Thursday, 26 February 2015

Halo

There appears to be a determined and almost immovable halo around adoption.

Believe me I've tried to knock it off and I've tried to present my own lived adoption experience as relatively normal but I see the same enthusiastic determination in the eyes of prospective adopters that I had in mine. Aaaaaah, adoption.

In social circles eyes well up and hearts swell with sympathy at the revelation of my children's status as adopted.
Aaaw, look they're fighting. Aaaaaah, Adoption.

It rubs off on at least two sides of the adoption triangle.

So, regardless of my insisting, and Mrs C's confirmation, people refuse to believe that I'm generally a grumpy old git. How could I be, aaaaaaaah adoptive dad. Bloody halo.


I don't get asked to volunteer on adoption preparation courses. Now it might be because I talk too much but it might be because I might put them off. Don't be stupid, they've all been touched by the adoption Halo. You can almost see them think:
"It's all gone wrong for him, he must be doing something wrong. I've seen Annie, it's a doddle. Adoption always works out ok in the end"

That's the halo.
Aaaaah, Adoption.

Sometimes it's a pain, when we ask for consideration or understanding then the halo blinds people. In their minds they're thinking 'Those children have been there for years, they should be fine now. I've read Oliver Twist and he did ok'. In their eyes I'm just over an over fussing type. Aaaaaah, adoption.

If I was a cynic I'd suggest that politicians have worked this halo out.

Politician 1: 'Nasty Social Workers are slowing down adoption approval.'

Newspaper: 'Aaaaaah Adoption. Those nasty Social Workers.'

Politician 2: 'Aaaaaah Adoption. Those nasty Social Workers.'

Man on the street: 'Aaaaaah Adoption. Those nasty Social Workers.'

Politician 1: (Halo)



But I'm not complaining we managed to get money off our last family holiday because the salesman 'found out' we had six adopted children.

Aaaaaaah, adoption.







Sunday, 22 February 2015

Off grid

After an eight and a half hour conversation with @TheOpenNest and @UKTransracial it felt like we'd just about got started.



Mrs C and I had been invited to the remote secret lair of The Open Nest and nestled in the northern woodland we shared stories and caught up on all the latest comings and goings. We'd given the 'massive' the slip and having assured their wellbeing with a subtle blend of bribery, threat and a crack team of babysitting ninja's we revelled in the 'off grid' day.

But the meat was in the conversations we shared, the kind that you can't have in 'nice' company. I often worry that my blogs focus on the negative, with limited reflection on the positive elements of the adoption experience. I shy away or draw a veil over some topics for fear of compromising my children and myself or opening cans of worms, allowing the worms to wriggle off into unfriendly corners of the internet. Similarly when I meet adopters or prospective adopters I try to be careful and sensitive to their experience, hopes and location on the adoption journey as not to be perceived as a bitter or cynical old salt.

But in this not so polite company, sat around the open fire, we opened the cans of worms and shared thoughts, experiences and worries.
Conversations about violence, harm, destruction, love and shame.
About balancing control against risk.
About family, fears and hopes.
About safety and danger.
About power, control, social work and money.
About politics, personality and policy.
About race and culture.
About the future and the past.

Stuff that needs to be talked about, but with limited safe forums.
Rich soil for blogs.

We talked right through the day and into the night. I believe we all need friends in the woods.


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Sorry

I'm sure the words 'I wish you were dead' are not that uncommon in many households. But the words were spat with a calculated venom, aimed for maximum hurt and pain. Repeated carefully to reinforce the certainty of the intent. Much more had happened to get to this, a bit of argy bargy and a touch of fisty cuffs. But this is the bit that stuck.

The thing that stung me the most then was not the words or the intent but a sadness for her that at this moment the feelings were real. Emotional overload. Frustration. Defiance. Anger.

Of course it stinks to be unjustly 'hated' but that stuff comes and goes, a good nights sleep and I usually feel a lot better but it still hurts. I've resigned myself to a bumpy road with this child.

For her the feelings brood over her long after the moment had gone with her struggling to feel reconciled even a day later.
I was still a little stung a day later but pushed through my own unforgiving inner 10 year old and was working hard to draw her in, jokes, playfulness, affection, talking about her hobbies.
All fail to penetrate the brooding cloud around her.

As parents Mrs C and I have placed great stock on apologies and forgiveness.  They draw a line behind events and help us to move on. We place them in high regard for the wellbeing of all concerned and I believe in forgiveness without apologies, a lofty ideal I'll grant you.

We've had a broad variety of 'sorries' through the years; forced, begrudged, petulant, angry, defiant and insincere apologies.
The freely offered sincere ones seem to work out the best so we aim for those. We gave up squeezing them out of children like toothpaste.




So, much later, we sit together in the car after football practice. And out of the cloud.
A soft and gentle voice confesses "I'm sorry dad"

"It's ok, I love you"

The cloud dissolves. Visibly relieved the last 24 hours is cast aside and relationship is restored. She chatters all the way home.
We all feel better.

Did I say I don't mind what she said?
Did I say I'd resigned myself to a bumpy road with this one.
I don't think I'd need to forgive a child with a broken leg for limping so I'm not sure what to do with that feeling.






Thursday, 5 February 2015

Post Adoption Support

The question 'What do you want from adoption support?"  has been bandied  around the Twittersphere a few times lately by different people. It's something that I've thought hard about but found it difficult to pin it down to one thing. We could all list many things we need and want all unique to our circumstances and needs.

I guess the primary functions of PAS is to support adoptive parents and to support adopted children. Added to that is the service offered to birth parents of adopted children as they try to reconnect post 18.

In the last few weeks we as a family decided that we needed to access our local authorities Post Adoption Support (PAS) services. It is over 7 years since we had our last significant contact but the purpose of this recent call has been to document some of our current experiences and initiate a formal assessment of our need. We have clear shopping list of what we need to enable us to remain safe and stable at this point in time. Realistic, pragmatic and achievable. We don't want parenting advice or referrals to therapeutic services as Mrs C and I have forged our own route in regard to this. Through our GP, LAC Paediatrician and the fearsome Mrs C's dogged determination we have very good therapeutic input.

We opted out of the whole Post Adoption Support system in 2008 for several reasons. The main one being the support we were given was the exact opposite of support, undermining our confidence and invalidating our experience and intuitive concerns for our child and ourselves. Secondly, we sought out a group of supportive, wise and experienced friends and drew them around us for support and lastly we had appropriate therapeutic support for the children.

In view of the above and the suspicion that we could do just as well as the SW we met we took it upon ourselves to learn all we could, however we could, from anyone who made sense.
Free training, bought training, Adoption Panel Training, Psychotherapist training (Mrs C) and Social Work Training (me). Books, internet, anything.
Sucking up everything we could that was helpful, and it was.





But considering what we want and what I hear people asking for the underlying principle is the need for validation.
Not to be dismissed with stock phrases we've all heard, "every child does that" "they're picking up on your anxiety". Words that undermine our perspective and invalidate our judgement.

Whether you're stumbling and anxious after 2 days into a placement of a 12 month old 'bundle of joy' or on the ropes after living 8 years with a child of 'pain and hurt'. Validating your experience, worries, concerns and anxiety is first step in meaningful and effective support.

The conclusion of all the training and experience that Mrs C and I have acquired is that we have validated our opinions, not only to ourselves but to those we meet.

However,  on hard days sometimes all that dissolves and we falter. But to hear kind and gentle words of validation can rekindle hope. Every day on Twitter and Facebook I see the words of validation that are as affective support as you'll find anywhere.
The mutual support found online and in support groups is seeped in validation, sweeping away self doubt and questioning.

One of the most profound piece of support that we were ever given was during the days Gracie left home:

 "Well done, you managed 15 years"

Words that validated and acknowledged our experience. Words that we hung onto and still do a year on.

I believe that validation is the foundation of support that we as adopters need.
Acknowledgement and giving value to our words, thoughts, worries, hopes and expectations seems rather cheap.
Odd that it seems in such short supply at times.