Saturday, 24 November 2018

The A & F podcast - Episode 51 an interview with Isabelle Trowler

In this episode Al put on his best shirt and headed up to the Department for Education to speak to Isabelle Trowler England's Chief Social Worker for Children and Families. There had been a few questions sent in so they were synthesised into some talking points including professional development for social workers, the support available for kinship carers and the trial of a permanence service in Peterborough that looks at the children first. We also touched on her role and what that actual involves.

It's been a while since the last podcast and we've a lot of other stuff to catch up with including the AUK conference, Scott's house move, Al's unfortunate incident with a psychologist and there is a slight unravelling when the subject of the recent Giff Gaff advert* was brought up and Al shared a forthright view on the matter. (he openly acknowledged that other opinions are available and he's also comfortable to be dismissed and disagreed with).

As always a cheeky review on iTunes here would be appreciated.

*The advert depicted a fictional 'Adams family' style family where their child looked to be adopted as she didn't like her home life. It then portrayed her new adoptive family as ultra straight in contrast to her original family and then they tried to coerce her into signing adoption papers. She eventually returned to her biological family accepting their difference. 

Friday, 23 November 2018

A new normal

I took a sharp intake of breath and braced myself for the anticipated unravelling of the child before me. Across a crowded table at a child's birthday party a parent, quite appropriately, corrected a child that had just given them a slightly cheeky answer to a question they'd asked. Time stood still and the parent's words hung in the air while my grip on the edge of the table tightened anticipating a great unravelling.
But then.................nothing.
The little girl, looked a little taken aback, mouthed the word 'sorry', smiled and ate some cake.

I'd not realised I'd slipped into alert, I'd anticipated an unravelling, a tirade of abuse or meltdown of some flavour or variety. It just didn't come, the mam and the girl just moved on, they probably didn't even notice.

It's hung on me, really heavy, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I told my adopter friends of this thing I'd seen, I'm not sure I could articulate how I felt about it. I think it wasn't the little girl it was my anticipation, my gripping of the chair and my sense of inevitability of conflict.

I'm not quite sure when I left normal behind. Caring for a child with complex needs can edge you to the fringes of normal,  however you want to perceive normal. We've made this slow but necessary shift from the universal norms of parenting to a hybrid parenting model made up of a little bit of all the courses, books and helpful conversations. We live with complex behaviours that are predictable and unpredictable at the same time, that place us on high alert and vigilant. We anticipate challenge, friction and conflict and adjust our expectation and requests to suit. A strange and sometimes isolating world.

Over the last few weeks I've spoken to parent, carers, adopters and a whole range of professionals in lots of different places. At the start of my sessions I ask those there:

'Who in here lives, knows or works with children that can sometimes be aggressive or violent towards their parents, carers and families?' 

It's a key dramatic moment and sets the tone for the rest of my session, without fail I take a deep breath before I ask the question, perhaps it's just my family, my child, my normal. I ask the question and wait................. Always hands go up and I breathe a sigh of relief. I'm not that strange, we're not that odd we just have a different version of normal.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Adopter Stories #Lisa

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.

In this edition of #AdopterStories we speak to Lisa. With her husband they adopted three children. Lisa shares her reasons for adopting, her experiences, the hard bits and the best bits.

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

Friday, 16 November 2018


Peanut was rather pleased with herself as she showed me the contents of her box of secrets, she read out a letter she'd written.

My name is Peanut, I am 7 years old, I am adopted and I am special. 

Oh, is that a secret? I asked

No she said, I told my teacher that's why I'm special. 

Heartwarming, well kind of.  Of course, she is special and I can wholeheartedly agree.

The perspectives of adoptees on adoption feels illusive to me. The perspective of my children more so, I wonder if they dance around their true feelings to protect me. Like us all they grow up in a world where they have limited choices about the decisions that are made over their lives. What can they say, what perspective can they have, I can recall overhearing my then 7 year old eldest daughter being asked if she was happy if she'd been adopted. A stupid question but she didn't skip a beat and answered 'yes'. Heartwarming, but what else could she have said and what else did she know. It affirmed our relationship but is no measure of all that had happened to this little girl, it really was an inappropriate question.  I wonder what she'd have answered at 12, 18 and 25 years old if she'd been asked. Like all people our views change and perspectives are informed by life experience and time to consider bigger pictures. All of us are allowed to change our opinions.

National Adoption Month comes round from the US and the voices of adoptees are more prominent on the web. It never fails to surprise me that heated discussions rage as some of the voices tussle and for one true perspective on adoption. It spills into other arguments and sometimes turns ugly and people are hurt. I watch but feel it's wholly inappropriate for me to do anything other than listen.

Back to Peanut, right now she's special because of her adoption but as she grows her views may change and one day she may speak out against adoption. One day she might rage at the sky for all of it, and why not. I hope that she feels that she can, it doesn't change how I feel about her and I'm sure it won't change what she feels about me. That's the thing that seems most important, court orders come and sometimes go, decisions are lost in the fog of children's social care filing systems but our relationship will endure.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The A & F Podcast - Adopter Stories #5 Frances

In this episode Frances shares a unique story of adopting a little girl through the New Zealand Social Care system. The language is shared but practice and underlying values and ethics contrast the UK's.

Stories are potent and can expand our understanding, listening to Frances her story asks us to question our assumptions around parenting other people's children and where the boundaries of family lie.

As always, if you enjoyed this and would like to share your story then please do contact us through Twitteror Facebook.
If you're feeling really warm and fluffy towards us a review on iTunes herewould help share the joy.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

A&F Podcast - #AdopterStories Louise

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.

In this edition of Adopter Stories Louise shares her experience of adoption with her wife though the concurrency route (Foster to Adopt).
If you want to share your story then please do get in touch, DM us through our Twitter account or Facebook page.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Adoption Roundtable: Expectations

Firstly, I’ve been up to the DfE quite a bit over the last three years and sat in a range of meetings for a range of reasons and I’ve learnt some things and observed lots. Expectation management is at the heart of what I've learnt. 

There are lots of things on the adoption community’s wish list, and hear me correctly, we do pretty well by comparison to other parents of equally challenged children.  Never the less, there are things that we’d like done and things we think need to be done. As a community we have broad consensus on big issues but we’d perhaps identify specific issues within them that are important to us as individuals. That all sits in a complex dynamic within central government where what is possible and practical is influenced by current legislation, Treasury requirements, realms of influence, responsibilities, legislative windows and timeframes. Not to mention political will and competing demands on time, money and energy. 

So, that all said to my mind managing our expectations as to what can be done is essential and creating consensus and effective, justifiable and solid arguments for what we want is paramount. 

Being invited is a weighty privilege and all adopters present were conscious that we’re representing 1000s of families with the complex struggles and challenges they face. Adoption UK were chairing the event and laid out the issues that were to be addressed. Of course, you could debate what went on the list and perhaps you will* but that was the list: Adoptee’s challenges in education, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and the need for ongoing support and awareness were the key areas that were focused on. Generally, it was received well by Nadhim Zahawi, who was clearly aware of the issues and engaged in discussion. As a group we highlighted key points then fleshed them out with lived experience. I’m sure that the reality of the challenges carries a weight that a straightforward briefing would not and the minister certainly understood, empathised and engaged with our arguments for continuation and development of support etc. 

It’s easy to see all that as a little vague and no doubt it’s too vague for some but the reality is that there are rarely revolutionary changes in this world, we see evolution and development. That is unfortunately too slow for many of our children but it is what it is and disengagement does not seem like option. What will be the outcome to the meeting? I'm not sure, I’m not going to pretend that the minister slammed the desk declaring something’s got to be done then sending his minions off to implement radical change. Perhaps we'll see an influence on the longevity of the adoption support fund, on raised awareness and CPD among social care professionals of Childhood Challenging, Violent and Aggressive Behaviour and FAS.  We will have to wait and see. 

What did I say, not much really. I used my trump card I told my story in all its gory detail, no clever words or insight I’m afraid just a dad looking for a touch of professional empathy and a little help.

In the past these little updates have been accused of being a little unsatisfactory or vague. I accept that but pragmatically think that is better than nothing which is the alternative. 

Anyhoo, thanks for all the words of support and encouragement and keep up the good work.

*The list could be very long and many important issues remain low on the agenda. Incredibly frustrating and sometimes upsetting but we have to accept adoption is one form of permanence and an issue that impacts on approximately 55, 000 children in a national cohort of 11, 000 000 children. Do we stop pushing? no. However, we have to prioritise our issues.