AdoptResources's Blog

blogging about adoption, attachment, parenting & family life

Life story round the clock…

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This article was in this week’s newsletter, if you’d like to be on the mailing list subscribe here

Last week our youngest asked me at breakfast “which land was I born in… not whose tummy but which land…” so we had a chat about where she was born and then got back to getting ready for school. She wasn’t on the look out for anything deep and meaningful, just a few facts on the geography.

Conversations about adoption can happen anytime and are not just confined to scheduled sessions with an album of photos or letters. Life story work for me is something that weaves itself around normal day to day stuff. People and places can pop into our minds at anytime and questions about who I am, where do I come from, who do I look like can crop up anytime. Obviously, it’s not always going to be possible to devote time to discussing some of the things that come up but it’s important to be able to be ready and to respond, even if it’s just to  say when would be better to talk about things.

Talking about these things isn’t always easy, especially if there are other things going on in the background, and it’s important not to tackle big conversations if you’re not in the right place emotionally or practically.

So what can help…

  • around the time of placement ask any questions that you think might help build your child’s life story, and find out what the process is for asking questions at a later date
  • keep photos in easy to spot places for life story chats on the spot – some of the multi frames that you can put lots of photos in are good for putting in lots of important people, places, stages in life (obviously, you choose what photos are appropriate, depending on your family’s circumstances and approach to talking about adoption)
  • keep things age appropriate, use drawings or stories if your child finds it hard to talk about the facts
  • you can use memory boxes to store things as well or instead of  a life story book/album 
  • keep copies of anything important or special, some children can destroy things that are really important to them in an outburst and regret it later on
  • remember that life story work is not just about things and people in the past, it’s about helping your child make sense of who they are and how all the bits of their lives fit together
  • life story memories involve feelings as well as facts and it’s important to make sure you and your family are getting the right support if things are difficult for you or your child.

I’d love to hear your comments on what you’ve found helpful in your child’s lifestory work…

Related links:

Connecting with kids through stories a teleclass with Fiona
(1st April 2011 live call; recording, call guide and action plan available for download after the call)

Telling healing stories by Melissa Nichols

Telling about adoption a one day workshop (2nd April 2011)

Conference Report: Somebody else’s child

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I was part of a blogging and tweeting team at BAAF’s Somebody Else’s Child private fostering event earlier this week. I learned loads about a topic I’d not really considered much before.

Private fostering is where a child lives with someone who is not their parent or close relative for 28 days or more. The majority of private fostering arrangements work well and offer the child a safe and secure environment. However, cases of child abuse and child trafficking have been identified in some private fostering arrangements.

You can watch some of the presentations online on BAAF’s livestream and if you’re a fan of twitter, search for the twitter hashtag #pfweek.

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March 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm

She’s not my real mum…

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That’s a phrase a lot of us who have adopted children will have heard or might be expecting to in the future… It’s the title of a brilliant blog post from Nikki Pilkington about her stepmum and I have to confess to a few tears while reading it.

For me, there are a lot of similarites to the ‘mumflict’ in adoption. That longing for the biological mum – who is bound to be better than the not-so-real mum, with the rules and routines – alongside the developing trust and relationship with the not-so-real mum. Sometimes it can be hard not to get caught up in the rejection and easy to miss the positive shoots of your growing relationship.

child not speaking
The impact of early neglect and trauma on building trust and attachment for some adopted children adds to the complexity and can mean that the closer you get, the more you’re pushed away. It can be hard to keep up sometimes and easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come since starting out as parent and child.

Taking some time out to reflect on things that have changed for the positive, small steps, little things can help give you a boost if there’s not a lot of positive stuff going on. And remembering that often the rejection is a sign of things edging closer behind the scenes…

Related posts

Being a mum

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March 14, 2011 at 10:31 am

Bruised before birth

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The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) are running a series of conferences in the UK for professionals, parents and carers about the complexities faced by a child with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and strategies and supports that can help.

FASD affects a number of children who are fostered or adopted and it can affect things like speech and language processing, cause and effect thinking and ability to concentrate. Awareness of different strategies and supports will help both children and families to deal with the impact of FASD.

There are still places left for the conference in Edinburgh this week (Thursday 10th March) and there’s another conference in London on 30th March if that’s closer for you.

I’m going to the Edinburgh conference – let me know if you’re going too…

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March 7, 2011 at 7:33 am

Holiday time

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We’ve just had our half term holiday and it’s back to school tomorrow… I know lots of others are just starting their week’s holiday so I thought I’d post a link to my surviving the summer holidays blog. There’s a few tips in there that might help, especially if your child is one that finds the lack of familiar routine hard to handle.

cycling in parkIn a nutshell, the things that can help are building a sense of what’s happening next. Using visual cues – planners, calendars etc. Avoiding overwhelm, keeping things simple. Another biggy is to take the pressure off yourself to have perfect family moments all day, every day. Savour the moments of magic no matter how small they seem…

Enjoy your holidays, I’ll be thinking of you on the school run tomorrow!

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February 21, 2011 at 12:15 am

New survey: online resources

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green tick illustration

The fact that you’re reading a blog on adoption means that it’s probably safe to say that you are comfortable accessing information and resources on adoption online… what do you like about online information, what don’t you like…?

I’m running a survey on online resources in adoption and fostering – have your say and let me know what you think, it only takes a couple of minutes.

If you complete any of the surveys by 28th February, you can enter a prize draw to win a print worth £45 from The Day That – beautiful photos of sunrise on a day that’s memorable for you.

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February 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm

It’s not about the numbers

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calculator and graphMartin Narey, the outgoing CEO of Barnardos and Tim Loughton, Children’s Minister have called for a reconsideration of current practice in relation to matching ethnicity in adoption to increase the number of adoptions. This is definitely an area that needs to be addressed but the whole matching and approval process would benefit from a bit of TLC. Media attention has focussed on the ‘increasing numbers of adoptions’ message but the real aim should be  better processes for everyone involved, not just trying to increase numbers on any side of the equation.

In an ideal world, there’d be fewer adoptions because children would be cared for in their own family. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. So, in the event that a child is not able to be cared for in their own family, the next aim should be to make their journey to a permanent home as short and untraumatic as possible. It’s not about aiming solely to change the figures and stats around adoption but to:

  • improve the processes for approval of prospective adopters – with less variation in criteria between agencies
  • provide more resources for effective planning and decision making for children taken into care
  • improve the matching process and cut down delays in moving children to permanent placements
  • improve post-placement support through:
  1. better assessment of childrens needs at the time of placement in foster care or with their adoptive family
  2. improved access to support for foster carers and adoptive families
  3. matching support and resources to the child’s needs and not to their legal status (fostered or adopted)

By focussing on the processes and not just numbers you can improve the outcomes for children and families and surely that should be the aim.

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January 23, 2011 at 9:59 am

A weekend away…

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map and keysI was away this weekend, leaving my husband and the troops at home…

It can be difficult for any child when one or both of their parents is away but, for children who have had significant separations and loss in their life, even a short and well planned absence of a parent can be stressful. Some of the things that can help are:

Before you go

  • time when you introduce the idea carefully – if you do it too early they might get more stressed in the build up to the trip, and this could affect behaviour. But if you wait too long, it may come as too much of a surprise
  • talk about where you’ll be and how you’re travelling – this helps build up a picture of where you’ll be. Show them on the map or show a photo if it’s somewhere they’ve never been
  • talk about what you’ll be doing, who you’ll be with – again this helps give them a picture of what you’ll be doing when you’re not with them
  • talk about what you’ll do when you get back, plans for the week etc – this helps reassure any anxieties that you might not come back!

I sometimes leave post it notes or a note with my phone number on it – this gives something physical to hold to reinforce the message, they can take it to school etc and also gives a bit of security that they can phone you if they need to.

While you’re away

  • make sure you ‘check in’ when you can throughout the trip – chat on the phone, text or email
  • let them know when you’re likely to phone and try where possible to stick to the schedule.

When you get back

  • don’t be surprised it you’re given the cold shoulder, or if after the initial welcome home, a bit of rejection or button pushing sets in
  • they might be a bit clingy and not let you out of their sight, just keep things as normal as possible and reassure them by talking about what’s happening for the rest of the week…

Visual cues with weekly planners, calendars, diaries all help and physical things like notes, photos, comfort blankets or a tissue with your perfume (or after shave) on it all give reassurance on more than just a talking or language level.

How does your child cope if you’ve been away? Add your comments below on what’s worked for you.

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January 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm

The festive season – continued…

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sparkler and christmas treeWe’ve had a few rest days since Christmas and next on the list of festive celebrations is New Year! I’ve had to take some of my own advice to deal with some of the emotions in our household over the past week. The excitement, endless supply of chocolate and a whole host of other factors have all taken their toll. Not to mention a few sleep deprived nights with our new puppy (but that’s another story).

I’ve had to remind myself to step back from behaviours and find a different way of dealing with things, and hardest of all see where some of my own stuff was getting in the way. Normal service has nearly been resumed but with a few more party days in store, there could be a few hiccups.

Hope your holidays are going well and that you have a fab start to the New Year. Happy 2011!

Related posts
Nutrition tips for the festive season by Susan Kelly, Nutritionist
Top tips for the festive season

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December 30, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Top tips for a tip top festive season!

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winter landscapeI’ve just finished a teleseminar discussing some things to think about over the festive season.

You can listen to the replay on the event page and here’s a quick run through of what was covered…

Things to think about:

  • Expectations: ours’, children’s, family & friends’
  • Excitement and anticipation
  • Overwhelm
  • ‘if you’re good…’ or ‘if you don’t behave…’ messages
  • Birth family:  memories, contact
  • Triggers

Some of the things that can help include managing expectations, not aiming for glossy mag perfection; using calendars, planners, albums and visual cues to help build a sense of what’s coming next

and the Top tips:

  • keep it simple
  • talk about what’s happening next
  • stick to the plan/routine if you can
  • look behind the behaviour, think about what’s driving it
  • aim for fun, not perfection…

Essentially, it’s all about understanding the potential triggers and things going on behind the scenes, and finding ways to manage expectations and feelings. Leave a comment with your survival tips for Christmas…

PS as mentioned on the call, here’s the link to the bbc news video where an adoptee discusses his feelings on his birthday…

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December 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm