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.