Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO Week 98

Welcome to the final #WASO of the year.
Yes, the FINAL #WASO OF 2014.#WASO 98

As much as we love running The Adoption Social and especially The Weekly Adoption Shout Out, we’re now taking a break for a couple of weeks to recharge our batteries, spend time with our families and crack on with Christmas. We’ll still try to read your posts and share when we can, but we won’t be adding new #WASOs each week, instead this one will be live for a few weeks (from now until 4th January), so you can post multiple times if you like!

As well as being the last #WASO of the year, it’s also the last new post for a couple of weeks, as instead of sourcing guess posts, problems and reviews, we’ll be re-sharing some of our most popular posts of 2014. Do make sure you check back when you get a chance and read those you might have missed. If you want to contribute any posts of your own – please do still email them to us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com and we’ll publish those as priority posts in the new year.

For now, go link up. No theme until January now. And finally, if we don’t catch up with you on Twitter, Facebook or in any other way, have a peaceful and calm Christmas. Love and best wishes to you and yours,

Vicki and Sarah x



What I need from Post Adoption Support

I am a 40 something adopter of a wonderful 7 year old boy. He was placed with my husband and I nearly 6 years ago and my goodness has it been a rollercoaster ride of wonderful highs and some absolutely dreadful lows.

Currently after a traumatic house move to a new area we are experiencing a new kind of low and there have been moments when I didn’t think we could ever move forwards and upwards again. To be brutally honest there were times I wanted off the ride altogether. In desperation we sought help from our Local Authority.

I have now experienced attempts to gain Post Adoption Support from 2 Local Authorities but what I have found is that both services are woefully inadequate and barely fit for purpose. My son has survived the most appalling abuse and neglect, he has suffered greatly in the hands of an education system that didn’t want to understand him (but that’s a whole different story) and it seems he is to be failed by Post Adoption Services that don’t have the experience, resources or it seems desire to support him. Aside from a few training courses of mixed quality and an occasional newsletter we have received no input at all, financial, therapeutic or otherwise.

What I need from Post Adoption Support is really very simple and I summarised it in a series of Twitter posts to get it off my very angry chest:

What I need from Post Adoption Support:

1. Clear contact details. An email address that works and a phone line available daily that is actually answered.

2. A helpline answered by someone knowledgeable about and sympathetic to adoption issues. No criticism please and no being passed around the system.

3. Absolute transparency about what support is available and how long I have to wait to access it. I can’t ask for it if I don’t know it exists!

4. Acceptance that I am the expert on my child and that I might actually have a valid opinion on what he might need.

5. Phone calls that are returned and emails answered within a reasonable time frame. Days, not weeks or longer please!

6. Clear signposting to adoption allowances, benefits and grants etc.

7. Full disclosure of background information pertaining to my child.

8. A later life letter. This was due 10 days after the adoption order but 6 years later I still find myself waiting for it.

9. Timely support. When at crisis point people can’t wait for weeks for a meeting and then months for assessments to get help, they need input fast.

10. Up to date signposting of organisations, groups and individuals that can help.

11. Please Post Adoption Support when you know people are really struggling and even though you may not be able to help quickly, give follow up calls to check on the situation and show that you care.

12. Help to meet other adopters. Support groups, social events, buddy systems and coffee groups. The most valuable help I have had has come from fellow adopters but PAS should be able to either facilitate adopter groups or at least put me in touch with people in a similar situation.

13. A programme of regular events for children, not just under 5’s. Something for every school holiday would be wonderful, not necessarily free but affordable or subsidised in some way.

14. Regular training on a wide range of issues. I know good speakers are costly so I would be prepared to contribute to costs sometimes.

15. Respite. Just a few hours occasionally at a weekend so I can spend some time with my husband while my son has fun in a nurturing and understanding environment with other adoptees.

16. No judgement of the fact that we have previously sought private support for our son. We did so with the best of intentions; to get timely appropriate help. Our financial circumstances have now changed and we can’t afford to privately fund support but the fact we did in the past should not be held against us.

17. “You will have to keep badgering us.” No Post Adoption Support I shouldn’t have to “keep badgering” you for help, you need to offer a professional service. Picking up the phone admitting we needed serious help was incredibly difficult for us to do. We are currently at our lowest ever point in the adoption process and struggling through every hour of every day with our son. “Badgering” the very people who should be at the forefront of helping us shouldn’t be something I have to add to my list of stresses.

My list could go on (and on) but the points above are the key ones. Post adoption Support Services are under immense strain, I get that, I really do but some of the above cost little or nothing. They are courtesy’s to families who have embraced fantastic but very damaged and traumatised children. My quirky, funny, intelligent but deeply troubled little boy deserves better. So much better!

Thanks so much to @CrusoePoll for sharing these tweets as a full post – I know many of us would want the same from post adoption support teams across the country. What would you add to your wishlist?

 

 

A Review of The Adoption Social Year.

Today Sarah form The Puffin Diaries looks back over The Adoption Social Year. 

It’s unbelievable to me, in the greatest possible way, that we are celebrating our second Christmas at The Adoption Social. Yet again it has been an incredible year for Vicki and I and we have had a lot of memorable moments. Here are some of our best and also some fun stats from The Adoption Social Year.

We started the year celebrating the first birthday of #WASO, the link up which stays central to our site and on line community. We now regularly have around 2000 clicks onto our weekly link up, with the highest views for the linky this year being 2232. That’s a lot of sharing you’ve all managed to clock up in a year.

sarah meets camilaVicki and I paid a second visit to Britmums in June, where we were also honoured to be nominated as finalists in the Social Media category, although we didn’t win. It was another fun filled two days a highlight of which was hearing Camila Batmanghelidjh speaking and then afterwards being brave enough to introduce myself and talk with her. We do love going to Britmums, where we learn lots of great new things about blogging and social media, and get to met up with other bloggers.

During the summer break we visited the La Rosa Campsite, run by our friend and founder member of The Open Nest, Amanda Boorman. We had a fun couple of days with our families exploring and enjoying the magical campsite, experiencing what we hope will be the location for a The Adoption Social get together next year.

Layout 1Then came the #TakingCare conference, where to start about this incredible event. Trustees for The Open Nest Charity and other frontline folk from the adoption world delivered at truly inspiring conference to adopters, adoptees, and practitioners. It felt as if we were involved in something very special, a first hopefully of many events, where honesty and empathy are a huge part of the agenda.

Soon afterwards we heard that The Adoption Social had been shortlisted for the award, Digital Champion in BAAF’s Adoption Week Award Ceremony. Although we, again, didn’t win, the support we received from the online community over the event meant the world to us.

So The Adoption Social has continued to grow in 2014, we have increased our readership over the year and now have regularly over a thousand views a week and often over a one thousand five hundred. As always we can’t thank all those that contribute to the site because we really couldn’t do it without you.

At times it is hard trying to get a post up each day (this one is late due to a disastrous Christmas evening out where my son decided to leave the restaurant and walk home) but we really do love supporting the online community. And whilst on occasion our own family lives makes this hard,  we want to continue to be a big part of the online community. We really couldn’t do this without all of your contributions, from writing pieces to tweeting with others, to blogging and reading blogs, you are all amazing. Hopefully 2015 will bring lots more exciting things for all of us.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, hopefully for you all.

Sarah and Vicki. x

 

Why Matching Panels should be Dropped from the Adoption Process

 Today’s post is from Andy Leary-May of Adoption Link presents some ideas for improving the matching process.

 Approvals have speeded-up for adopters, but for children there are still placement delays that can be avoided.

A new, streamlined process introduced last year means that adopters are now being approved significantly faster. This first part of the process for adopters involves a general assessment of how well they may be able meet the needs of children who have been in care, resulting in a ‘prospective adopters report’, or PAR.  A panel then gives a recommendation to the agency decision maker, who makes the final the decision as to whether the person is suitable to adopt.

 The next step is to match adopters with children, and while there has been much focus on other areas of the process recently, matching is ripe for a re-think.

Matching has to work for both adopters and children. It’s not about looks and hobbies; it’s about the very real and specific needs of children in care, and the likelihood of adopters being able to meet those needs and help the children to thrive. The greater the number of prospective parents a Local Authority is able to consider, the surer it can be of making the best decision for a child in its care. This task falls to a ‘family-finder’ initially – a social worker who will search for a range of adopters to be considered.

The family-finder’s main source of information is the PAR (adopter’s social workers can also give their opinion, although often it is not the same person during family-finding as during assessment). A PAR is a large document, often running to over 100 pages. It includes family history, attitude to parenting, existing children, personality, and a range of strengths and vulnerabilities. Information that helps to predict a family’s general suitability to adopt.

 How useful is this as a tool to help choose the best parents for a particular child?

The information is all there, but to read enough to confidently conclude how well a child’s specific needs might be met could take hours, and for a family-finder to do this for dozens of potential parents would involve a huge amount of resources. Resources that for Local Authority adoption teams are in short supply.

What family-finders really require is a summary listing each broad area of commonly encountered need, with a brief assessment of an adopters’ ability to meet that need. The list might include behavioral and attachment difficulties, developmental delay, and a range of common medical issues.

A large, county authority I visited recently already uses this approach this for their in-house family-finding, because they find the existing PAR unhelpful. If a family-finder is looking for the best family to support a child with autism, for example, they would quickly be able to find the information they need in each adopter’s matching summary, rather than having to read every PAR.

Making this summary a standard part of PAR for all agencies could lend a more ‘vocational’ element to the approval process. Social workers would work with adopters to produce an assessment in each area, which the approval panel would be able to scrutinize. It would mean more transparency for adopters, and more accountability in the judgments made about the children they are, or are not, suitable for.

It could save social workers a great deal of time, while leading to more robust, needs-based matching – especially for inter-agency placements, which are still under-used.

Once the child’s social worker and others have agreed on the family they wish to proceed with, the next step currently is to take this recommendation to a matching panel. This second panel often involves 12 or more people and can create weeks or months of additional delay for a child waiting for placement. Is it really necessary?

If the many people involved in the child’s care have used a robust and accountable selection process, and if an assessment of the adopters’ ability meet a range of specific needs were already available, should a further panel process really be needed to confirm that the right family has been chosen?

The matching process needs to change to make better use of agency resources, and to ensure children are placed swiftly with the families who are best equipped to help them thrive.

Andy Leary-May is an adoptive parent and CEO of Link Maker, a social enterprise that in April 2014 launched a matching system called Adoption Link. It is now being used by half of the adopters and adoption agencies in the UK. 

 New research has been commissioned by Adoption Link examining the experiences of 460 families in the matching process. The study is designed to inform the work of the Adoption Leadership Board and will be published by the DfE in early 2015. 

Life on the Frontline – week 13

lotf

A weekly blog from a family made by adoption, warmed by the laughter, broken by the sadness, held together by love with a big dollop of hope, oh, and often soaked in mummy tears.

As we head towards the last week in school before Christmas holidays, I’ve been thinking about just how far we’ve come in recent months.

Tall is very tired; I had to collect him from school early last Friday. Later I listened intently as he told me the dramatic story of how he collapsed, from exhaustion, during his PE lesson. He was in need of some TLC, lots of cuddles and an afternoon with his duvet and a James Bond film seemed to do the trick. That said, the boy is in need of the Christmas Break.

We started the week with a meeting in School to discuss Small’s EHC plan. There were nine of us around the table, those currently involved in Small’s education, those possibly a part of his future education in the shape of two representatives from the high school and My husband and I.

It all seemed very friendly a far cry from our much frayed relations six weeks previous.

Small’s teacher at the centre dominated the meeting, he updated us all on Small’s progress and how he was managing Small’s challenging behaviour. I was interested to hear and smiled inside to hear that he had tweaked the centres firm discipline process to accommodate Small’s, as he called them,  “very specific educational needs”.

I also marvelled at his insight, he has noticed that whilst Small does not act out when he is stressed and anxious he does become flushed in his cheeks, giving you an indication that all is not well inside.

Hallelujah, I said inside my head, someone who can see all the internalisation, the recognition of the inner turmoil he struggles with.

The representatives from the high school tried not to recoil in dread at the descriptions of Smalls challenging behaviours and the very specific needs he has.

In order for Small to attend this mainstream high school, with enhanced resources, Small needs to be capable of accessing a mainstream classroom. All the educators around the table took on a fearful look at this stipulation.

You see, whilst Small is, at the moment, attending his primary school for an hour and a half a day, he is not in the classroom. He’s outside the classroom, completing work on a one to one bases.

Looking at the time scale available to see if this is viable, there was an instant request to increase his school hours and ensure classroom involvement was included.

So it was with so trepidation I later informed Small that he would now be in school from 10.230 each days, two hours before he then went to the afternoon centre. I laid on thick “you are going to start going in for morning play…YAY”

And you know what he has totally risen to the challenge; in fact the boy smashed it. Yes I did entice him with a large plastic jelly baby stuffed full of the real deal, but we all do what we need to do. I’ll work on the bad teeth and a little weight later.

So like I say, we’ve made progress, from nightmares about starting high school, to a really successful first term, all things considered. From hostile dealings with the primary school to what seems to be a collective working to support Small.

In Other News

The Hormones are kicking in with Tall, “I just feel like crying” he exclaimed out of nowhere, today.

I enjoyed not one, but two nights out this week a book club (that I never get to go to) Christmas meal and a wonderful night out with a friend. Tired but refreshed.

Small and I shared a gorgeous night out at the theatre bonding time at its best.

Weekly Adoption Shout Out – #WASO – Week 97

#WASO – the ultimate blogging experience
WASO97

So after this week there is only one more #WASO before Christmas and the last #WASO of the year. So I’m sure you’ve all been very busy in the last week but have you had time to blog? We do hope so. Tell us what have been your activities, thoughts and reflections this week.

We do have a theme this week, which is “Gifts“. I’m sure will have many takes on this word especially considering this time of year.

So don’t forget to link up, join in the fun and share in this ultimate blogging experience. 

 


 

Slowing it down

Manic. That’s how I’d describe the life of our family.

We’re busy. No more than any other family I guess, but we seem to lurch from one activity to Problemthe next without much time for a breather between – the rushing between school pick-up to home, getting homework done, making and then eating dinner, bath and then bed gets me down especially. There’s just no time for fun stuff and proper one to one quality time. Some say ‘5 minutes late to bed won’t hurt’ or ‘MAKE time’ but it’s not that simple when my little one needs a strict routine to feel safe and secure. And just 5 minutes late to bed has a massive impact with refusals to sleep, excuses to come downstairs etc and any slight deviation to the above routine (e.g. doctors appointments, heavy traffic on the way home) causes uber anxiousness or meltdowns.

On top of that is my little one’s manic behaviour. It’s like living with the Tasmanian devil, which probably doesn’t help with the feelings of rushing around. There is mayhem, mess and chaos all around and it’s exhausting.

Has anyone got any tips that won’t leave me with evenings full of preparation (when all I really want to do is rest and restore my energy for the next day), to help slow things down around us – and also to slow down my 9 year old? Both in terms of physical busy-ness and the thoughts whizzing around that devilish brain.

Can you identify? Any advice for this busy mum? Please comment below with your tips, support and advice…

Take a look at Britmums

BM-Header-41Today we thought we’d share with you some of the great things that go on with Britmums.

BritMums is the UK’s largest parent blogger collective, which offers bloggers the latest support, advice and how-tos as well as feature great content on food, travel, relationships, health, charities, crafting and much more.

There are lots of activities that they do a daily, weekly, monthly bases, which might be of interest to many of you. Things that you can maybe get involved in over the Christmas holiday time, things that will help you improve your blog or find new blogs to read.

So here’s our recommendation for things you might like to try.

#SnapHappyBritmums

If you have enjoyed joining the recent photo challenge started by The Family of Five , #FO5Photo, you will also enjoy this daily picture taking activity. Very much the same, you take a picture to represent the word of the day. Britmums do #SnapHappyBritmums every month so there is always a word to give you inspiration to your picture taking. They share their favourites on twitter and on Pinterest. Take a look here is December’s List.

#MBPW

My best post of the week is a weekly linkup for exactly that, your post that you feel is your best from the week. It opens on a Saturday and remains open all week. It is a great place to find new blogs to read and to find new followers for your own blog. So what are you waiting for bloggers, join in. Find this weeks link up here.

Carnivals

Another good way to increase traffic to your site and find new blogs. A different parent blogger hosts the carnival every two weeks and you submit your posts to the host. Posts must be written in the past 4 weeks and not be commercial or give aways. Find out more about how it works and up coming carnivals here.

Twitter Chats

This is a collective discussion you can join on twitter. You use the suggested hashtag to follow the feed and make a contribution. The next twitter chat is tomorrow 11th December 13.00 – 14.00 pm GMT . In collaboration with Disney’s new Tinkerbell Movie, the chat is on tips to teach your children not to judge a book by its cover, using the hashtag #TinkerbellNeverbeast. Find out more here.

Round Ups

You may already be familiar with round ups as we now do the Adoption and Fostering monthly Round Up (returning in January). However did you know about all the other intresting round ups that will take you to lost of other exciting blog posts. Here are some of our favourites.

Food

Craft

Mental Health

Travel

Dads

There also lots of information about how to improve your blog and use social media. So why not pop on over and have a look.

 

 

Surviving the care system

Today we’re pleased to bring you a guest post from Eve Higgins – author of newly published How I Survived In And Out Of Care…

Many books have been written and many websites have been created that discuss adoption and fostering from an adult perspective. Virtually nothing has been written from the point of view of the clients of this enormously expensive system – that is the young people themselves. Indeed I would go further: the great and good seem to have an overwhelming interest in the financial aspects of the Care System but almost no awareness of the views or experiences of those who feel most failed by the current arrangements.

Ella and I both feel that a sizable proportion of those “timing out” at 18 are grossly ill-prepared for adult life. How many parents would expect their own children to cope with the rigours of post-16 education with little or no emotional or financial support from a loving family? Disruption, poverty and uncertainty are all major barriers to academic achievement and the low educational attainment of children who spent time in a Children’s Home is a national disgrace.

In the absence of a formal support mechanism that meets the requirements of care leavers from 18-25 years old it is crucial that an alternative approach is embraced. Ella and I call this “group self-help”. There are a number of sub-sections to this that all have a part to play in overcoming the twin devils of isolation and a lack of positive role models. By far the most important, at least as far as Ella and I were concerned, was the group newsletter. Sharing triumphs and tragedies with friends who share your childhood experiences can be very therapeutic. Knowing that there is somebody is taking an interest is nice but having somebody else to help, when few others could, is even better! Quite deliberately our book describes some people who have become role models for the two of us. These are people, ranging in age from early 20s to 60+, have between them have made a real difference to Eve and Ella the parents and Eve and Ella the employees.

I (Eve) wrote this book to repay a debt. Not a financial debt, although money does come into the untitled (10)story, but an emotional debt to two groups of people. Those who helped me to survive 18 years of living in foster care or in a Children’s Home and those people who subsequently helped me to recover from those difficult times. When I wrote the book I did so in the sure and certain knowledge that it would upset some people and annoy others. If a reader falls into either category then my defence is that articulate and conscientious adoptive parents or foster carers – the type who would be sufficiently motivated to join an on-line forum or to read any book of mine on their vocation – are the exception rather than the rule. The on-going tragedy is that not all members of this elite group realise that their high standards are far from universal! Some of my friends had a long and happy relationship with their foster parents and a number of examples of entirely positive relationships are included in this book. Other foster parents I know from bitter first-hand experience just “went through the motions” and the degree of nurturing, especially when older teenagers were being fostered, that took place was fairly minimal. It is also my strong impression that the average quality of foster care gradually declines as the age of the child increases.

Of course I am biased because I have invested a great deal of emotional energy in the creation of “How I survived in and out of Care” but I genuinely think that this book could be a life changer to many of the most vulnerable young people in society. If enough people read the book and put into practice the survival skills we have identified then perhaps all my hard work was worthwhile.

“How I survived in and out of Care” is available from Amazon.com and from Amazon.co.uk. Watch out for a review of the book here on The Adoption Social in the next few weeks.

Eve and Ella http://livingworldsedge.blogspot.co.uk/

Life on the Frontline – week 12

lotf

 

A weekly blog from a family made by adoption, warmed by the laughter, broken by the sadness, held together by love with a big dollop of hope, oh, and often soaked in mummy tears.

Don’t ever let them say that this parenting malarkey is not a full time job. I’ve worked a full week and overtime in the last seven days. The gorgeous husband has been unwell. Physically he’s had a chest infection; mentally his head has not been in a good place. So Monday this week saw me lecturing him instead of the children, on responsible behaviour.

“No you cannot get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, tomorrow, to go to London for a one hour meeting”

“Go and sit on the sofa with a blanket, I’ll bring you a lemsip and make you a fire”

So I have felt this week like a one woman whirlwind. Thankfully my own health has stayed fairly tip top, a couple of wobbly moments but, like that a great Elton John song, I’m still standing. And that is not without those lovely imps, my children, trying their hardest to knock me over.

Small has started an hour in class this week, something I felt was maybe too much too soon but I decided to go with, after all he seemed ok with it.

I can’t remember the order of it all but at one point he went in not very happy about being there and the next morning he refused to go completely.

Give him his due; it took him all of half an hour to work out that the no computers rule now in place for if you don’t go to school, would affect his evening activities with his brother.

So off he went, managed reasonably in mainstream and did well at the centre in the afternoon.  But I knew our hours and minutes were numbered.

Next day was a real struggle; he went but didn’t do great in mainstream and the amount of complaining I got in between schools pretty much scribbled the writing on the wall.

An hour later, as I lay on my bed closing my eyes for a half hour snooze , the phone rang.

“Can you come and get Small, he’s not having a good day”

I decided there and then no more school this week, so down time and regrouping followed.

Tall and I have had a lot of homework to get through this week, thankfully it was a lot of art based work, playing to my strengths and my ability to have patience and also help…just a little. To be fair to my boy, he really did rise to the occasion. He has put his head down and get on with it and I’ve been proud. He knew he was having tea at a friend’s on Wednesday and worked hard to make sure he had plenty done by then.

Whilst he was at said friend’s I got a text from friend’s mum,

“What a funny and kind boy and such a good friend to my son”

Two days later text from said friend’s dad (parents no longer together), Tall had called for friend before school at dads.

“When Tall came for my son today I was struck by what a happy, polite and lovely boy he is. I’m so glad him and my son are friends as neither of them are mainstream”.

Note:- obviously my friends do not cal their son “my son”.

The love these two boys seem to have for each other is really gorgeous to see, and dad is right, they both have their own quirks and apart they would seem like chalk and cheese.  Together they are two boys who get each other and are there for each other.

So I’ve whizzed from school drop offs and collection, meetings, sorting poorly husband and been left a bit dizzy but actually it’s been a good week.

 

In Other News

I received Small EHC plan this week, it is covered in highlight and scribbled notes. Sally Donovan would be proud I’m full prepped for our meeting this week.

Small has taken to wearing makeup. No more can be said…ok I will say it really quite suites him.

Tall has a girlfriend, apparently. Probably not one he speaks to much, but still, I want to almost wring it out of him… who is she.