Friday 31 July 2015


Sometimes I imagine casting off the shackles of ‘therapeutic parenting’.

My ‘no’ being a ‘no’ and my ‘yes’ a ‘yes’.

No dancing with words around delicate issues.

No emergency self care

No fear, anxiety and pain wrapped up in angry words and actions to tidy up.

No pre-emptive discussions with school, coaches, family, doctors, SWs and friends.

No pre event and post event debriefs.

No protracted and unending negotiations.

No knot in my stomach when I know I have to take a stand over some minor issue that is pretty major.

No wishy washy compromises that leave me feeling that I’ve let down all parents everywhere.

Not sticking endlessly to the ‘tried and tested’ places, foods, people and events.

Not worrying.

I’m pretty sure that the kids feel the same.

On the upside the Sky man came and we've now got telly, or as I like to think of it 'daddy's little helper'.

No broadband yet. 

Saturday 25 July 2015

Home sweet home

I started to recognise a theme in a few of my adopter friend’s lives.

They moved away.

I loved our house, it was the best house that I’ve ever seen. It served the nine of us well and we built our family there. But here we are we moved away.

Last summer fter the ‘grounding incident’ Mrs C and I sat down and realised that we had reached a point where the safety that we’d provided was being eroded and undermined by our proximity to other people. Not that other people are inherently dangerous it’s just that’s how they are seen and perceived by my children’s internal working model. As Flossy and Lotty grow older they yearn for independence, like their peers, the sad reality is that for them it comes loaded with anxieties, fears and dangerous potential. Again and again we’ve had freefall dysregulation precipitated by contact with the outside world. They are on the cusp of adolescence and we realise that the next few years are fraught with dangers and snares for us all so we decided to act.

Our second reason is that I don’t have to stand in the garden and stop a dysregulated child from running into a housing estate at night in their pyjamas on winter nights. I don’t want to have to have those fights again. I never want to explain to men walking their dogs that I’m not killing or abusing my child.

So, we’ve stepped off the beaten path.

We’ve moved into the fields, a safe zone, if she runs there’s nowhere to go. Half a mile to tarmac, a mile to a road and a long long way to a streetlight. If she runs, there’s nowhere to go.

Our new house feels safe, it’s not the architectural beauty that we left but already it feels like a home.

The postman popped in yesterday and explained as there is no post box the previous owner used to leave the door unlocked and he’d leave the letters on the kitchen table. We might have to talk about that but already I feel a sense of calm that may just get us through the coming years.

Friday 17 July 2015


At 3:10pm this afternoon my heart could almost burst with the recalled anticipation of the 10 year old me waiting for the last school bell of the year. How I feel now is more complex but I can still recall that giddy anticipation.
Our summer holidays are different now but I'll not bore you with our standard summer holiday shenanigans, japes and tom foolery other than the grand finale of last years summer holidays. When Mrs C, having being driven to the very edge of herself and beyond, grounded Flossy and Lotty for a whole year.

Yes, a whole year.

Mrs C is not a woman to be messed with and has on many occasions has left me open mouthed with her shear audacity in many contexts. On this day I was left breathless at the range and scope of the punishment she declared. In fairness it was the evening of the last day of the summer holidays so on reflection it was limited in its actual impact. Though quite a shock to the girls.

After the dust settled, and that took some time, Flossy reframed the punishment as a badge of honour it being the longest grounding that any of her friends had ever heard of, come to think of it that any of us had ever heard of.

Realistically the terms of the grounding have become open to interpretation as we reach the 11th month of the term. Also, football has always been a 'protected activity' in Coates towers and is never subject to sanctions or threatened removal so that did not fall into the scope of grounding. Basically they were no longer allowed into the community alone, or together.

To protect the innocent I shall spare you the gritty details of the misdemeanour. However the long and the short of it being that it set in motion a chain of events that lead us to today, a week from moving home.

Monday 13 July 2015


I have to say that my views on contact have shifted slowly from a position of indifference, duty and obedience to my Social Workers instructions to where I am now.

As a new adopter, and a young opinionated man, I was a little callous to the plight of my children’s birth family, after all weren’t they the reason that my children had to journey through the looked after system. They were the root cause of many of my children’s challenges and struggles and they had reaped what they’d sown. Perhaps I was a little insecure.

I dutifully applied the dogmatic method of contact and its rationale given to me by my Social Worker that birth parents were not a positive influence and we should be careful. We did, actually Mrs C did, what we were instructed to do as previously documented in my post on letterbox contact. A couple of bits of information came back through the system, very limited though.

Slowly my views changed.

As a member of an Adoption Panel I read a multitude of Child Protection Reports (CPR). The vast majority documented tragedy and abuse layered on the misfortune, vulnerability, tragedy and the historic abuse of birth parents. One piece of the jigsaw.

As a student I worked with a small charity that supported the families of children in the care system. I read and saw enough to make me ask hard some questions of myself and the system, to look closer and think harder. Another piece of the jigsaw in place.

Again as a student I spent six months in a children’s services office and I saw that what had seemed so black and white was never so. Always the stories were nuanced, impacted by services and finances, complex family dynamics and a range of factors often beyond the control of the protagonists. The jigsaw picture began to take form.

Almost every day on Twitter and Facebook I see the frustrations and questions of adopters to their Social Workers that get them re framed as problem families. I see Social Workers failing adopters; miscommunication by adopters; misinterpretation of behaviour and words leading to difficult questions being asked. I can’t help but think of birth families negotiating the Child Protection system, nowhere near as user friendly as the adoption system. The picture is almost clear in my mind now.

But, as I write this I feel hackles rising, and I agree many adults have committed unspeakable cruelty, neglect and worse acts on their children. That they lose contact and rights over their children is without question. I see many children and young people so traumatised that they cannot even consider contact with the perpetrators of their pain, but that is not the picture I see.

I see that families are complex but I cannot believe in a system that by default considers all fathers, mothers cousins, brothers, sisters, half brothers, half sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts as harmful to children.

Of course real life is complex, messy and refuses to be boxed by generalisations. I hope that a system of the future could consider a range of models for contact with a range of family members. Not just the dogmatic letterbox once a year to parents. But a dynamic, flexible channel that serves the best interests of the children not just adoptive parents or Social Service teams. 
For us we are now trying to help rebuild positive links to my children’s family.

Thinking back now I would have fought for another way of reaching my children’s family, of finding men and women who may not have been able to care for my children and their family but loved them none the less. Men and women of peace and love.

Yesterday we had the last BBQ in our old house we sat with men and women of peace and laughed and cried and delicately and sensitively started to work out how to share the young adults that we both love.

Friday 3 July 2015


It's all crowding in.

We're moving house in a couple of weeks, or at least trying to, we're suffering the standard trials and tribulations. It's all on/off and stop/start. Packing boxes, sorting stuff and throwing out mountains of tat. The challenges of getting hyper vigilant children and a nervous vulnerable adult through the process of buying and selling and into a new house are not small. Actually, just the challenge of keeping me safe through the process is whats bothering me.

And to add to the normal business of work Ofsted have announced their imminent arrival the week I'm due to move house.

Did I mention I've a 3500 word essay due as part of some post qualification shenanigans. 

Birthday parties, football tournaments, running event, an extra trip to London and all the usual fixtures of a big family all continue regardless. 

Then this week the house move fell through then was back on again after a manic 24 hours.  

Now my heart races when my phone rings 'what now, what's gone wrong, what do I have to fix'
A few times over the last week the knot in my stomach has been debilitating, my mind like a butterfly flits across all the things I need to do and sort out but can never fully rest on one.

I feel totally responsible and I have to fix all of this as nobody is going to do this for me. When I feel like this a simple question that I would have not even paused to answer in less stressful circumstances precipitates a rising anxiety and panic that I force down. I'm tetchy, irritable and pretty much good for very little.

And then I think, "This is how my child feels almost every day". 

A little bit of empathy and perspective does me good.