Tag Archives: sally donovan

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!)

New appointment for popular blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile Phones

Today Sally Donovan shares her wise words on the subject of mobile phones.

mobilesJamie wanted a phone from before way back when.  He finally got one on his eleventh birthday because he was about to start travelling to secondary school courtesy of the not altogether reliable school bus service.  We thought it would be a good insurance policy against being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter.  And all his friends had one.  They’d had them since they were in junior school, around the time they started playing Grand Theft Auto and going to bed at ten o’clock and buying cans of Red Bull on their way to school.

The mobile phone was loved and adored from the moment it was unwrapped.  Everyone’s phone numbers were collected; mine, Rob’s, Granny’s, Aunty Alice’s and we were all bombarded with texts.  Some of them even made sense.

Within a few days of the first ten pounds of credit being loaded though, it was gone.  I added another ten pounds.  It disappeared.

To cut a (very) long story short, I eventually worked out he was sending literally hundreds of texts.  (That’s what they do.)  Many of them were split into single words.

Hi Mum





I changed his tariff and bingo, ten pounds lasted a month.

Then we went through a period which I’ll call The Era of Repeated Breakages, Damages and Taking the Piss.  There were multiple incidents involving the washing machine, smashed screens, school confiscations and night time shenanigans.  There was also the resetting of the passcode and the subsequent forgetting of the passcode.  There would be Mr D, pale with frustration, explaining that he had set it to something highly memorable so not to change it again, only for it to be changed again.  Let’s just say me and the young man in the O2 shop are now on first name terms.

Despite all the frustrations there’s been an interesting and unexpected upside to the mobile phone.  It started one morning after a terrible getting off to school.



I don’t know why I say those things

 Then a few days later came

Shit day

 Then, after hours of awful trauma (the sort when things get smashed)

I do love you

 These little text messages represent glimpses into an inner world, glimpses which I might not have got any other way and they were a way for him to reach out.

It works in the other direction too.  If I know he’s had a difficult day at school I might text

Mrs W has told me what happened. Don’t worry we’ll sort it out.  See you when you get home. Mum xx

It seems to prevent the whole walking in through the door in fight mode.

 Last week I texted

I know the last few days have been pretty awful. How about a fresh start and some chocolate biscuits when you get home?

 I got an immediate response


When one’s parenting is already frayed by the usual everyday challenges of life it is tempting to avoid introducing in any more complications.  But there is no getting around it; young people all have mobile phones and digital communications have become central to the way friendships operate.   Not to have one, is to be different from the crowd, and that’s something many of our children struggle with.

I can’t pretend I haven’t at times been driven to distraction by the mobile phone, but Jamie has learnt and matured through the experience and now is a (more or less) responsible phone user.

If you are wavering on the edge of this next step in your child’s life, here are my tips:

  1. Buy them a cheap smart phone. (They all have smart phones.)  If you spend lots of money you will really feel pissed when they drop it (which they will).
  1. Buy a protective case.
  1. Jamie’s first and subsequent phones were half paid for by him and half by us. This gave him a greater sense of pride when he went into the shop, asked for the phone and handed over the money.
  1. We made a big thing about his first phone. There was a sense of celebration and excitement, which matched his state.  We had already set out the rules around phone ownership and usage so the moment wasn’t ruined by us nagging.
  1. Set out clear rules. Our included things like ‘at night, put the phone to charge downstairs so you’re not tempted to use it when you should be asleep’.
  1. Most young people send far more texts than they make phone calls so ask for the correct tarif when you buy the phone.
  1. We live in an area with terrible 3G so we didn’t have to worry too much about what J was accessing on the internet while he was away from home. It’s worth remembering though that smart phones are mini-tablets so if your child is attracted to certain types of websites then they are probably going to access them using their phone.  I know some parents who regularly check their child’s phone and may confiscate it if certain rules have been broken.  We have gone down the confiscation route occasionally and only in response to something significant.
  1. They will make many, many mistakes concerning their phone, as they do in other areas of their lives. They will lose them, break them, bring them out during a lesson and send unwise messages to people whose parents take offence.  My only advice is try not to sweat it but help them learn from it.  If they make tonnes of mistakes then perhaps they aren’t ready for their own phone just yet.
  1. Texting may just open up communication between you and your child, when nothing else can. It can be a great and non-threatening method of repair.  Sometimes a short text tells a thousand words.

Sally Donovan is the author of the moving adoption story No Matter What. To purchase click here.

no matter what


Launching the Adoption Support Fund Prototype

Today Sally Donovan updates us on the new Adoption Support Funding and the structure for the prototype being rolled out. 

SallyDYesterday I travelled from where I live in the middle of provincial England, to the Coram Foundation in London to attend the launch of the prototype of the Adoption Support Fund, alongside representatives from the ten participating Local Authorities, civil servants from DfE and representatives from other adoption organisations and charities.

Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children and Families gave a speech in which he said that adoption support is an essential part of adoption and he wanted it to become the norm rather than the exception.

There were presentations from one LA (Cornwall) about how they will operate their prototype and from East Sussex who have set up a joint social services and CAMHS team.  It was clear that a great amount of time, thought, team effort and pragmatism has been invested in both schemes.  At the end of the day I returned home to the adoption support desert in which I live and dreamt about re-locating to East Sussex.

I attended the launch because I sit on the Expert Advisory Group which was established by the Department for Education and which is responsible for steering the Adoption Support Fund in the right direction.  The group is jointly chaired by DfE and Adoption UK and includes representatives from charities, local authorities and mental health.

 For many, the Adoption Support Fund offers the first glimmer of hope that real improvements will be experienced by real adoptive families, no matter where they live in England (adoption is a devolved issue). 

In many ways, living in a metaphorical desert has helped inform my participation in the development of the fund.  It means I can test proposals against a current poverty of services, which is important, because we don’t all live in East Sussex and because it’s easy to get carried along on a happy wave of success stories assuming they represent situation normal.

The ins and outs of the fund such as how to apply to it and the sorts of therapeutic support it will cover are addressed on the newly created website http://www.adoptionsupportfund.co.uk/   It’s important to stress that what was launched yesterday is a prototype, which means there will be glitches.

If you live in one of the ten prototype local authorities (Manchester, Newcastle, North Yorkshire, Solihull, Leicester, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, East Sussex and Lewisham) then you can now approach your LA for an assessment.  (Annoyingly the three year rule still applies.)

If you think your family has a therapeutic need then I urge you to contact your LA and ask for an assessment. 

Those who are responsible for managing the prototypes might not thank me for encouraging applications but to my mind we need to demonstrate a demand for the scheme and the prototype must be stretched and tugged at a bit to ensure it is fit for national roll out in May of next year.

If you approach your LA to access money from the fund you will, as part of the prototype, be asked for your feedback.  If there is anything you think should be fed back directly to the Expert Advisory Group then please tweet me @sallydwrites or send me a message on Facebook (Sally Donovan).  My participation in the EAG is entirely voluntary and takes place around other commitments so please forgive me if I don’t always reply very efficiently, but I will do my best.  The Department for Education is keen to hear about the good and the bad experiences, so if there’s something you think could inform and improve the scheme, don’t hold back.

This could well be the best chance there has ever been to make wholesale improvement to support for adoptive families in England.  In Scotland and Wales the campaigns must continue.