Category Archives: The Blog

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. 

Life on the Frontline – 12/07/16

lotfA 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.

“Heads down and head for the holidays” is our household mantra at the moment.

This was always going to be a tough week for Small as his school have a policy of introducing the next year’s timetable for the last three weeks of school. Now I think this in theory a brilliant idea, get the pupils introduced to new teachers and subjects before they break up so there is less anxiety when you come back in September.

However, in practice, tired children and staff are tackling the fallout of massive change with quite hug consequences. That’s how Small ended up having to be coaxed down a railway embankment after walking out of school. There has been a whole string of reports which detail, his rudeness, his lack of regard for rules and generally being a difficult or as a member of staff told him “a horrible child”.

Yes, school have confirmed that this language was used to Small and the reason is that the member of staff “is human”. I have a level of understanding, I know how very difficult he can be however, I’m worried about how staff are perceiving him, seeing the behaviour and not the child. Sigh, big sigh “heads down and head for the holidays”.

No exclusions for Tall this week, hooray. However he got into quite a major fight. When I took the phone cal regarding the fight, my heart sank as the voice from school, on the other end said “Are you ready for this”.

However, it was totally not his fault and was quite seriously attacked by another student for no real reason. Well I’m sure the other child had a reason but it was not something that Tall had obviously done.

“Are you ok my love” I inquired when he came through the front door. “I’m fine” he said “It wasn’t my fault”. He was very hyped as he bounced off the walls of our home, walking back an forth and unable to settle. Whilst he didn’t seem too upset by the incident, he was almost excited by the fact that he hadn’t been responsible for the incident and the there was  a residue of electricity pulsing through his body.

The next morning was a different matter, he was anxious about how he would be received in school and his bruised face and chipped tooth were now bothering him. He managed it though and got through his week.

And just as we thought “yay” we are getting there, Tall was caught trying to smuggle his laptop into his bed on Saturday night.

So only two more weeks to go. “heads down and head for holidays”.

In Other News

We seem to have acquired another cat. A local stray has definitely decided we are his new adopted family. He’s sat on the sofa opposite me as I type.

My yoga is still making me soo happy. Teaching yoga is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

On the yoga note, I got my husband along to a class on Friday and now I think he might be hooked too.

Life on the Frontline – 05/07/16

lotfA 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.

 

Tall started the week with an internal exclusion and by the end of Wednesday he had accrued another one.

He actually doesn’t mind an internal exclusion because he’s on his own and can just get on with his work without distraction. It has been commented, by school, that he produces some of his best work in this environment. Well off course he does. It’s not really rocket science.

The problem seems to be with his relationship with support staff, he isn’t trusting of them and he there for acts very defensively with them. This behaviour is considered rude and threatening by school, which I do understand because I know how Tall presents himself when in this frame of mind.

Small started the week, by getting on a train, to a seaside town, with his choir. He was excited and nervous at the same time, I was just very nervous. I had decided to travel up on the Wednesday to watch the group perform on the Thursday.

I taught my yoga class on Wednesday and returned home to pack a few bits and get on the road. Ten minutes before I expected to leave School called “Can you come and collect Tall, he’s not cooperating”.

On collecting him, he seemed agitated and irritable. A run in with another student and the run in with support staff which followed had caused his black mood.

It didn’t last long once we were home, he softened and relaxed with a hug and some kind words. He was worried I wouldn’t go on my travels and insisted that the problem in school had nothing to do with my going away. I made sure he was settled, Dad was at home working so I was able to leave.

The trip away was a nice break for me, some time spent on my own, in a relaxing environment. The journey however was quite tiring.

The performance by the choir was brilliant, I was glad I had made the journey. Small however, found it a little difficult to see me and didn’t want me to leave. The teaching staff suggested we took a little time for the two of us, and go for a drink. This extra hour seemed to work and I left him happily munching a donut on the beach with the rest of his group.

Friday Small returned home tired and a bit grumpy but he had managed the week which has made us very proud of him.

Friday Tall completed his second internal exclusion for the week.

 

In Other News

It has also been my birthday this week, something Tall struggles with so, it has been a very low key affair but still enjoyable.

Tall was home from school by 9.30 yesterday, Monday, after not starting the day well. I’m hoping today will be a better day for him. Something is so triggery for him at this time of year.

We are on a big countdown to holidays now, I really can’t wait.

The Adoption Social Times

TAStimesIt’s that time – it’s our monthly round-up of all things Adoption Social

Weekly Adoption Shout Out
Loving your posts these last few weeks – thanks so much for joining in. Do you know any other adoption bloggers who don’t link up? If so, why not suggest they join in too…
Themes for July are:
8th July – Moving on upAProblemSharedrequest
22nd July – 6 weeks

TASpic
With the month almost over it’ll soon be time for our round-up and new theme. You’ve got just a few days to post your #summerishere #taspic images on social media before we’ll (me included) find out what the next theme will be.

Summer holidays
The summer holidays are almost here. We’re aware this can be a challenging and difficult time
for some families as we settle into a different routine, learn to be around each other 24/7 again and have to battle with boredom. If you need any help PLEASE reach out…via email, Twitter, your blog, Facebook – whatever works for you. Remember we know what it can be like, we’re living it too. We’ll do our best to listen and support you and will also look forward to celebrating the good days too. We are all part of an amazing community and I know there will be someone online when you need them with a listening ear and a virtual hug.

Posts you might have missed:

We met Laura and Diego in our latest Meet The Blogger post.

Adoption UK announced it’s new magazine editor, someone you may have heard of…

Just yesterday we had a guest post about the Fagus project.

We shared a review of the Billy Says books by Joanne Alper.

Guest post: Fagus, a framework for emotional and social development

Today we welcome a guest post from Fagus, about a new tool they’veFagus logos developed 25-04-2016 5 developed for use in educational settings…

“One way teachers can become more sensitive to children is to increase their knowledge of child development.” (p. 158, Bergin & Bergin, 2009)

The impact of early trauma and loss on children’s subsequent development can be profound. For these children emotional and social development is often atypical, either developing later, at a slower rate or in a disordered manner. They often have ‘spiky’ profiles, with typical and expected behaviour in some areas but immature functioning in others. It is vital that teachers understand this development in order to understand children’s behaviour.

All too often we hear of children’s developmentally immature behaviour being misunderstood and labelled as ‘naughty’. But how can we expect teachers to understand emotional and social development if they aren’t taught about it in initial training, or given materials to help them do this? Two and a half years ago, at Beech Lodge School, we began working to fill this gap and Fagus was born!

Fagus (Noun: Latin Fagus (“beech”) – The Tree of Learning) is a comprehensive educational tool which supports teaching staff to:

  • Understand typical emotional and social development during childhood and adolescence.
  • Clarify their understanding of a child’s strengths and difficulties across emotional and social functioning.
  • Use this understanding to set appropriate goals for pupils in emotional and social domains.
  • Monitor social and emotional progress.

Fagus divides emotional and social development into 13 areas:

FAgus tree

Three areas (Attachment, Cognitive Development and Language Development) are so fundamental to all aspects of development that these are identified as Core Developmental Areas. These can be considered as the ‘roots’ of development, from which the other ‘branches’ grow. Those living or working with children with attachment difficulties will be all too familiar with the impact of a disrupted attachment ‘root’ on the other roots and subsequent ‘branches’.

The Fagus Materials

The Fagus online checklists are completed by teaching staff and are used to create a developmental profile of the child. This provides a visual snapshot of a child’s development across the Fagus emotional/social domains, identifying key areas of need (i.e. the areas in which the child is most developmentally delayed):

Fagus table

On the profile, typical development is coloured green, somewhat delayed development yellow and significantly delayed development red. This child has a ‘spiky’ profile, with many strengths in some areas and significant difficulties in others.  

Teachers can then use the Fagus developmental guides to investigate a child’s current point of development further and identify specific behaviours that they would like to improve. Using this information they can set a goal for the child, based on what would be expected to happen next in typical development. A plan can then be devised to help the pupil achieve this goal. Within the Fagus framework the aim is to support the child to move through the sequence systematically, rather than expecting them to make huge leaps towards behaviours associated with their chronological age.

Using Fagus

Since its conception, Fagus has been used with pupils at Beech Lodge School and trialled in mainstream schools in Yorkshire and Humberside as part of a DfE funded PAC-UK project. We have received extremely positive feedback. Helen Hoban, educational advisor at PAC-UK has found that the Fagus materials shift the focus away from ‘problem’ behaviours to understanding the potential reasons behind this behaviour. In her words, for teachers, “the penny doesn’t just drop, it thuds”. She has also found that gaining a shared understanding of the child’s development brings teachers and parents onto the same page, enabling them to create a joint action plan to move forward. Most importantly, we have seen significant developmental progression being made by children as a direct result of using Fagus.

We are delighted to be launching the materials to all schools this week. For more information please visit www.fagus.org.uk (where the resource can be ordered) or email fagus@beechlodgeschool.co.uk. The cost for schools to buy Fagus is £660 (developmental guides) plus an annual licence fee to access the online checklists and profiles (£50 + £5 per pupil per year). We have an introductory offer of £495 with one year’s free annual licence for 10 pupils if ordered before 1st November 2016. Fagus was initially developed for pupils with attachment and trauma related difficulties; it is an effective and powerful use of Pupil Premium Plus funding.

All profits from Fagus go directly to Beech Lodge School – a not-for-profit charitable school for children aged 7-17 who have emotional and social difficulties. The majority of pupils at Beech Lodge have been fostered and adopted. For more information see www.beechlodgeschool.co.uk

References

Bergin, C., & Bergin, D. (2009). Attachment in the classroom. Educational Psychology Review21(2), 141-170. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.461.5271&rep=rep1&type=pdf