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.

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.

Friday 20 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.

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)