Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bye bye BAAF...

Well that was a shock wasn't it? Last Friday, just over a week ago, it was announced that BAAF - the British Association of Adoption and Fostering was closing, immediately. Here's the statement from the BAAF Chief Executive.

Through The Adoption Social I often see press releases, sometimes we get direct emails from adoption organisations asking us to share their news, but this news didn't arrive this way. I happened to see a tweet mid-afternoon on Friday and immediately got in touch with Sarah (from The Puffin Diaries, and my partner in crime on The Adoption Social) to see if she'd heard.

After sharing the link to the announcement on The Adoption Social's Facebook page, I soon started to see others sharing and retweeting it, all with the same level of shock. I don't have much direct experience with BAAF myself, but my timelines on Twitter and Facebook are full of surprise, I even saw a thread on Mumsnet about it!

Now, of course it's sad. Having been made redundant myself, I feel for those poor staff members who will be left without a job. But here's how I see it (based on the very limited information that's been put out there):

Most of the core services will be operated by Coram instead now. So, service users/adopters/professionals/adoptees should not lose out. It might work well for all of us too? Fresh eyes on those services might mean some of them change and improve.

Adoption Link - love them or loathe them - already run other services that fill in the gaps of the now Coram/CoramBAAF run services.

This leaves space for newer, forward thinking organisations. As one of the main players in the adoption support (and I use that term loosely) world, you really needed BAAF onside to get heard or taken seriously, but with their 'traditional' views, communication methods and services, this was always going to be difficult for new/alternative/activist/small/modern organisations. Perhaps the tide is turning?

Now is the time to look further to have your support needs met. You know, Adoption UK and BAAF are not the only adoption organisations that exist (or existed) - yes, there's Adoption Link and the First4Adoption website, there's Coram, Barnardo's and After Adoption. There's also The Open Nest, The Adoption Social, The Potato Group, individual adoptive parents, We Are Family, the new Single Adopters Network, The Yellow Kite, Post Adoption Centre, TACT, Family Futures and many more local organisations too. They might even be better placed to help you with your needs!

My concern however is that if BAAF can't sustain itself, then can these other organisations? What is the wider implication of BAAF closing it's doors?

And whilst Coram does a good job of supporting families in England, what of those in Ireland,  and Wales who will be losing out? (Scotland are being looked after as some services transfer to a Scottish organisation).
And how can Coram - even if the legal part is strictly speaking a separate entity - effectively and independently run the reviewing mechanism that they are taking on?

What are your thoughts? If you have a blog, then you can write a post and link up to The Adoption Social here. If you don't then please leave your comments below, or contact me and I might be able to offer you a guest spot here on The Boy's Behaviour.

Actual support is on it's way...

As you can probably tell from my lack of writing, life these days is pretty - dare I say it - normal.

Mini is happy at school, and happy that it's the school holidays. He's spending his days playing Clash of Clans, watching TV, bouncing on the trampoline, playing in the garden, drawing, on a trampoline course, at nanny and granddad's, baking with me and building dens. We've not had *too* many whines of boredom, though there's been a fair bit of bickering with Dollop. Can't have it all I guess.

The NC and I are still having sessions with a counsellor. Following a course of attachment focussed counselling, during which Mini attended *some* appointments, the NC and I also had our own individual counselling sessions, and after they wouldn't renew funding for more sessions for Mini to attend, we were given a package of 6 follow-up sessions, to be used one a month. We have one more left.

But as a whole things are fine. Which is why we approached post adoption support back in April. I know that our life is a rollercoaster. Some days are good, some days are bad. Equally some months - even years are good, some bad. And whilst we're in a good spot, we know it won't last. That's not me being negative about the future, just realistic. In April, when the adoption support fund launched, we contacted post adoption support and asked for an assessment, with a view to asking for some NVR training to prepare ourselves for the future. Why April? Well, as it's not been confirmed how or when the big adoption support fund pot will be refilled, we felt we needed to act straight away to be guaranteed any help or support.

As it happens, due to reorganisation of the team, we've had to wait until yesterday before that assessment! That's given me 4 months to get riled up, cross about the wait, worried that we wouldn't get money, concerned it would run out etc etc. So imagine my surprise when we were offered - without any hint of hesitation or questioning - a UNISAFE course.
Not only that, but a KEEP space (usually aimed at foster carers and kinship carers, but there are a couple of spaces for adoptive parents in this next local round), which hopefully the NC will be able to go to. This is a long-term support group, with sharing and learning from each other. It comes in a few age groups, and once Mini is older, we 'graduate' to the next group up to continue appropriate support and learning.

AND, we've finally got a definite yes to the life story work that we've been pushing for. Our previous social worker signed us off, case closed before he bothered to arrange this. But after a recent approach for a new letterbox agreement, we really feel that proper professional life story work will be useful in helping Mini decide whether he wants to begin, and continue this letterbox agreement with a sibling.

I'm still in shock. I really thought we'd have to fight and push for what we feel we need. But this time, we went in knowing what support we want, and I was much more confident. We've done the parenting courses, we've had the counselling, we've done theraplay, we've changed our parenting to suit our children, we understand why we see the behaviours we do, we now need to move forward and prepare ourselves for future possible challenges.

So the only thing we have to wait on is a sensory assessment. Mini's sensory needs aren't horrific, but he does react to certain sounds and noises, and he needs firm physical touch - just some of the things that he's a bit sensitive about. Our GP hasn't been helpful, so we've asked PAS for one. However, they're not sure yet if the ASF will fund assessments as it's not a therapeutic issue. (Bizarrely though, I understand the ASF will fund sensory integration therapy - just not the assessment to see if it's needed!)

So that's us...or at least the beginning of our next chapter in the world of adoption support.

In other news...
Dollop had a playdate at her 'boyfriend's' house this week, so I had a day with Mini - a mummy/Mini date if you like. We mooched around town, treated ourselves in CaffĂ© Nero, picked lots of soft fruit at the farm, played in the garden, harvested more fruit from our greengage tree, shopped for new bedding and chilled together.

Mini keeps thinking about vegetarianism, and we now have no meat left in our freezer, just some salmon and fish fingers which I know Mini and Dollop will eat up.

I learnt how to do a lovely hair style of Dollop this morning (something that I'm not usually so good at), with the help of YouTube. Here's what I watched, this family do some fantastic hair styles and are well worth subscribing to...

Friday, 24 July 2015

Inside Out - a review

Well, we've just got home from seeing Inside Out at the cinema. It's the second day of our summer holidays and it's peeing down with rain, so we've used some tickets that Dollop won in a competition and had an afternoon of 'feelings'.

At least that's what I'd hoped for. Mini isn't usually affected by film themes like some adopted (and not adopted) children are, but I can sometimes use them as talking points with him after.
I'd also seen headlines about how this particular movie was helping children with autism talk about feelings. Mini isn't autistic, but given the similarities between autism and attachment, I was hopeful that this could help him verbalise some of his feelings as he's always struggled to talk about his emotions, and can't often read us and our feelings.
And not only had the children seen trailers for Inside Out and thought it looked funny, so had the NC and I. So a whole host of reasons to go.

It started off well enough, with the birth of the main character Riley and the emotion 'Joy' appearing in her head, pressing a button and effectively kick-starting the child's feelings and memories (although I suspect that's nothing like what happens for our children). Soon enough Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust appear too and play appropriate parts in Riley's life, using the controls in 'Headquarters' to respond to situations. Memories are formed then stored and key moments help develop certain parts of the personality. It actually seems like a really good way to describe what happens in the brain, and it was portrayed really well visually, I'll definitely be referring back to it when talking with the children about how they feel, and how their memories work.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but after moving house there is a scene in the movie where Riley's dad has to suddenly stop family time and go to work, and there are lines about him 'leaving us/abandoning us' which came from out of the blue and struck me as something that could upset some children.
Moving on, the story develops so that Joy and Sadness end up away from Headquarters and down in the long-term memory banks with the core memories. Without these core memories stored in Headquarters, Riley's personality begins to change; it felt like pretty much most of the movie was about Joy and Sadness trying to return to Headquarters to restore order with them getting knocked back an awful lot. I felt sad a lot throughout this movie, Dollop clung to me for dear life as she also felt sad and worried, although I think quite a lot of the detail went over her head. Mini remained seemingly unaffected throughout the whole thing.

As well as the story of the emotions doing their thing inside Riley's head, you get to see her actions too. Part of which include her stealing a credit card and attempting to run away and return to the city that they moved away from. Although the feelings kick in and she stops, they are still pretty strong themes that some of our children would struggle with.

Sitting here afterwards, I realise that there was no laughter from the audience until near the end - and that was from the parents after seeing the big 'PUBERTY' button appear on the Headquarters dashboard. And I would imagine that's pretty unusual for a children's movie?

Mini's asked if we can buy it when it comes out on DVD and he's giving it an 8 out of 10. Though he can't back that up with why it scored so highly, he did tell me his favourite character was Anger.
Dollop isn't too bothered and scored it 6 out of 10. She says she felt really worried for Riley and she thought something bad was going to happen to Joy who was her favourite character. These fearful feelings seem to cloud any good feelings she had about the movie, and I must admit, despite a happy ending*, I feel the same way.

*Yes, it's a happy ending, although it's Sadness that saves the day and that might be a bit confusing for some.

Monday, 13 July 2015

A calmness is descending

The kids are at school. They break up for the Summer next Wednesday and I'm approaching the summer holidays - as always - with a mixture of fear and happiness. Will I be able to keep them occupied for a whole 6 weeks? How many memory making opportunities can we squeeze in?

But this year is the first year, despite now having Dollop at school too, that I've not worried about end of term and therefore the transition between one school class and another. Mini is absolutely fine and happy about moving up to the next class. He's happy with the amount of transition work that he's done. He's happily brought home his new writing journal and completed the homework of decorating it and writing the first page too (even though he hates handwriting projects).
Dollop too is happy to be moving up to her next class, with her best friends and her boyfriends (!) although she's a bit worried about how shouty the teacher will be and I'm a bit apprehensive about the increasing amounts of homework for both children.

Is this how 'normal' households live?

Last week we had the children's school reports. They were both amazing. We can see how far Dollop has come socially, and her reading and writing skills seem to get better every week. She enjoys reading and I hope we can maintain that interest over the summer with library trips. Her school report confirms all of that, and talks of a few traits that were a little unexpected but are positive, and some that were expected that we can support her with.

But Mini's was on another level. It was so so different to his previous reports and talked of a child that I don't know very well! It talks of his ability to lead in a group but with sensitivity and consideration to the other group members; it talks of his confidence; it talks of the outstanding effort he puts into music and art projects. It talks of a young man who is settled, happy and meeting all his targets. Wow! We couldn't be prouder of Mini, and we're very pleased with the school too. He's not taking the praise too well, but a little present of new goalkeeping gloves kept a smile on his face.

It's not all easy all of the time. My nan is back in hospital and Mini has been rather wobbly about that. We're taking him to see her at the weekend, but we couldn't consider taking the children to the hospital, Mini just wouldn't cope with the small space of a private room, the sounds and smells, the wires and tubes. He doesn't know nan very well, but is clearly worried about her.
Mini still has wobbles over homework, but that's been scarce recently, so we're still enjoying this calm and peaceful time and just being a family.

Well done Mini and Dollop - we are so proud of all the effort and hard work you put in at school and proud of the lovely people that you are xx