Monday 28 December 2015

This Year

Christmas is the time I consider the year gone and the year ahead. Right now the house looks like a blend of an explosion in a tinsel and  a derelict children's play area after a brawl. Not good but that's Christmas. The worst of it's over now so as I languish in the netherland between Christmas and New Year my mind drifts to the year that's been.

It's been a mixed year with the children, I re-calibrated my expectations in that regard many years ago so there's no abiding sense of disappointment or loss. It is what it is and we do what we do.
There have been some interesting  moments, a bit of police interaction which was very positive, an Initial Assessment by children's services which was interesting (the second in 12 months) and we instigated the assessment of needs out of curiosity. I feel sorry for my Post Adoption Social Worker she has to put up with me and my unauthorised use of her as a monitoring and logging tool. She'll no doubt rue the day I got her email address, bless her.

Otherwise I've been here there and everywhere. Met load of fascinating people. Mixed in all of the work stuff there have been some high powered meetings and speaking opportunities, all very la dee dah.

However, the most profound moment was the day I posted on living with violence. I uploaded the post teatime on a Thursday and by 7pm I was being told to tweet the link and pass on the details. My phone buzzed without ceasing for the next 48 hours with hundreds of notifications as people messaged me, emailed and spoke of their experiences, fears and circumstances. Many heartbreaking and distressing stories were passed to me. But it's stuck with me and re reading it I'm not sure what provoked the response in my post as the issue seems to have been touched on by many organisations and bloggers before and since but I seemed to hit a nerve on that day. It's lingered long in my mind and was a remarkable few days. The reality is that adopters care for children who can easily be categorised as 'at risk' but in doing so many of us put ourselves 'at risk'. Thought provoking stuff.

Lots of other stuff of course, the DfE, the ASF, moving house, Sarah came home, work and the long summer without internet access at home all made up a remarkable year.

As for the future, well, we keep on keeping on. There are plenty of opportunities and lots of work to do. I'm aware of the gaps in my knowledge and understanding and am hoping to develop that to inform all that I do in the home first then professionally. One of the key issues facing this community is the efficacy therapeutic interventions is close to our families heart and I am convinced it will become the issue that many will wrestle with increasingly in 2016. More importantly I see that the voices of adoptees are often the quietest and least heard. We've work to do.

Of course at home there will be hard days, good days and the odd and unexpected easy days. We'll see what comes our way here at Coates Acres.

I wish you all blessings for the coming year.

Albums of the Year:
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
Ozzy Osbourne - Tribute

Books of the Year: 
Maya Angelou- I know why the caged bird sings (I've not finished it yet!)
The Cruel Sea - Nicholas Monserrat

Film of the year:

Blogpost of the Year
Suddenly Mummy - Seven Stages of Being dumped with a Stranger

Thursday 10 December 2015

Little Boy

I've been ahead of myself and written up a blog recounting the protracted and somewhat tense negotiations this weekend in relation to Flossy's desire to ring Childline. Of course it's the same old same old and perhaps a little formulaic, a little too predictable. As it was unravelling and reaching it's head butting crescendo, her not me I hasten to add*,  I couldn't help feel that it was blogging gold. What a strange perspective.

But then I got a text whilst on my commute that knocked the wind out of my sails.

"How long was I in care for, I'm filling a form in for Uni'

It was Ginger.

I sat teary eyed in the carriage, how had that happened? How had that little boy 20 months old, totally besotted in equal measure with Mrs C, his new mammy, and Thomas the Tank Engine turned into this 6 ft tall man on the cusp of university and adult life. More than that it was a reminder that he wasn't always part of my life and he traveled a rocky road to our life.

I sent back the dates from the last century of the beginning and end of his LAC journey. A lifetime ago for him with no personal memory just secondhand stories from us and his big sister and pictures in a book.  I recalled the vulnerability and the strain I felt in those first years when we formed a family. The challenge of his initial disinterest in me and my failings, my mistakes and insecurities. How that thawed and I grew up a bit. Grew up a lot, I was 27 when he came into my life with his big sisters.

The memories flashed round my head, the days we did this and he did that, the fun the tears and the laughs. What a sentimental fool I was being, if it were not for the other passengers I would have wept.

The time has just gone too damn quick and I can't go back and savour the moments that the 44 year old me knows that the 27 year old me should have done. Of course that's the advantage of age and experience. So, it dawned on me that I've less than a year to savour with my little boy, I need to give my head a shake and slow down, pause the moments and be with my son. This man that I feel so proud of, not like me in so many ways, but such a part of me and my life.

Its a reminder to me that I need to slow down and savour the moments with all my children. Of course I exclude the Childline moments, maybe.

*In her defence I think it was accidental, though it still hurt.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Tectonic Plates

Over the last few weeks I've been playing a game. I slide up to people I know, brighter and wiser people, and all nonchalant like, when they least expect, it I ask them:

'So, what do you think about adoption?'

What interesting things people say. They normally ask for clarification 'why, what do you mean, eh?' Then we talk, I ask few questions and they give a few answers and the things people that have said to me have been very interesting, very interesting indeed.

It's not a game. My views have shifted, slowly like tectonic plates from the naive ill informed enthusiasm of 18 years ago to now. The trouble is that I'm not sure what I think, I am but I aren't.

Riding up the country gave me time to ponder, but I came up empty, more questions than answers.

The money that changes hands and the business, the dogma and the ideology, injustices and punishment, the challenges and recruitment, the expectations and the promises, the hopes and the dreams, the realities and the wonder,  the adopters, the families, the children, the love. I've not even mentioned human rights and parental responsibilities.

Increasingly I struggle to articulate my thoughts in words and though I can offer to demonstrate my views through expressive dance there's too much to say.

In no way am I turning my back on adoption and I am certain that I love the children in my life I've been given to parent. I even struggle to say my children these days. Perhaps that's a reaction to the US adoption month stuff that floats around the internet. Perhaps that's too much airy fairy social worky thinking. Perhaps it's all too much airy fairy social worky thinking.

Of course my views are informed by my relatively narrow experience and the experience of those I come into contact with. But there's a yearning to know more. So, blog about nothing but that's what I'm doing now looking for more understanding and nuance. I worry that my views push beyond my knowledge and into opinion that I become an empty vessel, hollow but loud. So, if you seem me slide up to you prepare yourself I might expect you to give account of your views.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

EAG Adoption Support Group: Education

The quarterly DfE Expert Advisory Group rolled around and this time the focus was on education. Crickey, release the floodgates. Without doubt one of the topics that I'm sure any parent, adoptive or not, will be able to share an opinion or two on usually with gusto. 

To start with we touched on the meeting that the Adoption UK's Adopter's Voice programme had held at the DfE and Sally D and I fed back from that. 
We then moved onto the main focus of the meeting and with Peter Sandiford giving feedback from the PAC UK's survey on education.  Our special guest, Gareth Marr,  followed this with a presentation on thoughts and benefits of the Virtual Schools incorporating adopted children into their remit.  Both very good and helpful, to be honest they were preaching to the choir and we all saw the benefits that could be actualised if the Virtual Schools did this. Certainly Gareth's charismatic presence added weight to the argument and it was a pleasure to have his experience brought to bear.

It's clear that in the short term that no edict will be issues to make heads of the virtual schools incorporate adopted children into their virtual schools. However, some have and  this has been found to be beneficial for the adopted children and as was noted if it benefits one child in a classroom then it is likely to benefit all the children. 

One of the key roles of the Virtual School is to train teaching staff and I find the argument that in training and equipping schools to support and accommodate adopted children they will develop a skill set that will benefit all children. So, to sell it to schools re frame the training required as part of a range of necessary teaching skills in supporting pupils in relation to loss, separation, bereavement, trauma and, finally, attachment. The number of children that are impacted by these events far out number adopted children. I'm thinking divorce, separation, children of those incarcerated or in the armed forces, bereavement, those experiencing abuse or living in a violent home. A range of experiences but the reality is that if schools see the bigger picture they are more likely to be able to incorporate specific children's needs as well as histories and home contexts.

In no way was the meeting derogatory towards teaching staff and it was acknowledged the challenges that they face in the context of Ofsted requirements and increasingly punitive behaviour contracts and  the like. Lots was discussed and there is more to be unpicked and that will no doubt be done over the next few months and added into the pot.

So, in summary a positive EAG meeting group discussion. 

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Day 4: To Northumberlandia

12:49 am and day 3 had creeped into day 4. I was laying in the swallow barn in a barn, eating Hula Hoops and trying to read my copy of The Cruel Sea I'd lugged 306 miles up the country. My mind dotted around conversations and thoughts from that evening with Amanda B to the pondering that I'd indulged in as I rode. If anything I've come away more confused than ever. There appears to very few certainties in the realm of adoption with nuance and questions in direct opposition to dogma and historic practice. 

We slept late and took a lift to the nearest bike shop after I've fixed yet another puncture.

After a quick fix we headed off into the rain. In all my days cycling I've never been so cold with the wet. Zippy weeped with joy as his rear mech unravelled, stood under a bush I pushed my skills to the limit while he ate yet another snickers and giggled. 
23 miles later we drew up to my old friend's, D & D. As adopters of 15 children they are legends and caught Mrs C & I when we fell. Top draw people. 
True to form they fed us and dried out our clothes, two hours later we set off on the last leg wrapped in plastic bags, classy.
The last leg through the industrial landscape of County Durham and Tyneside was in stark contrast to the central London landscape we'd set off from. The temperature dropped and we slogged past the iconic northern landscapes.

Then we arrived in the dark, Mrs C a Colour Carwen and Lotty welcomed us an we were relieved.

We said some words, I threw my parliament green mud at her face. Northumberlandia is a thing of beauty but to many who live in her shadow she's a symbol of corruption and greed.

We prayed and then we took our last trip less than a mile to my home. 

Zippy is an awesome companion. Tensing to Hillary, Oates to Scott, Golum to Frodo. I swear if he offers me one more Snicker I shall not be responsible for my actions.