Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Adoption Contract

It feels like the time is right to ask the difficult questions about adoption. During an average week I speak to many adopters, adoption professionals and a few adoptees, what strikes me is the gap between the lived experience of adopters and much of the media portrayal and popular perception of adoption. I know I’m banging the same drum that I always seem to be banging, however it remains true.

The adoption contract used to be simple, nice childless couples, with a good reference, committed themselves to raising nice babies that the State could not look after and nobody else wanted.

The State committed to not meddle and the couple committed to not ask for anything else.

The children’s duty in all this is to be glad for the opportunity to live a better life and remain silent on the issue if possible. 

Biological parents were expected to understand the consequences of their actions and quietly accept their fate, ideally without fuss.

How gloriously convenient, fantastically simple and resolutely final. Secrecy was encouraged and many lived under its protective but stifling shroud. Adoptees silenced by deception or indoctrination. Adopters following instructions; Parents shamed into silence. It seems a nonsense from this side of history, but it was real and echoes remain.

Though tinkered with and given a new slap of paint contemporary adoption is based on the same foundation. Adults raising other people’s children, a legal change of identity and a severance of the past for children. We’ve broadened out the criteria of who can adopt reflecting the changes in our society and our ideas of what makes an appropriate parent. We’ve introduced modest changes and channels of contact between birth families and their children.  In reality not much has changed.

By the end of the 1960’s 25,000 children were adopted from the care system, that has now reduced to a relative trickle of less than 5,000 children a year. Society and culture has changed beyond all recognition since then and we’ve reduced the number of children adopted to the most vulnerable, the most impacted, the most hurt children. Caring for hurt children can be hard. Adoption is not what it was. It does remains a safe and secure place for children but the reality for many adoptive parents is that they’re struggling. This deal or contract was not what they feel they were sold. Up to a third of adopters describing themselves as having major difficulties and 8% of then talking in terms of adoption disruption; is it time to think again about renegotiating the adoption contract? Many adoptive families are discovering that their involvement with social care and  mental services stretches beyond the first months of placement through childhood and transforms into involvement with adults social care. The idea that we’d take our children and move into the mythical happy ever after has gone, adoption is not what it was if it ever was. Some adoptive families now find that they feel as vulnerable as the families that their children were removed from. 

The landscape has shifted for all persons in this contract, social care is having to evolve, with varying success, to meet the enduring long term needs of families, it’s getting better but it’s not there yet. Adopters have changed, yes the criteria to adopt has shifted and mirrored changes in culture but challenges remain. Expectations have to be managed and that’s hard. Many infertile couples have traversed the painful and extracted medical processes to try for their own biological children; bruised by this process like no other generation adoption may be their third or fourth choice. When it does not reflect the happy ever afters of popular culture then the fall can be hard.   

Adoptees now live in a world that is connected like never before through social media. The time and effort that tracing family members created a buffer and time to think and reflect. Now, connections can be made with the tap of the finger in seconds in an impulse. Many children are looking to join the dots of their lives and be connected to some of the key people in their life stories.

Birth parents and families are no longer shackled by society’s shame and conventions like in earlier times. Families are asking difficult questions about the legality and the ethics of this severance and removal. Language is emotive and tabloids run stories of social care mistakes and judge’s rulings. Difficult and challenging stuff.

So, is now the time to re write the adoption contract? To build a new model of permanence for our most vulnerable children? To offer them the legal stability and security that remains elusive in foster care? To provide additional parents that can keep them safe and help them make sense of their lives? To offer, where possible, real and meaningful contact for parents and families to the children that they cannot and perhaps should not, look after? To provide adoptive parents with the preparation, resources and recognition that they deserve and need? To prepare children and support them in this new landscape and where possible be given tangible and meaningful connections to the people that make up their lives and stories?

I think now is the time.



I'd like to acknowledge Andrew Christie who during a conversation sparked this post. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Interview with Sue Armstrong Brown

In this podcast I speak to the new CEO of Adoption UK Sue Armstrong Brown. We discuss a range of issues that she feels are precient for the adoption community at the moment including the Adoption Support Fund, Education, Child on Parent Violence and more.



Through Twitter questions were recived and as far as possible they were asked or collated into topics and discussions. 

Sue was honest and gave a clear idea for her agenda and plans for the organisation and it was interesting to see her perspectives on the future direction for Adoption UK.


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, 14 September 2017

Strands

Bear with me as I lay out some strands of thought.

The conversation in relation to Child on Parent Violence is continuing, it a slippery thing that impacts many families. I'm quite convinced that there are no simple, easy or universal solutions. I'm spending time talking to lots of people about the causes and impacts but it's solutions the people want. Of course that's what we all want.

So, as we raise awareness but I can't help wonder what the end game is. I don't believe we can irradiate the phenomena but what we can control is our response, when I say 'our' I'm speaking as a social worker so I mean a professional response.

I understand that if I talk about bad practice that opens me to the accusation that I'm anti professionals. I also know that if a Twitter conversation gets round to inappropriate or unhelpful things that have been said to adopters it's a thread that will go on and on. If we start one on the good things that are said it probably doesn't have the same legs and won't run as far. That's just human nature.

I'm often just saying what I see and what I'm told.

I've been pondering all of this and some days it all seems a bit beyond me.


So, I went to a meeting. You know the type, a new professional allocated and you're giving an overview of where we were at, what had been going on and how we got to where we are.

We talked about the occasional violence and the professional smiles at my child and laughs as they say:

'so, you like to chin your mam, ha ha ha?'

No hint of shame or challenge or cunning intervention, just a joke.


I wondered if that professional has any idea of what just happened in that room, I almost had an out of body experience.

Hindsight's a wonderful thing. Sat there I stopped listening to the words as I weighed my options, the impact of confronting versus the need to confront. Perhaps a formal complaint or a quiet word. What should I do? What could I do? What did I do?

Nothing, I need this professional, they're a gate keeper.
Nothing,  because I'm  a 'service user'
Nothing, because that's the power dynamic.
Nothing, because sometimes I just don't know what to do.

I held my tongue and sat and tried to digest what had happened and what to do. The professionals voice became a low hum as I repeated the moment, had it really happened, really?

Yes, it really happened.

That's the end of the story, just one story of many.
I'm still working out what to do, I can wait.











Thursday, 7 September 2017

Falling

I like to think of parenting traumatised children like falling down a very long flight of stairs, its a peculiar mix of bone crunching body slams, followed by moments of giddy weightless joy mixed with the anticipation of the next bone crunching impact.

When I finally reach the bottom of the stairs, the 'end' as you might say, will I land like a cat with perfect poise and balance on my feet, or face plant into the harsh concrete floor.

Only time will tell.


I'm not fatalistic, never the less there's a freedom and space in accepting your fate. Fate does make it sound all very doom ridden and miserable but I guess its an acceptance that what will be will be. There will be good days and there will be bad days and there will be lots of days in-between. So be it, that's the place I try to operate from.

We did ok over the summer, the GoodMrsC put many hours in, I got my ducks in a row to reduce my time away and I took some annual leave. We built a routine and ground it out. As noted in last weeks blog we stumbled in the last few days but we picked ourselves up. I say stumble but looking back it seems odd that what in other circumstances or if it occurred in other families it would be considered exceptional or extreme. It could be described in all kinds of terms but certainly not normal. Anyway, we've accepted our fate, we accepted that a long time ago.

Oh, and I'm going to be a grandfather.

I'm slightly taken aback that as the father of five daughters I was so naive to not prepare myself emotionally or psychologically for this turn of events. Right now I'm wondering if it's like getting to the bottom of one flight of stairs only to discover there's another flight been built at the bottom.

Clearly, I've got a lot thinking to do over this latest development.












Saturday, 2 September 2017

Lazarus

It's the morning after the night before and I can hear the inner voice calling.

'wake up Lazarus, wake up'

The night before we'd had acted out all the cliches, at the end of the school holidays at the end of a fun filled birthday we'd had a blow out. A proper hum dinger.

That night I'd started to write a post describing the feeling of holding my breath, all summer I'd held my breath waiting for the raaaaa to come. We'd had the ongoing, un noteworthy, low level stuff but that's all within the realm of normal and expected. Our summers are usually harder than that but up til yesterday we'd traversed through our normal. So, that was where I was, I'd realised that I'd been holding my breath and I'd started to write about the anticipation that so many families who care for hurt children live with. Anticipation of challenge, conflict and violence. It felt like it would have been a good blog.

But then it all kicked off, full on code red. What it was about and what happened are all irrelevant because it's never really the issue, it's about children living as foreigners in the world, struggling to express fears, anxieties and frustrations in a way that doesn't hurt and harm those around them.

This morning I feel like the caring, gives a damn, unconditional love, go the extra mile dad has died. It hurts when I smile. The commandant, security officer dad has stepped in, he's switched off his feelings or at least hidden them to get through and we're functioning.
So, the inner voice whispers.

'wake up lazarus, wake up'

Nice dad will return, he just needs a moment.


Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 24 Transitions

This week we chat about transitions, a much discussed challenge for children who have experienced early childhood adversity. Perhaps too big a subject we then spin off onto other stuff and dissolve into banter and chat. 






As always we hope you enjoy and you can now follow us on our jazzy new facebook page here
Leave a comment and Scott always welcomes construcive criticism.