decided that we would be as honest and open as possible. Reading the files we realised that at 18 everything that we were reading would be available to them. We resolved to ensure that by the time they were old enough to access the files there would be no surprise information.

The big one knew her parents, she entered the 'system' at 4 and a half. 18 months later moving in with us only a few memories remained, some sad, some good and some scary.

So we began to peel the onion.

Answers that satisfied a 6 year old, "mummy A couldn't" were subtly changed to "mummy A wouldn't" as the years passed.

With increased understanding came a new grief over old facts.

Knowledge about the process of reproduction brought new revelation and sadness.

An appreciation of the nature of relationships brought insight into lifestyle and choices and disappointment.

Warnings of the perils of substance misuse from school made sense of some memories.

At each stage her questions scratched a little deeper, pushed a little further.

And with each layer the grief came with new losses and new heartache.

Slowly simple monochrome memories became technicolor windows into the world of the little girl she was and her life and journey.

The day came and we handed over the file to apprehensive hands. We promised no surprises, no revelations. But to see it in black and white in her own hands with her own eyes was a new layer, so new grief and new tears.

The layers continue, life events remind of what was lost and continues to be lost.

We have constantly been the bearers of bad news, tempered with explanations of context and our love and empathy. We've resisted the temptation to judge and searched hard for the positive.

We've navigated three through their past so far, with varying results, sadness, anger and indifference.

It's early days for the little three, they're not so little now and we cannot guard them any longer, the onion must be peeled.

I don't feel threatened and I'm secure in their love for me and my love for them.

But I hate that in giving them what is rightfully theirs I cause them hurt and pain.

There will never be a soft focus, 'TV moment', adoptee parent reunion on a park bench with mutual tears for my children.

But the onion must be peeled.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Nine to Five

Following the trials and tribulations of prospective adopters this week in the twiterverse I was reminded that as adopters we've given our lives to a system that for most of us is an alien world.

Social workers, panels, health and safety inspections, DBS, NSPCC and Local Authority checks, references, personal and professional, the list goes on.

Until we stepped into this world we'd been the masters of our own destiny, captains of our own ships, as it were.
But we give ourselves to a behemoth of a system that sets us on slow, hopeful course for children.

This wedding of ourselves to the system does not end at approval we move to waiting for matching (the worst bit), then pre adoption order. If things work out then that may be the end, but perhaps not, adoption support workers, CAHMS, Educational Psychologist etc. all may become an integral part of our lives.

Fundamentally, we are undertaking major works in our lives, choices and decisions that will echo through future generations. For our Social Workers it is a job, they may be passionate and compassionate but it is ultimately their 9 to 5, and rightly so in the interests of their wellbeing.

This, necessary,  imbalance lies at the heart of frustrations that I'm sure all adopters and prospective adopters have experienced.

We live our lives in real time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this is in contrast to Social workers, who run at about 8 hours a day Monday to Friday.

Our week lasts 168 hours and social workers about 40, give or take.

When the Social Worker says "So, if we arrange to see you next week" for them that is 40 hours away, and they have lots of other people to see and cases to run.

We are just waiting while the process moves on, 168 hours waiting. The system holds the power and we are mere cogs in a big machine.

But the waiting is loaded with all kinds of silent obstacles:

Why did the SW ask that question?

Is the house not clean enough/too clean?

Why did they not ring me back?

If I leave another voicemail message will they think I'm too needy?

If I don't ring will they think I'm not bothered?

Mrs C and I have passed through that trial, and I assure you the first time was the worst. But the system is woven into the fabric of our lives.

We remain at the whim of secretaries making appointments for Flossy.
For Gracie we leave a message on a social workers phone on a Thursday but no answer by Friday tea time means a certainty of no word til Monday at best.

It is a circle that cannot be squared and we have accepted the inevitability of some aspects of it.

What have we learned?

To make friends with everyone we meet.

Push nicely.

Where possible only ask questions that we know the answer to.

And lastly write a letter to the head of the Local Authorities Children's Services and kick up a biddy great big fuss, ha ha.

(That's another story)