In Plain Sight

Not sure if it’s just us…. but we continue to be befuddled by adoption support progress and its reporting not only as adopters and adopted people but also as charity workers. When we launched our peer support charity four years ago it was certainly considered ‘letting the side down’ to talk about adoption difficulties without a happy ending. Adopted people or adopters who did not reflect the agenda of adoption as only being a ‘good thing’ were certainly marginalised and not really given any powerful public or professional platforms.

Today things are different and suddenly the media are covering adoption difficulties and breakdown more regularly.
Going back 20 years Tony Blair was attempting to improve the adoption experience as it was generally agreed adoption was a good thing to do. This included highlighting the need for more support to support the good thing and also address the bad things that had happened in order for adoptive parents to be doing the good thing successfully in the first place.
The trauma and damage done to children that causes the need for adoption is constantly present in the dialogue over 20 years. Organisations at the top of adoption support services have consistently sold training, conferences and support based upon the bad things that happen to children to cause the good thing that is adoption. Often this is marketed directly as support to adoptive parents in order that they may succeed in carrying out the good thing that the social workers and courts who are led by the state have decided must happen for the child.
We have a large collection of adoption related publications, books, training materials, blogs, research etc from organisations, individuals and the government in our charity library. It’s interesting to track the modern history, culture, thinking and policy around adoption. What seems to be working well for the majority, what’s consistent and what changes occur based upon differing research, funding or changes in cultural, political and power structures.
Although there are some backwards and forwards ‘trends’ around issues for example, of contact, life story, timings of preparation and placement, transracial adoption, the consistencies are there in the history. One consistency is recorded knowledge around the need for good, and very importantly, individual psychological support to adopted children and adults whenever needed and for whatever reason is now considered a given. Dan Hughes and other ‘guru’ psychologists, speakers and academics in adoption have been an integral part of the conversations around adoption support for years. There is much unanimous agreement in the organisations forming the policy alongside the DfE around the need for professional understanding of the issues adoptive families face. This is based upon research and professional opinion and an agreement that the understanding must be converted into appropriate support.

Winding forward to more recent years and recent reforms, in 2012 there was the House Of Lords Select Committee enquiry into adoption legislation which reiterated and gathered new evidence from the professional organisations that offered adoption support as well as social workers and parents. (Our written statement to this enquiry is on page 186)

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/adoption-legislation/ALWrittenEvWeb.pdf

It was highlighted yet again in the findings that although LAs had a duty to assess for support they didn’t have a statutory duty to provide the support assessed as being needed. Chair of the committee, Baroness Butler-Sloss stated that she felt adoption support should be a statutory right. Families as a result of having no legal right to post adoption support would be thrown into a system where health and social care shunted the responsibility for funding back and forwards in the face of budget limitations on them from above. This was a big problem for adoptive families just as it is for ANY families seeking social care and mental health support. It was the luck of the draw. Families in more well off areas (often London based) had amazing and very expensive packages from expert support organisations. The type of therapeutic packages the DfE are now planning to restrict due to the overwhelming demand on the budget.
The very recent reforms which have bought about the Adoption Support fund continue to show the consistency in opinions around the need for more support. Some of the discussions appear to be presented as new understandings or based upon new knowledge, research or a latest conference speaker that reflects adoptive families lives. As if the new penny has just dropped.

Never before have we seen such open and active invitation to adoptive parent service users to take part in both informing and supporting reforms. Invitations to be heard, to speak in conference, to write, to train, to inform, to share and even to be employed within adoption support initiatives.

Many seasoned and new adopters have become involved in the new initiatives encouraged and heartened by the promise of better support and understanding not just for themselves but for the ‘community’ which has been bought together to have their voices heard via many different mediums.
As individuals and as a charity we were concerned and highlighted our concern from the beginning of the reforms that the ASF was not sustainable as it had no secure long term funding despite being launched alongside proactive state funded adopter recruitment drives. We were aware the amounts being talked about didn’t add up based upon our experience of support costs and numbers contacting us to report severe difficulties. We were concerned new adopters would feel more ready to take on the role even though information about severe difficulties was being highlighted, often by vocal adopters. The positive highlighting of the ASF could give the impression that understanding and support would be a done deal. Things were going to be different. Those questioning this were a minority of unfortunate bemoaners.

We were concerned the training and resources needed for teachers and social workers to become adoption experts was never going to be able to match the expectation and impression of the ‘new’ understandings.

In reality austerity and budget slashing has seen new adopters arrive in a landscape of education, health and social care professionals being under pressure, less individual approaches, hugely inconsistent understanding of trauma based behaviours and in some areas lengthy waiting lists for CAMHS. The economics didn’t seem to stack up to us but despite attempts to engage in a debate it was hard to get concrete answers amongst the celebration of the ASF.
The current situation sees that adoptive families often have had enough funded support through the ASF to gain a comprehensive expert assessment of their adopted child’s needs.

Adoptive families want good quality assessments of their child’s needs and support that reflects the speakers they hear, the books they read and the training they go on encouraged by adoption expert organisations, charities and social workers.

A comprehensive and expert assessment done as a package for an adopted child or children doesn’t come easy or cheaply and requires any or all of the following:
Life history work as an ongoing and continuous process.
Assessment which helps the child’s voice be heard by an independent and expert advocate
Assessment for contact arrangements and maintaining important connections to non related people.
Assessment for education support
Assessment of siblings
Assessment for health support
Assessment for mental health support
Assessment for parents support needs
Assessment for any family or professional training needs
Assessment for short breaks
Assessment for siblings needs

Our experience is that independent organisations involved in adoption support have been able to assess more families since using the ASF and are able to give expert views that are more likely to match families experiences and knowledge and the consistent support knowledge in the field.

They have been able to share with many more parents the products they have for sale and these products informs parents even further on the adoption specific needs of their adopted children.

The difficulty is then that parents can’t access these experts any further as there remains no right to the services a private organisation, charity or individual has to offer or has assessed as them needing.
As a charity it has been painfully slow for us to play a part in giving the very cost effective support we offer. Part of this has been the landscape and confusion around what constitutes relevant support, what support should be funded and most of all who should be allowed to provide it and at what cost. An example of this is that a very qualified therapist we funded to do DDP training with Dan Hughes was informed by an adoption support organisation she could not work with a family who contacted us in crisis because she was not Ofsted registered. The words ‘illegal practice’ were used. She was at the time under the supervision of a leading DDP psychologist and well known national trainer. It seemed like madness, especially as we were offering the therapy to the family for free.
It seems we are all now very much more aware of what support works and what doesn’t. The general public is also more aware of adoption as the press have played a large part in championing the latest adoption reforms.

We have all heard uncomfortable truths from all sides in the adoption process and we have gained insight from individuals, professionals and families in their very honest attempts to take part in invitations to share personal experiences, speak in conference, write blogs, sit on groups, become trustees, form peer support initiatives, attend meetings, do surveys etc etc
But adoptive families still have no more right to support services from LAs based on expert assessment than they did before.
Sometimes it’s worse to know exactly what you need, to be told continuously by adoption support professionals that you are now clued up via their training literature and conference products but still can’t access the right support.

It really is akin to being told by a well respected medical professional funded by the government that your child needs a certain medical treatment to become well but nobody you meet in the local surgery or hospital has heard of it and if they have there is no money available for them to supply it.
The very latest announcement from the DfE suggests that a budget of £2500 for an expert assessment of needs will be given to those families in the most difficulty. We are not sure how that difficulty will be graded for access. This will be an extra budget on top of the ASF £5000 limit per child. It is hoped LAs will match any further funding needed to therapeutically support children with the most severe difficulties. They have no duty to provide and more importantly are very unlikely to have the budget to do so. Therapeutic packages can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds if over a few years.
And so we come back around full circle. Adoptive families remain in a system which has been consistently aware over 20 years that adopted children need specialist therapeutic support to thrive within the ‘good thing’ that has been done to them. Adoptive parents have been encouraged to voice and share their experiences which also remain consistent about the need for specialist therapeutic support. Some of them have gained professional status within the general and increased opportunities reforms have bought about to profit from producing adoption support products.

Organisations have received funding to the tune of millions to be prepared to meet the needs of new adopter recruits and their adopted children. Organisations have grown in size and profile. Professionals within the field have been championed and received state honours for their part in reforms.
Although there is clear resistance within both social work and other professionals about the validity of holding adopted children’s needs as higher in status than other children’s, the general consensus backed up by the press and government is that adoption remains a good thing that must be supported and those that support it, wether professionals or parents will be rewarded and understood.

As a peer led charity we have felt that the millions spent on recruitment and reforms might have been better spent on supporting and training teachers, social workers and health professionals and their organisations to understand the needs of children with conditions caused by neglect and trauma whatever their legal status.
We understand that further changes are afoot under the regionalisation of adoption support. It’s been on the cards and part of the plan for years.

During these ongoing reforms we hope that the ‘in plain sight’ yet missing piece of the jigsaw will be the focus of activism and campaigns by organisations and individuals that both support and professionally benefit from the discourse that adoption is a good thing. The fact that LAs still have NO STATUTORY DUTY to provide extra or specialist support to adoptive families should be addressed nationally and successfully by those with powerful positions otherwise we are all shouting into the wind and despite the hype those on the ground seeking urgent support are not much further forward than we were 20 years ago.

For peer support:

thepotatogroup.org.uk @ThePOTATOgroup

theopennest.co.uk  @TheOpenNest

Not In Our Name

The Daily Mail article (link below) on adoption support, or lack of it, really woke us from the Christmas bubble with a start. A very rude awakening and a stark reminder of the differing cultures adoption sits within.
As we have responded as a charity and as individuals and having read many other responses, it strikes us as particularly sad that families are so desperate for their reality to be recognised that even a right wing style attack on adopted children’s birth families, and on children themselves has to be brushed aside as “at least it’s getting the topic into the tabloid press”
The article highlighted the desperation some of us feel with its truthful descriptions from parents about what it is like for them to live with a traumatised or displaced child and have no support. We have written and spoken about this constantly from both a personal and professional perspective and strongly believe that the reality of some families domestic lives should be recognised fully with understanding, acceptance and empathy, both for their sake and for the important purpose of gaining appropriate support.

We cannot however, accept that this truth and the reality for some should be used to smash other people over the head with nasty words. It reminds us of the same kind of language that allows the truth of some people’s lack of resources in this country being used to blame refugees.
Although it’s unpleasant and it happens all the time in the media, we are hoping that the people involved found their words taken out of context and edited to suit an agenda. That their intention was to highlight an important issue and its wider connotations in order to help support all those involved in adoption. We know the parts of it highlighting support needs bought comfort to many who are sick of being disenfranchised within debates about what they need or can have as certain types of families.
We don’t know of any adopters we speak to or read about who feel so negatively as this article did towards children’s birth families. Some have positive relationships with birth family members or want to make contact but have no support and are therefore anxious about doing the wrong thing. When adopting, wether you intended to or not, you take a child’s family and family history with you for life. Sometimes adopters feel sadness, anxiety, fear, anger or resentment when they see the effects a failed family and the social care system has had upon their adopted child. Adopters and carers we know of don’t want to be seen as saviours nor treated like martyrs. Many adopters feel very strongly that they want better support with life story work that is empathic towards birth families struggles and also interventions that recognise the political and cultural context within which people fail to thrive. In the cases where birth parents did completely unforgivable things to children, parents want this to be presented in a truthful, non sensationalist and therapeutic way to the children involved. They certainly don’t want children to be given the impression that their birth family are the dregs of society and because of that they will become so too if they don’t behave according to the happy ending script. The most cruel statements for us were the ones which said adoptees, still young children, were wrecking and blighting families.
Adoptees we have communicated with and our colleagues who were adopted as children are insulted by the tone of the article. We have consistently worked together with adopted people to try and address the media use of stereotypical language and the two dimensional representation of people who have been adopted….extremely lucky or very angry. This sadly but unsurprisingly hasn’t been easy and the people most affected by adoption, who may have many of the answers and solutions, remain the last heard in all areas of adoption talking, writing and policy making. Articles like this from tabloids don’t often help with issues of equality. Nobody asked the children involved for a quote in this article. Even if they had it probably wouldn’t have been the adopted ones.
We speak to many desperate adoptive parents and kinship carers who are struggling to see a way forward towards a healthy family life. They love their children even though they may not love having a family life half lived. A failure to thrive. We do believe the knowledge in the public domain about what’s really going on with adopted children’s mental health and problems with access to education is just the tip of the knowledge iceberg no matter how many positive adoption statistics and representations you might pay for and throw at it.
Despite being truthful about the difficulties they face on a daily basis adopters and birth family carers we speak to don’t talk about children in horrible and negative ways. The most negativity we come across is aimed at the systems they find themselves in. The article missed out one of the biggest cruelties about getting no support as parents and carers. That it is hurting and damaging the children we love. The more we see them struggling at school, in social situations and at home the more desperate for change we become. When the anger and frustration children feel is shown to us in the form of hatred and aggression it weakens our ability to successfully engage in, or even worse, fight a support system which is not yet fully fit for purpose despite the millions of pounds thrown at it.
The charities involved by quotation in The Daily Mail also work in areas of adoption support that include supporting adoptees and birth families. We feel offended that very negative ideas about these groups sat beside the quotes from agencies many adoptees, adopters and birth families have to seek support from. We feel it is important that all charities and charity workers stand up publicly for all of those they exist for. But these are tricky times financially and politically and that can be difficult. Finding a non political mass media forum to highlight sensitive issues is probably impossible
The Adoption Support Fund has been gratefully received by many. We hear of brilliant work and good progress being made in families because of excellent professionals and the use of the fund. There is greater understanding and more open talk of support difficulties that have been bought about by the formation of the fund. We all now know that it is not enough to provide the levels of support being asked for. The recent capping of it after its first year means agencies might find themselves in the same situation as local authorities, doing or having done professional assessments but not being able to provide the services the assessments call for.
This causes even more desperation in parents. No help is devastating. Being told help is now coming, that things have been reformed in terms of support on offer, being assessed and having the opportunity of telling your truth gives hope and encouragement. Having that then disbelieved, misunderstood or snatched away is almost worse than not having it at all. It’s not surprising that the word Kafkaesque comes up regularly in service users descriptions of adoption support systems.
Another thing the article missed out is the desperation that some adoptive families also have to face from professionals who have been forced to become defensive about the lack of resources and specialist training that would allow them to be more effective in their interventions. Many of the wise ones speak honestly, if off record to service users, about the lack of resources in the system and of their powerlessness within it. Many are uncertain about the future. Because social workers choose to work in adoption doesn’t mean they haven’t seen or don’t see the bigger picture in relation to the rights of all children whatever their legal status. There is frustration at the inability to take part in tackling the inequality and negative cycles that often result in adoption needing to happen in the first place. Frustration at the waste of money that can sometimes occur when systemically forced to buy in expensive private services that may have an uncertain long term future. Worry that the ultimate answer from the government will be for LA’s to find funding in house for adoption support services and we are back where we began before the reforms. These issues in themselves are complex and difficult to deal with whilst working in a broader political system that is seemingly starving state funded mental health and social care services across the board.

Adopters often report having powerful new insights into what it must have been like for children’s birth families when trying to navigate underfunded social care systems. What it really feels like to be blamed and uncared for when you are at your most vulnerable, angry, frightened or desperate.
The dynamics can end up with a group of angry and frustrated people. A group that makes up many more than an adoption triad, all needing resources, empathy, understanding and support. Equally the shared frustrations could bring about meaningful dialogue and solutions. Those who have the power and the energy have to continue to believe in and work towards that on behalf of those struggling and exhausted.
The Daily Mail article encouraged division. It gave permission to comments about forced sterilisation and killing children. It showed little empathy for those it quoted or represented. It perpetuated the unpleasant myth of deserving and undeserving children that enables inequality and sometimes cruelty in children’s services. It seems unlikely that it’s going to result in families, and individuals, birth or adoptive, getting more resources.

The people involved in adoption and the politics of adoption, both personally and professionally should not allow, without stiff challenge, the complexities and multiple truths in adoption to be spun into nasty pantomime versions of good and bad, rich and poor, us and them.


OPEN NEST CHARITY FUNDED THERAPEUTIC PROJECT WITH 10 WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD CHILDREN REMOVED. MAKING SELF CARE BOXES AND SHARING LIFE STORIES.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4069254/They-open-homes-adopt-ve-taken-youngsters-wreck-family-continue-BETRAY-loving-parents-asks-CAROL-SARLER.html

A Poem (Inspired By Lemn)

This Pome is called why I think I got askbrugees

What seams quite to u is very loud to me

What seams hard to u is ezey to me

What seams nothing to u is massive to me

What u might think off others I cart it’s to hard for me as why cart it be about me?

What u think is ezey to go to one place to u is so hard for me I hate change ad people coming ad go ad different opinions

What u mite think is a nice hug to u is too much for me

What u think a normal person can cope with I cart

What seams dark to u is to bright to me

What u mite think when I kick off is not what I’m thinking

What u think is resting face is angry to me

What u mite think to come to mine without asking is not ok to me

What u mite think is one minute late to me is 10 minutes late

What u mite think when I look happy can mean I’m not ok

What u mite think when I crying I’m some times happy but when I’m laughing some times I mite be me heart or sad

What u mite think is good when u come for hug from behind I don’t like

What u mite think is normal to ask me to do don’t ask when I’m in my head box I cart come until I’m finish or bored

What u think is too kid like is perfect to me

What u think is normal 22 year old watch 18 films that is hell to me

What smell nice to u is over powing for me

What u mite think when I’m over talking it’s the opposite

What u mite think when I been rude is the opposite to what I felling

What u mite think when I cart sit ad concentrate is the opposite

What u mite think is normal heat is not funny for me

What u mite think to do when I cut my self is the tottel opposite its need distracting

What u mite think is mad me putting my dvds records books in abcdefghjklmopqurstvz makes tottel sense to me

What u mite think u right it’s not it’s my way or hi way

What u mite think it’s ok for tea at 7 not 6 no it’s not rewten to me

What u think was a one off to u is now rewten to me

What u mite think is clean it dearty to me

What u mite think to my room tidy it’s disorganised to me

What u think is mad when I do my funny moves is happy to me Im full or excited
What u mite forget I never will

What faces u mite forget I never will

What car u mite forget I never will

What song u mite forget I never will

What music beet mite be getting on your Neves is luxury to me

What u mite see as dangerous I love

What u mite think is good change I never will I hate any change

National Adoption Week Thoughts #NAW2016 

A guest post from an adopted adult:

As I sit down and try and think where to start, I find that the first part of my process is self censorship- How can I make this ok to read? How can I protect the identities of the people I grew up with? How can I say what I need to without causing offence?

It’s like putting up hurdles where this was supposed to be a sprint.

Where does this come from?

The need to protect other people. I learnt it very early on. Conversations around adoption were sparse when I was growing up- but I didn’t know any different or that there was even the possibility of asking questions- so I stored them up, ready to be unwrapped as and when the law dictated that I should be able to find out about myself.

I don’t think that my parents would have shut me down if I had asked, but I know exactly the look that would have appeared on their faces, like a slight shadow falling across them- they would have been hurt.

How did I know at such a tender age (from around 5/6) that speaking about adoption would upset my parents?

Perhaps it was the way I was told? Maybe it was the messages I received from outside when I shared my news ( ‘ but they are your real parents though’ ‘you were lucky to be chosen’ ‘you should be grateful for the life you have’…) that kept me quiet and in my own head? Or it could just be that it was the culture I grew up in- respect your elders, accept your lot, this is what it is.

I’m not lamenting that things were this way, I am glad that I have grown up with the ability to understand the world from other points of view- It’s just a reflection- but it’s not how I see adoption written or spoken about in our world of non-stop twitter feeds and updates and blogs.

I don’t see (in this country anyway) a thriving network of adopted people sharing their experiences, openly talking about the challenges and joys of growing up in a non-biological, non nuclear family. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough? (although many, many hours have been spent looking for this very thing…) I can’t seem to find open forums, supported by leading adoption charities, or government agencies, where adopted people (over the age of 25…) can discuss, share, empathise and educate each other, and the world about how it is for them (Really, truly, non sanitised, honestly.)

Make it happen! I say to myself, and in the times where I have- put the feelers out, started some online conversations with a few fellow adopted people, it’s fallen flat- I think- because it is incredibly hard to get past the feeling of not wanting to hurt anyone. From adopted people who wait until their adoptive parents have died to find their birth family (out of a sense of loyalty and often too late to find surviving biological relatives) to those who burn with questions they are too afraid to ask, painting on the happy face so as not to risk being rejected by a second set of parents. It’s really difficult to have the conversation.

I don’t like the idea of being ‘given’ a voice, as I have so often seen when people invite contributions or a token inclusion- (one day out of five in NAW?) it is implicit in its ‘power-over’ dynamic and says, I have a seat at the table which you can borrow, but only for a minute- and don’t be controversial…adoption should be (and really always has been) a communication between a vast number of people. Not one of those people should feel or be silenced.

If birth parents are demonised, it’s a disservice to the children, if adopters are criticised for not being ‘therapeutic’ or ‘attachment aware’ enough, it’s a disservice to the children, if social workers are made pariahs because of a decision- ultimately it’s the children and young people who are let down.

What would be perfect is adoptive families- writing together about these things- how great would that be? (and I know there is some amazing work happening along those lines, in a spirit of collaboration and openness, but it’s the exception not the rule..) I know this is my idealistic rose-tinted fantasy, but the idea of families making their own story together- I find beautiful and trusting. I do sometimes wonder how it will be for some of those who are children now, growing up and reading about their parents experiences of them. It takes resilience from all corners to be able to hear what it’s really like.

There is no easy, comfortable answer- people need to share- that’s part of our human experience, to document and resonate, to feel connected and able to vent or celebrate and so we should- I would love for it to be accessible for everyone. Sometimes, it feels to me like the discourse needs to catch up with the reality- new language is created all the time and so too in the world of adoption- we can learn it together, not apart.

Thank you to The Open Nest for supporting inclusion and transparency. x

Cherished Memories of Summer 

One of the most cherished moments of last year for me was spending time with a group of amazing children. They came to The Open Nest to spend time together and with our support workers at a Summer camp. Some of them are not used to being able to feel relaxed. Some of them always feel excluded when amongst their peers. Some of them are described by teachers as low in concentration and sometimes viewed as low in achievement. Most of them had anxiety and fear of new situations.

During the few days I was moved to happy tears on several occasions. Images and words etched in my memory forever. Inclusion. Achievement. Relaxation. Happiness. Understanding. 

   

    
 

Winter Hibernation 

Christmas is the trickiest of times in our house. It is full of memories both good and bad. Love and loss in equal measures. J’s permanent placement with me happened a month before Christmas and although that will always evoke powerful memories we have reached a place where we are more comfortable with celebrating that anniversary. For all J’s family though this time of year will always have a sense of lack of safety and everyone needs a higher level of support to stay on track.

We love the sense of celebration and light within the darkness of winter. Living rurally makes us feel close to both the elements and nature.Nothing is quite as magical as watching mist settle in the frosty valley or a herd of deer in the nearby woods in December.

The excitement and pleasure of sharing quiet and quality time with family and friends is however tainted by those we miss. Christmas Eve was cruelly the day of J’s fathers funeral and in that moment two years ago the childlike wonder of ‘the night before Christmas’ was lost forever.

In order to cope with the dual (triple, quadruple) emotions that abound at this time of year we tend to baton down the hatches at the end of November. The weeks leading to Christmas are now a time we spend together enjoying peace and solitude and more than anything trying to count our blessings and remember that despite our difficulties we are lucky in both love and life.

We actively hibernate and become comfortably lazy. Our business is closed and aside from well planned shopping trips and visits with very familiar friends we spend much time lighting fires, playing with our many family pets and watching sentimental films that encourage acceptable and controlled weeping.

I’m sure there are many other families who feel the same as us and within our hibernation and headspace we send heartfelt winter wishes to you all.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

imageOn my Twitter feed every week I see adopted people and adoptive parents talking about ways to face the challenges modern adoption brings. A wealth of experience that is both challenging and supportive. Many seasoned adopters could write a book or training course about how to help children facing the loss and trauma bought about by not being able to live with their family. Some adopters have. Certainly adult adopted people could teach us a thing or two, if only they were invited more often.

Without getting into the rights and wrongs of modern adoption, and there are many, I keep coming back to a frustration that we feel on a regular basis.

I started being assessed as an adopter in 1998. My daughter was placed in 1999. After a fairly short amount of time we were struggling. Struggling with school, with gaining advice and of course with getting family, friends and wider society to understand our needs. It was really hard to access any learning tools or information that reflected what we were experiencing. It was really very scary and extremely unfair on my daughter.

After much complaining and blaming I was eventually offered a course called ‘It’s A Piece Of Cake’ It was a parenting programme from Adoption UK which was quite expensive and involved several out of town sessions. As a struggling single adopter without the ability to work anymore and little childcare support it was going to be difficult for me to attend. I decided I would make it happen by hook or by crook. The reason I wanted it so much was that it’s promotional leaflet published in 1999 acknowledged that much more was now known about adopted childrens experiences of trauma and that they have specific support needs based upon that. It was such a massive relief to see our experience reflected back, that’s how desperate I was.

In the end my daughters LA adoption manager decided not to fund it or find a solution to my difficulty in accessing childcare. Instead I went on a short After Adoption course with Nancy Thomas and attended a local day conference with Dan Hughes.

Hearing charismatic people speaking in a way that matches your experience is intoxicating, reassuring and uplifting. From that point on I bought books about attachment, changed my parenting style to the best of my ability and pressed hard for appropriate therapeutic support for my daughter. Some of the initial support was way off the mark and sadly made things a lot worse. At times, in fact most of the time, the spotlight seemed to be firmly pointed on me as the problem. The more I read Dan Hughes, Caroline Archer etc the more I turned down advice to do behavioural charts, send her away from me on respite and all the other inappropriate responses to grief, displacement and trauma. The more I turned this ‘support’ down the more hostile those attempting to help us became. It really was a very difficult situation for us both to be in psychologically and especially against a backdrop of school exclusion and regular violence in the home.

Eventually, and purely down to postcode luck, we got some DDP therapy which was amazing. It was very limited due to funding but I was, sadly, as overly grateful as a down trodden person would be. What we were taught in those sessions was not reflected outside that room, not even by adoption professionals.

Fast forward 17 years since I was being assessed and adoption talk is everywhere. It’s a political hot potato, frequently featured in the popular press and the recruitment of more adopters is clearly king within policy. Alongside this the number of courses and conferences on adoption has multiplied. It’s a big money gig. The amount spent on talking about adoption and trauma in all it’s forms, research, specialist boards, groups, conferences, training etc etc must be immense. There cannot be a seasoned politician who doesn’t know the complexity of the issues faced by adoptees and their adoptive families. There are an awful lot of people benefiting in one form or another, personally and politically, from talking about what adopters and children need.

With all this in mind it is almost beyond belief that more progress has not been made during this period of time. It cannot be beyond any government to make sure social workers and teachers are given the right funding and training to fully understand and address the issues. If parents can be advised to buy expensive training and places at conference from organisations headed by adoption expert advisory board members, why can’t government just put the funding in? The extensive knowledge base on trauma and loss is there so why is it not being accessed in the best interest of not only adopted children but all children who need specific support.
They make other far less important things happen.

We feel it has been irresponsible to set about making adoption the ’cause’ of this current government without full consideration of the longterm impact of this on children and families.
Support it seems is just not top of the adoption numbers agenda.

This year alone I have seen Edward Timpson several times, via video, tell an audience that adoptive families need support. It’s as if he feels some organisation from another planet is responsible for the lack of it. I have not yet been able, as a registered charity trustee, to get a straight answer from any member of any adoption reform group on where the next Adoption Support Fund money is coming from and it’s about to run out. Those adopted in the last wave of recruitment may need support for many many years to come, as will teachers and social workers expected to help them. Why was no longterm support strategy decided upon as part of an aggressive and costly adoption reform?

In a time when charities are under immense pressure to provide social care services to children and families and to fully justify all spending outcomes, when social workers are overworked and under funded, where is the justification for the massive spending (it is several hundred million) on adoption above other forms of permanence?

No matter which way I go around looking at it and researching it, I cannot make sense of the current focus on adoption, where the hundreds of millions has gone and what justifies it all.

We really hope as time goes on that those profiting from this current wave of adoption in any shape or form, will be able to openly fight for the rights of adopted children and adults without fear of their funding being cut. That not all adoption support organisations or individuals with any professional power are linked in some way to the government.

We also hope that support for trauma and loss is considered important for all children who cannot remain with their parents and not just for a chosen few.

Day 67: The clients are revolting #107days

We at The Open Nest feel very strongly in the voices of children, young adults and their supporters being heard. When your child needs extra support in some areas of their life it makes you extra protective as a parent. This blog post is in defence and support of @sarasiobhan whose son was not cared for properly in an assessment unit. As a result of this neglectful practice he died. Instead of getting a meaningful apology Sara and her family have had their grief compounded by institutional fobbing off and fake arse covering apology. If you can please support the campaign. It’s personal but its also political. #JusticeforLB

#107days

Day 67 was adopted by Amanda, pictured here with her daughter, Jazz.

Jazz&Amanda

Amanda is founder of The Open Nest and in this post she shares her own thoughts, feelings and experiences as a professional, as a mother, and as a supporter of #JusticeforLB.

When I was a social work student I specialised in working with groups of people who needed to access social care but were often voiceless or suppressed within the system. As with all those who seek state support these people were referred to as ‘clients’ of the services. This is actually where it began to irk me. Clients as a word suggests business. Not as is in ‘clients have a strong voice and will not be messed with’, but rather clients are one cog in the big wheel of the business and the huge industry of care that we seem to have developed in this…

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The Things We Do

imageWhen Jazz was little she found fitting in with her peers extremely difficult. Her upbringing meant she was unable to feel much empathy for others or to concentrate or relax enough to notice their reactions to what she was saying or doing. When she did notice people it was with intense staring observation, usually when something about them felt threatening to her. This made social occasions a minefield of potential upset for her and others.

This situation was compounded by increasing exclusions from school. First came a day at a time, then a week or ten days and depressingly, eventually racking up to three permanent exclusions by the age of eight.

One of the strategies I used to teach her socialisation was to vocalise each of her pets personalities. We had two dogs and two cats in the early days and the menagerie grew as her friends diminished.  I would speak for each ‘person’. An example would be that she would be shouting really loudly and inappropriately. I would do a voice for each animal like a play:

Hampi (old cat) “Ooooh dear you made me really jump then my false teeth nearly fell out. Please be a bit quieter it’s not good for my nerves.

Kinky (naughty Siamese cat) “Ha ha you are so funny Jazz! Hampi is a big old stupid bag lady!”

Madge (sweet soft dog) “Kinky I don’t think it’s fair to encourage Jazz to be naughty because she gets into trouble”

Kinky “You’re so boring Madge you goody two shoes”

Dargo (wise lurcher dog) ” No Kinky I agree with Madge. I think Jazz shouting does scare some people and you should help her to learn new things and not be so selfish”

Creating this group dialogue helped Jazz to see that the world was made up of lots of different types of people who would have different reactions to the same thing. Some people were shy, some were moody, some were physical, some were wise, some were nervous, some were funny. There was nearly always a chance to laugh at, and with, the cheeky character so that part of her was also accepted without shame. It taught her to manage her social responses depending on different circumstances and context. By practising in this enjoyable form of play over many years her emotional intelligence eventually grew beyond that of her same age peers.

The game also extended to soft toys who came alive as monkeys who swore a lot, tigger’s who couldn’t stop moving and touching things, wise old granny wolves who explained big stuff and calm donkeys who wanted to whisper.

Over the years some extremely difficult subjects have been talked out via our pets and toys and still to this day a great bad mood breaker involves me with a very well worn cheeky monkey called Bardy saying a few very naughty swear words and dancing about in a whizzy way throwing stuff.

Jazz “Now come on Bardy let’s not be silly. Lets calm down before it gets out of hand”

 

Hope For The Future

We had some great training this week from Geraldine Casswell who is in the group of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy therapists who work alongside Dan Hughes. dyadicdevelopmentalpsychotherapy.org

It was positive and reassuring about having hope for the future of teenagers and young people who have experienced attachment issues and trauma. Of course we had to fund privately and were given a very fair deal but just knowing there are people out there who want to spread the words of hope and love is encouraging.

We hope to raise funds through The Open Nest Charity to help other families access training with wise mentors like Geraldine but in the meantime would like to share a video we were shown.