Tag Archives: adoption uk

New appointment for popular blogger

Today’s guest post comes from Adoption UK. The charity has just appointed Sally Donovan as the new editor of Adoption Today – its magazine for members.

We are delighted to announce that Sally Donovan is the new editor of Adoption Today.

Sally is an adoptive parent to two children and is the author of No Matter What and The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting as well as children’s book Billy Bramble and the Great Big Cook Off.SallyD

Adoption UK’s chief executive Hugh Thornbery CBE described Sally’s appointment as a “real coup”.
Mr Thornbery said: “Sally is hugely respected within the adoption community and has a big following on social media.”
“She has a wealth of experience relating to the issues, concerns and challenges that are important to our members and anyone who has read any of her books will know that her writing is incredibly colourful and engaging – so we’re very excited to see how she will take Adoption Today forward into the future.”

Sally and her husband have two teenaged children, both adopted. She has worked in industry and in horticulture but has written a lot about adoption in more recent years. Sally also works with the Department of Education, in a voluntary capacity, as a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Adoption Support.

She said: “It sounds grand but it’s really about giving a parental and family input into achieving better support around adopted families in England. I look forward to the time when the same engagement is being sought in all parts of the UK.”

When asked about her plans for Adoption Today, Sally said: “I’ve got big boots to fill and hope to build on the work of past editors. The growth of social media presents an opportunity to engage more with members and to hear a diverse range of voices from across the UK.
“I’d also like to freshen up the look of the magazine. I’m interested in fonts, which is not something I talk much about at dinner parties, but I’m hoping to put that interest to good use.”

Sally is aiming to get more readers involved with the content of the magazine. The August issue will set out a number of easy ways that anyone connected with adoption, whether that’s personally or professionally, can contribute to the magazine.
She said: “I’d like to involve those at all stages of the adoption process, children and young people, social workers, volunteers and practitioners.
“I’ll also be looking for original images, so budding and experienced photographers and artists can get involved too.”

Anyone who would like to contact Sally can do so by tweeting her @sallydwrites or emailing editor@adoptionuk.org.uk.

Sally will also be around on the Adoption UK Facebook page.  She said: “I’d really value your feedback on Adoption Today so please get in touch. And if you’re coming to the Adoption UK Annual Conference on November 19 and would like to take part in a small focus group, please contact me.”

Using Non Violent Resistance (NVR) as a strategy for coping with CPV

Today we have a guest post from an anonymous mum speaking about her experience of Child to Parent Violence and the course she attended on NVR…

I know that Child to Parent Violence happens in other families. And it is a strange sort of relief to be aware that we are not the only ones. Though I could never wish this situation on anybody else.

I do not know exactly how it feels for other parents, however, I can only speak to my own experience. Our boys had a difficult start in life and witnessed some very unpleasant events. We were not particularly surprised when they were aggressive. Nor was anyone else. People (both ‘experts’ and friends) who heard about the boys’ violent outbursts vacillated between some phrasing of ‘surely it’s not that bad’ and ‘what did you expect?

Well, sometimes, especially as the boys grew older and were able to throw me against a wall, it did seem pretty bad. And, somehow, knowing that there is a sort of explanation for their behaviour didn’t really help.

We found out about Non-Violent Resistance some time ago. I read up on it and then we attended a course put on by Adoption UK, where we met Peter Jakob.
He talked about the function of aggressive outbursts (and indeed much of our children’s behaviour) was to exert control. We cannot control children who do not want to be controlled, but we can control our own behaviour. Changing my goals from changing the children’s behaviour to changing my own was a freeing prospect. Finally, I could be in control of whether or not I succeeded!

Then he talked about ways of regaining our own ‘parental presence’.
The most exciting thing for me was Jakob’s advice for what to do during ‘incidents’. I have always struggled with the best way to handle the really difficult moments and found Jakob’s down to earth approach reassuring. He pointed out that heightened arousal levels inhibit our ability to plan and to read others. We cannot change the child mid-incident. So we must act on the incident much later, after we’ve calmed down. He emphasised that we can assume control by choosing when the defer our responses, we don’t have to accept our children’s invitations to respond right away. He even gave us a phrase to use: “we’ll deal with this later, when the time is right”. During an incident, Jakob encourages us to prioritise safety, try to minimise risk and, when necessary, run away. I think that I needed permission to run away sometimes. It is strange to realise, but I have long felt that there was a kind of honour or sacrificial duty in staying beside my hurting child. But, sometimes, the only way to protect my hurting child from becoming a violent bully is to run away.

Jakob recommends ‘persistence not insistence’.
His process begins with an Announcement, which should be prepared in writing and delivered deliberately and clearly. He suggests this pattern:
1) Something positive about your child, a maximum of one paragraph.
2) State clearly what the problem is. No more than three problems should be mentioned, so prioritise.
3) Expression of concern for how the child’s behaviour effects others, working from the outside in, finishing with the effect on the child themselves.
4) The parents state that they cannot accept this behaviour and they will take action, won’t do this alone, and will not be violent themselves.
5) A positive vision of the future, where the child can be trusted to do something that they cannot do yet.

The idea of not doing this alone is central to Jakob’s method. He told us that we ‘don’t live in normal households’ and we ‘need a support network not friends’. He suggested that safe and supportive adults were the ones who make us feel ‘sufficiently comfortable yet sufficiently energised’ when we talk about our children. They are the adults we should recruit to help us.

After an incident, we can contact these supporters and tell them what happened. We then ask one or two to contact the child and express concern, following this pattern:
1) State that they know what happened.
2) Express personal concern for the behaviour and its likely consequences.
3) Make some appreciative comment about a good side of the child. And offer to be there if the child needs to talk in future.
We would also need to be transparent with these supporters about our own behaviour. Jakob suggested that we consider our own natural tendencies to be aggressive or avoidant. The idea of talking about what happens in the home is that secrecy is actively unhelpful. It feels like it’s right to maintain our privacy, but Jakob believes that allows our children to believe that hurting their parents is OK.

We have not been using these techniques very long at all, so have yet to see whether they have the long term impact that we are hoping for.
But, ending the secrecy, while terrifying, has been wonderful for me. I am not going to tell everyone that my son throws chairs at me, of course not. Yet, having a few people who know makes me feel far less alone in those slightly scary moments. We gave up using behaviour modification techniques years ago, it created shame and made everything worse. Years of there being no consequence for hurting me, however, were crushing. It felt as though my bruises and cuts didn’t matter, and that didn’t help any of us. Now we have an answer (though, I acknowledge it is only a partial one). People express concern when I am hurt, and that makes me feel like a real person again. These conversations with supporters are not intended to be any kind of punishment and, as parents, we must be vigilant to ensure that they don’t become hurtful. The conversations can happen a long time after the incident, giving the boys plenty of time to cool down.

This is a remarkable strategy which puts the family’s support network at its very heart. It works for us because we are lucky enough to have a wonderful support network of people who care deeply about our boys and are willing to go to great lengths to help us and them.
But, this strategy emphasises the massive importance of everyone learning more about how to support struggling children and families. The more people who understand, the more choice we will have in picking our supporters. So, I am beginning to realise that we need to talk about this.

Book review: Let’s Cook Together

Today’s review by Vicki is a little biased…you’ll see why…

Let’s Cook Together is a recipe book published by Adoption UK. It includes 30 recipes, which have been submitted by Adoption UK staff, famous adoptees and adoptive parents, and a few adoption bloggers – including Sally Donovan, and The Adoption Social’s Sarah (The Puffin Diaries) and Vicki (The Boy’s Behaviour).IMG_20140430_195439

The important thing about this book, apart from all the fab recipes included, is that proceeds from the sale of it will be used by Adoption UK to ‘help build brighter futures for children unable to live with their birth parents’. And at just £4.95 who could resist?

The recipes are divided into four main areas – Mains, Desserts, Snack and light bites & Bakes and treats. So far I’ve tried the Apple, Pear and Raspberry Crumble, which is easy to follow and completely delicious, Toby’s Tasty Tikka Snack, which is gorgeous but simple, and my own Marshmallow Pops. But there are several more that very much appeal, and the children can’t wait to make the Rolo-Pretzel Turtles.

What I really like about this simple paper-backed A5 size book is that all the recipes are simple to follow, they’ve all been tested (and photographed beautifully) and there are many that will appeal to children including some they can get involved with making.

It’s well worth the fiver.

Available from www.adoptionuk.org

Coping with Christmas

Christmas affects us and our children in different ways.

For many, the change in routines at school, the excitement, the number of parties, anxieties about the school play add up and make it difficult for children to manage.
For others, birthdays, Christmas and other celebratory times can bring mixed emotions and feelings – with reminders about past times – good and bad.

As much as we try not to show it, as parents we get stressed about shopping for presents, managing money, inviting the relatives over and cooking that big turkey dinner.

And there are many more reasons for stress around this time.

We wanted to bring you a post that had some tips and advice and we’ve been collating these from our followers, readers and contributors. We recognise that not all of these will work for everyone. You know yourself and your children best, so pick and choose what you think will suit you…and if you have any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments for others to see.

Keep it low-key.  Fewer presents and fewer people will mean less stress, judgement and excitement for everyone. Matt, an adoptive dad.

It’s not for everyone I know elf on the shelf– but we do Elf on the Shelf. We’ve tweaked it so it works for us – the kids look after the elf, rather than the elf spying on the children and reporting to Santa. We find it takes the focus off Christmas day, spreads the build up making it more manageable on a daily basis, and the children are more interested in what the elf is doing rather than arguing/fighting/stressing themselves. Helpfully, the elves also bring activities (crafts usually) for after school and weekend entertainment. Vicki, The Boy’s Behaviour.

Think like snow deep crisp and even!
Deep: stories and candle for each night of advent. Crisp: choosing favourite food meal to share one evening of Christmas. Even – even though it’s Christmas, keep the gentle ‘normal’ routines of bed times and rhythms going. @wonkywarrior, via Twitter.

My son struggles with Christmas, he loves the idea of Christmas but cannot manage the emotional connection that previous Christmas’ have given him so we keep Christmas very low key and short. Christmas decorations and tree go up a couple of days before Christmas and come down soon after so it’s not too drawn out. Donna, an adoptive mum via Facebook.

Structure to the days – presents eked out over time -i.e. Santa Christmas morning, other relatives gifts after lunch – similarly with selection boxes! Limit parties, take long walks, go swimming / biking etc. Take 2 ibuprofen with a large quantity of wine and retire to a dark room til jan 6th. We also take down decorations just after New Year’s Day so that we start the run up to school with a clear (ish) house. Helen, an adoptive mum via Facebook.

Hibernate and wake up in January. @jayandaitch, via Twitter.

Keep it low key…no mad rush to open presents…make plans that work for you, don’t worry about upsetting others. Naomi, via Facebook.

adventNo tree/decs up until they’ve broke up school. Home is Xmas free apart from advent calendars. @purdy2233, via Twitter.

Work hard to reframe advent with different / new experiences and constant narrative. Also use “less is more” approach to events, keep excitement / new stuff low. Instil family rituals -Xmas film/ repeat events. @elhypno, via Twitter.


Making up own traditions is one delight of adoption actually. Mine choose anything they like for breakfast. This Christmas breakfast has been lemon curd on ice cream for button! @wonkywarrior, via Twitter.

We go to park to feed ducks & let off steam between opening pressies! Xmas eve always go for lunch the 4 of us, local posh cafe. Wearing Xmas jumpers! @Purdy2233, via Twitter.

We stagger presents. Family presents when they visit/or we visit. Boys have special jobs. Homemade chocolate truffles by the bucket load (boys love the smell). @3beesandahoney, via Twitter.

Def echo visual diary. And escape route. Son can whisper in my ear if he needs to get out and we seek peace together no matter what the situation. Other than that v low key here. No pressure to join in with games etc. And Santa was busted v early on as too scary. Difficult keeping that a secret from other kids though. @sallydwrites, via Twitter.

And if you need any more tips, then Adoption UK have a Coping with Christmas article on their website.

We’d love to hear how you manage Christmas, or perhaps you’d like to share the things you find especially difficult – as a parent, as an adoptee or as a birth parent. It can be a difficult time for all…

3 Bees and a Honey – Me & My Blog

This post is part of our Me & My Blog/My Twitter brotherly loveLife section where bloggers share the reasons why they blog and tweet. If you want to contribute to this section, please do comment below or contact us. Today, Honey shares why she writes 3 Bees and a Honey

Ok confession time! I originally began using Twitter as a tool to keep an eye on Beeswax’s EBD school, who were routinely posting images of him on their website without ours or Social Services’ permission. Their communication with parents was dire, but their ability to ‘tweet’ links to new information on their site was incredible. As the weeks went I found that, when I wasn’t obsessively monitoring school’s tweets, I would start searching for topics/tweeters that shared a common interest and began to follow them. I rarely commented or actively sent any tweets in the early days because I did not feel confident enough in myself and felt that I would be intruding in strangers’ lives (pathetic but true) but if it hadn’t been for Twitter I wouldn’t have come across #WASO (weekly adoption shout out) or The Adoption Social website and I would not be writing this now.

So how did I get here?

I have always been quite a shy, private kind of person and for as long as I can remember I have used writing to not only get me through the bad times but also to document the good times. However, until I began working with Beeswax’s wonderful CAMHS therapist I had never allowed anyone to know of the existence of my writing, let alone read anything I wrote, but just when our family started to disintegrate and it looked like we were on a collision course with disruption for Beeswax, I decided to take a very brave (or foolish) step and confide in Jemima about the effect Beeswax’s trauma was having on me and my fears for the future.  I did something I had never done before. I allowed her to read my diary and waited for the fallout – which never happened! Instead of being presented with a barrage of criticism and scorn, she reassured me that everything I was feeling was perfectly understandable and supported me through a very dark time.

In the wake of a very difficult year, she gave me the greatest gift she could ever give – acceptance!

As for how I came to starting writing a blog. In all honesty Jemima was instrumental in this. She would regularly compliment my honest writing and tease me (she knew that I found receiving compliments or drawing attention to myself very difficult and loved trying to push me just outside my comfort zone) by suggesting that I should turn it into a book. I wasn’t ready for that, however she had planted a seed in my mind. Could it be possible for me to share my thoughts in such an open way without feeling that I would be exposing myself too much or jeopardising my family’s security?

I used to be quite nervous about using social media sites.

I felt that I didn’t know enough to safely allow my thoughts, feeling and personal family information to be released into the public arena that is the internet (and the boys’ birth family history meant that I needed to be extra careful). Undeterred and somewhat on a mission I started to research how I could go about writing a blog whilst maintaining mine and my family’s anonymity. Although I am cautious about Facebook I do have my own page (in my real name) but very quickly I found that I felt I couldn’t use this as a platform for talking about our ‘Adoption Journey’, and I found myself feeling more and more isolated. There were times I felt extremely jealous that I couldn’t share with friends and family information about the boys because we would be too easily identifiable if searched for by birth family. I was already a member of Adoption UK and used the message boards from time to time and dipped in and out of several blogs that I could identify with on their site, but it wasn’t until BAAF National Adoption week 2012 that I took the final step. Through reading Sally Donovan’s blog I found Life with Katie, who was featuring guest bloggers on her site as a way of promoting National Adoption Week.

Suddenly a whole new world opened up to me.  Not only were there people there blogging about their adoption journeys, they were all doing it with minimal fear of jeopardising their families’ safety.  I know this will sound daft, but it had never occurred to me that I could use a pseudo name to enable me to write what I wanted, without fear of being identified. So tentatively I dipped my toe in the water and asked Bumble to help me set up a blog site and decided that there was no better time to launch it than during National Adoption week. At the time I didn’t expect anyone else to ever want to read it (I felt that there were so many bloggers who were so much better at getting their thoughts across than I ever could be) and thought that I would probably very quickly lose my nerve and stop writing. But instead something wonderful happened.

Not only was I very quickly bitten by the blogging bug, but suddenly strangers were writing comments and lovely ones too on my posts!

Similar to the fears I had when I opened up to Jemima, all the negative thoughts I had, about how what I wrote would be received, were unfounded and instead I had again found people who TRULY understood what it was like to parent children like my boys. 

Writing my blog has proven not only to be a therapeutic experience for myself but I have found a community of caring, funny and inspirational adoption tweeter/bloggers who are not only there to share the good times with you but to offer you support when times are tough.

And if you want to read Honey’s blog, then click here.