Tag Archives: the open nest

The Adoption Social Times

TAStimesYes, it’s time for your regular round-up of news from the world of The Adoption Social…

Weekly Adoption Shout Out
Still going strong but we have to apologise for not sharing as many posts recently – we’ve both been a bit bogged down with family life, but hope to get back to sharing again soon. We really appreciate when you, as readers and supporters, share posts you find on #WASO so please keep doing that…
Themes for the next month are:
10 June – If I had 5 minutes peace…
24 June – My bucket list

TASpic
During May we’ve been using the theme #LookAtMe and we’ve seen a few achievements there. We’ll be rounding up tomorrow and giving you the next theme. I can’t wait to see what it’s going13323818_1141227962595894_5132127242587791783_o to be can you? Keep snapping those pics and sharing them with the #taspic.

Meet The Blogger
It’s been a little while since we’ve shared any Meet The Blogger posts, but we know there are a few new bloggers out there that we don’t know much about.
If that’s you, then email us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com to get our interview questions so we can learn a bit more about you. You can check out previous Meet The Blogger posts here if you want to find out about other bloggers.

The Open Nest conference
The next conference from The Open Nest is fast approaching. Taking place in York in July, further information is in the advert over there —–>
Don’t forget to book!

Posts you may have missed…

After the sad loss of Gareth Marr, we shared this post.

A reader asks for help on preparing her eldest to adopt again.

This review looks at a yoga book to help children feel positive.

An adoptive dad wrote a post about the ups and downs of adoptive parenting.

A new self harm workshop is available from Inspired Foundations.

 

New Cartoon from The Open Nest

The Open Nest supports human rights and is concerned about how the marketing of adoption will look in the future. We hope not like this. adoption shopSarah and Vicki are both trustees for The Open Nest and fully support any action which questions and challenges modern adoption with the intention of improving the outcome for all those involved. We ask that if you too have concerns and would like to stimulate debate that you also share this cartoon.

Brighter Thinking – a new animation

Recently on Twitter, The Open Nest invited adoptive parents to share ways they felt unsupported by friends and family, and also share the ways that their support networks got it right too.
To view all of the suggestions, you can search on Twitter using #Allchildrendothat.

The aim of this research was to inform a new animation, to be produced by the charity, following the success of it’s previous animation The Lost Children of Trauma. And last week, our very own Sarah (also of The Puffin Diaries and Trustee of The Open Nest) and Amanda Boorman of The Open Nest, launched the new animation – Brighter Thinking.

And here it is:

Now we need your help again in getting it seen. So please share it far and wide – with your local authority, with your friends and families, with anyone you think would benefit from seeing it. It not only shows how adopters feel they could have been supported better, but it acknowledges the good bits too and highlights how prospective adopters might be better supported in the future.

And finally, we’d like to say a big thank you to all of those who contributed to this film in anyway. Your input and experiences are vital in getting better support for adopters and adoptees.

Adopted Voices Conference

logoIn today’s Adoption Social Times we mentioned  our support for the next conference from The Open Nest, which takes place during National Adoption Week. Here we bring you a post from The Open Nest explaining all about Adopted Voices.

Many adopters have a good understanding of what effect social care systems have had and continue to have on their adopted child. How they as parents are part of that system and the tensions within it. Trying to advocate for your adopted child’s rights as they grow up can be exhausting in a system that views you as the final solution and adoption as the cure.

If some adoption professionals and therefore some prospective adopters have little informed understanding or training around the impact loss and constructed identity has on some adopted children as they grow up, or don’t have access to detailed life story information, things can get off to a confused start and it can be possible to pathologize the child’s response to trauma and loss along the way. Focusing on the perceived failings of the child rather than the system the child has found itself in can cause failure to support adopted children fully.

The adoption system and agenda within the UK is informed by a constructed view of adoption as the best permanence option, in fact a golden opportunity for all involved. There is some truth in that, but it is only part truth. There are difficult aspects of the culture of adoption in this country that are yet to be openly discussed let alone thoroughly researched. There are also gaps in knowledge in health, education and social care and as a result there are uncertainties in practice that are passed on to adopters. With gaps in knowledge and a lack of access to adoptee led training and research material, adopters and professionals can find themselves learning on the job which is not really fair for anyone involved, particularly children who are bottom of the ‘having any choice’ in adoption list.

Adopters may feel they want to question standard advice or information given from LA’s on issues such as contact, life story, parenting and choice of interventions. This can be hard to do, especially when you are at the beginning of a process and may not be used to the workings of the culture and system. Adopters begin from a point of having to trust, and take as red, the information and advice professionals are giving them in order for them to best support their adopted child. Sometimes this works out really well but other times there becomes a clear mismatch between the expectations and limits of parents and services and the needs and rights of an adopted child.

In recent adoption reforms, media attention has been given to policy that champions the rights of prospective adopters to receive a quick and efficient adoption service and one which removes potential barriers to accepting or receiving a child. Against this back drop, some individuals, organisations and charities have called for an emphasis on improving support to adopters and have cited the reasons and quoted research to demonstrate why support is important.

These calls seem to elicit some opposing responses. Openly discussing or representing the difficult parts of adoption does not appear, for some adoption professionals, to fit easily alongside the governments positive marketing of adoption. On the other hand, with talk of adoption support on the political agenda, specialist support agencies, and charities are being government funded, improved and formed in order to be commissioned to address the recently highlighted needs for support. This shift in thinking has been largely informed by government funded research with adopters.

The Adoption Support Fund has been used as a positive adoption marketing tool in that it acknowledges support is needed. This acknowledgement alongside resultant funding are a way of reassuring prospective adopters that lessons have been learned. That they will not struggle supporting an adopted child  in the ways some of those that went before them have, that we are in a new era of understanding adoptees. If the adoption support fund budget extends well beyond it’s pilot year in 2015 it has the potential to do some good work.

As a charity we feel that although support is improving for some adopters, there are currently gaps in support information that is produced by and for adopted adults.  We would welcome a long term policy commitment to hearing the many voices of adopted children, young people and adults. This would mean funding and finding effective, accessible, longterm ways of listening to, recording and publishing the views of those who are adopted rather than those who wish to adopt, or who have already adopted.

Including adopted adults in all discourse around adoption that leads to policy making would be a great start. Further to this, funding independent research by and with adopted people, inviting adopted adults to take leadership in reform and promoting equality in support systems for all adopted people regardless of age.

At our charity trustees meeting in April 2015 we committed to organising a conference where all speakers would be adopted adults. We decided the event should be held during National Adoption Week to encourage open debate and discussion. Delegates of the conference will hear varying and unedited experiences and what it means to the individual speakers to be adopted in the UK.

Speakers are:

Liz Blakey: psychotherapist, mental health trainer, mother, writer. Liz will be introducing her new research project ‘Growing Up Adopted’

Lucy Sheen: actor, writer, film maker. Lucy will be showing her amazing documentary ‘Abandoned Adopted Here’  looking at International transracial adoption.

Fran Proctor: care manager, inspirational speaker, mother. Fran will be talking about her incredible life story so far and promoting adoptee rights.

Peter Sandiford: CEO of adoption support charity PAC-UK. Peter will describe the experience of spending his early years in residential care prior to being adopted in the early 50’s.

Charlie: historian, researcher. Charlie will examine the policy and practice that affected her as a child who was adopted from care aged 12.

Kay Purcell: actress in television, film and theatre. Kay is going to talk about how adoption is seen through the eyes of her adoptive family members and their individual experiences.

Speakers are looking forward to welcoming other adopted adults, adoptive parents, and social care professionals for what we hope will be a really interesting day.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to look around the museum which has been privately hired within the ticket price.

The conference is taking place at The Foundling Museum in London on Monday October 19th 2015. Tickets will be on sale from 1st September via The Open Nest website and payment will be in the form of a donation. In line with our policy the conference will be non profit making. Tickets are £35.

There is a hashtag for the event so please feel free to use it #AdoptedVoices2015

Further details will follow shortly via the charities Facebook and Twitter

Growing Up Adopted – New Research to be Undertaken

Today adopted adult, Liz Blakey introduces some groundbreaking research she would like to undertake.

It’s National Adoption Week and as usual, amongst the awards and agendas there is a gaping hole at the heart of the conversation around adoption.

The voice of people who have been adopted.

adopteeresearchDespite lots of conversations around this issue with like minded people- I still can’t really fathom why this is the case- is it because people are scared of what adopted people might say? is it because as adopted people, we have become so used to being compliant and not upsetting ‘the grown ups’ that our voices are out of practice? is it because voices of experience are considered unreliable? or too angry?

I started thinking about this research a long time ago- back when I started my MSc, but I didn’t pursue it as a line of enquiry- partly because I felt constrained by the parameters of the research expectations (no more than 4 participants) and in part because I wasn’t ready. I think I needed to get to a place where I was more accepting of my own experiences before I could be objective about other peoples.

I began literature reviewing a year ago and what I have found has been so limited I keep thinking I must be mistaken- surely there is lots of research about adopted peoples experiences? surely there is study after study about the sorts of interventions and support that adopted people have found helpful? – unless I’m looking in the wrong places (perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the existing research can be found in the fields of mental health and psychology).

Earlier this year I approached Amanda from the Open Nest and asked if she would consider endorsing and supporting the research- I had seen her on Twitter and felt she was an ally and friend in the world of adoption- she accepted and from then on I have been writing and honing the research proposal- approaching the usual behemoths of adoption to see if they would help the advertising process (they wouldn’t- with the very welcome exception of PAC- UK- thanks Peter!)

I had a very supportive but non- active response from the office of Edward Timpson- I am struck by how difficult it has been to get people on side. I think this is really important – I know I am not alone in that- I was so grateful for people coming and listening to me speak about the research at the Open Nest conference on 19th October, for the words of support and offers of help. To make this happen I need to speak to people. Please see below for an introduction to the research, an advertising poster and the contact email. If people are interested in taking part or just want to find out more- please get in touch- I would be delighted to hear from you.
Many thanks for reading.

Adoption is an issue that crosses borders. Adoption straddles the landscape of law, social policy, public health, psychology and mental health, education and social sciences.

Adoption is always an emotive subject.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people are affected directly by adoption (BAAF, 2013) and recent government reform is placing adoption squarely in the public realm. Adoption figures are currently described as being in ‘freefall’ (independent.co.uk 13.05.2015) and around 69,540 children are currently looked after in the care system without a permanent placement. (AdoptionUK, 2015) Tensions continue to exist between offering children the chance of a permanent, safe home and honouring the continuity and integrity of their birth identities, whilst maintaing the child’s right to be free from harm.

The adoption support fund (ASF) was launched in May 2015, altering the landscape of post placement support and hailing a limited opportunity for adoptive families and their children, where applications for assessment can be submitted to local authorities, following which prescribed and regulated therapeutic services can be accessed if deemed appropriate (adoptionsupportfund.org, 2015)

Adoption support reform has been on the government agenda for a number of years, since the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act, 2002, the process and regulation of adoption has altered enormously. The central tenets of the Adoption and Children Act, 2002 aimed.

  •  encourage practitioners to focus on planning and permanence for looked after children
  • increase the number of children adopted, or otherwise placed permanently from care
  • reduce delays in relevant social work and court processes
  •  improve adoption services for all key participants- children, birth parents and prospective adopters and
  •  put the rights and needs of the child at the centre of the process (cited in Thomas, 2013)

This research seeks to identify where the voices of those directly and indelibly effected by these decisions are. As stated in Thomas, 2013, studies carried out as part of the Adoption Research Initiative (ARI) a precursor to the current reforms, were limited by their lack of inclusion of the voices of those effected by adoption. Children and young peoples perspectives were almost entirely absent from the work, with the majority of participant representation coming from ‘adults involved in adoption’- note: not adopted adults (p.14)

This study aims to capture the voices and experiences of those traditionally omitted from adoption research literature. The people who have grown up adopted, either from experience in care or through relinquishment. How has adoption shaped people? What support have adult adoptees received or would they have found helpful if it had been available? What is the lived experience of adoption?

Adoption research tends to fall into three broad categories: identifying common factors and ‘issues’ in adoption, adoption as a comparative measure, for example twin studies where one twin is adopted into a different family (nature/nurture research) and experiences within the ‘adoption triad’ (adopted person, birth mother, adoptive parents).

Verrier (1993) in her seminal work ‘The Primal Wound’ almost exclusively used the perspective of the adopted person to illustrate the titular experience of profound loss reported both anecdotally and as part of her MA research thesis on the experience of adopted participants. Although the voice of the adopted person can be found in anthologies, creative writing compendiums and memoir, there is very limited inclusion in academic research.

Much adoption research has focussed on the experience of a) adoptive parents, b) birth mothers and c) the search and reunion process involving all three members of the ‘triad’. (see, Howe & Feast, 2012, Aumend & Barrett, 1984, Trinder, Feast & Howe, 2004, BAAF reading list 2014 to name a few) Research capturing the lived experience of adoption, staying close to the frame of reference of the participants through the use of phenomenological enquiry, is so limited as to be imperceptible.

What are you being asked to do? I am looking to speak to people (currently 18+ as awaiting ethical approval) with lived experience of adoption. The interviews will take place either face to face or via Skype and will last up to an hour. The interview will be semi structured but non- directive insofar as I will not ‘steer’ you towards a pre- conceived answer once I have asked the question. This research is not about making rigid statements about whether adoption is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it is about capturing individual experience and honouring the voice of adoptees.

For further information- please contact Liz at growingupadopted@gmail.com

 

 

The Open Nest Adoption Summer Camp – Day 3

Here Amanda Boorman of The Open Nest, shares her experiences of of the final day of the charity’s summer camp. 

Having had a brilliant first day (just checking us out) and a more realistic second day (seeing what we were made of) we expected our third day of camp to be the most challenging for the children and testing for us.

We were supporting ten children who on the whole hated change, public holidays, strangers and being away from parents. They had managed two long activity days and late campfire nights together as a group.

As I opened my front door on the last day I could see the children running up the track to the Kids Club as they had named it themselves. They were heading there an hour early and excitedly shouting “kids club!!’ at the top of their voices.

I imagined the support workers stumbling out of bed, making breakfast and getting ready to prepare for the day as the children reached them, so I rushed up to potentially help them out. The enthusiasm to be there from the children was one of the highlights for all of us and we couldn’t resist letting them in early. They didn’t wait on ceremony for us and just carried on with activities independently. They had made the space their own.

day3Another sunny day saw loads of outdoor play including a treasure hunt for chocolate gold coins that one of the children had organised himself and generously set out. We told the other children and the genuine and warm thanks from them towards him was moving.

A close relative of mine who is a textile artist had offered to do a printing session with any children who fancied it and the children made some beautiful artwork as they had also done on the first day when they painted plates. My relative is partially sighted and has excellent sensory perception. The feedback from her afterwards was that the space felt positive, happy and calm. She sensed that there was a very cohesive and caring feel to the group of children despite them being prone to finding peer relationships potentially difficult.

As the day was drawing to a close the children inevitably began to ask about when leaving time was…how long? where was mum or dad? On chatting it transpired that many of them didn’t want to leave yet.

Parents had been lead through the woods to have a relaxed pub lunch at one of the countries oldest and most untouched pubs which looks out over the woodland and serves speciality beers. The Adoption Social hosted parents for the camp and were struck by the similarities in stories and experiences that were shared over the three days.

day32As everybody left there were quite a few tears. They weren’t years of sadness but relief and happiness. It was as if we all got each other, children, parents and support workers. It felt like a huge team achievement. Some parents reported having spent time together in a way that had been lacking for years. Children who usually struggle managed well. When the inevitable meltdowns and tempers happened children were treated with love, calmness and respect and of all of us they know the difference between someone who truly gets it and someone who doesn’t.

As this was our first camp we knew it was a leap of faith on everybody’s part and we were keen to see how the model we have set up worked. On reflection, and knowing that our children do struggle with learning at times, that they find relationships difficult and an adoption camp might sound like some kind of nightmare for all involved, we felt very happy.

We feel it was very important that the assessment of the children we got in advance came directly from parents themselves. Not a third party. That way we could be fully prepared by the ‘experts’ who in many settings are not listened to properly.

The overriding messages were that although our children need support at times they are capable of responding with care and empathy as well as achieving well if you provide the right supportive atmosphere. It’s not about competition and status, it’s not about money. It seems to be about teamwork, empathy, flexibility and of course making sure the snacks are visible at all times!

We have been left humbled by the commitment and care both parents and children showed to the project and also feel we could not have managed so successfully without the amazing support workers who were volunteer students from Sunderland University. Next year can’t come soon enough.

The Open Nest Summer Camp Day One.

The Adoption Social are so pleased to be working alongside The Open Nest and students on the Children Studies course at Sunderland University, to bring the charity’s first ever adoption summer camp.

The idea of the camp is to provide supervised activities camp2for all the child attending and some space for parents to have a break. All the holidays are being provided at no cost to the families, fully funded by The Open Nest.

So day one and everyone has arrived gradually through out the day. First the families have been introduced to support workers providing the children’s activities. Most the children have dived straight in, enjoying the many activities set out. There is lots of sensory play with sand, water and bubbles. The basket ball hoop has been very popular as has the football. Some children have also chilled out and watched one of the Shrek movies, don’t ask me which one I couldn’t say.
camp4

Of course for some children it’s not that easy to be involve straight away and that is understandable, the camp is set up to be flexible and as supportive as possible to all these families who require a break where their family needs can be fully understood.camp1

After lunch the children had a great pottery and plate painting session, really getting creative.

For the parents, this afternoon saw a tea party with lots of delicious sandwiches and cakes. The plan is for The Adoption Social to run daily child free activities for the parents, all of which are completely optional and very relaxed. It wasn’t long before parents were sharing their stories and experiences, knowing that they were in a group of people who full “get ” their lives.

camp3

Amanda Boorman, founder of The Open Nest, spent the day with the children and was delighted with how it’s gone.

“This being the first event we’ve run of this kind we were a little nervous about how it would work. We’ve done lost of preparation work, we wanted to ensure that all the children’s anxieties and concerns were recognised and understood by everyone working with them. I’m delighted that the first day has been such a success, all the children have been brilliant and had a lot of fun. It goes to show that when the early life experiences of these children are fully supported they can achieve safe and happy play together and importantly, parents can relax knowing there children are with those that get them“.

 

 

My thoughts and Experiences of Contact by Amanda Boorman

To start our second Sore Points in adoption week on CONTACT, Amanda Boorman from The Open Nest, tells us about her thoughts and experiences.

As a peer support charity we get calls from adopters asking advice and direction to services for many things. After running for two years I would say the most common issues we are asked about are access to short breaks, aggressive behaviour, problems at school and problems with professionals who ‘don’t get it’

Surprisingly issues with contact and life story very rarely come up.

At the opposite end of this, adults who were adopted report life history, identity and incorrect file information as being one of the key unresolved and painful issues for them.

It is a subject that when discussed can bring up a lot of emotion, anxiety, anger and confusion. I believe the issues of life story and contact in adoption are due a big public debate despite hardly featuring at all in the current adoption reform.

The pervading opinion remains that if a child has been removed from its parents, then by definition those parents do not have rights to seeing or hearing from that child again. To seek contact and the continuing of previous relationships is potentially disruptive and damaging for the child. It is recognised that having to maintain contact could be off putting for prospective adopters.

contact AB

But it is rarely as clear cut as that.

By the time a child or children is removed, social workers have put together the case for removal and presented it to court. It goes without saying that the records involved in this process will focus on the parents failings in relation to their child/children. It is unlikely that future carers will have much more of ‘the family story’ than these failings and scraps of file  information gathered during that process.

Perhaps the debate about contact begins with questioning the quality of, and commitment to, the recording of birth family history before the connections are severed.

This information is not just about parents, it’s about culture and place and extended family history. The programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ does not just focus on parents it goes generations back and recipients gain positively from information about family members they have never met even if some of this is sad.

In my adopted daughters case she arrived with a life story that if it were summed up would say:

A cruel and uncaring mother who despite numerous offers of help refused to change, she was selfish, obstructive and very aggressive. She may have been prostituting herself as her daughter has different skin colour to her siblings.

The children were unkempt and living in chaos. They had head lice, skin rashes and ear infections. The children have been removed into temporary foster care on many occasions in order to try and help the parents.

A stubborn disruptive father who will not engage with services and shouts out in meetings, often in front of the children.

There have been many reports to social services from neighbours which describe the mother shouting at the children and slapping them and then causing trouble with the neighbours if they tried to intervene

Based upon this I accepted the professional view that no contact was in the best interests of my daughter and her brothers.

A couple of years after placement I chose to seek out her parents myself. My dad was a history teacher and history, particularly biography, is something we all enjoy as a family. I found the scrap book of disjointed photos that arrived from the foster carers and the file reports lacking in any real and meaningful life history. I felt without detailed history, both good and bad, I couldn’t support my daughter properly.

After meeting her parents the story I had to share with my daughter was:

A mother with an undiagnosed learning disability. Her father was tragically killed at sea when he was in his twenties leaving her (6 months old) her mother and three young siblings. She was prey to a local paedophile at a young age and then abused in local authority care where she was placed due to her subsequent challenging behaviour. Previous relationship with a violent man and a pregnancy with this man that ended up in late stage miscarriage.

Having had an African American great grandfather she and her family have a dark skin colour which has been passed down to her daughter.

One sister is a detective constable who tried to help the family but as a single mum found it impossible. Another is a nurse and the third emigrated to Australia where she cares for the elderly.

The mum is unable to parent without intensive support but when given empathy is fully aware of her failings and honest about these failings. She is very loving but when under pressure becomes anxious and aggressive. She made many calls to social services pretending to be a neighbour and reporting herself. She believed the children should have been removed sooner in the absence of intensive parenting support. She feels social services didn’t ‘get it’. She is unable to read or write without support. She needs help to make it to appointments.

A stubborn but loyal father who is considerably older than the mother. He has previously bought up five children with no local authority involvement. He was extremely fearful of losing the children, he has a deep mistrust of social care systems and is over protective of the mother. When treated with respect he is gentle and generous

There is no doubt that my adopted daughters birth parents failings damaged her. So did the service she received from the state as a vulnerable child. I have no doubt her parents were not easy to deal with. There did however seem to be missed opportunities to gather correct information that could help my daughter understand her family history and identity better as she grew up.

Maintaining contact with an extended family beyond your own can be extremely challenging, especially with scant information and no support. It can also be costly and involve lots of travel.

Making a decision to begin contact or maintain it when the information is damning of parents or news letters are constantly unanswered is almost impossible, especially without a meaningful and safe connection having been established between the two families in advance of the adoption placement.

Where contact has been properly evidenced as being damaging or potentially damaging to children this also needs careful and therapeutic input towards healthy endings that put the child’s needs first. Children should be given therapeutic support to make individual decisions about contact.

This approach would require specialist and committed long term support work. In times of austerity, budget cuts and an adoption agenda focused on recruitment, as well as adoption continuing to be placed culturally as a saving mission, the resources are simply not there. Evidence gathered from adult adoptees about their experience of contact or lack of it is also missing as a means to inform good practice.

In a very small nutshell our family experience of contact has been that we are glad we made it happen.

We wish we had been given more support. It’s been emotional and messy. It’s produced amazing and happy memories and has also triggered some very tricky stuff that has needed to be dealt with therapeutically.

As an adult my daughter tells me that when she struggled after contact it was the saying goodbye again not the contact itself she found difficult. She is glad she got to know her lovely gentle father but the pain of losing him recently is hard. She wonders if it would have been easier not to have known him than deal with the grief. She has forgiven her mother but not forgotten what her failings caused to her and her brothers. She remains angry with her about this (and tells her so) but also loves her unconditionally. She loves her policewoman Aunty who is a role model and is proud of her brave grandad who risked and lost his life for others.

She no longer feels she is from a ‘bad’ family and identifies positively with her home town. Contact got to the truth warts and all.

Sometimes as an adopted person she hates her mum….both of us.

The Open Nest Charity provides a neutral, safe and calm environment for both sibling and birth family contact www.theopennest.co.uk

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

How Twitter Changed my Life.

Today Sarah from The Puffin Diaries tells us how her life has changed since joining twitter.

Last week I attended a conference. I stood on stage next to my friend, fellow adopter and founder of The Open Nest Charity, Amanda Boorman, and talked, all be it briefly, about how The Adoption Social came to be. We then went on to introduce and show, for the very first time, the new animation commissioned by The Open Nest and based on information that The Adoption Social had collated from the on-line community. At that moment, I couldn’t have felt prouder of being part of the adoption on-line community.

Throughout the day I also spoke to many people about the support they could find on line, about the fantastic friendships I’d forged with people I’d met through Twitter and how wonderful it is to read so many amazing adoption blogs.

Even as I write this, it all seems a little surreal.

Nearly three years ago I joined twitter and I didn’t really know what was going to happen. Many people I know had said “oh I can’t get along with that twitter” or “I don’t get it”.Tweeting

I think it is a little bit of an odd space if you don’t really know why you’re there. Especially if you already do Facebook where the majority of your friends hang out. But if you have a cause or are looking for some like minded folk,, then it can be a really positive place to be.

My first twitter name was @adoptionbliss, slightly tongue in cheek because life was far from bliss. We were experiencing regular violent out bursts and I think it was around the time of fire starting, running away and stealing too.

Something strange happened; maybe I tweeted something or said “hello” to another adopter on twitter, but suddenly lots of people were saying “hello back” and suggesting people for me to follow.

I must confess that from that point on I became massively addicted to twitter.

So nearly three years ago I took the plunge to join a social media thingy. One that often gets bad press for bullying, bitching and general hating of others. In my three years I’ve only ever had a couple of bad experiences on twitter and they were quickly dealt with by blocking.

Instead what I’ve found is the most INCREDIBLE source of support, love, empathy, compassion, understanding and a sense of belonging. I have friends who understand my life. I have friends who are there online but are also at the end of the telephone. I have friends that I can make plans to see all of whom I met on twitter.

I am a co-founder of The Adoption Social a site which aims to support the on-line community because of twitter.

I have my own blog The Puffin Diaries, where I write, all though not that often recently, about adoption because of twitter.

I am a trustee for a progressive and creative thinking adoption support charity The Open Nest because of twitter..

And I’m talking at conferences because of twitter.

But most of all and most importantly, for me, is I am now no longer ever alone because of twitter.

Three years on my life has changed quite dramatically because one day I decided to joined twitter.

So if you read this site but have not yet taken the plunge to join twitter, why not give it a go today.

Here’s our post on how to set up an account safely.

Oh and don’t forget, once you’ve joined to come and say hello find us @adoptionsocial.