Friday, 21 November 2014

Today

I enjoying writing my blog, playing with thoughts and stories, turning them into little windows into our life. I enjoy the opportunity to reflect on the ebb and flow of our daily family life and some of the broader issues that impact on adoption.

Today I feel the need to write, but I've nothing to say, not because there's a lack of things to tell more that I'm struggling to bring a little light. I try to write with hope and humour to side step the 'other stuff' but today there seems to be more of the 'other stuff'.

Nothing out of our ordinary has happened; trips to school to talk to staff; unending negotiations/fights about 'screen time'; hyper stress and anxiety over what to wear to school on children in need day, near psychotic sibling rivalry and a bit of violence.

But today I'm struggling to see where the future lies. This week I confessed to a friend that my greatest ambition for one of my children was that she'd still be living with me by the time she's 16.

In another life she'd be the head girl, she's bright, athletic and focused. But were not living that life and in this life she's all those things but terrified and frequently disregulated as well. My hopes are a set lower.

Today my head hangs low, my heart is heavy and I ask Mrs C 'is it all going to be ok?'.

She says 'Yes' and I'm choosing to believe her.

'Hope that is seen is no hope at all'



Maybe tomorrow the tables will turn, she'll be asking and I'll be answering.

We've been in darker spots, days when we both asked and there was nobody to answer.

That's what I've got to say today.











Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Five Steps

Fear ye not, this is not a post designed to give you the steps to therapeutic parenting Nirvana. It's about a little journey I make, five steps in fact.

After I've been called this and that, roughed up a bit in heart, soul and body my inner 7 year old can surface. My internal monologue is peppered with thoughts unrepeatable I find myself busying myself around the house chuntering like Muttley from the Wacky Races.

Flossy calms and an uneasy and delicate peace is restored, usually assisted by Mrs C.
Bedtime comes and I tuck Lotty up in bed and Mrs C tucks Flossy up and we normally cross over the landing and say our goodnights. But more frequently Flossy's door is shut and the light is off. Be this shame or residual anger and resentment the message is clear 'Dad, you are not welcome'.

It's five steps to the top of the stairs, then down to a few hours calm.



Five step that take me past Flossy's door. The temptation is to keep going, to put another storm behind me.

Five steps where I make choices and decisions, where I banish the 7 year old me and shake the grown up back to life.

I'm not always welcome but I know that it matters that I'm constant and there is always a way back.
I don't always feel the love, given or taken.

But I knock, go in and say 'I love you, we'll have a better day tommorow'

Friday, 7 November 2014

National Adoption Week: Time machine

So after all the shouting and balling NAW14 is almost over and I'm sure I speak for many when I say it feels like it's been a long week. 

Challenging images and interviews on daytime and morning TV bring conflicting emotions as I consider the hopes of prospective adopters and the needs of children. Naturally I compare this to the stories that I hear in my day job and are piped into my consciousness through Twitter, blogs and Facebook. Good, bad, mundane stories of lives lived in parallel to the oblivious world around us 51 weeks a year then thrust into the spotlight for a week in November.


NAW is a good news story the politicians, of all sides,  and the media love adoption, it's a golden subject that reflects well on those who discuss it. But though the challenges of contemporary adoption are explained and laid bare I fear that the man and woman on the street hold fast to the orphan Annie fairytale*. 

I am confident that good comes of it and if one child is found a loving home then it is more than worth it.

So, tomorrow when the brouhaha is over I'll wake up, dust myself off and get on with my life slipping back into anonymity. 






However, I can't help but consider the future, how will the adoption landscape shift over the next year and the next 10, 20, 30 years. 

Practice that we consider as normal will be examined with the benefit of hindsight. 

What will be the long term implications of the recent rulings in relation to Placement orders and subsequent reductions in their number?


What will be the impact of the much publicised adoptions support fund?


Thinking further ahead will we look back with horror and shame as we do when we consider the circumstances, practice and societies seeming indifference of the 50's and 60's?  


Reading the BASW magazine this month the issue of Human Rights and adoption was raised with the reality that we are in a minority of nations that still place children for adoption without the consent of the parents. What will be the implications for the future?


Will we be aghast at the expectations placed on adopters in light of the experiences and needs of the children they parented?


Will there be any adoption re union programmes looking back through the years?


Will adoption be seen as a side issue compared to the number of children in care that need stable and secure long term homes?


Ifs and buts.


I'm not sure where we'll be and if we'll be seen as villains, victims or saviours.

I'm pretty sure I'll still be dad.

*In my retirement I intend to write my own musical "Annie: the Truth", with swearing, singing and fighting.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

National Adoption Week: Quotes

At running the risk of never being asked to speak to the media again I would like to share with you a little experience I had earlier in the week.

A few days ago Mrs C spoke to a press officer at length for an article on National Adoption Week. The press officer asked if I could add to the article by emailing a paragraph explaining what I would say to a prospective adopter.


So I sat down and my mind went blank, then filled to overloading with all that I should say. I sat and looked at a blank page and was at a loss what to write. Harsh truth or Disneyesque stories of giddy joy.


Both wrong: both right. So what do I say?


"Adoption has been the most amazing experience of our lives and has built a wonderful family around us. It has been exciting. I can't think of any downsides and we could not imagine our lives without any of our children and would certainly not hesitate in doing it all again."


There are moments when this is true but our story is more complex


"Adoption has been the most difficult experience of our lives and we feel like a truly dysfunctional family. It has been challenging and I often wonder how I'm going to get through the day. I wonder if the pros outweigh the cons  and we often reminisce  at our lives before our children came. We would certainly not hesitate in doing it all again but we'd do it differently"


This is how I felt recently after being kicked, punched and slapped, but it the truth is more complex.


So, after what seemed like an eternity I came up with a form of words:


"Adoption has been the most amazing experience of our lives and has built a wonderful family around us. It has been challenging and their have been difficult days. However, the pros outweigh the cons  and we could not imagine our lives without any of our children and would certainly not hesitate in doing it all again."


It feels like a compromise, bland and meaningless. 

If you've met me and spoke to me you know the truth. 
I am for adoption.

Monday, 3 November 2014

National Adoption Week : Questions

I believe in adoption, the majority of my adult life has been significantly influenced by my decision to adopt. I’ve actively promoted adoption, through TV, documentaries, radio and the press. I’ve contributed at prospective adopter preparation courses and spoke at length to strangers, friends and acquaintances about the virtues and challenges of adoption. I have a blog and my mam reads it.

But, I have questions.


I see that the landscape of adoption has changed the nature of the vast majority of the 28,000 children adopted in 1968 are very different to the 5,050 adopted in 2013/14.
The adopters that step forward are very different now to those who made the journey 45 years ago.
Society, law and culture have shifted almost beyond recognition. 
Research has rendered received wisdom and best practice as defunct, detrimental and dogmatic.
Policies and systems that seem to be trying to catch up with this changing landscape.


Is this week the right week to be asking questions?

I have to say yes, this is the week to raise the difficult questions.
If the community of adopters and adoptees can’t ask these questions then who can?
If we don’t ask them now then when will people listen?

Approved and pre placement adopters are nervous of the questions they ask for they have everything to lose.  They accept injustice, incompetence and delay because they have no choice. They do not have the power.

Can the adoptees ask the difficult questions? No. They have no power.

The questions that birth families and parents ask are often discounted and marked as invalid. After all, they don't deserve to ask questions. They have no power.

Post order adopters sometimes keep our heads down, we need access to services, so we are careful, # are our cloak. We do what we can.

So, those who can speak have a duty and responsibility to ask difficult questions, challenge accepted wisdom and policy.
We are the experts of this experience so we must speak.

This does not mean we are against adoption.

There are voices, #flipthescript, The Open Nest, Adoption UK & individuals like Sally Donovan are asking hard questions, raising adoption's profile and we should throw our collective weight behind them.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Railway child

Lotty saw me across the crowded rail station, shouted ‘Daaaadddyyyy’ at the top of her voice and sprinted across the expansive arrivals hall.
Six feet before she reached me she left the ground and propelled herself into my waiting arms that enclosed her around into a spinning embrace.

Not a heart that witnessed this reunion could remain unmoved. The scene from the railway children loomed large.

I confess to being slightly overwhelmed at such a demonstration, a little lump was felt in my throat.
Lotty hadn’t seen me since breakfast that day.

For Lotty I occupy a space in her heart that only a father can, right then I was fantastic.

Reflecting on each of my children I see that I occupy a different place on the spectrum of parenting for each of them. It’s not static, it shifts and moves to accommodate, age, circumstance, emotions, reaction etc. At times I’m a father at times a commandant. I’m guessing that to be true for most parents.

But for my children this spectrum has a few places on it that go beyond ‘normal’. Their age, pre-care and foster care experiences have all influenced their expectations of dads and consequently of me. Their Internal Working Model  and attachment strategies colliding with their idea of who I am and what I represent. Sometimes I’m perceived as the cause of all their woes, historic and present. I place myself as the rock that their pain, hate and anger crashes against before it reaches shore. I become the personification of all that they want to fight against.

But so what? There was no contract with my children, they gave no opinion on who they wanted to be their parents or even if they wanted parents. They didn’t get to read my Prospective Adopter Report or ask me how I was going to meet their specific needs. They were passed from pillar to post at the mercy of circumstance, parents, police, Social Workers, solicitors, barristers and judges.

Sometimes my children find it hard to be sons and daughters.

But I am always their Dad, regardless of how they see me I am their Dad.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Men

As much as I enjoyed the Open Nest Taking Care event, and I did, I came a way with more questions than I thought I would.
Please don't perceive this as naysaying because it isn't, I thought the day was fantastic and everyone I spoke to shared a similar view.

I confess to being perpetually confused by the disparity between Twitter names and 'real' names. Next year I'm coming in disguise as I felt significantly disadvantaged being an 'out' member of the community. I have being pondering the nature and reasons for protecting our identities and the underlying concerns and fears.

But my resounding question was, 'where are the menfolk?'.

In a room of over 80 attendees I counted perhaps only 7 or 8 men which clearly makes them significantly under represented. However, the attendees reflected the online community built around the excellent work of the Adoption Social and The Open Nest and the Twitter network that gravitates around them a predominantly female community.

I don't like stereotypes, however they can sometimes have a shadow of truth at their heart, 

Generally I find talking about my worries, stresses and strains, unhelpful. I prefer to escape on my bike and blow the proverbial tubes out. Like coming home from work the last thing I want to do is talk about my day, I want to leave it at work. This is true for the scrapes and bruises that I face with the family. Often I just need to be alone with my thoughts and only rarely do I talk to Mrs C or post to Twitter.  Perhaps I don't want to be perceived as not managing or or struggling. Maybe I just want to bury my head in the sand for a few hours or not to have every waking moment consumed by 'the kids'. 

But I dare not presume to speak on behalf of all the adoptive fathers and dad's. They're probably not even reading this so what does it matter. 

Are men struggling? I'm sure some are, I know I do. We have unique stresses we see our, generally female, loved ones bear the brunt of pain and anger. If we work we often are rendered impotent receiving texts and calls recounting behaviour at home; walking into homes after or during conflict or seeing our loved ones harmed emotionally and physically.
So, how do we provide support, how do we target support and do men want it? I'm just not sure.  
I'm not sure what I want. 

I spoke to a few women and they hinted that their male partners were perhaps on a 'different page'. Maybe that is part of the problem.
Maybe there is no problem. 

Maybe I need a ride on my bike to think it out.