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.