Thursday, 30 November 2017

Back

I'm slowly unpacking some of the events of the last year, this is one part of a really tricky story. We're in a much more settled place today. 

'Why don't you send her back?'

What a peculiar thing to say to me:

Where do I start with that question. Yes, I may have been put through the ringer and gone to the very extreme of parenting experience but 'sending her back'? Really, how do you think that question helps me today. The nuance of my life seems beyond explanation sometimes.

The fascination with adoption seems to hang on the questions can you ever love a child that's not 'yours' the same as your 'own'? I don't know and never will.

I don't want to know, that's a terrifying thought and I don't even want to go there. I'd like to think my feelings are as much as anyone can ever feel for a child. Perhaps that's just me who ponders these thoughts, it's all meant to be ok isn't it?


In the midst of our challenge that question, 'Why don't you send her back?' hurts.
I made a covenant and for as long as I can, for as long as I should and as long as she needs I'll keep going. More than that I love her as such as I can. So, is it as much as I'd be able to love a biological child? does it even matter.

In the midst of my own pain, confusion and suffering you wake the protective dad with those words. I become an apologist for poor behaviour, I can list the reasons for it and don't need to resort to excuses. I want you to understand like I understand to love like I love. Don't interrogate me, don't add to my woes. They were trying to help by asking the question but have made it all worse, much worse.

I imagined her leaving and I feel worse than ever, so you have helped. My resolve is stronger than ever, I'm weak and wobbly but that's different to giving up.

She will not be going back, there is no back, if she were ever to leave it's not to a mythical back. There is no back.

I often feel like I'm reaching for ideas that are reflections on water, present but beyond my grasp.
There's a year to the day between that question and me. It still stings a year on.









Friday, 24 November 2017

Adoption and Fostering Podcast - National Adoption Scotland 2017

This week we see Scott return to the land of his ancestors, Scotland. He talks to three Scottish guests in honour of Adoption Week Scotland, which is now in its second year.


Firstly Fiona, an Adopter and foster carer from Edinburgh - a real character - and provides peer support through her work with Adoption UK. 
Then Mark, an Adopter from a same sex couple - currently going through the process to adopt for a second time. And finally Jess, an administrator got the Adoption Register in Scotland. 
As always banter and humour squeezed into infopodcastainment!





Thursday, 23 November 2017

Today

We appear to be in a bit of a purple patch.

I'm pretty sure by other family's standards it's still pretty hairy, by our standards it feels significantly different. It's hard to explain, we used to be turned up to 10 now we never seem to get past 8, maybe 9, but the difference is tangible, manageable and pretty incredible actually.

The other day we cooked together, we made pizzas, it became a good natured competition as to who could make the best pizza. MrsC was the judge and Flossy and I teased each other and engaged in a little light sledging. We laughed as we tried to out do each other, it was light and easy. It didn't go too far, nobody got upset and we enjoyed being together. That seems like a strange thing to write, but afterwards I realised that I've been tense for years with the anticipation of the next conflict or the fallout of the last.

This moment of fun and relaxation is not an isolated incident, we've been seen having fun, laughing and joking on and off for a few months.


There's still plenty of friction, but it ends and we move on. We constantly battle anxieties and worry that manifests as friction, outbursts and temper. It's never easy and constantly testing. What would have lingered for days now resolves within minutes or hours. Not easy, but in relative terms easy.

Today we had a proper teenager/parent shout at each other about teenager/parent stuff. It ended and we walked away. It was bloody fantastic.

What's happened? What have we done differently. If I had a secret rest assured I'd have shared it. It seems like an 'aggregate of marginal gains' to use a cycling phrase. A little bit here and a little bit there. Hobbies, interests, maturity, school support, family, friends and as always and perhaps the biggest factor few more sharp corners knocked off mam and dad. There's other stuff too.


I'm no fool and I know the wind can change direction again. But I refuse to live in a state of  'what if', I'm chasing hope and optimism and why the hell not? we've walked in the shade in the past enough to not enjoy the sunshine for a little while.
This year people have said to me again and again 'how are you going to manage the next 6 years?'* I can't answer that question but I can do today, and for the first time in a long time today's not too bad at all.

So, while we seem to have this spinning plate steady and true we realise that another one of our children appears to be be unravelling while our gaze was elsewhere.  Young adult bother but that's another story.






* She'll be 18 in 6 year that mythical age where common perception believes that parents can let their kids get on with life.


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Letter to Directors of Children's Services from Robert Goodwill MP Re the ASF

To: Directors of Children’s Services
22 November 2017

THE ADOPTION SUPPORT FUND 

The Adoption Support Fund has been a great success with over 21,000 adoptive 
and special guardianship families and over 25,500 children receiving therapeutic support since it was launched in May 2015. Thank you for making this possible. 

You will recall that it became necessary to introduce fair access limits and to ask local authorities to share the costs of support over and above the fair access limits through a match funding approach because of the scale of demand. This approach has been in place for some time and it is good to see that almost half of local authorities have made applications for match funding, providing additional
therapeutic support for almost 250 children. I am also pleased to see that about a quarter of local authorities are providing additional funding where cases do not meet the match funding criteria a further 97 children have benefitted from this. I would urge all local authorities to consider using match funding where this is necessary to meet children’s needs. 

Demand for the fund continues to grow and is almost three times the level it was in 2015-16. In recognition of that rising demand, I am pleased to announce that an additional £1m will be made available this year, bringing spend on the Fund to £29m this year. Whilst funding has increased, and will continue to do so until 2020, it remains necessary to keep the fair access limits in place. I want to offer the sector some certainty and confirm that the existing fair access limits up to £2,500 for specialist assessments and up to £5,000 for therapy will remain in place for the next two financial years. 

The recently published evaluation covering the early implementation of the Fund found that the children accessing the Fund showed substantially higher levels of emotional, behavioural and developmental needs that both children in the general population and when compared to looked after children as a whole. It also found that 84% of parents believed that the Fund had helped their child. You can find the evaluation here.

The evaluation also found that the efficiency and quality of assessments was improving and that parents were generally satisfied with the assessment process. That said, I continue to hear concerns from some parents and the voluntary sector about delays securing assessments of adoption support needs. I would be grateful if you could ask your teams to look into this and consider ways in which
both timeliness of assessments and subsequent applications to the Fund could be improved. 

DfE is commissioning a further evaluation that will take us through to the end of this parliament. It will be closely aligned with the evaluation of the Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) programme, also currently being commissioned. The RAA programme is progressing well with five RAAs now live. Adoption is in a significant period of change. It is important that the Fund is able to operate
successfully in the emerging regionalised system. We are funding three RAAs Adoption Counts, One Adoption West and Adoption South West to consider how the ASF would operate in a regionalised framework. We have asked them to prioritise work this year on reaching agreements with local authority partners on the approach to match funding applications to the Fund. If children and families
do not receive the therapeutic support they need, they are more likely to experience an adoption breakdown with the child or children returning to care at great expense to local authorities. It is, therefore, in the best interests of families, local authori ties and RAAs to agree a process for match funding these applications.

I know that some voluntary organisations are anxious about a lack of certainty during this period of change. Some Regional Adoption Agency projects have agreed plans to extend existing support contracts for a year or more whilst they develop their commissioning strategy. This has helped the voluntary sector to make plans, and I would encourage all local authorities to consider how they
manage this transition in a way that protects vital services. 

The next couple of years will be critical and we must ensure that we build on the early success of the fund and the emerging RAAs, to ensure all adopted children get the support they need.

Please accept my thanks and appreciation for the work that you and your teams are doing to support some of the most vulnerable children in society.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Goodwill MP

Minister of State for Children and Families   



Saturday, 18 November 2017

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 29 Jennifer Jones MBE & Suddenly Mummy

This week we spoke to Jenny Jones and Suddenly Mummy about moving from adopters to working in the adoption world. Actually, that was the plan and it kind of went a little askew and spiralled into other issues and topic including mountains, affecting change and representation.



Al made Scott talk about the Adoption UK conference and in a bizzare twist Al insulted Scott and he fell out of the podcast and was lost in the internet for a few minutes until he found himself again by sending a text to Al.
As always banter and thought turned into podcasting shenannegans.



You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here
or on the Podbean site here


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Core

It's the end of the busiest year that I've ever had and following National Adoption Week I put my brain in neutral to try to get some space while I crack on with life.

When my mind is idling I find ideas bubble up for blogs and posts but I've been resolute and steered clear of some of the big questions that surface.

However, I can't seem to get away from this idea that we need a universal adoption support service that really meets the needs of adopted children.

This is not a criticism of the Adoption Support Fund, if anything that is an attempt by government to provide for our children because some LAs are not. Of course, the good ones always have supported children and families and had a good core service. They have used the ASF wonderfully but there are other LAs that have never done so well and they have struggled to utilise or facilitate the ASF.

The ASF is not perfect and I could list the failings, I'm many things but I'm not an apologist for the Department for Education but on balance I'd argue that it's done much more good than harm.

My gripe is the core service offer of post adoption teams, I want local authorities and the Regional Adoption Agencies, when they come, to provide a good core service.

Recent reports have again highlighted the vulnerabilities and challenges of adoptees and adopters. It's like lots of research, bleeding obvious to anyone who's spent more than ten minutes looking at the issues.  It's beyond doubt that the cohort of adoptees within a UK context are amongst the most vulnerable in our society. In context of all UK children they're a small group but in relation to Adverse Childhood Experiences they punch way above their weight. The children who are adopted today have had to have had the worst of life to reach the threshold for adoption.

So, if you're going to have an adoption service then tool it up to do the job not just assess, match and out the door. Because we will come back and like it or loath it adopters can be pretty fearsome advocates and lobbyists.

Quietly I've been disgruntled, I see courses being offered in this and that giving support to families, interventions and programmes designed to take the ASF money but I can't help but feel they should be part of the core service of PAS teams. Child on Parent Violence affects up to 30% of adopters it's prevalence justifies support being part of the PAS core service. Challenges with school impact a huge proportion of adopted children they support needs to be part of the core service. Therapeutic parenting programmes, again should be build into the core services. Some families need ongoing professional supervision, a safe space not a stolen minute with the child's therapist on the way into a meeting. Supervision would be an excellent addition to this core service. I could go on, filial therapy, play therapy etc. All of them should be core services not money making schemes.

I read a tweet* from  @RealSWTutor this week that provoked me to stop and think a little differently. It was about something else but but paraphrased it turned to this in my head.

'Adoption isn't a hurdle that must be overcome but a trauma that must be supported'

Overstated? Yes, for some but not all.

I hope to see that one day we will move away from 'interventions' to support that's ongoing and enduring.  That the core services will be fit for purpose, a purpose that many of understand saves money and in a funding environment where we expect more for less this core service is an investment.


No punchlines I'm afraid just living in hope.




*'[S]ocial workers will struggle to gain trust within a system that sees domestic abuse as a hurdle that mothers must overcome, rather than a trauma through which they should be supported.' Highly recommended reading: https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/bjsw/bcx125/4616221?redirectedFrom=fulltext




Monday, 13 November 2017

A Guest Blog: Sibling Contact

By an anonymous adopter

I need to get this out of my system, but I am doing it anonymously, as there are so many risks involved with sharing this, but so much information that may help others in the community.

We have been a family brought together by adoption for over 10 years. There are a few of us in the family, however, it always struck me that given we read our children’s CPRs and all the other information we receive, if we are lucky enough to receive it all, there are extended family who naturally become our family.

My children’s siblings are always a part of my life, they are family too.
Over the weekend we were lucky enough, after three years of trying, to meet the now adult siblings of our children. A surprise message out of the blue 3 years ago instigated this meeting. It has taken us all this length of time to be able to feel able to do it. Our children were not involved. You may think that cruel, but right now they are not read for it, and they may never be.
We met in a train station coffee shop – we felt that it needed to be somewhere that we could all feel as comfortable as possible in – as we all knew that the anxiety for us all would be immense.
I hugged sister – I was not sure how it would go, but she hugged me back. I got emotional but kept it together.

We bought coffees and we began to chat. There were no awkward moments…. It flowed.


Our first lesson: We knew all about them…. They knew nothing about us – NOTHING. They lived for the first few years not knowing what had happened to their siblings. No one had told them they had been placed for adoption. Youngest was removed from a holiday he was on – and that was the last she saw of him.

Our second lesson: Appreciation that they had been adopted. Despite the first few years of their not knowing, they have learnt enough about our children to know that they have been well looked after, and cared for, attempting to repair the damage that they have all experienced. They acknowledged that the trauma will have been more intense for our children as they had differing placements and the worst experience of our care system you can imagine.

Our third lesson: If only we knew then what we knew now… Yes, contact is a scary thing…. And it would have needed careful planning, facilitating and reviewing… but had I known that these siblings sat not knowing, not knowing where they were, who they were with, were we monsters, were we cruel, did we love them – that could have been easily remedied.

Their first lesson: Their siblings have been loved and cared for… to see the relief on their faces was worth every single minute of over ten years.

Their second lesson: Their siblings have very similar issues with attachment, trust, anger to them.

Their third lesson: Never assume adoption is always a bad thing. Family and friends had been rather critical of adoption….. as you would expect, and that was the siblings impression as a result. They see the difference it has made.

I did cry… I felt so patronising and insulting to these two brave souls in front of me, who had been through just as much in their childhood as my children – and I was the one crying. To be told that they are grateful that their siblings have such fantastic parents blew me away. I sniffed, sister held my hand, and I gave myself a good talking to – this was not about me.

We spent three hours together, and we have so much in common. We will meet them again, and that was a mutual decision by us all. We feel they are more a part of our family now than ever.
Their decision to share what their message will be when they do all eventually meet was upsetting, and I leave you with some of it:
“If you are expecting to meet our parents and for them to be the parents you hope for, then don’t – you will be very very disappointed.”

Thank you for reading.