4478 Days – Think About It

by Rhea (dictated over the phone to me, I typed it up)

333,849,600 seconds

5,564,160 minutes

92,736 hours

3864 days

Or

10 years, 6 months and 30 days

from birth

to

HOME

And from birth to when we went to court and it was all legal and final

4478 days

or

12 years, 3 months, 5 days

And in care?                                          


6 years, 1 month, 4 days

in care

that’s a very very long time

by Rhea

Think about that

And about what it means

for the life of a

child

One Year On…

Is this weeks WASO theme, and at a pretty timely moment for us

Just over one year on since a massive change in my family life – Kestrel met her mum for the first time in years, and they began their reunion

There’s not much to say, because it’s been an incredibly tough ride for me, for Kestrel and for Parrot. Walking a bleak rocky path in the middle of nowhere with no companion or support and the potential of a massive fall if we’re unlucky.

(I wouldn’t complain if I got to hike that real path by the way. I miss the long hikes of my youth. But it’s every bit as lonely as this reunion road)

But there have been some positive truths hammered home by this – that Kestrel loves me and does think of me totally as her mum. I worried I would lose her to her first mum because Kestrel would see her as more ‘mum’ than me. But it’s not true. She sees us both as mums. And she sees me as a mum who can make her feel safe – how wonderful is that? :) She was taken to hospital in June having a mental health crisis, following an incident which would never have happened had she not been in reunion with her mum – and when she felt scared, she called for me. That wouldn’t be on the radar if it was a birth child, but my daugher? That’s HUGE. It means she really has attached to me, and feel she needs me in hard times. YES!

When things are tricky, as they so often are, I focus on that. And so we will struggle on. I will continue to firefight and pick up the pieces and deal with all the fallouts. I will be there for Kestrel no matter what happens

Incidentally, her birth mum phoned me last night (Kestrel gave her the number. She’s only phoned about 3 times in a year though) in order to tell me that I’m not parenting Kestrel right!! Apparently “forcing” (as if I force her, she’s nearly 18!) a teenager to take “psychotic medication” (ie. Risperidone) is abusive. Also, confiscating her radio was apparently abusive.

Right. This is the medication she needs to function well, because she has so many dificulties in life, BECAUSE a certain someone could not keep her safe from abuse and harm, nor parent appropriately in any way, shape or form. And this is the radio which I took away because Kess was blaring it out in the middle of the night, so Parrot couldn’t get to sleep

I’m sure I don’t need to say how angry I was. I’m the one who has parented Kestrel through nearly 10 years of difficulties because she has been so profoundly affected by her early life experiences, and left with permanent emotional and mental health issues, and also permanent inuries to her body. And I’m not complaining. However I am NOT going to sit back and be told by the person who is largely responsibly for this, that I am abusive for giving Kestrel boundaries and looking after her medical interests

Yet I did not shout. Or rant. Or give her some choice parenting advice in return. I simply terminated the call. So I awarded myself wine as a treat for managing that

(Mmmm. Must…resist….too-early-in-the-day-to-drink-yet)

And now to the more positive aspects of this year:

One year ago, I had only one grandchild. Now I have TWO :D

One year on, there’s another gorgeous baby to cuddle, walk up and down, blow raspberries on, and love with all my heart

I love you, little Warbler!

Well, she’s not talking yet so she doesn’t call me anything. She’s 5 months old. But Robin (granddaughter number 1) is talking and when she says she loves me, my heart could burst

But very importantly, on the bloggy theme:

One year ago, I didn’t blog. Indeed, the isolation of coping with all Kestrel’s issues and the reunion is one the reasons I started blogging (see my “Me and My Blog” entry on The Adoption Social here) which brings me in a circle back to the beginning of the post

And now I do blog, and whilst I don’t do it as much as I would like, I enjoy it. I’m glad I do it.I love hearing from my readers, I am so happy when something I wrote is helpful to someone in some way.

Rhea’s even been able to express her views on certain important things – and we were both very happy to see the response to our post on adoption by LGBT parents

So one year on, it’s been a mixed year. But WASO has been a really positive thing for me this year, so a massive happy birthday to it, and all my thanks to Vicki and Sarah :) You two are amazing

“Finding Mum and Dad” – The issue of adoption parties #1

Like many of you out there, I sat down to watch “Finding Mum and Dad” tonight not sure what to expect or what I would come away thinking. If you missed it, you can watch it on 4OD here

I should say that my general feeling towards Adoption Activity Day, or Adoption Parties, before watching, was one leaning well towards the negative. I completely acknowledge the benefits of it, but overall my feeling was (and remains, after watching) that they have the potential to do more harm than good.

So I am doing 2 posts on this issue, and this one is just about last nights TV program:

Finding Mum and Dad

A review of “Finding Mum and Dad”

From the start, it was a very emotional program, and I teared up at quite a few points throughout. I felt it was generally sensitively done, and explored both positives and negatives of using Activity Days to match children with prospective adopters. We heard from social workers, foster carers, prospective adopters and adopters who were matched through activity days.

I do think it would have been good and improved the program if we had heard from an adult adoptee (or adult care leaver) who attended adoption days – they’ve been around for a while in the United States at least, and I think some words from an adoptee about what the experience was like for them and what their views are, would have really added something to the program. We are supposedly doing this for the children after all, so the experiences and opinions of those children (and adults) should be given a lot of consideration and respect.

If I were to make one main criticism of the program though, it would be the simplicity it presented some things with, chief among them the issue of the childs age. I personally found the tone of voice used when saying (repeatedly) that adoptive parents generally want younger children, to be an almost accusatory tone, as if prospective adopters are all too picky and it was all their fault that these older boys are hard-to-place. Actually, it’s far more complex than that.

As an adoptive parent of older children, whilst I would very much like to see more older children placed with parents, and more parents considering older children, I would never even dream of thinking badly of prospective adopters who do not feel capable or comfortable adopting an older child. Something that is a simple fact, is that adopting a 9 year old is not like adopting a 1 year old. It’s not right for everyone. I was the reverse – when I adopted my daughters, I felt more comfortable with adopting older children. Should I be condemned because I would have said ‘no’ to a 6 month old baby? It’s not pickiness IMHO, it’s about making sure there is a good match between child and parents, that the child is coming into a home where their parents are totally comfortable and happy with it all.

Other than that, and the absence of any adoptee views, I think the program was good. I loved the foster carers and thought they were great people and great parents to their foster children. The camera caught many moments which were heartbreaking and briefly touched on other issues, such as seperating siblings.

I loved seeing Thomas in his new family, and the celebration hearing was a moment which made me cry a bit. His story did represent the good side of adoption activity days, and it was lovely to see. We heard that these days can up to double a childs chance of finding a family – it’s worth noting though that over all the pilot activity days which were run to test out the use of activity days in the UK, less than 50 of the 250 children who attended, found a home through them. That sadly, is a high percentage compared to traditional methods of family finding.

So, why didn’t I come away with changed views? Well, the camera caught all too many moments which just reflected all my concerns about adoption parties. Perhaps the most uncomfortable and awful part of the program for me, was when the boys were at their activity day, and the foster carers and social worker were going round, trying to get some of the prospective adopters to come and meet the boys and play with them. The way they talked, emphasising how lovely and well behaved the boys were and how they didn’t show any signs of learning difficulties etc, it really did feel like they were selling the boys as a product. It didn’t sit well with me at all. And it didn’t sit well with the boys foster mother either – she clearly struggled with feeling like she was, in her words (if I remember rightly) ‘trying to sell an unwanted product’

However, regardless if whether you came away feeling more positive or more negative towards these activity days, it was a well done program, and it’s worth a watch. But watch with a pack of tissues next to you!

And what did Kestrel think?

She says “Uh…I didn’t like it because no one wanted to play with Connor and Daniel and they didn’t get adopted”

She also asked me, “Mum, that lady said about buying a sofa from DFS. Is it like that?”

She seems unsure and slightly upset by this sadly :(

But as an older adoptee, her instinctive reaction to seeing this, well, I find it important

My second post on adoption activity days/parties will be more about my own personal views on adoption parties, and why I feel the way I do. Also, I am certain Rhea will have views she wants to put across about the program and adoption parties in general

A look at disruption and other statistics (or – time to eat my words)

Haha! No sooner than I posted yesterday’s post, I was told that there ARE some statistics on pre-adoption order disruption – they’re just buried in massive OFSTED reports chock full of a lot of adoption statistics which I will also post about. Thanks Andy Leary-May (@learymay)!

So, without further ado:

Out of the 4,767 children placed for adoption in the year 2012-2013, 148 children’s adoption placements disrupted, in 118 adoptive families

This is a pre-adoption order disruption rate of 3%

I was pleasantly surprised to see it was that low, because I thought it was a bit higher than that. However I feel sad seeing the numbers in black and white as well. I’m thinking of those 118 families and 148 children and what they’ve been through. I wonder if some of those children will be able to find a new family who can appreciate all they’ve been through and in which the children will thrive? I hope so. I am Rhea’s second adoptive mum after all

Now, instead of just leaving that at that, can some questions be asked? Like, what caused those disruptions and what can be done in the future to prevent them from happening?

Some other interesting statistics in the document -

  • 405 foster families were approved to adopt their foster children, which is a massive 45% increase on the last year. Foster carers adopting their foster children remains pretty uncommon (remembering that there were over 4000 children adopted in 2012-2013 and there are tens of thousands of children in foster homes), it’s great that for those children, they won’t have to go through the trauma of another move
  • As of 31st March 2013, there were 10,177 children in care who had an adoption plan. 46% of these children were available for adoption but hadn’t been matched with parents, compared to 34% who were already living with their new parents, 3% who were matched but not placed yet, and 17% were still waiting for a placement order (the legal order which allows a child to be placed in an adoptive home)
  • There were over 27,080 initial inquiries into adoption in that year, but only 5,173 of those turned into adoption applications, so less than 1 in 5. I would like to know exactly why but can only offer some info from my LA (or at least what a social worker told me), which is that some of the inquiries they get every year are clearly going nowhere, because people only want newborns/young babies, or are too young, or have very young birth children, and sometimes even think that you can get paid to adopt! Aside from that, a lot of people don’t intend to adopt yet, but just want some of their questions answered. However, there must be lots of other reasons and I would love to know some percentages of how many people only want questions answered, how many poeple are rejected there and then, and how many just never get in touch again after getting some answers because they decide adoption isn’t for them.
  • There were 135 international adoptions in 2012-2013. Of these, 68% of the adoptees were female (compared to an almost 50/50 split for UK domestic adoptions), and an entire quarter of them were under 1 year old. The 3 top countries to adopt from were Russia (30 adoptions), China (20 adoptions) and Pakistan (19 adoptions). The document didn’t say what other countries people went to, but I assume African and European countries make up a lot of the other adoptions. Russia was also the biggest ‘sending country’ last year.

All very interesting, and there were a lot more interesting stats in there. If you’d like to have a quick skim through/read for yourself, go here and download the word document

As embarassing as it is having to eat my words, I really am pleased that I have to!

Adoption Disruption – More Information Needed

There have been a lot of adoption statistics and maps put out in the last year or so. The governments push for ‘faster’ and ‘more streamlined’ adoptions has translated into lots of figures and ‘league tables’

You can go online and view a map of England, click on any adoption agency and find out how quickly they are deciding on adoption applications, and how quickly their prospective adopers were matched with children. You can click on any county and find out how many children were waiting for adoption in that county as of March 2013

ImageI have my own views about which of thse figures are helpful and which are not helpful, and what the limitations are, but that’s not what this post is about

I speak to quite a lot of prospective adopters, online and in my daily life. They have many questions for me, and this one comes up not frequently, but not rarely either:

How common is it for adoptions to disrupt? I hear stories about it but no one can tell me how often it happens”

I also get asked this by people who aren’t adopting but are just curious, perhaps after reading a news article or someone in their family is looking to adopt

My answer is always the same and it’s this:

I don’t know. No one can give you an accurate answer, only a guess based on their own personal experience and maybe past research. That’s because there are no accessible statistics on adoption disruption kept in the UK

What? You say. No statistics? But there are so many statistics on adoption out there – all these new league tables and maps and spreadsheets, and yet no one knows how many disruptions there are?

That’s right. The goverment don’t make local authorities record how many adoptions disrupt (pre-adoption order) and report it

And I think this is crazy

This is information that needs to be known! It would be very informative to have real figures on how many adoptions really disrupt, and by age group of the child as well

Now, post adoption order it become much harder to keep the figures and it would require long term careful record keeping involving post adoption support teams and of course families move areas so a child may be taken into care in a different area from that which they were adopted in/placed from. I understand there are many many issues with trying to keep accurate records here and it may prove impossible in some cases.

But in the period post placement but prior to the adoption finalisation, the local authority shares parental responsibility with the adoptive parents and birth parents. They have the most legal responsibility out of everyone. The child is in their care. They know exactly how many children they’ve placed this year and last year, they are very involved right up until the moment of finalisation. So why, why, why, do some local authorities NOT keep data on how many of these placements disrupt before the order goes through? Some do keep it but to the best of my knowledge, don’t publish it.

For my readers in other countries and readers who arent involved in adoption, note that private adoptions are illegal in the UK, and so ALL domestic adoptions are handled through the local authorities/councils who have the children in their care, and sometimes the voluntary agencies who approve some adoptive parents (but VA’s don’t have any children, VA adopters have to find a child being cared for by a local authority/council). These figures would therefore be definitive figures for ALL domestic adoption. And since there are barely any international adoptions at all, these are figures for nearly ALL adoptions (forget about step parent adoption here, that’s totally different)

Why don’t the governement make them keep thse records and hand them over every year, so there can finally be an actual real answer to “how many adoptions disrupt before finalisation?” rather than blind guesswork, and then use the results to ask – why are these adoptions disrupting? What more can be done to prevent these disruptions? Why do some LA’s have more disruptions than others? What exactly are these figures showing?

My personal opninion is that the government is not very interested at all in disruption. It doesn’t make for good headlines and ‘positive’ reports. It doesn’t get more people interested in adoption. It will probably involve lots of uncomfortable questions and then of course one of the inevitable and truthful answers to “what more can be done to prevent these adoptions disrupting” is invest more money in post adoption support! The goverment do NOT want to be hearing that investing more money ringfenced for adoption support, would in all likelihood be helpful.

I would really like to be able to give, at least in part, an honest and informed answer to people who ask me how common disruption is. Of course, a lot of disruption happens post-finalisation and a lot more research is needed on that, but pre-order, there’s no excuse in my mind for not recording how common it is. Enough with the guesswork and bandying around percentages. For once in my life, I want to see a spreadsheet!!

Dear government and local authorities, fill the above in please. Yours, adoptive and prospective adoptive parents

Happy New Year!

Just a quickie to say Happy New Year to everyone :) May 2014 bring you good times, progress, achievements and happiness

I haven’t made any resolutions, I just don’t do them any more. I don’t want to set myself up to fail at anything, whether it’s to eat less x, or donate more to y. Instead, I take each day individually and do whatever I can every day. If i have a bad day, I haven’t failed because I never set myself an official goal, but if I do well, I can still feel good about myself.

Parrot however, has made a list for the first time. In previous years, he has just had a ‘wish list for this year’. The problem is, he didn’t quite grasp the fact that unlike wishes, resolutions have to be things you can reasonable achieve by yourself. So I had to explain to him that ‘become an uncle again, but this time to a boy, not a third girl’ is not a resolution, because he can’t become an Uncle on his own nor can he compel Rhea and her husband to have another baby and make it be a boy!! I also advised him that it was definitely not going to happen this year, because as much as we’re part of a clan of big families (I’m one of 4, my ma is one of 6, my da was one of 7, I have 3 kids, Rhea has 5 other siblings, Rhea’s husband is one of 5, and all of his family have had lots of children each) and Rhea and husband certainly want more than 2 children (if they stopped now, they’d be one of the smallest families in the extended clan), they don’t plan on having 3 in 3 years :o So no 2014 baby for them

He was sad about this (well, of course he is, he gets to play and do tiny caring things for his neices but has no responsibility for them!) but has replaced it with a dfferent resolution which is to join a martial arts club of some description and try his best at that

(cough cough, who has to pay for the training and kit, and can’t really afford it, cough cough) but leaving that aside, I love that my children are keen to do excercise

DD2 has been running with my best friend some evenings and has made a resolution to keep doing it.

Ther Gerbils can join me in not having resolutions. If they did have them, I’m sure it would be ’cause more havoc, eat more sunflower seeds and sleep more’

Best wishes to all x

Christmas Past & Christmas Present – Secret Santa Guest Post

This year I’ve taken part in a Secret Santa blog event organised by Vicki and Sarah at The Adoption Social. I wrote a guest post for another blog, and a mystery someone wrote a guest post for me

My mystery guest writer turned out to be http://adoptandkeepcalm.wordpress.com/ and I am elighted to be hosting her post this year :)

I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did, and do pop over and read her blog in full :)

Christmas Past & Christmas Present.

I grew up in a reasonably large family, Mum, Dad & 4 children. I am the youngest and so all my Christmas memories are full of the antics of family fun.

My parents, Mum especially always put a Christian emphasis on Christmas, but not in an overbearing way. We still did all the fun things but church was featured.

The build up to Christmas really, for me anyway, started on Dec 1st with Advent calendars. And yes, even 30+ years ago, I was lucky to have ones with chocolate in (from my Grandad, paper ones from parents!).

Then there were Christmas parties galore. School, Sunday School, swimming, Dad’s work, Brownies/Guides, youth clubs……

The Christmas cards – making them, colouring them in, writing them & delivering them. The delivering them was the fun bit. How many people could we get a mince pie out of if we knocked on the doors.

Brother #1’s birthday is on Dec 21st, and to keep it special (and probably to keep us calmer) we didn’t decorate till after his birthday, and then once that had happened it was all systems set to ‘manic’.

The last few days would be us decorating, visiting friends, cooking, shopping and together doing all the things that make Christmas go smoothly.

I don’t have completely rose tinted glasses. I also remember plenty of arguments when the older boys came home from university and didn’t ‘muck in’. And there was invariably an explosion from Mum on Dec 23rd – as none of us were helping blah blah blah.

Christmas Day would be very traditional – first opening stockings (and for a fair few years this would happen twice – once before we were allowed to and a second time when we were allowed to).

Then breakfast,  followed by church.  Back for Christmas dinner.  Then the lucky ones of us got to walk the dogs whilst the others washed up, cleared up and got ready for………

The Queen’s Speech.

Then, eventually came the main present opening.

Mum & Dad never went overboard. We would have 1 or 2 decent presents from them, but the pile was always enormous – by the time you have added Grandparents presents, godparents presents, friends presents and multiplied it by 6, the pile is quite big.

Boxing day was nearly always with extended family – showing off new presents, getting more presents, going for a walk, but mainly lots of games

So, when Bonzo moved in, this is sort of how I expected things would be. And they were the first year. On a much smaller scale.

The past couple of Christmases have been quite different. It soon became apparent that Bonzo can’t really cope with excitement and build up. Last Christmas was the first in which the hype was out of my hands. He was at school – I couldn’t keep Christmas at bay.

After an eruptive December, which words don’t really do justice to how bad it was (though don’t get me wrong, he enjoyed things as they happened, just large fallouts afterwards & beforehand), we got to Christmas Day.

He was very cool, didn’t really want to see if Father Christmas had been. And after the first 2 stocking gifts was moody and sad. By mid morning he was off for a bike ride. Not a happy boy trying out a new bike, but a cross boy with an old bike and an almost as cross Mummy. The boy being told to ‘pedal, and pedal fast’! This sorted out things to a degree,  but as soon as we were back to presents the tears & tantrums started again. (These aren’t tears & tantrums because he doesn’t like what he gets – it is all just  too much for him). I think we averaged 2 presents per complete meltdown.

We had a simple lunch, festive but easy, and after a nap headed off to Great Aunt Hilarious’s for the rest of the day. As ever, walking into a neutral environment, Happy Bonzo appeared, and with only older cousins who all adore him around, the rest of the day went smoothly. He happily held court at dinner, and everyone was happy to have a cracker-free meal to prevent disaster, so all went well.

My parents, my Mum especially find this very hard. They just don’t understand why we can’t have a happy, clappy Christmas at their house, why we can’t go and stay for a few days (we do at other times of the year) and feel  very sad for Bonzo and me that this is how it is. Last year, and it worked really well, we did a big family Christmas the weekend before.

On Friday after school we went (Granny, Grandad, cousins etc) to see Father Christmas at a local place. That was lovely, and although Bonzo bordered on the hysterically happy, I kept hold of him the whole time and we survived.

Saturday I can’t remember what we did!

Sunday, we had a family Christmas lunch at the local Harvester. This seems to work really well for everyone. Bonzo knows it, so is quite happy. He knows he can get a starter as soon as he wants to, so no issues with waiting for food. We are on mutual ground, so generally, all goes well.

Then Mum & Dad go home, happy to have seen all the grandchildren around Christmas.

We are repeating this this year (if I remember to book the restaurant!) and  it is rapidly becoming a new family tradition.

So, Christmases past, and Christmas present – all very different. I write this having just cancelled taking Bonzo to the Beaver Christingle as that was going to be way too much for a very tired little boy. It was a big decision – I love the Christingle service and so does he. But what is far more important is getting through this season in one piece and in peace!