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We were rudely awakened recently by a man in a hi-viz jacket.

“can you move your car, we are going to re-tarmac the road”

Simple, even easy, but the road was not really that bad or in need of tarmacing.

My husband and others I know work with local authority.

Ever wondered why in March there is an amazing amount of roads that need fixing?

Local Authority departments that always have plenty to spend, get worried that at the end of the fiscal year their budget will deplete. They know that if they don’t spend their budget, they will not get the same amount of money next year.

In Derbyshire, a massive county, we have one post adoption social worker on a full time contract. One, just one. I’ve met him and he was part of the most negative post adoption support I could even have received.

Our current SW is only guaranteed for 3 months.

I’ve been in such a dangerous places with my child and not know where to turn.

Yet there is money in our local authorities to dig roads up that don’t need resurfacing.

Life on the Frontline 11/04/16

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.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record but I’ve still been feeling a bit low. Going into the Easter holidays I felt full of dread instead of my usually delight at not having to cope with school for two weeks. I think it’s fair to say March has just not been my month.

The long Easter weekend was just too long and by the Monday I felt irritable and angry. I wanted to leave, just get up and walk. Every little demand made on me was more than I wanted to give and my resentment was stacked high. With this in mind we did very little over the following days as I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to take my children anywhere. Add to this a working from home dad, his office was too cold apparently, and the four walls of our home became a molten pot of blistering tension.

Over the week a number of explosions irrupted, shouting, slamming of doors and tears and that’s just from the grownups. The children were living on their nerves and this brought an increased need for reassurance, which I obviously didn’t feel much like offering. It was a horrible few days.

Thank the lord that a wonderful friend offered to have Tall for a two night sleep over the middle weekend and granny stepped in to have small for a night. A child free 24 hours was exactly what I needed and the opportunity to spend some quality time with my husband.

We ate out, twice, dinner and lunch, and it was wonderful to enjoy a meal without having to sooth a boy who didn’t want to be there and another that was sulking in an ever increasing adolescent sort of way. We talked, we laughed, in fact we laughed a lot, and we enjoyed each other’s company a lot. It was joyous.

The second week of the holidays was built on the foundations of this very enjoyable time. It wasn’t instant; I still felt a twinge of resentment at the return of my children.  However, things gradually improved, even to the point where we left the house, together.

Now we are on the cusp of returning to school, I don’t want it to happen, I want to spend more time with my children and not have to think about school.  We’ve got a long term ahead and it could be draining. I think another night out for the husband and I might be needed.

In Other News

The boys brought home school reports at the end of last term. Both are doing well, moving in the right direction with a couple of impressive highlights.

Through all my misery, I’ve still taught my yoga classes through the holidays. A complete life saver.

We’ve gained another pet, Small now has a hamster called Bubbles.

Role models

Can anyone help today’s poster? This adoptive mum is asking for advice…

I have 2 children – a son and a daughter.
My daughter has no known issues and is meeting all her milestones appropriately.
My son, who is older and not biologically related to his sister is another matter. He has attachment difficulties and sensory processing disorder. He suffers hugely from anxiety, and he manages this through attempts to control everything. My son also gets angry very easily, and lives his life in a hypervigilant state. We are having therapy and feel able (currently) to manageProblem our son’s issues.

But, I am concerned that our daughter will see that it’s normal for boys (and therefore men) to behave as her brother does. When he is having a meltdown, we usually remove our daughter for her safety. This of course means she doesn’t see the eventual calming and resolution – just the fists flying.

What is this teaching her about men? Sadly in her school class she also encounters this as there are several children with additional needs, although of course there are many more that don’t. As much as I want to teach her about being accepting towards other people’s needs, I don’t want to teach her to accept violence directed at her.
I’m not sure how to approach this with her without putting ideas into her young head. Or am I worrying over nothing?

NVR Training opportunity

Today’s post is from Penny, who has arranged a course on NVR, taking place in Northampton at the end of March…

When I contacted Vicki about publicising the course that I’ve organised on this website, she suggested that I ‘write a guest post about what I’m doing and why’. Timely. The course commences in under three weeks and not enough places have been sold yet to meet the costs of this venture. Some reminding of ‘what I’m doing and why’ might be just what I need!

Before you read anymore – here’s the flyer for the event.

I’m not a business woman, I’m a counsellor/psychologist; my post graduate training has been in Counselling Psychology and in recent years I qualified as a Systemic Practitioner. Since 2010, I have been in private practice in Northampton, with a steady turn-over and a good reputation; most of my new clients come to me via recommendations. I’m doing ok. But cases concerning child-to-adult violence have consistently left me feeling helpless and ineffectual.

Tantruming toddlers, challenging children and rebellious adolescents, on the whole, respond well to ‘naughty-steps’, reward charts and the giving and retraction of privileges. Super Nanny has been clear – set boundaries, ignore bad behaviour and reward the desired behaviour.

But raising children is not always the same as teaching a pigeon to push the right levers (to release a food pellet reward, rather than the electric shock). There is a minority of young people whose experiences have taught them that the adult world cannot be relied upon. As adopters you will know some of these children and the heart-breaking tragedies and the stomach-turning betrayals of trust that they have experienced.

These traumatised and attachment-injured children, understandably, are prone to respond to authority with anger and defiance. Their motivation to avoid being controlled is deeply rooted in an anxiety-based, survival response. Reward and punishment will not work with them, because compliance to authority is experienced as psychological annihilation. They might play along for a bit, perhaps even long enough to get the reward, but they’ll soon feel manipulated and their resentment and anger will grow– and then they will punish person and/or property.

In April 2014, the Department of Education published the research report ‘Beyond the Adoption Order’, which made it clear that an intact adoption placement does not necessarily equate to a happy or stable one. Researchers found that 20-25% of surveyed adopters described their family life as ‘difficult’.

‘Difficult’ was option ‘C’. Option ‘D’ was ‘child no longer lives at home’; I wonder how many of those 20-25% might have selected ‘On the verge of breakdown’, had it been a response option. In my experience, where the placement is ‘difficult,’ families have often resigned themselves to ‘lives of quiet desperation’.

For those who manage to overcome their shame enough to ask for assistance, the Super Nanny-saturated culture is there, ready to point the finger. Parents are typically informed that the situation is of their own making; their boundaries were too vague and not enforced with sufficient vehemence. Too often, the necessary back-up is not there. The report tells of parents,

“…having ‘to do battle’ with professionals to get support which, even if provided, was often time-limited and uncoordinated. Adopters also commented on feeling personally ‘let down’ by their assessing local authority’s failure to keep their promise of being there when needed, or reneging on support packages.”

In the defence of time-crunched, budget-less professionals, if all they are equipped to offer, are more boxes, leavers and pellets (i.e. reward and punishment based parent training courses), their ability to help will remain very limited.

This is not a simple matter of educating the parents. Nor is it possible to take the individual child to a therapist to be ‘fixed’. For children who have been severely psychologically damaged in contexts where the community did not (or could not) protect them, healing will require a community approach. A loving, committed parent or two, in a community that merely throws the responsibility around, won’t stand much chance. Yet we still abandon parents to deal with dangerous behaviours from deeply disturbed adolescents. Some of these parents are my clients.

If we could pan out a bit from adoptive parents, to the general population of parents, we’d see many more of my clients. Not all children escape their traumatising environments – many domestic tyrants manage to keep their behaviour just shy of being prosecutable. Just under the radar. The 2015 Home Office ‘Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA)’ began to address the prevalence of adolescent-to-parent violence in the general population. It describes parents living with tyrannical off-spring, experiencing corresponding levels of shame, blame & fear and helpfully explores how various professionals could do much to help.

Both reports recommend Nonviolent Resistance and accordingly, the Adoption Support Fund promotes this approach and pays for adopters to train in NVR (do claim if you’d like to do this course). But both reports are relatively recent and I didn’t do my training in this county. When I booked the trainer and the venue, I had no idea that NVR had yet to land here. Last week I told an adoption social worker from Solihull about the blank responses I get around here when I mention NVR – “you must be living in the dark ages down there!” he commiserated.

Indeed it seems that I greatly underestimated the groundwork that is necessary around here. When I tell people about Nonviolent Resistance, what they seem to hear is ‘Passive Acceptance’. One adoptive parent exclaimed “I am not Ghandi! Are you suggesting that we just stand there and let him punch and kick us?!” (Absolutely not). Perhaps this is why Haim Omer chose to call his next book ‘The New Authority’. There is nothing weak about this approach.

Panning further out and the personal becomes the political. ‘Old Authority’ thinking places power in the hands of those strong enough to apply force. Parents and professionals who are smaller, weaker or less physically able are largely condemned to remain vulnerable. ‘New Authority’ (exercised via NVR) can empower all, because it harnesses the synergy and influence of the collective. Of course this is political – NVR has its roots in political struggle and we enthusiasts find ourselves speaking almost as if we’re part of a social movement! To equip people with a source of strength that is not contingent upon being bigger, stronger and more prepared to use force is radical indeed.

From high ideological strivings, back down to earth with a thud – two weeks left until the training course starts and there are still many spaces to fill; this is the bungee cord that I’ve been attached to of late. And I am back thinking about the individual cases that have inspired this possible rashness on my part. Today their children are primary school age and things are already unbearable; both reports site adolescence as the time when these situations really escalate. In my opinion, NVR thinking can provide them, their supporters and the professionals involved with the necessary strategies to weather the coming storm. That’s why I took this risk and organised this training course. So, that’s ‘what I’m doing and why I’m doing it’. Thank you for prompting me to remember this Vicki. ☺

Penny Ruth Willis

#Taspic – a roundup and a new challenge.

Calling all you camera loving folk. It’s #Taspic time again.

So here is our top picture from February, well done @purdy2233

Top Taspic purdy2233

And as always here is a selection of other favourite shots from the month.

goodtimes Collage

And now to this month and it’s over to our guest editor @craftikitty.

Over the last few days a lot of things have #mademesmile:

  1. A peaceful and harmonious, but chilly, family day out at Monkey World. The monkeys were as cold as we were, most of them didn’t want to get out of bed. Those that did brave the cold weather wrapped themselves in blankets. This was Baby Billy’s first visit to this amazing place and he absolutely loved it, giggling all the way around.
  2. My big, often monosyllabic, teenage boy playing with the younger two. Admittedly we were miles away from home so there was no chance anybody would see him, but it still warmed my heart.
  3. Strolling on the beach with my teenager taking photographs
  4. A bunch of flowers from a friend
  5. And this














Life can be stressful, so these little things mean a lot. We want to hear about your special moments. So get snapping, capture and share the things that #mademesmile #TASPic. We can’t wait to see your pictures

It really does go in…

I’ve written before about pets on my own blog The Boy’s Behaviour.IMG_20160213_195905We’d hoped to rescue a dog from a local rescue centre, but all of them felt that Dollop was/is too young. So, instead, we turned to guinea pigs, and most recently we rescued a hamster.

Poppadom Jackson Po joined us a week ago, and we are all in love with this teeny tiny bundle, despite the wheel keeping us awake at night!

But what I want to share with you is the thinking that my children put into us rescuing Poppadom –  if you’re ever in any doubt about whether your children are hearing you as you talk about adoption or identity – I have wondered this at times – then read on…

IMG_20160215_220716In Poppadom’s pre-rescue cage, he had an gnawable bridge and a plastic strawberry shaped hidey hole. So whilst I filled in the adoption papers, Mini and Dollop went in search for things to put in the cage, and I was most impressed when they came back with the exact same items – “We chose the same things as before so he’ll recognise them and feel more comfortable”.

On the way home in the car, we were thinking about names. He’d previously been known as Po, but we didn’t like it. So instead we collectively came up with Poppadom Jackson. But Mini pointed out that as he’d been known as Po before, we ought to keep that as a middle name – just like we’d done when we adopted him.

Husband and I exchanged glances in the front of the car.

“What a great idea that is Mini.” I said. “We’ll definitely do that.”
Too stunned to take it any further, and wary of pushing it too far anyway, we left it there, but I feel confident that we can come back to it and relate it to Mini’s own identity.

So, clearly, all those times when I’ve mentioned identity and transition, Mini has been listening. See I always thought the the fingers in ears and la-la-la-ing meant he wasn’t listening – similarly the eyes glazing over, shrugging shoulders and turning the telly up, but it turns out I was misreading him a bit!
The drip-drip really does work, and we’ll continue at it.

Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO Week 153

That time again already? Friday means it’s time for the Weekly Adoption Shout Out!

#WASOWhat have you been up to this week? Write a post and tell us all about it.  There’s no theme this week – so we’ll be looking forward to hearing all your news, views and opinions this time. Next week is our next adoption #sorepoints, so the theme will be Personal Hygiene then.

As always, go forth and add your link, and please do share as many posts as you can.

PDA – Pathalogical Demand Avoidance, What do we all know?

Today Sarah from The Puffin Diaries is asking what do we all know about PDA?

I have come to the conclusion my eleven year old son has PDA. I have asked CAMHS to diagnosis for us but as they have already assessed him and diagnosised him as on the Autistic Spectrum, and as PDA is considered to be part of the spectrum, they have said no.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has been successful in receiving a diagnosis and hear who they achieved this.

Also how do school support a child with PDA? If you have any experience of a school being successful in supporting a child it would be great to hear about things that work well in the educational environment.

I have found this website of great use The PDA Society there is alot of useful information for families and schools.

I also was first introduced to PDA through Born Naughty? on Channel 4, the first episode involving a little girl called Honey.

If people provide other resources I will pull it all together in a future post.

How much to share…

Can anyone advise this new adoptive mum who’s wondering what to Problemtell others in developing relationships…

I’m a fairly new adoptive mum to sibling girls age 4 and 6. Both are at school and I’m slowly starting to become friendly, though very warily of some of the other parents in the playground.

We’re also fairly new to the town we’re living in, so it’s been easy to say ‘yes we just moved to the area’ when explaining our sudden appearance at school.

Now, however, as I develop friendships with some of these people, and my daughters develop friendships with their peers, I’m wondering how much information to share. The school knows a little about their backgrounds, and enough to be able to support them if any issues become apparent (though everything is OK at the moment, we’re still in the honeymoon period I’m sure), but what to tell the parents?

I’m not ashamed of being an adoptive parent, but I don’t want to divulge too much as it’s simply not anyone else’s business. But if I become proper friends with any of them, I don’t want to start off by being dishonest or at the very least, not upfront.

How have others dealt with this?

#TASchat time!

Tonight we’ll be hosting our final #TASchat of 2015 – will you be coming?

We’ve been running fairly regular Twitter chats for a little while now, some have been on serious subjects, others more an informal natter and we’ve really been enjoying them. What about you?
Tonight’s subject is #FestiveFun so get ready for our Christmassy questions…

If you’re not sure what a Twitter chat involves, then this post is for you – it explains how to take part, and I can assure you it’s really not as scary as it sounds. www.kizoa.com_collage_2015-12-09_20-04-25

We try to round-up each chat after too, so if you can’t make it, you can always have a read afterwards. We use Storify as a tool for this, and you can find our previous Storify round-ups here:
Child to Parent Violence
The Best Bits
National Adoption Week 2015
Surviving Christmas

Tonight. 9-10pm GMT. Twitter. #TASchat. #Festivefun.