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

Aim

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?” 

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Adoption & Fostering Podcast Episode 58 - Helen Oakwater

This week we speak to Helen Oakwater, adoptive parent, speaker and author, about her new book 'Want to Adopt? How to prepare yourself to parent a child from the care system'. We have a broad discussion based on the contents of the book including the nature of the adoption system, is adoption preparation fit for purpose?, resilience and the impact on adopters. There was a lot to covers so we rattled through it. There were a couple of grown up words, but frankly if you've made it this far you'll be fine!
You can buy the book on Amazon here.

Scott and Al employ some banter, be warned do not eat food during the first 5 minutes due to the nature of the anecdote shared. We catch up all things weddings at the end and Al loses control of his faculties. Be clear, Al has a clear understanding of the difference between a shovel and a spade and isn't being an arse, well you know? and there is no such thing as the Kalmari window, sorry Mr Johari.
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.



Friday, 8 March 2019

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Adopter Stories - #11 Natalie

In this Episode Natalie share her experience of adopting a 19month old girl with her husband. After what seemed like a period of normality some of her daughter's early live experiences manifest in her behaviour and ultimately led to them changing their parenting.

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, 1 March 2019

A&F Podcast Ep 57 - Scott & Al talk, Behaviour policies, Vicarious Trauma & Therapy for Parents

We catch up on some correspondence and ponder the challenges of school's behaviour policies vs relational based models of behaviour management. We also discuss some of the challenges of parenting and the impact of vicarious trauma, the consider the need for therapeutic support and intervention for adoptive parents.

Scott's new venture is discussed and we both go awry when considering our geographical grasp of the route of his upcoming walk.

As always thanks for listening and if you're feeling benevolent or bored please head over to iTunes and leave a little review here .





Thursday, 21 February 2019

Automated reply

As per our pattern, tensions rose slowly and inevitably to a moment of unravelling. One child could not contain their inner world any longer and words were used with the intention to harm, and arms and legs.

Not pretty, not nice. We're all left raw and some of us a little bruised.

In line with our agreement, actually my insistence,   I emailed my Adoption Social Worker to keep track of our story*. I gave a fair but concise account of events, what led to it and what happened. I thought that I'd share the grown up words that had been directed at me as it was a key part of the story. With a big sigh I pressed send, unsure of what response this would precipitate.



To my surprise within  a few minutes an automated email response came from the RAA.

"Sophos has detected inappropriate language within this email...........Please review your email and remove any suspect wording."

Sometimes blog posts write themselves. I laughed and laughed, you just can't make this stuff up.

There's a metaphor for modern adoption support in this that I just can't get my finger on.

Answers on a postcard.





Post script: My social worker answered very quickly, as usual, once I'd removed the child's grown up words.



*That our story and files now fall into my mythical RAA's system and that is somewhat removed from my local authority's system is a slight worry that nobody seems able to bottom out. 

Friday, 15 February 2019

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Adopter Stories #10 Rosie

In this episode of Adopters Stories Rosie tells her story of supporting her mother and her husband as they adopted three children. Its a hard story to hear and challenges the normal adoption narrative. The experience has had a pivotal impact on her career choices and subsequent life.




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.



Wednesday, 13 February 2019

A Guest Post - The Child Welfare System: Has the Pendulum Swung too Far? By Amanda Preston

The Child Welfare System: Has the Pendulum Swung too Far? By Amanda Preston


Family Finding 


The history of the child welfare system is riddled with a dark past and misguided beliefs. From the death of children in foster care, to the secrecy of adoption, to the abuse from professionals and caregivers, there is no shortage of distrust towards professionals and government officials involved. In an attempt to right past wrongs and improve the child welfare system (and justly so), there has been a massive swing to correct these misguided attempts to care for vulnerable children. 
One of the big steps the government and professionals have taken has been shifting the goal towards keeping children in families. This is an excellent goal. I am a social worker, adoptive parent and foster parent and have experienced all sides and can attest to this approach. Reunification is always the first priority. When parents cannot care for their children, however (as this does occur often), children are placed with extended family members in an attempt to keep children connected to their relatives, their culture, and their biology. In theory, this is exactly what we should be striving for. Theory, however, is where I believe the pendulum receives it first massive shove in the wrong direction.


Case Studies 


Let us examine two examples using the above theory. 

Example One: A 5-year-old boy is removed from his mother due to severe abuse and neglect. The mother has extensive history with the child welfare system and the social worker is aware there is a lot of work that needs to be done before it is safe for the child to return home. After speaking with the mother, the social worker discovers that there is an aunt who is done raising her own children, and would be a great support to help take care of this little boy during this challenging time. The little boy is able to stay within his culture, live with a woman he has a prior relationship with, and easily maintain contact with other extended family members. The theory of family first is ideal in this situation and has kept the child out of the foster care system. 
Example Two: A newborn is placed in a foster home due to her mother's drug addiction. The mother is living on the streets and is not ready to get clean. Social workers begin to work with the mother over the next two years in an attempt to support her and the reunification of her child. After two years, however, it is concluded that she is not able to win the battle of addiction at this time and will not be able to care for her child. A year later, due to court delays and social worker turnover, the judge terminates the parental rights. The child is now legally available for adoption at 3 years old. Unfortunately, more turnaround begins. New social workers enter and old ones leave. The foster parents express interest in adopting this child, who now calls them mom and dad. The guardianship worker is on board with this adoption plan, and attachments are further established. Another year goes by due to bureaucratic red tape before the child's case is finally moved to an adoption worker. This new adoption worker notices that family finding has never occurred. The wait list for a family find worker, however, is 6 months. Family finding eventually begins and takes roughly a year to complete. At the end of their search the child is now 5 years old and entering kindergarten. She has a strong attachment to her foster family, and views them as the only mom and dad she has ever known. She is attached to her two foster siblings, and her pet dog. She is attached to her foster grandparents and is well integrated into the extended family. The social worker informs them, however, that they have located a family member. There is a great aunt's, brother's son, and he is a single man living in a remote community over three days drive away. The social worker informs the family that this child will now be moved to live with this relative whom she has never met. He does not live locally, has a different way of living and there is no relationship. She is moved to the new home, breaking her attachment to her foster parents and the only mom and dad she has ever known. The result is severe trauma, the feeling of abandonment, and fear in an unknown community. This child, who had previously never known this level of trauma before, who was loved, securely attached, and had a forever placement, was emotionally brutalized in an attempt to follow a theory. Mental health issues are guaranteed. 



Ramifications 


I cannot get on board with example two. I understand the theory of it, but the execution and ramifications are too damaging. Does the ability to live with a "family member" in the second case, outweigh the benefits of staying in a secure attachment? Does it outweigh the prevention of another trauma in the life of a child who has already lost her biological mother? NO! The pendulum has swung SO far the other way in an attempt to follow this theory, that children are getting traumatized again and again. Furthermore, more often than not, that trauma yields trauma related behaviors, and the family member is often not equipped to parent these kids. I have seen children returned to their foster home again and again because a family placement has broken down. How are we helping these children? How are blanket decisions based off of a theory rather than their own unique needs, in the child's best interest? 

What is the solution? I believe it is crucial in approaching each situation as its own unique case with its own "best outcome." Theories do not have the ability to take individual circumstances into account, nor is a theory able to see the child as a human being with real life human connection and feelings. In many cases, extended family is ideal and can prevent children from moving from foster home to foster home, while maintaining their familial connection. In other cases, however, the attachment of a child in care needs to be considered, and their permanency taken into account. In these situations, openness is an amazing alternative in maintaining family relationships without breaking an attachment and creating more trauma. Visits, e-mails, phone calls and pictures are all great ways for a child to stay connected to relatives, while still being raised in the home their attachment is established. In essence, time and attachment can yield this theory ineffective and it should no longer be used as the guiding paradigm. 

Today, children are being raised in adoption through a new lens. Openness is the new guiding beacon and children are growing up connected to their family and culture like never before. Their identity and well-being are no longer rooted in their living arrangements alone, but their connection as well. Many of us can attest to a deep, meaningful connection to our grandparents, without ever residing with them. 

Somehow, we need to firmly grab a hold of the child welfare pendulum and position it back in the middle. Taking each child's needs into account is vital in moving forward and we must mold this theory so that it includes openness as a vital piece of the puzzle when ensuring the child's best interest is being met. Attachment should be brought to the forefront of the child welfare system, and trauma taken into consideration with all decisions. The notion of child resiliency needs to be re-examined, though that shall have to wait for another post. 



Amanda Preston is an adoptive and foster mother to 8 children, a social worker, blogger, and runs a national charity focusing on advocacy, awareness, education and support for all things adoption and foster care related. She is passionate about special needs, and is an advocate for change in the child welfare system. 





You can find Amanda at www.mylovelycrazylife.com 
www.instagram.com/mylovelycrazylifeap 
or on Facebook at @mylovelycrazylife


Thursday, 7 February 2019

Melancholic

It’s perhaps the short days in the long month after Christmas or the days where day and night are barely distinguishable but my thoughts have drawn tight around me. Claustrophobic thoughts precipitated by days of child induced challenge layered on what seems like years of challenge. 

What a grim post to write this is after writing less. Don’t worry I’m sure I can pull this round.  

I’d hoped to write some profound insight or witty anecdote but they seem a little illusive right now.  I’ve had lots of thoughts for sure and I needed to put somewhere but none of them seemed to be complete thoughts, half-finished blog posts littered my mind refusing to be shepherded into neat blogs. 

The impact of early adversity seems to remain persistent in some of my children’s lives though ever evolving in form and shape as it clings on through middle childhood into early adolescence then young adulthood. I’m not a fatalist but there feels like a brooding inevitability about some of paths we’re heading down that I see my peers navigate with their children. I’m not worried just getting ready in my thinking and trying to make sense of my thinking. 


Then I went on a three day NVR practitioners course and it made me question myself and my capacity to parent. Ideas around parental presence made me think if I had any left and whether I could be bothered.  I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong attitude, pretty sure I wasn’t that good a delegate. 
Lots of thoughts and feelings I couldn’t get to the bottom of. 

So much stuff floating around my mind. 

A good friend thought he’d help me last year by describing me as a melancholic in a job reference for a promotion. I didn’t get the job and in fact lost the job I already had but it made me think what he meant so I looked it up. One description of melancholy is a ‘pensive sadness’. That how January has felt for sure there’s so much sadness about all of this but that’s ok and I’ve reconciled myself to being a melancholic.

I’ve taken to drinking non alcoholic beer, it’s all part of my plan to wean myself onto real beer when I’m in my 60’s. MrsC and @gayadoptindad think I’m a lightweight. 

But then in the middle of all the physical darkness of January and friction a peace descended unexpectedly and I cupped my daughter’s face in my hands and she let me. It wasn’t a PACE moment squeezed out like reluctant toothpaste at the end of the tube or planned act of kindness or restoration. It just happened and as I looked in her eyes they held my gaze and I said ‘I love you’ and she smiled as I kissed her cheek. 

To be honest it made me sadder for all the times we don’t have that, but it also sparked a little hope. A little hope goes a long way and there is a long way to go. 

Then today it was light a little later and I thought perhaps the future is a little brighter.  

Spring is coming. 

A & F Podcast Episode 56 - Prof Beth Neil (Adopted Parents Study)

In this episode Al speaks to Prof Beth Neil about upcoming research that the University of East Anglia are undertaking into the experiences of adoptees becoming parents and adopters becoming grandparents. 





The study aims to
- to provide a new understanding of the lived experiences and needs of adopted people who are now parents, and of adoptive parents who are now grandparents.
- to use these insights to inform the support of adopted children & young people, adopted adults, and the children of adopted adults.
- to inform future developments in adoption policy and practice.
If you would be interested in taking part or would like to ask more questions then the link to the website is here.

Needless to say Beth is more than happy to discuss a little bit about contact as well. 
As always there's banter and flippery from da boyz and Al chats about his experience on a three day NVR (Non Violent Resistance) Training and more thoughts on the intervention. 

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




Friday, 1 February 2019

Adoption & Fostering Podcast - Adopter Stories - #9 Alex

In this episode Alex shares her journey from approval as a specialist foster carer to then going on to adopt the little boy she cared for. Like many journeys Alex shares some of the unexpected, but welcome, turns and some of the challenges and joys that she's experienced.




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, 25 January 2019

Adoption & Fostering Podcast: Episode 55 - Julie Samuels, Digital Adoption Challenges

Firstly we attempt a new intro, you can be the judge of its success.

Then in this episode Al speaks to Julie Samuelsadopter, researcher and author of Adoption in the Digital Age: Opportunities and Challenges for the 21st Century. We consider the impact on families of the new connectivity, digital image search, contact, life story and more.



Scott and Al pick the issues up and reflect on some of the challenges across social media for all people touched by adoption as well as some of the recent fracas on twitter.
There was a lot to cover this week including, the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Twitter feedback, RAA concerns, Scotts plans for a walk as well as getting somewhat distracted by Scott's wedding and concerns over how tall Al actually is.

As always, thanks for listening, tell your friends, steal your spouses phone and subscribe them take the kids to the phone shops and subscribe the phones for fun.
While you're on head over to the Podcast's Facebook Pageand see the picture of the wedding outfit! While you're there press like.


Thursday, 24 January 2019

The conversation moves on? Childhood Challenging Violent and Aggressive Behaviour

It is with interest I read through the 'Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Consultation Response and Draft Bill' that was released on Monday, I lie, if felt like work. I'm not a lawyer and laws are so not page turners.

The draft is released almost a year since the MP Toby Perkins had raised a debate on Child on Parent Violence that I wrote up here . This draft bill was referenced then and if you skip to page 44 there is mention of adolescent to parent violence (you can download the Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Consultation Response and Draft Bill here).

What does it mean for us? Well, in all that Dr Wendy Thorley and I have looked at on the issue one of the resounding myths that we've repeatedly had to shatter is that only adolescents manifest behaviour so violent and aggressive that it precipitates external action or support.

It's just plain wrong.

The problem is across childhood but more prominent in middle childhood, primary school aged children. This bill is explicit in highlighting adolescents,  my concern is that those responding are being given no tools or guidance on how to help when the child is 7, 8 or 9 and below the age of criminal responsibility which is 10. Why does this matter? because families are desperate and calling the police and asking for help, they're looking to services that are mistaking violent and aggressive behaviour as an indicator of permissive or authoritarian parenting, they are 'believing' children's narratives because they've been given no other narrative.


The published document talks about the approach that services take but if they are stuck in the adolescent narrative, which is a valid one, they will not be equipped or prepared to support the majority of families that experience this phenomenon. It feels like a step forward in the wrong direction. Hmmmm.

That all said, at least it's in the documents, at least people are looking to consider best practice and the  knowledge and understanding will move on.

My limited knowledge of legislative process and the nuances of what happens next and implications must temper what I've said . To that end my thoughts are more of what is known and how we (parents/carers, professionals and services) respond to the issue and how that response should help.

(You can see the facts and figures in the CCVAB report that Dr Wendy and I published here)




Friday, 18 January 2019

The A&F Podcast -Foster Carer Stories #4 Sylvia

In this episode we cross the Atlantic and speak to Sylvia, author, retired teacher and foster carer. She shares her story of choosing foster care later in life as well as her writing stories for children and her path to towards adoption.


You can follow Sylvia on Twitter hereand view her 'foster heros' books here.
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.