Sunday 14 July 2024

The Churchill Fellowship - Update no. 1

Forgive me but I thought that I'd keep up a 'Churchill update blog' to chart my plans, progress and thoughts. So, if that's nor your cup of tea then feel free to ignore. Of course, I'm happy to answer any questions or comments and if you've got any insight or contacts then please do let me know. Either comment on the blog or you can email me at info@alcoates.co.uk.

It was all fun and games and then TCF* said; 'yes'.  So, after all the forms, planning, promises and pondering the rubber appears to be hitting the road.

I've been collecting names, emails and screenshots of LinkedIn/X/Facebook posts writing them down in a fancy new notebook. I think that I'm trying to start with the end in sight and that's slowing things down. I can literally arrange and undertake video calls pretty quickly but, against my usual nature, I've pushed them back to the end of the summer.

Firstly,  I want to be sure of what I'm asking. Yes, the issue of supporting parents and carers of children with care experience** to manage children's violent or aggressive behaviour is a universal one. Or at least it appears to be but the language and how that is conceptualised differs across countries, professionals and families. I need to be sure that we're talking about the same thing. 

Secondly,  TFC were clear the report that we produce should be in a format that suits the audience that the report is intended for. It does not have to be a written report so I've decided to write a summary but to put most of it into a couple of podcasts. That creates a new challenge, I need consent forms that are up to the job, so I've linked into the helpful bods at CorumBAAF who are helping TCF. 

Finally, the thought has crossed my mind that I may struggle to find that many 'innovators, experts and shining lights on hills' in this sphere so I'm coming up with a contingency. Finding a lack of support is a finding in of itself and not without merit. 

So, that was this week, in the meantime, if you know of any international shining lights in the sphere of supporting parents and carers please do get in touch!

A new note book


* The Churchill Fellowship

** Care experienced is the focus of the TFC this year. That includes children returning to their families from Care, children in Special Guardian or Kinship arrangements or adopted children. 

Monday 1 July 2024

I've been awarded a Churchill Fellowship!

So, what on earth does that mean? 

For several years I’ve bumped into ‘Churchill Fellows’ in different places here and there and the short answer is that the Fellowship is:        

“to connect to leading experts internationally in a fellow’s field of interest, to gain insights and knowledge and to then use that to drive positive change in the UK.”

 



Simple, or so it seems!?

 

Born from my families experience and all of the learning, studying, research etc. I’m quite comfortable with the notion that helping families/parents/carers to support and manage their children’s challenging, violent and aggressive behaviour is my ‘field of interest’. 

 

So, the plan is simple I am going to research support and interventions offered to adoptive, kinship and foster families that are supporting children with challenging behaviour.

 

Many Fellows physically take off around the world and the Fellowship encourages and funds that but I thought long and hard and decided that as much as I’d like to travel making connections and gathering information would be best served by me doing that online. Of course, my family are disappointed but it feels like the right choice given the nature of the subject and the way families are supported. 

 

I have to produce a report and share what I find in the spring/summer of 2025 and I’ve some creative ideas as to how that could be done and once they are firmed up I’ll let you know. 

 

The Churchill Fellowship has provided me with a grant so that will help me in terms of time as well as to get the message out. 

 

Watch this space! If you know of experts/professionals/organisations supporting families (adoptive, kinship, fostering) across the world then please do email me at 

 

info@alcoates.co.uk


As always, many thanks to all the grown ups in my life that pushed me, picked me up, pointed me in the right direction and pushed me again. You know who you are.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Side Eye and an Elbow to the Ribs - Relationships and Tricky Kids

She dug him in the ribs with her elbow and he gave her the side eye. 


I ignored them, though it was clear across the room other couples were giving each other knowing, withering, disapproving, ‘see I told you that you were wrong’ looks. 

 

I’d been explaining, so one parent looks at the other and thinks: 


‘They’re far to soft on our kid, how are they going to function in the real world, I’ll tighten up some boundaries, rules and expectations to get the kid back on track.’

 

The other parent looks back and thinks:


‘They’re like a camp commandant, I’ll cut the kid a bit more slack to compensate for them, this kid needs a bit more flexibility and understanding.’

 

Slowly these positions embed, views are exacerbated by time and experience and inevitable the gap between parents gets wider. 


 

Folks have often come to my talks expecting or hoping for a magical formulae for getting complicated children to bed on time, eat their greens and stop what can be often complex, challenging, aggressive and/or violent behaviour.

 

They did not come for relationship advice or insight. But that’s where we’re at in the talk, the rib dig and side eye moment. I’d been talking about the impact on relationships of parenting complicated children. For many couples the very foundation of their relationship is significantly undermined by the complexity, relentlessness and personally challenging nature of caring for children with histories of adversity, complex trauma, neurodivergent and with complex needs. Behaviour can be complex, physically and emotionally challenging. A hairline crack in a relationship can be exacerbated to breaking point, sometimes it does break. 

 

I recall talking to an adoptive parent about the challenges of raising a child with difficult behaviour, without prompting the conversation turned to their partner.  We don’t see eye to eye any more and we can’t talk about it. We don’t argue about anything other than our child. 

 

There are no magic formulas for managing children’s challenging and aggressive behaviour, but before we get to child we need to attend to our relationship. Is it easy? no. Do I have all the answers? Nope. I do know honest conversations sometimes need to be had, sometimes with the help of professionals to reconnect us with our loved ones to agree boundaries, approaches and how to work together. 

 

As they say, a house divided against itself cannot stand.  (Abraham Lincoln. Luke 3:25)