Tag Archives: ASF

Adoption Support Fund feedback chat

Have you accessed the Adoption Support Fund yet? How easy have you found it? Have your social workers been knowledgeable? How long has it taken?

This is the kind of feedback that is needed to improve the way the adoption support fund works, and so next week on Thursday August 6th, 9-10pm, we’ll be hosting a Twitter chat where you’ll be able to share your experiences with Jenny Jones, and hopefully Al Coates and Sally Donovan, all adoptive parents who sit on the expert advisory group that steers the adoption support fund.

We’ll be using our usual #taschat hashtag AND #asffb (Adoption Social Fund Feedback). We need both hashtags used in order to create a round-up of all the chatter and tweets that can be used by Jenny, Al and Sally. Any tweets that don’t include those hashtags, sadly won’t be included as it’s the only way we have of picking out those specific tweets.

We’ll be posing certain questions throughout the hour and we’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say. If you want a reminder of how to take part in a Twitter chat, then check out our tips here.

Otherwise, we look forward to chatting with you next Thursday 9-10pm on Twitter. Don’t forget those hashtags…

Therapeutic Services and the Adoption Support Fund

The Government recently announced that from 1st May 2015, adoptive parents throughout England can benefit from new funding under the Adoption Support Fund (ASF).

£19.3 million worth of extra funding is available to support adoptive families across England to ensure they get access to the best possible care and support.

The goal is to help adopted children recover from previous experiences, bond with their new adoptive families and settle into their new forever homes and they plan to achieve this through the use of free therapeutic services.

Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families, said:

“We know that children adopted from care have often lived through terrible experiences which do not just simply disappear once they have settled with their new families.

The Adoption Support Fund will provide adoptive families with the right support – from cognitive therapy to music and play therapy and attachment based therapy – to ensure that these children have a stable and fulfilling childhood – a fundamental right for every child, no matter what their starting point in life”.

It is available to all children adopted from care in England and not just newly adopted children. The ASF will pay for post-adoption-order support for children adopted up to the age of 18 (25-years-old with an SEN statement). It is not applicable to inter-country adoptions.

What Are Therapeutic Services?

The Adoption Support Fund will pay for therapeutic services that are not currently provided including:

  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
  • Therapeutic parenting courses
  • CAMHS assessment
  • Multidisciplinary assessment including education and health
  • Cognitive and neuropsychological assessment
  • Other mental health assessment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Theraplay
  • Filial therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Drama therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Sensory integration therapy
  • Non-violent resistance training

What will the Adoption Support Fund NOT pay for?

  • Support for physical medical conditions
  • Speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other universal health services.
  • Education support
  • Membership of clubs and organisations
  • Legal support
  • Support provided by private sector and third sector organisations that are not Ofsted regulated unless commissioned through Local Authorities
  • Training of staff
  • Support not delivered in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Animal, pet or equine therapy
  • Ex- Local authority (associate) social workers

 How Can I Get Therapeutic Services for My Adopted Child?

  • Get in touch with your allocated adoption authority/agency for an assessment of your adoption support needs.
  • The local authority that placed the child with you is responsible for assessing your adoption support needs for three years after the adoption, and then it becomes the responsibility of the local authority where you live.
  • The adoption agency will then submit your application for funding before an Adoption Order.
  • They will then consider if therapeutic support is needed as well as the type required and if it is eligible for payments from the fund.
  • The Adoption Team will then seek the support that is available and apply directly to the Adoption Support Fund on your behalf.
  • If funding is approved, the Adoption Support Fund then transfers the funds so we can purchase your support.

How Effective Are Therapeutic Services?

There is limited hard evidence on the effectiveness of different therapeutic approaches. But therapy in general has been found to relieve aspects of distress and ensure the wellbeing of children.

Findings published in 2011  ‘An Effective Way of Promoting Children’s Wellbeing and Alleviating Emotional, Behavioural and Mental Health Problems – revealed that between 74% and 83% of children receiving play therapy showed a positive change.

We can expect however a research report to be completed in June 2015 by Durham and Bristol Universities. The NSPCC-funded study, which commenced in April 2013, will evaluate the effectiveness of therapy service for children affected by sexual abuse.

This article was provided by Lancashire-based, Blackpool Council Adoption Support Team.
We provide a wealth of experience, knowledge and support for the North West. The new Adoption Support Fund will be a great opportunity for many adoptive families and we aim to help you access such specialist services.

The Adoption Social have previously published a number of posts about the Adoption Support Fund, including our recent response from Edward Timpson MP which you can find here.

Other related posts include:
The Adoption Support Fund
Launching the Adoption Support Fund Prototype
Helping our children at school – a breakthrough in support from Local Authority
Taking Action with #MeetTheMinister
#MeetTheMinister round-up

And we’re pleased to announce that on 6th August we’ll be hosting another Twitter chat to enable you to feedback your thoughts and experiences of the Adoption Support Fund to some of those who sit on the Expert Advisory Group who can in turn, use your experiences to improve the Adoption Support Fund and it’s access. More info coming soon.

Edward Timpson response to #WASO contributors

Do you remember back in November 2014, yes over six months ago so a lot has happened since, that we ran a #WASO special about National Adoption Week? During that time Edward Timpson MP released a letter addressed to adoptive parents too.

Well, some of you were disgruntled about not receiving a copy of the letter. Some of you were unhappy with the contents of the letter. Some of you felt that National Adoption Week didn’t address the needs of existing adoptive families and focussed purely on recruitment. And there were a whole load of other issues and queries that were raised. So we ran a #WASO special and invited you to write a post, link up and we forwarded those posts onto Edward Timpson MP for his response.

Last week, we got a response. We’ll try not to hold the delay, and the numerous follow-ups against Mr Timpson, after all, he’s a busy man and there’s been a change of government in the last little while too, but here’s his response:

Dear Vicki,

Thank you for your email of 9 June, on behalf of contributors to The Adoption Social, about the issues faced by adoptive parents, adoptees and local professionals.

Please pass on my thanks to your contributors for their views about the adoption system. I cannot comment directly on the experiences that have been describedas these are matters for local authorities and adoption agencies. I would, however, like to respond to some of the key themes that have emerged from the range of views expressed.

Some of your contributors have mentioned the open letter that I wrote to all adoptive parents last year as part of National Adoption Week (NAW), and have expressed disappointment that I did not address the concerns of adopters in the real world. I was sorry to read that your community feels this way. My letter was a genuine attempt to express my personal recognition of the commitment made by individual adopters to improve the lives of children, many of whom have had a difficult start to their life. However, I do recognise the discrepancies between policies and practice. Officials from the department work closely with adopters to understand more about their experiences of adoption support, and unfortunately we often hear about people struggling to access the support they need.

I was sorry to read that some of your contributors had not been sent a copy of my letter or were unaware of it. It is always difficult to reach out to all adopters when there is no centralised list of adoptive parents. The department’s social media team worked hard to publicise the letter, and it reached some 160,000 accounts. In addition, all local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies were sent the letter in advance of it being published and were asked to forward it to all their adoptive parents. I am disappointed that in some cases this did not happen. Your contributors may wish to ask their particular agency why they did not receive a copy. My letter is still available to view online at:


Your contributors may find it helpful if I explain more about NAW. It was established by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) in 1997, and is run by them on behalf of the sector. This year, NAW will take place between 19 and 25 October. I understand from BAAF that the theme will be older adopted children. If your contributors would like to know more, please contact BAAF at:


Some contributors felt that the six-month timescale to consider and approve applications to become adoptive parents did not give them enough time to prepare for the realities of adoption. The two-stage adopter approval process was introduced in 2013 to make it more efficient for prospective adopters to be considered and approved. I can understand that this might be too quick for some people, and that they may want more time during the process to consider whether adoption is the right option for them. Adopters in this position can slow down the assessment process or take a break of up to six months between stages one and two to allow them to reflect on whether they wish to proceed with their application or require more time to think through the issues raised by the assessment.

I read a number of comments associated with adoption support and the availability of help to prevent the breakdown of adoptions. Research published in 2014 with funding from the department shows that many adoptive families struggle to obtain the support they need, particularly in terms of therapeutic services. They also find it difficult to access a nuanced, sensitive consultation by an expert in adoption support. The research demonstrates that there is a high need for more specialist support and intensive services for many adoptive families. It is available at:


For these reasons, the government has made reforms to the adoption system a high priority. A key part of reforming help for adopters is the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). This is playing a significant role in reshaping the provision and availability of local support. It allows local authorities to assess individual support needs and apply for funding without the current financial barriers that often prevent them from offering these services.

Some contributors have questioned how the ASF works. The model is based on the existing statutory framework for the assessment of adoption support needs and the provision of support services. The adoptive family or an eligible individual will discuss the issues they are experiencing and explore the most effective form of help with the assessing social worker, based on the needs of the child. When these discussions have been concluded, and the local authority and individual assessed have determined that therapeutic adoption support of the type that qualifies for payments from the ASF is required, the local authority can apply to the ASF. At this point, there will also be a discussion on who may provide that service, dependent on the availability of providers in the area. The local authority will make an application directly to the ASF on behalf of the parent, with no need for the parent to get involved in the process.

When it receives an application, the ASF will ensure that the services required meet its eligibility criteria, and process payment back to the local authority. This means that the process of securing resources from the ASF should be quick and straightforward for adoptive families.

I appreciate the views that your contributors have expressed about the important role that schools play in supporting adopted children, and in particular the need for staff to be effectively trained on the range of issues associated with adoption, including attachment and therapeutic support. Since 2014, schools have been able to claim the pupil premium plus for children who have been adopted from care or who have left care under a Special Guardianship Order. The pupil premium plus, worth £1,900 per child per financial year, is additional funding for schools to help meet the needs of these children.

I understand the concern expressed by some adoptive parents that the pupil premium plus is not allocated to the needs of each pupil. The reason why this funding is not ring-fenced for the individual child is twofold. First, we consider schools to be best-placed to determine how to use the additional funding for maximum impact. Schools could decide to provide training for their staff or to provide tailored support for an adopted child that exceeds the value of the individual premium. Alternatively, a school could decide that a whole class intervention is appropriate. Secondly, the number of eligible children at each school is recorded by the January School Census, and this triggers the payment of the pupil premium to the school for the coming financial year starting in April. Some eligible children will leave the school during the year and others will join.
The flexibility that schools have enables them to ensure that they can support all disadvantaged pupils, and not just those on the school roll in January.

I would like to assure your contributors that it is not our intention that pupil premium funding is used to back fill the general school budget or to support other groups of pupils, such as those with special educational needs or those who are low-attaining. Schools are accountable to Ofsted on how they have used the funding to benefit eligible children. Ofsted will look at the impact the school has made with the pupil premium to close the attainment gap. Schools are also required to publish how they have used the pupil premium for the benefit of disadvantaged pupils on their website each year.

As your contributors may be aware, this is the first year that adopted children have attracted the pupil premium. To help schools and adoptive parents, the department recently published some case studies on emerging good practice in using the pupil premium during the first year of implementation. These can be found at:


I am conscious that prospective adopters often report difficulties with having the seriousness of their child’s problems recognised. I know that in some cases it is adopters themselves who have to educate health professionals about their child’s needs. I would like to assure your contributors that ensuring adopted children receive appropriate and timely Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services support remains a key priority for the government. In 2013, we included the need to plan and commission integrated services for adopted children in the government’s mandate letter to the NHS Commissioning Board, in statutory guidance on Joint Strategic Needs Assessments, and in joint health and wellbeing strategies. We also commissioned the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to develop clinical guidance on attachment.

An important opportunity to make further progress in this area is the government’s children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing taskforce. This is considering how to improve the way children’s mental health services are organised, commissioned and provided and how to make it easier for young people to access help and support, including through schools, voluntary organisations and online. The taskforce has set up a task and finish group for vulnerable children, which will be looking at the specific concerns of adopted parents. Further information can be found at:


I agree with your contributors that there should be a well-trained workforce for social work. The government supported training on adoption support that was delivered by BAAF to social workers across the country over the second half of last year. This included the views of adopters on adoption support, which in many cases echoed the experiences described on your website. It is important that social workers are aware of these views. The BAAF training has helped them to confidently identity and assess the needs of individual adoptive families. The government also worked with the College of Social Work and Research in Practice to develop a curriculum guide, a range of new training materials and other tools to focus on adoption support. We have been working to support and challenge with social workers to help them speed up the matching process by avoiding unnecessary delays associated with searching for what they might consider to be a ‘perfect match’.

Finally, your contributors may also wish to know that as part of the voluntary and community sector grant programme, in 2015-16 the department will be funding Adoption UK to work to improve the adopter voice across the adoption system. This work will seek to empower adoptive parents to engage with agencies on range of issues, including their experience of matching. The views and experiences of adopters are at the heart of my personal commitment to adoption, and will help determine what more the government needs to do in the future.

Kindest Regards,

Edward Timpson MP
Minister of State for Children and Families

What do think of Mr Timpson’s response? Has he adequately addressed your concerns? Do you need more answers?
Edward Timpson also recently ran a web chat, which was written about for us by Permanently in a Pickle, and Gareth Marr has been working on #MeettheMinister too.

#Meettheminister round-up

Very many thanks to Claire from Permanently In A Pickle for this round-up of the recent #Meettheminister session with Ed Timpson MP…

At 6 p.m. last Wednesday I settled down in front of my laptop, Tweetdeck open, brew in hand along with a large section of the adoption community Twitterati and awaited the much-anticipated First4adoption interview with Edward Timpson MP.

Eager to get our voices heard, we flooded the hashtag #meettheminister with our questions.

On paper Edward Timpson certainly has all the skills and experience to make him the ideal person for the job of Minister of State for Children & Families, to which he was promoted following this year’s General Election. His parents have fostered over 80 children and he has two adopted siblings. He has first-hand involvement with children who have experienced early life trauma and, as such, has an in-depth grasp of adoption issues and an understandable drive to push through the new adoption reforms that were laid out in the Queen’s Speech at the end of May.

After a brief chat with the minister about his own personal background of growing up in a house filled with children, chaos and choice words and what adoption means to him, the interviewer posed some of the most important and most prolific questions that we had bombarded him with via email and Twitter.

Edward Timpson first summarised the progress that has been made over the last 5 years: the improvements in the assessment procedure, the increase in the number of adopters being recruited, the shorter court process and the increase in the number of children being adopted.

However, he did recognise that there is still much work to be done, that the system is still ‘fragmented’ and that the ‘small-scale support’ and ‘artificial boundaries’ created by local government are not helping to match children and prospective adopters quickly enough. He made clear the importance of having the ‘backstop power’ to ensure close(r) inter-agency cooperation, to foster synergy, enabling the wider pool of prospective adopters to be looked at by every agency, not just at local level.

The minister went on to address the glut of questions relating to the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). Launched at the beginning of May this year, the aim of the fund is to make sure that adopters have access to the support they need to guarantee a successful placement. Drawing on his own experience, the minister admitted that had therapeutic services been available at the time his brother had been adopted, then any detrimental issues relating to early childhood trauma could have been limited and potentially less ‘acute’ in his brother’s adult years.

This is one of the driving forces behind his decision to push for the almost £20m of government funding. It is his objective to encourage prospective adopters to “make a full commitment to adoption, safe in the knowledge that they will receive the full support they need”.

It was heartening to hear his personal understanding in this respect. I feel it is one of the main concerns for adoptive parents. Our job is to support our children and help them to flourish despite previous adversity, to help channel their challenges into strengths, to help them deal with their past. But we can only do this with the appropriate support.

Edward Timpson acknowledged that timely access to this support is essential. “Every week that passes is a missed opportunity” to address underlying issues.

The minister confirmed that the ASF has been set up within existing regulation and should therefore be a swift process. If any adopters feel the system is not working quickly enough, he confirmed that both he and the DfE would like to receive feedback. Any feedback will help him to build up a picture of whether the ASF is achieving its objective in providing “speedy and focused support when, where and in the way it is needed”. So please do feed back any issues, positive or negative. This is in our interest and the interest of future adopters.

When asked about the longer-term plans for the fund, Edward Timpson stated that he would be pressing hard to maintain funds and support and that the Prime Minister had given his full backing to this.

The main pitfall is likely to be at the time of public spending reviews. However, he did feel confident that he could make a strong case at both national and local level to ensure that ASF can continue to provide the type of therapy many families are crying out for.

Moving on, several questions came from individuals wanting to know about the types of families that could adopt, with one prospective adopter concerned that her one-bedroom accommodation was creating a barrier to her chances of success and a single male adopter anxious to know what the likelihood was of his achieving his dream of becoming a father. Edward Timpson was keen to “bust some of the myths” around adoption, stating that the family set-up was “not the most interesting feature” but rather whether a prospective adopter had the “capacity, motivation and determination” to offer a child a secure placement.

He voiced his support for the National Adoption Register and the Adoption Activity Days. The latter allow adopters to physically come into contact with children currently in the care system and give them the chance to open their minds to the different types of children they can adopt. This type of physical contact was described beautifully as a “powerful driver”. These Activity Days also give a personality to those more “difficult-to-place” children, who can often be side-lined.

A question that I was personally interested in was that of schools and the role of the virtual head. Our schools require more empathy and support in dealing with our adopted children so that they in turn can support parents and children. A previous report had recommended putting virtual heads on a statutory footing but only in respect of providing support for Children in Care. Many of us in the adoption community would like this support rolled out to adopted children, too. Edward Timpson was rather non-committal here but remained open-minded, confirming that a greater role for the virtual head – beyond the current remit – would be looked at. Since the full extent of the impact of the virtual head is not yet understood, this would be reviewed at a later stage. At present, the virtual head can choose to provide support to adopted children but this is at the discretion of the individual local authority. I and many others adopters would like to see this be considered a mandatory, national support service.

Many questions were left unanswered or required more in-depth discussion but the time was simply too short to respond to all the issues raised. All-in-all, Edward Timpson was as forthcoming as he could be within the half-hour webcast timeslot.

If the reforms pan out the way we hope and if we can gain access to the levels of support required for our individual circumstances, not only will there be more successful placements but there will be a greater chance that more people will be encouraged to adopt. Here’s hoping.

 Both Sarah and Vicki from The Adoption Social were disappointed to see the odd timing of this webchat, and saddened by the short duration. 6pm really? How many of you, like us, were eating/bathing children/in the middle of bedtime routine? Perhaps next time, parenting duties might be considered when aiming at webchat at said parents!

We’d be interested to hear your views on the interview. If you missed it on the day you can watch below.

Anna Writes: What’s helped


Our resident columnist Anna is back again after a break for our Adoption Sore Point week, this time talking about what’s helped her…

A couple of posts in and I feel as though I’d like to offer some balance, I can’t change my experiences, they are as they are, but I have been reflecting on some of the things that I have found helpful along the way.

I was adopted at the end of the 1970’s at a time when the adoption of a child was more often through relinquishment than removal and the general consensus seemed to be that ‘what babies don’t know, won’t hurt them’ – the theory being that if you adopted a child young enough, they wouldn’t ever know any different (I’m not entirely sure what the thinking was around older children…)

Now, although adoption support is still not universal, it is at least being recognised as necessary and the advent of the adoption support fund (ASF) will hopefully provide some much needed intervention and support for all of those impacted by adoption. Adopted people are over- represented within the mental health system in the UK, it seems as good a time as any to begin to address this and get the right support in place for families, sooner.

For me, one of the most helpful things growing up, was knowing other people who were adopted- living in the middle of nowhere this was a bit of a challenge, but there was another boy in my school who was adopted. We never talked about it (and nor did my adopted brother and I, save for one conversation where he told me he never wanted to discuss it again) but it was enough to know there were other people. I wasn’t the outsider that I felt like.

As a bit of a music/ comedy/ literature fiend growing up- I discovered some of my favourite artists were adopted, Wendy James from Transvision Vamp, Jackie Kay, Jeanette Winterson and the comedian Stewart Lee and each time I discovered another I felt less alone. I had fantasy conversations with them and they just got me, and I them, because in my head they would know what it felt like, adoption was a shortcut to understanding.

I also had therapy, lots and lots of therapy, from 14 onwards- unfortunately my parents, not being au fait with attachment theory bundled me off to a boarding school at 16 as they found it hard to cope with my me-ness, so for two years I felt rejected, abandoned and displaced all over again, without really understanding why, but at least I had my music, my books and my friends, a surrogate family of people who put up with me in spite of (or maybe because of) how I was.

At 18, I moved away and had my first experience of person centred counselling, it was via the University counselling service and lasted a whole year- accessing a whole year of therapy was wonderful ..and at last I didn’t have someone telling me that what I was feeling was wrong, or ungrateful, or weird, my counsellor accepted me, completely, and wow!…that was powerful. The idea that someone could accept all the different parts of me, the light and the shade was almost overwhelming, and the fact that I could internalise some of it helped immeasurably over the following few years..

And I wanted more, so at various times since, I have engaged in the same kind of counselling, I am still seeing the same counsellor I started seeing 8 years ago when I found my birth mother and she is amazing, she doesn’t judge, she doesn’t offer me her version of events or interpret, she just listens, and accepts and she even went out and bought a copy of ‘The Primal Wound’ by Nancy Newton-Verrier in order to understand me better: now that’s commitment..

With hindsight, I think what would have helped me at home growing up would have been lots of expressed love backed up with a healthy dollop of evidence, the time and space to talk about being adopted, empathic understanding (including asking how I was feeling) firm boundaries and an ability to hold my needs in mind- I’m sure my adoptive parents did their best, and certainly thought they were doing it- but unfortunately the things that I needed most (love and acceptance) were traded in for money and projected wants.

Please don’t get me wrong, I know that my adoptive parents really tried and I certainly didn’t give them the easiest ride, but the generation chasm between us and my adoptive mothers unresolved attachment issues coupled with some fairly regular corporal punishment (it was the 80’s…)  did not make for a secure base.

Not everyone wants to be a therapist, but many people already have the skills, values and attributes to offer children unconditional love, empathy and genuineness, but people shouldn’t have to provide that in a vacuum- the ASF offers many types of therapeutic support, several of which are specifically aimed at the whole family, which I hope, can only be a good thing.

So below, I have reproduced the list of recommended therapies potentially accessible via the ASF, to highlight what’s available now- and it’s great that it is (although a comprehensive glossary of all the different therapies would be helpful too) I hope that the choice on offer reflects the needs of those accessing it and that alternatives to the list aren’t discounted out of hand either.

The Adoption Support Fund will pay for therapeutic support and services including but not restricted to:

Therapeutic parenting training
Further more complex assessment (e.g CAMHS assessment, multidisciplinary assessment including education and heath, cognitive and neuropsychological assessment, other mental health needs assessment.)
Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
Filial therapy
Creative therapies e.g. art, music, drama, play
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
Non-Violent Resistance (NVR)
Sensory integration therapy
Multisystemic therapy
Specialist clinical assessments where required (e.g. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)
Extensive therapeutic life story work
Respite care (where it is part of a therapeutic intervention)

Source: First4Adoption, 2015

Anna. W

Waiting for help

We really value all of the guest posts we’ve had this week – all talking about a difficult subject, but one that needs bringing to the fore. This post is no exception…

I am writing this anonymously, not because I am ashamed but because I don’t want my daughter coming across this and identifying herself in years to come.  I also find it difficult to be open as I don’t want it to colour peoples views of my amazing, sparky little girl.  My apologies in advance if it is a bit disjointed…it was quite emotional to write.

My daughter is young – 6 years old and has been with us 4 years.  She is funny, clever, energetic, chatty, caring, beautiful, amazing….I could go on but you get the picture.  She is also very angry punchingand lashes out at my husband and I when she loses it.  This can take the form of kicking, punching, pinching and biting.  She knows it is wrong and she feels shame afterwards.   She wants help – we have been waiting over 7 months for help from our local post adoption support.  We are on a waiting list for sensory therapy with no indication of when this may happen.  I am hoping it is the right thing to help her.  I am on a waiting list for counselling – again with no indication of when this may happen.  My requests to date to be assessed to apply to ASF have been denied.  I am currently considering making this request again and more officially/forcefully but want to be more knowledgeable about the therapies available and what may be beneficial to strengthen my argument.  If anyone has any suggestions/advice as to alternative support therapy that may help then please let me know via Adoption Social.

I have tried what I can to help her.  A lot of it is instinctive.  We use some simple theraplay techniques.  We use meditation CDs particularly at night. We try to incorporate regulating activities and often do life story work with her. I have explained to her in simple terms why I think she has anger problems.  She gets it – and can now tell me when she gets “that feeling”.  But sometimes it comes on so quickly – like a light switch.  Last night I just hugged her whilst she was beside herself because she had “that feeling”.  I wanted to sob along with her.  My beautiful girl in so much pain.  We can only do so much – she (we) need professional help and soon before it escalates and becomes harder to address.  The longer it is left the harder it will be to address and potentially the more it will cost.  Simple economics should dictate that it is dealt with quickly, without even taking into account the cost implications if she enters adulthood without the support provided in a timely fashion.  I know we can’t make her past disappear but I do believe firmly that she can be given the support and tools to be able to cope and lead an independent and valuable life.

We are lucky – she is young so we can control the violence but I am filled with fear as to what will happen if we can’t bring it under control.  I am angry that the required support is so difficult to access.  I strongly suspect that the behaviour is related to the violence she experienced in utero and also the drug and alcohol she was exposed to.  She has been assessed as having regulation and sensory issues.  I am also looking to get her assessed for FASD…but one battle at a time.  It breaks my heart to see her hurting so much and to not be able to fix it for her.  She (and all other adopted children) deserve to be given the appropriate support/therapy when they need it.  It is inhumane to make them suffer longer.  They didn’t chose this life and if we want to truly break the cycle then the support needs to be there.

Sorry – I have gone off on a bit of a rant 😉 The prevalence of the violence varies depending on how stressed/unsettled she is.  It is often focussed around bedtime – she doesn’t like going to bed.  Why we don’t know but I suspect it is as simple as she thinks we are up to something really exciting.  I may let her stay up one night to see the reality and see if it helps.

School know but offer little help as she is fine at school.  However they successfully manage to contribute to the situation with the way they handle things….talking about transition to new school year as early as Easter, going off timetable in the run up to Christmas in October!!!!!!

A very select (2 I think) few friends know and no family know- and without exception they are fellow adopters.  To these two people I say a heartfelt thank you as they have kept me sane (relatively) and listen without judging.  I just don’t trust that others would understand.  They seem to generally understand so little of the other issues associated with adopting so why would they understand this.  This makes me question my first statement as to whether I am ashamed…..I genuinely think my abiding concern is how it would change others views of our daughter.  She has done so well given her start in life and I don’t want people to judge her unfairly.

It is so wearing and emotionally tiring – I can’t really describe it. I feel permanently drained and exhausted.  I am always trying to be two steps ahead in an attempt to avoid any triggers.  I am often analysing my parenting decisions – I am probably my harshest critic!

If I had known what lay ahead would I have still adopted her?  Without question- yes.  I will continue to fight to access the right support for her and to love her and more importantly make sure she knows I love her unconditionally.

The Big Unanswered Question: How Do We Keep Violent Children Safe Within Adoptive Families?


nest voice

Today The Open Nest start off our Sore Points week on CPV (Child to Parent Violence). Amanda addresses the question so many are afraid to answer, how do we keep violent children safe?

Amongst all the current hoo-ha and hooray! around the Adoption Support Fund launched in May, there is a big piece missing for me (aside from the very big and seemingly underplayed issue of future funding). Judging by my Twitter feed and the calls to our charity for peer advice, I’m not the only one. I know in the much bigger picture we are perhaps in a minority group of parents that are trying to keep very angry and violent children safe. Perhaps not.

The big question is how can we be effectively supported by the ASF to avoid family breakdown when anger and violence becomes part of everyday life?

There are many issues that the very nature of modern adoption brings about. Often children who are permanently removed from their families are born to parents either living in poverty, substance addicted or coping with mental health issues within neglectful or abusive pasts and/or current situations.

Very few babies are relinquished. Some children may even have been ‘wrongfully’ removed due to poor assessment and lack of support and resources to parents or wider family. Lots of children know from being present at the time that their parents defensively fought the system, that their birth family may have hated the people that eventually removed them.

Getting to the real heart of a child’s life story is often frustratingly difficult with social work teams, birth families, foster parents and adoptive parents rarely able to join all the dots together or find the jigsaw pieces of history lost in the chaos of the past.

end result of this becomes (sometimes without warning) manifest in adoptive homes. Depending on the child’s previous history a number of issues may arise that require specialist support to parents. These can include crippling lack of trust, anxiety disorders, learning disability, eating disorders, attention seeking behaviour, school phobia, foetal alcohol syndrome, inappropriate sexual behaviour, anger, self harm, risky behaviour, developmental delay and violence.

Therapeutic support and advice for these issues can be very helpful and if it is alongside solid multi agency support for parents and professionals to care therapeutically, it can in good instances, create a team around a child, for real, not just in theory.

If a child has a combination of the above issues the chances are you will be told they are ‘complex’ and many services will struggle to come up with a meaningful plan despite numerous assessments. A training course, a course of short term therapy or a therapeutic short break is unlikely to touch the sides.

Unmet needs and poor life history can cause a child to feel very angry and frustrated. This can magnify as hormonal changes and the expected transition towards adulthood begins.

Our experience was not one of some occasional kicking or hitting out. By violence we mean proper scary, injury causing, potential death kind of violence on a regular basis. Hospital visits, scars, permanent damage to property and psyche.

As a peer led support charity we receive honest and non edited calls almost every week from parents scared and exhausted, at a loss as what to do about living with serious violence in their family. Not once has a parent said to us that they wish the child or young person to be removed. Some are facing the stark choice of living with dangerous violence or signing a Section 20 order which means that their child is going back into the ‘care’ of the local authority.

Having faced this terrible dilemma personally it is hard to describe the horror of such a system. Watching a much loved family member struggle over many years, doing everything in your power to keep them safe and then having to imagine them back in care is a complete nightmare. How a system supposedly with children at its heart can allow two families to fail a child is beyond me and makes me cynical about both social justice and the real existence of adoption support that is truly for adoptees.

It is also brain melting to see that expensive therapeutic foster care or residential accommodation may be commissioned upon removal of your child (up to £3000 a week) but even a fraction of that money would have meant your family could have bought in the support needed to continue.

There is a lot of money to be made in ‘healing’ a traumatised child. Viewing an adoptees behaviour and anger as the problem upon which to fixate and fix. What if that fixation was focused on the behaviour of the systems adoptees are created through? Radical adoption reform would put life story and identity at its centre. It would find a humane way to deal with the circumstances and inevitable anger and grief of parents who fail to care for their child as well as the grief and anger of a child permanently removed from its roots and expected to cope with often shoddy identity reinvention. Adopters would have every possible bit of a child’s history at their finger tips and guaranteed long term support to manage that history and links to birth family wherever possible.

However, current reforms that are at the roots based on and fuelled by an agenda of recruitment, will now continue further under the Conservative government. I’m guessing we are less likely to get humane responses to families and will see more and more products to supposedly ‘heal’ children and train ‘unknowing’ adopters from a ripe new government funded adoption support industry.

There are now all kinds of courses parents can go on that can train them to give therapeutic responses to anger. If you’re in the group we are talking about you will know how much they fall short at the “what do I do if he is coming at me with a knife” or “how do I stop her jumping out of the top floor window” type of questions.

What we strongly recommend is that parents learn non violent safe hold techniques. Using these techniques is common practice in residential care, which is often where many violent children end up having failed in fostering or adoption. The general feeling however is that us mere parents should not be trusted with such knowledge. The irony of the inevitable safeguarding question  “what if the child gets hurt” is not lost on those of us in the know.

Before arriving with us our foster son was once ‘pinned down’ 11 times in a week at his children’s home. This was face down on the floor where he could smell that other children had pissed on the carpet. Humiliation.

Loved ones are far more likely to use safe hold in a therapeutic way than residential staff.

Non violent safe hold is a therapeutic standing hold used as a last resort when somebody is at risk of serious injury. It is taught by respected national company Securicare and is delivered within the family home to all relevant carers.  Along with the physical techniques comes a thorough personal care plan and risk assessment for the child which is available for parents to give to other professionals in the child’s life.

We called for permission to learn safe hold techniques over several years. Our psychologist even recommended we have it. In the time it took social care to listen my daughter had hurt herself and others on a regular basis. She became frightened of her own strength and believed nobody was in control or could keep her safe. She was right. This played into her anxiety until we were in a cycle of utter despair. The only local authority response was that she could be removed from me and placed into a secure children’s home miles away from home. (Presumably at this expensive home she would be pinned down when she became violent).

The result of our lack of control was that after years of violence my daughter ran away one day and was raped. The ultimate violence against her. At that point I needed safe hold as I felt like I wanted to kill somebody.

After this incident myself and her support people were ‘ordered’ to learn safe hold. Nobody was to care for her apart from me until we had all had it according to the brand new risk assessment, an assessment we had been calling for over many years. Again the ridiculous irony of this strict instruction from above would have been funny if it were not so tragic.

Once we had learnt safe hold there was a massive sense of relief that a level of safety and control could be maintained at home. My daughter responded really well to it and it allowed her to express her justifiable anger in a safe way. The guilt and shame she felt over her violence subsided and her development improved in all areas. I know that without this training she would now be in secure accommodation, one of the sad statistics. I just wish we had learnt it when she was much younger. So much heartache would have been avoided and we would be further down the line in her development.

There will always be risk where holding a violent person is concerned. In my opinion and based upon experience, if your child struggles to control themselves and is at risk of hurting themselves or others it is a responsibility and a kindness to intervene properly. It can be life changing and is worth the risk.

We are finding it really difficult to find local authorities or support agencies to sign up to funding therapeutic holding as part of adoption support. We suspect they live in fear of being held responsible if somebody gets hurt. I’m not sure why this sense of responsibility is not present when people are actually getting hurt without any intervention.

We all know that in reality adopters use untrained techniques to control violence which involve holding and restraining. They have no choice. Even school teachers (and members of the public) are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ when faced with serious aggression.

We are campaigning to raise awareness of the need for therapeutic safe hold to be funded by local authorities. The cost is relatively small compared to other interventions. The cost is a fraction of the cost of residential care, and nothing compared to the human cost of failing to keep a child at home for a second time.

In the meantime we will raise funds for families to have the training if their child is at real risk of being removed due to violence. We also remind parents that as adopters they have every right to learn these techniques without permission from the authorities.

We are happy to talk through our experiences of training and also recommend that parents contact Securicare for advice Tel: 01904 492442 trainers@securicare.com

To contact The Open Nest please email info@theopennest.co.uk

The Adoption Support Fund


Today Sarah from The Puffin Diaries introduces the new Adoption Support Fund,tells you how you go about accessing it and gives you her initial thought.

So have you heard about the Adoption Support Fund (ASF)?

From May this year, 2015, adopters will be able to access government funding for post adoption support services, a pot of money reported to be £19.3 million when the ASF was first launched in September 2013. In the press release on the DfE website this fund is described by the Prime Minister as,

“a lifeline for many adoptive families, helping them to access specialist services when their family needs them most.”

And Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families, highlighted the governments understanding of the need for this fund when saying:

“We know that children adopted from care have often lived through terrible experiences which do not just simply disappear once they have settled with their new families.”

So how do YOU go about accessing this funding?

You need to speak to either your local authority, or your placing authority. The authority from which your child/children originated are responsible for providing this services in the first three years of the adoption, after that your local authority takes on the responsibility.

You need to request an assessment of your families’ adoption support needs.

Providing this assessment for you is a legal obligation of all local authorities, so they can NOT refuse to carry out the assessment. However this does NOT mean that you will necessarily be eligible for funding.

Here you can download the BAAF Guidance for the Assessment Framework for Adoption Support. This lengthy document details how your needs will be assessed.

Your social worker is able to start these assessments now, so make your phone call or send that email, NOW.

If, once your assessment is complete, you are recognised to be in need of additional support, your social worker will apply, on your behalf, for funding. Your social worker will also be responsible for discussing with you where the support you require may be accessed.

More information on what type of support is available and NOT available, and also who is able to supply your support, can be found HERE

Also Hugh Thornbery CEO of @AdoptionUK, Chair of the #AdoptionSupportFund is on twitter as @TalkAdoptSupp and invites your questions and shared experiences of the Adoption support Fund. So if you have queries this is a good place to direct them.

So what do I Think About the ASF?

We are, Sarah from The Puffin Diaries and family, about to embark on our own assessment, commencing this week. I will aim to keep everyone up to date on how things progress and share our experience of the process.

Personally, right now, I have mixed feelings about the funding and the assessment. On one side,  I am relieved that we may finally be able to access some much needed support for our family. However another part of my brain is sceptical, as we have been in this position before, needing support, and what we’ve been offered has been completely inadequate. I fear that insufficient funding will be allocated to really make the difference or we will not be deemed eligible for any funding at all.

The bigger picture is that this pot is surely not big enough to help all those families out there in need and there is no firm commitment, at the moment to provide further funding once this amount is spent. I posed this question to @TalkADoptSupp earlier.



So with that thought in mind, I urge anyone out there who feels they need some additional adoption support, to ask for an assessment NOW. Firstly because this money is here now and might not be here later and secondly, the best way to show the government the enormity of this demand is to make our needs known.

It will be interesting to see how many families request an assessment, then just how much funding is applied for and also just how much is actually allocated.