Friday, 18 August 2017

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

Life Story Work is a topic that raises many question and 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.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast Episode 22 - Child on Parent Violence lecture (part 2)

This episode we release the second half of the Child on Parent Violence (CPV) talk that we gave on the 12th July hosted by We Are Family. 

As always you can also find us on iTunes here.

It's the summer so no banter I'm afriad, though we're pulling out all the stops to get a some interesting guests for the autumn. 

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.