Monday, 16 October 2017

Adoption Week: Brothers, Sisters, Family.

During the assessment process for adoption we were told that sibling groups are harder to place than single children. It makes sense really. If you have no children to start with taking on 3 or 4 of them, possibly all different ages and stages and with differing needs can be a daunting prospect. I know that when we saw the profile for a group of three children including twins under two and a toddler sibling it felt like an impossible ask. The oldest child already presented with special needs and the younger ones had yet to be assessed. I wasn't sure I could manage so many children at once and I worried that if all of them had additional needs it would be a struggle to give them all the support they needed. 

Not all sibling groups can be placed together. We also saw a profile for a group of 4 children who had 4 other siblings. The 8 children ranged in age from 2 to 10 years old. The two groups of 4 were being fostered close to each other and were being kept in contact with each other. It was anticipated that they would continue to see each other post adoption and that they would remain in contact in the long term. The foster carers were actually related so it worked well. 

In yet another case there were sisters who were being fostered together and who were to be placed for adoption together. One was a white child, the other was dual heritage. Considering how adamant the social workers seemed to be that we had to be an exact match to the ethnicity of the children we wanted to be matched with I was interested to see how they would choose to match these girls with a forever family.

Yet another pair of brothers were living together in foster care and were still seeing their birth mother. The boys had different fathers and the second one was a stark reminder of the difficult relationship that he was born into. The mother did not want anything to do with him and it made him a very anxious child. 

We had made the decision to adopt two children because we knew that multiple children wait longer and that it is more difficult to place children as they grow older. It was our decision to offer a home to siblings, but it was the decision of the social workers to not choose us. I understand now that it was for the best. Our road to being parents was different from what we expected. It wasn't what we had planned for, but it was just right for us anyway. 

I hope those children all found forever families to care for them. That being in a group did not put off potential parents. If it's possible to have a great outcome I really want for those children to have had that. I know that when I look at my birth son and adopted son I see my children. My family. These boys are my life, my soul, my very heart. I hope that the children who did not come to us are loved as fiercely as my children are. 

It's National Adoption Week and this year the theme is sibling groups. There are still over 2000 children waiting to be adopted. 61% of these children are in sibling groups which is why this year the emphasis on helping to find forever families for some of the brothers and sisters who desperately need them.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Adoption Week: What, again ?

Yes it's that time of year again when adoption agencies and organisations seek to publicise the importance of matching children who wait with families who can care for them in the long term. In case you have 'National week' fatigue please bear with me.

National adoption week is a reminder that there are still children who do not live with their birth families - for any number of reasons. That as a society we overlook children and young people who do not have security or long term prospects. It is also a way of educating people who have very little idea about what adoption is or what is involved. I have a personal dislike of inaccurate portrayal of looked after children in the media. Whether it's on an advert or a TV show or in a children's story I find it really difficult to tolerate the depiction of children are 'in care.'

Earlier this week I listened to a radio show presented by Lemn Sissay called Origin Stories. In it he talked about being in foster care and how he chose to see it as a superpower. Then he retold the Harry Potter story from the point of view of the Dursley's who 'fostered' Harry when his parents' died. It was a far more sympathetic portrayal than JK Rowling chose to depict. It also gave credance to the notion that just because a child has had a difficult past it doesn't mean their future has to follow the same negative pattern. The longer a child waits to be placed in long term care the harder they become to match with suitable carers. We were told that once a child is over 5 years old their 'appeal' to prospective adopters plummets. This is a person we're talking about here. A child who has already experienced loss and separation and trauma.

When we first approached local authorities to be assessed as potential adopters they just didn't want to know us. Hubbie and I are different ethnicities and they told us they wouldn't have children who matched our racial mix so it wasn't worth us being assessed. No, seriously they said that to us for real.  It beggars belief that this is even a concern, but hey I've got all week to tell you about that.

So,  I'm going to post about adoption this whole week. I have so much to say about this topic and I hope you will find it interesting. Maybe you could even share the posts if you can - that is the whole point of having a 'national adoption week' after all.


National Adoption Week 2017 will take place from the 16th to 22nd October. As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. National Adoption Week 2017 will focus on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

How many women have to speak before one is believed ?

The news that women in Hollywood are coming forward to disclose sexual abuse has uncovered a surprising variety of unreconstructed and frankly misogynistic attitudes. I've seen tweets attacking male film stars for not doing anything. Online comments directed at the wife and the women involved suggesting they knew what they were doing and were complicit. Heard interviews with 'insiders' who claim he was a bully, but they never saw anything like the alleged abuse. It's baffling how much talk there has been and now he's been fired from his own company, his wife is leaving him and he's apparently going into therapy.

There is so much to unpick here, but let me begin with the much discussed issue of who is to blame for this.

No, it is not he fault of all those 'insiders' who hid the truth

No, it isn't the fault of the actresses who didn't warn other women about him

No, it's not the fault of the studio executives who allegedly knew

No, it's not the fault of the actors who allowed it go on and helped cover it up

It is entirely the fault of the man who committed the acts. It is his blame alone. He did these things to women knowing he was able to get away with it. He chose to use and abuse women and to punish them if they tried to speak out against him. He knew what he was doing was abusing his position of power. That is why he targeted young women who were in a vulnerable situation knowing he could take away their careers.

You see when a man is a sexual predator he doesn't believe that he will get found out. It is unrelenting arrogance that a man who would do this then ensure that the woman knows she will not be believed. Not many men have the capacity to have an entire industry turn a blind eye, but remember that in this industry secrets are kept like in no other. Rock Hudson was only publically outed as gay when he died - everyone who worked with him knew, but it was not made public.

To blame everyone around him is to allow these repellant accusations to be dismissed as mere fantasy. I'm choosing my words carefully as he has not been charged with anything. We know by now that just because many women accuse a man of assault doesn't mean that he will face any consequences. The fear of not being believed keeps the cloak of silence firmly in place and even once there are others coming forward it might be years before anyone actually takes action.

Initially he apologised for any pain his actions may have caused - as if he'd merely inconvenienced someone rather than tricked, assaulted and humiliated them. Then he issued a denial, claiming that it was consensual sex and he had not been predatory in his behaviour. Now his wife has left him and he  has taken refuge in therapy where he can appear to be doing something while planning how to mitigate the damage to this career and reputation. Now he has claimed he is seeking help for a sex addiction. What about his addiction to abuse of power ? The deception he has perpetrated - repeatedly - and the humiliation he visited upon the women who have made allegations against him ? How about seeking help with the complete lack of capacity to accept personal responsibility for his own actions ? Making excuses will not change what has happened I find the abuser portraying himself as the victim unplatable at best.

Earlier this year we found out that someone we have known for over a decade was arrested and imprisoned for predatory sexual behaviour. It was such a shock and to be honest I still find it difficult to believe he was able to hide it and get away with it for as long as he did. A mutual friend found out and quite thoughtlessly asked if I genuinely had no idea. Surely I must have known something ? Well you should be proud of me for not punching his lights out, but instead I explained that if I had even an inkling of anything like that I would have done something about it. I am not a bystander. I do not allow wrongdoing past me. I challenge and report what I see and hear. Not everyone does, but I do. Had I any idea he was a sexual predator I would have confronted him and reported him. I did find him odd and often remarked on it, but put it down to my being a bit oversensitive. His partner was lovely so surely I was the one who had it wrong ? I could not have known what he was doing. He hid his actions and got away with them for many years. An abuser will do that.

The news items about this will be hard for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse to hear. I am struggling to keep my composure when I hear about his pathetic attempts to guilt women into having sex with him. Sitting and crying that a woman wouldn't sleep with him because he was fat - maybe it's because a woman has the right to say no. That being powerful and dominant in the industry in which that woman wants to work does not give you the right to take liberties with her. I veer between feeling revulsion and biting anger. The powerful women who have come forward to tell their stories can do so now because they are free of his tyranny. They have made a career and been successful - in some cases because of him - and can speak up. If only they had felt able to do so earlier because they would be believed and respected for speaking out.

Women involved in this are being treated with such shocking disregard and it shames us all. No one should feel they cannot report a sexual assault for fear of being treated with contempt, or threatened or because they will have their character called into question. This is not how we should treat people in a developed society.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day and it's taken me all day to decide to share the post below that I wrote a few months ago. I didn't post it back then as it didn't make sense to me why I'd share it. Now I see that it shows how all over the place I can get. The anxiety and depression I've lived with since childhood manifests in different ways. I can be fine for ages and get things done then I might go through what I'm experiencing at the moment which is a debilitating sense of failure and lack of motivation. Don't get me wrong I can still function. The boys get fed and picked up from school and the cat gets taken to the vet, but in between is a blur. I have to remind myself to eat food, make myself go for a swim and run otherwise I find my moods are too extreme. I lose my shit because someone hasn't put the bread back in the bread bin. I burst into tears in the car the other day because I heard Sam Smith's new single. It opened an old emotional wound at that moment and I couldn't stop myself. So that's why I'm sharing this now:

"You know that thing when someone asks, "how are you ?" and you say, "I'm fine." If you are British that's as far as it goes. Unless you reciprocate and ask how they are and you both nod in recognition that things are fine and move on to talking about tea or the weather or something equally important. My father in law is much more Eeyore like and when asked how he's doing will often reply, "Oh you know, hanging on by a slender thread." Now I just say, 'hanging in there Grandpa ?" to save him the trouble.

So the reason I've mentioned this is because at the moment when anyone asks how I am I'm struggling to reply convincingly. "I'm ok" is as far as I can manage and at least one of my friends has already questioned further. To be fair Jo has known me nearly 30 years so it takes some to get anything past her. A more honest summary of my state of mind right now might be, 'a bit like Brown Bear's room.' ie. untidy, messy, full of noise and scattered with random unrelated items. Frankly, I'm not doing well right now. Partly it's the long summer holiday - which I always find challenging. Mostly it's a lot of factors that are causing stress and anxiety in my life right now.

Blue Bear is joining his brother's school next week and he's very excited about it. I am too and have been trying to get back to work as both my boys will be in school during the day now. So far I've had nothing but rejection and it's really getting me down. Most of my working life I was blessed with the ability to get an interview for a job and often to get a job offer. Since becoming a Mum this skill seems to have completely vanished and I'm baffled. I was aware of the phenomenon of the 'motherhood penalty,' but I had no idea how insidious it really is. My confidence is completely shot and I find myself wondering if I'm doomed to a life of rearranging the furniture and sorting socks - which frankly could be a full time job in this house. I've got lots of lovely friends (and lovely Hubbie) supporting me with this and advising me on how to keep positive. It all helps - to a point - but each time I get a rejection it leaves me feeling despondant.

Taking on other people's stresses is something I have always done - not deliberately you understand. It's just that when someone close to me has something painful going on in their life I take it on emotionally as well. When one of my lovely friends was diagnosed with cancer I talked to her while she was undergoing treatment to help her process the emotions and practical things that were going on. We talked, we shared and we laughed. We celebrated her successful treatment by taking part in the Moonwalk three years ago. Then earlier this year she found out that she was ill again. It just seems so unfair. She is amazing and pragmatic and - at the risk of sounding like a terrible cliche - incredibly brave. I'm very lucky to know her.

When my loved ones are struggling it breaks my heart. It also breaks me physically, but it takes me ages to notice myself. I've been taking care of myself and eating well and running again so that helps. I'm not much fun to be around right now. On edge, shouty, quick to tears and completely unpredictable. I don't know what to do to make things better. I wish I could fix the things that are making me feel like this, but some things are just out of my hands."

So that's how it feels in the middle of it all. I'm not entirely sure why it happens or how to get past it, but I know it's a moment in time. Sometimes the moment goes on for a while. What I do know is that I can do this. However difficult it seems at the time I always get through it.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Watching Strictly with my boy is fab-u-lous darling

Brown Bear has been singing a particular song recently - it's not one I know, but the constancy with which I've heard it has lodged it in my mind. Last weekend Hubbie said that one of the dances on Strictly had featured Brown Bear's song. I showed him the dance tonight and he loved it. Then he enjoyed watching the comments afterwards and before we knew it we'd watched all of last week's show. He enjoyed the scoring - he's a big fan of numbers - and particularly liked predicting what scores the judges would award.

Once we'd seen the 'D'Esposito dance' I asked him if he would come with me if I won tickets to watch the show live. He thought about it and replied, "Only if they do this song again. " It's probably just as well that it's unlikely I'll win any tickets.

Susan Calman appeared and he asked me why she was called Susie on the show and I explained that the song title was about Susie. Then he said,
"I know her - she's on Top Class."  When the shot panned across the audience I pointed out Susan's wife. Hubbie walked past and I said, she looks different from when we saw her.
"Did you see her in real life Mummy ?"
"Yes sweetie, she did a show in Croydon."
He looked pretty impressed.

When we saw Jonnie Peacock dancing I said Oti (Jonnie's partner) is Daddy's favourite dancer. Brown Bear asked about the blade Jonnie was wearing and I said,
"It's like the one that Jim wears at the swimming pool isn't it ?"
"No mummy his is different, this one is bigger and looks like a blade."
"Yes that's true, but they are both artificial legs or 'prosthetics'"
"He's dancing very fast."
"He's a runner and was in the paralympics. We took you to watch some of the events at the paralympics when you were a baby."

As I mentioned we watched more dances than I had intended and he was really getting into the show.
"Mummy are they married to each other ?"
He asked about each couple.
"No, they're just dance partners. Bruno and has a boyfriend and Craig does too. They're not married to each other."
"What language is Bruno speaking Mummy ?"
"He is speaking english, but it sounds different and when he gets excited he sounds even more italian."

Brown Bear was keen to skip straight to the scores, but I like hearing what the judges think of the dances. "Why is Craig horrible to everyone ?"
"Well he takes it seriously so he tells them when they get it wrong. He's being honest."
"He's not nice to them."
"When he likes the dance he does tell them, but he also offers some advice on what they can do better."
"I've seen Craig before."
"Yes we saw him in Peter Pan last year - he played Captain Hook."
"Oh did we ?"
"Yes, you met him after the show. You had your hook on your hand and he said how cute it looked."

So a new strictly fan has been created. He already asked me if he can watch the next one and as Hubbie is out tomorrow evening I've promised he can watch the results show with me. I might even wear sequins.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Music makes my world go around

You remember how last year was an unrelenting series of obituaries of people who were legends and each one was a bigger shocker than the last ? Ok so the big one was Bowie and he went in January, so that was pretty major right there. Well, as a radio presenter it meant I played music by a lot of artists who I may well have neglected for years and maybe even forgotten (apart from David B of course). 

This week as I prepared for my new radio show on Radio Lewes I heard on the Today programme that Tom Petty had died. My entire plan for the show changed immediately as I made a new playlist featuring songs by him and all the members of the Traveling Wilburys - the 'supergroup' he was part of with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan. If you haven't heard of them - well, shame on you - have a listen to their solo efforts. 

Tom Petty - Free Fallin'

Geroge Harrison - Got my mind set on you 

Roy Orbison - Oh Pretty Woman 

Jeff Lynne - Don't bring me down

Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the wind

I'll be live on Radio Lewes on Saturday morning with fellow presenter Ben and we'll be continuing the tribute to Tom Petty so do join me if you can: Radio Lewes

And when you're done take a listen to my latest show: Something for the weekend

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Lucky number seven.

My boy is seven today. The first grandchild and nephew in both our families. Seven years ago today I was taken in an ambulance to deliver this boy when it became clear that both he and I were in trouble.  Following a blissful and trouble free pregnancy with a much longed for baby at the last minute it started to go wrong. My husband was told he could lose us both. He never let on to me how bad it was. He stood next to me and held my hand as we joked and laughed - much easier to do when you've been given the drugs, me not him. When the boy finally arrived I told Hubbie to go with him to make sure he was ok and I would be fine. We had done the NCT practice run of this and knew how it would go when an emergency C section took place. The room full of people, the student doctor introducing themselves to us and our baby being taken away immediately for checks. We had agreed that Hubbie would stay with him while I was stitched up. Apparently the boy did a massive poo as soon as he was born. Well his sense of timing is impeccable. We spent the night in a recovery ward and Hubbie went home to sleep for the first time in almost three days. I held my son close and watched him all night. I still go into his room and watch him sleep every night.

Since that day I've experienced more anxiety than I've ever had in my life. I've felt more love than I knew was possible. I still find it amazing that I am someone's mum, never mind two boys. When we talked to Brown Bear about adoption and explained he was going to have a brother he took it in his stride. Until Blue Bear arrived and he had to share me with this little boy who Mummy held and cuddled and protected. They both fought for my attention and I expected this little boy to be the big brother before I taught him what that meant. He was feeling pushed out and I didn't realise. It was difficult. I felt like I was being torn in two and he felt like I didn't love him any more. In his head I only had space to love one boy and it wasn't him any more. 

I look at those boys now and the fierce fraternal bond they have. To anyone who doesn't know they were always brothers. Brown Bear is proud of his younger brother and Blue Bear looks up to his big brother and wants to be just like him. On his first day at school Brown Bear took Blue Bear's hand and walked him to the classroom. When Blue Bear came skipping out at the end of the day Brown Bear was there waiting to greet him with a smile and asked him how his day was. Ok so Brown is up with the lark and annoyingly chipper from the off (he always has been, it's exhausting !) and Blue was born a teenager and could sleep in until ten given the chance. By the end of a school day they are in entirely opposite moods and one wants to play while the other is happy to sit and relax. They are forming a great bond though. They other day as we were driving past a funfair they asked if we could go and Hubbie said no. Brown Bear turned to Blue Bear and said, "Don't worry when we live together we can go the fair whenever we like." I reminded him they live together now and Brown Bear said, "No when we're adults. When we're 45." 

The other night we went out together. Just me and Brown Bear. I am at a conference all day today - I left early and will be home late - and I wanted to do something special for his birthday. We went out for dinner and then to the theatre. He opened doors for me saying, "Ladies first" and held my hand as we walked from the car to the restaurant. He smiled at me in the theatre and asked if I was enjoying the show. When we came home he kissed me good night and said, "I love you more than you love me Mummy." I smiled and replied, "That's just not possible." 

Happy 7th Birthday Baby Boy xxxxxxx