Monday, 26 May 2014

An Aside: Privates on Parade - balancing confidentiality and openness in the adoption blogosphere...

Photo: The Adoption Social

Privates on Parade - balancing confidentiality and openness in the adoption blogosphere...

This article was first posted a few weeks ago on the fabulous blog: The Adoption Social .  The Adoption Social is a great place to browse for invaluable information about adoption and fostering, to read other blogs about these issues, to enter discussions into topics which concern many adopters and to just hang out online. It publishes new content every day and is one of the websites I keep coming back to on a regular basis.
Run by two blogging adopters it really is a forum for adopters and by adopter. Check it out and participate in one of their Link Ups...

A piece from Adoption Journey on the need for adopters to consider privacy in social media.

A few weeks ago I was reading the paper in my lunch break. Towards the middle was one of those heart warming human interest stories. An adult who had been adopted as a very young child had set out on a search for her birth mother and had finally found her using Facebook. A reunion ensued and so did a happy ending. They were now back in regular contact and building a new relationship. Who couldn’t fail to have their heart touched by such a lovely tale? Well, me for a start because, as I read it, the uplifting story was tinged with a shiver which went down my spine.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Chapter 42 - Matching: Meeting Our Little Man (momentarily)...

The day had finally come for out "fly by" visit to the foster carers to see the little boy who might one day soon be our son. We were aware of the rules... LOOK, DON'T TOUCH! However, it was still an amazing opportunity to start to get a feel for who this little boy actually was. Up to now we had only seen some photos of him. It seemed that our authority didn't do the videos of children which others seemingly do. Or perhaps that was just for the more difficult to place children where there was the possibility of out of county adoption?  Or maybe we just never saw them? Either way, it felt like a unique opportunity.

We would actually get to see (we were pretty sure of this at the time) our son-to-be!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

An aside: Music was my first love...


This blog is written as a contribution to the Music themed Weekly Adoption Shout Out at the Adoption Social website.

"Music was my first love
And it will be my last
Music of the future
And music of the past

To live without my music 
Would be impossible to do
For in this world of troubles
My music pulls me through..."

OK, fair enough, it may be a bit of gloriously overblown 70s prog bobbins from the team behind the Alan Parsons Project but the lyrics of this kitsch classic pretty much serve as a manifesto for my life. Sure, it may not be my first love... my lovely wife, my gorgeous little boy, my faith... they sit in pole position. But it is true to say that music gives them a pretty good run for the top spot!. Music has always been incredibly important to me. In my teenage years it was a comfort in hard times, a refuge and an inspiration.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Chapter 41 - Matching: Meetings - Momentous and Mundane...

Well, a good number of the hurdles had been successfully leaped. We were pretty sure that the grumpy little boy staring our of the front page of the CPR form was the one for us. His social workers were pretty sure that we could be the parents for him. There were still things to work out and we would be seeking to dot every "I" and cross every "T" in the paperwork. 

We now felt that we were sufficiently far down the road that we could start telling people. We had, up to this point been pretty protective of ourselves and only confided in a couple of our closest friends - the real inner circle of our support network.  We hadn't even told our families yet. We reckoned that for them, in particular, it would be more difficult for to deal with the potential disappointments if we had decided not to proceed. Given our long history with infertility and first trimester miscarriages it would have felt like running around telling everyone the moment we saw two little blue lines. After a while those little lines had come to fill us with a mixture of dread and foreboding rather than joy...

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Chapter 40 - Matching: Under Scrutiny

Well, wheels were being properly set in motion. Denise phoned us the following day with a firm date to meet our little boy's social workers. It would be an opportunity for us to ask more detailed questions about him but also for them to scrutinise us. They would dig into us as individuals and as a couple (we were used to that by now). They would examine our motives for becoming parents and to parent this child in particular. They would look at the emotional environment in which a child would grow up and consider whether they considered the match to be a suitable one.

No pressure then.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Chapter 39 - Matching: Decision time


We had given ourselves a week or two to try to assimilate the information which was presented in this little boy's CPR form.  Yes, there were questions which we would need to dig into. Yes, there were small gaps which we felt we needed to fill in. Yes, there were some medical issues which we needed to check out. Yes, there were still a world of uncertainties to weigh up. But... and this was a big "but"... day by day, hour by hour and page by page we were coming around to a feeling that this might just be our son we were reading about.

Intellectually it seemed to make sense to say "Yes" but intellect can only take you so far in cases like this. Alongside all the weighed-up pros and cons we were both developing a feeling in the pit of our stomaches that this was somehow all... just... "right"! This was somehow meant to be. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Chapter 38 - Matching: Further investigations


We were finally considering a child. There was a fair amount of paperwork to look through. A huge number of documents to analyse and draw conclusions from. Hundreds of lines for read between. There was  a description of this little boy, a potted history of his short life to date, a description of his birth family and their circumstances, a family tree (which looked like several intoxicated spiders had crawled across the page, so fractured were the various familial connections). There were medical reports on the little man and his wider family. There were some headline psychological reports on his parents and feedback from his foster carers on his progress to date.

It was an awful lot of information to assimilate. And of course there were worries... What if we miss something? What if there is something important in there and we don't realise the significance of it? What if there is some vital element that is missing from the reports? What... If... They're... Hiding... Something...?

Monday, 14 April 2014

An Aside: REVIEW - listenable children’s CDs

A review of some listenable children’s CDs 

This review was first posted on the fabulous blog: The Adoption Social .  The Adoption Social is a great place to browse for invaluable information about adoption and fostering, to read other blogs about these issues, to enter discussions into topics which concern many adopters and to just hang out online. It publishes new content every day and is one of the websites I keep coming back to on a regular basis.

Run by two blogging adopters it really is a forum for adopters and by adopter. Check it out and participate in one of their Link Ups... This post is part of a Blog Hop at the Adoption Social (more details at the end to the review...). Anyway, here is the review. Hope you enjoy it and enjoy the music!

Megson – When I Was A Lad… (A Collection Of Children’s Folk Songs).
Jumping Through Hoops – Rockin’ To The Fiddle
Tim Hart And Friends -My Very Favourite Nursery Rhyme Record
Rain For Roots – Big Stories For Little Ones / The Kingdom Of Heaven Is Like This

Music has always been a huge thing for me. Growing up, all my hobbies and social activities seemed to revolve around music of one sort or other. So, it’s hardly surprising that one of many cherished memories of intros with our little boy is a musical one. On one of our first solo flights (out to do some shopping and then on to the play park) Thin Lizzy’s Waiting for an Alibi came on the car stereo. As the twin lead guitars faded out at the end of the song a tiny voice piped up from the back of the car “More! More!” accompanied by the sound of two tiny hands clapping enthusiastically. That’s my boy! Fast forward a couple of years and we have ensured that music is a central part of our little one’s life. And that includes listening to music around the home and the car.

So a couple of Christmas presents this year served to illustrate the variability of the kids’ music that’s available out there. In our munchkin’s Christmas stocking was a double CD from the Early Learning Centre called In The Car 2. A bizarre collection of tunes ranging from the expected like Hickory Dickory Dock or Three Blind Mice to rather left field selections like Ghostbusters and Bananas In Pyjamas. All of these were presented in a resolutely cheesy fashion with a smattering of out of tune kids from the local stage school singing along as the icing on the cake. Instrumentation seemed to be courtesy of the finest Casio keyboard that £19.99 could buy you at your local Argos. “In The Car”? I was pretty sure that a long journey down the motorway in the company of this CD would require me to gnaw my own arm off, just to maintain my own psychological well-being.

So is there a viable alternative? Can you listen to a nursery rhyme and retain both your rock’n’roll credibility and your sanity? It is at times like these where one is simply driven to utter the “F” word… Yes, FOLK!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Chapter 37 - Matching: A little more information


So we had both passed a weekend in a bemused cosmic, space-cadet mode. We were in possession simultaneously of far too much information and nowhere near enough. We knew we had been linked to a little boy. We suspected his name might begin with the letter "A". And that was it. What on earth were supposed to do with that? How could we process the meaning of those simple facts? Answer we couldn't. However, come two o'clock that afternoon we would know more. We would have in our possession a detailed report on this little boy, his background and his circumstances. 

All this was of scant comfort to me as I sat in the semi-darkness at 5:30 in the morning waiting for a taxi to arrive to take me to the railway station. In a perfect storm of bad planning I was due to head off that morning for an insane grand tour of the country. Sure, it had been in the diary for some months now. An insane three day road trip. But that was scant consolation now. There were more pressing matters on my mind.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Chapter 36 - Matching: Back On The Chain Gang


We had no idea how we would feel when, finally, our local authority's family finders suggested a child to us. Would we be prepared? Would we even know what we were supposed to be prepared for?

It had been a good seven months since the fateful day when we were approved at adoption panel. We had mentally promised the local authority a good six months to find us a match before we would start actively hassling them and start a more proactive search. Now just over half a year had passed. We were reluctant to go down a "Children Who Wait" route but that was part of our post-6 month game-plan and we were mentally preparing for it.

Yet, somehow, for the last few weeks other stuff and (frankly) procrastination had been getting in the way. "Yes, we will absolutely, definitely phone Denise today! Yes! Oh, what's the time? Quarter past five? Hmmmmm... I guess she's gone home now. Maybe tomorrow. Yes, absolutely, definitely tomorrow..." 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

An aside - Meet The Blogger at the Adoption Social


I am totally chuffed and honoured this week to be featured as the featured blogger on the Adoption Social's weekly "Meet The Blogger" page. The page takes the form of a quick questionnaire which looks to give a little (light-hearted) insight into the blogger contributors and Weekly Adoption Shout Out linkers. My entry can be found here:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Chapter 35 - The great reformation, part 3


It is very easy to describe the adoption process as being for the benefit of the prospective adoptive parents. The opportunity for couples or individuals who cannot otherwise create a family "naturally" (or for that matter "unnaturally") to get the children they have always wanted. A chance for parents of existing families to expand those families in a manner which "gives back..." There is, of course, an element of this. However, it must be remembered that the adoption process is not driven by the needs of the parent (birth or adoptive) but by the needs of the children in the "looked-after" system for whom adoption has been identified as the best outcome.

The needs of the child drive every part of the system from the screening and approvals process through to matching, placement and any subsequent support. That's not how the press portrays it but, then again, that doesn't make for sensationalist headlines. Much has been made in the papers of the proposals which have been made for linking and matching under the revised adoption system - and a lot of it in prurient, innuendo filled terms. Having spent many months last year castigating adoption agencies and local authorities for letting too many children languish in care when there are dozens of prospective parents champing at the bit to give them homes (I exaggerate, but not much) they are now caricaturing greater access for parents to the details of children available for adoption and adoption as first come first served cattle markets and sordid baby catalogues (again I exaggerate; again but not much).

Monday, 17 February 2014

Chapter 34 - The great reformation, part 2


As of July last year a new, revised adoption process came into force. New? Well, newish. Many of the elements remain much the same as under the previous system but to a much compressed timescale which aims to get prospective adopters to panel and placed with children more quickly.

After an initial, informal part of the process where those interested in adoption are encouraged to find out more about what adoption entails (and are resourced to do so) the more formal part of the process begins. Compressed into about 6 months, rather than the previous 8-9, this is split into two distinct phases.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Chapter 33 - The great reformation, part 1


The last year has been a pivotal one in the adoption world. Adoption has suddenly become a political hot topic. But in largely a good way. It has received attention at the highest levels of government and on that basis, changes are afoot. 

It was something of a surprise when Prime Minister, David Cameron announced that reform of the adoption system was a personal political priority for him. Cynics might claim that it was also a nice, fluffy, feel-good initiative to get behind at a time when he and his coalition government seemed to be beset with problems at all sides. One could also speculate on the placement across the government departments most closely linked with fostering and adoption of ministers with personal experience of adoption and fostering. Accident, design, strongly held belief or political expedient, it became clear that a ground up review of the system was planned.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Chapter 32 - Des Res, could require some restoration


It was a few days after our phone call with Denise that an envelope containing the locally produced list of children who were still waiting for adoption plopped onto the doormat. We opened it with a surprising amount of trepidation, possibly based on Denise's reluctance to give it to us. The colour photocopied booklet turned out, as we expected, to be a mini version of Be My Parent or Children Who Wait. On each page a couple of profiles of children or sibling groups were laid out with (mostly) a cherub-like photo and a short blurb describing the child or children. Sure, most of the profiles mentioned some level of developmental delay in their subject - the severity varying from child to child - but we were repeatedly told that was pretty much a given when considering kids for adoption.

Keisha is a happy 6 year old. She loves playing with her my little pony and trips to the park...

Daniel and Kimmi are the youngest of 6 siblings and are looking for a permanent home together in an adoption placement...

Jayden is a charming little boy with a bright smile who loves being outdoors. Although he does display some difficulties in responding to physical expressions of affection he has been improving greatly throughout his current foster placement...

However, one thing that the booklet did prove was that Denise had been telling the truth when she told us geography was getting in the way of us being matched... Profile after profile finished with the words "Cannot be placed in Ourtown." or "Cannot be placed in the Inlawsville area." Fair enough, between us and parents we did live in striking distance of two of our county's main population centres. That would have to have an effect on which children could never be placed with us.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Chapter 31 - Shopping from the baby catalogue

Every little helps

We first came across "Be My Parent" and "Children Who Wait" at one of the pre-preparation orientation evenings. I was browsing along the resources table at the back of the room looking at the Dan Hughes and Caroline Archer books when my eye spied what looked like a couple of women's magazines. Pictures of smiling happy faces beamed from the cover. "Oh well, I thought I'll have a browse and maybe do the adoption equivalent of the Cosmo quiz while I'm waiting." However, instead of an interesting article on Theraplay or facilitating attachment in adoptive placements I was faced by page after page of photos of munchkins. Each had a little write up about how lovely they were, how well they were  developing at their foster placement and how they were looking for a mummy and daddy. Gulp. It was all a bit overwhelming. This was the real face of adoption. The real little lives looking for a transformation and a brighter future...

Once the initial wave of emotion had worn off and I began scanning through the entries a second emotion started to rise up - a slight queasiness. Unconsciously I had found myself thinking "Awwww... He's sweet." "Oh, I'm not sure I'd want to take on three..." "Wouldn't it be nice to have a little brother and sister." However, all of a sudden it all felt a bit too much like flipping through the Argos catalogue. Baby buying.  Sibling shopping. Offspring ordering...

Monday, 20 January 2014

Chapter 30 - Post Approval: Equipping and filling time

On the learning train

I don't know how common it is across the various adoption agencies in the UK but it seemed like our local authority offered a pretty good programme of courses to equip prospective adopters in the weeks and months between passing through panel and being matched with a child. Of course, we had no benchmark but, still, we were keen to benefit from every bit of advice which we could... 

Not that attending a training course is in any way real preparation for what parenthood, let alone adoption really means. But we were keen to hoover up any nuggets of insight which might come our way. Our academic backgrounds had hard wired us that way. I've already mentioned our keenness to dive into the adoption literature which had been signposted at the Orientation evenings and our surprise that, when we got to Preparation classes, we were the only ones who had done so. What can I say? Overachievers... Besides, we thought, it would be nice to network with other prospective adopters and to catch up with a variety of our fellow Preparation group members. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Chapter 29 – Post approval: Setting a direction


Finding a purpose
Having discovered ourselves in limbo it was clear that we needed a game plan. We were the third or fourth couple in our group to be approved into the adoption register and already a number of those were being matched. About a month or two after we had been approved we had another big adoption group get together. Several of the couples were in the throes of the last stages of the approval process - their haggard and concerned look was familiar to us. We'd seen it in the mirror often enough only a month or so before.

Another two couples were proudly sharing their matching experience, preparing for matching panel and thinking forward to introductions. For us it was still seemingly radio silence. Sure we had our ritual of reminding Denise that we still existed. However, despite the frustrations of seeing others ploughing ahead we were set on our patient approach.

Didn't make it any easier to cope with though.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Chapter 28 – Post approval: So what now?

Dancing in limbo

So, the last two years had been leading up to this moment. All our efforts seemed to have been funnelling down into a single hour in the offices of our Local Authority Children's Services department. And now here we were... Officially... legally...declared as being fit to be parents. The last two weeks waiting for the letter from Social services to confirm the Decision Officer's... well, decision... had been interminable. The days dragged by with us looking longingly at the letter box each time we walked past. Now here were were with the confirmation letter in our hands.

But what now? With the release had come a slight sense of emptiness and bewilderment. It was like our overriding purpose in life had been removed. 

There were a few things we did know. Now that we had received the official approval letter from the Authority's Decision Officer Denise would continue to be our social worker (although, of course her time was now focused on other active cases in her portfolio). We would be given temporary membership of Adoption UK. Post approval training courses would be available to us and we would be informed of them as they came up. We should now be considered as potential matches against available children and those who became available. And then it went quiet. Horribly quiet. Scarily quiet.

We started to wonder if it was something we had said...