In the next few weeks, I’ll be developing my resources page into a series of pages with content that’s wider-ranging and more useful to adoptive parents. I’ll be creating pages with free printable downloads to make them easier to share with those who support you (and those you would like to provide support). Here’s a taster of a work in progress: a quick guide to the resources that are available to support families experiencing child-to-parent violence (CPV). As always, your feedback (in the comments below) is really welcome.

CPV resources

Resources for managing child-to-parent violence (CPV)

Helen Bonnick

holesinthewall.co.uk

Helen is a social worker and researcher/speaker on CPV. Her website contains numerous resources for families and professionals dealing with CPV, including details of training, a reading list, downloadable leaflets, and a blog.

The Open Nest

theopennest.co.uk

This is a charity founded by adoptive parent Amanda Boorman. The Open Nest runs training and events, short breaks and retreats, including therapeutic work with families. Amanda has written powerfully about the need for adoptive parents facing violent behaviour to receive training in safe holding: Part 1 | Part 2.

Al Coates

alcoates.co.uk

Al is a social worker and adoptive parent involved in advocacy to government for adoptive families experiencing CPV. He has also been involved in CPV research projects, and runs The Adoption and Fostering Podcast with Adoption UK’s Scott Casson-Rennie.

 

Safe holding/restraint training providers

Securicare

securicare.com | trainers@securicare.com | 01904 492442

Securicare’s therapeutic safe holding plans are designed for adoptive parents, kinship carers and other individuals with a responsibility for responding to children who present challenging behaviours that require safe intervention to prevent harm. The service aims to produce a child-centred safe holding plan, covering therapeutic safe holding skills as well as advice on calming and de-escalation. Securicare provide a bespoke training session in support of the plan designed to provide the knowledge and skills which will enable parents and/or carers to safely hold a child when they are engaging in physically harmful behaviours.

Able Training

able-training.co.uk | info@able-training.co.uk | 01476 848327

Able Training run courses in managing challenging behaviour, conflict and aggression, led by trainers who are highly experienced, particularly in social care settings, and understand your issues and can deal with them sensitively. Able Training operates throughout the UK with a network of trainers, providing on-site training for public sector and third sector organisations as well as private sector companies. They are happy to tailor and adapt any course to meet your needs.

 

Other resources

Young Minds

youngminds.org.uk | 0808 802 5544

A telephone helpline for parents struggling to support a young person’s mental health needs. Available 9.30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Samaritans

samaritans.org | jo@samaritans.org | 116 123

A safe place for you to talk about whatever is on your mind, available 24/7.

 

All this information is available as a PDF for easy printing and sharing.
Click here to grab your copy.

And…

  • If I’ve missed something out that you think should be added, please leave me a note in the comments below.
  • If there’s another adoption-related topic you’d like to see me cover in the same way, leave me a note about that (also in the comments). I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Thanks!

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Do you emerge from a meeting, a phone conversation or an exchange of emails with the professionals who are supposed to be helping your family, feeling, well… like this? 👇 Then you need these five tips for dealing with professionals that will help you take back control.

Five game-changing tips for dealing with professionals

dealing-with-professionals

1. Dress like them

By which I mean, dress as though you are at a business meeting. Don’t let them look down on you as ‘just a parent’. I work from home and live in jeans and jumper most of the time, but for meetings with teachers, social workers, and medical people I wear work clothes – usually black trousers and a tunic top – which is similar to the kinds of things worn by the professionals who work with our family.

dealing-with-professionals

2. Take framed photos of your child(ren) to meetings

This is a tip from Yvonne Newbold’s excellent book The Special Parent’s Handbook. I did this at Joanna’s EHCP review meeting, because so many of the professionals there had never met her and we were there to make potentially life-changing decisions for her. I wanted them to remember the little girl behind all the paperwork – the girl outside of the school environment who is still utterly vulnerable in the hands of the decision-makers. I’m pretty sure it helped. It certainly showed them we were serious about representing her best interests.

dealing-with-professionals

3. Ask ‘What would you do?’

A helpful technique I read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed and was reminded of in Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier this week is to ask the professional who stands between you and the outcome you want, ‘What would you do, if you were in our situation?’ This makes them pause, if only for a few moments, to consider things from your perspective. They may have more information than you about potential solutions and loopholes in the red tape. This is a good way to help nudge them into suggesting practical compromises or ways forward.

4. Escalate!

If you want to get things done and people are dragging their feet, get free and easy with the CC button. Copy in the head of department, the county councillor, the MP… this often results in emergency meetings being called and conversations being had that you were previously informed couldn’t possibly happen. Oh look, now they can.

5. Write kick-ass emails

I know your time is precious and this thing is frustrating and you have Big Feelings about it all. And I also know that the recipients of our emails sometimes don’t read them as thoroughly as they might. But we’ve got this. Writing good emails can get results. It’s often the easiest way to get your message directly to the top of the organisation you’re dealing with.

The who, the what, the where, the when, the why*

(*This is a quote from my favourite episode of my favourite TV programme. Bonus points for naming it in the comments. 😉 )

I’ve previously tried hard to be professional in my tone, keeping it measured and taking out some of the more emotive stuff. But it turns out that doesn’t get results. Letting a bit of emotion show seems to be working better. If, like us, your children are hurting you and each other and you feel desperate because help is too slow in coming, say so.

Emails with action points are likely to get good results. And a strong subject line doesn’t do any harm, either. This might sound ridiculous, and of course it shouldn’t be necessary, but thinking of your message to them like a marketer thinks of their audience can help. (Yes, for me and Pete this is our day job, and we like to think we’re quite good at it, but it’s not rocket science. You could start here if you want to read more about basic principles of copywriting.) If you prefer, write it as you would write a blog post.

The paper trail is important, and if you end up needing to refer back to something you wrote several months ago, how much stronger is your case if you can quote the email where you laid it all out clearly and said exactly what action was needed and why. So write them a belter. And don’t forget to CC your MP if things need a bit more of a shove.

Bonus patriarchal nonsense tip

A bonus tip – that I really hate to share because it is unfeminist, unfair and enormously frustrating, but we’ve found that when Pete emails it gets a better response. What’s different about his writing? Not much, though he is much less concerned about being concise and polite than I am.

Even if it’s an email we’ve written together, sending it from his account seems to result in more action. So maybe, if you’re female, get a bloke to grumpy it up a bit/send it from their account/experiment with seeing whether this makes a difference for you. I’m sorry. Just throwing this one out there for you to take or leave.

If you have thoughts or experience of this, please leave a comment – it irks me but I really think there’s something in it, and I want to know if you’ve noticed this too.

Do you have any other tips that help you get the results you want when you are dealing with professionals? I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.

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It’s the morning after Adoption Sunday and I’m still upset. My Facebook and Twitter timelines are peppered with stories from Home for Good and their advocates, calling on people to adopt and celebrating gatherings around tables, which has been this year’s theme.

I used to be among them. I have spoken at church, encouraging others to adopt and foster. And yet this year it all rings hollow for me. Why? Because after these gatherings around tables – to use their metaphor – who stays to help with the washing up?

washing-up

As I said during National Adoption Week, the recruitment of new adoptive parents and foster carers has to go hand in hand with the recruitment of people who will provide genuine support to those families. Not just childcare for toddlers, not just a lasagne and a toy when the children move in. Full-on, long-lasting support.

  • Support that mows the lawn and mends the holes kicked in the doors and walls.
  • Support that’s there when you need to talk without being judged.
  • Support that comes to training with you to learn to cope appropriately with dysregulated older children.
  • And yes, support that sometimes cleans the kitchen too.
  • Support from the sort of people you can be authentic with, instead of perpetuating the ‘adopters are superhuman’ idea that some seem to have.

Where are these people?

The rhetoric says that this is what is available to us at church. But it just isn’t. I don’t know where these people are. Lots of people we talk to at church (when we’re able to get there) say ‘that sounds difficult’. I believe a precious few genuinely pray for us regularly. But who is there we can call when Joanna runs out of our front gate and across the park? Who will come and help us find her and bring her home?

In an emergency of course we’d call the police. But we’d rather have friends. We’d rather there were people at church who celebrated with us the Sundays we were able to get there, and helped us engage the children in some calm, low-key way, perhaps having lunch with us occasionally, lending us their presence so we could get home safely without the usual post-church transition meltdowns that are some of the most dangerous, violent and frightening we see?

In an emergency of course we'd call the police. But we'd rather have friends. Click To Tweet

Church as family

Home for Good have an excellent booklet on support which I plug whenever I discuss this subject. I recommend it. But I would dearly love to see them go further, taking the focus off the prospective adopters and foster carers alone and talking about who we are as the church, and how we are family to those who are struggling. Not just children who have come from care, but adoptive parents and birth children who become adoptive siblings with all that entails. I’d like to see Adoption Sunday generally being broader in approach – taking the family model that step further.

Pointing to his disciples, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”’

Matthew 12:49–50 (NIV)

There is so much more I could say. I’d love to discuss the parallel – if I can speak in the church’s language for a moment – between adopter recruitment and support on one hand, and evangelism and discipleship on the other. I really think we need to see it with the same long-term perspective, otherwise we are setting people up for a very painful, lonely journey.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’

James 2:14–17 (NIV)

Come on, church. Let’s do this better. Let’s offer meaningful, long-term support to families – to our collective family.

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The Cornerstone Partnership is a social enterprise based in Maidenhead. They work in adoption support and foster care recruitment, retention and support across 14 local authorities in London and the south-east. They’re looking for experienced adopters to run their peer-led adoption support programme (and be paid for it), and have asked me to share this with you.

Could you run a post-adoption support group?

Are you an experienced adopter? Are you looking for a flexible business opportunity within adoption services or support?

The Cornerstone Partnership is seeking people to run their peer-led adoption support programme across the country. The Cornerstone programme is a three-pronged approach with support from the very beginning of the assessment through to post-adoption-order.

The Cornerstone PartnershipIt includes structured peer mentoring, therapeutic parenting training and support groups. The success of the programme centres on placing end users at the very heart of the model.

Could you help other adopters on their journey? If you’re looking for an opportunity to fit around family life, visit the Cornerstone website (www.thecornerstonepartnership.com) and download the application form at http://bit.ly/2pKntcp.

If you have questions, please contact The Cornerstone Partnership directly on 01628 636376
or enquiries@thecornerstonepartnership.com. Or do you know someone else who’d be great at this? Please send it their way. Thanks!


BEFORE YOU GO…

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It’s been a week of beginnings and endings.

Tuesday: Hello, new therapist 

On Tuesday, after a few false starts, I finally had a first session with a therapist. I’d had about four sessions with a PAC counsellor a couple of years ago and found it immensely frustrating – it was a 45 minute drive away, and the counsellor wanted to give me parenting tips rather than talk about my own stress levels. This was not what I wanted or needed, so I packed it in. This time, I picked someone from the national directory within walking distance from my house, who had experience in attachment issues, counselling carers, and domestic violence. I thought between those she could probably handle me talking about me, the children, and CPV.

She did start off by trying to give me advice on managing the girls’ anger by making a calming-down box of things to engage them. I stopped her. ‘We’ve tried that,’ I said. ‘She’s not really interested and we’re likely to have the contents thrown at us. Could we please focus on talking about me?’

At this point I think she started to get the measure of the severity we’re talking about. When I told her about the situation with post-adoption support, she sat back in her chair with her eyebrows hovering somewhere above her head and told me she was shocked. I told her we were far from the only ones having this experience.

To give her credit, she did manage to focus on things that would be helpful to me, rather than parenting techniques. She gave me some ideas to try – including compartmentalising my time and just not doing stuff that is child-related on certain evenings. This sounds fine in theory, but some evenings I get emails (eg from Joanna’s therapist) that ask for a reply by the next morning. Am I supposed to refuse and be awkward about it? Anyway, I’m doing my best with that. Pete and I had an evening out and everything. 

So, she is listening, and she is keeping me accountable for my self-care, which is exactly what I wanted, so it was a helpful first session.  I’m hoping we’ll keep things practical and tangible and encouraging.

Wednesday: Hello, heads of PAS

If you’ve read my previous post outlining the horror story that was the transition to our current LA and the safeguarding referral that followed our request for safe holding training, you’ll understand why the idea of meeting the powers that be at PAS filled me with horror. That experience last autumn was completely awful and left me being physically sick, not sleeping, and in tears at the mere thought of the woman who had spoken to me so unpleasantly on the phone. Those feelings hadn’t gone away, so when we were told by the headteacher (who had written a complaint to them on our behalf) that they wanted to meet us and apologise, we were skeptical. And I was more than a bit nervous.

So. We were pleasantly surprised when they started the meeting by apologising for ten minutes before we could get a word in edgeways. They actually seemed to mean it! We had been braced for a token ‘sorry you feel that way’ but no, they seemed to have taken on board what we’d said. When it came to discussing That Phonecall (the one where we were told quite aggressively that we were being referred to safeguarding), I cried – I’d known I would – as I told her to her face the impact that call had had on me. She said she’d learnt from the experience and our feedback and wished she’d come to see us instead. (Well, yes.)

Anyway. All that dealt with, we moved on, back to the list of issues and support requests we had gives to our PASW in September, when we first met. I read it all out and we worked through it, one member of the family at a time. At no point did we get an explicit no to any of the requests, though we are not naïve enough to expect them to suddenly put everything in place overnight. It does sound as though they are actually going to discuss it though, rather than refusing immediately. They’ve said they’ll get back to us next week with their proposals. This should address our requests for OT work for both girls, continued CBT for Joanna, some respite for us, and some viable alternative to safe holding/restraint. They’re also going to chase Joanna’s CAMHS referral which they seem to think should mean she’ll be seen by them by March, and pursue the FASD referral I’m trying to get through our GP. I’m not holding my breath but I am more optimistic than I have been since the handover in the summer.

Thursday: Goodbye, Joanna’s therapist 

The funding for Joanna’s therapist was stopped last term as part of the shocking way the handover was handled. They just refused to put in another ASF application until they’d done another assessment of need, and then the assessment didn’t happen for four months. School paid for one block of sessions, because they could see the benefit,but that wasn’t sustainable so the therapist continued for free. Then the LA took exception to that and so she decided for the sake of our ongoing need to have a relationship with them that she would step back and stop seeing Joanna.

Joanna, of course, was devastated. She was concerned about her ability to cope without the weekly input that helps her process things. But she was also furious when we explained why it was happening and that we had complained for several months that they were putting their policies and procedures ahead of her needs. We assured her we were still working on it and writing emails and having meetings. She is considering writing one of her own. I would love that.

What next?

And so we wait for PAS to reveal their plan of action this week. We’re caught in that limbo-land of wanting to be positive and optimistically assume they’ll address all the requests we made and they nodded at, while still feeling more than a little cynical, weary, and wary about it all. We’ll see.

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