Friday 10 September 2021

Adoptee Representation

In most every way it's obvious, any group that has a significant life altering legislative and policy framework dedicated to them which has lifelong fundamental implications for them and their dependents and forebears should have some influence over it. 

Well, apparently it's not so obvious. 

Adoptee representation within the system has been missing, of course there's individuals that have worked within the system and brought personal experience and perspective to bear but rarely do we see systemic representation of adoptees in policy context. 

We do get 'adoptee of the month' invited into roundtables or events, willing participants at Adoption Prep groups or the like and of course groups for young adoptees frequently given opportunities at events and conferences. All of that is welcome, but it's adoptees by permission, open to the accusation of being curated by adoptive parents or adoption agencies to ensure that they don't stray too far from the adoption orthodoxy. Or at worst young voices welcomed but given no permission or possibility to affect change or influence power.

Of course any 'service user' consultation is challenging, fraught with diverse views and perspectives, disagreements and complications. 

For example, what knowledge to adoptees have of the actual system? often too young or not privy to the forms, processes or paths that their adoptive parents travailed. 

For example, if you were adopted in the 60's or 70's how relevant is your perspective on the Virtual School role for previous looked after children in high school? 

Adopted adults views change and flex but that true of every human that ever lived. 

All the above are reasonable points when considering adoptee input into the current system. 

But it's all nonsense given my first paragraph, even if the role and influence is limited it's time for adoptees to come into the rooms where policy and practice are discussed. 

We owe those that have found themselves cast into this system a voice in its running. Those that have passed through it need to be listened to, it may not be comfortable, it may not be pretty, but it may not be that hard and we may find areas where adult adoptees can improve and direct us to a better way of caring for children who can not and should not live with their biological families. 

I say all this not as an adoptee but a witness to the adoptee experience and I'd argue that is valid enough but again I'm a palatable voice that may be too bland for some and too spiked for others. 

Sunday 5 September 2021

First day at a new school for a fostered or adopted kid - A guest post by Phil Watson

Kindly re posted from Phil Watson's blog which you can view here- Fostering & Adopting with Phil

“I’m not going”.

My wife and I were not surprised that The Little Man didn’t want to go to a new school.

Anything new, anything different, anything out of the ordinary set his ‘survival brain’ into overdrive.

We’d learnt his preferred response to ‘anything new’ if he was in public was ‘to freeze’ or ‘to flop’.

If a stranger spoke to him, for example in a shop, he’d simply stare until they went away.

It’s quite effective, even if it appears a bit rude.

If the stranger continued to probe, he’d put his hooded anorak over his head.


If he was with us, in our home, he’d fight.

‘Fighting’ could involve biting, kicking, swearing and smashing stuff up.

‘Throwing things’ was pretty popular too.

He had never resorted to ‘flight’.

‘Flight’ would mean he’d be on his own and he was too scared for that.

My wife and I began to hatch a little plan about how we’d handle the first day of term at his new school.

We’d worry about the second day later.

There was little point in getting ahead of ourselves!

The fist part of the plan had been to casually introduce familiarity.

We’d taken him to his new school for an open day.

We’d shown him the school website.

We engaged in as much of the school’s transition activities as possible.

His new school was a couple of miles away and we drove that way a few times over the summer.

We didn’t say we were visiting his new school, rather the pub opposite.

If you’ve experienced massive amounts of trauma and fear, particularly at a young age, your amygdala will kick in very quickly, often when it’s not warranted.

We popped in for coke and crisps.

We played on the slide.

We hoped that the area would appear less threatening.

We hoped that we would make his ‘first day journey’ less terrifying.

We hardly mentioned school at all over the summer holiday.

We knew there’d be questions we couldn’t answer, and we knew that would add to the anxiety.

We bought school uniform and equipment via the internet.

We had decided that  his new school bag would in fact be his brother’s old school bag.

We’d negotiated with his school, that contrary to some regulations, he’d be packing a variety of fidget 

toys and favourite phone cases.

The Little Man knew this was happening but we made as little a deal out of it as possible.

We hid our own fears and anxieties.

We only discussed what we’d do in whispered tones when he was busy watching YouTube clips with his headphones on.

He had some trust in us.

He didn’t need to know that we didn’t know everything, although he probably had his suspicions.

On the ‘big day’,  we divided the tasks.

We decided I’d be responsible for getting him ‘there’ on the first morning.

If that went successfully, I’d be responsible for bringing him ‘back’. 

We knew he’d respond best if only one person was in charge.

We knew we’d respond best if only one of us had to make the decisions.

Everyone else’s task was to keep out of the way.

We kept everything as low key and as unemotional as possible.

As our birth kids and my wife left the house on that September morning, we avoided any overt show of emotion or goodbyes.

We did not take a ‘first day photo’ on the ‘first day’.

With just the two of us in the house, we got dressed, we ate breakfast, and we watched Paw Patrol.

“We are going now. You can sit in the front or in the back of the car. It’s your choice”

I knew that giving him some autonomy may help calm him.

“I’m not going”.

His response was the one I’d dreaded but I didn’t let my face show it.

I got the car keys, opened the front door and turned the alarm on.

I left the house and got in the car.

My face was still impassive.

As the 30 second beep countdown urged us to leave the house, he appeared at the front door.

He appeared beside me on the passenger seat.

“Please be in charge of the radio”.

He chose the familiarity of Radio 2.

Astute readers will have noticed that whilst our house alarm was on, our front door was still open.

This was a risk I was willing to take.

The seven minute journey to school passed without incident.

I chose not to speak.

I let Chris Evans and Coldplay fill the silence.

On arrival, there was another minor stand off.

He didn’t want to get out of the car, so I just got out and walked away.

I was pretty sure he’d follow me and I was right.

As we reached the school gate I handed him my phone.

“I will meet you here when school ends.  You can give me my phone back then”.


A few hours later I met him at the appointed time and place.

He returned my phone with a nod.

When he wasn’t looking, I took the SIM card out of my ‘back up phone’ and slid it back into the phone that he’d been minding for me all day.

I’m not completely daft!

You can view Phil's blog here Fostering & Adopting with Phil