Saturday, 21 July 2018

A & F Podcast - Episode 46 - Suddenly Mummy, a wedding and an Equal Chance

This week we're really excited to speak to Becky AKA Suddenly Mummy as she gives us the low down on her recent engagement. We do get a little distracted by that but then manage to pull ourselves back on track discussing the recent Adoption UK initiative and report (Equal Chance) in relation to supporting adoptees in the education system. Becky recounts her expereinces with teaching as well as appearing on Radio 4, meeting celebrities in the Green Room all before her Fiance distracts her with a cup of tea and has to leave.

We then indulge in a little banter, touch on approaches to empowering parents and all kinds of usual stuff.
We hope you enjoy it as we look start the summer holidays.  

Thursday, 19 July 2018

2018 Child on Parent Violence and Aggression Survey - Summary

So, here it is, the findings of the 2018 Child on Parent Violence and Aggression Survey.

I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been a massive task and consequently produced a massive report, over 50,000 words to be exact. Fear ye not, we've condensed it into an extended summary that can be found here:

From the over 500 responses Dr Wendy Thorley has undertaken the vast majority of analysis and work and it's a testament to her tenacity and passion that it's come together at all. 

What does it say and what does it mean. Now, that is a question. There's lots to pull out and different people will find significance and use in different bits but to me there are few key issues that weave through the work. 

I now see Childhood Challenging, Violent and Aggressive Behaviour (CCVAB) that many families experience is an umbrella phrase that encompasses distinct behaviours beneath it, Child on Parent Violence (CPV) is one that is clearly defined and linked to intent and a desire to control parents and carers, on this almost all of the previous literature, guidance and research has been focused. However, from our respondents we found a much bigger group of children who's behaviour was described by them as linked clearly to dysregulation, anxiety, stress, not coping and being overwhelmed. The main point being that there was no prior intent or planning. Linked to that, over 50% of respondents noted that their children were diagnosed with a learning disability or autism and many of the children had compounded issues such as anxiety, attachment difficulties, mental ill health and ADHD. To then consider how the any violent and aggressive behaviour defined and described within this context leads directly to conditions as described in World Health Indicators 'Conduct Disorder confined to family context' and  DSM-V indicators that outline Intermittent Explosive Disorder.  Many of the respondent's children appeared to meet the diagnostic indicators for these conditions very different to the stereotypical CPV descriptions. 

This wasn't where we were expecting to be lead but its where we found ourselves with two distinct underlying causes and patterns to the behaviour under the banner CCVAB. 

Understanding this makes me consider workforce development, knowledge and responses. Historically, much has been pointed and directed to CPV when the survey notes this is the lesser of the two types. Food for thought across many professions. The need for effective informed responses is more pressing than ever. 

I know that the adoption community may be over represented in relation to CCVAB within the general population, however within the community of parents and carers living with children with like for like conditions (autism, ADHD, trauma ie. children with SEND) we share a similar level of challenge. We need to build strong links to that community of biological parents to strengthen our lobby. 

Of course there's a lot more to consider and that will be unpacked but I'd like to give a massive thank you to all that took part, have listened to me prattle on and have encouraged us when it got hard. 

We felt that the Extended Summary would be of most use to most people and that's freely available so please share far and wide. For a printed version of the full report then it can be found on amazon at a cost and we've made a ebook version for those on a budget.

This is another part of the jigsaw, is there more to do? of course but all in good time. 

Again, thank you. 

If you want a hard copy of the full report or an Ebook version please look here

Thursday, 12 July 2018

That's stupid

It seems odd where conversations come from and how they end up in unusual places.  I can't quite recall at what point this one started as we were driving home from some outing with Flossy, Lotty and Peanut.

Flossy and Lotty were somewhat perplexed/indignant at the legal technicality's of the adoption process. The kind of perplexed/indignant that adolescents do with such flair and verve it seems a shame that it's wasted on them. Fortunately, there ire wasn't aimed at me.

Peanut was listening but was also admiring the 'precious' stones that she'd acquired in a car park, I'd negotiated her down from two 'precious' half bricks and a couple of lumps of 'precious' railway ballast. We don't need any more 'precious' things hidden in her room.

Flossy and Lotty set about me.

So, you're saying that our mam* is not our mam when she clearly is my mam. 

Me: Only legally,  of course she is biologically your mam. 

But you're saying she's not our mam.

Me: No, I'm saying she is your mam but when the adoption order was made the birth certificate was changed and me and your mam were put on as your parents. 

But you're not our mam and dad.

Me: Well I am but I'm not...... 

Ok, what about Kasey** is she our sister?

Me: Well.......... yes of course she's your sister but from a legal position................(I trail off realising that I don't know)............Legally, you don't have the same mother.

But she is our mother and Kasey is our sister

Me: Yes, but not legally............. 

So, you're saying that she's not our mother?

This goes on for a while and blissfully is ended when we arrive home. After a brief negotiation Peanut agrees that the 'precious' stone can live with the other 'precious' stones on the drive.

Flossy and Lotty slink into the house and with a parting shot aimed with the brilliance of teenage girls they declared:

That's stupid

I agreed.
Increasingly, I'm at a loss as to how to hold all the needs of all the people in tension. Sometimes none of this makes sense.

* Birth mam
**Older biological sister

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Ep 45 an interview with Colourful Carwen

In this episode we interview Colourful Carwen, she was diagnosed in her 40's as having autism but throughout her childhood she presented with challenging, violent and aggressive behaviour to her parents and family. Carwen's reflective account of how experienced the world she lived as well as her feelings on the her behaviour offer a rare insight to the inner workings and thoughs of chldren who are sometimes challenging. 

Scott and Al discuss the news of the day, international adoption and LGBT predjudice. Needless to say there's the usual banter, a moment with a guitar and an interuption from a dog

Be advised there are a few adult words during the interview.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Cup of sadness

I often feel like I'm the guardian of my children's stories. Complicated, painful and wonderful stories that make perfect sense to some and no sense to others, stories that twist and turn their way to my door. The stories have characters that are good, characters that are bad and predominantly characters that are complicated.

Mostly it's been easy to share the story, as they say 'if you can remember being told you were adopted then it's too late'. Stories have flowed naturally and easily from the photos on the wall and the names in the books. We've all shared the stories of our jigsaw life and little ears find comfort, safety and value in the 'firsts'.

First time we met, first thing we said, first trip and so on..................

From the outset there have been parts of these stories that are hard to contemplate and consider. Hard for me as an adult but immeasurably hard when they are woven into the biological links, genetic bonds and tendrils of identity. There have been some tough conversations and if I focus on me for a sentence, some conversations that I never wanted to have and left shadows.

This guardian role hangs heavy, so easy to slip, so easy to say too soon or too late. We peel back the layers of the same story. We make sense of the same events with a four year old, then a six, nine, thirteen and sixteen year old. Gently we peel back the nuance as these little people grow and begin to understand, 'could not' keep you safe becomes 'did not', becomes 'would not' keep you safe. It's a cup of heartache we return to again and again.

Then our phone rings and though the back channels that we've built and fostered with birth family and we discover the story has moved on again. The cup of sadness has been topped up to overflowing.

The layers of complexity grow, I call my closest friends and they've no words or wisdom they just know. They help me hold the cup for a little while before I ask my children to drink from it again.  

Again, I blog in vague broad strokes. Take from it what you will.

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Adoption & Fostering Podcast: Episode 43 - An interview with Mark Owers

Mark Owers has been close to the decision making and has influenced adoption over the last 10 years within No. 10 Downing Street and the Department for Education. He recently co authored the Fostering Stock Take and now works with agencies on the regionalisation agend. Mark is also an adoptive parent.

There's a lot to dicuss with Mark as he has insight and understanding of a wide range of issues that affect adopters and foster carers but we start with his own adoption story which is quite remarkable and unique. 
We talk to Mark about the Fostering Stocktake, that was controversial, and the responses from various groups as well as considering some of the points that were raised in relation to professionalisation, risk management, foster carer/parent roles as well as being sensible in relation to how we care for children.  

Adoption is discussed and Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs) are spoken about with some of the concerns that many familes have discussed as well as discusion around the future of adoption. Contact, support, Facebook, lifestory and birth families are all touched on as we have a really interesting conversation with Mark in relation to modernising adoption. 

We had a few intermittent technical issues on the line with Mark, they come then go, so apologies but it's not unbearabe. 

As usual Scott and Al enjoy a bit of pre interview banter.  

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Looking Away

I’m struggling to watch the news with images and audio clips of children being separated from their parents and family. It’s distressing to all persons watching on regardless of circumstances, sex, nationality, political persuasion or whatever. Almost all adults are hard wired to help when we hear children in distress. It is too much to bear, to see it in the news day on day, how it will end or play out politically I don’t know and the rationale or motivations behind it bear little relevance to those children or some bloke sat in the north of England. 

It sends chills through me. Be clear I’m not trying to compare my experiences with those of families on the other side of the world but I have had my screaming and crying children taken out of my arms against my will and better judgement, I’ve felt small hand’s desperate grip on me as though their lives depended on it and I’ve heard the cries as they’re carried away. The summer of 2007 was a bleak summer we’re haunted by the experience, I should have stopped it but I was unable. My inaction and inability to protect them and us hangs over me more than a decade later.  All adoption and fostering stories are complicated  and ours is no more so others. Like many we’ve given our hearts and futures into the hands of social workers and a system that is essential but flawed. We were cogs in that machine and justice needed to be seen to be done but this justice cared not for little people or us.

I often blog and say nothing of our story and journey though the care system, it’s our story and not a currency to be peddled for hits on my site. I skirt round the facts because they belong to us. However, it’s a story that is present in our every day, my children’s actions and reactions in my motivations and thoughts. 

I turn from the news because I understand what this does to children and adults. Time doesn’t heal this shit, children don’t grow out of it and not remembering isn’t the same as not being screwed up. 

I’m looking away but I am bothered. 

Since posting this events have moved on, however the damage for those children and families is done. 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Talking and Listening

There's a lot going on. Everyone has a lot going on so it's a redundant point. There seems to be too many things to blog about but time is shorter than ever so it seems.
There was an interesting Twitter thread this week asking if adoptees feels genuinely listened to by their adoptive parents. Like all Twitter threads it went in lots of directions at the same time. It ranged from gloriously insensitive to wonderfully empathic, heartbreaking, occasionally angry and some sometimes plain stupid, I do love Twitter.

Anyhoo, it got me thinking about the my children what would their answer be, did they or do they feel listened to, what would they say now and what would the older ones say about when they were growing up. Well, what my children would say is likely to be very different for each one, a reflection of their experiences, personality and maturity.

I guess we make adoption an open talking point, but that's not listening. Of course, like all children there inner worlds are available only in windows and by consent that's not always forthcoming.* That is also overplayed with the complexity of some children's inner worlds let alone adopted children. Self awareness is a gift that is not always bestowed on the young and if you've lived through complex primal wounds, trauma, loss and bereavement then inner worlds can be hidden from sight. That's complicated enough but adoptive parents willingness and capacity to listen openly is also a variable factor. I can also confirm that there are ill informed adopters, insensitive adopters, head in the sand adopters, play nice like it didn't happen adopters and some scary adopters. I'm pretty sure none of them set out to be that. Like all groups of people we just reflect the spectrum of humanity, doing our best with what we've got. Adoptees are the same.

We are fools to generalise adopters or adoptees as saints or sinners.

Most of us we can reflect on the past a clarity and insight that is mostly unavailable at the time. The Twitter thread was adoptees looking back and adoptees considering now. Adopters and adoptees reflecting on two different things. Passions were raised.

Twitter wove its spell and as it hoovered up the views of people from a wide spectrum of experience, culture, value and legislative base. Shared themes but often non comparable stories.

I feel like I talked a lot to my children, I feel like I didn't listen as much as I could have or should have. Watching Twitter made me want to do better, I will do better.

Anyway, as the threads continued I saw a familiar username pop up, one of my children. I'll not tell you their reply that's for me to know and you to work out but I did listen.

*If you ask my mother I stopped talking at 12 and am just coming round now. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Adoption in a Digital Age by Julie Samuels - A Review

I recently saw this book advertised and it piqued my interest so I asked if I could have a copy to review. It is aimed rather at an academic audience rather than a book supporting families and children but it is raising some interesting and and really relevant questions that adoption needs to consider as we navigate the challenges of a more connected and accessible world.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 42 Adoption Contact, An Interview Dr Beth Neil

Contact is an issue that raises passions, worries, hopes and concerns for children, adopters and first families in equal measure. So, with that in mind we speak to Prof Beth Neil who has studied contact in adoption for over 20 years and is able to offer insight into an issue that never fails to pique the interest of all people touched by adoption. 

We put specific questions to Beth that were sent to podcast towers as well as expanding on issues that are often raised on social media.We discuss the potential positive and negative impacts on children, the barriers to positive contact, the challenges and myths of letterbox contact, social care resistance to contact and more. The nature of the subject means that there was much more that could have been discussed and Dr Beth has a wealth of knwoledge on the issue. 
Midway through we experienced a few minor technical stammers but these are overcome so tough it out. 
Links to Dr Beth's research can be found here as well as a range of resources on the Reseach in Practice webpage here

As always, thanks for listening and if you are feeling all warm and fluffy a wee review on iTunes here would always be welcome! Thanks.

Thursday, 7 June 2018


I'm pondering a request from my local Post Adoption Support team.

Now, the vulgar subject of money was inevitably going to come up sooner or later in a blog, but I've wholly resolved my working class pride and willing seek an adoption support allowance from my LA. That's not what this is about. 

One of the requirements of the form I received said: 

'Please provide evidence that your children live with you at your home'

Now, I was good and said that's fine to the person on the phone, we get on well in spite of my chaotic record keeping and the bundle of papers that we loosely call my accounts that I present to her annually. However, TheFearsomeMrsC was not so benevolent and called our post adoption social worker and requested that she walk down the corridor and inform the finance team in no uncertain terms where the massive resided. It's a touchy subject at the moment as our 2015 downsizing plan has been put in serious doubt. Did I mention one of the birds that had flown the nest returned with an egg. 

Anyway I'm way off point, I did what they asked and requested letters from the school. Of course, if I wanted to put on my "anti oppressive social work practice hat"* I could argue that having to explain my need for support to a different service to access another service is potentially humiliating and demeaning and wholly none of their business, therefore oppressive. I'll not open that can of worms here. 

Well, I'm in the process of getting the letters but I remain intrigued by the bureaucratic necessity to ascertain if the children remain at home while I still access support. The obvious reason is that someone has accessed financial support while their children were living elsewhere. Now, as attractive as that may seem at times, it seems a little odd, so it got me thinking.

Now, I could be wrong and totally barking up the wrong tree but is the idea that adoptees need to move their children out to 'other arrangements' isn't beyond my imagination but the idea that it's becoming so common that there's a bureaucratic response to it is slightly worrying or at least thought provoking.

The whole adoption 'disruption' narrative seems to be more prevalent than ever. Children that struggle or can't live with their adoptive parents is not new but yet we continue to struggle with the language and meaning. I was recently contacted by a twitterer with a view to completing a study and it's all a bit tricky, complicated and delicate. What do we actually mean. Beyond the Adoption Order by Selwyn et al spoke of it and raised it's spectre but acknowledged the tricky language and meaning. We've danced around the issue as a family, there was lots of disruption but never a 'disruption' we remained wilfully joined and despite the struggle and separation we remained family. I've friends likewise where their jointedness and sense of family is never in doubt but their ability, willingness and capacity to co habit, parent and child, is gone. Of course where those children go and the circumstance are hugely variable with some back to care and some to a relative or friend. We're not there, but I'd be lying if there hadn't been some tricky days in the past. For some of our children being parented is just too damn hard, for some of us being parenting is, likewise, just too damn hard. No judgement.

Anyway, I got my letters and will send them off to jump through that hoop.

Increasingly my blogs are like the margins of a maths exercise book, my workings out.

*Yes, I do have one, I have a hat for every occasion.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Adoption Misinformation

In the first heady weeks after the big three moved into our home I recall a friend noting with disbelief 

‘I just can’t understand why any parent would give three such beautiful children up for adoption’

Right there is when, what seems like, the unending explaining and clarifying began. Almost never a day passed without me having to reframe or give a full explanation of the current legal and social context of contemporary adoption and how as a nation we got here as well as noting the comparisons with the US system. Professionals, friends, teachers & relatives all seem to have half baked crackpot ideas at some point that I wade into and diplomatically correct their thinking.

So, today I read an article that spoke with some authority in a national publication that was utter rubbish, misinformed bilge*
It spoke of bureaucracy as a if it were merely a barrier to angelic adopters cracking on and getting what they want, orphans. It spoke of adoptees in terms of commodity, birth parents as inconveniences and statistics in terms of imaginary numbers that you can pluck from the sky. Process, assessment and checks a nonsense. What is hard is that it spoke with authority that it didn't have and assurance that it shouldn't have. It seemed to reinforce the worst of what adoption can be, entitled. It was a comment piece masquerading as fact, it was bad. 


As I say I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to change the narrative, develop understanding and move away from the tired, outdated script about adoption. I’m sick of the grateful ‘Annie’, happy ever after, evil birth parent narrative. This claptrap knocks me back decades.

•Sorry took my ‘vanilla’ social worker hat off there. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Adoption UK in Scotland FASD Conference May 2018

We were delighted to be invited by Adoption UK to attend their FASD conference in Scotland to record interviews with some of their speakers and attendees. FASD is an issue that is in most of our minds, and is becoming more and more recognised as an issue that affects families where children no longer live with their birth parents.

We speak to Dr Raja Mukherjee, UK FASD Expert and Lead Clinician UK National FASD Clinic, Neurodevelopmental Psychiatrist, Lee Harvey-Heath an adult diagnosed with FASD at the age of 26 years old and two parents who tell us their story about their journey to coming to terms with their children having FASD. Scott is joined by colleague, Alison Woodhead, Director of Public Affairs at Adoption UK for some of the interview, and we would like to thank Adoption UK for supporting this special edition of the podcast.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Adoption: Pragmatic DNA

I'm really comfortable with the idea that adoption is second best, has pragmatic DNA and is fundamentally an issue held in a quandary that cannot be resolved.

For every article questioning the validity of adoption in the context of human rights, primal wounds, societal changes and austerity cuts to family support there is a counter argument that cannot be reconciled to that question. The argument being there are children that cannot and should not live with their parents or wider family under any circumstances including high levels of support and we all agree that the state is at not a great parent. Alternative parents do pretty well but want certainty and ownership so we have adoption. Perhaps ownership is too strong, perhaps.

That is a starting point. So, depending on your experience and political, religious, ethical and moral stance the pendulum swings to varying degrees to one or the other argument. That is reflected in the views of the minsters and the resources that are pumped into either side of the argument. It's reflected in the positions of the charities that support one or the other position. It's reflected in the paper you read, the bible verse you read and the documentaries you watch.

Both positions are right and neither is wrong. Come to my house and present your case for either position and I could shoot you down with hard facts and stories from each of my children's lives, academic research for the opposing position. There lies the rub. Adoption is not a binary issue.

Bear with me, I can't say it enough, it is not and it never will be a binary issue with a 'correct' position. It reflects the values, politics and perspectives of the society it's based in and it dates really badly. Look back 40 years at adoption practice and it's appalling. We'll look back in 40 years from now and be appalled.

I'm not sure that helps the adopters of the 55,000 UK children under 16 who inhabit the space between the two positions. The questioning or affirming articles and blogs appear with regular frequency and strike to the core of our family composition and DNA. Not always a nice feeling.

I know my children's story and it plays out this debate, a lack of intervention by the state layered over  terrible and inappropriate actions. Neither right but this is where we are, my naivety and, on reflection, dogmatic and blinkers perspectives at the beginning of my journey don't help me now.

Leaving adopters perspectives on these two view I'm even more convinced that the other deafeningly quiet voices of this adoption arrangement are equally disturbed by the two positions that ebb and flow.

As a society we've decided that we will have adoption but I believe we need to challenge every last bit of it every single day. Adopters, don't fall into lazy dogma push hard, fight back, reject the lazy narratives, be difficult and ask difficult questions. Be the change that adoption needs. Embrace the questions.

Sunday, 13 May 2018


Hoodwinked is perhaps too strong a word, but I am feeling a little hoodwinked. Saying that raises the spectre of a tricky conversation that won't perhaps reflect that well on me.

I entered into the Adoption Contract in good faith, and this week I'm feeling a little hoodwinked as the dawning realisation of the enduring and lifelong challenge that is set before the good MrsC and I is revealed. Of course details can't be shared but I now see that my short to medium turn future remains fundamentally restrained and challenged in a way that my peers aren't experiencing. It's been a funny week, I've social worked a social worker, negotiated a truce, staved off financial disaster and spent the bank holiday roving the lanes of Northumberland like a cross between Liam Neeson in Taken and Basil Fawlty. So, I'm living out all my resilience theory and then some (see Rutter's thoughts on Steeling)

Of course, I took these children as my own to raise, love and cherish. And we've done that and as we would with a biological child, we've rolled with the punches, literally, stepped up to the challenge and done what we can and should like ever other parent that ever had children. There's no doubt that we'll continue to do so.

But dare I say it, 20 years on from my preparation group I can't help feel a little burned. Why? well I'm not sure. I'd change nothing and I love them dearly but I can't help feel that I've been a pretty cheap solution to some really complex problems. Ah, now that's something you can't say as it cast a pretty big question mark over my motivation and values. Well cast on, I'll show you my scars, physical and emotional, but it's true that I'm looking again at that Adoption Contract. The support I received withers' pretty quickly post 18 and I'm looking for solutions or answers that the system is not geared up to have.

The Adoption Contract  is that you take them as your own come what may? I'm cool with that. Well kind of cool, but I've no recollection of this level of adversity being laid out in plain English. Don't get me wrong, it's not all doom and gloom but we're literally the living case study for Selwyn's rule of thirds.

I'm always reluctant to fall into adoption moaner blog, but I find myself in uncharted territory. My friends raise their eyebrows and exhale when I talk to them. So be it. Roving

Friday, 11 May 2018

Fostering & Adoption Podcast - Episode 41 Suddenly Mummy, Scott and Al

This episode is a veritble buffet of adoption and fostering topics, conversation and thought. 
However, we don't miss the opportunity to interigate Becky on her personal life and draw conclusions from the slow down in her blogging output.

We discuss the thorny issue of how much is too much on social media and the challenges of under and oversharing as bloggers, tweeters and facebookers. 

We attemp to review a couple of books and have a brief, but informative, discussion on poetry. 

All You Need Is Love: Celebrating Families of All Shapes and Sizes by Shanni Collins


Life Work with Children Who are Fostered or Adopted by Joy Rees


We then stumble into the much discussed topic of resilience and Al gets a little hot under the collar and then Scott makes a poem up!

Friday, 4 May 2018


Anyway, I wasn't going to blog, I'm meant to be writing something clever about children and violent and aggressive behaviour. If the learned Dr W finds out I've been slacking there'll be hell to pay.

Anyway, its Friday night and I'm sat on a train and my head is trying to shuffle all the thoughts. I bumped into my friend and most excellent blogger @colourcarwen yesterday and she shuffled some for me and noted:

'how are you going to empty your bucket if you don't write a blog, :-P?'

She'd watched my resilience video. Fair point, physician heal thyself!

I've reached critical mass where I can't remember if I've blogged about all the things rattling around my head at some point in the past. I should be less obtuse when I name them. It would also be really helpful if I had an anonymous blog that I could spill all the strands of thought into and leave the slippery little blighters there. @colourcarwen knows I prefer to not actually talk to people.

So, here's a concise, non oppressive or judgemental run down of my mind, unedited and in no particular order.

  • Too much argy bargy on Twitter between people who are talking about different things culturally, historically, ethically, legally, nationally, morally but all under the banner adoption. We are not comparing like for like but we are using the same words and we are arguing about different things. Stop it. 
  • Voices, we need to weigh them. All of them and then see whether they're worth getting het up about. A opinions are valid but, sorry, I don't have to listen to them all. 
  • I'm not sorry
  • Your story is valid, however it may be similar to my story that doesn't let you talk for me. 
  • Kids, blimey.
  • Kids, blimey this is nothing to do with adoption, I'm bored of adoption, its just kids who've had a rough deal giving me a rough deal. (Can I say that?)
  • Oversharing on social media (see above)
  • I wish I had a really anonymous twitter account so I could really say what the hell is going on.(see above).
  • I really need a hobby that doesn't involve being a social worker, talking about social work/adoption, thinking or writing about social work slash/adoption
  • If it was up to me we'd all get access to good support that helps easily without any gip.
  • It's not up to me (see above)
  • Kids, what the hell!
  • I really must write that thing, I wonder if I'm clever enough?
  • Self doubt (see above)
  • Email, wow! I can't believe that was just said to me! I'm going to frame this and laugh one day
  • Is this an overshare?

I feel so much better for getting that off my mind.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Adopter Resilience - Don't Endure

Following on from the first video I did in relation to developing resilience in parents here's a few more thoughts.

I'm thinking of going on the road to offer this as a half day/3hour training so if that's something that would float your boat get in touch.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Episode 40 an interview with Andrew Christie the Head of the ASGLB

On this week's podcast we speak to Andrew Christie the Head of the Adoption & Special Guardianship Leadership Board. We'd asked for questions through Twitter and the Facebook page and received a wide range of issues that we put to Andrew.

We discussed the name change to include Special Guardianship, the Adoption Support Fund as well as the level of influence that the Board has over local authorities in relation to their adoption services and the support that they provide to special guardians. Adopter favourite education was raised as well as transracial adoption, the 2020 vision, workforce development and the views of the new minister Nadim Zahawi.
Being honest it was no Paxmanesque grilling, that's not our style,  but we did ask the questions and Andrew was open in his answers. There was so much more that we barely had time to cover but it was a worthwhile conversation. 
As always we sandwich it with a little light banter. 

Andrew was very open and keen to hear the experiences and views of adopters and special guardians and gave a contact email address that can be linked to here.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Adopter Resilience - Stress Vulnerability Model

Last week I was asked to speak to a group of adoptive parents and foster carers in relation to child on parent violence and aggression as well as adopter resilience.

Here's a little video of one bit of the presentation. Many adopters struggle with the long term challenges that they face parenting vulnerable children and developing resilience is an essential skill to keep yourself safe and sane. This video considers the Stress Vulnerability model and how we can manage the stresses and strains.

Thursday, 19 April 2018


The corners of her mouth turned up to a half repressed and half embarrassed smile, she held it for a second then gave in and grinned. It's hard being 13 and have your dad say he loves you.

Booooom, a smile clutched from the jaws of disaster. I tell you I could be powered by smiles like that for a thousand years. I'd be lying if I told you that the preceding days/months/years hadn't been without 'challenge'.

I've been thinking about a conversation with a non adopter, non social worker friend. He's the head of something or other, quite influential and we meet, talk and I let him buy me coffee. We talked about resolution, journey, outcomes happy endings. I love talking about the grey areas, thats where we find the truth, not in the binary stances that seem to pervade or at least try to. Nobody lives in the binary and if they do they're usually extremists. I'm not sure why I'm telling you that, I think I'm just enjoying my thoughts spilling into words. Words from a song have been rattling around my mind, a lyric from a song that I heard a long time ago, it wasn't a great song and it's likely that you've not heard of the singer. The lyric was

'she's just trying to find peace in the struggle'

The words 'peace in the struggle' come to me all the time and I've not listened to the song for years.

The words return again and again, peace in the struggle.

It's taken years to give up this much of me, frankly its been a scary journey. Peace in the struggle.

So now I'm not sure who I am anymore, our lives now and in the future seem to be more uncertain than ever. At a time when my peers are mapping out the future with a level of certainty I'm no longer the master of my own destiny, these little people, little disruptors,  that I invited in have well and truly set me on a uncertain course.

Back to the smile, after a teary call from the GoodMrC and some frank words with the girl. I was pretty sick.  I looked at her as I drove her home and thought I should remind myself that I love her, so I told her, as well as the fact that she was a numpty.

The corners of her mouth turned up to a half repressed and half embarrassed smile, she held it for a second then gave in and grinned. It's hard being 13 and have your dad say he loves you.

I hadn't really felt it til she smiled. Seems like we found a little peace in the struggle.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast: Episode 39 - The Adoption Enquiry

In this episode we talk to Dr Anna Gupta in relation to the findings of the BASW Enquiry into the role of the social worker in adoption – ethics and human rights. It has had a range of responses from different quarters and had some misleading headlines in some publications. Anna talks about the purpose of the enqiry, the people that contributed and what some of the recommendations were. Specific issues in relation to contact between adopters and birth family were discussed as well as adoption in the context of SGO's and other permenency options. The report can be down loaded here

Scott and Al mull over the conversation and discuss shared perspectives with other communities that care for children. Scott finally comes to terms with his class status and explaines his recent Twitter poll and we chat through some thoughts on common issues that we share with Special Guardians. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Little star.

Peanut is a little star, we regularly fight over who is going go look after her. We all want to.

'Why did you adopt me?' She asked as we sat in our kitchen each eating a packet of crisps*.

Well, now she's got me in a little quandary. I'm inclined to tell her the truth but that's not so straight forward, having six children was not the plan. I pause and wonder if this moment will be played out in therapists rooms for the next sixty years. I draw a deep breath, lean in and offer a one eyed thoughtful squint to stall for a little time while I ponder how to articulate the complexity of circumstances that brought her to our lives.

'Well' I say, and she interrupts 'you're thinking about it aren't you?'. She may be six but adoption is front and centre for every close member of her family and she's pretty clued up. I did note that she didn't ask why was she was adopted, I'll ponder that later.

So, the conversation unravels and I'm honest about her story and my story, her sister's story and all of our story together. She listened and asks and answers questions. She's six but listens well and takes it all in. She's a sponge and a little star.

We then went out on the yellow bike with her sat in the front rack cross legged laughing at me huffing  and puffing as I pedalled us up the big hill to the coffee shop. We went halvesies on a scone, she had a slushy and I had a coffee. Just like we did many times the summer she came.  All was well. I don't want to diminish her early life challenges but she's clearly loves her life, knows she is loved and loves back with vigour. She could be the poster girl for early intervention. She can hold the complexity of her early life, the unrelated relatives and the related unrelatives and intriguing journey to being a daughter of a stranger quite well.

It all seemed like a soothing balm to another frantic week at the end of a frantic winter. I fell well and truly out of love with Twitter this week to add insult to injury.  Human nature and cultural norms mean that we don't get that many good adoption stories, I get all that but there are other narratives, less binary, not all good or all bad,  and more nuanced. This was another day in my non binary narrative.

*Peanut had ready salted and I had salt and vinegar.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Words Matter: Adoption and Special Guardians Leadership Board

This is a brief comment on a meeting of the Adopter Reference Group that I was a part of this week via a conference call. The group does what it says on the tin it's an opportunity for the views and opinions of adopters on specific highlighted to be fed to, what was, the Adoption Leadership Board. The views come from across the adoption community through the adopter voice consultation programme and are sometimes very specific as well as often the aggregation of what adoption groups and communities are thinking on the issues and topics highlighted.

I say 'what was' the Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) as for the agenda papers that we received prior to the meeting it was clear that the ALB has changed it's name to the Adopters and Special Guardian Leadership Board (ASGLB).

Well, that's quite a change and words matter.

No fanfare or big announcement but I checked and it's in the public domain so there's no reason not to consider what that means for adopters and special guardians. Its no real shock as we're aware even though we represent two very distinct communities with often very different experiences, circumstances, demographics, and challenges our common ground is the children that we parent and care for. They cannot live with their biological parents for a myriad of reasons. Many have experienced some of the most challenging experiences imaginable and often need very specific specialist support as do those who look after them.* We do have that in common and consequently the Leadership Board has incorporated then into their scope of interest. I suppose I've questions but I'd say that I feel it's a positive step and the two communities together may hold a bigger collective voice and potentially more influence that can benefit children and families.

So, that's quite a thing and I'm intrigued by what the response will be from the adoption community as well as the special guardian community. We guard our distinctions and difference because they matter but will our focus be on our shared experience and goals. No doubt that will be made clear in the fullness of time.

Anyway, the business of the meeting was focused on the gathering of adopters and special guardians hosted by the ASGLB that I blogged about in March. Specifically, we considered five of the points that were drawn out from that meeting. It feels like an interesting time of transition, not always easy of course, but never the less it feels like the questions that are being asked are the ones that I hear families ask as they look to the future. They are not set in stone and more points for discussion and consideration. I asked if I could share them so here they are:

  • Research strategy (the need for current and relevant research to inform practice for support and interventions)

  • Outcomes data and research 

  • Practice around identity work (contact and life story work)
  • Support in school and development of the Virtual School Head role
  • Work with birth families (a statutory duty but with limited research or knowledge of scope or effectiveness of current practice)

As communities they impact us to varying degrees and each of the points can be fleshed with a range of considerations and thoughts. This open and collaborative direction taken by the ASGLB feels positive, no doubt there will be challenges to gathering views but this is where we're at. I apologise for my brevity but any questions please comment or contact me through the usual or unusual routes.

*23,470 children have been adopted in the last 5 years (2013-2017) and 17,250 SGOs were granted over the same period. (Taken from the CVAA paper presented to the ARG)