Category Archives: The Blog

CITIZEN SMITH #ParentPower

 

 

 

 

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.

 

The Potato Group News

 

 

When our children were placed with us aged 3 (twins) and 18 months, we had a lot of information about their history of severe neglect due to parents drug and alcohol issues. At that time there was a big focus on attachment and little was known about the impact that such trauma can have on brain development. So, we were told that because they had remained with their older sister (not being adopted) in foster care and had made good attachments there shouldn’t be any problems. Furthermore, there was no evidence of any problems – they were just “naughty” but the FC had provided good care and there were now “no problems”.

Indeed – there seemed not to be anything to be concerned about. Apart from silent crying, over compliance and “hyperactivity”, that is. In any case, after placement they settled down and eventually presented as typical children. And our experience was, actually, that they were “typical” children – if sometimes a little more “hyper” than others.
This all changed for us when our twin girls began to present with mental health problems which eventually resulted in both of them being admitted to inpatient units aged 14.
Now, we all know that the NHS is marvellous! If you have a serious, life-threatening problem, you will almost certainly get the treatment you need at the appropriate time and usually fairly close to home. Not so, if you have a mental health condition. CAMHS is “not fit for purpose” in a lot of areas. The shortage of suitable NHS mental health beds has been highlighted by the media for quite a while now. Lots of professionals make the right “noises” about the issues, but I am not sure how many of them realise the impact that the bed shortage has on both the patient and their families.
Eloise, was placed in an adolescent mental health unit over an hour away from home. She couldn’t go to a local, open, unit as her sister was there, so she was sent to a secure unit two counties away. This was a totally inappropriate admission: she was suffering with anxiety and depression and did not need to be on a secure unit.
The impact of the mental health bed crisis!

Restricted visiting hours meant that, because we had to use a major, usually congested, motorway to get there, we couldn’t see her in the week – meaning she only had visitors at the weekend. She has a younger brother who was too young to be left alone all day so he had to come and visit with us. Meaning he missed out on typical weekend activities with his friends. On occasions, we would turn up to visit her and she would be too unwell to see us for more than 15 minutes. Or her visit would have been cancelled and staff not bothered to call us. When she was allowed local leave from the ward, we had to try and find activities to do (usually restaurants) to “entertain” her.
But, a more serious consequence of this placement was the impact on her wellbeing. It is acknowledged by those working in mental health that patients will copy the behaviours of others they are placed with. Unsurprisingly, once in this unit her mental health deteriorated rapidly with an increase in the severity and frequency of her self-harming and she eventually became violent and was diagnosed with emerging personality disorder. Clinicians decided that she had to be kept in seclusion for an extended period. She was nursed in a room without even a bed – just a mattress on the floor. With nothing to do all day. Supervised constantly by two staff. A decision was made that she needed a bed in a forensic unit. BUT there were no beds available. She had to wait 6 weeks.

She was eventually offered a bed on a forensic unit 2 hours away from home. This hospital was a good placement for her. However, our Saturdays were now all about driving around the country doing visits. It is not just the inconvenience (or the cost) to the family that is the issue – being placed at such a distance has an impact on her treatment and recovery. The hospital felt she would benefit from family therapy – very difficult to do when both parents work and we have to travel so far for each session. As they recover, patients begin to have leave home to spend time with their family and friends. Hospitals find it difficult to facilitate these visits when they involve a four hour round trip (first visits are usually with staff If a home visit takes place on a weekday (and these are supposed to build up to weekly visits) then we, her parents, needed to take time off work and her siblings missed her because they were at school. However, weekend home leave is very problematic as there are fewer staff on shift. Discharge to home involves a gradual transition over time and this is very hard to do with great distances.

Another impact was that it was difficult for us to build a relationship with staff working with her as we couldn’t attend the weekly ward rounds. So, it became hard to ensure she was being well cared for. Her “home” clinical team were often unable to attend meetings about her as it meant being out of the office the whole day. So she quickly got forgotten about.
When she was well enough to be “stepped down” to a less secure placement it became apparent that she “fell between services”. She wasn’t ready to come home as she had become institutionalised. A low secure ward was felt to be inappropriate because it was likely to be too “unsettled” and might unduly influence her – leading to a remission. However, open, acute, units wouldn’t take her as it was considered to be too big a step down. She was caught between provisions: there was literally no hospital suitable for her.
So she had to be moved to a community placement which didn’t work out. And she ended up in a serious of adolescent psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) several hours away (the furthest was a distance of 4 hours)! However, she was approaching 18 and Adult services did not support out of
county placements. Yippee! She’ll be moved closer to home, we thought. But it was not to be. Once again she “fell between services”. PICUs said she did not need their services, she wasn’t unwell enough but the acute team said she was too risky to have on their wards! She is currently 1 1⁄2 away on a PICU waiting for a treatment ward to admit her.

What has become clear to us as we struggle to get the right care for our daughter is that the shortage of suitable mental health beds is very real. There needs to be more emphasis placed on getting patients close to home – to reduce cost/impact on the family, to aid the patient’s recovery and to reduce costs for the Trusts treating them. We have had to fight to get her moved from wards where she was badly treated or inappropriately placed. We have been able to do this because we are not in awe of professionals (having dealt with them for so long as a result of adoption) and because we are articulate and informed. It makes us wonder how many people with mental health problems who do not have a voice are left in unsuitable placements.

TOP SECRET FEATURE

 

 

 

 

This week another post from regular contributor Adopter X

 

 

Guarded Care

Blocked care has many definitions. For me it’s a reaction to or consequence of friction and abrasion. It’s not a choice, starved of reciprocal love and care and bruised by this abrasion and friction this parent’s love withers, dries but has not yet died.

I set my mind for the long haul quite a while ago when I realised that this was not a blip or a phase. It wasn’t teething trouble or just ‘bedding in’ or ‘adjustment’. Things were outside the broad spectrum of normal and it was clear that they were going to stay that way. So, I started to take measures to keep myself safe, I re calibrated myself.

There is an ebb and flow to my life with X, hour by hour and day by day and I’ve learnt to sense when to gird myself for the fiery words and attempts to hurt. I’ve become adept at second guessing the triggers and the provocations, up comes my armour and I ‘get through it’ the best I can. Sometimes it’s minutes, sometimes hours, sometimes days.
But the opposite is also true, I know when to drop the guard and lower the armour, to open the arms, embrace and soothe with words.

Of course I get it wrong, disarmed by illness or mawkish sentimentality over a birthday or the hopes of a nice family time I open up and let my guard down. Exposed that’s when these fiery words hit home and I wobble. Sometimes my guard remains when it needs to fall when love needs to be manifest in kind words and deeds.

The standards of therapeutic parenting are sometimes immeasurably high but to yield myself to selfless love and open myself to unconditional vulnerability is not an option for me. I promised to parent X and this is how I do it.

@adopterx

The Potato Group News

 

TRANSFERENCE

She comes home apparently calm, but soon I am a nervous wreck inside. I feel anxious in the pit of my stomach and don’t know why. I ask her if anything is wrong – from experience I know that often these feelings I get from nowhere have nothing to do with me. They are hers but she somehow manages to transfer them onto me.

I don’t know how she does this. She doesn’t seem to do it to my husband (though I suspect she does it to her boyfriend). And I don’t pick up on other people’s feelings in this way. We adopted her and her elder sister at the same time. I don’t have that sort of experience with her elder sister.
She continues to tell me that there is nothing wrong. But by now I am in a frenzy of anxiety. The problem is that I know that pushing her for answers will simply infuriate her. She has an autistic spectrum diagnosis and she is not always very good at communicating how she feels to me. And I guess that she thinks that there is no reason for me to question her – she has told me there’s nothing wrong, so why shouldn’t I believe her?
So I have no option but to let her be. But then later that evening we get a message from her boyfriend – they have had a huge row and he has finished with her, but he’s worried about her, so could we keep an eye on her?

She bursts into tears when we confront her. I am now feeling enormously sad instead of the anxiety. And I continue to feel a mixture of sadness/anxiety over the next few weeks, to the point that I am wondering if I am heading for depression (which I have never suffered from).
Sometimes I get angry feelings instead – all directed at an 18 year old boy who I hardly know.
Some days are worse than others. It is useful information as it lets me know how she is doing. Her ex said that he was worried she would harm herself, that she had told him she had suicidal thoughts in the past. So it is useful for me to know when she is particularly down as I can feel it.

I feel like I am experiencing the break-up of the relationship myself. It is hard to explain – I am not mourning the loss of the ex as such, but I am definitely experiencing the feelings.
I now understand why I was so happy last summer. That would have been when they got closer after having seen each other intermittently for a while. She wasn’t sure if she wanted a relationship and then they got really close. At the time I put it down to the weather, my therapy, our new puppy……. Now I can see that I was just picking up a different set of emotions from her.
I have discussed this with my therapist, who knows me and the family well. She thinks it’s a sort of transference, where my daughter is dumping her too-big feelings onto me to deal with as she doesn’t know what to do with them.

Babies can’t manage their emotions and they need a tuned-in caregiver to help them do this.
Our daughter was badly neglected as a baby. Her birth mother had several older children (including our other daughter) and didn’t have much to do with her – she was passed around friends and family and looked after by her older, but primary aged, siblings. It is unlikely that anyone was enabling her to manage her too-big emotions and so she had to try to do it all herself.
We have always known that she tries to self soothe and manage all her problems by herself. She is very reluctant to seek help. She masks amazingly well in public and then falls apart later on. Other people are forever telling me there is nothing wrong with her – she is pretty and fun and, ,at the age of 17 has no anti-social behaviours or habits.
But it seems like things are leaking out – and in my direction.

I have tried to explain what this is like to friends. Most people seem to think that I am being too empathetic, too involved with her, that I need to set an intention not to get drawn in to her business, that I should have better boundaries. But I am not actively doing anything here. I do sympathise with her like any parent would do and try to talk to her about boyfriends and young love and I do try to remember that she is the one with the relationship (or not) here and she can handle it by herself.
But it doesn’t change the fact that I feel her emotions. It seems to me that this is being done to me completely without my permission or any active involvement by me.

My therapist thinks that I am a prime candidate for her feelings because, while she is perfectly primed to be the sort of person who needs to dump emotions on other people, I had the experience of managing my own mother’s emotions as a child, and so I am used to doing this.
It is a ‘perfect storm’ for the two of us. Her sister, my elder daughter, had a very different experience in the birth family, where she was looked after by the birth father (not brilliantly, but he did actively parent her). And my husband didn’t have to manage anyone’s emotions.

So it is something I am experiencing but I don’t know how to fix it. I have explained to my daughter how I feel what she is feeling and she is bewildered, as she doesn’t mean to do it. She is fed up with my preoccupation with this relationship – I keep checking in with her and she doesn’t want to talk about it.
The good news is that the boyfriend is suddenly back and she is euphoric – and so am I…..

The Potato group supports and informs parents of adopted teens.
www.thepotatogroup.org.uk

THE POTATO GROUP NEWS

 

 

Wow! Potato’s first weekly blog for The Adoption Social. Many thanks for asking us to contribute.

I am June (Mrsjellies to tweeters). I am the present chair of Potato. Along with 4 other families in the late summer of 2013 we decided to branch out from a well used and loved forum. We had to do that because we found that our needs as the parents of traumatised adopted teens [organization] didn’t quite fit in with that forum or the governments’ rhetoric at that time. We were and increasingly are, parenting adopted teens who are suffering each and every day from a system that denies a really strong truth.

Love is not enough; our children, young people and their parents (all of their parents) need solid support if `our’ children are to become tomorrow’s good enough parents and citizens.
You will know exactly what I mean by the above truth.

I took a while to consider what I wanted to say in this first blog from Potato. I decided to tackle the tricky issue of
LANGUAGE.
Some of you will have read Lord Justice Mc Farlane’s “Bridget Lindley Memorial Speech” of last month. If you didn’t, I think you should. He talked about meeting Potato, about our difficulties of parenting traumatised adopted teens (we call them tats – keeping up the Potato theme) and questioned whether the present day system around all things adoption needs to change.

Personally, I think he is right to question much of the system and what follows are my personal (not Potato’s) questions.
Last year, Amanda and I talked long into the night about these and many other questions about the system. We gave a joint presentation to a group of interested folk who attended the Child Protection Resources Conference in Birmingham. Some of those people knew a little of Amanda and Jazz’s journey. Some knew a little about the difficulties of adopted teen’s complex steps into adolescence. They left the workshop under no illusion about the difficulties for `our’ young people.

`Our’ children come to us with many a varied history. Some from families who despite their best efforts, are unable to parent their children safely due to an equally wide variety of circumstances. Some special parents under duress – Spuds (another potato themed name by which we Potato members call ourselves) have voiced whether, if ‘our’ children’s first families had had the solid support they needed when difficulties first became evident, would `our` children have needed another family to care for, nurture , fight for and love.

So that is my first question about language – are `our` children’s first families always to be known as birth parents or as often said by professionals ‘natural parents’? I would love for ‘our’ children’s birth families to be known as their first families. Let’s face it, they absolutely were and are. That can never be disputed. Their first mum conceived them by making love or having sex with their first dad. I say `our` children because adopted children, the young people and adults they become will always have a minimum of two sets of parents. Whether we like it or not, they are `ours’, not just ours.

When ‘our‘ children are living with their second families does it mean that they should never hear mention of their first families until they reach 18? Is that right, acceptable or even sensible in today’s climate. Of course not. Letter box has been well established for over 25yrs but I wonder how well that `system’ has evolved to meet the needs of all in the adoption triangle. How can we, adopters of today, influence that so that `our` children are safe and emotionally secure enough to manage their feelings of having minimum of two families. Let’s start by NEVER using the word `contact’ again. Let’s talk about writing to them, seeing them, visiting them not having `contact’. Let’s reframe the language from the time our children come to live with us. Then as time passes and our children grow, we will be able to feel confident that, if and when the time comes for our tats to get to know their first families again, they won’t be thinking that it is like talking to the bank, ISP or Amazon about a transaction or a delivery, it will be about talking about relationships, human relationships, their first family.

Long term permanence, be that in foster care, kinship or special guardianship was needed to give `our’ children what they needed. Many tats, especially those whose parents are members of Potato, absolutely needed to have a second family and that meant adoption as a form of permanence. Adoption absolutely needed to happen for them. They needed a life away from neglect, maltreatment, domestic violence and substance misuse. BUT, what we now know, to our children’s cost, is that the legacy of that maltreatment has far ranging implications for ‘how’ they can become the good enough citizens and parents of the future. However, to call that permanence (or any of the other form of permanence) a placement is ‘draconian’. Let’s get rid of placement and call it home shall we? For that is surely what the child needs and that is what they deserve.

My final thought about language (I am running out of words) is about where our children live and about our lifelong commitment to them. Many readers will know about the Selwyn research, Beyond the Adoption Order. The research, that many founder members of Potato took part in, was about adoption `disruption’. Sadly, many a spud that took part in the research were in the ‘no longer at home’ category. Those tats left the family home due to a variety of reasons, but all in some part, due to the legacy of previous maltreatment. Many of us that were in the `challenging but remain at home’ category, now have tats that are `no longer` at home. The vast majority of our tats re entered care via Section 20 of the Children’s Act 1989.

Lord Justice McFarlane’s comments in a radio 4 interview last week and his speech did not make one thing absolutely clear; We `our` tats second families, live with and love our traumatized adopted teens unconditionally. That we cannot have them live with us in their homes does not mean that we do not continue to parent them. Whilst a few spuds are estranged from their tats, the vast majority continue to parent at a distance. The adoption has not disrupted, our tats can no longer live at home. They have new homes. Not what any of us wanted but that is maybe why those questions about adoption need to asked and why they need answering.
Let’s make sure that we, adopters, and where possible`our’ children and young people help those given that job to understand that the language has to change first.

www.thepotatogroup.org.uk
Offering support and information to those parenting traumatised adopted teenagers.

#CPV: The Knowledge Base Grows

 

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Back in 2015 The Adoption Social launched a discussion on CPV (child to parent violence) via its ‘Sore Points’ feature.

There was a widely read Weekly Adoption Shout Out to include blogs about the issue, a Twitter chat, guest posts and a resources list including books, films, organisations and a government guidelines for professionals.

Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO Week 118

Resources for Child to Parent Violence, #CPV


Parents talked eloquently in these guest post:

With the Violence – What Actually Works?

My experience of CPV

Waiting for help

He’s not *that* strong is he?


A Twitter chat allowed adopters to talk about the issues peer to peer:

The Adoption Social CPV Twitter chat

Social Worker Helen Bonnick, a great supporter of adoptive families, shared her knowledge:

CPV – A social Workers Awakening
Adoptive parents trying to successfully and therapeutically deal with children’s anger has been highlighted again recently. It’s something that affects our community and particularly the children involved who are at risk of adoption disruption and potential criminalisation if support is not given as an early intervention.

Al Coates, an adopter and social worker and Dr Wendy Thorley from Sunderland University, produced a recent report about children’s violence in families including adoptive, foster, birth and kinship care. The report feeds back from over 200 families. This excellent report reached the attention of The Department for Education this week. As the authors said, hopefully that attention makes it ‘a thing’. Thank goodness. Now more than ever both adopters and importantly adoptees need to share their experiences and knowledge far and wide. The opportunity must be seized:

Impact on Child to Parent Violence Examined

Alongside this report The Open Nest Charity who specialise in raising awareness of violence in adoptive homes has worked with an advisor from national training company Securicare in hearing from 86 adopters. The focus of the report was to highlight the need for specialist training in extreme circumstances. Only 6% of respondents reported that they were not doing untrained “DIY” physical intervention. 3% of these were parents who felt morally opposed to any physical intervention in any situation.

The Reality of Physical Restraint

The Open Nest founder likened a personal experience to that of living with allowable domestic abuse in this 2014 blog:

WARNING (not an easy adoption topic)

After writing the above post The Open Nest has worked closely with Securicare and families in crisis on finding safe solutions to managing physical violence. Thankfully there are now LA’s and agencies asking for specific training for adopters. Some LA’s are however refusing to sanction training even when adopters (legal parents) wish to buy in privately.

It’s certainly a ‘sore point’ and this perhaps explains why, despite a decent knowledge base, solutions are hard to find. The title CPV can be off putting. Violence is a very emotive word. So is victim. To an unknowing observer there may seem to be a black and white perpetrator and victim. A poor parent and a naughty child. A rare but unfortunate occurrence. For adopters it is far more complex. Firstly anger that is without regulation in an adopted child illicit’s not only discomfort, fear and blocked care in a parent but also empathy. Parents are aware the anger could be justified, either in exactly mirroring taught behaviour, and/or a reaction to the trauma of upheaval, loss and separation. Sometimes it may be due to undiagnosed learning difficulty or foetal alcohol syndrome.

The moral dilemma is in the acting or not acting. If a child seriously hurts a sibling, stranger, classmate or parent the consequences on permanency can be disastrous. If a parent has to physically manage violence in a child when untrained then safeguarding issues automatically arise. Becoming in any way involved in physical control in such situations also risks damage to already fragile emotional connections and attachments. More than anything this type of intervention has to have therapeutic reasons and responses at its heart.

In other childcare situations it is considered average practice to safely intervene, even if physically, to keep a child or others around a violent child or young person safe from serious harm. This happens at school, in children’s homes and in foster care. The difference between the professional child carer and an adoptive parent is in the training. 94% of adoptive parents in The Open Nest survey are doing untrained physical interventions to protect their child, other children and themselves. More than a few parents in these situations find themselves answering to child protection conferences despite having been entirely transparent to professionals, sometimes over many months and even years about unsafe violence in the home.

Perhaps it’s time safeguarding concerns given by adoptive parents were as quick to be acted upon as they are when raised by teachers and social workers?
Child protection conferences and discussions should be established as soon as any parent reports feeling unsafe at home. This should then bring about a plan for what to do in a crisis when emotional regulation is not possible for a child and when a parents attempts at deescalation are not enough. These situations may be rare but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. They matter a lot. Given the wrong, or no support, a child may end up labelled as violent and not more truthfully described as terrified, grieving, or traumatised.

If a child is removed from an adoptive home due to violence and safeguarding issues it is unlikely those issues are going to be solved, they may be exacerbated and it may be that in a sad irony a child may end up in a care situation where it is physically restrained by caring strangers.
Research shows that some LA’s are comfortable to trust adopters to be trained in safe intervention by registered organisations and others that shy away from adopters being trusted with such training.

The Adoption Social founder @puffindiaries is once again going to host a #TASchat Twitter conversation to see how much awareness has moved on in the time since the last chat and how, having raised the issues and created knowledge base,we can help to find positive solutions as a community whilst CPV has the attention of government advisors on adoption.
Details will be announced soon.

TOP SECRET FEATURE

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We realise that it is sometimes hard for adopters to talk about certain topics through their blogs or Twitter for many reasons.

It is the same for adopted people and adoption professionals. We are going to be featuring contributions from anonymous writers in our new TOP SECRET feature.

If you would like to contribute please contact us by email or direct message on Twitter? You just need to email us a submission of up to 2000 words max. There must be no identifying names or places in any submissions. No names will be shared.

 

This first contribution is from ADOPTER X who will be contributing regularly to the TOP SECRET feature as an adopter.

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EXPERIENCE ALTERS PERSPECTIVE

I find I have more in common with X’s parents than I ever thought possible.  We adopted X when she was four and it’s been a strange journey that we have been taken on. Due to increasingly challenging behaviour, violence, self-harm, knife fights and more we, eventually, self-referred to Children’s Social Care. All well and good, they came and did their initial assessments and declared that we were doing more than they could provide, so ‘chin up’ and carry on. We did just that. All that changed when someone else referred us and the Children’s Social Care arrived uninvited. The Social Workers that came were different, hard, uninterested in our story or explanation with no regard for case notes or history. They had a job to do and got on with it with no interest in our version of events or explanations the embodiment of agents of the state. It was not a nice experience.  Experience alters perspective. I find myself revising the things I’ve read about X’s parents. I think of a young mother caught up in the child protection system that I was caught up in. I think of phrases I read like ‘combative’ and ‘not engaging’ then think of phrases that may be used to describe me as I pushed back against the injustices I felt and the unyielding bureaucracy that unfolded before me. I think of the terrifying thought of losing X and thought of a young mum who lost her child.  I feel closer to her than I ever thought possible, a shared experience with different outcomes and different start points but with some shared paths. As I say experience alters perspectives. When I was a member of an adoptive panel I read Child Protection Report after Child Protection Report with the same threads and patterns repeated again and again. Now, I find myself revisiting those stories in my mind, I see a system that removes children from parents, often justifiably so, where I once saw the system as neutral and fair I’m not so sure now.  I know that I’m not the only adopter to slip onto the wrong side of the tracks. I do know that this experience has altered my perspective forever and I feel empathy and have an insight to X’s family that I never thought I could have.
X

I am Adopter X, the adopter of X
X came as a bundle of joy and tears when she was three and now she’s a teenager. Every day is hard, many days have joy and many still have tears.

A bit of an announcement

Hello to all our readers.

The Adoption Social is an amazing community resource that we have built up over many years. In that time we have been determined that it would be open to all those affected by adoption and not be commercially sponsored so that it truly belongs to the community and has freedom of speech and diverse opinion built in.

We have been proud and amazed as founders at the response to the website and particularly to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out. Contributors have shared with honesty and openness and in doing so have supported and informed not only other adoptees, adopters and foster carers but also professionals on the the many and complex aspects of adoption.

After much deliberation we have decided it’s time for us to move on and give our precious spare time to our families and to our own #SelfCare

The Open Nest Charity has always supported The Adoption Social and we are also trustees of the charity. With that in mind we are handing over the reins and editorship to the charity. The logowebsite, Facebook and Twitter will carry on as it always has. It will also have a permanent place on the new Open Nest website which is being launched in March.

We hope to continue with contributing ourselves and will be reading contributions as always. Thank you all for your support and please do keep contributing to keep the important resource going.

With much love

Vicki and Sarah

Summer plans at The Adoption Social

It’s almost Summer Holiday time and indeed for some, the holidays have already started, so we thought we’d best let you know what’s going on here…

We’ve decided to take a break for the entire Summer holiday, giving you just the Weekly Adoption Shout Out each week from Friday to Sunday as usual.

We both feel that we need to re-assess what The Adoption Social means to us, to you, whether we need to branch out, or stop or diversify or…we don’t know, but in order to this about all that, we need to step back completely for a while. July and August are traditionally quieter months for The Adoption Social anyway, so we hope you won’t mind us stepping away for a bit.

However, we will still be around if you need an ear or a shoulder, you’ll find us at @puffindiaries and @boysbehaviour. We started The Adoption Social because of our amazing online community, and we both definitely want to remain a part of that community too – because we still need support and help with our families, and because you know, you lot are pretty nice people!

If you have any thoughts about what The Adoption Social means to you or where you see it in the future, then please by all means email us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com, and we’ll take your thoughts, ideas and messages into consideration when we think about where we’re going to go and what we’re going to do.057

For now, here’s the dates that we’ll be running #WASO, and their themes:

22-24 July                 ‘6 Weeks’
29-31 July                 NO THEME
5-7 August               ‘Fight, flight or freeze’
12-14 August           NO THEME
19-21 August           ‘Sun or storm’
26-28 August           NO THEME
2-4 September        ‘How do you feel today?’
9-11 September      NO THEME

We’ll be returning week commencing 12th September and we’ll let you know our plans then or shortly thereafter.

Summer activities with little planning

I’ve been thinking a lot about the forthcoming Summer holidays. Usually I go with the flow but this year I wanted to arm myself with a handful of activities that I could pull together quickly when the first ‘I’m bored’ calls begin, so I thought you’d like to see it too…

In the garden:

Garden games – It takes very little to get some garden games ready. You can even get the kids involved with the planning and making.

Make some cardboard spots and mark them with different point values – who can score the most with 3 beanbags? Often the children think about different ways they can play the game and they get inventive. BUT you might need to be clear on rules at the very beginning to make this work.

Trampolining a great activity to help with calming down angry children, regulating hyper children, it’s a sensory experience too.

Water fights – get the water pistols out, buy cheap sponges and cut them up, even use old ketchup bottles as squirters. Good for cooling down on hot days. And it provides a nurturing opportunity when getting snug and dry after.

Invite their friends over – yes you might have to supply squash and sandwiches, but it’s a real eye opener watching your children interact with others. And if they’re in your garden, you get to keep an eye. Provide a few footballs, swingball, skipping ropes or pots of bubbles and even the most cool and streetwise 14 year old, will be running around popping those bubbles with the glee of a toddler!

In the house:

Cooking/baking –  yes this can strike fear into the heart of any parent, but it really is great fun for kids and as long as you don’t mind a bit of mess it can be a lovely bonding experience if you choose the right moment.
Whatever your skill level (and your childs) you can have fun with this…rice crispie cakes to homemade pitta bread pizzas, my son (after some sensory therapy) now loves squishing together homemade veggie burgers, and my youngest likes just spreading butter and jam on a piece of bread.

Movie time – grab a few DVDs, whether they’re old favourites or new surprises, make up a bowl of popcorn and bottles of drinks and chill together. This is a lovely way to snuggle, relax and re-charge.

Crafting – again, not everyone’s cup of tea, but even if you leave a pile of paper, some glue sticks and foam shapes on the kitchen table, the kids will enjoy it. You can supervise with a cup of tea whilst they stick each other together, I mean create wonderful pictures, and even if only for 20 minutes, it’s a fairly simple activity that can be enjoyed by various ages. (My children make loads of pictures, so armed with envelopes and stamps we send them as presents to members of the family and then they don’t clutter up my house too much).

Play – lots of our kids struggle to play. They might need some structure in which case you can put out some useful props and sit nearby for help and support…maybe leaving some paper plates out next to a pile of teddies (picnic anyone?), or a half built lego model that can be continued, even a pile of blankets and pegs so they can make their own den. Sometimes that initial prompt can be enough to get them going. For inspiration search ‘invitation to play’ on Pinterest.

Out of the house

Fruit picking – a simple way to get them out of the house but with an end purpose and a healthy snack (who doesn’t nibble a few strawberries whilst picking them?). You could (if you have the time and inclination) make a whole themed day of it…beginning with fruit themed crafts, ending with jam making, or cake decorating with fresh fruit?

Go to the park – Whether your kids are younger or older, the park is light relief. Swings, slides and climbing frames or even a field with a ball. Take a couple of drinks and some snackage, and get out for an hour or two. Arrange to meet friends there if you like, or take a picnic.

Nature trails and walking games – we make nature bingo sheets, just a very simple list or pictures of things they might see on a walk…ants, blue cars, post boxes, the bakery etc and they tick them off as we go. Sometimes we take a camera and they have to take a picture of each thing too. Other times, the bingo card lists leaves and objects they can bring home, so we take a bag or hat with us to fill. This works well with younger children, but you can adapt it to suit whatever age group. This has helped my hyper child focus on something…a big achievement.

Puddle jumping – even on the wettest days, and in fact especially on the wettest days you just need to get out. So pull on your wellies, grab a jacket and go out to jump in puddles. Have fun with your kids!
Before you go, put newspaper down by the door and a pile of towels and pyjamas on the side, so you can get dry and snuggly when you get home.

What do you think? Will you do some of these with your children? What else are you planning? Let us know.

Today’s guest post is from Hayley, a mum of 4 children, 2 of whom are adoptive. They are 15, 12, 7 and 6. Hayley’s children have lots of different diagnoses (ASD, SPD, Attachment problems, FASD and anxiety) between them which are displayed differently in each so she’s well used to juggling activities to suit all or most of their needs at the same time. We’re grateful to Hayley for sharing this post with us.