Friday, 2 August 2019


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.  


  1. Well written and honest - and sadly true. I refuse to be part of the Adoption Week advertising machine as it's not the truth of adoption (or to be honest any life with people who have suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences. The government needs to support us more and get the schools on board. They are just adding to our pain of not believing stuff that they don't see because it comes at at home and some signs at school of developmental trauma they don't read at all. I pray we have enough strength to continue but it feels like we live in an isolated bubble, with few understanding what we live with day to day. On a more settled day living with trauma it takes us all herculean standards of parenting - the contrast between school sports day and the Olympics I think of it as. Then the tricky days/weeks/years/transitions/new schools/change of staff/contact from birth family not to talk about the times schools have threatened our safety by not sticking to vital rules on not publishing our photos/names just adds to it. I would have adopted again had more people in a professional capacity supported us and got it (I find social workers the worst and they have at times driven us to despair, that's before you even start the wait for help). One social worker who is in post adotion 'support' told me that I should play Legos with my 7 year old to calm him (despite knives being threatened, tables thrown and me really wanting to call the police). That is a so called trained professional. In Nov we started accessing adoption support fund. It is now August 2019 the year after and we are still waiting for help (medium level help but nevertheless important to stop our problems snowballing and to get therapy and support for us too and our bio child). I hear similar things all the time. It sucks. These children deserve more than any securely attached child. They deserve their adoptive or foster parents to have more support without having to battle doubters. Al, thanks for all you do, you are a strong voice for us.