Thursday, 31 August 2017

Safe House

I've been struggling to recharge, over the summer I'd taken a few weeks off but it was more an exercise in managing the summer holidays than taking a break. I felt my light was fading and no matter what I did I couldn't seem to re ignite it. I read some books and listened to some stuff and that was great but I couldn't seem so shake this lack of something.

It's a long time since I've been to a support group. I feel I inhabit a murky nether world between adopter and social worker. Adopters are careful what they say around me because I'm a social worker and increasingly social workers are careful as I'm an adopter/blogger/shouter. The last support group I went to was wonderful but I was conscious that I was a novelty and it slowly slipped into a question and answer session.  If you know our journey it's pretty extreme and it's a brave adopter that takes me on in a game of 'challenging behaviour/tricky adoption process' Top Trumps.

It's nothing to be proud of and I'm nothing special, I'm just walking the path in front of me.

The group became about what I thought and what I knew and that was not what I wanted or what was right.

So, I don't go to support groups, I've found a way of getting the dirty water off my chest through blogging and campaigning. However, its not the same as a chat. I meet and have lots of communication with adopters but it's often one way, that's my choice. No body wants to hear about my crap.

Then I had some friends over, friends who care for the children that sit squarely in the challenging camp. All our slightly wobbly kids had a hoot and while we weren't paying attention played 'why were you adopted' Top Trumps, ate too much cake and ran themselves silly. We all kind of turned a blind eye knowing that this was a safe place, adoptees only. Grown ups and children who 'get it'.

All the grown ups sat in my kitchen and we laughed and laughed. We laughed at the things we'd said and the things that had been said to us. We laughed at each others stories and shared our worries and concerns.

The topics were dark but the company was safe.

We laughed at this and we laughed at each other, made fun of each other and didn't take each other that seriously. It was great.

We gave no advice and took loads.

I felt my light glow a little stronger, it's good to have friends.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Finish Lines

Busy old day continuing the work on Child to Parent Violence, as I talked to a few people I wondered   if there would ever be a moment where I could hang up my backpack and call it a job done. Not likely, we'll never end CPV so what is a realistic goal or moment to say we've achieved success? I've been pondering that one.

How foolish to start running in a race with no end.

As is the way I started to think about home and all the ongoing and ever developing shenanigans with the children.

How foolish to start running in a race with no end.

I know that all parents would say you never stop being a parent but this is something different. We've boiled down the cohort of adoptees to some of the most vulnerable children in our society, that's right and proper but perhaps the consequence is adoption is no longer what it was (if it ever was).

For many of us there appears to be no finish lines, we push hard to get to therapy hoping for solutions only to discover that it's a process and there are no full conclusions just markers on the race. We're always moving. One school year ends and we move into the challenge of the summer holidays and then transition into the next school year or move of school or into college or work. Lots of markers and pit stops but their is rarely a sense of job done.
Our children grow up. The natural order of things being that our children move to independence, some a little earlier and some a little later. However, there's a dawning reality in our home that there's a level of support that will be needed well beyond eighteen years old when society hands them them  the keys to adulthood without asking if that is the right moment to do it. So we the parents keep running, being there, advocating and interceding and hoping for a little sunshine as we run. There's no finish line.

It is what it is, I've reconciled myself to this. It's all a bit melancholy though. Don't worry.

Anyway back to the CPV. Of course there are no finish lines but a few markers and others are running with the baton. Today I spoke to the Fostering Network and they're hoping to raise awareness and develop knowledge in their field, good stuff. I then met with Helen Bonnick and we're lecturing on the issue at the Community Care Live conference for Social Workers. The lights are turning on. I've other irons in the fire and I'll share when I can but it's all good. There's lots of good people doing good stuff.

As for me I've got plans for my next 'race'. I really don't want to be the CPV man.

Monday, 21 August 2017

I Hate You - A guest Blog

By Colourful Carwen

F**K OFF!!!! I hate you!
Looking through steely stubborn eyes. I survey the situation. Anger boils and curls through my body. Inside my mind shouts expletives. "F***er , you little f***er!"
 "I hate you you little pathetic s**t!". I'm looking at my little sister as she gets a cuddle from a family visitor whose just arrived.

Why am I so angry, let me explain. ​

As I look at the lovely scene in front of me, I know all I am going to do is mess up. I have known this since I found out my mum's friend was coming (three days ago). I knew I would be the one that will let myself down,  the one that will bring shame on my family. It will be me that has to try cope with the  mess. whatever mess it is that I will make. I know I will make one, it's what I do; I am so predictable. It's all so bloody pointless my anger flies around bubbling like an uncontrollably firework.

My mum tells me to "calm down".

 "Calm down! Calm down!" 
I want to scream back!
 "why are you doing this to me?" 
"Why are you putting me in this situation, you know I can't do this! I'm rubbish!"
"Why do you always do this! Don't come near me I  hate you! I hate you!" But I don't say anything. I know that's wrong and my attitude is wrong.

My mind is seething "Why are you letting this happen to me, YOU HATE ME!"

Miserably I try to communicate, I try to assemble some right ways of creating sentences. I fight trying to overcome all the "little f***ers and fireworks that are assaulting and drowning me. I must find good words, good words to say. I must use my words, not my fists.

All I that comes out though are angry words. Words I have never even heard or thought before but yet find flying out of my mouth.

"I don't like your friend! I HATE YOUR FRIEND!". 
"I wish you had no friends!"

For good measure my hand flies across the air and knocks a glass of water off the garden table.  Instantly, as the water hits the floor and everyone gasps, misery floods me. 

Now I hate me. I hate me more than anything you can image. In the same moment I'm also being told just how horrid I actually am by my protector parent for not saying hello nicely like my sister and making a scene and ruining it for everybody.

I give up and am completely broken. No one notices this as I'm sent away from the situation and placed in the kitchen.

From here I can see my sister getting another hug from the newly arrived visitor. It hurts, as if my rib cage may crack under the pressure. 

I wanted a hug! I want what she just always gets without trying. I want to be out there with them all drinking cool drinks in the sun. I hate my sister! She never does anything wrong!
  • I hate the fact she's so "cute"! 
  • I hate the fact my protector parent can't see me as "cute"! 
  • I hate the fact that even if they did see me as cute I would not be able to receive that comfort that safety. I'd probably wallop them for trying.
  • I will never be like her. 
  • I always ruin everything that's nice.
  • There's no point trying to hug me or read a story to me I'm to angry, 
  • I don't sit still. 

  • Now more than ever  I hate myself. I hate this life and I hate people.  I hate everything I am hate! I am anger! I am rubbish!  And I am not nor never will be huggableI will never have the very thing I want because I am me. I'm not sure how to handle all this emotion flying around me. I realise to my horror that I have been a scratching a knife deep into the kitchen table. 

I don't know what to do, where to go. Oh please please let me disappear really quickly. Concrete fills my body and I jump up on the table to sit over the gash. 

My mum's friend comes on to fill up her glass with water. "Hello Carwen, how are you?"
All I can do is hang my head as I'm unable to reply, everything is to horrible for words.

"Answer my friend Carwen", shouts my mum from the garden; I am still speechless. I know what I'm hiding and black hopeless doom is drenching me. I wish I was dead.

"Oh ignore her, she's feeling sorry for herself" my mum shouts at her friend, "she can stay there until she learns to have manners".

I ruin everything for everybody. 

I am a horrible nasty little spiteful little girl.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 23 Life Story Work with Katie Wrench

Life Story Work is a topic that raises many questions with carers and adopters having a whole range of experiences from positive to very poor. So, with that in mind this week we speak to Katie Wrench a Social Worker and author on the subject. We discuss a range of issues including helping children with complex and challenging histories as well as good practice and how open should we be.

Most of the questions and themes came from Twitter and Facebook so thanks to every one who joined the discussion. 

As always we enjoy the cut and thrust of a little banter and humour. You can also find us on iTunes here so go and subscribe if you like. If you really like add a review.

On another note we started a Facebook Page where we're going to upload more stuff and live stream the occasional video and that can be found here if you feel inclined then feel free to like. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017


'Is she yours?' asked the woman.

Honestly, if you could spend 10 minutes in my head you'd know what that question does to my stream of consciousness. That is a question and a half. I've written, re written and re re written a blog on the language of property, adoption and children.

I've not posted it. I just can't seem to articulate the swirl of ideas and thought that are sloshing around.

I think if I lived in a country with a more expressive language I'd do a lot better. I've pondered how we refer to our children using the language of property and how that I sometimes feel uncomfortable and how sometimes I don't. I understand that belonging is a basic human need to promote love, safety and nurture.

I understand that my children have 'belonged' to a host of people, parents, aunts, uncles, the state, then a whole new set of people mam, dad, aunts and uncles. I posted this:

I say belonged but as I'm writing I can feel my ability to communicate clog up. We use the language of property when we talk about this link between us and our children and it seems clumsy and inadequate. When we give ourselves to someone we belong, but we're not property.

Often I use and see words that make me feel uncomfortable, adoption orders are granted and I declared 'they're mine'. They are, but they aren't, they continue to 'belong' to a host of people far and wide. To deny that is foolish, to counter that for some of our children's welfare a severance from individuals is essential and appropriate. However, the link remains.

Like the quote asks, who belongs to this child?

Reflecting on our journey I'm sad to say that I didn't always have that view but I did have control and I should have acted differently. Hindsights a killer.

I apologise for an incomplete and unsatisfying post, my words fail to express all of the swirling thoughts.

Anyway, the GoodMrsC answered the woman 'yes', she's much better at this stuff.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Words & Meanings

Reading a few adoption blogs, as well as a few other places, I've been struck by the language that's been used. Not the language of family and home but the language of process and fostering. On a fundamental level it's none of my business the language that people choose to use. On a personal level it really got under my skin.

Language and words matter, I say that as someone who has consistently says the wrong thing at the wrong moment. The terms that we use when we describe ourselves is important and I don't like hearing language that pulls our children back into a world of care that we promised that they would never return to.
Perhaps, it's my sensitivity and that I've got a over developed sense of correctness from my left wing social work training. Perhaps not.

As adoptive parents and adopted children we are manufactured family but we are not a social care 'placement' we are a family and I want to be considered in those terms. Yes, at the point of placement that was what it was but the minute the door shut behind the social worker as they left we became a family. A green shoot of a family but one no less. My memory is very clear of our wobbly start and tricky first few months but that we were a 'struggling family' not an 'unstable placement' feels like a important distinction.

While I'm on I feel I must speak of how I feel about respite, I simply hate the phrase. Yes, it may be wholly accurate in describing a break from something that is difficult but its a pointy, cold, ugly phrase that I'd happily see killed off.

I never want respite from my children but I'm more than happy for them to have a sleepover at a family member or friend's house. I need my children to go and have a holiday and be spoilt a little bit by their grandmother, or taken to the pictures for the afternoon by their big sister. Do I need a break from a difficult thing? Oh yes, but language matters.

Many adoptive families need breaks and many don't have family and friends that can help for a host of reasons. However, the work of The Open Nest is a great example of offering a break that is as removed from the word respite and all that it evoked when it's used.

It's like 'contact' I'm pretty sure that I've never had contact with any of my relatives I usually just go and visit them. There are lots of words.

Of course, it's all semantics but reading the words I can't help but feel that the words highlight and focus our mind on the difference, I know that they are woven into the system but I think we should try to unpick them.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Low hanging fruit

I shouldn't be blogging when I'm suffering from passing melancholia and cynicism, it's a bad combination. I've got an stern letter that I've been planning to write since December playing on my mind.

My adoptive life seems to have been a series of me jumping through hoops, participating in assessments and addendums to assessments, of me writing stern letters and making petitions to people who have power over my life, social workers of varying strains, panel members, guardians, IROs (Independent Reviewing Officers) and judges. I'm constantly answering questions and submitting information and waiting and waiting and waiting.

Perhaps they should include 'Advanced Bureaucracy for Beginners' in the adoption preparation course, I think that a working knowledge of the current social care legislative framework would have come in useful as well as a brief introduction to Education policy, curriculum, SEN and housing and liaising with the police while we're on. I knew my Social Work degree would come in useful, I also knew I should have applied myself a little harder in the research module. All the flaming neuroscience journals I try to digest to make sense of the inner workings of the kids is tiresome.

I told you I shouldn't blog when I'm melancholy. I've always believed that opinions are much more effectively received when requested rather than rammed down the throat.

I had thought I'd write an 'aren't the holidays tricky' blog. It feels like a cheap shot, the low hanging fruit of the blogging subject tree so to say. It's the tricky third week, we could go either way.  The first flush of enthusiasm is waning and we're entering into the middle weeks of attrition, the end remains persistently further away than the beginning.

Anyway, I've put the letter off for another night, I've not sure I've got the emotional reserves to open up a war of diplomacy and attrition with another group of professionals. I've read the small print and I can wait a year, I'll do it tomorrow night, I will, I will, I will.

I'll write that other blog it at the end of the holidays, if we survive.

Thursday, 3 August 2017


I've been overwhelmed by some stories that I've heard over the last few weeks, traumatic experiences of families as they live with the outworkings of trauma in their daily lives.  Sitting in rooms talking to parents about the threats, intimidation, aggression and violence some live with  I'm struck by the love that keeps parents going.

Love is amazing, it's an ethereal thing that doesn't fit that well into social work assessments. We can use words like bond, commitment, nurture, empathy and compassion but they're pale shadows that can only point us towards love.    

Adoption works, however wonkily, because of love. What other 'model of permeance' would offer love like this. Fostering perhaps, but that's different. I say adoption works, I guess I really means that it often works.

The social media 'echo chamber' that I live in would suggest that all is not well in adoption. However, the figures suggest that more is right than wrong and for many children and parents adoption works, or at least is the best option left available for some children. .

Of course, adoption could be better, as a progressive I'm keen to see some of the dogmatic adherence to some aspects of it need to be swept away. Support needs overhauling, preparation and recruitment needs revisiting, you know all that.

But this week listening to stories of families living with abuse at the hands of their children it hangs heavy but love remains and endures.

I wish I'd been brave enough to ask, those struggling and those not, if they'd do it again and what would they say? What would I say?

The last year has seen some of the most challenging days we've had as a family. On the darkest of days, I've felt my love flicker. Those around me have given me permission to let my love die and to even 'make that call'.

But the love re ignites, how and why I don't know, and I find myself defending and championing and loving again.
It's rarely a Disneyesque, fluffy bunny, gushing sort of love more of a gritty, bloody minded, lime juice in a paper cut kind of love but love it is.

When I read that adoption isn't 'fit for purpose' I confess that I can't agree.

Would I do it again? Yes.