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The Boy who Built a Wall Around Himself by Ali Redford – A Review

Today we bring you a review of a new children’s book written by Ali Redford and illustrated Kara Simpson, called The Boy Who Built a Wall Around Himself.

boy and wallThis book is a picture book, and the story is about a child who hides his emotions by build a metaphoric wall around himself. The wall is gradually dismantled through a “kind person’s” perseverance in offering help and understanding.

I read the book myself first and then, I asked a number of other people to read it and also I read it through with my twelve year old son.

On my first read through of the book ,I felt very emotional. The book is beautifully worded and illustrated, and of course I could instantly relate the story to both of my sons.  I really enjoyed the intelligent and yet simple metaphors used to describe emotions.

“Heavy words tumbled out in waterfalls until some of the bricks came loose”.

In the illustrations, the clever use of colour really assists the story and the understanding of the feelings. At the start of the story all the graphics are monochrome and as the “kind person” enters the story, colour is gradually introduced.

It’s safe to say I loved this book the first time I read it.

When I read the book through with my twelve year old son, I was a little concerned that he might find it a little young for him, but his first exclamation was “amazing graphics” and that’s when I understood just how clever the illustrations are. There is an almost graphic novel look to them and it therefore can appeal to older children. I can see how this could be useful as older children often need the simplicity of the word in the book but don’t want to be considered to be reading something “babyish”.

At the end of reading it through with my son, I asked him “can you relate any of the book to yourself”.

“Yes, I have wall around myself and you are helping to bring it down, she even looks like you” he said pointing to the kind person. A happy coincidence but I was impressed with his understanding none the less.

I also showed the book to my mum who used to work in school library services for our LA. Part of her job was selecting books to go into school libraries. She was very impressed with the book and suggested that “every school library should have a copy of this book; there are so many children that could benefit from reading it”.

My mums referred to the fact that lots of children may relate to the story but also it would assist other children understand the emotions of some of the children whom struggle in school.

“It’s a great book to base an assembly on” she suggested.

In all, I think this book is a sensitive story which will bring awareness to children of how emotions can be hidden behind  challenging behaviour. I have to agree that this would indeed be a good book for schools to own, particularly for use with children key stage 2 and upwards. In fact if you feel that your child’s school would be receptive to this book, why not invest in a copy for them, it would make a lovely end of year gift for a teacher.

Buy This Book.

Review: University of Sunderland CPD courses

Today’s review is of a series of short courses run by the University of Sunderland. Many thanks to Suddenly Mummy for this review.

This series of continuing professional development short courses, Children Who Have Experienced Loss or Trauma (CEL&T), is available for study online through the University of Sunderland’s website. There is quite a range of material available, including units designed by looked after children, adoption professionals and adoptive parents.

I have completed two units, Introduction to Therapeutic Parenting 1 and 2, developed and delivered by Sally Donovan. I can honestly say they were excellent. Each unit came with a Powerpoint presentation with a recorded voiceover by Sally, a selection of online reading material accessible from the learning space, and a reflective booklet to complete. A few weeks after submitting my work for unit 1, I received a lovely, good quality certificate in the post, and I’m looking forward to receiving my certificate for unit 2 soon.

If you have read any of Sally Donovan’s books, you will already know what a powerfully honest insight she gives into the world of adoptive parenting, and these short courses did not disappoint. They were packed full not only of theory, but of real-life practical application, all delivered in a sympathetic manner which acknowledges that adoptive parents and foster carers are real people, not just automatons with endless reserves.

Other courses available cover the BioPsychoSocial model of trauma, designated teachers, attachment, foetal alcohol syndrome, and using multi-agency partnerships to support children and young people. New units are being added ready for starting in July. Each course allows ten weeks to complete the material, and is priced according to how many hours of CPD it counts towards.

I think these courses are well worth considering for anybody working or living with a child who has experienced loss or trauma. In particular, I think prospective adopters could benefit enormously from completing Sally’s Introduction to Therapeutic Parenting units as part of pre-approval preparation. They are more thorough, more practical and more realistic than much of the training I have seen elsewhere.

As a foster carer, I am able to use completion of these courses to count towards my annual training requirements. As an adoptive parent, I have found the material helpful, informative and reassuring.

(I paid for my own courses and was not asked to write a review – these are my own, unsolicited opinions!)

Book review: The Growing Up Guide for Boys

This book review comes courtesy of @methreeandhe – The growing up book for boys by Davida Hartman.

I have a 13 year old boy who was adopted by us at the age of 6. Although he is not autistic, his attachment difficulties mean that he is emotionally young, struggles to recognise social clues growing up boysand is very black and white in his thinking. Although this book is aimed at boys on the autistic spectrum, I am aware of some similarities between attachment and autism and was interested to read it myself and for my son to read it. We have a very open approach to all things “personal” in our family with any question answered, yet there is always room for extra resources, if only to save me repeating myself.

I read the book from the beginning, although that is not necessary as the topics can be dipped into as required. What struck me was that it was full of advice that I find myself giving on a daily basis. Matters of hygiene, everyone is growing at different speeds, choose friends who are nice to you. It was good to have a book that reinforces our home messages about adolescence and gives another positive message rather than the variable ones heard on the playground.

The book is hard backed with illustrations facing every page of writing. It is divided into 14 very practical topics; bodies, hair, boy stuff, penises, hygiene, clothes, skin, emotions, crushes, friends, the internet, self protection, self acceptance, girls. Each topic is detailed in a clear way over two pages of text and two of illustrations. Often the first page of the topic details what is happening, the second page is saying what you can do to help yourself. It is written with one sentence per paragraph which I personally found quite annoying as it disrupted the flow of the text, however I do understand that for some of the young people the book is aimed at, this would help them to read it more easily.

The book has been billed for 9-14 year olds and I can see that boys of this age group would benefit from having a copy. For younger boys it would give them early information that they can revisit later, for older boys I think it will help to reinforce many of the good messages that they hear from their parents and answer some questions that they have become embarrassed to ask because they believe that they should already know the answers.

The book gives advice about appropriateness of information sharing, personal subjects and when/who to speak about them. There is a lot of practical information, such as putting a checklist in the shower to make sure you have done everything, putting your sheets in the wash if you have a wet dream, sitting down if you get an erection in public! Whilst much of the advice is encouraging independence and responsibility, the book often suggests that the boy speaks to their parents if they are worried or concerned about anything and encourages communication with people who can help.

The back of the book has a section with advice for parents and professionals on how to use the book, again encouraging communication.

I found it a delightful book to read, the illustration are great, especially the page of different penises! As a parent I found it affirming that I have been giving similar information and advice to my son. I am very happy for him to have the book to use for himself, there is some resistance to reading it but I think that is more about alternatives to reading, like computer games, than the book itself.

@methreeandhe was not paid for this honest review, but did receive a free copy of the book to review, and subsequently keep. Click here to buy the book.

Book review: The Growing Up Guide for Girls

Many thanks to MrsFO5 at The Family of Five for her review of The Growing Up Guide for Girls.

I was asked to review this book by the lovely ladies over at The Adoption Social. I have 3 growing up girlsadopted daughters all of whom have a diagnosis of Autism. I actually couldn’t believe it when they asked if i’d like to write a review, because they asked the same day that Big Girl, at just 10 years old,  started her first ever period. It was meant to be!

So first of all let me tell you about the physical aspects of the book. Its a hard backed book. Decorated beautifully using colors that aren’t offensive to your eyes. The pages inside the book are thick quality, gloss finished, smooth paper and the smell is just that lovely new book smell. You may think it strange that I’ve mentioned these things but actually the feel of a page in a book is important to Middle girl, she doesn’t like textured paper, she says it ‘feels funny’.  The smell of a book is something that Baby girl notices straight away, she will avoid reading books that don’t have a pleasant smell.

Now before I start, let me just get straight to the point, I love this book, I love everything about it and its been really useful for all of the girls, and the added benefit at arriving in our lives at just the right time.

I’ve bought several books in the past to use with Big girl to prepare her for puberty and the changes that were happening to her body. Unfortunately I never found a book (until now) that I’ve been truly happy with and have found myself saying to her things like ‘don’t worry about this section, you don’t need to know about that bit yet’.  Every book I bought covers sex and how to make babies, some in vast amounts of details that even I found shocking and some with brief descriptions about confusing ‘special cuddles’ that adults have. None of which I have felt were appropriate for Big girl. Whilst Big girl is now 10 years old, her difficult start in life has meant that she is no where near as socially and emotionally developed as most typical 10 year old’s. I tell people to think aged 6 or 7, when considering Big girls needs and quite frankly the idea of a boy putting his penis inside her vagina in what ever type of fluffy special cuddle they used to describe it, would just frighten her.

I started talking to Big girl about puberty just before her 9th Birthday. She was starting to show the physical signs of development so I figured It best to make sure she was as prepared as she could be. The austim support services were able to provide us with some useful visual reminder charts and her school worker was able to spend some time talking to her about it also. But as Big girl is rather avoidant about things, whilst she sits and listens to me, I cant be sure how much she takes in. So, I bought books, quite a few of them actually, I only gave her one though and it came with instructions from me about how this section and that chapter weren’t relevant and she shouldn’t worry about them, I’m sure she read them, probably got very confused as well.

This book is like no other book I’ve come across, it is exactly what It says on the cover ‘A growing up guide for girls’. It doesn’t just cover puberty, it covers friends, crushes, the internet, it even covers stranger danger. It covers everything I think girls need to know about when entering adolescence, without filling their brains with too much complicated babble or terrifying them with things they don’t need to know about yet. I will add that the section that covers ‘Periods’ is a great section that provides you with an introduction, allowing you the opportunity to talk about this in more detail when appropriate.

As I said at the start, this book arrived at the time Big girl has started her 1st period. Whilst I’d taken every step possible to prepare her (which I’ll add seems to have done the trick, she coped remarkably),  I hadn’t prepared Baby girl or Middle girl for the changes they would see happening to Big girl.  For example, those first few days they asked ‘Why is Big girl eating sweets in the toilet?’, They could hear the rustling of packets and assumed she was eating. ‘Why is Big girl’s bedroom door shut?’ etc etc you get the picture.

So this book was a great opportunity for me to introduce them to puberty and adolescence in a very basic and age appropriate way for them. There was an interesting moment when reading the section on ‘breasts’ that Baby girl very innocently asked me ‘whats tits?’, poor Daddy nearly choked on his tea. After reading the whole book with Baby girl and Middle girl and answering the very few questions they had, I passed the book to Big girl. She read it, cover to cover, I doubt there was much in there she didn’t already know, but I’m confident it served as a great reminder for her without being too overwhelming. Her reply as she handed me the book back was ‘I like the idea of puppy fat’. You’ll just have to read the book yourself to see what she was talking about!

I’m sure this book will be one that will be revisited by us over and over again, with 3 girls in the house there will be times when we need to talk about all of the sections in this book, from boobs, hygiene and crushes, to friendships and internet safety, It really does cover so much. I’d strongly recommend this book to anyone who has girls entering adolescence, autistic or not. Although there is mention of autism within the book, I think the bulk of the book would be useful for any girl. In fact I think it would be great if they published a ‘general’ version that excluded the few references to Autism. Its a must have for any girl aged 7 upwards I feel.

My only regret with this book, is that we didn’t find it sooner, I could have saved a fortune on books!

The Family of Five did not receive payment for this book, although did receive the book free of charge in order to review it. Click here to buy the book.

Book review: How Do We Feel About Adoption?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Facilitating Meaningful Contact in Adoption and Fostering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book review: A Place in My Heart

untitled (3)I was recently sent A Place in My Heart by Mary Grossnickle. It’s an illustrated book for adopted children aged 2-5 that addresses birth parents and transcultural adoption.

Charlie the Chipmunk is different to the rest of his family – he looks different, he’s smaller and his tail is different. Charlie is adopted, his adoptive family are squirrels, and he loves his mother to explain how he became part of his family.

One night Charlie realises that adoption means he has another set of parents – his birth mother and birth father. He sits and thinks about this for a long time, and the following day is spent wondering about what his birth family are like – what their names are, whether they are famous. Charlie doesn’t feel like playing, and instead he bites his brother, and spills his lunch.

Charlie’s mum sees that Charlie is struggling and does a little wondering of her own – perhaps Charlie has been thinking about his birth parents? She reassures him that it’s OK, and that they are probably thinking of him too.

Together Charlie and his mum explore hearts and love, and again, mum explains and reassures that it’s OK to have space in his heart for his birth mother and birth father. Feeling happier, Charlie runs outside to play with his family again.

I shared this hardback book with my 4 year old birth daughter who hears the word ‘adoption’ a lot, and know that her brother is adopted. It’s pitched just right for her and she LOVED the illustrations (by Alison Relyea-Parr). She has a simplistic view of adoption, but this book helped her understand that her brother has another set of parents out there, and that it’s OK for him to talk and care about them.
And at a time when she’s quite interested in who she looks like and why, it gently explained why her brother looks different to the rest of us.

My son is now 8, so this book is a little young for him, but I think if we’d had this book when he was young, he would have enjoyed the story even though he probably wouldn’t have related to the character. It explores big feelings that he wouldn’t have been able to acknowledge when younger.

A Place in My Heart is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers at £9.99.

Today’s review is by Vicki from The Boy’s Behaviour. If you have a book, movie, tv programme or training course review that you’d like to share, please drop us a line at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com.

The Adoption Social Times

It’s the first Adoption Social Times of 2015!

#WASO
This month, this week in fact, the Weekly Adoption Shout Out turns 100! We have a special hashtag for this #WASO100, and we’ve invited you via Twitter to suggest a special theme for this week. It’ll be optional of course, but we’ve picked ‘The First 100′. We loved all of your suggestions, so we’ll incorporate them all in future #WASO theme weeks…keep an eye out for your suggestion.

Our usual themed weeks remain too – so last week was Expectations and next week is…’Next Week…’ future themes below:

23 January – Next week…
6 February – Reasons to be cheerful
20 February – Look how far we’ve come

Social Media and adoption
If you are a professional working in adoption and would like to find out more about using social  media to provide post adoption support then please contact us as we’re currently exploring ways of supporting organisations and professionals better so that in turn they can support adoptive families. We can’t guarantee direct help at the moment, but we’d like to get your views on whether you would want support, how you’d like it delivered, whether you would need training etc. Please email us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com

Bloggers doing happiness!
We love when this wonderful blogging community comes up with initiatives and we wholeheartedly support #TakingCare100 – a 100 day photo challenge, and you can read more about it here.

We want you!
The Adoption Social was set up following the success and popularity of The Weekly Adoption Shout Out. A community that already existed was brought even closer together. We’re still here to support that community and are grateful for the reciprocal support that the community extends to The Adoption Social. We work hard to bring you posts that we hope are insightful, useful, interesting, and occasionally challenging, and would love for you to help contribute to those posts. So if you’ve written something that you want to share, then let us know – just tweet us at @adoptionsocial, or email us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com.

And finally, here are a few of the posts we’ve published on The Adoption Social this month:

Our first ‘Problem Shared’ of the year was about handling a comment often heard – Aren’t they lucky? Have you heard it?

We published an Adoption Social Connections post to help you understand and create ‘sticky’ posts.

Over Christmas we left #WASO open for several weeks. Here you can see all the posts that linked up.

We published a very popular post from Twitter user @crusoepoll – a kind of shopping list of wants from post adoption support.

And Sarah looked back over 2014 on The Adoption Social. Here’s her round-up.

 

I Want My Child Back – Panorama and the Exploitation of Tragedy

Did you see the Panorama programme last night on BBC?  I Want My Child Back was billed as an investigation into the secretive family courts and the families that may have lost their children forever. There was a bit of stir before it was aired, and Martin Narey released a statement through The Times. There has since been a flurry of news articles related to it as well.

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One adoptive parent and foster carer – Suddenly Mummy – watched last night’s programme and has this to say…

I gave up watching Panorama years ago because I felt that the standard of journalism was so poor that it was no longer worth watching. I watched tonight because the subject was child protection. What I saw did not alter my opinion at all.

It’s the mood music, the soft focus, the earnestly-spoken pieces to camera by a concerned presenter with knitted brow. If this is investigative journalism, why do we need all the gimmicks? To hide the fact that the journalism is far from rigorous? For too long, Panorama has existed purely to promote whatever agenda has caught the producers’ attention, with stories, experts and evidence carefully selected to support their story. Balance and real investigation into all sides of the story no longer features in the thinking of those who produce this show.

As I see it, here is the crux of tonight’s programme. There are cases where babies have been taken to medical professionals and found to have unexplained multiple fractures. Doctors have assumed physical abuse and babies have been taken into care. At least one of these was later proven to have been caused by a medical condition.

This is just about all we have in terms of provable facts. And Panorama never reveals how many families have been affected by this. Or indeed how many children have been saved from injury or even death by prompt intervention of medical professionals.

The rest? Conjecture. Could these fractures be caused by low vitamin D levels? Conjecture – the research evidence isn’t there, doctors don’t agree. Should it be investigated? Yes, and the results of thorough medical (not journalistic) investigation should be used to inform future protocol, because if children are being removed from parents unnecessarily then that is something that requires action. Absolutely nobody wants to see that.

So far, fair enough. I don’t like the tone or style of the reporting, but there does seem to be an issue here that requires attention.

However, some of the other implications of the programme raise serious concerns.

Firstly, there is no attempt to deflect the blame from social services professionals to the medical professionals where it should lie if the programme’s allegations are true. Social workers are not medical professionals – they are not able to second guess the conclusions of medical personnel. They have to act on the information they are given.

Secondly, there were several references to the ‘secrecy’ of the family courts and child protection system, without any attempt to explain that this ‘secrecy’ exists to protect the children, not the social workers or any other professional involved. For ‘secrecy’, read ‘confidentiality’.  It is this same emphasis on protecting children through strict confidentiality that means that no representative of social services was on the programme to present a balanced view. In fact there was virtually no balance in the programme whatsoever. Only edited words from social services statements were included with no context.

Thirdly, no attempt was made to explore the actual scope of this problem. It was claimed that ‘hundreds’ of families have contacted MP John Hemming, thus allowing the implication to stand that hundreds of families have experienced the same situation as described in this programme when in fact no figures are given. For me, this is one of the most serious shortfalls in the programme. The message to parents seems to be clear – if you take your child to the GP or hospital, there is a likelihood that your child will be taken into care. How high is that likelihood? We don’t know. I wonder how many parents will now be afraid to seek necessary medical attention because of the claims in this programme? How many children will be put at risk because scared parents dare not get them the treatment they need for fear of losing their children? In my eyes, Panorama will be culpable every time that happens. Stories like this must be put into statistical context or else the fear will completely outweigh the reality. Panorama gratuitously plays on that fear in this programme.

Finally, nothing was said about the complex procedures that are followed in child protection cases. Much was made of “these people” being “a law unto themselves”. They “do whatever they want”. I wouldn’t expect grieving parents to say or think anything different, but the reality is very different. As a foster carer I have witnessed chance after chance being given to birth parents. My own adopted son was returned to his birth mother after eight months in care, only to be neglected and utterly abandoned again after just three weeks. Children wait in foster care for months, and sometimes years, as parents are supported to make the necessary changes. And even when all that fails, social services must then exhaust all possibility of another family member caring for the child. The protocol is that, wherever possible, children should be returned to birth families.

The sobering truth is that this protocol fails many children. As Sir Martin Narey reports in The Times (January 13th), researchers at the University of Bristol followed 138 children returned from care to their birth families. Two thirds were abused or neglected again within two years.

Sadly, miscarriages of justice will occur – the participants in this process are human beings and with the best will in the world, perfection may well be beyond our abilities. But for every child mistakenly taken into care, hundreds and hundreds will have been rescued from a horror the likes of which we can only imagine.

Panorama would do well to produce a programme about that. But they won’t, because their thirst for sensationalism could never be satisfied by such a story.

What are your thoughts? Did you watch any of the programme? Do you think a balanced view was given? Will this have an impact on children’s safety? What do you think of MP John Hemming’s suggestion that parents should go abroad to avoid UK family courts? We’d love your thoughts (in the comments below, or a blogged reply) and if we get enough, we’ll present them to Panorama as a collective response.

Book review: Keeping The Little Blighters Busy

This week I’m sharing a review of a book that is simply about occupying the children – not adoption related, but I hope it’ll be helpful never the less. (Oh, but you’ll notice that the author is an adoptive mum, which I didn’t know til I re-read the introduction for this review!).

It’s no secret that I like to have lots of activities to hand for the holidays. I use Pinterest (a LOT), I’ve used the great book How to get your children offline, outdoors and connecting with nature  and I have so many craft materials, Hobbycraft would be jealous.
So when my mother in law showed me a few suggestions of books that were along similar lines as How to get your children offline, I was keen to check them out.

CYMERA_20140804_210229Claire Potter’s Keeping The Little Blighters Busy is a wonderfully refreshing and original book of 50 things to do with your kids (before they’re 12 3/4). As much as Pinterest is fab, the pins are often the same project that’s been shared and reshared, with different interpretations of the original idea. This book is completely different, with new ideas, not variations on older projects.

The humorous title drew me in, as did the lovely Quentin Blake style illustrations. And the activities within don’t disappoint.

The book is separated into 10 categories – from Food Dudes to Chinwaggers, Hidden Treasure to Spicing up Everyday Life. And then the activities within include Jam Tart tray dinner, Ice-cubes in the bath, The wall of foam, The Unscary Scarecrow, Lickety Wallpaper, The straight line walk, An ‘unsensible’ pair of shoes and Lucky dip cooking. Each activity gives a rough age range that it would be suitable for, the whole book is aimed at approx. 3-13 year olds.

A few immediately caught my eye…
It’s Gone All Mouldy is a fungus farm project that I know Mini will love. Putting food in jars then purposely letting them go off!
The Witch’s Larder will suit my two down to the ground. Clearing out my larder is a boring (for them) job that takes me away from doing fun stuff with them – but how about getting them to rename the pots and tins that you put back into the cupboard? Mini’s already re-named the honey as ‘Bee Sick’, so I know he’ll be up for this.
Shruken Heads is in the festive section as a Hallowe’en activity, but I’m pretty sure we could do this any time of the year – turning apples into spooky hangings.

I found all the instructions to be clear and concise, with a bit of humour and mischief along the way. And in many of the activities the tips and twists are as good as the activity itself. There’s no gender stereo-typing. Even the husband agreed that he’d be able to enjoy some of these with the children…high praise indeed.

So, a great book to have to hand, helping you avoid the overcrowded soft play centre, or jostling for a good spot on the beach. Each activity is inexpensive, tried out on real children, and turns everyday routines and jobs into mini adventures. At £5.99 I think it’s a real steal too.

Today’s review was written by Vicki from The Boy’s Behaviour, the book was paid for in full by her, and this review is her honest opinion.