Tuesday 27 December 2016

Another Year

Another year and another collection of moments and incidents, some mundane, some surreal and lots and lots in between. Thinking about the last month, the GoodMrsC and I have re calibrated our thinking and we are measuring our lives in smaller increments, minutes, hours and days. Beyond that has seemed impossible and overwhelming.

The end of the year has been a challenge, after years of inviting and requesting support and been told on at least two occasions officially that there was nothing that could offered above what we were doing and were receiving had we found ourselves thrown into a whirlwind of activity. Mainly uninvited, initially unwelcome but from this difficult place we hope that good will come and early signs are promising.

Right now we're all a bit delicate, hurt children hurt and we've all been hurt the last few weeks.

It's all a bit vague and unspecific but it's still tender and ongoing. It's provoked lots of thoughts about contemporary adoption, systems, culture, children's Services and such,  I'm sure that I'll condense them into several blogs over the next few months.

Other than that, what a year, Peanut started school and Flossy moved up to year 7. Like many homes like ours school and all that it brings defines a large part of our home life in the most challenging of ways. We've a way to go, if I look too far ahead then I lose the thought that it's possible. As I said, we'll do a day at a time. I've enough faith and resolve to say that I can do today and probably tomorrow.

There's so much other stuff that's filling up the corners of my life, the survey on Child on Parent Violence raises lots of questions. Hopefully, it will be a start point for a more considered and informed approach to an issue that defines many family lives in the fostering and adoption community and beyond. Lots has been done but there's lots more to do.

Thank you for reading my blog, writing comments, interacting on Twitter, watching my stupid videos and listening to my rambling on my Podcast. I wish you peace, success, regulation, access to services and good fortune in the coming year, or if that's too long to imagine the coming days.

Albums of the Year
Ozzy Osbourne - Tribute
Public Service Broadcasting - The War Room/ The Race for Space

Book of the Year
The Child Catchers - Kathryn Joyce (It's taken me a whole year and I'm not finished yet)

Blog of the Year

Suddenly Mummy -Adoption and Fostering: Not a Competition

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Stepping back

I'm pulling back, not by choice but by need.

What we always knew would come has come, consequently we find ourselves no longer masters of our own destiny.

There's much to say but that's not for now or here.

When I can I shall return.

Friday 25 November 2016

Feeding her to the Wolves

The issue is never the issue. Pretty obvious I guess.

I'm struggling to think what else to say, after  days of attrition, name calling, refusal, attitude, sibling insults and unkindness we finally get to the crux of it. I guess we always had a rough idea what was going on, but these things take time. Like detectives we piece together clues from here and there.

We deal with the anger about this or that, sperficial frothy rage pointed at some inconsequential nonsense, 'I don't want to clean my room!'. We crack that one knowing that this issue is not the issue.

Each layer gets closer to the crux of this particular cycle of rage and darkness. We pass though the superficial issues toward our ultimate goal.

And when we get there we are always confronted with the same thing, a little girl frightened, anxious, worried and confused. The same predictable stuff, this time it's school. The nuances of peer relationships and interactions are a foreign language. Social resilience is non existent.

After it had all blown over I drove up to the school drop off point and she got out. It's like feeding her to wolves, my heart sank knowing this is the first term of her first year with 14 more terms to go. School have been fantastic and the 20 mile round trip is justified but I'm worried for her and I'm worried for us.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Child on Parent Violence - Survey

Create your own user feedback survey

Child on Parent Violence (CPV) is an issue that many adoptive families have experienced. Twitter ignites at the very mention of CPV as empathy, advice and support are offered and experiences shared. The adoption community is under no illusion about the prevalence and challenges that CPV brings, we are  also under no illusion about the lack of a co ordinated of effective response from services we look to for support.

My worry is that we become an echo chamber and we begin to speak to people outside of our world. So, after chatting this through with a few wiser and more experienced folks here's the plan.

We gather some statistics about the prevalence, challenges and experiences of all families that experience Child on Parent Violence, including carers, birth parents, guardians and adoptive parents.

That evidence is used to access funds to get some academic peer reviewed research completed.

We use that research to lobby government to develop an effective response and guidance that can be used to form the practice of all professionals that parents turn to when they experience Child on Parent Violence. Sounds easy.

So, please complete the survey, it will take you a minute.

Please use the link below to  spread the survey wide to friends families and networks beyond adoption, facebook,  twitter to gather the views of all who are affected .

I'll keep you updated.

Thursday 17 November 2016

A Long Hard Week

Remotely reading accounts of children's violence against parents unfold over Twitter makes for a hard week. It's not just now and then but a theme every week, be that 4 year olds or 14 year olds, either way it's hard to read.  
Lots of us walk that CPV* path and are still on it, it's a hard path that is exacerbated by the professional responses that have been thought up in a common sense empathy vacuum. 

To feel abandoned or accused by the very people that should help you is a double blow, worse than no help at all,  much worse. As Helen Bonnick said in our podcast one professional can make all the difference, finding that professional can be the trick, but we found ours, many don't.

This week I've seen voices get stronger,  dots starting to be joined. Emails bouncing round my inbox with ideas and suggestions, plans and schemes on twitter with experts in different fields drawn into the debate. I've had conversations with friends planning to make a difference. 

If the Post Adoption professionals are not prepared to navigate the legal, ethical and emotive seas that safe holding, risk assessment and restraint inhabit then perhaps we ought to raise our sails and set off without them.  

Social worker's bread and butter is managing and quantifying risk but for a host of reasons this issue is not one that many will embrace or are allowed to embrace. Safe holding has perhaps been linked to attachment holding which has had tragic consequences. So the pendulum has swung and social care has stepped away and we're met with blank stares when asked what to do, or we're made to feel like monsters for even suggesting that we take control. But there are other voices and professionals with different views. 

Let's keep talking

Forgive the brevity it's been a long hard week.

*Child on Parent violence

Thursday 10 November 2016


The concept of exaggeration can be a tricky one to manage and explain to children like mine. It's been a hard news year in that regard, what with Trump and Brexit. As much as I've tried to temper the news with realism it's been a year of bold statement, exaggeration and hyperbole. 

             Hyperbole  - 'Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally'

This year what is hyperbole and what is actual truth has been very tricky to distinguish.  Tensions were high, and that's just me, for Flossy it's been off the scale. Strange thoughts filtered through 'there's going to be world war three you know' being one. Explanations were met with her glazed eyes and the nuances of rhetoric, propaganda and hyperbole are pretty useless agains the logic of the boy she sits next to in literacy who knows for fact that Donald Trump is going start a nuclear war because his dad said so and he saw it on the telly.  

The girl's hypervigilance always choses danger over safety no matter how wrong that perception is to me and regardless of how watertight my explanation is. As a rule she'll believe anyone over me.  Its a feeling not a thought. 

That boy is telling the truth, we are all going to die if DT is president.

The day of the result and tensions were running high, he'd won, we drove to school and listened to the news  on the radio, realising my mistake I turned it off. She asked for it to be back on and fortunately a measured and calm correspondent said it was all going to be ok. 

We listened and I said I wondered what was going to happen, she confessed to wondering too (we don't talk about being worried, that starts fights).  

'But' she said, 'I think that man on the radio's right, it'll be ok', I nodded and agreed 'yeah I think so too.'.

She jumped out and meandered into school and a new radio commentator came on, he didn't think it was going to be all right, in fact he was pretty damn sure it was the end of the world. I tried to believe he was wrong as I started digging my bunker.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Talk them down

I listen carefully to the the voice on the phone.

WA - 'She won't come back' 

It's like one of those 70's airplane disaster films. I'm the so called expert helping the willing amateur land the jumbo jet. We've reached a delicate stage of the proceedings, what I say next may make the difference between a night of 'Raaaaaagh', or a slow wind down to the uneasy peace.

Me - 'Ok, ok, carefully suggest that if she comes back she can have food.............try not to sound cross'

I hear talking

WA - 'She's not interested'

Me -'Ok, ok..............let her go' 

It's hard when you've an ever decreasing circle of willing child minders,  a cohort of brave and foolish who's desire to give us a short break is greater than their common sense.

Me -'What's she wearing and where is she now?'

WA - 'tee shirt and shorts and she's down the lane'

All the time I'm weighing the need to keep the willing amateur calm against the need to resolve the situation down the phone line. It's dark now, she'll be cold. The weather can be our parent.

Me -'Ok, ignore her and don't go after her, ok?'

WA - 'Ok'

Me -'I'll ring back in five minutes'

I ring, no change.

Me -'Leave food close to the door and if she comes in ignore her, ok?'

WA - 'Ok'

Me -'I'll ring back in five minutes'

I ring there's no change...........I keep calling and an hour later I get a text.

'She's gone to bed'

An relax, we've landed another one and to paraphrase that film
'I picked a hell of a week to give up sugar'

Sunday 30 October 2016

BASW Adoption Enquiry Seminar Day

What an interesting day, not without minor tensions but all things considered there was a great deal of respect and agreement. Participants were drawn from across the adoption landscape, Birth Parents, Solicitors, Adopters, Adoption Social workers, representatives of Foster Carers, Academics and Practitioners. The focus was the role of Social Workers in adoption, specifically how they understand ethical and human right issues and inform their practice. All present came with different experiences and knowledge, but the common denominator was a desire to be honest and consider what happens now and what could be improved.

The discussions ranged from the supporting role of the SW for families and children through the children's journeys into care and onto adoption. The preparation, journey and support of adopters and the post adoption order support of families who have lost children was all discussed from a range of perspectives. There were many interesting points raised and issues that piqued my interest were the feeling that adopters were set in opposition against birth families and vice versa. Broader issues of class and culture, motivations and policy, ethics and values, practice and were all touched on at various points. It was a fascinating discussion with some perspectives and opinions being fiercely defended as well as persuasively communicated. A very strong theme that came from all quarters was the need of openness and honestly for everyone.. 

The agenda was open and it was clear that their was a desire to draw in the views of key players in adoption, both professionals and families alike. A reiteration that there was no presumption of what conclusions were drawn and as the day ended this was reinforced again. 

Over the last few weeks as I've been out and about on my travels I've asked people if they've participated in the British Association of Social Workers' Adoption Enquiry. I've had some interesting responses and conversations. What has struck me is concerns that the outcome and findings are a done deal or that their was an underlying agenda. I didn't see that on the seminar day, the question being asked is in relation to the role of Social Workers not the legitimacy or ethics of adoption itself.

I'd encourage everyone who has a stake in adoption to participate, the focus is to improve,  to develop and to not hold onto what we 'think' is best practice but to question and ask if we can do better by all people impacted by adoption. I've spoken to a few people over the last few months and they questioned if the outcome was a done deal and the enquiry was bias against adoption. That was not my experience, asking difficult questions does not mean you are being difficult. 

I want to know what the key messages and themes are that can inform Social Worker practice are and I want to share my experiences and I felt I was being heard. I'd encourage all who can to participate and the online questionnaire is still available here 
Late submissions will still be accepted and if you don't feel able or can't complete the written format contact them and they'll accept your views in other formats.

It was a good day, a challenging day and I came away with many more questions that have rattled around since. I like questions.

Thursday 27 October 2016

SuperDan, WonderJohn & the Sad Feeling

A cloud of melancholy, that I couldn't quite identify the source of, descended on me by the mid morning coffee break. Admittedly I'd had a 'fawlty dad' start to the day, a puncture then arriving on time at the wrong venue a mad dash cycle across London then barging my way to the front row of the room, cycle helmet, coffee and danish pastry in hand with my head the colour of a beetroot 3 minutes after the start of the conference.

But it was all good, a positive message of hope and restoration. I just couldn't pinpoint the sadness that seemed to be hovering over me. I had been given a free ticket to see Dan Hughes and John Baylin give a lecture to professionals that work with children who have experienced loss and trauma. That was rather smashing, it coincided with my days in London so it was on.

I cannot fault the training and I've read about PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy) and attempt to use it within our home.  Dan Hughes was good and charismatic and this was backed up by the engaging John Baylin's description and analysis of the brain science behind the approach.
All good.

At half time I bumped into Sally D and I confessed my struggles, it all seemed so far removed from our lives.  I wholeheartedly recommend PACE but it can be a lofty ideal when matched to the challenges of caring for siblings in a family environment. When Child A is attempting to knock the teeth out of Child B then my response is not therapeutic it is that of a riot policeman. All the other stuff, you know the therapeutic stuff, is placed aside and I need to step in. But all that wasn't the reason for the feeling, I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Days later I think I think I got it, the feeling I had lingered, I realised, again, that love was not enough and time is not a great healer. My children's experiences have cast a shadow across them that may leave them a step out of the sunshine for all their lives. I know that, every day I'm faced with that but it's background noise in a busy life. But sitting and stopping and dwelling on the impact is sometimes hard to take.

The training was very good and perhaps I should have attended the following day that was focused on parents rather than professionals. I sometimes get confused in those environments I am a professional but I'm not a professional parent, I'm a keen amateur.

Thursday 20 October 2016

National Adoption Week - Bunkers and Bunting

Well, it came round again National Adoption Week(NAW) - #supportadoption 

Scrolling my timelines and feeds my fingers sometimes speed up when I see NAW hashtags and posts, sometimes my finger slows. It depends on the day, time and circumstance.

I have to say it's a funny old week, I usually get my blood up and have a profound thought, or witty blog to roll out. Not this week. I've been busy so felt in some ways it's just happened. In my early years as an adopter I was the first to put up the bunting*. In the dark years I've retreated to my thought bunker and listened to the distant sound of happiness while gnashing my teeth. 

This year I had planned do something interesting, get three or four guest posts from adult adoptees. I tried but other than one smashing post I had no takers, I didn't want to labour the point so I didn't push too hard. Perhaps I didn't get the message out, perhaps my motives were doubted,  perhaps the Flip the Script movement hasn't got the traction in the UK that it has elsewhere. Perhaps this or perhaps that. 

National Adoption Week is what it is. 

'Marketing, recruitment, reinforcing popular misconceptions!' I hear you cry. Yes, I suppose that is something you could shout at politicians and professionals. 

But I hear others 'Joy, family, love!',  to not listen to those voices feels disingenuous.

I'm feeling pragmatic this year, I can hold both of those in tension. 

So this week I stayed in my bunker and came out when I felt safe to get snacks and have a little look at the bunting. Some people were enjoying themselves and I joined in for a bit, had a little moan,  then went back to my bunker. 

My finger scrolls fast my finger scrolls slow.


 *In 2000 I went to an event where David Bellamy planted a tree.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

DfE - Adoption Service Users Group

So, up to the Department for Eductation  for the quarterly meeting with adoptive parents and the DfE team for adoption support.

The amendments to the Adoption Support Fund were front and centre and have dominated many of the conversations and online interactions since the news was announced a week or so ago. With limited information and uncertainty in adopters and Social Workers minds many families have been worried about the implications for them. Some very worried and understandably so,  to see long awaited support apparently fade before their eyes is to say the least disheartening .

On a really practical level after the initial implementation the fund was due a review. Unfortunately that was forced on the DfE by the demand and the need to ensure that it did not run dry by the end of the financial year. So changes have been made and changes will be made to the fund in the future.
Looking closer through the numbers it's clear that the £5000 fair access limit per child per year will ensure that at least 80% of applications to the Fund will still be under that limit. The likelyhood is that the fair access limit will be increased next year as the Fund increases so that number will increase. Consideration is being given to ways of tightening cost while not affecting the service to families further stretching the fund.

Almost 10, 000 children have been benefitted from the fund in the since it's beginning, that's a lot of children.

Discussions yesterday focused on how to stretch the money as we moved forward, what was reasonable costs for therapy, when some therapy slips into very large sums of money what is the justification and is the Fund the correct route to help for those families. Lots of conversation that continues so thought and ideas are welcome.

We then discussed the progress that we'd seen over the last 12 months. Positive stuff, the support of virtual school heads, changes to the planned limits on the child tax credit and the Fund itself. Two years ago we did not have the Fund and many of us danced and fought through hoops and hurdles to access the most meagre picking of support. The Fund has given many access to support that they would have never had.

More was said but this is the essence.

Forgive my brevity, life's busy, but please if you've questions, concerns, worries or just want to get the dirty water off your chest comment below or tweet me or write me a letter.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Guest blog- Thoughts on National Adoption Week

By Sarah

As we approach National Adoption Week, I have been thinking about this year’s theme of #supportadoption. It’s a campaign for the twenty-first century. Adoption has been brought up to date for the digital age with celebrities, hashtags and a potential, viral social media marketing campaign. 

What are the benefits of the theme other than awareness raising? I have been wondering about the people who will post their #supportadoption placards and the stories which, they hold behind them. What is important, is that we support adoption however as an adult adoptee who is also mixed race, I know that adoption support requires so much more than a hashtag on Facebook or Twitter. I am also thinking about whether National Adoption Week holds any relevance to or meaning for me as an adult; apart from making me think about my own adoption and wondering how my experiences differ from the children who are adopted, today in 2016.

No two adoptions are the same, even within the same family. Most families aren’t always happy all of the time either however adoption has some of its own unique challenges. For a child who needs a family, adoption is not always the immediate solution with a happily ever after story. It is not as simple as sending a child home to their new adoptive family and expecting that to be that. This is especially true for children who have often come from a family that wanted very much to care for them but could not and others where there was little to no prior care at all. It would be wonderful if the solution to heal and start again was a new family but it often requires so much more than love. It requires support.

Many adoptees experience trauma, abuse or chaotic circumstances before their adoptions are finalised. That is in addition to the loss of the birth family and understanding their place and identity within the birth and adoptive family. For some adoptee’s; this comes easily and they adjust well, others might not even know for a number years that they were adopted at all and for others it is a difficult ongoing experience regardless. All of these adoptees and their adoptive parents may require support though and it is essential that we encourage and improve the availability and access.

As an adoptee I’m not sure I will ever fully understand how much it takes to raise an adoptive child unless I became one myself. From my own adoptee journey, I can tell you it was no easy feat though and it required a few years of counselling and support. Accessing the support wasn’t always easy for my parents though and that was over ten years ago. Adoptive families need ongoing help, care and support to help sustain their families and prevent a break down. Their adoptive children need this too.

Despite there being some services available to adopters/ees whilst I was growing up, research and changes have confirmed the need for additional support, primarily therapeutic. Just over a year ago in 2015 the government in England introduced the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). As of October 2016, £30m has been spent assisting families to access therapies however the unprecedented demand for support has resulted in the fund being budgeted until the next financial year. Families are being limited to the amount of funding and help they can access to help keep themselves together. What will the longer term costs to the cuts of this fund be for the families?

Back to this year’s National Adoption Week theme of #supportadoption, it appears from the ASF that it is something desperately required, however I am still not sure how this campaign will help the adopters and their children who are in need of real therapeutic support.