My Name Is Jazz: Triggers

So we call the things what set me off triggers and that anger is what we call the volcan over flowing

And what kind off things set me off r things like having flash backs seeing blood or clowns dreaming about my berth dad and seeing him as a clown or like I see him in the war or in danger and I cart save him because I haven’t got the power and he dies agin and agin and then he jump it’s at me as a clown and then I wack up in a fall mood which macks uther people mad with me and it a fishus sercull.

I keep it in and then I’m getting more and more angry as the day gets on then say we go out and I get even more trigger off then I will get home and start walking a round like a chimp

And then say sum one says sum think like just get a grip or macks lots of banning noise when cooking and I flip and start lasing out
And hitting or kikking them or spitting at them and I cart cam down for a long time.

If they say if don’t stop your phone or Xbox or lapping is not happing for a month that just winds me more and more and gets me more pisst off.

after I cam down we talk about the triggers and try 2 fix them but we all wound preface me to talk 2 them about the triggers frest and then the doors to the dogs can get un look and dogs cum out and we try 2 settle down but don’t get me rong it can tack 2 big kik offs 2 cam down but at the end off the day I don’t rally get angry much anymore because I talk about my fellings more and try not 2 let bad dreams get 2 me but sum times I cart and I fell rally said and hert and If peppel have also got angry facets when I moody it macks me fell even wers and it just winds me even more

I like to play lound music to get my anger out.

 

😳😳😳😳😳

 

 

Developing Community Awareness As A Charity

image
In the process of developing our charity The Open Nest over the past eighteen months we have had to consider what our longterm aims and intentions are to be. What did good adoption support to families in crisis mean to us as a group of trustees?
We knew it meant many obvious things like therapeutic input, expert school support and regular short breaks, but we also knew that adoptees and adopters first needed true acknowledgement of their stories in order to be offered the correct support.

My immediate research focus a year ago, having survived a near adoption breakdown and the intense parenting of a child with severe attachment disorder and developmental delay, was to raise awareness. I had felt so isolated and stuck in a cycle of seeking non existent help. I wanted to speak out and find a way as a charity to tell ours and others stories.

I had watched and got frustrated over fifteen years at how little some of the big players in adoption policy forming and support had achieved in giving families such as ours a valid voice. A voice that wasn’t hidden in consultation rooms, select committees, university research papers or the odd shock horror ‘violent adopted child injures poor parent’ feature.

As a minority group being acknowledged at all, even if a bit behind the scenes, is better than nothing. But then sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the denial of the whole truth of your existence makes things a lot worse. It means our stories are stifled and unable to become normalised enough to be accepted in the mainstream community. The effects of this is that well meaning folk who are teaching, practicing medicine, doing social work and doing our assessments, can’t recognise what attachment and trauma stuff, looks, feels and sounds like. Well meaning ignorance can be dangerous. It leads to adopters being perceived as failing or to blame for their child’s struggles. This in turn makes seeking help from professionals fraught and very unhelpful for either side. The adoptees basic human rights to support are often completely lost in this structural failure.

It’s not easy to describe supporting a child with serious anxiety and mental health issues around loss and fear. Some of it is ugly and scary and profoundly sad. As parents we can sometimes present as negative and irritable. This is because we are doing an intensive care job without a managed structure of support or supervision and mostly without a break. We are often scared. If you listen carefully and for long enough to hear us properly through the strains of pent up desperation, you will hear something important to modern adoption in the UK.
Many of us are filled with love, commitment and fierce protection of our children. Despite the difficulties we are inspired and improved by our children and their will to want to succeed. We are the ones most aware of the potential within our children (and sometimes their birth families) if given the right support. As such, it is heartbreaking not seeing your child thrive and your plans for nurturing them turn into basic survival and damage limitation.

I have spoken to lots of struggling adoptive parents over this last year and there is a theme that runs through the very individual and different stories. The parents want the best for their children whom they love but are seriously frightened that without the correct help they may lose them. The irony of their children facing the potential loss of two families in their childhoods is not lost on them. These particular thoughts used to keep me awake at night paralysed with fear. During those times I often thought of my daughters mother and realised something we may have in common. Struggling within our family to the extent we think social services might come and take our child away from our home and family rather than fully and meaningfully support us. I often wondered how that would be explained to my child when she was grown up:

“Your first family were not able to keep you safe. Your emotional and developmental needs were not being met. We tried everything to help them but they could not accept or work with our interventions and were not cooperative. We removed you for your own safety under child protection guidelines.
Then your second family were not able to keep you safe. Your emotional and developmental needs were not being met. We tried everything to help them but they could not accept or work with our interventions and were not cooperative. We removed you for your own safety under child protection guidelines.”

Knowing her as I do, she would definitely blame herself. She’s super bright despite the labels attached to get her through the system. She understands systems and complexity. But as default she ultimately blames herself when she can’t see the honest responsible adult.

I would of course have explained to her in detail that it was certainly not her fault. I would answer the many “why”? questions and find myself blaming the social services or the government or her mother or culture or society, or our family, or a mixture of them all which I guess is about near the truth.

So with all that in mind our first works as a charity have been aimed at awareness raising. For adoption support to be relevant, effective and empathic it takes adoptive families who struggle to share information with both policy makers but also importantly to support charities and a wider society.

We plan to use the mediums of film, written word, spoken word, photography, animation and artwork to tell our stories in a way that is fresh, new and accessible to all. Some of our productions are hard hitting in the sense that they address difficult truths but they are also dignified, positive, without blame and delivered with great hope for change. Slowly but surely.

We welcome all families and individuals touched by adoption to contact us if they wish to work with us on any of our future projects. We are currently accepting ideas, photographs, films and artworks on themes of loss/trauma for our travelling exhibition ‘Severance’ which is booked to be shown in The University of Sunderland Art Gallery in September 2014 and then at Family Futures in London in November 2014. We are also negotiating future bookings in Leeds and Newcastle.

For further information please email us at info@theopennest.co.uk

 

 

Shining Stars In The Dark

imageOur attempts to get professional support after adoption have been at times soul destroying. The wrong help has made things worse and the intimated blaming of our care skills regular. At times the ‘support’ has been extremely ignorant and damaging. Over fifteen years however there have been some guiding lights who helped us to hang on against the odds and soothed the difficulties, sometimes by simply offering kind words and empathy.

In order of appearance here are the professionals who made a difference and whom we will never forget;

Lindsey The Adoption Social Worker

Lindsey tried her very hardest to put support in from the beginning of the difficulties in the placement. She wrote letters to managers, sent me information on courses, highlighted the false economy of leaving us to struggle. At one point she put us on the waiting list for intensive attachment therapy. Lindsey was aware (even though at this stage I wasn’t ) that the court papers freeing Jazz for adoption stated that we would need “expert psychological support around attachment issues”. The help was never given the green light from managers and two counties argued over who was financially responsible. For us it was like someone was saying this is what you need to survive but you can’t have it. Lindsey was suddenly moved on from our case without us being informed. The fact she believed me at the start of our journey meant everything and helped me to stand steadfast in our quest for the right support.

Patricia The Psychologist

Patricia was bought in to speak to us as Jazz was failing to remain in school number two. It was a one off consultation in the very early years and didn’t lead to support as lots of beffudling arguing was taking place about Jazz’s SEN status. Patricia reassured me and said “if Jazz never goes to school it won’t be the end of the world. The most important issue is her attachment to you so don’t panic about education, that can come later” Of course it wasn’t ideal that Jazz was being excluded rather than included at school but Patricia gave me the confidence to follow my gut feelings and eventually home educate.

Bill The Head Teacher

Bill was a radical thinker at Jazz’s third school. He allowed her to be freestyle and as an unconditional treat at the end of the day he would roller blade around the corridors with her. Even though his school was a ‘special’ school they couldn’t hold onto her for long. The vulnerability of some of the other pupils who were severely physically disabled made Jazz’s exuberant behaviour dangerous at times. Bill made sure another exclusion didn’t go on the record. He gently and kindly arranged the leaving and took her, her first boyfriend and her TA for a forest walk and pub lunch with his wife. Jazz has never forgotten his kindness.

Sharon The Teaching Assistant

Under the leadership of Bill, Sharon managed to keep Jazz safe and happy in a very difficult environment. Professional capability was mixed with genuine care and although it may be frowned upon in some circles, actual love. Sharon was tested to the limit most days. A Jazz favourite at this school would be to escape the classroom, run down the corridor and jump fully clothed into the therapeutic swimming pool. Despite only working with her for what amounted to a few months Sharon remains in touch with Jazz to this day.

Tracey The Teacher

Tracey was class teacher in school number four. Despite being managed by what I can only describe as ‘The Miss Trunchbull’ style of headship, she saw only good in Jazz. She couldn’t stop the inevitable exclusions and eventual permanent leaving but in the short time she taught Jazz she showed nothing but warmth towards her. Tracey was a Christian woman in the true sense of the word. We have several photos she took of Jazz in school and these stand as a rare pictorial history of inclusion for Jazz. Pictures of her actually in a classroom with other children and not a side room where in reality she spent most of her time.

Geraldine The DDP Therapist

When the school possibilities completely ran out Geraldine became our anchor for eight years. Between the ages of ten and eighteen she saw Jazz and I for an hour a month. It was nowhere near enough only amounting to approx ten hours a year, but her hands were tied by the usual frustrating and shortsighted funding issues. This hour was spent doing dyadic developmental psychology techniques with us. In lay mans terms this meant doing attachment therapy with us. Geraldine never doubted me or Jazz and as the years passed we became a team, the three of us working towards the best we could. On numerous occasions, during countless crisis moments, she would write letters to other professionals stating our urgent need for support. Shockingly despite her wealth of experience and professional status in the NHS she was not listened to. She had to witness some terrible car crash moments in our lives and this cannot have been easy for her at all. I am absolutely convinced that were we given funding for weekly sessions from the start some of the terrible things we experienced would have been avoided. What we did have however was a trusted friend who nurtured our self esteem and gave us hope to carry on. Geraldine has now left the NHS and is a trainer alongside Dan Hughes to other practitioners of DDP. She uses film of our sessions to teach others which makes us feel proud of what we have achieved together against the odds. Since we have set up our charity she has given us nothing but support, encouragement and help.

 

So there they are, six people out of what must be over a hundred professionals we have seen in the last fifteen years. I guess what counts most is the quality rather than the quantity. It also highlights to me that in giving post adoption support it is not always about fixing a problem. It is about being empathic and kind and listening and trusting families to know themselves. As those things don’t cost anything and yet help people to have hope and carry on, perhaps there is something to be said for the true values of caring and even love in what has become the confusing, grinding, impersonal and budget driven caring industry.

Beyond The Order (And Blah Blah Blah)

So this week the long awaited research “Beyond The Order” came out. A thorough and excellent piece of work from Julie Selwyn and her colleagues at Bristol University. Funded by the Government it describes in upsetting detail the problems some adoptive families face, including the reasons for adoption disruption.

Twelve years ago when I was one of those families in crisis I was commissioned by The Sunday Times to write about the situation. At the time Tony Blairs cabinet were talking about reforming adoption including suggesting that adoptions should go through quicker and also more easily to ‘save’ children in need.

I wrote about the fact that it took me to research, on my own, my daughters condition to find she probably had serious attachment issues. I described violence in the home and warned of fast tracking adoptions without expert training to social workers and therapeutic support to parents in dealing with the issues. Remember at this time big adoption charities offered training in attachment and much literature existed in the profession.

I described the ineffective treatment of my daughter by Social Services as something like treating a broken leg as if it were a sore throat. I ended the piece by saying “no wonder she is screaming”.

The new report is not shocking news to most of us in the adoption world. It isn’t even news. I’m sure however that many will feel its a great attempt by the Government to recognise and address the issues. I really hope nobody is holding their breath.

If it were good news it would be all over the papers and television with accompanying plans for imminent change. Every prospective and current adopter would have secure, written in legislation rights to post adoption support based upon the findings. Adoption would be promoted as a caring commitment and not as ownership. As of now.

Last year ‘The House of Lords Committee on Adoption Legislation’ results were published. All the adoption industry big guns featured as witness to the lengthy process, very few adoptees or adopters of course. Even without the horses mouth all the evidence of struggles was there. Recommendations from Baroness Butler Sloss were made that post adoption support should be written into legislation. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

Today Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families ran the London Marathon to support First 4 Adoption (can’t help thinking Phones 4 U) This is a Government funded adoption promotion organisation. ‘Only positive adoption stories here please’  is the unwritten rule. This chosen organisation by Mr Timpson perhaps shows us firmly where he feels his children and family’s policy sits. Or am I being uncharitable?

The facts are wether we like it, or agree with it or not, the current Government have little visible sympathy for mothers who are dealing with issues of poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse or mental health issues. The main reasons children are damaged in family homes. They cannot afford to. The priority is not in fixing social welfare, housing and health issues but in saving money and privatising undermined services. Privatising means ‘somebody making money out of it’.

The demonising of those on benefits is part of the process as is pitting ‘bad’ mothers against ‘good’. Little room for ‘there but for the grace of God’.

With one child every twenty minutes being removed from its birth family the country has a social welfare crisis on its hands. Looked after children cost lots and lots and lots of money. Something has to be done. So it makes sense to cut through the sympathetic attempts of agencies, charities and social workers to support families. Remove children quickly with no recourse to a fair hearing in court, no legal aid, no birth family contact commitment, no support to next of kin. Give social workers targets to turn around removal and adoption in six months. Penalise and disempower if they fail to meet the required numbers. Once the adoption order is through its over to you nice families. Not our (financial) problem anymore.

As this sounds a bit unfair and cold it also makes sense to find research that backs that decision. The earlier the babies are removed from the evil family the less problems nice families might have dealing with the ‘blank slate’ baby. Do a massive all smiling hearts and flowers, dress up party marketing drive for adoption at the same time. At the head of it all put people who believe wholeheartedly in privatisation and the free market. Make sure adoption charities life blood comes from the Government to edit any non believers.

As an adopter, a children’s rights believer, a social activist and a feminist I feel we are being played.

Back in our house we still struggle with the results of my daughters mother going through the care system with a learning disability. It was a system that was cruel to her when she was a child and that cruelty was passed on through ignorance and inability.

We now have the resources through hard work and sheer determination, to offer free post adoption support services to families who are in crisis and need safe respite. This includes twenty acres of beautiful land we lease, a camping barn and an apartment. It also includes informed expert carers with years of experience in attachment and trauma. We are expert by professional and direct personal experience. We fight for every penny as a charity. This often involves us working for nothing, cleaning and managing the accommodation we raise funds on. Like other adopters we take no wages for the awareness raising work and informal support we give. We have no big charity boss salary or salaried fundraisers. Many in the industry are aware of us and we have blinding, experienced and vocal trustees. Funny that not one person ‘in the money’ has yet approached us effectively to support us in giving our free, expert services. We must jump through the nightmare hoops of Ofsted, regulation, insurance, safeguarding, data protection, health and safety etc etc poor and alone.

Meanwhile the Government fund protracted think tank shennanagins that discuss and dissect and regurgitate information about adoption support, employing the professional party believers and buddy’s along the way. And the children wait. And wait. And wait.

Funnily enough I got an email recently from a regional boss type person (probably not an adopter/adoptee) of one of the massive adoption and fostering charities. They introduced themselves, said they were aware of our work…..I got excited thinking we were going to get some support, advice, encouragement, credit or some other such positive response. Turns out they were just coldly telling us in a polite officious way that they had clocked us and we better be registered as an Adoption Support Agency if we were offering support. And this is, I feel, a general problem in a ‘jobs for the boys’ culture. Nobody truly concerned with supporting adoptive families would not encourage and support, even financially, an innovative and cost effective resource such as ours. And whilst I’m on it resources such as The Adoption Social  ( theadoptionsocial.com) and their user led community initiatives which probably effectively support adopters and adoptees more than anything else I’ve seen. Instead we are turning desperate people in crisis away. All they want is a few days break to enable them to carry on. An empathic support worker, some knowledgable advice.

Don’t get me wrong, I know we can’t have unregulated, untrained, overstretched workers dealing with the serious issues in adoption. They could get it wrong and offer ineffective support. They could make things worse. They could blame parents and cause them isolation and depression. Physical and mental harm could take place. That would be absolutely irresponsible and potentially damaging for children. It mustn’t happen, not for a minute.

Who on earth involved in the politics and the business of adoption would ever allow such a thing to happen…………..

My Name Is Jazz: Hart Broken

On the 15/12/1013 my berth dad was ent hear Ey more it was actuly the worts day of my life and the worts emosons I felt sick and rally rally sad.

I wasent very well and I was a sleep but when I work up mum sad jazz your dad is in hospital he’s got a bad chest infecson I couldn’t stop crying so we got my bedding and got in the car and went to hull hospital and I got thaer and mum said just remember he mite not rember u or he mite bee a sleep.

we got in the hospital and we got the news and I just berst into tears and then we ring my big brother and I never rally heard him cry hearing him cry is just brox my hart and i said to him one door close and a buffer Opens then we saw my berth mum.
Hearing her screming in my ears just brox my hart to and I couldnt
Fix it and that’s macks me fell even weers then mum and claudia and me and mummy bear went back to mine then the next day my friends waer hear and we had hour Christmas do.
I just won’t to get as drunk as a posibal and wake up and it to be all burnt way but It dident. my fiends waer god sends.
They stuck by my side the hole time so did mummy bear and my very very very best friend Claudia.
And all of my famley crisrmast was shite. Some times I just one it to be a very long Hobail Deam.  I’ve had my sheild on a very long time but it’s time to be a popper man now and show how I rally fell. It  fells like I just got a rally hobbial grace on my chest and it raw and I haven’t got Ey skin on it and it’s fell like It’s getting better then it gets Rey open aging and it’s hobbial but I’m okay I’m tuff as shit lol and my saven grase is my to adouble staffies I love them.
But dong get me rong it would bee good to have dad than have the massive wund on my chest.

The end I love all my friends and famley xXx

We Are Not Having A Breakdown….But

It’s been a week of talking to adoptive parents who have called The Open Nest in very very difficult circumstances. People who really don’t know what to do about keeping themselves and their children safe or how to successfully access the support they desperately need. Not one of these parents blamed their children but some of them felt they were living half lives.

That’s the thing about research that shows that approx 5% of adoptions break down, it doesn’t account for the half lives.

Then a fellow Tweeter asked the question “what constitutes good post adoption support?”. The responses in general showed that no matter what the intended changes to adoption being discussed by focus groups (and mainly men in suits), the help is needed now. Many people can’t wait for pilots and politics. Children who have had no choice in their destiny need good, empathic and meaningful support as and when it is needed. These children can be seriously damaged by the fumbling about in the dark policy and practice that many local authorities seem to try and pass off as post adoption support.

I spoke to a lovely social worker recently who made what I think is a really valid point. She said that it seems that there is loads of professional expertise out there and many very knowledgeable adoptive parents but somehow nobody seemed to be able to bring the two parties together. As if parents and professionals were on opposite sides of a big divide.

We hope to work together on trying to at least cross this divide in our area. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime I keep asking myself, why is it so difficult?

Dan Hughes (poor Dan, I always use his name in vain…I do believe in Dan Hughes, I do I do…) seems to be the main attachment and trauma guru that we parents and professional in the field of adoption pay to read from and listen to. There can be nobody, not even Mr Gove, who doesn’t believe and understand that many adopted children need attachment and trauma based therapeutic interventions at home and in school and yet it becomes like the holy grail when many of us try to access it. It has to be about the money. There is no other logical reason I can think of. If we had the money we could buy support.

We will have to see if we get the money through the planned adoption personal budgets scheme sometime in the undetermined future.

In the meantime we can’t pay the ferryman to cross the divide towards expert support and some of us, most importantly our children, are left wandering the shores of trauma waiting….and it can sometimes feel like a hundred years.

In the meantime we are going to keep our resilient chins up and fight the good fight. There is an amazing adoption community on social media, all sharing our individual experiences. We can effect change if we shout loud enough and our voices are valid.
To help us develop a user led support service which we can hopefully then use to become part of the National debate on post adoption support we have started an independent survey. surveymonkey.com/s/9LCMCQ3 Please take part if you can and/or register with us via email info@theopennest.co.uk if you wish to become part of a parents campaigning group.

Apologies for lack of live links in this post. Still learning on that one! Any advice gratefully received.

Parents Not Spoken To Enough

image

Having just watched BBC Oxford News to see the report on Connor Sparrowhawk’s death (manslaughter) I am overwhelmed at the thought of what it must be like to watch that as his Mum and Dad. No matter how seriously and gravely reported, it is still a news item for the day. Done and gone and finished for many viewers and so too it seems for Southern Health.

The headline that resonated particularly with me was ‘Parents not spoken to enough”.

This will not be an unfamiliar concept to many parents, whatever their story, who are united in trying to access health and social care for their children. Unfortunately it seems even more likely if your child has a learning disability and is going through the difficult transition into adulthood.

Through personal experience I know that to be treated like you are some incompetent fool is bad enough but for that attitude to lead to your family member becoming harmed is torturous.

I sat in many many meetings with gritted teeth and red hot cheeks as I was referred to as “mum” and my daughter discussed as if she were more known to the complete stranger considering her needs. The stranger who had not even seen a photograph of her let alone the many albums and films and artefacts that made up a full and rounded and joyful picture of what was her life and the family who loved her.

My daughter came to serious harm because I wasn’t listened to. In fact it was worse than that. I was observed, judged, assessed and written about in negative terms. After all what could be more difficult and outrageous for a professional manager than some pesky parent fighting for the safety of their child…..

The other blood boiling and potentially dangerous thing that happens is that your child is wrongly edited in assessments and reports. Only a parent knows the subtle nuances and messages in some children’s words and actions. It is the living with them year after year, loving them, caring for them, listening to them, knowing the non verbal cues that makes parents the experts. God only knows why we are not treated as such by professionals.

Connor would not have been put in grave danger and as a consequence die if his parents had been treated as the experts. They should have been talked to, listened to, respected, given the management responsibility over their sons care. And now that he has died Southern Health want Sara and her family to “move forward” and “move on”.

Of course now they will have to listen to the dreaded ” lessons have been learnt” get out clause statements which makes even the most unaffected member of the publics heart sink.

If they had learnt anything they wouldn’t use that phrase because they would know how jaded, hollow, crass and insulting it sounds.

They can’t learn because they can’t listen.

It’s Mothers Work

For many months now I have been following a blog by Sara Siobhan called “mydaftlife”. It is a blog that painfully unfolds to tell the harrowing and outrageous facts about how Sara’s amazing and healthy son LB was allowed to die in an assessment unit for adults with learning disabilities.

As a mother to a young adult diagnosed as learning disabled I have had to fight the system all the way. Even about whether she had any disability. Some thought her just plain “naughty” or me a ridiculous and incompetent mother. Her eventual diagnosis came so late in her childhood that her SEN educational support was practically nil and support to me in parenting her mainly punitive.

To many of us our children are not disabled, they are just who they are. Often amazing, intelligent, challenging and independent characters that others find difficult to pigeon hole. My daughter does not consider herself disabled or a slow learner, she is mortified and confused by the label. She believes its mainly the rest of us that are peculiar.

During her transition into adulthood, she like many teenagers, found life very challenging and as a result her behaviour expressed this. Suddenly my worth as a parent and her worth as a family member diminished. She was suddenly treated as an adult now responsible for her actions and I was no longer validated despite my extensive knowledge of her needs, individual likes and dislikes.

We are a large, close and happy family and are generally very creative in our problem solving on each others behalf. Because my daughters behaviour was becoming more aggressive and risky in public it was twice suggested to me, and to her in my absence, that she should go into an institutional setting.

The last suggestion discussed with her was an assessment centre for learning disabled adults. I voiced my horror and concern at the thought as television programmes, such as the one about Winterbourne View and all it portrayed, were quite fresh in my mind. I was reassured that things were different now. High standards of care etc etc. As it happens at the very last minute a family member stepped in financially to help me get some respite and a meaningful needs assessment from Family Futures. This private support bought me fighting time and my daughter is now living independently with the help of Direct Payments.

LB and his family represent the ones who have not been afforded this basic and very reasonable outcome. It is an outrage beyond measure that this tragedy happened to Sara and her family but as if this weren’t enough she has been subjected to torturous, disrespectful and cruel treatment by the health authority as a consequence.

We just wanted support to keep safe at home. We didn’t get it and we all paid the price in one way or another. My daughter came to serious harm but she didn’t die.

Many of us adopters will find we have children with at least “additional needs” even if we didn’t know at the beginning these needs will become apparent as time passes and our children don’t fit into the rigid systems provided to them.

Learning disabled children and adults deserve better support. Please share Sara’s story linked below with anyone you feel may be able to highlight the campaign for a cultural change.

http://mydaftlife.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/the-sound-of-candour/

WARNING (not an easy adoption topic)

imageA lot of important and good work is taking place in social care agencies and by campaigners to address issues of domestic violence and abuse. This Christmas the ad campaigns encouraging us to happily consume were broken at times by a sobering public information film for the season when domestic violence escalates, showing that abuse can be psychological as well physical. There are understandings that men as well as women can be victims and that for children living in a household where domestic violence is happening, even if not directly against them, can be hugely traumatising and cause lasting psychological damage.

Domestic violence is very often a reason children are taken into care. Sometimes parents who have been victims of their partners violence lose their children as it is safer to let them be cared for elsewhere as the support systems fail to support them to leave the situation without remaining in danger or becoming homeless.

The added issues of secrecy, shame, guilt, fear and sometimes love for the perpetrator makes victims extremely vulnerable.

Whatever the cause and effect of domestic violence and abuse, nobody would argue it is not a horrible, frightening and painful experience for the victims. It would be considered dangerous for professionals to knowingly leave a victim in an abusive situation and expect them to carry on without support intervention.

One of the main arguments put forward for certain areas of adoption reform is that children are being left in abusive situations for far too long and a zero tolerance attitude to domestic abuse must be taken by social care agencies.

I can’t and wouldn’t argue against that. I believe that all victims of violence or abuse in the home should be fully supported. I also believe it is wise to examine and address the causes that create perpetrators of abuse.

So what can and should be done to support adopters who find themselves victims of domestic abuse from their adopted children? It is often a hidden and under reported problem. This may be because when reported the professional response often seems to blame the parenting skills of the victim, or unfortunately the lack of support or understanding can lead to placement breakdown.

I have spoken to many adopters who, on a regular basis, deal with verbal and physical abuse and violence. It is surprising to some I’m sure, but it is true and the effects of constant put downs, controlling behaviour and aggression, even if it is from a young person, can be absolutely soul destroying and lead to stress and depression. More disturbingly it can lead to defensive and angry responses from worn out parents in efforts at self protection. The most difficult thing is knowing there is no way out, that the perpetrator is a frightened and traumatised child who has no effective self regulation and needs you more than anything to survive. It’s not appropriate to call the police and frighten or criminalise a young person who actually needs intensive therapeutic support. The last thing most adopters would ever want is for the child to be removed. Many adopters report living restricted half lives for the love and protection of their children. These are serious issues which are not accounted for in disruption or breakdown figures.

Imagine however, if the professional advice to any other victim of domestic abuse was to encourage a therapeutic approach to the violent perpetrator, advice that you should be selflessly putting their needs and safety before your own. A keep calm and carry on regardless piece of martyrdom advice. It would cause public outrage.

As someone who has experienced extreme and regular aggression, verbal and physical assault, as well as property damage over many years through adopting a traumatised child, it always amazed me how often the social workers would simply act as if it were an expected part of “the adopters job”. Its not a job as there are no statutory holidays, end of working days, supervision or training that other people who work in high intensity situations are guaranteed to enable them to function properly and do their job well.

This is not a poor me cry. I have no regrets. I love the very bones of my girl and as it turns out I am a very resilient person. I would do it all again now I’m all tooled up.  It’s seems hypocritical, unjust and damaging however, to expect adopters to live with abuse without specialist support and training.  More importantly not fully informing, believing and supporting adopters around issues of violence in the home is ultimately not in the best interests of traumatised children. Aggression often comes from fear and frightened children need measured and calm responses from parents who are skilled in conflict resolution and management not worn out angry or sad parents who live in fear of failing.

(Any adoptive or foster parents who are experiencing regular aggression or violence in the home please contact http://www.theopennest.co.uk for information on strategies or therapeutic respite breaks which will be available in May 2014).

Trust Issues And Resolutions

It’s was a funny old year 2013. There was more change than I could have imagined with Jazz finally getting funding to support her move towards independence as an adult. This of course meant that after being a constant carer for many years, under extreme circumstances, I had some of my own time back.

My initial thoughts were to use this time to take strident legal action on her behalf for the lack of post adoption support she received, the lack of support to keep her in school, the all round general dogs dinner the local authority made of listening to her needs and protecting us from harm. After a good think though, I knew it was far better to put that energy into creating something positive, something inspired by the strength of our relationship and the love rather than the regrets and the angry bits.

So we began the setting up of The Open Nest and the opening up of our experience to others. This took a lot of trust on Jazz and I’s part. Using blogging, Twitter and Facebook was something entirely new to us. Our lives laid bare, in some ways to illustrate and advocate for the fact that we knew we weren’t the only ones. Of course it soon became apparent that we weren’t and that trust was rewarded. We have met some wonderful people through Twitter who have supported and advised and been all round good guys in the setting up of the charity. They really represent the word “trustee” in the true sense of the word.

On the other hand 2013 highlighted the dangers in trusting people. Employing support people for Jazz has been so much harder than we could ever imagine and getting the wrong ones at times has had very negative emotional affects on her and her trust issues.

One of the most shocking things to happen last year was that a “friend” in the guise of supporting the charity, publicly raised funds in our name and then refused to give us the money. Even though I am old enough to know there are untrustworthy people around this really did make me question everything.

Whilst dealing with the aftermath of both losing a friend and a big chunk of faith, Jazz’s lovely birth dad Fred died. The timing was always going to be bad but ten days before Christmas was cruel. Life stuck the boot in further when the funeral was scheduled for Christmas Eve. The only saving grace was that it bought her and her siblings together. A lot of preparation was done before the funeral around healthy goodbyes and trusting those around her to keep her safe through the emotional storm of loss and death.

We were floored when at the funeral Fred’s older children from his first marriage had arranged the service to omit her and her brothers very existence. My heart broke as the service unfolded and Fred was remembered as a loyal and loving father to A, B, C and D but no mention of the three young people who sat huddled, clinging to each other in grief and humiliation. Their chance of a healthy goodbye was stolen from under our noses.

I knew the first family disapproved, with some good reason, of their fathers second wife ( she was asked not to attend the service to avoid trouble) but he loved her and his children. He spent many Christmas’s and birthdays with Jazz and my family and friends over the last ten years and took his parental role towards Jazz seriously despite her mums failings. We looked after him as he grew weak and we loved him. Again our faith and trust in human nature was dented.

In the past few weeks I’ve had to question myself, am I too trusting? am I naive? am I too soft? I even thought I needed to make serious resolutions for the New Year to harden up and not trust people so easily.

But then I thought…… “bugger that”.

I like being a trusting person. I like the openness our family has and the trust and honesty I believe I have encouraged in Jazz. I like being a big softy and having faith in human nature to do the right thing.

So my New Years resolution is the same as ever. In 2014 I will count my blessings and not let the bastards grind me down.