Guest blog from our very own Citizen Smith @mistersglluest

Beware individual solutions for common problems – time for a union?

I’ve written and spoken previously that I believe the time has come for us to start to rethink the way we approach adoption, and the model I have proposed is that of the ‘professional adopter’.

I know that the idea of the ‘professional’ adopter makes some nervous, as if it was incompatible or antithetical to the love of a parent, but there are many reasons why I bang on about this concept. Chief amongst these is my belief that the mindset change required to approach the role of parenting professional would deliver improved outcomes for parents and children, but also because there are properties of being part of a professional group that I think we could benefit from.

Let’s start by defining a professional adopter. According to the CED (the Cambridge English Dictionary – who knew!) the status of being a professional is relates “to work that needs special training or education”. In adoptive parenting (and fostering) we could define it as the individual that combines the role of parenting, through adoption or fostering, with the professional skills and knowledge required to care for children impacted by trauma.

OK that feels about right. There’s nothing so controversial there. Let’s then look at what other benefits can accrue to a professional. There are two other that stand out for me.

Standardised routes to achieve credentials – a training programme based on research and collective agreement that represents the best route to achieving professional status – and the highest level of professional effectiveness.
A single body that speaks on behalf of the profession and represents their interests with government and employers – the Charted Institue of Management Accountants is one example.
And on that note let me take something of a relevant detour. It its clear to me that the world of adoption support is starting to change. The indisputable evidence of the neurological damage caused by neglect and trauma, the emerging recognition of the scale of CPV, research that demonstrates that disruption is a real risk – and last – and in my view very far from least – the collective voices emerging from social media that are surfacing heartbreaking, but everyday, tales of families in crisis.

20 years ago it would not have been possible to build the wave we see on social media from the tears of isolated parents. But we are building a wave and my own view is that it is starting to push obstacles out of its way. But it is still a wave of individuals – albeit with common concerns – being offered individual solutions to common problems. And that’s the way governments likes to negotiate – with fragmented audiences.

So if we are to take that momentum forward perhaps we are now ready to combine our increasingly co-ordinated activism with a single professionalised mindset to create a body that itself sets the standards for what it means to be an effective ‘professional’ adopter or a foster parent. One that negotiates with government on our support needs. That demand a seat at the table in every conversation with our ’employers’ in government and local authorities. That is the de facto organisation for all adopters and foster parents, and one where the leader is elected by the members – based on the degree to which they represent our interests.

Sure we have less leverage than an unionised employee – we are highly unlikely to withdraw our labour after all – but I’m willing to bet we have more leverage than we think. I am quite sure, for example, that collectively raising our voices about the reality of adoption to drown out the saccharine PR of adoption marketing would be a powerful and threatening tool.

To be absolutely clear: I have absolutely no idea if this idea if workable. In a sense it doesn’t matter as I am talking more about the development of a professional mindset than I am launching a ‘Union of Professional Adopters’ or a quasi-professional body (although it was thrilling to see that there is now a union for foster parents). Nor am I not accusing the existing bodies that support us of being supine – I’m not remotely qualified to make that judgement. This isn’t even much of a call to the barricades. I just have the sense that somehow the power lies in the wrong place and it’s about time we wrested it from there.

I am saying that I think the time has come for us to define what we need to succeed and when we need it. To set our own standards for training and development – and drive that into the agencies that recruit and support. To have a body that demands standardised support packages and is prepared to be unpopular in doing so. To define the standard of knowledge, skills and tools that we expect those that support us to have and to stop muddling our way through, the grateful recipients of government largesse, begging our way to get what our children are entitled to.


10 thoughts on “CITIZEN SMITH #ParentPower

  1. louise allen

    I am a foster carer who wonders if this may interest you?

    I am the author of this book , I was fostered then adopted.

    1. Mistersglluest

      Thanks for your thoughts. I did look at the work of the union and was pleased to see it- not because I see a union as the answer necessarily but because it ups the ante in terms of the collective voice. I’ll be interested to see how that works for a group under increasing pressure.

      I wish you much success wth your book and looking forward to reading it.

  2. conserned

    Quite agree was involved for many years as HR Manager for a charity mainly working in the background
    contributing too education , awareness, too the establishment for Adopted children with Special Need’s retired now letting the younger one’s the the helm , we achieved what we set out too do the Org’s CEO
    was awarded an MBE for the efforts achieved ,
    Have ourselves adopted several children with special needs most are grown up all are independent, not much support received on their journey have too fight for most you get, do your own research, conferencing engage professionals bring them on board ( its them that get the Credo if you are successful)

    1. Mistersglluest

      Thanks for your comment. I agree. Professionalism can be achieved through self-development and seeking out (and fighting for) the resources needed. It’s the hard way, but better than not at all.

  3. Valerie wreford-Bush

    Join the NATP!
    National Association of Therapeutic Parents.
    This is a recently organisation founded by Sarah Naish. You may have come across her books about adoption/fostering including very powerful books for children. She has walked the walk as a foster carer, adopter of a sibling group of 5, social worker, had her own fostering agency, started the Therapeutic Parensg Facebook group (over 8.5K members worldwide) and now has founded the NATP. Take a look at the link.

    1. Mistersglluest

      I love the work Sarah is doing, and I have looked at NATP. I’ll look again. I got the sense that it was a way to access training and support for individual TPs rather than a campaigning organisation looking for collective solutions to common problems, and to change the way that adoptive and foster parents are recruited, trained and supported. Phew, that was a long sentence. I’d be delighted to be wrong!

  4. Roz

    I’ve been put off coming forward to lobby for this in case thae papers get hold of our ‘story’. I would see that kind of publicity as damaging to the children involved. The system perpetuates the vulnerability of abused and neglected children.
    But you’re right, the cause is worth standing up for. Where do I sign?

  5. conserned

    If we cannot some way project the positives and achievements of children in care, leaving or left care and their valuable contribution too they make too society, overcoming, adversity, many challenges they face.
    How on earth can one learn new innovations, intervention’s and preventions. On how Foster parent and Adoptive parents help their children achieve by best practice’s if not shared. There is too much negativity about, its time one concentrated on the positive’s.

    1. Mistersglluest

      I understand, but I don’t believe these are exclusive. But I do believe adoption marketing and recruiting us s honey trap that focuses only on the positive before abandoning many parents to the unsupported reality. I am not talking about focussing on good or bad – simply the truth of the experience. And using that truth as a tool to demand changes in the way adoptive parents and their children are recruited, trained, supported and developed.


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