Category Archives: The Review

Book review: Who We Are and Why We Are Special

41f9T8JRdQL._SX350_BO1,204,203,200_When I first received ‘Who We Are and Why We Are Special, The Adoption Club Workbook on Identity’ by Regina M Kupecky, I was initially sceptical, says adoptive mum Kay.

Why? Well, most of the books I have read about and around adoption have been weighty, literally, or anecdotal.

So my expectation was that this book would be the same.

Identity and adoption? This is a big and knotty question!

Surely this demands a book the size of an encyclopaedia or a series of books?

This book appears slim and plain. The typeset reminds me of 70’s pamphlets and the illustrations are so simple I think I could have done them myself. Added to this is the subtitle: ‘workbook’.

Yikes.

Suffice to say I wasn’t looking forward to reading it, despite feeling very excited to review a book for The Adoption Social.

Guess what though? In this case you really can’t judge a book from its cover…

Like I said the title invites us to consider identity and how this makes us different and special. That’s a big ask for an adult, but this workbook is aimed at the ages 5-11. My next reservation is how on earth one book can hope to address and engage such a wide age range.

On the first few pages we’re introduced to the members of the ‘adoption club’ whose characters are drawn, both literally and figuratively, in a simple way. There’s no embellishment here just simple sketches that help to highlight them as different and special, but what holds all of them together is that they are touched by adoption in some way.

It’s an apt reminder that adoption has so many faces, ages and back stories. Being a heterosexual, married, white, middle class adoptive mum of two young white siblings, I have been known to forget that not everyone shares my experience of adoption and that my route is only one of many. So it was useful to think again about how inclusive adoption can be.  Mixed race families, single parents, and same sex parents, children with special needs or disability, overseas adoptions, transgender parents, open adoptions… Steve Jobs, who started Apple, is adopted. I didn’t know that, did you?

The best thing about the book is that none of it reads like tokenism, just a really nice personification of these different sides of the process. Like much of the writing in this book, it is matter of fact, easy to read and understand. So as much as it’s aimed at 5 – 11 year olds I didn’t find it patronising. Actually quite the opposite, after reading this book I came away inspired to use it with my children and, surprisingly, myself.

The idea is that identity can be seen as a jigsaw of many pieces and the book leads us through a series of open questions, examples of how this affects a particular member of the adoption club, with space to write our answers and ideas for reflection.

The questions and examples are leading but not prescriptive, there is plenty of space for the reader to engage at their preferred or most appropriate depth. For me, I wanted to think about the layers to my story/identity, like a complex 1000 piece puzzle of an intricate landscape. My four year old daughter was able to recognise and relate to two of the characters and their experiences. Most importantly, I think that when we re-visit the adoption club she will continue to add to her own jigsaw.

I loved the physical metaphor of an ‘identity jigsaw’. I’d love to do some work around this using big puzzle pieces, images, maybe even an outline of a child’s body to fill in.

I would really like to read the other workbooks as I think that they will help me to open discussions with my children in the future. I like the characters but most of all I like the idea of adoption being a club that we all belong to.

Many thanks to Kay for her review. Kay did not receive payment for this review, but has been able to keep the book.

Book review: Great answers to difficult questions about adoption

I was quite excited to be getting this book as the title sounded promising. This book should be good. The idea behind it is that it helps “foster dialogue between parents and children”. Unfortunately it does not deliver.

It is worth noting that this book was first published in 2006 in French.

I hope some of the issues I had when reading this could be put down to language and cultural differences however I think most people would find this an awkward read.

The book is divided into 11 chapters each dealing with a different question an adoptee may ask, there is then a brief summary around why the question may be asked followed by extracts of interviews / discussions the author has had with various adopted children from age 6 to 15; it is not, as expected, answers for parents to give. The children in the book also appear to be relinquished international adoptions and the words “rejected” and “abandoned” are common, this scenario is not so typical in this country where the majority of children are from foster care.

The questions are good ones and the summaries are useful however the interviews are rather odd. I found the answers blunt and lacking in empathy and the over arching answer to each question was “why don’t you ask your parents?”. The book explicitly states it is to foster dialogue between parents and children yet the answers seem clinical and never really provide an answer or something to base an answer on as a parent. The book also makes the basic assumption that the parent knows nothing of the child’s history or their biological family (who at times are called their “real family”).

I don’t believe the author fully understands trauma as evidenced in these quotes from chapter 2 in a discussion with an 8 year old, firstly about younger children being adopted; “If they are lucky, and are adopted by considerate parents like yours, however, they soon respond and adapt,” and on older children being adopted “they are often so happy to be part of a family where they can bond and settle that any problems they may have tend to be minor”. I read those lines to my husband who is a laid-back guy and I can honestly say I’ve not seen him so angry in a long time. If I hadn’t been reading this book for a review I probably would have stopped at chapter 2 but I persisted to the end through gritted teeth.

The book sadly didn’t improve and in dealing with a 8 year old being bullied about looking different to her parents is told that “those children have been taught nothing about adoption and it’s high time someone taught them” and to talk to her parents about it. There is no empathy and compassion in her responses, I suppose I’m always looking to explore how my children feel (we try and use the PACE model where possible).

Having given up on getting a useful response (I got quite angry towards the end) I started asking my 4 year old some of the (edited) questions the author asks and I was amazed at his response. Despite being 4 he knows where he came from and where he is now and that it is ok to look and be different from other people in your family. His answers were more enlightening than the books!

Overall this book feels disjointed and never really fulfils its objective which is a shame as the basic idea and layout are great, I do wonder if something is lost in the translation and that I struggled to relate to any of the examples given. This book is not really of use to most parents and certainly not children, it feels like it would be of more use to a professional with minimal knowledge of the complexities around adoption but does not give a proper overview of adoption.

The positive to come from reading this book is that it has promoted me to think about my own answers to these questions but the book did not really help in providing the answers.

I worry that this a very negative review and it may be of more use to someone who adopted with minimal knowledge of their child’s history and identity from a different country, I am happy to pass it on if anyone else wishes to give it a try!

Today’s honest review is by Building a Family Together @buildingafamily. The reviewer was not paid for the review, but received the book free of charge.

Book review: Preparing for Adoption

This week we’re pleased to bring you a review of Preparing for Adoption, which has been written for us by a prospective adoptive parent…

9781849054560Upon making the decision to adopt, I’m sure we were not alone in experiencing the feeling of stumbling blindly around until it all started making sense (which thankfully, it soon did… a bit).

There’s that all important first step into the process, the mechanics of it all, when you look to somebody in a position of responsibility to tell you what will happen and how you should prepare, but I find – as I’m sure many do – that I want to absorb every bit of information that I can, there are questions that you don’t feel you can ask yet, there’s so much more to it that you feel as though it’s all just the tip of the iceberg.

There’s a world of information out there, some incredible books, supportive forums and charities to help us along, but how do you know where to begin and how can you possibly know what to really expect?

I found Preparing For Adoption to be that perfect starting point. As soon as I picked it up I felt like it was answering the questions I had stored away in the back of my mind, ready to ask at the right time.

Right from the start you feel like you’re in safe hands. Julia Davis sets out in her introduction exactly what to expect from the book and explains what each chapter will cover, then throughout the book she takes the key stages in the process and breaks them down into clear, easy to read sections.

With a solid focus on the children and your family, rather than the process itself, it really does help you make sense of what lies ahead. Subjects like attachment, are given dedicated sections and explained well in an understandable and easily relatable way, giving hugely practical advice on how you can build on the ideas when the time comes.

As the book moves on, you get a very clear picture of how you can relate to your child’s early experiences, and how to begin shaping your interactions and parenting to help their development. It helps you begin to prepare your home, other family members and most importantly, your child, for starting life together; keeping a great balance between information, advice and experience throughout. Finally the book moves onto some of the feelings, emotions and challenges that may come about once your child is with you, again identifying key themes and showing some of the practical ways you can create a safe and secure family life.

We still have a lot of this ahead of us, but I feel that with this book – alongside the professional support we’ll receive – that I can start building a great emotional toolkit to face the journey ahead. I would strongly recommend that any prospective adopters put this to the top of their reading list.

Preparing for Adoption by Julia Davis is available here.

Today’s review is an honest opinion. The reviewer has not been paid although has received a complimentary copy of the book.

Book review: Forever Fingerprints – an amazing discovery for adopted children

Today’s anonymous book review looks at Forever Fingerprints – an amazing discovery for adopted children by Sherrie Eldridge.Eldridge_Forever-Fingerp_978-1-84905-778-3_colourjpg-print

I was uplifted by the introduction to this book which was addressed to parents. It highlighted key areas of concern for many parents including handling painful or missing birth history, an issue of particular relevance to me and my daughter, however the American model of adoption and the concept of children being ‘given up’ by birth families as opposed to being ‘removed’ from them, would possibly make it necessary for many adopters who have adopted within the UK to consider how they can rephrase aspects of this book to make it relevant to their children’s history and sensitive to their needs.

From a personal perspective If I am to claim ‘all parts of my child’ including her birth family, I have to be constantly mindful of developmental trauma, as references to her birth family consistently trigger that trauma, which means I have to hold onto this fact when responding to her questions. For example aunt grace (a character in the book who visits the family, but unbeknown to the little girl is expecting a baby) would not turn up to our house with her big tummy without my daughter having been prepared for that. Pregnant ladies are another big trigger for my little one. In the book, when the little girl sees her she is surprised at her ‘watermelon’ tummy but is very excited at the prospect of a new baby.

From a broader perspective however, I really liked the explanation of how the baby grows in the womb and the lovely illustrations which my daughter would enjoy. It just saddens me that mine and other people’s families have such difficult early histories within them that we cannot simply share a lovely book like this without considering the implications.

I would recommend this book as the premise (that there are very specific aspects to ourselves that are unique but tie us to our birth family) is a really useful one and could be extremely helpful for children adopted within the UK, if introduced by parents and interpreted with the needs of that child in mind.

I think as an age range, age 5 upwards would be appropriate, by then children are using finger prints in play and can distinguish the patterns within them. I imagine older children approximately 8 years plus who have a deeper level of self awareness and have an emerging self identity could gain from this book too. I understand this can be a particularly tricky age for adopted children so the premise of this book could be useful for that age group.

It is a hard backed book and could be revisited many times at different developmental stages and still hold relevance. From this point of view it is worth the price.

Forever Fingerprints is available to buy here.

Today’s reviewer was not paid for this post, but did receive a free copy of the book.

Review of One Day NVR Workshop

Sarah from The Puffin Diaries shares her thought on an None Violent Resistance course she attended.

Recently my husband and I attended a course based on the practice of NVR, None Violent Resistance. This course was hosted by PAC and delivered by Rachael Alymer of Partnership Projects.

The first thing that struck myself, my husband and indeed many others, was that we were a room, full with over thirty people and everyone of us had experienced violence from their child. This in its self had a huge impact on many of us; there was an instant feeling of not being alone.

Rachael introduced the course and explained that this one day of training was really only a taster day for NVR. The application of NVR is actually a very intense process of therapy, where a family work on a one to one bases with a therapist. This would be my first and only real criticism of the course, in that I didn’t feel the way that PAC advertise the course makes this very clear. Also, those qualified in implementing this therapy are relatively thin on the ground especially in the north of the country.

Rachael suggested that she would like us to leave with two or three strategies that we could start to use at home.

We first talked about “de-escalation , the idea that conflict and violence can be avoided if we  approach trigger situations differently. It was easy to recognise myself and my husband in the styles of escalation we discussed. My husband can’t let go of it once he’s in a battle and the battle goes back and forth between him and our son, this is known as symmetrical escalation.

We did a number of exercises her, with our partners, to demonstrate how hard it can be to not get involved with someone who is taunting you and pushing your buttons. We were advised to “ignore the behaviour with silence, not sarcasm”. I think for myself and my husband and I this was a useful section because we can both become too involved at this early stage of a fall out. It reminded us that our calm and resistance to the child’s need to escalate things put us in a much greater position of control. However this is often more difficult that it seems in the moment.

The next exercise I found the most useful part of the day. We were asked to list all the behaviours of our child, which we don’t like. Our list went from punching holes in his bedroom wall to not flushing the toilet.

We were then asked to imagine we had three baskets a small, medium and large. In the small we were to place the behaviour we really wouldn’t tolerate, in the medium behaviour that we could negotiate on, and in the large, behaviours we are prepared to let go, not even mention.  In the small basket there were to be only two behaviours, in the middle a few behaviours and in the large basket the majority of behaviours. The idea being that you concentrate on the two behaviours you find it most difficult to live with first, you are not letting everything else go forever, but making life more simple for you and your child. I know in our house it does sometimes feel like we are constantly on my oldest son’s back about everything.

As Rachael said “If leaving the toilet seat up really bothers you that much, why don’t you do something about it, it’s obviously not that important to your child”. I know this is hard for lots of people, the letting go but for me I can see the sense in it all, you are helping your child to focus on the behaviours that really do affect you all, once you’ve cracked these, you can move other behaviours into the small basket.

We were also told that “NVR does not do rewards or sanctions”. The idea here is that you talk to your child once a situation is over, using a “sandwich” of positive, negative, and positive.

For example “I want you to know how impressed I was with you clearing the table for me tonight, thank you. However, when you swore at me this morning, that behaviour is not acceptable, it upsets me and I don’t want it to happen again. Now I’m really looking forward to watching a DVD with you let’s go and chose one”

In theory I really like this approach but in practice I know I will find it hard to not provide sanctions for violent, destructive behaviour.

At the end of the day we prepare our announcement, this is a statement of your intention on how you are going to behave going forward. We were encouraged to write this in a letter format which you can physically give to your child. In the announcement you list the behaviours which you will no longer tolerate and make a commitment to altering your own behaviour when responding to the behaviour. It was suggested that you could laminate the letter if you fear your child may try to destroy it. Also included in the letter should be positive aspects of the child’s personality as with the sandwich example given above.

In all, the course was a useful day and I could see how the intense version of this therapy could be very successful. Whilst I came away feeling I’d discovered a couple of new tools to use with my children, without the intense support of the full therapy I envisage it will not be easy to always implement these methods. I wish I’d known more about NVR before applying for our Adoption Support Funding and also that more therapist were available in my part of the country.

Book review: Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong: Strategies for Success

Today we have two reviews of the same title – so very many thanks to @onroadtoadopt and our anonymous reviewer for your posts on  Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong: Strategies for Success by Gregory C. Keck and L. GianforteKeck-Soronen-Gi_Keeping-Your-Ad_978-1-84905-784-4_colourjpg-print

It is obvious when you start reading this book that the authors are American. However it is aimed at families who adopt children from foster care so has a lot of relevance to adoption in the UK where the vast majority of our children have experienced some level of trauma whether it be in-utero or while living with birth family in their early life. I found it a fascinating read and would recommend the book as a good introduction to adoption both in its joys and its difficulties. Both the authors are adopters themselves of children from the foster care system in the US. I am going to apologise now in that this review may seem impersonal at times – penalty of being an academic is that I am so ingrained to write reviews in one way it is difficult to adjust to a more personal way.

The authors talk from the Preface about the effect of trauma and how even moving in with their new family can be a traumatic experience for adopted children. One line that really struck me as such truth is:

“The bottom line is this: when parents and children approach adoption from opposite directions – when one sees salvation where the other sees disconnection – the already challenging journey becomes fraught with unnecessary twists and turns.”

The Preface does very much highlight the need for parents to look at the real picture and not to romanticise the concept of adoption as them saving the child. This book is honest about the level of challenges adoptive parents may face – giving examples of what children may have experienced before they came into foster care. The authors talk about facing up to reality without fear and give a set of what they call ‘keys to a healthy and functional adoptive family’:

  • Accessibility to honest, accurate information about the child’s background;
  • Willingness to recognise and accept things for what they are;
  • Support, compassion, and understanding from family, friends and mental health professionals;
  • The comfort that stems from knowing that other families face similar difficulties;
  • Confidence in the ability to succeed.

 

The first chapter covers the familiar (to anyone who has read much about adoption) ground of the effect of trauma on human development. In this chapter, the authors talk about the common diagnoses (in the USA) particularly concentrating on complex trauma and also the emerging greater knowledge about the effect trauma has on the developing brains of infants. They look at how adopters can be properly prepared for what they might face and how expectations can so much differ from reality. Throughout the book, real case examples are used to highlight what the authors are talking about which helps the reader understand what they are saying. In this first chapter the importance of attachment in helping with trauma is discussed as well as how critical it is that professionals help keep families strong after adoption.

The second chapter is entitled ‘An adoption checklist’ and discusses the things prospective adopters need to think about before adopting a child with potential trauma. It gives a series of questions that prospective adopters should think about and uses real life examples of adopted children’s behaviour to illustrate why the questions are being asked. To me this chapter is a good way to make anyone think about adoption and understand the potential issues.

In the third chapter, the authors discuss how you should prepare for an adopted child arriving in your home. This includes the importance of getting as complete a medical history as you can as well as the need for as much training as possible. They discuss the home study (which is part of foster care adoption in the US as well as UK) as well as the need to not be rigid in your thinking and be prepared to adapt to your child’s needs.

The fourth chapter is all about the potential for secondary trauma or in the authors words ‘trauma is a potentially transferable condition’. The authors discuss how existing relationships between parents, or with other children (birth or adopted) can be strained by the arrival of a traumatised child. They also discuss the need for the ‘right’ therapist who understands adoption and the issues it brings, and also what to do if it really does all go wrong (from an American perspective). This was an interesting chapter for me as I would love to adopt again but my husband is wary having seen the issues it can bring.

In chapter 5, the authors discuss what might happen after placement – how life can change and how to use your knowledge of what your child has been through to understand why they are behaving as they are. They look at how being truthful and honest with your child can be a powerful tool in the parental toolbox.

Chapter 6 addresses the question of blame and highlights the importance of not blaming the child, but remembering the (past) source of the problem and addressing the current situation in light of that knowledge. They also may the interesting point that life books tend to present the birth family with a very positive spin which can make a child wonder why they were ever removed in the first place. This raises the question of how we approach lifestory work and the need to be truthful within the child’s ability to understand.

Chapter 7 is very much addressed at the situation in the USA where even adolescents can and are adopted – but it still have some useful anecdotes and ideas on how to deal with situations that could be relevant to adopted teenagers in the UK. Chapter 8 is entitled ‘The Power of Optimism and Love’ and very much gives balance to what has gone before – it presents a series of stories from adopters and adoptees about what has worked for them as a family. They are a great read and give a very balanced view of adoption which does counteract the view readers may have got from this book up to this point which has much more seemed focussed on the negative/difficult side of adoption.

Chapter 9 again is very much about how adoption is worth it – how much it generally benefits the child. Yes struggles exist but there are many positives from adoption and even if the end result is maybe not what you expected going into the process it can still be a happy positive one. The final chapter is one where adult adoptees talk about how they feel about adoption. It is a real view onto the viewpoint of adoptees and how they see their life.

All in all I found this book a fascinating read and the use throughout of real case histories helps bring home the points the authors are making. It gives a real insight into what it is like to parent a traumatised child and indeed to be that traumatised child. Although the book is written from the American perspective it is one I would recommend to UK adopters and prospective adopters as giving a good viewpoint into adoption. You do need to persevere to get to the positive viewpoint – or do as I did and skip to the last 3 chapters first and then go back and read the book as a whole. There are useful tips and hints scattered throughout some of which I knew already from my reading and others I shall no doubt find myself using with our little boy.

Our second review is from an adoptive parent who wishes to remain anonymous…

When I was asked to review this book and was given the title, I expected it to be focused on post placement strategies for managing challenging behaviour and techniques for keeping parents mentally strong. However, the first half of the book is very much about preparing for adoption and it covers the impact of developmental trauma, questions about whether adoption is right for you, the information you will need to make matching decisions and much more. It gives a very honest view of what to expect when adopting a traumatised child. We are several years post placement and I found the preparation part a really good reminder of where my children have come from and why they were the right match for us.

The book goes on to look at post placement from the view of the child, the difficulty that parents may face with blame, the power of honesty and other challenges like parenting adopted teens. It has a huge number of real examples of challenging behaviours and tricky situations and full explanations of how these were dealt with effectively by real families. The key message is about optimism, whilst acknowledging that not all the struggles will pay off, they are a part of life and its how you face them that makes you stronger. At the end of the book there are a number of stories from adult adoptees about what it feels like to be adopted, their views on their birth family and adoptive parents and how they feel about their lives. They are a powerful insight.

The authors are American and therefore details about the adoption process and the foster care system differ from my experience but are none the less interesting and did not detract from the usefulness of the book in general.

Something I found very refreshing was the frequent references to sexual abuse. As the parent of a sexually abused child I have found it incredibly difficult to find any resources and was pleased for once to have my child’s trauma addressed equally alongside domestic violence and neglect.

Whilst writing this review and looking back at my sticky notes, I have noticed a whole lot more that I overlooked in the first reading and I can see myself returning to this book many times in the future.

Bits I found a bit tricky or challenged my beliefs:

In the section on developmental trauma it suggests that children relinquished by their parents with thoughtful planning and who haven’t suffered in utero or early days conflict or misery have no trauma, ‘we’ll call them the lucky ones’ it says.

The authors disagree with parents apologising for their own behaviour. This is something I’ve seen suggested in other books, where you might say sorry for losing your cool. The book suggests parents are admitting guilt, that they are in the wrong and states that ‘this is definitely not the message you want to give’. I am currently undecided on that one, I have apologised to my children in the past with the intention of repairing and modelling, but I’ve no idea what the impact was.

They also mention another technique I’ve used, ‘I love you but I don’t like your behaviour’. The writer challenges whether your child will understand this concept. If we are what we do then what message does that give?

Bits that made me laugh:

Technique for dealing with personal questions about you or your children ‘It’s none of your ******* business’.

Bits that helped me reflect:

After reading the section on the child’s point of view I thought about how I would feel if the doorbell rang now and a policeman took me to a car and drove me away to a new home, the first of several over several years, never to return or see my family, friends or possessions ever again. Does it make any difference that I am 40 and my child was 5? Do I have more to lose because I’ve known it all for longer? Would I suffer more? Would I have better capacity to deal with it?

Life story work is usually respectful of the birth family. Why is there a need to avoid appearing judgemental? For example a photo of my child and his birth father at his fifth birthday party (fictitious). A lovely family memory? My child’s memory might be more about how he came into the bedroom later that evening and abused him. How confusing would that be for my son that his life story book only referred to his father positively?

View regression with optimism. It’s the process of moving forward for my children. Remember that periods of plain sailing are temporary, acknowledge this to minimise your disappointment later.

Realistic expectations = balanced optimism = ability to provide consistent nurture.

New things I learnt:

A technique called prescribing the symptom, it’s about interrupting your child’s automatic thought and behavioural processes, so if your child likes to have a tantrum every time you need to go out, you would start with ‘I know you always like to have a tantrum before we go anywhere, so please start now so you can get it over with’. The theory is that they won’t want to do what you say and will respond with ‘well I don’t want to have a tantrum today’. You can then go on with ‘ok we are about to get into the car, are you sure you don’t want to have just a little tantrum’. I can see how well this would work with my daughter and how hard she would fight my suggestion whilst I smile and say ‘ok but you just let me know later if you change your mind’.

Derailing conflict by creating a shift in focus. I’ve already used this one, not so much with a conflict but with a situation that I had been trying to manage for several days and was escalating at an alarming rate. Earlier this week tensions were rising about school transitions. Lots of worries were surfacing and conversation was becoming a bit of a feeding frenzy about who had the biggest worry about next year. So I announced a surprise trip to a pizza restaurant, where, between mouthfuls of pizza, we calmly made our way through all 37 transitions worries (hugely helped by a large glass of wine for me). It was as much an effective technique for derailing my thought process as it was for theirs.

Many thanks to both reviewers who received no payment for this review, other than the copies of the book itself. Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong is available here from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Book review: Friends, Bullies and Staying Safe

Kupecky_Friends-Bullies_978-1-84905-763-9_colourjpg-printFriends, Bullies and Staying Safe by Regina Kupecky is one of a 5-part series of workbooks written for therapists and counsellors who work with adopted children.

The books’ focus is a group of fictional adopted American children, aged between 9 and 13, who get together regularly with their school counselor and an adult adoptee/teacher to discuss adoption issues within a regular ‘Adoption Club’.

The characters in this book all come at adoption from different angles so every box is ticked: There is an example of a child from a mixed race international adoption, a single parent adoption, a child who has regular direct contact with her birth family, a sibling pair who have had multiple foster placements, a child with a physical disability and a kinship adoption. This mix of children and the Adoption Club context provides the perfect vehicle for discussing a range of adoption-related friendship issues: ‘types’ of friendship; whether siblings can be friends; talking about adoption; teasing and being teased; what being a friend actually means and what makes it hard – all explored from differently adopted children’s points of view.

At first glance, I thought the stories looked a bit twee and the illustrations seemed rather old fashioned. Maybe I was prejudiced by the photograph of the very homely looking Mrs Kupecky on the back cover. But I am glad I persevered (it really wasn’t hard, the book is less than 50 pages long) because I think this little book has lots to offer therapeutic parents and their children.

It is mainly aimed at primary aged children, so I asked my sibling pair for their opinions: My daughter Red (11) said she liked the fact that all the characters were adopted but didn’t think the black and white line illustrations were very good (though she took that back when I told her she could colour them in). One morning on the way to school, our son Blue (12) started to talk about his different types of friends and I realized he had read the book without me knowing. On further probing, he said he liked the fact that his opinion was asked for in a book and that there was space for him to write and draw about how he felt.

If pushed, I would take issue with the word ‘Bullies’ in the title. The extent of the bullying is one girl being asked repeatedly about her birth family, so don’t buy it as a miracle antidote to any serious bullying your children may be experiencing. I think our children find it difficult enough to distinguish between bullying, teasing and open questions as it is – but that’s another story! Still, it’s worth both a quick read and a more leisurely exploration with your child and definitely helped mine name and voice some of their own concerns around friendships. I recommend it.

Rating: **** (out of 5): More than worth a go!

This book is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers here.

Very many thanks to @plumstickle who has reviewed this book. No fee was paid for this honest review, but @plumstickle received a free copy of the title.

Book review: How Do We Feel About Adoption?

With very many thanks to @adoptingD for this review on How do we feel about adoption? by Regina M. KupeckyKupecky_How-Do-We-Feel_978-1-84905-765-3_colourjpg-print

(D is 8 and with us 6 years, placed at 2y2m. We are a family of 3 and D is very aware of his life story)

Having looked through this book before sharing with D we were anxious about what it might bring up for him but he was very willing to read it with us so we quickly got going with the adoption club. He was a little disappointed that it was fictional characters and one of his first questions was – are these people real so we can join the adoption club?

The characters tell their stories about why they were adopted and while these were varied they did not have reasons of neglect, abuse or birth parent illness so this could possibly be expanded on. Disabilities, siblings, kinship carers and single parents are all mentioned in relation to the adoptive families which can help to open conversations about there being all different types of families – did think that same sex couples seemed to be missing.

The workbook format was great in that questions were asked after smaller chunks of the book rather than all at the end which would have been overwhelming for everyone. D did not want to write in his answers as it seemed too much like homework for him but he really opened up when talking about the answers. The questions were very relevant and were definitely able to give us ways to focus on areas that are difficult to tackle outright. It also felt like we were not badgering him as it was the book asking the questions.

Midway there is a task to draw a pie chart about your feelings surrounding adoption and I think this was the most useful thing we took from the whole book. D was very keen to draw his and was pleased that mum and dad were going to do it too. He was very surprised at the feelings that we put on our charts and again this opened a good discussion about how we were feeling when he moved here. The pie chart showed it’s normal to have many feelings at the one time, that it was ok to be happy and sad about being adopted and that parents have lots of feelings too – not sure this was something D had considered before!

The book is aimed at 5 to 11 year olds but I would think that it’s probably more suitable from around age 7 as it could be a little daunting for younger and they may not get the concept of a pie chart. Parents may find it useful to guide them when talking to a younger child but of course each child’s ability is so different it would be hard to put exact ages on it. I think the book itself is a little expensive at £9.99 but most adoption guides are expensive anyway so it’s no different to the norm.

Overall we found it very positive and do think it’s useful for structuring those difficult conversations. It gives the child something to relate to and can allow them to deflect to how the characters would feel if it gets too overwhelming for them to think about themselves. It is also a tool that could be used again to see if feelings had changed or to revisit areas that had been found difficult. We would recommend tis to others trying to talk more about feelings surrounding adoption.

How Do We Feel About Adoption is part of a series of Adoption Club therapeutic workbooks, all available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers here.

@adoptingD was not paid for this review, but has received a free copy of the book in question.

Review: Facilitating Meaningful Contact in Adoption and Fostering

Today’s review comes from Jo Mitchell, an adoption manager and children’s therapist… and is on Facilitating Meaningful Contact in Adoption and Fostering, by Louis Sydney and Elsie Price.

Sydney-Price-Ad_Facilitating-Me_978-1-84905-508-6_colourjpg-printThis is a very comprehensive read which I felt was written in a concise, accessible and easy format that would be beneficial to social workers, foster carers, birth parents and adopters.

It starts out by tackling some of the consistent difficulties faced by all parties in adoption which upon first reading I was worried that the book may not then go on to address how we may take a different look at contact and it’s meaningfulness.

Of course I was heartened to be very wrong about this. Although the book is not definitive in saying whether contact is right or wrong, it provides a wealth of research that they carefully link with the promotion of creative and news ways to think about contact embedded in research and therapeutic intervention.

An ongoing issue in contact is the drawing up of such arrangements during what is a hugely emotive time where children become almost like ping pongs between the opposing sides and because someone once said it, plans are drawn up for toing and froing between different families that would make a well regulated adult’s head spin.

Although this book is considering in the main contact post permanency placement, it’s content, reference to research and links to theraplay for example in contact have the potential to play a hugely important role in the much earlier stages of contact. The implementation of their well thought out and considered ideas could where possible have significant benefits for children who have developmental trauma.

The case study on Page 100 (Steven) is a clear example where much better information could have been provided to Steven and his adoptive family much earlier in his life. The context of knowing this information about his birth mother latterly was a crucial and significant part of the story that had been missing for so long. It is testament to his adopters that their support and openness to knowing Steven’s birth mothers story was a vital part of her history that enabled Steven to gain a much better picture of his birth mum and therefore an improved understanding as to why her life deteriorated to the stage where she was unable to care for Steven appropriately. Sadly such information and on occasion a willingness to understand this can eventually lead to a placement struggling to survive the trauma that is played out by children who experience such early life adversity.

One of the areas of the book, which I found to be most useful and thought provoking, was the idea of video messages. Although Skype and face time are a common consideration of late in contacts, the concept behind a video message I found was a very powerful one. My own reservations about Skype and Face time are the use of this at times with very young children who are not able to understand fully how it can be that a person who they know is effectively inside a box and the impact of this, where are they etc?

The case study of Jodie on Page 10 was fascinating and the skill of the worker and the openness of the adopters, kept Jodie central to the decision making and their creativity in “adjusting” the context of contact enabled both Jodie and her birth mother to gain more from one another through a series of questions and a video message that continued direct contact was unlikely to achieve.

The layout of the book made it a very easy and accessible read to. There was a general acknowledgement of ongoing difficulties in contact, the pressures on local authorities to put contact plans together and a vast range of case studies that made this seem so much more real.

What was most refreshing was that within the book it consistently provided ideas, ways and paths through what is an undoubtedly contentious and fragile area of children and families lives. An excellent point that was raised was the rationale behind letterbox contact. All too often we have postbox files where either the birth parents or the adopters haven’t written, some since the beginning, and an often “roll of the tongue” approach is to say to the party still willing to write that it is best in the long run for you to write. What this book does very cleverly and without apportioning any blame is to urge you to consider that contact should be fluid from the outset. It asks us to think about who should be involved in making contact plans, who is best placed to put this together and who is there now and in the future to support those involved in plans for contact.

The reference to their work with birth parents begs the question as to why so often there is absolutely no service for birth families beyond the adoption order.

This book has given such food for thought in terms of what we do now and in the future and whether if we just stop to think more carefully and considered at contact. If we no longer see this as the tick box exercise it so often sadly becomes, then we have the opportunity to consider the true shape that contact needs to be for every individual child, potentially improving at every stage, every change, every review a plan that facilities, enables and enhances the lives of the children and the very centre of such planning.

This review is Jo’s own opinion of the book. We have not made any payment in respect of this post, however Jo has been able to keep the book reviewed.

Facilitating Meaningful Contact in Adoption and Fostering is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and available from their website.

A Book Review – What is Happening to me?

Once I had peeled myself off the ceiling after, what in our house is fondly known as “porn gate”, I realised my son and I needed to have that talk.

It’s easy, now a days, to leave this to school, I have been quite shocked with just how much they cover by year six. However, nothing really sticks in your mind like that awkward chat with a parent.

book1Being real here, it’s not always easy to know where to begin and when your child may have experienced sexual abuse or been exposed to violent relationships having a safe tool to help you a long is invaluable.

Someone recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad they did.

The Usbourne book What’s Happening to me? The blue one for boys.

The immediate thing to like about this book are the graphics. Whilst being accurate and intimate they are illustrations which in no way feel frightening. The book reads like a kind and sensitive voice of a trustworthy adult who gets how embarrassing all this could be.

So whilst it’s easy to read with your child, it is also a book I have happily left with my son to read,when he wants to. My son is eleven and my ten year old has also read it.

It starts with a soft introduction of “growing up” but soon moves on to changes in the body. It real does deal with everything. Not that it answers all the questions but it provides the base for many a discussion.

My son recently asked me a particular question about bodily fluids and we were able to use the book to scientifically explain and then discuss. It was good for me to have a starting point.

I particularly like the page entitled “other boys look different” helping or young adults to understand about body image.

The book also has sections on emotions, cleanliness and increased responsibility as well as why girls are different. I haven’t seen the version for girls (pink cover) but I can only imagine that is very similar in style and writing.

For me this book has been a great tool for talking about a subject that through media and environment our emotionally vulnerable children are required to face. It provides a safe way of dealing with what I know I they need to know without alarming them.