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.

Saturday 23 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.

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.