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)

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. 

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. 

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.


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.

Thursday 2 March 2017


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.