Friday, 13 September 2019

The A&F Podcast Adoptee Conversations - Dawn H

In this episode we speak to Dawn H a 25 year old UK adoptee. As a blogger she has written come moving and insightful posts on her blog here.

In this conversation Dawn shares her story and some of the challenges that she's experienced. She also shares insights as to the impact of adoption in different aspects of her life including dating and she discusses holding the tensions of two sets of parents, growing up with the biological children of her adoptive parents and wider views on adoption.
As always, there are some challenging issues so be mindful of this as you decide if it's ok to listen too what is an insightful conversation.

We hope you find it interesting and if you’re an adoptee and would like to share your perspective or experience then please do direct message us at our twitter feed here or on our facebook page here.

Music by
Together, We Can Make It by Neutrin05 |
Music promoted by
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Friday, 6 September 2019

The A&F Podcast Episode 70 - New Term InfoBanter with Scott & Al

So, new term, new beginnings. This week we reflect on the summer and get slightly lost in the info banter.
We did a small poll on Twitter in relation to anticipation of the new school starting. With the summer at an end and the new academic year we asked people how they were feeling as they head into the new term. We go through some of the feedback as as well as commenting on the difference across some nations.

Scott chat's about his move from AUK and what the future holds and we generally discuss this and that.
As always thank you for listening and if you're feeling warm and fluffy please do leave a review on iTunes to inflate our delicate egos, click here.

Friday, 23 August 2019

The A&F Podcast Episode 69 - An Interview with Brigid Featherstone

In what is a summer episode we speak to Professor Brigid Featherstone regarding her recent co authored academic paper in the Journal of Child and Family Social Work, On hope, loss, anger and the spaces in between: Reflections on living with/in adoption and the role of the social workerThis builds on the earlier enquiry commissioned by BASW The role of the social worker in adoption – ethics and human rights: An Enquiry. 

We discuss a range of issues including safe spaces for discussion, information sharing, lives at risk, the negative impact of timescales and the voice of children. If you'd like to connect to Brigid through twitter and follow her you can here and she may be able to give access to the new report.
There's limited infobanter as we're enjoying our hols.

Friday, 16 August 2019

The A&F Podcast: Adoptee Conversations - Black Sheep

In this episode Black Sheep (a name that will be explained) describes her uncommon experience of being an adoptee who goes on to adopt. Black sheep, as a black child was a adopted into a white family and she discussed a wide range of issues that she faced growing up as well as she went on to reunion with many of her immediate birth family members. The conversation then moves on to her decision to adopt and the challenges thereafter.

We hope you find it interesting and if you’re an adoptee and would like to share your perspective or experience then please do direct message us at our twitter feed hereor on our facebook page here.

Friday, 9 August 2019

The A&F Podcast Episode 68 - An Interview with Andrew Christie

In this episode Al has an interview with Andrew Christie the Chair of the Adoption & Special Guardian Leadership Board.

We ask some listener's questions in relation to the measuring of the number of children returning to care from adoptive homes, international concerns, social worker retention, RAAs and more. He also considers collating data on children returning to care from adoptive homes and also transracial adoption placements, with the UK having no data on either of theses issues currently.  During the interview Andrew explains his hopes for involvement of UK adoptees in consulting and contributing to the Leadership Board's work.

To that end here is the email address that he's provided for those that would be interested in participating in that speciific consultation to let the board know through the email address below.

As always there's a little infobanter from them lads and Scott becomes quite animated.

Friday, 2 August 2019

The A&F Podcast: Adoptee Conversations - Dawn

Hello & welcome to Adoptee Conversations from the adoption and fostering podcast.
In this episode, Al chats to Dawn an adult adoptee and she shares her experience of being adopted in the late 1960s.

Dawn describes her strength of feeling about adoption from a young age, her decision to seek out her brith parents and how adoption had impacted her and her family throughout her life.

We hope you find it interesting and if you’re an adoptee and would like to share your perspective or experience then please do direct message us at our twitter feed here or on our facebook page here.


Have you ever held your breath?

There's a moment when your mind and body come into conflict. Your body starts to demand action and only your willpower keeps you on your designated course. The tension between the two becomes more acute with every passing second, how long can you go on knowing that you're not yet in danger but every passing second brings you closer and it's will power that keeps you fighting the inevitable.

It's a very odd feeling.  

Perhaps that's all overstatement to then compare it to parenting or caring for children who are at times violent of aggressive. Anyway, I read a twitter thread recently, an adopter spoke in the briefest of terms about an incident that led to a child re entering the care system. The voices that replied ranged from the empathic emoji to the self righteous indignation that they would never do such a thing. I didn't comment as I'm not sure that helps anymore. I wondered what the story was, likely too complex to ever tweet about or condense into a blog.  I wondered about the beginning and middle and end of that journey from hopeful adopter to desperate parent. What happened at that moment when a call is made that starts that process of re entering care.

The heartbreak of all concerned and the complicated murky 'grey' emotions and impacts on the children, families and communities.

It's a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the social care system. Regardless of the quality of the professionals, the smooth running of the bureaucratic machine or the outcome, positive or negative,  it's an awful awful thing. Of this I think everyone can agree, for years we've danced with the system actually at times it's been less of a dance and more of a shin kicking competition. 

Increasingly I meet families that are caught in that place, holding their breath and 'dancing' with the system. They keep going knowing that inevitable harm is coming and occurring but employing steely willpower to keep going regardless. Some go longer than others and endure more harm than they should, other's make pragmatic decisions to keep other children and themselves safe  act earlier and live in the 'what ifs'.

I watch on and think through our story, my story, the bigger story.

This is not an isolated one off or an exception it's becoming increasingly part of the adoption narrative.  Adoption UK's latest survey highlighted 65% of families living with violence and aggression. For some it comes and goes, that's a complicated picture around support and intervention, what helps and what doesn't. For some families it comes and stays until there are no options left, til they can hold their will against the challenges and protect households no more.

Like in the tweet, sometimes children can't live in their homes.

Children returning to care is talked of but the numbers remain unclear, councils are meant to complete returns that would include it but they don't or it's not reported. Is it 1% of adoptions or 5%? we don't know, regardless, bringing it into the light only highlights more challenges that adoption faces as a model of permanence.

If we bring it into the light do we put more people off choosing adoption? If that's the case, so be it.

The Disneyesque adoption narrative needs killing off once and for all.  

Friday, 26 July 2019

The A&F Podcast Episode 67 - An interview with Cat McGill

In this episode of the podcast Al speaks to adopter, musician and author of 'Me, the Boy, and The Monster: Exploring the psychology of adoption and trauma' as well as an upcoming book to accompany her CD and national tour. You can access Cat's website here for all the information on the August tour dates. Cat discussed the science behind the benefits of music as well as some of her own experiences as a parent and with working with children with special needs. 

As always, there's also #infobanter and chatter from Scott and Al, with the added excitement of a small person breaking into the podcast.

We've added a snippet of one of Cat's songs as an outro, so I do hope you enjoy.
Thank you for listening and if you're feeling warm and fluffy please do leave a review on iTunes to inflate our delicate egos, click here.

Friday, 19 July 2019

The A&F Podcast - Adopter Stories - #17 Devin

In this episode of #AdopterStories Devin shares his journey with his husband through early permanence. It's a challenging story, and may be upsetting for some so listen with caution.

Devin describes the complexity of an unsuccessful plan for them but positive outcome for a child, the aftermath on the couple and their journey onto trying again.
There is a little audio judder in the middle, it's brief so be brave and push through.

As always if you've a story you want to share either anonymously or not then please do get in touch to have a chat about it.

Adoption and Fostering Podcast - Adoption Stories - Graham / Pam

In an unexpected twist of scheduling we've dropped a little podcast treat to set you up for the summer holidays!
In the first Graham, an adoptee, talks about his discovery of being adopted and his journey to try and find answers to his questions.
We then talk to Pam, a birth mother, who shares her story of losing her child to adoption and her subsequent experiences and road to reunion.

Both stories are challenging and contain accounts of difficult and upsetting experiences. As always, listener caution is advised as the subject matter may be upsetting.

If you've a story you'd like to share then please get in touch with us through the Facebook page hereor the Twitter Feed here.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Adoption & Fostering Podcast: Episode 66 - Suddenly Mummy, Schools & More.......

In this episode we speak to Becky, AKA Suddenly Mummy, in relation to DfE school developments. Specifically we discuss the role of the Virtual School Head but get caught into a raft of other issues such as pressure on school, exclusion and more.

Becky is a friend of the show and we spiral into some healthy infobanter and get the low down on her new life of leisure as a married woman as well as the book that she's written to name a few of the issues touched on.

As always thank you for listening and if you're feeling warm and fluffy please do leave a review on iTunes to inflate our delicate egos, click here.

Friday, 5 July 2019

The A&F Podcast: Adoptee Conversations - Dan

In this episode of adopter stories we speak to Dan, he shares his story of adoption within his own family and the complexity of that arrangement. Dan is also very open in relation to his views on adoption as well as his personal challenges with mental ill health.

I’m sure you’ll  find it interesting and if you’re an adoptee and would like to share your perspective or experience then please do direct message us at our twitter feed or on our facebook page.

Friday, 28 June 2019

The A&F Podcast Episode 65 - Interview with Lisa Cherry

This week we took the opportunity to speak to the lovely Lisa Cherry. Social worker, international key note speaker/trainer and care experienced adult. She is kind enough to share some of her personal story, how she arrived at where she is and we chat about a range of issues.

We discuss the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) message that is prominent at the moment and consider the pros and cons of that, residential care, ethos and values, international speaking, attachment vs bonding and much more with a sprinkling of banter.

Lisa has just started a podcast and you can find that here as well as a link to her website here.

As always a cheeky share on social media or a review on wherever you found our podcast would be appreciated.

Friday, 21 June 2019

The A&F Podcast: Adoptee Conversations - Barry

In this episode Barry shares his story of being adopted with his brother in the 1960, their complicated and difficult journey and the impact of that through his life.

Barry is open and honest in relation to the challenges he faced and the impact on him as a child and adult. As always, we advice caution if you’ve experience of adoption as this may be upsetting.
I’m sure you’ll  find it interesting and if you’re an adoptee and would like to share your perspective or experience then please do direct message us at our twitter feed or on our facebook page.

Friday, 14 June 2019

A&F Podcast Episode 64 - What's in a Name? Stewardship and Adoptee Conversations

In this week's episode Scott and Al unpick the thorny issue of names. Linked to belonging and ownership do they matter or not? We consider the findings of the mini poll we did about surnames and then consider them in the context of looking at alternative permanence arrangements that are discussed in this article HERE.

We also discuss the views of adoptees and how to bring them to a wider audience without curating or filtering them.

Unfortunately, there's been a further 'incident' at Al's so listener beware this is discussed in the last few minutes and Scott becomes almost unconsolable with mirth at the recounting of the tale.

As always thank you for listening and if you're feeling warm and fluffy please do leave a review on iTunes to inflate our delicate egos, click here.

Friday, 7 June 2019

The A & F Podcast: Adoptee Conversations - Polly

In this episode, I chat to Polly an adult adoptee  and she shares her views and perspectives on adoption.
Polly is frank about the challenges that she experienced as result of unsolicited contact from her birth family as well as the challenge of holding contrasting views of adoption and its processes.
Some of the details of her story may be upsetting for listeners who have experience of adoption from whatever perspective  so we advise caution. If there’s any doubt then give it a pass or ask a friend to listen to screen it for you.

We'd also like to say we invited Polly to come an share her experience and perspective and we'd like to thank her. We are not expecting her to speak for every adoptee and she does not purport to. It's her story and her perspective and as such we thank her for it and value it as such.
We hope you find it interesting and if you’re an adoptee and would like to share your perspective or experience then please do direct message us at our twitter feed or on our facebook page.

The music used was:
Together, We Can Make It by Neutrin05 |
Music promoted by
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

20 years on, Questions and Answers

It's 20 years to the week that we started introductions for my big three kids.

What I thought then and what I think now is almost non comparable, adoption was not what it is now and I feel that we've tracked the shifts in our family lives. I don't recall difficult questions or debates in relation to the purpose and ethics of adoption or consideration of human right. Of course, they may have been there but I may not have had ears to hear.

I'm trying to listen now.

Sitting with my eldest we chatted about all of that stuff back then when she was a week off 6 years old. Her story and how it was seen then and how we all saw it now, our anxieties and failings. I concluded that we all dropped the ball for her and it all should have gone down differently. With regret I see that I didn't have the agency or oomf to speak up and on reflection I deferred to professional views, gave into my own preconceptions, was caught up in my own, and all of our, new lives together.

That nuanced stuff was put aside.  Identity, connection, justice, family all seemed too abstract or complicated compared to the daily, minute by minute challenge of shifting the life of a 27 year old me into parenting. It seems like a pathetic excuse now, but then it seemed all consuming and I'd bought into the 'adoption is always a good thing' narrative and had no capacity to question it.

Now, 20 years to the week that we met,  all that seems to matter is that nuanced stuff and that's the stuff that seemed invisible or on the periphery then.

If you ask any parent what they'd do differently there's likely to be a long list. In that regard we're no different as adopters. There's lots we did do differently the second and third time round. But you can't go back and undo what was done, hindsight is a swine.

The future of adoption is uncharted, we've been at low ebbs before, in 2000 we went to court and were one of only 2000 adoption orders made that year. Government ploughed money into adoption and the figures rose steadily to over 5000 in 2015 but now they're stagnating again and without the underpinning of cash and policy I'm not sure what the future holds.

How we care for children remains a key question, how we hold the tensions in families where questionable decisions were made remains a significant question for many families that jumped onto this bus rout only to discover it wasn't perhaps the one we thought it was.

Hindsight really is a swine. It's likely I'd do it all differently but for pure selfish reasons glad I didn't.

If I could have got that younger me in a verbal headlock what advise would I offer?

Relax, buy shares in Apple, but for heaven's sake talk less and listen more.

Friday, 31 May 2019

The A&F Podcast: Episode 63 - Prof Beth Neil & the CoramBAAF Contact Conference

This is an unusual episode as Prof Beth Neil takes the reigns and talks us through the recent CoramBAAF conference on ‘Contact in adoption in the digital age: Where do we go from here?’ that went ahead on the 10th May. Beth and her team kindly interviewed a range of presenters from the conference including adopters, professionals and a birth mother and they are interspersed though the podcast.

The discussion reflects on some of the key points that were drawn from the conference by the contributors and Beth adds some context and highlights key elements of learning that attendees took from the day.

There's a little banter, a barking dog and the one or two audio glitches but nothing that makes it unlistenable. If you want to find out more on the research that the University of East Anglia has undertaken then please check out this website.

As always thank you for listening and if you're feeling warm and fluffy please do leave a review on iTunes to inflate our delicate egos, click here.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Adoption & Fostering Podcast: Adopter Stories - #15 Suzanne

In this episode Suzzanne shares her story of adopting as a single woman and her story of supporting her child as he moves into adulthood.

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.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The A&F Podcast Adoptee Conversations - Courtney

Hello & welcome to Adoptee Conversations from the adoption and fostering podcast. 
In this  new series we’re inviting adoptees to share their perspectives and views on all things adoption. We’ve no agenda and are looking to have open and frank conversation. In this, the first episode, I chat to Courtney from the United States and she shares her views and perspectives on adoption as well as parts of her story. 

Please note, Courtney is open and honest about the impact of adoption on her and how this manifest in her life from a young age. Some of the detail of this may be upsetting for listeners who have experience of adoption from whatever perspective  so we advise caution. If there’s any doubt then give it a pass or ask a friend to listen to screen it for you. 
If you’d like to know more or have any questions for Courtney her twitter handle is @wordyramblings and she’d be more than happy to answer questions. 

We hope you find it interesting and if you’re an adoptee and would like to share your perspective or experience then please do direct message us at our twitter feedor on our facebook page.

Friday, 17 May 2019

A&F Podcast Episode 62 - An Interview with Satwinder Sandhu from the International Adoption Centre

This week we speak to Satwinder Sandhu from the International Adoption Centreas well as add a little wedding chat on then end for those that want the low down on Scott's nuptuals.

Satwinder has recently taken over the role as the Chief Executive of the IAC and Scott invited him in to speak about a subject that is not often the focus of the adoption community. There were some questions in relation to some aspects of the practice and some of the stereotypes that are hovering around. Satwinder is open and honest in relation to his experience as well as the positives and some of the challenges of the process. As he's new in the job we didn't go too hard on him!

At the end of the podcast we have a little catch up on the giddy details of wearing kilts, choke holds from Canadians and all that from Scott and Tris' wedding of the century.
As always a cheeky review on iTunes here would be appreciated.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

A&F Podcast -The Great North Ace Conference: Supporting Families that live with #CCVAB #CPV

This weeks episode is  the recording of a conference workshop that I delivered at the Great North Ace Conference at the end of April for the ACE Network NE.
I was asked to speak to professionals about supporting parents, carers and families that live with children who can display challenging, violent and aggressive behaviour in a short workshop. Its a subject that I’d normally run over a minimum of a half day so I talk fast and sometimes skip over issues that I’d dig around in for a lot longer.

The book 'Lets talk about Childhood Challenging Violent or Aggressive Behaviour in the Home' can be bought hereon amazon in paperback and on kindle.

I hope you enjoy it and as I note I will be starting some webinars on the subject in the near future.

Friday, 3 May 2019

The A&F Podcast : Episode 61 - An Interview with Betsy de Thierry

In this week's episode Al interviews Betsy de Thierry and they discuss the roots of shame, types of shame and the impact on many children who have experienced trauma and challenges in their early lives. We've a book to give away that Betsy has written 'The Simple Guide to Understanding Shame in Children: What It Is and How to Help'

We've got a copy to give away so check our twitter feed, here,  for details of how to do that. 
There's a little banter too as we chat about some of the recent events online and the challenges of communicating with those around the adoption triangle. 

As always, a cheeky review on iTunes here would be appreciated and if you're really keen you could vote for us at the Podcast awards here. 

Friday, 26 April 2019

The A&F Podcast- Adopter Stories #14 Garry & Kyle

In this episode we speak to Garry and Kyle as they share their story of, firstly, fostering children with complex needs and then adopting them. 

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.

Friday, 19 April 2019

The A&F Podcast- Adopter Stories #13 Stephanie

In this episode Stephanie shares her story of adopting two little boys with her husband. She discussed the challenges of ethnicity and faith as well as the struggle to get appropriate support for her children.

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 April 2019

A duty call, adopter sufficiency, contact and support.

Frankly, it all been a little bit terrible. The giddy joys of caring for vulnerable but determinedly spikey children has been all a bit 'in yer face' of late and we've all been frayed round the edges. I find myself asking big and unusual questions, 'what bits of my life can I remove and still keep an income' being the main one. If there ever was a time when we needed two present parents it feels like now.

Set against that is the increasing opportunities to help people living with challenging and aggressive children.

I find myself inhabiting two worlds, helper and helpless. In 2008 it became quite clear that we would need to become the help that we needed and that's ok to a point but, well not really, as there comes a moment when you need a grown up in the room to sort it all out. We're not sure where we're at right now, we've created this PACE/NVR/permissive/authoritarian fusion of parenting that seems to work to a point. It's when we pass that point that seems to be the issue, we can hold all this crap together right up to then when we can't then we need to go look for a grown up.

So, it came to pass. Duty was called and though it was a long story it came down to one phrase uttered with a hint of embarrassment by a duty social worker at 5 to 5 on a Monday evening.

'Sorry, it's up to you, you'll have to sort it out as there's nothing we can do'

Ok, let's unpack that a little.........How far past normal do you think we'd travelled to get to the point of calling you? This is the culmination of 10 years of therapeutic parenting, social work and psychologist training, I commissioned two reports on violent and aggressive behaviour, I co authored four reports on it. I train social workers, LSCBs, teachers and police on it. I even got sent on my own course by a social worker.

When I call duty I bloody I mean it.

So, we did 'sort it out', it was scary seat of our pants stuff with some excellent support from school staff who went above and beyond.

Set against this I've been thinking about 'adopter sufficiency' an seemingly ugly phrase that reveals the business of it all. Anyhow, lots of people are worried that the numbers of prospective adopters are falling again. Heads are being scratched.

When I asked people a few weeks ago 'what would put you off adopting?' except one answer the resounding response was:

'nothing, but it would have been nice to know more about our children and therapeutic parenting'

I genuinely believe that this is one of the the two defining issues for the future of adoption, the other  contact and links to birth families.

Prospective adopters take 10 minutes online and see the dearth of support that many face, and even if it's not universally bad there are enough complaining online to define the narrative. Adoption is a buyers market and if there is no after sale support then you walk away, look for a different seller or seriously consider the transaction in the first place (sorry to use ugly language*).

As for contact, new adopters fear it and old adopters are open to having it.**
To that end the irony of getting the news this week that the adoptive parents of my childrens' youngest sibling don't want contact with us feels like a kick in the guts for all of us including the sibling. No reason given just an email saying we'll get letterbox contact, and that feels like a joke from this side of the news. Frankly, sat in the position of many birth families I can't help but feel as real sense of absolute catastrophe, this stuff will echo in my children's and their child's life long after all the adults dead. I sent the social worker Professor Beth Neil's research on contact in a fit of pique. I know that all the power sits with the new adopters and frankly it stinks.

So, all this also impacts on sufficiency. Support is hidden because it acknowledged the likely truth of you needing it, but adopters arn't stupid they know they'll need it and prefer honesty. Then contact, if we have to open the doors wider to prospective adopters that are, and always have been, reluctant to incorporate safe and meaningful contact with first families then what does the future of adoption look like? We may keep it on life support but it will be built on the injustices that caused it.

Granted, I'm a little tetchy at the moment, I could pull the whole damn adoption house down.

* not really

** generally

Friday, 12 April 2019

The A&F Podcast: Episode 60 - An Interview with Twayna Mayne

In this episode Al speaks to Twayna Mayne author of the Loco Parentis Podcast, comedian and adoptee about her experiences growing up in care and making the decision to be adopted in her mid teens. It a remarkable story and Twayna is open and honest about her experiences and views on transracial adoption amongst many other things.

Scott and Al tentatively discuss thoughts on transracial adoption then move onto the sad news that After Adoption have closed as well as bantering on the AUK survey, a bizarre WhatsApp group and a disastrous Radio 2 interview. It's a little longer than usual as Scott recounts a tale from his much publicised stag doo in the final 10 mins. 

As always a cheeky review on iTunes here would be appreciated and if you're really keen you could vote for us at the Podcast awards here. 

Saturday, 6 April 2019

A&F Podcast - Adoption matters: Navigating Adoption Support Conference March '19

On the 29th March Al was invited to speak at the Adoption Matters Conference with Hettie Verhagen. In a spirit of cheekiness Al took his tape recorder and a bag full of C90s and headed off. 

There was a raft of interesting speakers that managed to allude Al, however a few were cornered and Hettie Verhagen shares some excellent views on supporting families who live with violence and aggression. John Simmonds CBE was found in a sunny garden and spoke of collaboration and human ventures. Sir Mark Hedley, Patron of Adoption Matters, adoptive parent and retired high court Judge shares some views on the legal aspects of adoption. 
You can hear that we were at a conference, background noise  etc. and Sir John Timpson crashes one of the interviews. There’s traffic and train noises galore. 
We hope you enjoy and as we visit different places we’ll try and do some more. 

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Adoption & Special Guardian Leadership Board - Spring 19

So, it was my turn to be the adopter representative at the Adoption & Special Guardian Leadership Board. It's an unusual thing going into a meeting of a group that meets regularly and know each other. I'm conscious that as the adopter rep that there's a myriad of views, opinions and experiences that form the position of adopters. Holding them all in mind is almost impossible and to a point they have to be synthesised into a single position that catches as much of that as possible. Furthermore, the Board's priorities and focus cover areas and matters that don't necessarily wash into the lives of families directly or align with families priorities. What we, adopters,  want to talk about is not necessarily what the Board can influence or has as a priority. 

It's of limited value to give a blow by blow account of who said what, but it's interesting to see the inner workings of a system that is a part of our lives. A well as the housekeeping  and usual business of stats and legal perspectives there was consideration to developing what the future of adoption should look like in relation to developing a service that effectively supports children into adulthood and the families, adoptive or special guardian, that do that.

The week before I'd been part a group of adopters that had raised some concerns or views on specific issues through the Adopter Voice initiative. We'd focused our attention on the process and adopter's experience of the regionalisation agenda and brought views from many adopters.

On a pragmatic and business level I get the move to regionalisation for the 170+ adoption agencies across the UK. The pooling of resources, such as training opportunities, knowledge and skills in the workforce, diversity of approved adopters and reduction in admin costs etc all make sense, however there is an if…..

If it works. I think we’re too early in the process to effectively measure that, but even that language feels inappropriate. This is not a fruit and veg wholesale and distribution business. It’s the stuff of peoples lives. The stakes are, hopefully, clearly much higher. 

Watching from afar the process of regionalisation at times it reminds me of experience of picking playing games in the school playground. All the fit and talented kids, the friends and mates are picked first and clearly set out the winners and losers in the game. As the selection continues the motley crew of unfit, untalented and wheezy kids are left to the end, bless them. Perhaps that’s unfair and too simplistic, perhaps. The good LAs are forming good RAAs it seems.

But that isn’t really my concern. There are clear aims of each of the new Agencies , recruitment being front and centre but that’s not my worry, ongoing support for families remains the challenge. In fact I checked the website of the RAA that I’m now under the umbrella of and had to look hard to even find the word ‘support’. That aside and it’s a bleeding massive aside my real concern is managing this transition. I’m happy to acknowledge that the transition has worked well for some but there are other stories. I asked what experiences adopters had on FB and twitter and received a range of issues including some positive stuff. 

RAAs going live without telling adopters who would normally access support, telephone lines to the new service not working, records not being transferred families unsure as to the continuity of support. Some of this stuff really matters, post adoption support is make or break for some families. 

We all brought stories and accounts of similar experiences as well as good stories and shared them with those there. Job done, we asked for some specific and basic stuff to be in place prior to the remaining RAAs go live. We wanted RAAs to notify adopters of the change from LA to RAA when it happened. We wanted families to be provided with contact details and names of allocated social workers especially if the families had ongoing support or worse still had social care involvement for whatever reason.  We wanted to be reassured that our records would be transferred to the RAAs in a timely and effective manner.  We felt that we were asking for a basic level service. 

With that in mind it was encouraging that the DfE then reported to the ASGLB yesterday that the concerns had been acknowledged and to that end explicit assurance that had been requested in relation to the  RAAs that were due to go live in the next few weeks as well as to ensure that this would be done with any future RAAs that come together. Of course the legal duty remains with the LA's and RAAs to effectively make the transition, however it's encouraging to know that the DfE listened and is asking for those assurances. 

There was a lot more food for thought from the day, adopter sufficiency remains a hot potato as well as the challenges faced by Special Guardians to name but a few. 

We keep going. 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

The A&F Podcast - Episode 59 All things Panels

Earlier in the month we were asked if we'd ever had a podcast specifically on Panel. We haven't, so we opened up the floodgates, had Twitter poll and the opinions and views flooded in.

We initially attempt to make sense of where Panels sit in the legislative process for those listeners not in the UK.

Then, Scott and Al talk about their experiences as panel members, attending panels and, for Al, presenting to panel. We try to reflect a range of concerns and point raised by listeners including; the quality of assessment, the experience of panel members and Agency Decision Makers. We unpack the actual legislation and consider the impact of RAAs on all of that.

There's minimal banter and it's also the first full length podcast that we've recorded live in the same room together so that adds to the mix.
As ever get in touch if you want to ask a question, offer an opinion, slag us off or some such. If you're feeling warm and fluffy leaving us a nice review on iTunes could be your act of kindness for the day.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Children's Challenging and Violent Behaviour: Solutions?

Have you ever been kicked in the face by a teenager, had an Xbox controller bounced off the back of your head by a child, been scratched or punched by a toddler, your TV ripped off the wall, your doors slammed so hard they come off the hinges or locked yourself in the bathroom for your safety because of a nine year old girl. Maybe not, maybe.

At the intersection of biology, trauma and circumstance we find parents and carers struggling to care and keep safe children with challenging, violent and aggressive behaviour (CCVAB aka CPV).

Complex neurodevelopment disorders, insecure attachment strategies, impulse control, trauma, dysregulation, domestic violence, all fall into this challenging soup that spills into the houses of many families. Up to a third of families with children with special educational needs (SEN) or children adopted or living in kinship or special guardianship arrangements live at times with challenging and aggressive behaviour.

Undoubtable the issue of CCVAB is creeping onto the radar of many organisations, services and professionals, just the see the number of training days that are being advertised here and there online. Though I feel a little cautious, or even cynical, when I see what is being offered to vulnerable and desperate families as it's a complex problem with often complex solutions*, did I say solutions?  The painful truth that the behaviour of our children lies at this messy intersection, as noted, and is often hugely influenced by the parents and carers' parenting styles, experiences and own challenges precipitated by the behaviour they're trying to manage.

For professionals stepping into what are often crisis situations, often with limited context and almost universally no specific training in CCVAB it is overwhelming. Again, this week I listen to a parent tell of social worker shrugging their shoulders and admitting not knowing what to do. So, what happens, sometimes professionals revert to the societal norm and look at the parents and carers and say, 'it's you'.

This is where it gets complicated, I'm not writing to apportion blame on anyone. That said, does how I parent my child influence their behaviour? of course. That is different to saying that violence and aggression are my fault, because they're not. 'Fault' is a troublesome word in this context but often one that is thrown around. We need to support families, we need to offer them alternative tools for effective to parenting. We also need to support the trauma that many adults and sibling experience as they live with this hidden form of domestic abuse. But what are the tools?

The solutions are nuanced and often only part solutions are available. A reduction is sometimes the best that some families will see, keeping all children and adults in households safe is good, not falling foul of services is helpful.

The ripples of CCVAB flow out of homes, into streets, communities, schools, families, work, mental health and bank accounts. The solutions, or perhaps the support, training and help we give needs to follow the ripples and meet the broader needs of families.

There are some glimmers of hope, three years ago this was a hidden issue. It's now creeping into the light. Serious case reviews have highlighted the failings of services following an parents death. Organisations have run campaigns and we are hearing the issue spoken about openly in new places.

We're now in a better and more open place, that said until families can be offered effective and compassionate solutions by compassionate and effective professionals many families will continue to struggle.

*Well, that's another issue if there was a 'solution' and I knew it I'd be a rich man.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

ASF Transitionary Funding Statement

Please find attached a statement from the DfE in relation to the Adoption Support Fund
Released today (27th March 10am).

Speaking to those in the know this could be read as a good indication of intent in relation to the future of the ASF. The logic being that money wouldn't be committed (found from somewhere) to 2020 + if there wasn't optimismthat the treasury review would be favourable. Also, the year on year increase in funding is indicative of how it's perceived by the minster.  
Food for thought. 

ASF Transitionary Funding

The Adoption Support Fund was launched in May 2015 with a government commitment to fund therapeutic support for families whose children left care through adoption or special guardianship until March 2020. Funding has increased year on year. The 2019-20 budget is more than double that in the first year of operation. The government recognises that children leaving care into adoptive and special guardianship families are likely to have experienced trauma prior to coming into care and will need therapeutic support to help them thrive.
We also recognise that there is a growing concern for adopters/special guardians that there is no certainty around funding beyond March 2020 where therapy is starting in 2019-20. We have, therefore, committed some funding in advance of the spending review settlement for 2020-21. The Chancellor has said that the outcome of the spending review will be known in the autumn - we have assumed this will happen in November 2019 for the purposes of our funding calculations.
This additional funding will enable families to continue to access some support beyond March 2020 for approved therapy packages which start in the 2019-20 financial year.
Funding will be on a reducing number of months from April 2019, with therapy that starts in July-November 2019 receiving a maximum of nine months funding. This is explained in the FAQs below.

Q – If 9 month packages will apply between July and November what does that mean for April, May and June?
A – Applications with a start date of therapy in April 2019 could cover up to 12 months support, to the end of March 2020; applications with therapy starting in May could cover 11 months of support; applications with therapy starting in June could cover 10 months of support. See diagram below, with a number 1 indicating the month that therapy starts:

Q – Why is funding only been guaranteed for 9 months?
A – The decision to guarantee at least nine months of funding allows us to offer packages of support during 2019-20 until the outcome of the spending review is announced. We have assumed this will happen in November for the purpose of our funding calculations.
Normally the Government does not commit any funding for a future financial year before a spending review settlement is known. However, the government is mindful that the ASF has been a great support to children and families and wanted to reassure families that where therapy has started they could continue to access this therapeutic support as we transition from one spending review period to another.
We appreciate that the absence of certainty about future ASF funding is difficult. The future of the ASF will be considered as part of the spending review and decisions will be announced as soon as possible after the spending review process has concluded

Q – What if my child is assessed as needing more therapy than the ASF will fund?
A – During this transitionary period, the ASF will only approve applications for funding according to when the therapy starts during 2019-20, as set out in the table above. We would expect you to work with your local authority/regional adoption agency to determine what support will be needed beyond the funded period and, if the ASF continues in the next spending review period, to make an application to the Fund for another package of support beyond the funded activity.

Q – Will I be able to submit another application in 2019-20 to extend the package of support to 12 months?
A – If the spending review (which we expect to be concluded by November 2019) confirms funding for the ASF beyond March 2020, further applications of up to 12 months support could be submitted depending on the assessed needs of the child/family.

Q – Can we continue to apply for 9 months therapy between December - March 2020?
A – We are currently working on the basis that the outcome of the spending review will be known by November 2019 so will fund packages for 9 months where therapy commences between July and November 2019. Further guidance will be provided once the outcome of the spending review is known about applications after this date.

Q – What is a Spending Review (SR) and why is the future of the ASF dependent on it?
A - HM Treasury carries out spending reviews to determine how to spend public money – usually over a multi-year period - in line with the government’s priorities. The overall amount of spending available is informed by the wider fiscal position. The money the government spends is reviewed to ensure future funding continues to be efficient and cost-effective. The last spending review in 2015 set out funding for the ASF for each year up until 2019-20, as part of the Department for Education’s overall spending budget. We have increased the funding each year since 2015. The spending review in 2019 will consider whether the Adoption Support Fund should continue and, if so, what an appropriate level of funding will be. It will look at the evidence around the impact it has had and whether it is cost effective. Until the review has been concluded we are unable to say whether it will continue.

Q – When will the outcome of the SR be known?
A – On 13th March the Chancellor said ‘that assuming a Brexit deal is agreed and uncertainty lifted, he will launch a "full three-year spending review" before the summer break’. He confirmed that he expected that to conclude by the autumn.

Q – So what happens if a Brexit deal isn’t agreed?
A – We will shortly have greater clarity on the government’s approach to EU Exit, including whether Article 50 is extended and for how long. The department is continuing to make preparations for both a deal and no deal scenario.

Q – What will happen if ASF is not funded in the SR?
A – Applications made to ASF from December 2019 onwards would only be funded for activity taking place between December 2019 and March 2020. See diagram above. Whatever the outcome of the spending review, local authorities and regional adoption agencies will still have a general duty to provide an adoption support service.

Q - Will this affect how children and families will access the Fund?
A – No, the process for accessing the Fund remains the same i.e. local authorities and regional adoption agencies should continue to carry out assessments of need, determine the support needs, make any decisions on match funding and submit applications for eligible therapies to the ASF.

Q – How does this affect match-funding?
A – It doesn’t. Where applications are above the Fair Access Limits (£5k for therapy and £2.5k for specialist assessment) and meet the match-funding criteria local authorities will still be asked to share the cost of the therapeutic support for the child/family.

Q – Does this affect the Fair Access Limits (FALs)?
A – No. The FALs will remain at £2,500 per child for a specialist assessment and £5,000 per child for therapy. The limits will apply to the 2020-21 financial year so anything committed before the outcome of the spending review is known would be deducted from the FAL amount for that year.

Q – Will scope and eligibility criteria change during this transition period?
A – No.
Q - Will applications take longer to process?
A - We currently expect all valid applications to continue to be processed within a maximum of 20 working days. Our aim is to keep processing times as short as possible and we will endeavour to keep them to a minimum. Any changes to these processing times will be communicated to local authorities and regional adoption agencies.

Q – Will exceptions be made for children with complex needs?
A – The same exceptions that are made now, e.g. more expensive packages of support can be provided where local authorities or regional adoption agencies match-fund. The transitionary funding rules will not change the criteria or rules for match-funding.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

A& F Podcast: Adopter Stories - #12 Anne

In this episode Anne shares her story of adoption a girl with her husband. Anne's came to adoption having a broad range of experience and she tells some of the challenges and some of the joys that they've experienced.

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

Friday, 22 March 2019


There’s literally too much to say, so forgive me if I don’t.

But reading the Tavistock Institute’s journal on the early benefits of the Adoption Support Fund asking if it was sustainable I was left with the same old questions. Cycling along this morning the same question about adoption support services rattled round my head:

“Do we aim for what is realistic or we realistically aim for what is impossible?” 

I guess on one level it’s all academic, I’ve limited influence and am just one voice and if we’re honest not a particularly radical voice. But as a community what can we do? The plain reality is that adoption support at best is ok, but that’s not the experience of many and all evidence is that at least a third of adopters are struggling, really struggling. If you’re reading this are you struggling are you being helped, who do you call tonight and what could they do? 

Well, that’s all kinds of complicated isn’t it. These are my children, I took them on with open eyes, I expected to do what other parents do and I am. But, that’s where it does get murky, I’m struggling and the struggle is hard and I need help, but that’s what all parents and families do isn’t it? It wasn’t my plan that’s for sure, but that’s every parent of a vulnerable child’s story. See, complicated.

Played into my thinking I’ve been meeting with a group of parents and carers who’s children are violent, aggressive, challenging, complex and much loved. The link is the children and all kinds of family make ups are in the group, mainly biological parents. It’s broken my heart to be honest and one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done for a whole load of reasons, mainly the total void of support for them. The hero narrative that I’ve railed against and the patchy adoption support that I’ve blogged about for years would be snapped up by many of the families. We gripe but we’ve got a very different story to tell. Many adopters do have a hard time but we’ve always got our stories that often open doors that other families can’t open. So, with that in mind I read the Tavistock Institute’s report and I feel conflicted.  

We need more support as families that have adopted but what is realistic and fair in this economic climate? Do we fight hammer and nail for more or pragmatically step back and let others step ahead. 

Is that thought a pragmatic failure? Is that compromise? Yes. 

Every politician wants to be photo’d with an newly minted adoptive family, the gold dust settles on them. Do we dance to their tune, smile and doff our caps and take what is realistic or do we shout louder and louder for what is best at the risk of pushing them too far away? There are so many issues that are important and my inbox is not a stranger to important issues for adoptees and adopters, issues that people want to shout from the rooftops and bring campaigning weigh to bear against. But do we aim for what is realistic, push for the ideal or dance through some middle ground. 

Perhaps I’m tired. Adoption issues are often the very same issues of a silent and hidden majority. Our struggles with social care, schools, health and CAMHs and violent and aggressive behaviour are replicated across many more families that have no voice. 

So, perhaps we do need to shout louder, perhaps we need to be a little cleverer.

“Do we aim for what is realistic or we realistically aim for what is impossible?”