Thursday 24 July 2014


I have to say there have been some dark days at Coates Towers where duty and commitment have carried love through what seemed impossible circumstances and unmanageable behaviour.  Faces were set as flint, loins were girded, upper lips were stiffened and we pushed through.

I know that I am not the man I was before these days and the difficult times have taken their toll. I’ve learnt to guard my heart, my hopes and expectations lowered in the face of an altered reality of parenting.

But then the other day something happened.

I was sitting in our kitchen and Flossy stopped as she walked past me.

She looked at me, leant towards me, cupped my face with her hands and kissed me on the nose.

She beamed a smile at me and ran off.

A manifestation of her happiness.

A happiness that overflowed into an expression of love and affection.

Now if you have followed my blog for a while you’ll appreciate that this is not a normal manifestation of her IWM (Internal WorkingModel). I refer you to the Kung foo incident as a more usual manifestation.

With every passing day the memory of this kiss refuses to fade and if anything my appreciation of it grows.
It is perhaps a glimmer of what could and may be.
A picture of her happiness and contentment.

To misquote John Wesley, I feel a strange warming of my heart.

I know that one swallow does not make a spring and who knows what the future holds.

But for today I’ll take a kiss off my daughter and a glimmer of hope that it might all be ok in the end.

Friday 18 July 2014

Adoption Ghosts

Though we've never met our children's parents I often feel they live with us in our day to day lives to varying degrees.

I'm sure that we don't realise how often they continue to exercise influence.

We see their presence in the lives of our children in a physical display, an outburst of emotion, a snarled comment, a look or gesture.

At other times it is more subtle, a hidden worry or quite thought, an emotion or mood, preferences, choices, likes and dislikes. 

We see shadows of the adults that we've read about in forms, seen faded photographs of perhaps even met,

But they linger in our family lives like ghosts in our home, a presence, an influence.

Ghosts come in all kinds of manifestations, frightening, friendly, malevolent or benevolent.

But our ghosts can't be exercised and shouldn't be.

Yes, we want them to behave and play by our rules. We don't want the malicious poltergeists that maintain their control and influence continuing to disrupt from the beyond. But we need to learn to live with them, tame them, they are with us and always will be.

We take control by opening the curtains and letting the light into the darkness.

Not cowering away from the shadows but shining a light into them.

We open the door to the ghosts and engage with them, we write letters and look through the photo books with our children, we tackle them head on.

I'm not frightened of ghosts, I am the here and now.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Faithful Servant

I know I'm a sentimental fool.

But with great sadness we say goodbye to an old friend who has travelled a long and winding road with us.
I remember the rush to choose you after the panel said 'yes', picking you from the myriad of possibilities.

I recall the head scratching and instruction reading when you first came and the nerves; the confusion; the wrestling in the car and the eventual success of fitting you into our car.

Do you remember the first journey we took with our new children, our excitement and nerves during introductions. I can still remember the challenge of getting our little man into you safe and snug.

When our little man grew bigger you were tucked away safe and sound in the garage.
Flossy and Lotty came and you answered our call. Yes, a little shabby but you faced this challenge. Others tried but they failed, to complicated & not comfy enough.

Those were the hard years, vomit, pee, poop, tears, snot, yoghurt raisins, juice, melted chocolate and ice cream to name some of your adversaries. You laughed at them all you were washable.

Then back to the garage to be forgotten.

Peanut came.

New seats were a pail imitation of your utility and simplicity. Frustrations came. If only we still had..........but..........yes, there at the back under the rubbish.

Ever the faithful you answered the call.
Though shabby and threadbare you held your cargo safe and sound and comfy.

But now your time has come to an end. Peanut has grown and Mrs C declared you redundant.

This time we are sure. Mrs C mentioned the tip.
I have been issued my orders and we will take our last drive today.

Your passing marks the end of an era.
So, well done good and faithful servant.

Ginger's Child Seat (June 1999 to July 2014)

Don't tell a soul but I'm hiding you in the garage. She'll never find you.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Adoption Matching

I can still remember the moment our Social Worker told us that they had a potential match. She read the three names off a piece of paper then handed it to us*. Our Social Worker continued to describe them and explain their story.

I didn't hear a word.

I felt like my heart had stopped. I was a dad. 

I could feel my world change. Nothing would ever be the same and this was the moment it changed.

After repeated instructions, we were struggling to take things in,  we were informed that we would have to read the Child Protection Reports then give an answer. We'd known before she'd finished reading the names that the answer was "yes". 
However,  we dutifully read them and nothing we read dissuaded us so we confirmed our "yes" and we then set on the matching process. 15 years on and we have no regrets.

Reading recent articles and discussing the matching process with colleagues has had me considering the challenges that this step in the adoption process brings. For prospective adopters having navigated the trials of the approval process matching is where it all gets real.

Each person involved in the matching process is aiming for the same goal, a successful adoption placement, however each comes with different criterial, perspectives and agendas. This inevitably makes the process a uniquely challenging journey for prospective adopters to navigate.

Our first journey through adoption was at a time when our choice was limited, the late 90's, and we were presented with the children with the only choice being a yes or no. As they were the only sibling group of three in the authority and we were the only prospective adopters approved for three the choice was limited. The upside being that the Panel only considered us for the children whereas for other matches they used to take two sets of prospective adopters to Panel for them to decide who should take the children. On reflection this does seem a little cruel, times have changed.

Though I have no regrets in relation to our match I wholeheartedly support the right for prospective adopters to choose. Though I have to acknowledge that this brings unique challenges.

After the business of the approval process it all goes quiet.
When will a match come?
What if I don't like what I'm offered?
If I say no will I be seen as fussy?

Then a child or children come along. Falling in love with a picture or a face seen at an adoption party has it's challenges. Prospective adopters then have to filter the information being given to them, history, experiences, unknowns, the euphemisms, "likes to get there own way" and "can be moody". They have engage their rational selves. Then they are invited to meetings and the roller coaster starts.

Each member of the care team has a wealth of information, a different criteria and their own pressures.

Foster carers and the child's Social Worker know  that  there are more children waiting for adopters than available adopters. If interest is expressed by prospective adopters then is the pressure to say yes to a less than ideal match rather than run the risk of waiting for a better match. How good is good enough?

Adoption Social Workers are faced with the unenviable task of guiding prospective adopters through the matching process. To say to a couple "perhaps this isn't the right child for you". 

Adopters are faced with a dilemma, if on being told more information they then say "no" to a child will they then face a long wait for another child or children. Will they be seen as unrealistic or picky. Is this the best match they might get?

Somehow all of this is navigated and matches are made, or not.

Many matches work well and all the tensions are managed effectively by those involved. Adults and children are brought together and families are formed.
However, I know adopters that love their children dearly but would have approached the matching process differently. Most have no regrets but hindsight is wonderful.

Choice is increasingly being given to adopters. The days of being handed a baby at the orphanage gates with little consideration beyond colour of hair are gone.
With choice expectations, hopes, needs and dreams all have to be balanced to ensure the best interests of children and prospective adopters are met.

* I still have the scrap of paper