Monday 29 June 2015

Interview: Phil Green

Clearly I'm no Jeremy Paxman but I thought I'd Phil Green the CEO of Home for Good and get him to explain their vision and aims.

Friday 26 June 2015

The Adoption Support Fund: The Word on the Street

Before we start.
I'm not a propaganda tool for the DfE and certainly not for LAs. I have no vested interest, I gain in no way from the Adoption Support Fund doing well. I'm not a therapeutic service or practitioner looking to build my client base or a national charity with services and training to offer or sell. Neither am I an apologist for Social Workers and their practice or a professional critic looking for fault.
I feel better for that.

The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) continues at a pace. Nearly two full months into the fund and the word on the street is that over 200 families have successfully accessed the fund and nearly 400 others are in the process of applying. So that's all good news. In context there were over 20,000 children adopted from care in the UK in the last 5 years alone so still a small proportion have accessed the fund. Clearly, not all will need or want support but the threshold for eligibility is that the child would benefit from therapy so potentially many could apply.
As many have noted a by product of the ASF is that it is acting as a magnifying lens over all local authorities' Post Adoption Service in a way that an audit couldn't possibly do. Many issues are being highlighted, processes, team sizes, allocated resources, waiting times and everyones favourite basic Social Worker practice issues are being dragged under this lens.

In fairness good and bad are being highlighted with some folks having very positive experiences of applying and feeling empowered by the process.Unfortunately this is not always the case with some families waiting weeks just to speak to Post Adoption Social Workers; being given 15 minute appointments or just been put in a queues. I hear adopters talking about uncertainty that Social Workers have in relation to the process and eligibility. So not all is rosy. Some authorities have hit the floor running and have grasped the opportunity to support fund but the painful reality for others is that some LAs are still scratching their heads at the sudden glut of adopters on the phone. Another fight for adoptive families.

We adopters with the ear of the DfE have been asked to gather information on good and bad practice and feed it back. They have stumped up the cash and are keen that it is used. If there are failings in the process or barriers that adopters face they can apply pressure that only they can. They want to know what's happening or not happening.

So, in short, let us know. All confidential.




Or Facebook me

And in other news we're moving house or as Flossy perceives/feels it the catastrophic end of human civilisation.

Monday 22 June 2015

What if the time is now?

A guest post by Eva

Mr C found out we have been approved a few weeks ago as adopters and asked me to jot down my feelings. Hope you can make sense of these ramblings now...

Friends were cheering for us, some prayed, others crossed fingers and they worked! We were recommended by Panel and 2 weeks later the single most important letter arrived confirming that we are indeed approved and Family Finding can start. Yay! Exciting times ahead!
We were ecstatic...relieved... and scared. 
Then this emotional turmoil turned into a loop. Excited-happy-afraid, what a combo!

Yesterday our SW came to formally sign the Family Finding papers and encouraged us to look at websites dedicated to ‘Children shopping’. Suddenly a whole new world opened up in front of our very eyes. It took about 10 minutes of browsing to become overwhelmed. It reminded us of compiling our weekly Tesco shopping; inviting photos of the ‘products’ with a description and a way to enquire further.

Thank God we both knew exactly the kind of children we were hoping to receive into our family so it didn’t take long to draw up a short list. In fact, we finished sooner than with our Tesco list, but boy, was it million times harder!!!
Naturally the Saviour complex kicked in and we wanted to rescue ALL the shortlisted siblings in the system. Then we started to read their profiles. Hubby is smarter as he purposefully didn’t look at the photos first. I couldn’t ignore the pictures and with pretty much all the children I noticed something familiar: a smile; that mischievous look; those adventurous feet; the longing to be loved and cherished.
Not fully understanding the system just yet we clicked on ‘enquire further’ a few times. Then we went to bed still feeling enveloped by the excited-happy-scared loop.  
Today at work my phone dinged. The message read ‘a link was made’. A LINK WAS MADE!

 We were told family finding can take a long time. All the way from day one everybody in the know told us to prepare for a long wait and we were. Deep down I was happy with it as I still think I am not ready to become a mummy. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never feel ready so I could overcome this nagging feeling of ‘not being there yet’. I even drew up a long list of reasons why it is good not to have the children just yet, although hubs doesn’t share my views; he chose to drop the ‘scared’ bit from his loop and wishes the children were placed yesterday. All our friends encourage us with ‘it will happen in God’s time.’ Right... But! What if this time is NOW?

As I type this 2 SWers are exchanging our PAR and the children’s CPR and I feel a level of panic creeping up in my heart. OMG! This is really happening!!
Realistically this might not lead to anywhere. This was just the very first step. So many unknowns, so many variables, so many potential outcomes... One of those might just change my life forever! Not like getting married; it will be much-much bigger! That I am sure of! What I am unsure of is how will I react if this progresses in the right direction??? J

So, for now, a link is made. And I am choosing to drop the ‘scared’ bit of the loop and just embrace this truly exciting moment in time and not worry about the next steps!  

Thursday 18 June 2015

Growing into dad

It was 16 years ago this week that I met my children, Sarah, Gracie and Ginger. It was the culmination, almost a year to the day, of us beginning the process of adopting.

That meeting wasn’t what I’d expected; in my imagination I’d anticipated a Walton’s moment, gushing feelings, embraces, tears and joy. The reality was far different it felt more like a slap. An jolt of awakening that this is really happening and I was going to be a dad.

Those first few weeks were, terrible feeling like I’d lost control of my self, ruined my life but unsure how to make it all ok. Great fantastic kids but strangers and no gushing love.  I felt an unbearable scrutiny, everyone seemed to be watching; Social Workers, foster carers, friends, family and the BBC film crew**.  I just didn't know how to raise my doubts so I embraced my attachment style, locked down my rising fear and kept going.
I was pretty sure I was ruining, not only my life, but the lives of these three little strangers. Too afraid to say, ’I’m not sure about this, could someone help me’, after all hadn’t I fought hard to prove I could do it? Questions about my age*, readiness, faith and motivation to take a sibling group of three had all been answered convincingly. But now perhaps it had all been a magnificent deceit of them and myself?

The next few weeks and months are a blur, new experiences and a slow shift from baby-sitting to parenting all set against the knot in my stomach.
Slowly, hour by hour, day by day and week by week I eased into this role of father. Riding the turbulence good and bad and at times hour by hour. Developing unique relationships with three little children. At difficult moments I’d think how today was easier than yesterday and this week was easer than last so perhaps tomorrow will be ok, perhaps in a year it'll feel ok. The knot eased the fear dissolved.

We did get there. I have grown into the role of dad, from early embarrassments of not even turning when my children shouted dad repeatedly to now,16 years later, still not sure what to do but probably good enough. Of course there are things I'd have done differently but that's the path of dads.

Not a week goes by when I don't see in a twitter feed news of someones impending introductions with their child and I confess to feel the icy fingers of terror and fear as well as the warmth of the blossoming love of 16 years ago.

*I was 27 years old.
**That's another story

Thursday 11 June 2015

Flossy, champion of the World.

I keep a lot of our less than ideal 'stuff' out of the public gaze, a necessity as I've chosen to forgo my anonymity and therefore my children's. You can get the gist of what's going on and if you know me in the real world then you probably know all the gory details.
This year has probably been one of the hardest for Mrs C and Me.

Nuff said.

So, the good bits.
Flossy loves football, I mean loves football.
Its a protective factor in our lives, the years of vulnerability and uncertainty in the playground have reduced as all she does is play football with anyone who'll play with her. And she's good. She holds her own with the boys and is as good if not better than many of them.
Flossy plays in a local team in the year above her age group, what she lacks in finesse she makes up for in focus, strength and speed. (I have no idea what that means). It's a fantastic nurturing, good humoured, gentle but committed team. It's almost enough to convert me to the game.

Football is a red line issue for us no matter what she goes if she wants to. Regardless of anything that happens before or after it will not be removed as a sanction or punishment it will not be used as a threat to moderate or control behaviour. Flossy loves football.
Through cold autumn, winter and spring nights we've gone to practices. I've stood in the cold and rain, I've sat in the car and written blogs and caught up with work. As many a parent knows footie practices can be hard miserable work. To boot there have been any times we've argued in the car before and after it's not pretty.

So, the best bits.
This season through hard work, a  strong defence and consistent goal scoring they won the league cup, a fantastic achievement, additionally they were in the trophy cup final.

The day came, we were all nervous and the weather was suitably grim.
Four hard quarters of play and I knew Flossy had hurt herself in the first quarter but wasn't letting on. The usual stuff, tension, thrills and excitement and worry but the whistle blew and the final score was 1:0, Flossy's team had won.

Parents cheered and moved onto the pitch towards the players who were tired letting the victory sink in. My walk turned brisker and I could feel my emotions rise as I quickened to a trot.
I was welling up as I finally broke from a trot to a run to a sprint. Flossy looked on slightly bewildered at me coming towards her.
In the rain you couldn't see me crying as I lifted her off her feet and span her around.

She'd been a part of something excellent, not a bystander or hanger on but right in the middle. Not a this or a that. Everything I knew about Flossy's short life raced through my mind and here she was the top goal scorer in the team that had won the trophy and league cups.

My Flossy, champion of the world.

Monday 8 June 2015

Book review: Inside Transracial Adoption

Due to a lack of time and Mrs C and the massive leaving me to do some 'jobs' I thought I'd do a video review.

Inside Transracial Adoption by Beth Hall & Gail Steinberg

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Thursday 4 June 2015

Hug a foster carer

I have an affinity with Foster Carers. This is mainly because I was one and that my day jobs means that I work with Foster Carers every day and am consistently reminded of the challenges of their  profession.

It doesn’t happen very often that I hear bad press or negative comments but when I do it usually gets my ire, especially from adopters. I’m not so naïve to think that they’re all saints, give exemplary care, act in the best interests of children or are universally fantastic. I know that the relationship between adopters and Foster Carers can be ‘interesting’ and sometimes for good reason, sometimes not though.*

My thoughts.

It’s not uncommon for adoptive parents to tell of the dramatic improvements that they’ve seen in little ‘Johnny’ since coming to live with them. Raised eyebrows and knowing nods when Foster Carers are mentioned, comments about lack of stimulation, poor diet and bedtime routines and missed development milestones. Talk of massive improvements and milestones rapidly being caught, new words, overdue first steps that sort of stuff. 

But Foster Carers often have immeasureably challenges set before them. They're handed this raw clay to shape, having to put in place new bedtimes, first routines and tentative steps to boundaries produces challenges. They face 21 hour shifts with a tormented baby that withdraws from who knows what. Malicious allegations just because they were an easy target. They suffer more Social Worker visits than you can imagine, being told how to care then the worker slinking off home at 5pm letting you peal the kids off the ceiling after a post contact meltdown because birth mum fed a 3 month old chocolate buttons at 5 pm before the taxi diver brought them home after a 45 minute car journey an you couldn’t get a vegetable into them if you were Jamie-bleeding-Oliver on steroids (Breathe!).
Then to bed, oh, they slept on the way back from contact so they’re buzzing, freaked out and high on chocolate buttons and they aren't sleeping for anyone. 

Forgive my hyperbole, you get my drift, normal isn't always possible.

So, they take this raw clay and start to shape and mould it. Of course there’s a way to go but somebody had to start the process. They pass little Johnny onto us and we've got it easy they've begun a process and taken some flack to get him this far. They may have been the arms of love in some of your child’s most difficult days. They might have been the first arms of love a child has ever known. But they move them on and its not because they don’t care or don’t have the capacity to love them too much it’s because they do care and love them.

They’re part of the jigsaw whether you like it or not. 
So, cut them some slack and go hug a Foster Carer today, or at least send them a letter or card and say thanks.

*I also know of many fantastic lifelong friendships between adopters and foster carers.