Thursday, 17 July 2014

Adoption Ghosts

Though we've never met our children's parents I often feel they live with us in our day to day lives to varying degrees.

I'm sure that we don't realise how often they continue to exercise influence.

We see their presence in the lives of our children in a physical display, an outburst of emotion, a snarled comment, a look or gesture.

At other times it is more subtle, a hidden worry or quite thought, an emotion or mood, preferences, choices, likes and dislikes. 

We see shadows of the adults that we've read about in forms, seen faded photographs of perhaps even met,

But they linger in our family lives like ghosts in our home, a presence, an influence.

Ghosts come in all kinds of manifestations, frightening, friendly, malevolent or benevolent.

But our ghosts can't be exercised and shouldn't be.

Yes, we want them to behave and play by our rules. We don't want the malicious poltergeists that maintain their control and influence continuing to disrupt from the beyond. But we need to learn to live with them, tame them, they are with us and always will be.

We take control by opening the curtains and letting the light into the darkness.

Not cowering away from the shadows but shining a light into them.

We open the door to the ghosts and engage with them, we write letters and look through the photo books with our children, we tackle them head on.

I'm not frightened of ghosts, I am the here and now.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Faithful Servant

I know I'm a sentimental fool.

But with great sadness we say goodbye to an old friend who has travelled a long and winding road with us.
I remember the rush to choose you after the panel said 'yes', picking you from the myriad of possibilities.

I recall the head scratching and instruction reading when you first came and the nerves; the confusion; the wrestling in the car and the eventual success of fitting you into our car.

Do you remember the first journey we took with our new children, our excitement and nerves during introductions. I can still remember the challenge of getting our little man into you safe and snug.

When our little man grew bigger you were tucked away safe and sound in the garage.
Flossy and Lotty came and you answered our call. Yes, a little shabby but you faced this challenge. Others tried but they failed, to complicated & not comfy enough.

Those were the hard years, vomit, pee, poop, tears, snot, yoghurt raisins, juice, melted chocolate and ice cream to name some of your adversaries. You laughed at them all you were washable.

Then back to the garage to be forgotten.

Peanut came.

New seats were a pail imitation of your utility and simplicity. Frustrations came. If only we still had..........but..........yes, there at the back under the rubbish.

Ever the faithful you answered the call.
Though shabby and threadbare you held your cargo safe and sound and comfy.

But now your time has come to an end. Peanut has grown and Mrs C declared you redundant.

This time we are sure. Mrs C mentioned the tip.
I have been issued my orders and we will take our last drive today.

Your passing marks the end of an era.
So, well done good and faithful servant.

Ginger's Child Seat (June 1999 to July 2014)

Don't tell a soul but I'm hiding you in the garage. She'll never find you.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Adoption Matching

I can still remember the moment our Social Worker told us that they had a potential match. She read the three names off a piece of paper then handed it to us*. Our Social Worker continued to describe them and explain their story.

I didn't hear a word.

I felt like my heart had stopped. I was a dad. 

I could feel my world change. Nothing would ever be the same and this was the moment it changed.

After repeated instructions, we were struggling to take things in,  we were informed that we would have to read the Child Protection Reports then give an answer. We'd known before she'd finished reading the names that the answer was "yes". 
However,  we dutifully read them and nothing we read dissuaded us so we confirmed our "yes" and we then set on the matching process. 15 years on and we have no regrets.

Reading recent articles and discussing the matching process with colleagues has had me considering the challenges that this step in the adoption process brings. For prospective adopters having navigated the trials of the approval process matching is where it all gets real.

Each person involved in the matching process is aiming for the same goal, a successful adoption placement, however each comes with different criterial, perspectives and agendas. This inevitably makes the process a uniquely challenging journey for prospective adopters to navigate.

Our first journey through adoption was at a time when our choice was limited, the late 90's, and we were presented with the children with the only choice being a yes or no. As they were the only sibling group of three in the authority and we were the only prospective adopters approved for three the choice was limited. The upside being that the Panel only considered us for the children whereas for other matches they used to take two sets of prospective adopters to Panel for them to decide who should take the children. On reflection this does seem a little cruel, times have changed.

Though I have no regrets in relation to our match I wholeheartedly support the right for prospective adopters to choose. Though I have to acknowledge that this brings unique challenges.

After the business of the approval process it all goes quiet.
When will a match come?
What if I don't like what I'm offered?
If I say no will I be seen as fussy?

Then a child or children come along. Falling in love with a picture or a face seen at an adoption party has it's challenges. Prospective adopters then have to filter the information being given to them, history, experiences, unknowns, the euphemisms, "likes to get there own way" and "can be moody". They have engage their rational selves. Then they are invited to meetings and the roller coaster starts.

Each member of the care team has a wealth of information, a different criteria and their own pressures.

Foster carers and the child's Social Worker know  that  there are more children waiting for adopters than available adopters. If interest is expressed by prospective adopters then is the pressure to say yes to a less than ideal match rather than run the risk of waiting for a better match. How good is good enough?

Adoption Social Workers are faced with the unenviable task of guiding prospective adopters through the matching process. To say to a couple "perhaps this isn't the right child for you". 

Adopters are faced with a dilemma, if on being told more information they then say "no" to a child will they then face a long wait for another child or children. Will they be seen as unrealistic or picky. Is this the best match they might get?

Somehow all of this is navigated and matches are made, or not.

Many matches work well and all the tensions are managed effectively by those involved. Adults and children are brought together and families are formed.
However, I know adopters that love their children dearly but would have approached the matching process differently. Most have no regrets but hindsight is wonderful.

Choice is increasingly being given to adopters. The days of being handed a baby at the orphanage gates with little consideration beyond colour of hair are gone.
With choice expectations, hopes, needs and dreams all have to be balanced to ensure the best interests of children and prospective adopters are met.

* I still have the scrap of paper

Friday, 27 June 2014

Transracial Adoption

I've wanted to write this blog about transracial adoption for a while and to be honest I've struggled. It is an issue that is pertinent to us as a family as we are not all white. We represent at least three continents between us as a family.

I'm writing as no expert, with a limited understanding from my perspective only. I have mulled this issue over, read books and articles, written essays, talked to anyone who would speak to me and still find it a challenging issue.

When I reflect on my family and the issue of race, ethnicity and identity, I question my ability to prepare my children for a life where they may encounter racism or discrimination. Where they may stand out in a crowd; Where they cannot hide.
When we go out as a whole family we are clearly not ‘normal’, we live in semi rural north England and do not blend in. Fortunately, what people think of us is of no consequence and those who know us, well, they know us and the rest can guess, presume or not give it a thought. Some ask and we take no offence. 
But we do not blend in. 

New legislation removes the need to consider the race of the child when matching for adoption. Though I do not consider this change in the law as an act of cultural and ethnic ignorance or worse*,  I do note it was approved by predominantly white middle/upper class men. I wonder if there's a lack of understanding of the significance that race and ethnicity contribute to identity and consequently the significance of identity to adoptees and adopters.

For adoptees identity can be complex, feeling different,  struggling with fitting in and questioning their place within adopted families. At a time when many young people want to blend in, they don't and an aspect of their identity is publicly displayed.
For transracial adopters their identity as parents may also be out of their control, altered by the lack of anonymity and confidentiality.

The debate in the media is often generalised and simplified. With the issue boiled down to the simple question: Is it better to be brought up by a family with different colour skin than to remain with foster carer?

Yes? No? is that a fair question or a realistic scenario? Does it over simplify the issue? Does it miss the point.

I’d prefer not to answer that question because to do so we reduce children, adoptive parents and foster carers to stereotypes. 

Underlying all of this is the fact that Black, Asian or minority ethnicity children are over represented in the care system and Black, Asian or minority ethnicity prospective adopters are under represented.

But that is perhaps a harder question to ask. Way above my pay grade.

I believe Social Workers need to be able to take each case as they find it; to consider all the factors appropriately and not be ruled by popularism, pragmatism, dogma or politics. Rather to respond to individuals rather than comply blindly with policy. To sometimes say 'yes' to matches and sometimes say 'no' to matches. 

Taking that choice away makes me feel uncomfortable but that is where we are.

I could go on, however I won't.

* In 1972 the North American Association of Black Social Workers described transracial adoptions as particular form of genocide".

Friday, 20 June 2014

Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly

Life is squeezing in a bit. 

Much has happened, opportunities are opening up before us, as well but with them a constraint on time. 

Children & work & Ofsted & trips to London and so on. 

Frustratingly there's so much to tell and so much I'd like to comment on. 

Siblings, contact, adoption support, transracial adoption and the old orthodoxies are but a few of the issues rattling around my pretty little head.

So, back to the grindstone. Stay well.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Fawlty dad

Clearly, through my twitter feed I portray myself as a Dan Hughes/Bryon Post über dad.

This is a thinly veiled facade.

A recent interaction.

Me: Flossy, I understand that you're angry, but if you don't stop calling me names I think we're going to have to cancel football. (Dan Hughes voice)

F: So, your going to take football off me? Stupid (Shouting, with a hint of sarcasm)

Me: Only if you don't stop calling me names. (Bryon Post voice)

F: Why should I stop, you've just taken my football off me. You're the worst dad in the world. (Shouting)

M:No, I said "if you don't stop calling me names" I'd take it off you. (Bryon Hughes voice)

F: You did not, I've lost my football, waaaaaaaa, I wish I didn't live with you, I wish I'd stayed with birth mammy.

Repeat the last two interactions 5 or 6 times. It felt like more.

Flossy leaves, I am left alone, exasperated. That crazy ambivalent/disorganised blend.

My inner Dan Hughes crumbles.

And with no audience for comedic effect I scrunch myself into a ball and make a writhing, primeval sound and my outer Basil Fawlty prevails.

Strangly, I feel better.

Friday, 30 May 2014

An Opinion

I watched a video clip today that argued, amongst other things, that adoption is about “finding families for children rather than children for families”. 

However, I consider it mistake to view contemporary adoption in these terms.

The primacy of children's wellbeing  runs through all adoption legislation and guidance. It is critical that the needs and desires of these adopters cannot be allowed to fade into the background while adoption agencies, and public opinion, are coerced into shifting the focus wholly to finding families for children.

There are a myriad of reasons that lead people to adopt which leaves me reluctant to generalise. However, a large majority are unable to conceive,  either alone or with their partner, and this leads them into the adoption process. 

To relegate their hopes, aspirations and needs to second place or a guilty desire is unjust and is potentially storing up trouble for the new families.

I believe that the six month timeframe for the assessment of prospective adopters reinforces this view that we are finding families for children. Swift approvals run the risk of focusing on approval and placing children rather than on a measured assessment of prospective adopters, of their strengths and weaknesses.
I agree that there should be no unnecessary delay but I also believe that there is a role for necessary delay.

Prospective adopters can bring a variety of experiences to the process, the loss of childlessness, pain of miscarriage or the torture of multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF treatment to name the most common. 

A lot is asked of prospective adopters, the challenges of parenting children in modern society are numerous. Adding to this are the often complex needs of the children and the peripheral pressures that that adopters can face from birth families, their own families, schools and friends. 

To carry open wounds and unrealistic expectations into parenting is not going to help. Sometimes a little time is needed.

We are finding families for children and children for families. To see it in any other terms is a harmful mistake

I am aware that this is just my opinion. If you feel I'm off the mark then I'm more than happy to be persuaded otherwise. 
For the record, I am not a Adoption Social Worker and have no vested interest or axe to grind.