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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.

Weekly Adoption Shout Out – #WASO week 201

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Thank you for all your contributions to our week 200.

We focused on sending links to the post to professionals as we realise it is a great and supportive resource for many. This is due to the great diversity of posts so keep them coming!

We are able to feature anonymous posts from the community on our features section so do email us if you have something to share. Please send to theadoptionsocial@gmail.com

Thanks again xx



Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO Week 182

Welcome back to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out!

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As always on a Friday, it’s time to get your blogs linked up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out and have a read of some other amazing adoption related blogs. There’s no theme this week, so just come along and link your latest, best, worst or favourite blog post below. Share your favourites and comment on those you read.

 



A Problem Shared – Family Contact

Today we bring you a problem about family contact, do you have any experience you can share.

A Problem SharedWe have recently made contact with a sibling of our children. We went through the post adoption for the area where our children came from. They facilitated an initial meeting with the sibling for my husband and I. We then arranged a supported meeting for the children with the sibling. The sibling is eighteen and therefore does not require the support of another family member and is happy to work independently. Now this contact has been made we are now being asked to manage it without SW involvement.

I’d like to know if anyone else has been through a similar experience and how they have managed this contact. I want this person to be a part of my children’s lives, however I want to remain in control of the contact. My children are now twelve and thirteen and I worry about them all being in contact through social media without our knowledge. We have very firm rules about internet access and use of the internet but I know as our children get older we will need to give them more freedom. Any advice would be well received.

WASO Top 3 – April

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There is always such a unique array of stories being told on #WASO. Thank you all for being so open, honest and real, we love you all but unfortunately can only choose three each, and here are those three…….

 

 

Sarah :

I was immediately transported to a muddy path beside a bubbling brook in this post. Beautiful descriptions and captivating words describe this family’s moments of contentment.

In this post I can just feel the physical, emotional and mental strain this parent is suffering in the face of such bewildering behaviour. We’ve all been there and are with you all the way.

And finally, thank you to Suddenly Mummy for a post which is both informative, highly thought provoking and left me feeling all stirred up about the plight of social care in the UK.

Vicki:

This post very eloquently describes many of the feelings that surface when you find out that your impending adoptive placement is being challenged. As well as the anger, worry and disappointment, this mum describes the feelings she felt towards birth mum too.

After a panel discussion, this post by Transfiguring Adoption was created to share the thoughts of adoptees when contact is not possible.

3 Pink Diamonds adopted 3 girls several years ago now, but have come to the difficult decision to disrupt the placement of their youngest girl. This post, explains what, why and gives thanks.

Life on the Frontline 25/04/16

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

“Get the hell out of my bedroom” was the charming response I got from Tall when I attempted to get him up for school on Monday.  It was a response repeated each time I entered and tried to rouse him from his pit. In the end, as I had no understanding of what exactly was wrong, I suspected nothing except tiredness, I delivered my consequences for not attending school and decided I would leave it at that.

Five minutes later Tall stumbled down the stairs, bog eyed and very grumpy. He swore a couple of times and left the house, without his school bag, lunch or the homework he’d spent a couple of hours on that weekend. I emailed school so they knew what they had in store.

Monday afternoon, he bounced back through the front door after a really good day and very apologetic for his morning behaviour. He had just been very tired. I made it clear that being tired wasn’t a sufficient reason for being as rude as he had been but I did feel relieved for his good day and simple explanation. I suppose it is a delightful combination of adolescent hormones and taking things out on those closest to you.

Tuesday morning it was Small’s turn. He didn’t want to go, as he hadn’t the previous Tuesday. I realised there was a definite pattern to this behaviour, same classes same teachers.  He didn’t want to go and that was it, no amount of persuading or encouragement was going to work. I probed a little as to what the problem could be and I finally got something to work with. His maths and drama teacher are at the moment one and the same and he has both these lessons on a Tuesday.

“She’s stressy” he told me.

“Why do you think that, did she say or do something?”

“In maths she told me I couldn’t leave the class ten minutes early if I didn’t finish my work. I didn’t understand the work we were doing and so I copied the person next to me”

“Oh did this make you feel worried?”

“YES”.

Small is allowed to leave each lesson ten minutes early to visit pastoral and check in with them.  I assured Small I would speak with school about how he was feeling and we would get things sorted for him.

Eventually we left for school about half an hour late, Small still a little unsure. On arrival at school, students were wandering between tutor group and first lesson.

“I’m not going in yet” said Small.

“Why?”

“I’m not being seen with you in those yoga leggings” he says nodding towards the lively patterned lycra covering my legs.

So I walk into school alone and Small follows once all students are safely in their lessons. More signs of adolescence starting to set in.

So after two really tough mornings I am apprehensive on Wednesday when I wake, as Small is supposed to be getting the bus to school, for the first time. The private hire minibus has agreed to collect him from outside the house, which is really helpful. As I come downstairs to make myself a cup of tea, I realise Small is already up and downstairs and dressed. He is in a fine mood and I think excited.

Tall also gets up with little prising or persuading and is also in an upbeat mood.

By quarter past eight both boys are out the house and off to school.

Well if only it could always be that easy.

 

In Other News

Small has got the bus to school every morning; I have a whole extra hour in my day now.

Tall and Dad enjoyed a trip to robot wars this weekend.

Small and his girlfriend “hung out” together on Friday at the park and then ate chips together.