Friday, 19 October 2018

The A&F Podcast - Foster Carer Stories - #Ema

In this Episode Ema share her story of how, with her husband Blair, they started fostering as a family with their own young children. She describes looking after teenagers as well as the challenges of moving children onto adoptive parents.

Foster Carer stories is a place where foster carers can share their experiences, good, bad and everything in between with no agenda or filter.

If you'd like to share your story then please get in touch through the Adoption & Fostering Podcast's facebook page here, or our twitter feed here.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

That Giffgaff advert - a few quick thoughts

I'm reluctant to weigh into the giffgaff debate. Mainly because I don't want to appear precious and over sensitive to how adoption is portrayed in the media and film. That's a slippery slope ending with me boycotting literally every Disney film due to the harmful mis portrayal of contemporary adoption/kinship care and step families. 

If we object to one then do we have to object to them all? Can we select what we're offended at? I'm not sure, of course Giffgaff don't get to choose how we receive their advert and I don't agree with many portrayals or references in media of adoption but I'll be honest I still enjoy Annie and most of the other stuff. So, what to think about Giffgaff? well being cynical I'd suggest that their marketing team are giddy that they're stirring up a mini storm that they can capitalise on, as they say there's no such thing as bad publicity. There was no chance that I'd be looking at their Twitter profile if it weren't for this.

So, what's the issue? 

Firstly, I think that there's a lot of adopters/adoptees/birth families feeling a little delicate due to it being #NationalAdoptionWeek so this message comes at a tricky moment when many of us are a little tetchy.

Secondly and more importantly, the advert unpicks some of our most basic fears as adopters that our children are not ours and we will be rejected by them, perhaps our children will leave us and return to their origins. The message of monsters as birth parents plays as an overt metaphor for our children's parents and dances around our fears and even the language that is sometimes used. So, that's all a bit close to the knuckle.

Finally, for adopters the advert plays into our fears for our children that they will find their identity caught up in the character, behaviour and circumstances of their biological families. To listen to a teenager's fears that she'll become like her birth mother mother is hard and we know this advert has the potential to stoke those fears. 

Of course I empathise with those upset but I watched it and as requested and if I overthinking it I can see other's worries and concerns but I'm not worried by it at all. This advert is a fantasy, a story and not a social commentary on contemporary adoption. I'm robust and from the outset I've taught my children that almost every book, film or programme that we read or see that features adoption is usually wrong and to take them as entertainment only. On that basis I've no offence.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

National Adoption Week - Complicated

Firstly, I did promise myself that I'd not write a blog on the subject and I'd keep my head down this #NationalAdoption Week. But then as a favour to a friend I did a radio interview for #National Adoption week and again like Canute I could not withstand the tide of goodwill and limited knowledge of the reality of contemporary adoption. So, sorry, I'm rubbish at principles here's a blog.

#NationalAdoptionWeek is a peculiar feature in the calendar in comparison to the other awareness days, weeks or months. It stands out to me in that it is wholly focused on a system and recruiting more people into the process of adoption while systematically alienating at least two thirds that have been through the process regardless of the direction of travel or point of origin.

If it was #NationalAdoptionAwarenessWeek or #NationalAdopteeWeek or  #FindChildrenHomesWeek or even, heaven forbid, #NationalAdopterWeek then it would be a very different creature as it would then be about people* rather than a process. What is increasingly a contentious process. In reality, it feels and I'm pretty sure it is #NationalGetMorePeopleToAdoptWeek. So be it.

That seems to be the crux of it for me. With a system in transition and large communities on different sides of the so called adoption triangle** asking big questions then #NationalAdoptionWeek feels at times like a misstep. Parts of it seem to work, celebrating the dedication of many individuals, families and professionals to improvement and the welfare of children seems like a laudable element of the week at the #NationalAdoptionAwards. However, the questions of those bruised buy the 'system' remain fairly well hidden. of course the debate around funds used for the #NAW and the if's and buts of how that money could be used elsewhere in early support ring true but I'm not sure that they reflect the reality of funding or add up.

So, as I tweeted this week I find myself in a pragmatic stew caught between the good, the bad and the very large bit between.

Almost every adopter I ask about #NationalAdoptionWeek pauses, twists their face and says, 'well it's complicated isn't it?' Yes, on this we can agree.

*I think its a stretch to imagine we'd ever get to a point where we'd have #NationalBirthParentWeek

** It's not an Adoption Triangle its something entirely different as described here. 

Friday, 12 October 2018

The A&F Podcast Episode 50 - Childhood Challenging, Violent & Aggressive Behaviour (AKA CPV)

This week we're celebrating two years of podcasting, however there was no cake. We decided take a bit of time to unpack some of the developing knowledge in relation to  Childhood Challenging, Violent and Aggressive Behaviour (CCVAB) otherwise known as Child on Parent Violence (CPV). There's a mini interview with Social Worker and CPV campaigner Helen Bonnick who has been raising awareness of the issue over the last decade. See her website for excellent resources Holes in the Wall.

We don't get time to discuss the full #CPV2018 survey report but manage to discuss some of the key features such as the significance in the change from CPV to CCVAB, definition, underlying causes, sibling violence and strategies for supporting. You can read a summary of the survey here or but the full report here.

As the discussion progresses we get onto World Mental Health Day, National Adoption Week and banter. 

Again, thanks for listening, sharing and downloading. If you're inclined a wee review on iTunes is always welcome. 

Friday, 5 October 2018

Adopter Stories by the Adoption & Fostering Podcast - #4 Katherine

Adopters Stories is a short podcast where adopters tell their own stories. There's no filter or edit, no motive for recruitment or drive to raise a specific issue.

Download this episode (right click and save)

In this edition of #AdopterStories we speak to Katherine. With her husband Simon they adopted Donny in 2012. She shares their story.

If you want to share your story then please do get in touch, DM us through our Twitter account or Facebook page.

Monday, 1 October 2018

DfE Adopter Reference Group

Today I was at the DfE today sharing the views and experiences of adopters at the Adopters Reference Group that feeds into the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board. I'll be honest I raised a few points at the meeting and the views here are mine, they may be shared by others but that's for them to declare.

Firstly. I was wanting to call this post '365 days to save the Adoption Support Fund', better sense prevailed.

Behind that kind of sensationalism is a serious question. In the autumn of next year the Treasury will do the sums and make a decision/recommendation in relation to it's value and sustainability in the financial context. They will then decide if it's going to continue beyond 2020.

Firstly, do we want the ASF to continue?

It's not a trick question,  the online narrative is often focused on the barriers or challenges that families face in relation to accessing the fund.  If you read only that then you may think that the ASF is a disaster. 90% of the issues I hear about are process problems and usually the responsibility of the Local Authorities, though it suits them to deflect that onto the ASF managers. Of course it's not perfect, what is, we need to be free to highlight areas for improvement. It's complicated

So, do we want the fund continue? The case has to be made that it presents value for money, that it's not paying for what is expected to be provided by the LAs as part of their core PAS service. The ASF has become part of our adoption landscape and has brought a lot of good to many, my view is that it's made us look up and seek out support, it's got social workers listening to our needs and seeking to support them, it's helped many. However, that 'many' are perhaps not the vocal ones, what can we do to present our case for continuation and justify its continuation, again if that's what we want. I realise writing this that for some they've been unable to access the Fund and that's not acceptable but their reality.
Lots to unpick there and I'm sure some will care less but I've a hunch that it is more welcome than not. Anyway, I'm just putting that out there.

We chatted about a few other issues including education and health and the challenges that parents and children face. If I'm being brutally honest, it felt a little like old ground, we see incremental improvements but culture and children's workforce knowledge are like the proverbial supertanker, they take a long time to re direct.

We briefly chatted about PAS workforce development, to me this is a tangible area that we can influence and though it's contentious I believe as users of the service we have a bona fide stake in the skill level of social care professionals (as we do any professional who wields power over us, ie I demand my doctor knows what they're doing and have continued there learning). The Governments documents on adoption reform mention it in passing but are  mainly focused on matching and quick approval. Anecdotally, it hasn't gone un noticed that the emerging RAA agendas are focused on systems, process and recruitment. Where is the support? Really, are they so focused on recruitment at the expense of support that that they'll throw more adoptive families into this challenge unequipped? Overstatement? Hmmmmmmm............

We need our social workers to be experts in support not generalists in social care, to understand therapeutic parenting, therapy pros and cons, trauma, loss, brains and living with traumatised children. More to the point, the reforms to policy and practice that we want to see will be implemented by those staff so we need to invest in them rather than systems that will not function without competent staff. Oh, I could go on. Social work seems to be in a flux about this but there are moves to add a little pressure to that pot.

Adoption policy appears to be in a time of transition and as we know transitions are hard with forces and pressures from many directions and this is overlaid by ongoing austerity with LAs struggling like never before. How will this pan out? I don't know, coming away I'm conscious that politicians come and go, focusses move this way and that, opinions and perspectives shift. This uncertainty will pass and maybe so will the ASF but an adopter I will remain.