Saturday 27 January 2018

The Guardians of Adoption

With lots of media coverage of adoption and the release of BASW's report on the role of the social worker in Adoption and then the comments on reports from various trusted and influential voices I find myself wondering who's voice we should be listening too. I liked the report, understood its scope and focus and saw no 'hidden agenda' but I'm left wondering how we, the stakeholders, of adoption sift the range of views that are presented to us? Who's voice is the authentic definitive voice on adoption, who can I trust and believe?

Is it that all voices come with bias and vested interests that may or may not be apparent? So, is there one voice that can be weighed as the 'right voice'. Can we listen voices out of context? The more I think about it the more opaque it becomes, we talk of the members of the adoption triangle but they are in fact overlaid by the social care, legal system and political system, a triangle within the grip of larger forces.

Even writing this I'm conscious of my own vested interests, father to adopted children, social worker, adoption blogger, I've gained children from the adoption system but I've seen my children lose siblings to the adoption system and I've walked my own path. My voice has to be weighed like all others.

So, my question is this, who are the guardians of the adoption system? The motivations of all are viewed with suspicion by someone in the triangle.

Is it that the Government wants to save money and garner votes, adoption is a convenient solution. Judges are more concerned with law than lives; Judges are set against birth families or adopters or everyone. Social workers are in the pocket of the government working to 'targets' pulling children into the system or they're too concerned with parents rights and holding children back. Adopters want to travel the system with as little friction as possible and collect children as soon as possible, Adopters are a cheap way of saving money. Birth parents don't deserve a say and of course they're against adoption.
I'm overstating for affect but they're all words I've heard, I don't agree with them, but they are reflections on how the members of the adoption community perceive each other. Entrenched views that sometimes defy evidence set before us. 

Yet always, adoptees remain the silent common denominator, everybody wants them but we're not so quick to hear them.

Who do we listen too, are all stakeholder's voices filtered through their experience and inherent position? Many participants see a need for change and evolution of the system but our end goals are perhaps in competition. We also disagree on what needs to be changed and how to change it. Everyone has their views.

As a society we've decided that adoption is the vehicle that we are going to use to care for some of the most vulnerable and harmed children in our society when they cannot be cared for by their parents. However, it seems that society prefers to see adoption in binary terms, shocked by the scandalous injustices of tabloid headlines. 'Overweight prospective adopter refused children' and 'social worker makes terrible forced adoption error' and scream the papers but remain indifferent to the contemporary reality and challenges children face.

We need voices of reason and balance because the stakes are high, adoption touches all who come into it's sphere in the most primal sense, it's our children, biological or joined, our soul, our future and past. We can't fall into the binary traps of adopter good birth family bad. Can we trust politicians, or adoptees, or lawyers, or professors or mothers and fathers? Yes and no. We need voices of peace, reconciliation and reason. We need clarity of thought and hope. We need to talk of the financial and moral cost of adoption and of human rights. We need to be honest about crime and punishment, hope and redemption. We need to be rational, reasoned and reasonable. We need to consider the needs of children.

That all said, is the prevailing wind seems set against adoption in its current form? If so we need to be open to listen to others with open minds and willing to embrace views that may not be ours. 

Tuesday 23 January 2018

A Different Type of School

I'm sat in a room with much clever, wiser and knowledgable grown ups than me. The person stood in front of us draws a cautious breath and asks. 'shall we do this then?'

Its a big ask, the 'this' is to start a school for children who are unable or struggle to navigate the school system as it is. 

School and the trials and tribulations of children who have experienced trauma or are struggling to navigate the 'standard' education systems and routes remains one of the most discussed and debated issues for many adoptive families. This is repeated for many other parents and carers, children who are fostered, those with neurodevelopmental conditions, mental ill health or children with a SEND (Special Educational Need and Disability). 

The question before this is if you could start with a blank canvas what school environment would you build? Not an easy question to answer, I'm not an educationalist and my experience is limited but the people in the room have a broad range of experience and know their stuff. 

They aspire to create a safe environment where a child's safety, perception of safety and wellbeing is prioritised over academic bureaucracy. Where achievement is a nurtured, expected and realistic. Where vulnerable children can thrive. Where parents and carers build collaborative,  effective and supportive relationships as a fundamental tool in supporting children. A school that is available to all children and is free. A school that doesn't just take the most vulnerable but those who wobble and waver.  Where this ethos is not limited to or attributed to one person or a group of professionals in a school but is hard wired to the DNA of the school. Where the ethos is inextricable from the function and form of all that the school is an does. 

So, that's where I spent the evening. Slightly daunted and very excited. 

Now we need help, we need to evidence the need within the local area that we hope to develop this school. So, if you live in Tyne and Wear/North East area and see the need for your children please follow this link to the New Blueprint Group's webpage for further informant and the link to the information gathering survey is here.

As you can imagine there are a lot of work to do but a lot has already been done by those involved. 

Your help is appreciated. 

Friday 12 January 2018

Intervention or non Intervention.

I don't think what I'm experiencing is unique to adoptive parents, it's likely that many families walk an uncertain and delicate path as their children transition into adulthood. For us the early life trauma that pre dates our parenting seems to have hidden beneath very real boulders that had fallen into my child's life.  Compliance and obedience are very welcome character traits to greet a new parent, especially a new adoptive parent of three children that arrived one summer day 20 years ago. We were unskilled, unable or too naive to see the issues that lay beneath these rocks.

So now we see those seeds of early trauma finally bear their terrible fruit. That story is not mine to tell, so I shan't but I do have a story. 

It comes down to two choices; intervention or non intervention. Those choices have been chewed over and talked round for months. Do we as parents step into our adult child's life and 'fix' the unraveling that has occurred?

Every fibre of my being kicks against this, issues of consent and personal choice loom large. These are countered by questions of vulnerability and capacity. Bad decisions layered on bad decisions all trauma informed replaying earlier lives. My mind races to the  'nature or nurture' question, science seems to have a new view on that and so do I as the impacts of intergenerational trauma plays out before me. 

But the 'intervention or non intervention' question rages, putting a new and unexpected challenge between me and MrsC. We have always sat squarely in different camps. I'm the non interventionist because that's what's right and proper. 'How will they learn if we always catch them before they hit the ground?' I say. MrsC is a rescuer, it's her DNA. Now we both are unsure of our default positions. 

The curse of all parents, not just adoptive,  seems to be the uncertain future of our children. We extrapolate todays problems through the lens of our experience and we see the dangers ahead. Right now these dangers seem very real, tangible and beyond what I ever imagined, see no easy way out without my stepping in. 

I talk to my other adult children, I seek their counsel. We see that perhaps if we step in now we may always have to. It seems dramatic writing it but I ask if they are prepared to step in when I'm too old to do it. I try to recalibrate my mind, 'always step in', this was not my plan. Again is it time to adapt, new paradigms of parenting that cut against the parenting norm and accepted wisdom. 

Some minds cannot learn, for whatever learn, some scripts are already written. After years of being the safety net it's clear that it's no longer accepted or wanted. I fear that the ground on which the child is going to fall this time is rockier than all of us anticipate. 

So now I'm an toying with becoming an unwelcome interventionist, a position that is an anathema to me. 

I'm not sure that makes much sense really but many of my friends that have walked the adoption road before me nod in agreement, my peers tell tales of young adults adrift in a world that seems to have laid out more snares and traps than the one we inhabited. Is it all doom, hell no and the adoption rule of thirds seems to ring true again. Some fall, some falter but keep on and some run. 

Monday 8 January 2018

2018 Child on Parent Violence Survey

Since releasing the 2016 Child on Parent Violence (CPV) Survey in November 2017 a lot has happened. The findings were used to write up three reports that raised awareness and build on the limited knowledge of what many adoptive families knew to be relatively common experience.

2017 saw an increasing acknowledgement of CPV within the adoption establishment. That said there were no surprises and many practitioners and professionals nodded knowingly when the issue of CPV  was raised, begging the question why are we only now discussing it in open.

However, with the support of many I went on the road and joined with Dr Wendy Thorley, Scott Casson-Rennie and Helen Bonnick to speak to different groups of people in all kinds of places. It was shared with the Department for Education's Expert Advisory Group on Adoption Support, Social Work Teams, We Are Family and After Adoption's adoption support groups, The University of Salford's Adoption and Fostering Conference and to hundreds of social workers at the Community Care Live in September. This was all done to raise the profile of the issue and fuel a conversation about the causes, challenges and impacts of the issues on children and those that care for them.

With all that in mind we're asking for your help again. We want to build on the knowledge that we gathered and develop understanding of the underlying causes and issues that children and families face. We want to use this to further promote awareness and help professionals develop effective responses and support. We've included the word aggression (an A on the end) to the survey to widen the net and better reflect families experiences.
For many adopted families CPVA is an issue but we are relatively small in number, beyond our circle other communities experience the same challenges of living with aggression and violent behaviour from the children they care for. These are much larger communities facing similar challenges accessing appropriate effective support.

So please take the time to complete the survey, if you know a family that experiences CPVA share it with them so we can further build our knowledge to influence policy and develop better support for our children and ours.

All the data in the survey will be confidential and will remain that way.

The link to the survey is HERE or you can complete it below, it will remain open until the 5th February.

Further information on the study can be found on the Children who Experience Loss & Trauma (CEL&T) website HERE

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Child on Parent Violence Survey

It's over a year since we released the 2016 Child on Parent Violence Survey. Following the amazing response we used the data to produce three reports based on the findings of over 250 predominantly adoptive families. 

The reports can be read here:

These reports have been used to raise awareness and begin a conversation in the adoption community and workforce. Knowledge of effective interventions and broader impacts remains limited so with that in mind Dr Wendy Thorley and I will be releasing a the 2018 Child on Parent Violence and Aggression Survey in the next few weeks and your support would be appreciated in completing it and sharing it.