Thursday, 25 May 2017

Automatic reply

Ping, the email bounces back. 

'Sorry I am currently unavailable. I am out of the office until Thursday 1st June 2019  
If you need assistance before that please ring..........................'


Oh, well that is so not helpful. I might as well put my question in a time capsule to be dug up when they knock down the council offices or when we reach the next millennia. 

I so am not ringing the duty team. I'll try someone else.


I call and the receptionist explains:

'They're not in this office, as you know our workers are all remote now, I'll email them and mark it 'URGENT', is that ok?'

I suppose, do think you could add an exclamation mark to give a little weigh to that? 


What a peculiar world we seem to have found ourselves in. I can't find myself cross with anybody, they're all cogs in the machine, this machine that pops out happy little families, or something like that.  We give ourselves to partnership with services and professionals, I say give but it often feels like there's no element of choice. An essay on power dynamics and gatekeeping has been in my mind for years. 

Anyway, I emailed this week to update a Social Worker on how we were doing and by the time I had a response form them the next day, a wholly reasonable timeframe, we'd moved all moved on somewhat. Uneasy calm was replaced by a very easy uncalm. 

Things move quick around here. We seem to measure our lives in minutes and seconds, we react and respond to each development. We dash to find support, advice, insight or to just even keep professionals informed. I started this post on Tuesday and by the time I get to this paragraph, Thursday,  we're somewhere else, somewhere new. For years I've looked for some sort of sense of coasting along but it seems to have passed us by we are definitely blown by strong winds. 

Professionals move in days and weeks and seem to miss lots of the turbulence, they appear periodically and that's ok. 

So, what's my point? No point just sayin'.




Thursday, 18 May 2017

Poems and Anger

Journeying through comprehensive school in North East England in the mid 1980s has, not to underplay this, given me a certain perspective on the world. 

As a sensitive and slightly showy off soul I found myself at drama classes, this slightly confused some of my peers and family and unkind words were used and that really is putting it nicely. Lets just say it wasn't a hotbed for the arts and delicate souls.

When I watched Billy Elliot years later for the first time I almost had to be hospitalised due to my flashbacks.

Now I look at most of the arts with a subtle blend of ignorance, admiration and bemusement. 

Anyway, I'm not sure why I said all that. 

In the vain attempt to broaden my horizons I bought a book of poetry to take on my recent hols. I was determined to read a poem a day and ponder it. That and I though it might impress my fellow holiday makers and perhaps broaden my education.  I'm not sure about poems and have a genuine fear of people offering to read me 'their poems'. 

I chose Lemn Sissay's book Gold from the Stone. I didn't get far before a phrase jumped off the page. 

                                         ‘Anger is an expression in search of love’ 




I couldn't get past it, so I stopped. I pondered. I liked the words, the shape and form, they rattled round my head and strangely my heart. I could't fathom out what they meant though. I offered them to the GoodMrsC and she agreed, top words.

Anger is an expression in need of love, what the hell does that mean? I gave up and got on with my stuff. I asked a clever friend a few weeks after I got back, 'how do you know if poetry is good?'. He said it's simple, it's good if you like it. Now I see, but what do those words mean? Why do they rattle round my insides. So four weeks later it dawned on me.  


We see a lot of anger. 
Anger is like the words in Blackpool Rock, it runs through everything we do as a family. 
It's either overt or suppressed. 
We dance around it, we duck it, figuratively and literally, we explain it away and distract it. 
We try not to be drawn in by it but it wants everyone to play too. 
Anger is a bully and a brute. Anger hides and distracts. 

Anger is a funnel that all my children's anxiety, worry, stress, doubt, shame, frustration, disappointment and sadness are pushed through. 

I think I get it.

Yes, anger is an expression in search of love.





Sunday, 14 May 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 16 Harvey Gallagher


This week we chat to Harvey Gallagher the CEO of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers. 

It's #fostercarefortnight and he shares his thoughts on weaknesss and strengths of the foster care system as well as the challenges of professionalisation and what the future holds. 




As always Scott and I indulge in a little light banter and share our own experiences of being foster carers and thoughts on it all. 





You can also find us on iTunes here

Thanks for downloading and listenting. 


#whatshughuptonow



Saturday, 13 May 2017

Tears

I was at school, actually the GoodMrsC and I were both school. Our presence had been requested.

I was holding it all in trying not to sob. Blinking purposefully to maintain some semblance of control and composure.
It's been a hard week, actually it seems like most weeks are hard.


I'm concerned that I write so much about the challenges, the loss, the raa, the shouting and all the tricky moments. It's a rich vein of material that never seems to end.

Child on Parent Violence has taken up so much of the last six months, reading and writing, The CPV Survey and subsequent reports have helped to push on the conversation and often that's what people want to talk to me about, even now there's email in my inbox with questions. All important stuff and it's rewarding work.

But, I really don't want to be that 'adopter guy who goes on about CPV'. I don't want to be the defined by all of that less than ideal stuff, I don't want it to be the primary focus of my energy and writing. There has to be more. Again and again I find myself drawn to these topics, I suppose I blog to help me reflect and to gain some understanding on what goes on. Im not sure actually say that much about our lives, I blog about the dots and let others join them, I worry that they come up with a less than favourable picture.

So, I'm in school and trying to hold it all together because Peanut is Star of the Week. The text comes the night before, please come and see her be presented with her certificate in the full school assembly. I'm under no illusion that it's just her turn but I can suspend believe because she is a star. She's so wee, so perfect, my little pal, my youngest daughter and the apple of my eye.

Most of our lives is filled with the standard parenting tasks and experiences, routines, washing, homework, meals, little trips here and there. Really quite normal, pretty relentless, but a well worn path.

Today I revelled in the normal, I teared up not because of this or that or some moment of overcoming adversary fist punching as we achieve something.

I teared up because I'm a soppy dad.














Saturday, 6 May 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 15 Blair Mortimer

With it being Foster Care Fortnight it would seem appropriate to talk about Fostering. So, we called on our old friend Blair Mortimer, adoptee and Foster Carer, to chat about his experiences including moving children onto adoptive homes. 






As always Scott and indulge in some banter, and share our own experiences of being foster carers that adopted. 
We also indulge in some flippant nonsense as we introduce a new feature!

We hope you enjoy. 

I apologise for the dodgy audio quality on the featured interview is not as good as I'd like, we've had the individual responsible suitably chastised!


You can also find us on iTunes here


If you feel generous a review would be rather appreciated.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Crystal Ball

Welcome to adoption, please collect your crystal ball at the signing in table.

Blimey, I've written about it before but the issue never seems to be the issue.  So, the Raaa comes and we're all back in the spiky word shouty place and the issue is clearly not the issue. She's not saying or we're not listening. Who knows.

So, we regroup and ponder the possibilities. We're just back from holiday? She's just back at school, Parents evening and a whole raft of likely issues that could or could not be the precipitating factors.

We consult the tea leaves, polish the crystal ball, get out the divining rods, consult the runes and read the Tarot Cards. We say a little prayer and ask for some wisdom.



Of course we could just ask, but that route is somewhat tricky, self awareness and reflection are not strengths or attributes that we have in abundance. Questions are often interpreted as accusation and insults, petrol on the fire.

In all fairness the skills of introspection and reflection can be apparent at times of tranquility and peace, though that's not when you need them most. Questioning is pointless when the Raaa is with us and is usually as helpful as slaming your own head in a car door, which is not very helpful.

Then it leaves, the tension dissipates over a busy distracting day and we return to our usual but uneasy peace. What was all that about? We'd talked about some stuff and perhaps that was one of the issues we talked about perhaps not. Perhaps something else. We'll not find out.

So much of the lives of our adopted children is shrouded in the unknown. From the early days of their  lives and their journey through care to their inner working as they struggle to make sense of reactions, emotions and thoughts as they grow and develop. We, their parents, are left to polish our crystal balls and do our best.




Friday, 28 April 2017

Moaner

I re read some of my blog posts and thought 'what a moaner', I worry that I mis represent this wonderful adoption thing that everyone seems to be enjoying. I wonder where the happy adoption bloggers are? Unicorns and rainbows, unending joy and Walton's moments.

I recoil at the cute memes and infographics but I'm bored at pointing and shouting about the ugly stuff as well. It seems that it's all I do.



Strewth, I've tried to write happy blogs but sometimes good stuff is less interesting, less funny, less worth writing. As they say 'no news is good news'. If all went with us well would my inspiration dry up and my blog drift off into the internet long grass. Am I just a representative of the 'struggling third', a shouty vocal representative. I could write 10 blogs now on the tricky stuff right now without pausing for breath.
I've had a parents evening and that's not helped my mood. The compassion of most of the teachers crushed beneath the jackboot of one. We've had some cracking teachers, funny how you miss them when they're gone.

'Dear teacher, if you were aiming for uplifting 'firm but fair' pep talk you missed. Shame my child and try and shame me. This was not the time and place to corner me, we will return to this conversation. You can go home from this but I'll pick up the pieces for days to come. Thanks'

So this is the part of my blog where I bring it all together with an uplifting sentence that makes us all think.
Hey ho, better go I can hear shouting.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Three words - Languishing in Care

So, I'm minding my own business enjoying a little light reading when three words jump off the page and slap me out of my holiday stupor.

"languish in care'

I was shocked at my own visceral response to a few words, I was livid and sickened by such staid, lazy and harmful rhetoric. 

Languish in care? 

I thought of my friends painting the flat of the young woman they'd fostered two years earlier. She'd left their 'foster placement', her choice, after trashing their kitchen. Two years later they still invite her to family parties, to stay over at Christmas and support her in all kinds of ways including painting her first flat. 

Languish in care?

I think of the family that I support who give every waking moment and many through the night to the teenager girl they foster with Cerabral Palsy, how every member of their family works to include them in to their family life.

Languish in care?

My mind goes to the family that cares for the two sisters under 13 months old, feeding every two hours, supporting daily contact and refusing respite though exhausted because it's not in the girl's best interests. The foster carers that tonight will get an unexpected call to take a child, no details, no answers just a child in desperate need. Foster carers that advocate and support and put up with an unending stream of professionals through their front door. To describe the children that they care for as 'languishing in care' is just plain insulting. 

Of course you can fill up my comments section with examples to counter this, of this and that and I can assure you that I'm under no illusion that foster care and foster carers have their faults. If you want I can list them and give you some examples. But to talk about 'languishing in care' is lazy and reprehensible and when we accept such twaddle why are we surprised that we read headlines like 'foster care in crisis' claiming we need 9000 carers and what seems like every roundabout in my town being 'sponsored' by the LA's Fostering Team.


Children who fall into the care system are there for a reason that is almost universally negative. We place unfair measures on foster care, by definition  and thankfully it's reactive and to consider the outcomes in terms of GCSE results at 16 is a blunt tool. The experience of those children are the very worst that our society has to offer and to compare their 'outcomes' at 18 to those of the general population is plain stupid. If you come into foster care at 15 years old then sit your GCSE's then foster care still takes the rap for your results, good or bad,  feeding the politicians who talk about outcomes.  

I'm happy to debate the failings of the system but to describe children as 'languishing in care' is downright insulting and lazy. 

Anyway, I'm on my holidays and feel much better for getting that off my chest. Let's see if I can finish this book. 

With all that in mind I'm interested in the recently announced  National Fostering Stocktake - Call for Evidence. Lets see if we can't make it all better. 




Thursday, 20 April 2017

Trauma & Dominoes

We'd been doing ok, of course the constant caveat is that when I say 'ok' I mean it's that sort of 'ok' that means we're not reeling from chaos to fear minute by minute. I mean that strategies are working and we were getting ready for our holidays.

The organisation and energy that it takes to get us on our holidays is herculean, mostly shouldered by the goodMrC,  it makes the moon landings look like child's play.

However, Flossy elected to remain at home, a positive move.
Positive that she acknowledges it's all a bit too changey, unfamiliar, transitiony and stressful.
Positive that those who go on holiday can remove the fences that we erect in our daily routines to keep Flossy safe and live a bit free.
Positive that she'd rather remain with her Grandma and big sisters.



Though Flossy remains at home we still have to get all our dominos in line and coach those who will stand in the gap. We also have to leave a happy child.

Then we had a wobble and a stumble as we drew close to leaving.  What it was over, like always, is lost in the struggle and melee that follows. Fiery words aimed to hurt me were spat out, but that wasn't enough words turned to deed. Did I say 'wobble'? I think that's an understatement.
Then it's over and we try to move on.

Flossy moved on, I struggled to.

It was all a bit reminiscent of the difficult days at the end last year, I could feel that trauma's script being replayed and its dark fingers tightening around me.

Strange that I've now my own trauma to add into the mix, I'd not thought of it in those terms til this 'wobble'.  I've kept myself busy and put my energies into work and all the other stuff. I'd thought that it had gone but there's a residual stain, that I'm reluctant to call a trauma, that hangs over me. By comparison to my children's trauma it's nothing, but comparisons are never fair.

More and more I speak to parents who carry their own trauma, not vicarious but first person. It's a result of their life and experiences parenting traumatised children, vulnerable but sometimes scary children.

It took a few days but I eventually put it all into the box marked 'later' in my mind.

We lined the dominos back up, waved Flossy goodbye and off we went.









Saturday, 15 April 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 14 An interview with Honor Rhodes

Honor Rhodes is the Director of Strategic Development at Tavistock Relationships. I interviewed her about the impact of adoption, and parenting in general, on the quaity and stability of parents relationships. An issue that is key for many families but rarely talked about.

Parenting and parenting challenging children can place high levels of strain on the relationship with our partners and spouses. Honor talks about this phenomenon and the work that Tavistock Relationships is doing to support couples as they venture into adoption.


As ever Scott and I sandwich the interview between a subtle blend of whit and banter, or at least we think so. 
If you think that you may benefit from the service then here's a link to their website that gives you contact details.
From their website
'Tavistock Relationships is offering FREE support for adoptive parents, funded by a grant from the Department of Education. The Adopting Together Service is OFSTED registered and is designed to help couples take care of their own relationship, manage the stresses of parenting and enhance their children's lives. We welcome both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Working with our experienced therapists in a safe and confidential setting, you can be helped to think about the issues that may be affecting your relationship.'



You can also find us on iTunes here

If you feel generous a review would be rather appreciated. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

They all go in the end

Lots of thoughts sloshing around this week, remnants of last week and being too busy perhaps.
We're ticking along ok. I mean like lot's of families our 'ok' isn't your standard cookie cutter Disneyesque ok with unfettered joy and squeaky clean behaviour. You know what I mean, no-one called the police, no-one got hurt. Result.

Anyway, I'm off the point. 

We found out that a professional is leaving our world. Another one gone.
Universally accepted as knowing what they were on about and genuinely stepping in at breaking point and holding it all together she will be missed. Her words brought hope to perhaps the least hopeful moment of our parenting lives. At one point I thought she actually was Nanny McPhee. 

But, she's off. No chance to say goodbye just gone, it would have been nice to say ta ta but sooner or later they all have to go. 

I started to count how many qualified Social Workers we've had across our door. 
18 allocated or involved. 


We cried with one when she left, went for a drink with another, slammed the door behind a few, recored an interrogation with one and in the beginning tidied up for them coming. Some have moved onto bigger and better things, others retired, others just went away. They all go in the end.

In my interview with Hugh T I asked what holds the future for adoption and he said many things, one that stuck was the need for enduring and potentially lifelong partnerships that adopters need to accept with services that support us and our children.  

That wasn't part of my plan when I set off, but it clearly is how the plan is unfolding. We're sad to see our latest go, I could have built a partnership with her, I fear it may not be so easy to build a partnership with a service rather than a person. I wonder if services have the capacity to build enduring and lifelong partnerships with us? I don't know. 

They do all go in the end but we remain,  I'll always be an adopter long after they've retired

Anyway, goodbye Nanny McPhee. We wish you well and thank you for what you've left, a belief that there is a way through. She pointed to it and left hope, a little hope goes a long long way. 

Yes, they do all go in the end but some of them leave a little something behind.  





Saturday, 8 April 2017

Definition

It's been a funny old week, as always there's lots going on I've been here and there doing this and that.  

What made it unusual was meeting people who where from as far away from this world as you can get. We talked and they asked me questions about how I came to end up where I am today.

Crickey, what a question, I'm not sure how to answer that. Sitting there I was struck at how every corner of my life is filled with all things adoption.

We knew adopting would be a big decision when we made it back in 1998 but I hadn't anticipated that it would define almost every aspect of the rest of my life. Having children generally changes a lot but for some of us adopters it changes everything.
Literally everything.
The house and location of the house that I live were all defined by the needs of my children. I do the job I do because I've been drawn into this world, the employers I chose were chosen because they get 'it'. Natural selection has laid across a large part of my friendship groups with getting 'it' sorting the wheat from the chaff. In the extreme I've invited those who wilfully and persistently didn't get 'it' to not return until they did. They did.

Getting 'it' is probably the most valuable commodity in my life, I'll not rehash my 'getting it' post*, but the short hand that cuts through all of the words and history is valuable beyond belief.

The books I read and the social media I engage with is all in someway linked by this thread. Almost every evening I chip away at something. Emails to this person and that person all to try and move the discussion forward, CPV, policy, opportunities and feedback.

On the train home last night I pondered all of this and more and wondered if I was drowning in it all and wondered who I even was and how I had ended up here, it certainly hadn't been my plan. It's funny how a little conversation with strangers can send you down a thought rabbit hole.


But as I write this I realise that for all that my life is woven into and defined by adoption most of my efforts and energies are to try and ensure that my children's lives are not defined by their adoption. Suddenly it all makes sense.

Today I'm going to chop logs, cut the grass, play with the kids, walk the dogs and pretend to be normal.



*Strangely, my second most read post of all.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

An apology to number nine by Colourful Carwen

A guest post by Colourful Carwen

I struggle with CPTSD. To survive my experience of the world I split my self up. 1-8 are the voices in my head. They are remnants of when I used to walk in 8 different personality types. Number nine is our body who has had no say for years. 1-8 could not cope with what number nine carries. For all our sake, so we were able to function 1-8 stayed in charge. This year marks the beginning of the journey we are all on to work out if it's possible to lay down swords and join each other.


We are well into body therapy now! (5 months)

Using a combination of psychotherapy exercises and massage. All nine of us are stumbling on our colourful journey. The aim is to integrate on all levels. Body and brain, neuroplasticity comforts our amygdala. Frontal cortex meets real life limbs and frazzled nerves and stays in connection still able to think.

We start by just trying to identify 'feeling / touch'.  1-8 being able to understand and no longer be scared of the trouble number nine may get us into. Number nine not melting down or kicking of our fight flight freeze fawn response.


As we journey number nine is starting to throw out emotion alongside feeling and sensation. We 'all' feel touch in our tummy, jaws, arms and fingers; managing all to stay present. 

1-8 struggle to put identification to these sensations and some of these sensations now come with memories attached to the emotions.

I guess this is where I need your help. I need to write to bring closure. Writing the process down and know it's been heard is really important to me. I'd like to share one of my first integration stories.

It all started about a month into therapy. A sudden convolution in my tummy exploded it literally doubled me in two.  I was in bed at home. I'd  had a couple of glasses of wine, Netflix was on but all I could do was groan as repeatedly our breath was caught. 

The next convulsion would come. Number nine would literally crunch in two. I knew this was coming from my tummy musclesand there was no pain involved. Strangely I did not feel scared.

 Being able to remain thinking allowed 1-8 to consider what was happening. Viewing the experience like medical students in a theatre gallery. 

Like birth contractions it kept happening. Even when I hadn't had wine and over days several unexpected times. We all tried to grapple with what on earth was going on. A conference was called, a body brain meeting.

1-8 pleaded not guilty, each voice presented what they considered to be going on. There seemed only one culprit. We all turned to number nine. 
  • What are you doing?
  • We can't function if you act like this.
  • We need to 'do life'!
  • Are you trying to cripple us?
  • We are struggling to stay civil.
  • If you keep behaving like this we will have no choice but to take over entirely and leave you!
  • You are too much trouble!
  • We are angry with you!
  • Aggghhhhhhhhh?
  • Stop it, stop it!

Then and only then after at least a week of squabbling and anger our hippocampus gave us all a pin point.  Number nine was trying to remind us of when we walked in a field.

 At the time we were visiting a neighbours farm to use their pool. The field In question sloped up the side of a hill. We are 10 years old. 

Roaming out on are own in the African bush was a normal pass time. No one knew where we were, but we weren't creating stress so it didn't bother anyone. Scrabbling through some bush scrub we found ourselves behind a group of horses. Not knowing about horses we walked up behind them.

All we can remember next is a dirty great thump in our tummy. The whole world momentarily went black. (One of the horses had kicked us in the stomach). The blackness reseeded, doubled up with no breath and smiling as we recognised this experience as being 'winded' (we knew we would breath again). There's was however an the extra problem of being catapulted down the hill.

The falling and tumbling was not our primary concern, as we knew we could take that. The thing that terrified us was this:_

We no longer had the ability to hide and someone might see!  
This would mean being in trouble!!!

Thankfully no one saw. Swiftly we considered how to make this situation 'not have ever happened'. Getting up we stood straight, blinked  and sucked in the pain. We then neutralised our face and walked back and over to  everyone else by the pool. 

Putting on our swimming costume in the toilet it came as a relief to see the scratches were not to noticeable. The horse shaped welt on our stomach already turning blue would be harder to deal with "No it won't" and we smiled again. "We shall keep it hidden". Occasionally we would have a look. What seemed like years and many colours later it had disappeared.

Numbers 1-8 real back a stare at number nine:
  • Out of all the things we have been through your choose that as our first hurdle?
  • What on earth are you thinking?
  • That is not important!
  • Your being ridiculous!
  • This is not a game you know!
  • We are still angry with you! why make such a fuss?

 Then we looked at number nine and realised it mattered to her. She wanted to tell us it hurt. It hurt physically and it hurt to not be seen. It made her withdraw from us all further as it was quite obvious she didn't matter. 

That it mattered to her should be enough for it to matter to us all. 1-8 took a a sigh. Guilty thoughts that we should be dealing with much bigger and important events will have to wait. If we are going to learn about each other and respect each other then part of the journey is realising that number nine is probably very sensitive and that's OK.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Final Report - Child on Parent Violence: Grappling with an Enigma

So, here it is:



The final report that was born out of the Child on Parent Violence (CPV) Survey that was completed at the end of 2016 can be downloaded here

It raises broader questions that need to be asked as we seek to address the needs of families that are impacted by CPV.
Primarily, how do we define CPV? Not as easy as I first thought and with the benefit of hindsight I'd not have used the definition that I chose for the CPV Survey. Why? well as this report notes the intentionality is not as easy to pin on many of our children and even if it is then is it appropriate or relevant to how we then go on to support those families.

This is the last of three reports could have easily been peer reviewed and published in an academic journal but then they would have remained in that sphere, behind paywalls, and privy only to those in that world. So we made them public access but they retain an academic slant to be used as required by professionals or parents. Don't feel embarrassed to skip the first couple of sections to get to the 'stuff'.

Read it, download it, share it. Be encouraged.

I have to thank Wendy, she has undertaken the writing with dedication fuelled by a passion to see CPV brought into the light. It's not taken hours but days, all voluntary and with no complaint.

Trawling through the data has been upsetting and challenging at times, responses are heartbreaking and all who participated represent struggle, pain and distress to varying degrees. A friend took me aside a few weeks ago and asked 'do you think you need to offload all of this stuff?' I'm not sure about that but every comment or reason given for a download fuels the cause, we will keep going. It is going to take time but I see that we've already made a change, when I first wrote about CPV in 2014 I felt like I was going out on a limb. Today, I look through my social media timeline and see conference schedules with the letters CPV and I take heart that we've moved on. We can talk about it we know we're not alone but there remains a long way to go.

The taboo is eroding.

We'll hold fast and keep on.

So, most of all thank you for taking part, reading and sharing.




Friday, 31 March 2017

Episode 13 - Part two of an interview with Hugh Thornbery

This is the second part of an interview with Hugh Thornbery. Hugh retired at the end of March and I took this opportunity to discuss his thoughts and perspectives on contemporary adoption. 

As always Scott and I add our own little banter filled intro and outro. 




Or you can find it on iTunes here

If you're feeling kind a cheeky review would always be appreciated.


Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Child on Parent Violence - DfE Expert Advisory Group

It was the quarterly Department for Education's Expert Advisory Group on Adoption Support. Today was the usual updates on this and that and a few larger issues addressed such as the working out of the role of the Virtual School Heads. We focused  to how the Adoption Support Fund was progressing, of course there are challenges but to date nearly 18,000 children had been helped and that the fair access limit remained above the average cost of the vast majority of applications. No help if you're over with match funding and a difficult issue for some but 80 families have been match funded, which is more than I'd envisaged. 


We had a discussion around the incoming legislation of the Virtual School Heads with NAVSH represented in the room they gave a good account of how they envisaged it playing on the ground. It is was a good discussion and there's room for encouragement and optimism. Of course there are uncertainties as we move into new responsibilities and grey areas but without doubt we are heading in the right direction, it would have been nice to have heard Gareth Marr's thoughts as we discussed the role. 

The final item on the agenda was Child on Parent Violence, I'd asked for it to be there. 

Notes of a fool
Drawing tougher all the findings from the Survey that I'd undertaken and the subsequent findings that Dr Wendy Thorley had made sense of in the first and second CPV reports that laid it all out. It's too much go through verbatim and a text version of a 45 minute presentation is too much to bear so here we go in eight words. 

Taboo (fear of response, isolation, criminalisation, ignorance, stigma, victim blaming)
Paradigms (different professionals view it very differently
Definitions (the trouble with them)
Causes (complicated)
Prevalence (lots, 30% ish)
Impacts (massive)
Responses (shocking)
Actions

It was well received, they're a polite bunch, but I do think the collective minds and organisations in the room took the message to heart.

Child on Parent Violence is a 'thing.*

This is a thing that we need to act on, a complicated, ugly, painful and prickly thing that needs to be grasped. As one member noted, not a can of worms but a bucket of worms.

Actions is the interesting bit, so what do we do next?

That's the question, what do we do with this 'thing', first we call it a thing and we start to raise awareness and we start to consider if this as big as we suspect and believe that we make it a part of Social Workers Continual Professional Development.
We consider how we prepare adopters to let them know it's a 'thing' and it's ok to say it's happening.
We liaise with safeguarding and tell them about this 'thing'.
We develop out knowledge of interventions and what works in a real world situation.
The DfE are going to talk to the Chief Social Worker about their views and knowledge.

Today felt like a start line not and maybe a consideration of what may be the first steps in removing the taboo and developing the culture that makes it ok to ask for help and ok to say you're not ok.

I apologise that this is all a bit vague, it's late and having thought hard about this for a long long time and lived to varying degrees with it and in it. I feel very sleepy all of a sudden.

On another note I'm thinking of getting the presentation, with other stuff,  out to a wider audience and there's even talk of putting on a free event for whoever's interested and recording it, podcasting and you tubing it. I'm pondering that thought so if that's of interest let me know.

All in all a good day.




*Speaking to a group of Social Workers last week  a senior practitioner said "We knew that this happened but we didn't realise it was a 'thing'."





Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hold fast

Hold Fast

'To bear down, grit it out, stay the course'


Sometimes all we seem to have is to Hold Fast.

It's a peculiar transition that we adopters make. Bright young open minded things that throw ourselves into the Social Care system. Or at least open the door and let them in. We dance to their tune because they are the gatekeepers the bureaucrats with the power to grant us our wishes. It's all good with our clean houses and nice biscuits. We tell them a palatable version of our lives and pass to try and achieve approval.

We accept that we have to wait and we Hold Fast as we wait for Panel, then we Hold Fast as we patiently wait for a match. We Hold Fast again and again and again

But then, a year or two down the line we realise that they have our lives. We are woven into a system that can be very hard to extract ourselves from. Even if we wish to extract ourselves they remain gatekeepers to our children's welfare, CAHMS, Schools, Health, Adoption Support Fund, Post Adoption Support, heaven forbid Child Protections Services.

This is my life, this is my child's life and when come off the phone to this professional or another often all we seem to have is to Hold Fast. 
While we wait for news or the next visit we Hold Fast. 
While we hope it'll be a 'yes' not a 'no' we hold fast. 
I've said it before, for a professional a 'call next week' is 37.5 hours away with lots to do in between. For us it's 168 hours away and all we can do is Hold Fast.

The families of our children remain influential, decisions they make echo into our lives and we Hold Fast. Other children are born bringing uncertainty and difficult questions and again we Hold Fast.

It's not to down play Holding Fast, it got us through the dark days of '07, very very dark months and year. 

People often ask me for advice, all I have is Hold Fast. 

Postscript
A few hours after I'd given out my sage advice the phone rang, once again uncertainty and questions tumble into out lives. Lots of question with no answers and we're waiting again, holding the tensions. 
Again, I find myself Holding Fast. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast Episode 12 - Interview with Hugh Thornbery Pt1

This is the first part of an interview with Hugh Thornbery the CEO of Adoption UK. Hugh is retiring at the end of March and I took this opportunity to discuss some specific isssues in relation to the Adoption Support Fund and other issues that have been addressed during his tenure.





The second half will be released on the 26th March 2017. 
Scott and I will return then on tap to offer whatever insight and whit we can muster.

Or you can find it on iTunes here
If you're feeling kind a cheeky review would always be appreciated.




Friday, 17 March 2017

Beware ye the comments section

It's been a funny, but busy old week, pondering all the perspectives that I've encountered.

Recently I've written a few things that have reached a little beyond my usual spheres and like a man with bombproof self confidence I ventured into the comments section of the articles. Wise or not so wise, I'm not sure but if you put your head above the parapet then you need to be prepared to duck or at least defend yourself.

It wasn't the usual agreeable remarks that I get here but all bar one were ok and fairly reasonable, measured and thoughtful. It was a great reminder that there are people who think differently, who's experience and perspectives are just as valid as mine but still pretty different.



The experience does make me question what I think, I know that I do not have the monopoly on the truth. I've always believed that my position and perspectives are not monoliths that cannot be altered and asking questions and opening myself to contrary views stress tests what I believe and think.

I thought  about narratives in adoption earlier in the week, how do we  question, influence then and take control of them. There seems to be few places to do that. The comments section of blogs or articles are not the best place for that but there are very few places that we can have these conversations. Also, for every person that comments their are many more that don't want to drawn into conversations there or are are even aware that those conversations are happening.

To leave these conversations and debates solely to academics and politicians seems ridiculous, they have valid perspective but often it's not their lives that are directly impacted. Adoption strikes at the very heart of many of our families in a positive way, but there are an equal number of families that have had it strike with equal potency in a negative way to the heart of their families. Two very different views and for the sake of our children and future children we need listen to each other. But that may not be easy or nice. Even considering that may upset some.

I've no answers really, just questions and I'm just keen that we keep opening ourselves to other views and voices. That we ensure that we don't listen to just the loud and prominent but we also listen to the quiet and hidden voices. I'm pretty sure I've said this before but it returns and bears repeating.


You can read the comments here





Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Child on Parent Violence - Definitions

I read a tweet in a thread about Child on Parent Violence asked:

'I'm not sure ours counts'

It is an interesting question as none of us wants to label out children or have them stigmatised as 'perpetrators'. This is not what I want to do but we can be clear that if we call it something that it's not then we run the risk of maintaining the silence and consequently the stigma and the struggle.


So, if you're unsure here are some definitions.



'Behaviour considered to be violent if others in the family feel threatened, intimidated or controlled by it and if they believe that they must adjust their own behaviour to accommodate threats or anticipation of violence' 


Paterson, R., Luntz, H., Perlesz, A. and Cotton, S. (2002) ‘Adolescent violence towards parents: Maintaining family connections when the going gets tough’, 



'Any harmful act by a child, whether physical, psychological or financial which is intended to gain power and control over a parent or caregiver

Cottrell, B. (2001). Parent abuse: The abuse of parents by their teenage children 

The above is the most common used though problematic as it implies intentionality or forethought which I'm not sure is always present.
Below is a section from the Home Office's Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA) guidance and can be accessed here

'It is important to recognise that APVA is likely to involve a pattern of behaviour. This can include physical violence from an adolescent towards a parent and a number of different types of abusive behaviours, including damage to property, emotional abuse, and economic/financial abuse. Violence and abuse can occur together or separately. Abusive behaviours can encompass, but are not limited to, humiliating language and threats, belittling a parent, damage to property and stealing from a parent and heightened sexualised behaviours. Patterns of coercive control are often seen in cases of APVA, but some families might experience episodes of explosive physical violence from their adolescent with fewer controlling, abusive behaviours.'





Thursday, 9 March 2017

Just say No

With the nonchalance of tone and certainty of it happening Peanut asked:

'You know when we adopt again, well could we.............'

With the tone of a man who really knows what that means, a broken man no less,  I interrupted sharply:

'Nope, no, never, never, never.......................just no,  I mean it, really stop that before you even start. We are not, I repeat, not adopting more children'

Flossy and Peanut who were feigning disinterest up til that point then joined in.

'It would be cute to have a baby though wouldn't it?'

Realising that this needed to be well and truly stamped out I unleashed the full Fawlty Dad, the whole nine yards, descriptions of how in no uncertain terms I was not going to be the father of another child, how by the time Peanut is 18 I will have been a parent with a child under 18 for 34, yes THIRTY, flaming, FOUR years, how the teachers of my children weren't even born when I started taking my children to parent's evenings, on and on and on I went, a man on the edge.

Flossy and Peanut no longer feigned disinterest, they were genuinely disinterested and Peanut had wandered off bored.

I felt quite traumatised.



What a peculiar paradigm we appear to have created. I couldn't stop thinking about what a strange world Peanut inhabits, quite an interesting model of family we've got going on round here. Aunts that aren't and sisters that are and aren't. Some who can live with us and some who can't. It's her version of normal.

Epilogue

This morning I woke at 4am in a cold sweat.
I'd dreamt that we'd been asked to adopt a sibling group of six, lovely children no bother at all. In the dream I'd thought about saying 'yes' and woke myself up in terror because I'd not said 'no''


Blogs of Adoptive Dads Linky #BADlinky 3

Welcome to the first Blogs for Adoptive Dad's linky the...................#BADlinky


Serious, funny, sad, tragic, poignant whatever, if you're a dad and you've adopted or fostered, thinking of adopting or in the process of adopting then add your post to the #BADlinky through the button below.  Don't mind if they're old or new. Look at the others and leave a nice comment and we'll all be happy.

In fact I don't really mind if your a mum who does 'dad' things or a mum who has thoughts on dads all are welcome.

It will be open 'til  midnight on Sunday's.
I'll tweet them out and we'll have some fun!


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Department for Education - Adopter Voice March 17

The machinery of government and social care moves at a glacial pace. But it does move, for adoptive families that can be infuriating. Changes that we hope to see come and benefit our children come too slow and sometimes the bottlenecks in our children's lives have gone and our concerns have moved on. I've had to embrace pragmatism.

So, we come together to share views on specific issues, as always education, Virtual School Heads, EHCP plans, Pupil Premium Plus are on the agenda. The machinery of adoption support is interlinked with other departments, this team and that team. Influence has to be brought to bear with some to varying degrees. Things are moving.


Child on Parent Violence was on the agenda, 'The best kept secret in adoption'.
Drawing on my CPV survey I shared some experiences and the results. This is not the place to rehearse the arguments, I've ranted enough elsewhere but in essence we discussed.


  • Prevalence, up to 30% of adopters will experience it across their child's childhood.
  • Clearly linked to disruptions and struggling families
  • That more adopters experienced it in younger children than older
  • Responses from Social Care were not always informed*
  • Professional knowledge is limited across a range of professionals
  • Knowledge of effective responses and interventions is slim
That's all standard stuff but there are individuals, professional and organisations with some knowledge and they should be accessed and there knowledge should be disseminated. It was a good discussion and I may have become animated, but hey what do you expect. On the plus side I've come away with some new ears to bend, names of people who can help, or should help. 


We squeezed in a brief discussion about the challenges of Fostering to Adopt, sorry I ate up the time on CPV.

As a footnote I asked it there was a option to place a statutory timeframe on the local authorities duty to carry out the  'Assessment of Adoption Support Needs'. Just a thought, anecdotally I hear such a range from weeks to years. Of course it can be a complicated assessment but with no timeframe attached many families find themselves languishing as they wait for it to be completed. Could this data be added to the adoption scorecard? should it be? A new fight to start, me and my big mouth. I'd much prefer that a statutory timescale was added but perhaps I'm reaching for the moon.

Anyway, we continue to push. Adopter Voice is a forum I'd encourage all who can participate in to do so.





*that's a nice way of saying it.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Podcast Special - LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week with Scott

This is a Special Podcast to recognise LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week - 2017.



Al has taken a well deserved week off... kind of... so I locked the door to the studio, twiddled a few knobs and hey presto here you go!

I talk to Ruth, a lesbian mum and Calvin, a gay dad about some of the ups and downs of both becoming an LGBT Adopter and parenting as one.







Al and I will be back next week as usual. Enjoy this Special and share it far and wide... we still need more LGBT adopters and foster carers. 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Adoption & Fostering Podcast Episode 11 - National Association of Virtual School Heads - Jane Pickthall

Hello & welcome to the 11th Episode of the Adoption & Fostering Podcast


In this episode we interview Jane Pickthall the incoming Chair of the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH) and discuss the needs of children and the role of the Virtual Heads. This is a cracking interview and an insight to professionals that work with and influence many schools as they educate and care for vulnerable children. 
Scott and I hit our stride and enjoy the cut and thrust of our usual banter, enjoy. 

Here are the links to NAVSH website and twitter handle.
@NAVSH_UK

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Managing

Managing
Verb: to succeed in doing or dealing with something, especially something difficult.


What does 'managing' mean? It's no indication of how difficult things are or how we are dealing with it. It's subjective. What is the value of saying we're managing?

We manage because we can't think what else to do, but what do I do to manage, what is the cost, am I really managing?

Every day I meet people who are managing. Some are managing well, others not so.

Some people manage, but they're on anti depressants, they drink a little more than they should, their relationships with partners and friends are in tatters.
They manage but can't sleep at night, they have to give up their jobs, they don't see their friends and they're frightened of their children.
They manage by locking themselves in their room or calling the police.
They manage but they're isolated, aren't able to go to church or to friend's houses.
From the outside looking in I think 'are you really managing?'.
I think, 'yes you're managing but at what cost?'.

I know more families than I care to count who manage way beyond what they ever expected because they love their children and have no other choice.

There have only been a few moments in our family lives where I've thought that I wasn't managing, fleeting moments where I considered the alternative. But the alternative was too much to bear, a choice that was more painful than the 'managing'.

Stepping back, I wonder are we managing or just not giving up.






Please note: this post is not a criticism of the survey that used the word 'managing' in it's reporting more a reflection on my thoughts and ponderings that popped out after I read it.








Friday, 24 February 2017

#BADlinky No.2

So, here we are the second week of the Blogs for Adoptive Dads linky #BADlinky



If you're a dad, fostering or adoptive, a mam who does the 'dad' stuff or just writing about dads then knock yourself out and post your blog up. It can be an old one or a new one.

Be kind, comment on the others posted, it's always nice to get a comment! Don't worry if it's an old post or a new post just go for it.

Have fun and remember it will close on Sunday at midnight.

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