Sunday, 23 September 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Foster Carer Stories #1 Pip

We want to create a place where the voices and stories of foster carers can be heard with no agenda for recruitment, policy change or complaint. The voices arn't endorsed by an agency or filtered they are simply the story that the foster carer want to share.
In this episode Pip tells some of her story, with her husband and children they've been a fostering family for five years.
If you are a foster carer and want to share your story then Message us through our Twitter account ( @Adoption_pcast) or our Facebook Page.

As always, if you enjoy share, if you really enjoy review on iTunes here and if you hate it send Scott a private message. 

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Thursday, 20 September 2018

Workforce Development

Having faffed around all summer pondering the findings of the #CPVA2018 Survey and I'm convinced that the key issue right now in relation to violent and aggressive behaviour is workforce development.  More than that, I'd go as far as to say the key issue for all aspects of adoption support is workforce development. Systems and structures will take us so far but the knowledge and skill of the social workers that come into our homes is fundamental to support.

To that end I re read the Government's 2016 document Adoption: A Vision For Change as it lays out their vision for the adoption system in 2020 and how they'll achieve it. 

Workforce development is mentioned as a key element of that plan but a couple of things jumped off the page. The first being the commitment to:

'develop a robust programme to support social workers to develop or sharpen skills they need in order to make and support robust permanence decisions.'

It's important but it's also clear that the focus of the section and plan remains clearly on adoption pre order. 

The document goes on to list 7 specific areas for workforce development of which six refer to pre order skills with only one considering post placement adoption support. That is the stumbling block for me, we can stack adopters high and have a workforce that can rattle them efficiently and skilfully through the process of adoption but if support remains weak then it's often a house built on sand. Where are the ethics of pouring more adopters into a system that isn't looking to the well term welfare of the families that are created?

There has been a development of adoption support but that is often specialist external services accessed through para social work organisations and the ASF. For all the issues that adopters (special guardians and foster carers) face the fundamental skills and knowledge of the workforce in relation to educating, advocating and supporting children and parents seems to the the bugbear of many families.  If you want to start a heated debate ask about the knowledge of social care staff.

Of course there are many good social workers and most of ours have been at least good. However, to qualify as a social worker you go through a generic training with no specialism. In the three years of my degree there was one slide in one lecture that mentioned adoption. Yes, I did write that correctly. Social work is a cradle to grave service, there is a clear argument for specialising the workforce in my mind.
Adoption has it's unique issues, adopters are unusual service users and the challenges that brings is for another blog, but the power dynamics and the high level of need of the children are just a few of the challenges.

I'm rambling but my point is that I believe workforce development is a cornerstone of adoption services. I started the blog with the complexity of challenging and violent behaviour that too many children manifest. Children who are simultaneously vulnerable and frightening. We need a workforce who understand the underlying causes, the challenges that children and families face and offer effective support in the first instance of listening, believing, acknowledging and caring. Effective interventions remain illusive but the basic go a long way.

There's more to say, much more and this post feels a little rushed and incomplete but the busyness of life is against me. With this I'm hoping to start a conversation and dare I say ask the Gov what about the plan.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Ep 48 An Interview with Martin Barrow

After a much welcome summer break we start with a bang as we interview foster carer Martin Barrow. He is a vocal advocate for fostering and can often be found on Twitter (@MartinBarrow) debating the role, status and future of foster carers and foster care.

In this episode we get right to it and Martin's passion for the subject shines through, we discss with vigour, employment rights, transfering skills, market forces and many issues that face foster carers. We also discuss his experiences of helping children move on to other homes.
We end with a little catch up and some news from both of us, all rather exciting and ponder some upcoming topics that we'd like to discuss
As always thank you for listening.

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Friday, 7 September 2018

Five years down the tubes and that video clip

The descent into vanilla, I think that's what I should re name my blog, ha ha ha. Actually, I've been thinking about blogging and sharing what seems important to me and the Massive. It's all been kicked off by anniversary of me starting to blog five years ago this month.

I thought I'd write a reflective blog post to mark five years and I'd pick out my favourite post from each year and give it some clickbait title to drive people to my blog. That got dull really quick, there are lots of posts and only a few mean much to me, of course some are a little painful to read and some less so.

However, it all got derailed when I saw a video online of a child being told that they were going to be adopted on their birthday.

Oh, well that just about sums the whole damn think up doesn't it. Those few seconds of video (no, I'm not going to add a link because if you're that bothered you'd find it) scupper just about everything I've ever said ever. Honestly, it made my skin crawl even as I wept with joy. Yes, really.

There's me crafting away under the heavy burden of my self righteous, and self inflicted, cause for five bleedin' years. Trying to change the narrative and share my home spun, down to earth thoughts on contemporary adoption and it's all undone in a 30 second clip. Now,  I could unpick soooooo much about that clip, reinforcement of the 'Annie Narrative', the power dynamics, the voyeurism, the consent, the culture, the this and the that.......... come on, I'm a social worker and could do this all day.

But why even bother, by the time I've finished and put the whole damn thing into words someone else will put up another 'child is told they are going to be adopted' clip and we're right back to the start again.

I just wished I'd caught the beautiful and delicate exchange between me an Lotty on video that went like this:

Lotty at maximum volume: 

'Why should I do as you say? You're not even my REAL dad!'

With me responding with equal vigour I retorted:

'Tell me something I don't know! I signed the papers'

Not my best moment and unlikely to go viral, though it may feature heavily in parenting classes in the 'Let's think what we can do better' section of the course. It does feel a bit closer to many of our days. In the interests of truth, we still love each other and laughed heartily at each other later on.

Anyway, if you can be bothered I think there was a good post in late 2014, I prefer my early stuff before I became successful :-p

Railway Child

Friday, 31 August 2018

Adopters Stories by The Adoption & Fostering Podcast - #1 & #2

Welcome to Adopters Stories hosted by the Adoption & Fostering Podcast

All adoption stories are unique and all adoption stories represent the coming together of different experiences, motives, hopes and aspirations. They often don’t go to plan and many adoptive parents discover that their lives are taken in directions that they never anticipated.

In this, the first Episode, Clare tells her story, with her husband Steve they adopted their son Jake in 2011 when he was 7 and a half years old.

In this episode Paul shares his story of adoption of two boys in 2015 of two boys with his husband. 

Of course, there are other voices in adoption and we’re not presuming to speak for them and as we’re based in the UK all the adopters that we speak to have adopted through the UK's statutory adoption system.  If any of the stories in future episodes are different we’ll say.

If you’d like to share your story or would like to get in touch you can message through the adoption and fostering podcast facebook page or through our Twitter feed.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Babies and Birthdays

I've a long list of topics, stories, issues and thoughts that I purposefully and very carefully don't blog on, if I get close to them then I slip into vague and bland terms. It's mainly so I when I write my book I'll have something worth saying rather than re hashing my blog posts. It's worth noting at this point that it's an imaginary book right and in all honesty very likely to stay that way, there are no plans, secret drafts or hint of spare time or likely to be in at least the next 15 years.

Again I digress, infertility is a topic that I've never mentioned. Mainly because I'm not entirely sure that it applies to me. When I say that I mean that I wasn't even slightly bothered by the need to reproduce my genes so when things worked out the way they did (see, I'm being vague) adoption suited me just fine. 

Circumstances have conspired this year to mean that I've become a grandfather twice, once in February and once on Monday. It's kind of been an 'interesting journey' (again, vague) to put it in the most most anodyne terms possible. The last few weeks have taken us through the experience of packing hospital suitcases and stockpiling baby wipes and nappies. We waved my daughter off to hospital and became familiar with what is a routine passage that the overwhelming majority of families travel. At my ripe age and as a father of six it feels odd to be a stranger in the maternity ward and the tramlines of pregnancy and birth, all the systems and processes that feel alien yet are standard for so many. 

So, today I visited the ward and MrsC shared her experience as the birthing partner, a moving and personal experience.  I got all teary and I felt this little twinge. It could have been more. All this swirling unresolved mess inside that I really didn't have back at the beginning of our family's journey seems to have slowly grown into something. I'm not overwhelmed or bereft,  I've no regrets just the odd thought. 

What if things had been different? 

That's not a helpful thought so I tend to push it back down. I think a lot of my friends have that thought. 

After today's business I tucked Peanut into bed, it's her birthday eve and she asked to go early. I looked her in the eye and told her,

'Thank you for being the most, clever, creative, kind, beautiful, funny, silly, wonderful six year old in the world, its been a pleasure and a privilege to be your daddy this year and I am so exited for you to be seven'

As I got the end of my little speech her bottom lip quivered and she broke into a full on sob. 'What's wrong?' I asked. 
'I'm so happy.' She sobbed 

We cuddled tight. My thoughts went to a little girl's birth that started seven years ago tonight. 

Adoption sucks and adoption is wonderful but that's no news.

So, that's a story out of the secret jar. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Stress Test: Adopter Assessments

After 48 hours of having a child repeat every word I said I felt I had a unique perspective on my own capacity to parent like never before.  Quite clearly I was unravelling and my standard approaches of saying smart things to outwit the child had been brushed off many many hours earlier. This brings me to the delicate issue of adopter assessment. Sitting in a comfortable room discussing hypothetical parenting challenges is one thing, 48 hours of psychological acrobatics with a dysregulated child is another.

Would I make the assessment of adopters more vigorous, yes.

If your embarking on the process of approval to be an adopter or half way through it may feel like I'm pulling up the drawbridge after I've safely got myself into the castle. Yup, what you gonna do? I've been though the assessment at least four times and have completed a fair few fostering and the odd adoption assessment as a social worker so I feel like I have a fairly good perspective on the issue.

When prospectives are reaching out for the much desired prize, children, then what are they going to say other than what they believe the assessor want to hear. Diversity? of course. Contact, no bother. Good under pressure? like a concrete Supernanny. Do applicants dance around issues and skip over doubts because that desire for the prize is so strong. Did I, honestly yes I did. Did I lie or did I portray the best me on a good day? Parenting vulnerable children finds the truth pretty quickly.

The model of assessing adopters has remained relatively static and for, what used to be, the bulk of adoption scenarios fit for purpose. But scroll through the bios of adopters on twitter, read some adoption blogs, attend a few support groups and listen to the voices of the struggling third and it's clear that adoption has not gone to plan. Read about adopter's mental ill health, prescription medication, relationship breakdown, career stagnation or disruption and a whole host of challenges and the assessment perhaps was not fit for purpose. The needs of many of the children are so profound and consuming that many adopters are stripped to the core of who they through they were and having to call on resources that may or may not be there. Family disruption and relationship breakdowns are more common than I'd like to believe. Of course the underlying causes are complex but the assessment process is designed to be two fold, gather information and import information.

There are bright spots of innovation with adopters assessed for specific children. Assessment needs to reflect the nature of the uncertain  but largely predictable challenges that many adopters face. In an ideal world we'd stress test adopters, foster to adopt and foster carers who adopt follow that route by design or accident. I wonder if there are any breakdown stats for them?

Vigorous is perhaps the wrong word to describe what I'd like to see. I would say we need to unpick adopter's experiences and expectations, hopes and dreams, attachment strategies and vulnerabilities, strengths and weakness. Of course you could argue that's what we do but do we? Perhaps I am just pulling up the drawbridge.

We need to grease the stairs of the application process, hard to get in and easy to get out.


Saturday, 18 August 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Mini Summer Podcast special

This is a short podcast were we briefly reflect on the years to date and consider some of topics that we're hoping to cover, including adoption breakdown/disruption/children return to care, parental anger, fostering, chronic loss/sadness and the challenging and violent behaviour. 

We also que up the new venture for the podcast - #AdopterStories, something we're a little trepedatious about but hope will be helpful for prospective, new and old adopters. 
Have a great summer, be kind to yourself and those that you love. 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Hearts and Minds

We’ve reached the middle of the summer holidays and we're surviving.

It sounds dramatic to say that we’re surviving but being honest it doesn’t feel dramatic, it feels like a fair reflection of the stakes. 

We’ve had friends over, adopters who like us, have walked a less travelled road and care for children who can be sometimes challenging. I mean that's an understatement, re calibrate your idea of challenging by multiplying by a factor of 10.

Anyway, I normally find it reassuring to speak to other adopters but this time its had a peculiar effect. It’s reinforced the sense that adoption is increasingly a precarious way of creating a family for many adults and children. I bang on about societal change and the concentration of the most impacted children in the prospective adoptee cohort and I have to wonder if adoption is working. The vast majority of people I speak to don’t miss a beat in telling me that they’d do it again, neither do they shy away from telling me about the challenges that they’ve faced and the impact on their lives. I'd do it again, what other answer could I possibly give?

Last year I wrote a post ‘renegotiating the adoption contract’ about the challenge versus the support, or lack of support, and it's easily the most read post that I’ve ever written. Looking back I wonder what that even means now, increasingly I wonder about the capacity of government, local and national, to affect the changes that I’d want to see in adoption. Their powers only extend to structures, systems and policy & I believe that we need to change the ethos, values and knowledge of applicants, work force and the bean counters. This seems a much harder task, the old paradigms remain entrenched.

Having my friends over was a blast, We’d met last summer and then we acknowledge the challenges ahead. When they arrived they walked up my garden path and laughed ‘we survived’. Later when we talked we came back to 'surviving', it’s not funny we’ve all danced around children’s safeguarding, police, courts and more. We literally are surviving.
We spoke in frank and clear language about our challenges and worries. Peer support works for some but this time it was a stark reminder of the level of challenge that those sat around that table and many other families face. 

A social worker once asked me what my aspiration was for my child, I replied that we were all still together by the time they're 16 years old. They paused and with a serious face wrote something in their note book, ah well. Perhaps I'm suffering from mid holiday blogging silly season, nothing to reflect on other than the 7 of us sat looking at each other across the kitchen table. It's a big table.

I promise my next blog will be a right laugh. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

A guest post - Attempts at ‘Semi-therapeutic parenting’ vs ‘Traditional parenting’- or ‘When Nanna steps in too much!’

Attempts at ‘Semi-therapeutic parenting’ vs ‘Traditional parenting’- or ‘When Nanna steps in too much!’
By the modern adoptive mummy

A family holiday… a lovely idea- or so I thought. 

The rationale goes like this: We have booked a big enough cottage in beautiful mid Wales, my mum hasn’t had a family holiday since dad died (lots on her own though), we have never had more than a day out with their nanna, it’ll be lovely to all go together, three adults, two kids and three dogs. Looking back at this last statement alone I can see the issues in neon lights! 
My adopted boys, now 5 and 4 years old (how did they get this old so quick?), get on well with their nanna- they react the same around her as they do us which led us to believe they were comfortable with her and settled with her (as in they will have meltdowns in front of her and fight with each other).  We talk to her a lot about them, their issues and behaviour and what we do about it- or at least try to do about it. She was very aware that we parent a little differently and she knows, for instance, that we have to get littun to sleep by sleeping with him until he falls asleep as he can’t stand to be parted from us (which she doesn’t agree with).
It was on this disaster of a holiday I really appreciated the difference between trauma informed parenting (or at least attempts to parent this way) and ‘traditional’ parenting. There is no way we are the perfect parents- we get exasperated, frustrated, feel helpless and slip easily into ‘traditional’ parenting before checking ourselves but more and more we are learning to see things from a trauma informed view- like any parenting, this takes practise and as adopted parents we are always questioning the reasons behind behaviours.
Nana’s approach:

Largely shouting and threats. Shouting at them to stop behaviours, to stop demanding us for various things, to stop doing things we would also want them to stop (like hitting and stealing off each other). The more she shouted, the more they also shouted, the louder their cries and the bigger their grumps. The threats fell on deaf ears and when nanna took things off them they took it as a huge betrayal of trust. Many times, they looked totally shocked at her, bewildered at how she was speaking to them and it fair to say that both boys were a bit scared of her during the holiday.
On several occasions she contradicted things we had allowed the boys to do which also left them confused and upset.
I admit, that at times, I backed up my mother- as my husband and I always back each other up (even if we don’t agree we talk about it later). I was pulled into the traditional parenting role- it is what I grew up with- and afterwards I felt terrible about it and as the week went on I was less and less inclined to agree with her as I could see the harm it was doing to my children. It is very hard to stand up to your mother, especially as she has no one on her side being on her own without a partner and not something I wanted to do in front of the children- although this did start to change!
Traditional parenting, to me equals punishment, shouting, withdrawal of treats/ items, putting them down with comments like, ‘You should be old enough to go to sleep on your own now, you don’t need mummy and daddy with you’ and ‘You need to appreciate all that mummy and daddy so and stop being so selfish’, ‘You won’t be having pizza if you don’t stop complaining’. All of these things usually met with silence from us- in shock at how hash she was being with them and also uncomfortable to say anything there and then- I didn’t want her feeling uncomfortable (being the add on to the holiday if that makes sense) and my husband not wanting to correct my mother. We talked about it a few times and how badly having her with us was affecting the boys.
Every time we were on our own with them (she stayed behind one day and one evening we walked to the beach without her and one afternoon a walk to a castle) things seemed easier, happier, there was laughter and grumps and disagreements were less and they were more responsive to us. The air was just lighter- even when there was a major-needing-restraint-meltdown from biggun. We think the tiny thing that triggered it may well have been him letting out his frustration with his nanna.
Our approach:

(If only we looked this calm!)
So what were we doing differently? When fights and arguments start, usually my husband takes biggun away to talk to him and calm him (he is better than me with biggun and I am better with littlun). We try distraction, we talk about behaviour and consequence, we always make them apologise for nastiness and get them to understand what they are apologising for (a sorry on its own is worth nothing). Most of all, we often just let stuff go. Littun has a habit of saying ‘me hate you’. We usually respond with ‘I love you’. Nanna would tell them how nasty they were and tell them off for talking to us like that.  The gulf between the two styles of parenting is huge and has had a detrimental affect on our children. They were on edge all the time, they didn’t respond to her well and didn’t want to be with her. Their already heightened awareness was super heightened and they were like wound up jack-in-the-boxes waiting to go off. There are always cuddles after meltdowns or times we have to reprimand and we give items back or agree a safe place with them if we have to remove them during disagreements.
Regrets and advice on what to do should you find yourself in this situation:
1)    Don’t contemplate going on holiday with nanna!
2)    Talk to your parent beforehand about how you want situations handled.
3)    Step in as soon as possible with a chat about parenting methods
4)    Remind nanna that she is there to give treats and little things that mummy and daddy can’t see.
5)    Ask nanna to play with the boys not just reprimand them.
6)    DON’T be tempted to fall into traditional parenting as it is easy to back nanna up!
7)    Don’t contemplate going on holiday with nanna!


I certainly have resolved to check myself more for hints of ‘traditional’ parenting and to use more trauma informed methods- the days since we have been back have been so much calmer. To reverse any displays of ‘traditional’ parenting with a calmer and more emotion focussed response and to make sure that we inform nanna of how we wish to have them parented the next time we leave them with her for a few hours. I have felt so sad for my boys and how their view of nanna has been tainted and how they are left reeling from this. I will be monitoring them with her for a while before leaving them- reparations are needed. I feel guilty for not stopping it sooner and adamant it won’t happen like that again. More and more I feel only adopted parents ‘get it’ and a few gems of friends who are awesome and understand trauma informed parenting (they are rare!).

Saturday, 4 August 2018

A&F Podcast - Episode 47: An interview with Sarah Fisher on all things NVR

We speak to Sarah Fisher in relation to her experience as a single adoptive parents as well as a NVR (Non Violent Resistance) practitioner. She supports many families and has seen the benefits of the model of parenting in her own home. 

We discuss the underlying principles and how these are outworked within specific situations. There are a few listener's questions, we talk about the 'three baskets', 'poo sandwitches' and 'sit ins'. Scott does use a rude word so be warned! 
As always, it's a serious subject as we discuss the challenges of living with violent and aggressive behaviour but we manage to amuse each other in midsts of all that. 
If you want further info on the Sarah and her work here are some links. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

From the fringe.

Though I'd never overtly thought it I'd presumed that my life and those that journeyed with me would meander relatively unscathed and on the well worn paths of society's norms.

In part that's happened, as time as gone on I find us a little lost and in the fringes. The walk from the mainstream to the fringes was a surprisingly short journey. Education.

The debate on school exclusions  has ground on over the last few weeks and being a natural pragmatist I tend to see the reasonable middle ground in most debates. I'm really struggling with this, listening to arguments on both sides I realise that I'm in, we're in, the fringes.

I read well argued debates on child education and whole class welfare, on zero tolerance and parental responsibility and mutter under my breath to myself:

Walk a mile in my child's shoes, walk a mile in my shoes. 

Frankly dear teacher, I can no longer be bothered to explain at length the impact of early trauma and adversity, to lay out my child's world view and anxiety, simmering shame and fear.

I'd like you to do your job.*

Talking to a good friend and highly qualified teaching professional she shook her head as we discussed the challenge and she noted, when will many teachers consider what they can do to help, that perhaps the child is not the problem, the methods employed are?  They could listen perhaps to an army of parents who would be more than willing to have a reasonable conversation with them about what helps and what does not. Of course the vanilla SWer in me shouts there are good teachers, many good teachers and we've had lots of amazing teachers. I agree wholeheartedly but from the fringe it doesn't seem that way. A few rotten apples can ruin the barrel.

Education is a path we all must traverse with our children, for many of us it is a challenge of unequal proportions in our lives. For one of my children my primary educational aspiration is that they're still in mainstream education by the time she reaches her GCSE's.

*Sorry, the nice me is appalled at myself.

Saturday, 28 July 2018


So, I'm faced with a choice. One of my children is having a very public meltdown. Inside my cogs are whirring, I know what to do but feel the weight of public expectation. I feel my parenting is being watched. 

I'm very susceptible to what people think of me, they're probably not bothered. 

Feeling very watched I hovered on the brink of action. 

Understanding what is going on in my child's inner world really helps me. Like fire, you will do well to know the nature of the fire before attempting to put it out. Our instinct is to use water but try that on your toaster fire or chip pan fire and it's going to make it a whole lot worse. 

Back to the meltdown, the right thing to do was to step back, take the verbal assault and the scorn of the onlookers but watch regulation return. In the midst of all this it still feels like we live in a culture where parenting is reduced to winning and losing. Of course that may just be my parenting and a reflection of my childhood in the 70s an 80s. However, it seems to be the natural order that parents should win the battles and the wars.

Anyway, the meltdown. I chose to step back  and after 10 or 15 minutes we'd restored calm. The peer pressure was crushing, nobody said anything but I felt trapped and impotent. Of course I 'won', regulation was restored but I took a bruising for my efforts. It took me longer to recover than her. It seems like this understanding has come at a price, years of stupid and bubbling parenting from me. I'm starting to feel like I'm getting there. Well sometimes. 

Therapeutic parenting remains a much misunderstood path, it dances around the recognised parenting models of authoritarian, authoritative and permissive, it turns on a penny and leave the door open to all kinds of onlooker confusion. So be it. 

I understand more, more about my child's inner world, more about me and more about the world I live in. That in part has lead to my increased frustration with the language and more annoyingly imagery around violence and aggressive behaviour. It lacks nuance and insight, it reinforces stereotypes and reduces our children to caricatures of that behaviour. How to manage your 'angry child' or clipart of screaming toddlers doesn't help. I'm off point now, but more often my child is distressed, scared, overwhelmed. 

Anyway, knowledge is power.  

In a moment of shameless promotion I'd ask you to look at and share the #CPVA2018 Report extended summary. It helps us understand our children's inner world and therefor us. It can be found here

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.