Tag Archive | DDP

Post adoption support Vs the Bermuda Triangle

Q: “What does the Bermuda Triangle and our current Local Authority post adoption support services have in common?”

A: “Things disappear, and requests for help and support often go unheard, or responses are too late”

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Let me start by saying that this post is not an attempt to criticise Post adoption Support agencies and what they offer, but more an attempt to highlight the changes Bumble and I have experienced in the services that are provided by Post Adoption Support services in our area at a time when there is a heavy emphasis on support packages being built into new placements from the very beginning.

Okay in the interest of not wanting to turn this post into a great big rant, let me break this down a little.

I do not mind admitting that at the time of the boys being placed with us officially (obviously they had been staying regularly during their respite stays), Bumble and I were only too aware that we were going to need a robust support package and for the best part of the first 4 years, that is what we experienced.  The most important elements of support that Bumble and I found invaluable were:

  • Access to training courses and annual adoption conferences
  • Attachment training followed by access to a monthly support group facilitated by a very skilled SW and therapists, who provided a safe space for adopters to be open about their experiences and, where necessary, offer support and guidance free from judgement.
  • Access and support from a simply wonderful SW who was always only a phone call, text message, or an email away, and who would always respond almost instantly, even if it is only to acknowledge the message and let you know that she would ring as soon as she could.
  • The same SW would also be the first to ‘touch base’ if she did not hear from us for a period of time. Likewise she made every effort to support us at school meetings and offer valuable advice to both Bumble and I, as well as the boys’ schools on possible routes that could be taken to support everyone. In the event that she could not make a meeting then she would go out of her way to find a stand in for her.
  • As a family unity we had an experienced and supportive DDP therapist working alongside us, enabling us to regain perspective even at the most painful times.

8 years down the road and theoretically the baseline of our post adoption support is still there, but it has changed. In the past, the support elements that I have already highlighted felt like a stable foundation and supportive level of scaffolding.   Accessing support and feeling supported wasn’t something that we lost sleep over. While we were still had an uphill battle accessing services and interventions for the boys (particularly educational), knowing that we had someone and somewhere to turn to, gave us the strength to continue.

In recent years this has changed. With the introduction of the ASF and at the same time heavy budget cuts to local authorities seeing our own agency’s employees stretched beyond their physical and financial limits, accessing support has become an uphill challenge.

  • While there is still a support group, it no longer feels like a place of support. The dynamics have changed and from a personal point of view it no longer provides the supportive platform/environment to be able to discuss difficult situations. The group no longer has a therapist in attendance at every session (if you are lucky there is one every 3rd or 4th session) and the group is more of a coffee morning chatter and issues are often minimised or dismissed.
  • We do not have the relationship that we had with our original SW. Our current SW is overworked and there hasn’t been the opportunity, as before, to build a trusting relationship with her.
  • Unless we going chasing our initial communications, we can go months without hearing from anyone – in fact the only times we have had contact from PAS is when I have been ruffling Waxy’s previous school’s feathers and they go complaining to her.
  • And don’t even get me started on accessing the ASF!

Yes we still have the newsletters and they continue to recommend courses and conferences (at our own expense most of the time). They have their helpline which for some is useful, but not for someone who is barely ever on her own long enough to be able to have a private conversation detailing a problem, since Buzzbee is always with me.

I am at risk here of this #WASO post sounding like the selfish ranting of a tired and overwhelmed adopter who has spat her dummy, because she is no longer getting what she wants (at least that is how it is sounding to me while I read what I have written).

While it is clear that our experience of Post Adoption Support services has changed dramatically. Our day to day challenges, parenting two complex, traumatised and vulnerable young men hasn’t changed. The only difference is that before Bumble and I had the emotional and physical scaffolding available to us, giving us the much needed foundation which freed us up to support the boys emotionally, physically and therapeutically without burning out.

Recently I attended the DDP Connect UK Launch Day. I had the honour to listen to a wonderful presentation from a local authority agency, who have a couple of social workers who are DDP trained practitioners and provide therapeutic support to their adopters (they do not work with the children).  From a personal perspective, providing a safe space for adopters to discuss challenges that they may be facing, offers parents an invaluable service, which in turn enables them to provide the support to their children, that is so desperately needed (if often unwanted).

In fact, they are providing their adopters with the same level of support that Bumble and I experience at the start of our journey as a family.

*Apologies if this post is a little manic and disjointed. My tired and stressed out brain is not working as well as it used to*

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Supporting Adoption during #NAW2016

 

I haven’t written for a while, and although I have blamed it on writer’s block. I think it is probably more accurate to say that I needed to take some time out to try and heal for a while.

Has this been successful? Well, not really if I am being completely honest, but onwards and upwards.  I have been taking each day, one day at a time, and for now, I have to accept this is “good enough” and not keep giving myself such a hard time when I drop the ball for a moment.

Today sees the start of National Adoption Week 2016 and, as always, this means local authorities and adoption charities, are actively rolling out their ‘picture perfect adoptive family’ recruitment campaigns in the hope of lassoing unsuspecting, warm-hearted, prospective candidates to open their homes and hearts to adoptees all over the country. Each year the campaign is given a theme and this year is no different! My first response to this year’s theme #SupportAdoption was “finally a theme that is all encompassing and embraces all the aspects and realities of adoption”.

And, then I metaphorically gave myself a long hard shake until I came to my senses and returned to the real world! The agencies want to attract new adopters, not scare the living daylights out of them.

Curiously enough, in all the years that I have been aware of #NAW and we have been adopters,  I have not once seen any sign that our local authority actively gets involved with National Adoption Week – Fostering now that is a different matter. I can’t walk down the street or open a newspaper without seeing their repeated attempts to recruit foster carers in our area (heaven knows they need them).

Okay moving on before this #WASO post really morphs into something that sounds bitter and twisted and undermines the content of this post.

While I know that the aim of #NAW is recruitment and their theme is a reflection of this. It does actually tie in nicely with a post that I began to write at the beginning of last week while attending the international DDP conference in Glasgow.

 

 

Post adoption support is a little bit of a thorny subject for me at the moment and I have been certainly struggling with accepting and adjusting to the reality that we no longer have a secure and robust scaffolding of support surrounding our family – I guess it would be more accurate to say, barring my parents and my father-in-law (both are very limited on how much they can do, due to proximity), every single couple/person on our Ecomap has disappeared in a puff of smoke.  Our post adoption social worker has changed and I have more chance of catching a fish in a raging river with my bare hands, than I have of getting her to return phone calls or emails. The only time I manage to see her is at the monthly couples’ socialisation meet up (Oops sorry, I mean post adoption support group), and even then I find myself feeling like I am talking a completely different language and my attempts to express our need for support is lost in translation.

It is not all bad.  While it will take me sometime to build up a relationship with Buzzbee’s new DDP therapist, we do at least have someone who is slowly grasping the impact that the boys’ trauma is having on family dynamics and stress levels.

That brings me nicely back to the DDP conference (yes, I know I have been waffling again!).

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For 2 amazing days, I found myself surrounded by individuals who WANT to support vulnerable children/teens and their families – I should say professionals but from my experience the whole conference environment has an autonomous feel and people would struggle to be able to identify your adopters/carers from your psychologists/social workers/psychodrama therapists, etc., unless your name is in the programme as a speaker for the conference – Oh and of course, if you are Dan Hughes!

In truth I cannot tell you if there were any other adopters/carers at the conference (chances are there would have been and quite possibly some of these were also there in a professional capacity), and really I am not sure it is important. That is not to say that I did not know a sole who was attending – Buzz’s therapist was there, as was Jemima (Waxy’s previous DDP therapist and angel in disguise).

We were all there with one goal on our minds. To develop and gain more insight into “The Power of DDP”.

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The importance of companionship provided another strong theme throughout the 2-day conference, both in the formal content of Professor Colwyn Trevarthen and Dan Hughes’s presentation but also through the sense of fellowship and camaraderie amongst groups of delegates and the desire to create an environment of safety and understanding in their work with families and children who have/are experiencing the crippling effects of early developmental trauma, helping them move from ‘Mistrust to Trust’ and reducing the risks of ‘blocked care’ occurring (the damage this can cause, I know only too well from personal experience).

I could spend hours writing about the conference. No matter how many times I find myself being drawn into the affect of the content or case studies being presented, and how often it leaves me with an emotional lump in my throat (if I am lucky – usually the hankie has already been deployed by then), as it resonates with my own sons’ struggles and experiences. In the past this would be enough to have me running for the hills and maybe if I had been at a local authority conference or training day, it would have had this exact reaction.

However, at no point did I feel the need to excuse myself and there is one simple reason for this – I knew, if I wobbled, there would be support there if I wanted or needed it.

So while the exhausted, emotionally fragile and jaded side of being an adopter to two vulnerable and traumatised brothers, finds all the National Adoption Week recruitment campaigns difficult when there is a sense of glossing over the realities of adoption. This years’ theme gives myself and many other families the opportunity to try and highlight the need for better adoption support and the lessons that have been learnt and are still to be learnt in order to give our children and families the support they need… No deserve!

With this said, during this week with the help of Buzzbee, I am setting myself the challenge of creating a couple of posts which highlights ‘the good, the bad and the on another planet’ experiences of ‘Adoption Support’.

But for now I will leave you with Dan Hughes in a kilt and wearing his “What would Dan do?” badge (I was tempted to include the video of him dancing during the ceilidh).

 

 

 

 

 

Unprofessional

I am going to apologise in advance for any potential offence I may cause or personal ranting that I may do in the course of writing this weeks’ #WASO, but after stewing on things for the last few days, I really need to get this off my chest.

There are several people who have known me and shall we say, they have seen more of my ‘passionate’ side than I probably would like them to have. It is definitely something I am working on, but it isn’t a personality trait that I have always had. Okay, I am not ashamed to admit, I used to be a bit of a doormat. I would have done anything for a quiet life, or not to encourage conflict. I guess that is why my sister STILL thinks she can be a pain in the backside and I won’t say a word (tough luck girlie, the old Honey is gone).

It would be easy for me now to put the blame at Adoption’s door and say that my need to advocate for Buzz and Waxy to get their needs met, as well as trying to keep my family together and happy, has turned me into someone who I am not always very proud of, when handling situations with professionals or individuals who have come into our lives for whatever reason.

While the ‘adoption’ process was not the spark that originally ignited the passion (that would be a very difficult story to tell), over the last 8 years its repeated fanning has certainly kept the flames flickering along, and every now and then someone or something comes along and gives the flames a few prods, turning flickering flames into a raging inferno of frustration and tears, and more often than not my own fight and flight responses kick into gear and I have to run (okay walk out) from the situation because I know I have or am about to make a complete fool out of myself and at that point I am certainly not helping my sons one iota.

Okay so why am I telling you this again? Oh right yes! I know why it was.

I have lost count of how many times I have heard so called ‘professionals’ comment or directly tell me that I am being ‘unprofessional’ when I have struggled to keep my composure while trying to advocate for my boys in a room full of people who just ‘DON’T GET IT’, and each time I have just wanted to scream “I am not a professional. I am their mum”.

Anyway, I still haven’t got to the reason for writing this and I honestly do apologise for rambling.

On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to attend my second DDP Network Southwest study day. I had enjoyed the previous study day and was looking forward to another enjoyable and informative session surrounded by professionals and a couple of adopters/foster carers in an inclusive environment where no one person’s job or role was any less important than another’s. In fact unlike several conferences I have attended over the years, at the study days, your role is practically anonymous. No name badges. No job titles. No badges labelling you to a specific classification of involvement with fostering or adoption.

Bliss!

However this time my experience was not so positive and not because of the content of the study day or the presentations or the professionals who had work tirelessly and voluntarily to put the day together.

No! My experience was marred by 4 very rude so-called professionals, who were sat directly in front of me throughout the day and whose behaviour I feel was more than a little unprofessional (and a professional sat beside me agreed also). No that is wrong they weren’t a little bit unprofessional – they were downright and completely unprofessional countless times throughout the day and, if my memory serves me correctly, 2 of these professionals were on my table at the last study day and I ‘may’ have spoken my mind to them then about their negative attitude towards adoptive parents who may be having a tough time.

meeting-clipart-clip-art-meeting-340741The main discussion point and presentation for this study day was based around NVR and the principals applied to it, and while there were several people in the room who were clearly anxious about some of the conflicting and counter-intuitive advice that was being discussed, the questions were largely productive and created insightful discussions (some were definitely being a little closed minded but hey, I can’t judge, I can be a little set in my ways and adopt a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ stance at times), but the ‘unfantastic four’ weren’t following the flock, they were rarely challenging viewpoints or airing their concerns about conflicts in method ideas in an open forum. No they were leaning on and calling across each other, like naughty school kids, sniggering and making inappropriate comments, at inappropriate times, at levels that were audible to everyone surrounding them, and on the odd occasion that they did raise a comment openly, the theme of their comments was always the same “sort out the parents because they are the problem not the children.”

I have to confess on one occasion, I allowed myself to be affected by one particular professional from this group (I wish I knew what her role was), who spoke about parents with such repulsion and dismissiveness of the impact of child to parent violence, and later making a comment about how adopters are far too emotional and have no place attending events that are designed for professionals. While I may have shed a few tears over the first comment and it had done nothing for my view point that professionals cannot be trusted and will screw you if you dare to ask for help. Their wonderful comment about adopters having no place attending this event on the other hand I could quite smugly say ‘’As someone who has completed her DDP level 1 training, I have as much of a right as you have to be here today”.

While I am not always the biggest fan of certain professional bodies, especially when they love to suggest that my meltdowns are ‘unprofessional’, until this week I don’t think I have ever encountered professionals that I would suggest had conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner and further compounded the negative reputation that professionals involved with looked after and adoption services already receive at times.

But before I start sounding like a ‘Negative Nelly’ or ‘Moaning Minnie’ myself, I have to say a huge congratulation to Jemima (our previous DDP therapist) and the members of DDP UK for arranging another wonderful study day.