Thursday 27 July 2017

Shred it.

I could feel my breathing rate start to increase. Short sharp breaths.

'No, no, no, no, no!', I muttered under my breath.

With the quietest, sternest voice I could muster, you know that discrete angry voice that you develop to try and subdue children in public spaces, I informed Lotty,

'Peanut must never, never, never see this! do you understand?!'

We were in London and I had taken the girls to my office at 5pm. It was empty, with all the sensitive stuff locked away and limited opportunities to get into mischief. They'd never been before and as I pottered on sorting something out Lotty and Peanut were playing offices. It's is remarkable the giddy joy a spinning chair can offer a child.

Lotty got a couple of blank sheets of paper and a clipboard and Peanut was watching mind rot on the iPad. On reflection Lotty's studious attention to whatever she was up to was slightly out of character. But like the mantra of all good fathers 'if they're not bothering me don't interfere' I cracked on and finished whatever I was up to.

I started to pack up and Lotty came over with a smile that would melt icebergs holding the paper for me to look at it.

It was an adoption profile for Peanut.

That day we'd been at a friends who's foster child was being prepared for adoption. The girls were very excited. Every corner of our lives is consumed with adoption. Peanut lives in a world where this is normal and everything else is slightly suspicious. Her five sibling in our house are all a mixture of biology and social engineering, her biography is pretty standard in Coates Towers. We talk about it all the time, our friendship group is foster carers and adopters, it's my work and  Flossy shouts on a daily basis 'I wish you'd not adopted me!'.

Peanut wandered over and saw her name on the profile!

'What's that?' 

I'm not going to take the risk of thinking that I've brought her to work to put her up for adoption. I give my 'Nuclear Look' to Lotty and tell her she's not to explain. She smiled the look of a child who has me where she wants me and I was a man at the mercy of my children.

Fawlty dad surfaced and I ran and rammed it into the shredder. Before I did I looked again, it was actually quite well written, appearance, interests, and biography pretty good a realistic appraisal of her behaviour and all grammar and spelling on point.

I should get her a job.

Thursday 20 July 2017


Through the chest heaving sobs racking through my body I asked MrsC if the post title 'The death of childhood' was perhaps a little dramatic. ‘No’ she exclaimed, a woman bereft. 

Lotty's at her end of primary school prom. I have lots of feelings.

There was a time when we raced to the developmental milestones and rites of passage of our children, like excited puppies desperate to get to the next new thing. That’s all changed now we scream ‘nooooo’ as they draw close and arrive with soul crushing inevitability. Now they seem to mark the end of stuff rather than celebrate achievement or the start of something exciting. Poor Peanut, as proud as I was of her learning to ride a bike I also felt desperately sad as another milestone passed, I’m tempted to stop teaching her new things.

I often wonder if the feelings I have for my children are comparable to birth parents and their children. I think it’s one of those questions that those on the outside of adoption are curious about. Do adopted children feel like ‘real’ children? It's a tricky question to ask and equally trick to answer but in the quite moments of my mind. Of course,  I’m in no position to comment, others who have families of mixed origins perhaps can answer that question. Anyway, I wonder about how I feel when these milestones come.  I think some of the stuff is standard pride, enjoyment and love. I also feel a sense of privilege, to be given charge of amazing children and be a part of their journey through life. They reflect nothing of my genes or hereditary and I can take limited credit for their achievements*.

I’m drifting from my point.

Lotty is leaving primary school, all the modern guff surrounds this rite of passage but I know what’s really going on. My little girl’s days are numbered, within weeks of joining big school the little girl will be gone and the young person will awaken. Four of my children have passed through this transition and I know what’s set before me. So, once again the swelling pride is tempered by the sadness I feel. Lotty will be fine,  Lotty rocks life, I know I’m her dad, but she really rocks the hell out of it. So, she will embrace all the newness and opportunity with a sass of Olympic levels.

Lotty was a baby, just 10 weeks old when she crashed into all of our lives and totally hijacked everyones hearts. It's a long story but she is equally loved, loving and infuriating like all good children. 

Anyway, enough of all that. Once again, I find myself turning into a sentimental, overly dramatic, fool. Up yours milestones.

*I’ve come to conclude after 19 years and six children 80% nature and 20% nurture but that conversation is for a different day.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Adoption Support Dataset

On a really basic level what we measure we value, for example I know exactly how much cake there is in the house and I have no idea the quantity of lettuce we currently have. It reveals a lot about my priorities.

With that in my mind I was really happy to attend a working group today considering the data that the Adoption Leadership Board would like Local Authorities and Voluntary Adoption Agencies to gather for them. They already gather data in relation to the numbers of children waiting and the length of time that they take to travel through the system to adoption amongst lots of other stuff. We also have the data that the Adoption Support Fund has revealed about the availability of services. 

One of the key pillars of the Government’s policy on adoption is to improve the post adoption support that adopted children and adoptive families receive and gathering data in relation to who is accessing the service, how long for, how long that takes and the nature of the support they receive seems like an obvious thing to do. I'm not even going to mention the assessment of Adoption of Support Needs and all that we don't know about that. 

Of course the specific data that is collected can reveal more than just facts and figures it can lead to understanding of the challenges that children and families face and help those commissioning services to improve and develop them. I’d hope that it would also give indication to themes around who accesses service and in what circumstances. Not insignificantly it a clear statement to LAs that this is important and we are watching.

I’m confident that as we transition into Regional Adoption Agencies recording this data will become an accepted and welcome tool for improvement and if necessary to bring to account. Like all of this stuff, there are hoops and hurdles that need to be navigated and some proposals that may or may not make it to the final draft.

It's been a peculiar time nationally with changes and a shifting and uncertain political landscape and like many I've wondered how this will impact on on the political good will that adoption generally has. Today has encouraged me that there remains a willingness to focus on this and I hope that the benefits our children receive will spill into the lives of other children who live with kin or guardians. 

On a lighter note it was good to see #whathughsuptonow and he’s looking like a lean mean cycling machine.

Friday 14 July 2017

Trauma Denial Trope

So you're having a chat with a friend or a family member and you get round to talking about some incident at home or school. The usual stuff a challenge that  your little one has with crowds or anxiety in different environments and the subsequent unraveling or slip from the 'norm' of accepted behaviour. Then the person who you're talking to stops and drops in some trauma denial trope or other.

'Do you not think they should be over it yet?' or 'children need to be in that environment, that's how they learn'.

The conversation goes on and it's clear regardless of how thorough or scientific your description of the impacts of early trauma, loss and separation are they are not going to have it.

They really are not willing to accept my rational, detailed and factual explanation of my child's inner world.

Stop there, I'm stuck at that point. As I walk away from that conversation I can't help feeling more than a little frustrated that this person can't understand the inner world of my children. I feel hurt, of course you do you insult my child you hurt me.

I can totally understand people not knowing the impacts of trauma but refusing to change their position or accept facts seems genuinely shocking. More than that it feels like there's sometimes an accusation hidden in there.

That I'm weak and being soft on 'bad behaviour', a permissive parent, liberal do gooder or a bleeding heart. Do they think I'm afraid of calling out poor behaviour and instigating consequences and firm boundaries. It's hurtful that someone who, we hope, cares for us and would have our best interests at heart believes that we're misguided and are condoning, as they see it, unacceptable behaviour.

I wonder if it strikes to a deeper issue that in their minds my children remain 'others', cuckoos, part of our family but  not of our family. Do they consider my child to be a 'wrong un'.
I hope that's not the case, I really hope that's not the case.

I'm still surprised that 19 years after setting out on this journey there are still people close to us who are choosing dogma over science and judgement over compassion.