Protecting Our Children, BBC 2

Watching the three-part BBC 2 documentary Protecting Our Children I was prepared for horrific scenes of child neglect and indeed there were filthy houses, ferocious dogs, a lack of basic furniture and flimsy relationships built on the foundations of shame and self-loathing.  But what was so effectively and yet quietly illustrated was cross-generational neglect as the baton of poor parenting was passed from grandparent, to parent, to child.

Throughout the programmes Twitter was ringing with the clatter of heavy judgements.  ‘Castration’, ‘sterilisation’ shrieked the shocked and the old favourites ‘feral’ and ’scum’ made another appearance fresh from the aftermath of the riots.  The judgements were clearly made by those who look upon themselves as intrinsically good and upon these parents living amongst the dog shit and rubbish as intrinsically bad.  And indeed it can feel tempting to retreat to the safety of simplistic analysis when situations become uncomfortable to watch.

The person who blew this simplicity out of the water was Shaun who appeared in Episode 2, Expecting Trouble.  Shaun was like a child in a man’s body, acting out, posing, trying on different characters for size.  His swagger barely disguised the raw anger which boiled away inside him and which fuelled his unpredictable behaviour.  Several of his children had been taken into care as babies and his girlfriend was pregnant.  I would have avoided him in the street.  He looked like trouble. And he looked very much like a man related to our adopted children.

To adopt children from the care system in this country is to adopt their wider families and their histories as well.  The children come with all the damage which was done to them both passively and actively and this damage exists and persists within our family, years after that damage was done.  And when children become knitted into your very being, as ours our, coming to terms with that damage is very hard indeed.  Of course I know intellectually that their birth parents didn’t know how to be good parents as they in their turn were poorly parented.  But to really feel that truth is challenging, at least it has been for me. 

Awash with alcohol, Shaun appeared in the street outside his house and spoke to the camera.  He explained that he was abused and that he drinks to wash away his feelings, and yet he wakes up the next morning and they are still there, like a perpetual haunting.  Someone tweeted ‘And there but for the grace of God go I’ and that nailed it.  There are certainly survivors of abuse who have gone on to become upright members of society, just as there are those who have smoked 80 a day all their lives and lived into their nineties.  But the fact remains, childhood abuse damages people so that they cannot live as the more fortunate amongst us do.  They are not only robbed of a childhood but robbed of adulthood, parenthood, relationships, careers.  Shaun wanted to be a dad to his children and to buy them bikes, you could see he had a mental picture of his children playing in the street where he was standing.  It was never going to be.

It has been helpful to see and hear Shaun in all his complexity.  It isn’t often that someone in his position is granted a voice.  I am angry about what happened to my children, the pain it has caused them and the strain that it puts on our daily lives.  And I’m angry about the general lack of understanding of the long-term effects of child abuse and the pitiful lack of support available for most adoptive families, but I think I feel less anger and more understanding now towards our children’s birth family members.  Shaun was once a vulnerable young boy, just like ours.  He deserved better.  And there but for the grace of God go I.

Our Family and Other Animals

‘So you would definitely not consider having a pet?’ asked our Social Worker during one of our pre-adoption interviews, as though I was some kind of monster.

‘No,’ I replied, ‘absolutely not’.

Nine years on and we not only have our two adopted children, but a rescue cat and two rescue guinea pigs. 

Our daughter loves animals and I mean loves animals.  She can explain the differences between a Tiger shark and a Goblin shark or a King penguin and a Rock Hopper penguin.  When we are out walking together she will counsel me ‘don’t worry mum, it’s a Jack Russell, some of them can be a bit nippy but this one looks alright’, before petting the thing confidently.  Her favourite programmes are ‘It’s Me or the Dog’ and ‘Safari Vets’.  She is, it’s fair to say, obsessed.

I on the other hand grew up in the 1970s in a street populated by dogs all capable of ripping a child’s face off.  There were frequent shortages of things like toilet rolls and potatoes back then and so dog training classes were considered an unnecessary luxury.  Our next-door neighbour’s dog once bit my Dad so badly he had to take a week off work.  No one batted an eyelid and the offending dog lived to bite again.  I am still haunted by the phrase ‘he won’t hurt you,’ spoken many a time as an owners hound puts his enormous paws on my shoulders and barks and slavers in my face.  As a result I would cross the road to avoid a dog and the dog-phobia transferred to other creatures too.  So actually keeping an animal by choice did not feature anywhere on my ‘things I really must do in my life’ list.

But thechildren arrived and soon after the nagging started.  ‘When can we get a pet?’, ‘Everyone else has a pet’, ‘Look at this Dog’s Trust website, doesn’t Jimmy look adorable?’.  The nagging continued. ‘How old will I have to be before I can have a pet?’, ‘I’ll do all the pet care, PLEASE.’

It took about three years before I finally cracked. So one January morning I visited our local RSPCA centre with the aim of checking out the cats.  There were all sorts of sad cases there; cats with no hair, cats with loads of tangled hair, scaredy cats, growly cats. But one cat in particular caught my attention: Ronnie.  Ronnie was shy and sleek and black and female and had been found wandering the streets. 

I didn’t fall in love with Ronnie immediately but our children did.  Whilst they followed her everywhere, I ignored her.  She brought mice and birds into the house, miaowed all night outside our bedroom door, left black hairs everywhere and pee’d in the laundry basket.  I began to wish I’d never given in to the pet thing.  Pets were annoying and time-consuming and dirty.

But gradually something marvellous began to happen.  Ronnie started to greet me when I came home from work with a catty ‘hello’.  I began talking to her in cat language, she would respond.  She wouldn’t sit on anyone else’s lap but mine.  She would sometimes sleep next to me in bed, wake me up in the morning with a friendly paw.  I fell in love.  And now I couldn’t imagine my life without Ronnie.

‘Mum doesn’t love us anymore, she just loves the cat,’ is the complaint I most often hear now, because in our family there is the underlying fear that there might not be enough love to go around.

‘Well that should teach you to be careful what you wish for,’ I reply with a smile.

Wonderland: My Child the Rioter, BBC 1

I was profoundly touched this week by a great example of the best kind of documentary making, My Child the Rioter, shown on BBC 1 on Tuesday evening. 

It carefully and sensitively allowed young people involved in last summer’s riots and their parents to share their experiences.  The gut reaction politics at the time set the agenda for the police and the judiciary. There was to be no leniency, no consideration of extenuating circumstances, these ‘feral’ children were to be dealt with and dealt with decisively.  In allowing the vilified to speak, the complexities of the causes and the human cost of such an uncompromising reaction unfolded.

One young student Ryan claimed he had got involved for political reasons, his only regret that he hadn’t ’done’ more.  It wasn’t clear what point he was trying to make but what did come over is the excitement that swept over the rioters.  This was echoed by Lei who had been jailed for his part.  He said ‘everyone was rejoicing in how much stuff they could take’.  His only regret was getting caught.  I didn’t buy Ryan’s motives for one moment but he wasn’t a young man who was ever likely to be troubled by self-criticism.  Lei came over as a more complex young man, supporting his family after he had stood up to his father following years of abuse.  He was articulate and likeable, but with no sense that what he had been part of was morally wrong.  One wondered if some of this was bravado, protecting a vulnerability.

There were lives that had been ruined by minor criminal acts, dealt with harshly by the courts.  Much of it could be put down to naivety and being swept away in the moment.  The fall out was heart breaking and it made the approach to these young people look crass and lacking in thought and real judgement.

The account that touched me the most was that of 19 year old Fabiano and his father David and never such an odd father and son couple would you ever see.  David was a well-spoken, considered, middle aged man who presented rather like an architect or a university lecturer.  His son was a tall, handsome boy, of mixed race who talked like he came from the ganglands of New York.  He sat confidently and laughed about his arson charge.  He acknowledged that what he had done was stupid but didn’t seem to really get it at a deeper level.  My husband Rob and I both remarked that Fabiano seemed similar in some ways to our eleven year old son, who also laughs at times of great import, can excuse the gravest deed and can behave in a way much more appropriate to a younger child.  It then emerged that Fabiano, like our son, had been adopted.  He was frequently stopped and searched by police and his mother had recently moved to Brazil, a move which he had made with her but which had not worked out.  I could take a guess at the issues of identity, security and self-esteem that Fabiano struggles with and I could also guess at what he may have unintentionally put his parents through.  And like all good documentaries, the viewer was left to fill the gaps with their own pre-conceptions and experiences.  But there was one intervention by the voice behind the camera which really got to the heart of Fabiano.

‘Are you worried about the future?’

He could not keep up the act any longer and crumbled, tears rolled down his cheeks.  He was a boy, uncertain how he could keep out of trouble, scared of ending up in prison, not sure how to navigate his way in life.  It is easy to see cockiness and strutting over-confidence as just that especially in strapping young men and maybe in some cases it is.  But in our house at least it is warn as comfort blanket, hiding pain, loss and fear. 

I’m not seeking to excuse what Fabiano and the other young people did and neither did the documentary, but behind shouty news headlines always lies a complexity worthy of exploration.  Many of the young people were certainly guilty of immaturity. But rushing to simplistic judgments whilst our bellys were full of anger? That wasn’t particularly mature either.

A Letter to Ofsted in Praise of Our School

This is a letter which I recently wrote to Ofsted, during their inspection of the primary school which my daughter attends.  All names have been changed.

For the attention of:       Ofsted Inspector

Subject:                         Ofsted Inspection of our Primary School

We moved our adopted children to the school in 2007.  They had previously attended our local school.  Before being placed for adoption they had both been in the care of our Local Authority after having experienced significant and long term abuse and neglect in their birth home.  These early months and years have had a significant detrimental impact, particularly upon our son who presents with attachment difficulties, anxiety and low self-esteem and who finds school a challenging environment to be in.

This school was strongly recommended to us by adopters whose children went there.

The staff have made such a vast difference to our children, to their outcomes and to our family life that we felt we had to write and express this to you in response to your request for feedback from parents.  The Head Teacher has led an approach which has accepted our children for the difficulties they have, he has put in place many measures to support them, has supported many reviews with Social Services and CAMHS and has taken the extra steps that have made all the difference.  Jamie’s class teacher took the time to build up a strong relationship with him, has been endlessly patient with behaviours that we know must be very difficult to manage at school, has taken on board our suggestions and has even supported Jamie as he gradually shared some painful memories and information with her.  She also set high expectations for him academically and he left Year 6 having achieved a Level 4, something which a few years ago we would not have dreamed would be possible.  The school also put into place a personalised transition programme to help his move to secondary school.   Rose’s teacher has attended a training session with us at CAMHS, has fully put into the practise the information that was presented and has shown sensitivity and empathy in working with Rose and indeed us.

We know from contact with many other adoptive parents that schools often fail to recognise the needs of children who have suffered neglect and abuse who are no longer in Local Authority Care. (In a recent meeting of adoptive parents in our county, we were the only family amongst a large roomful who reported a positive experience of school).  The staff have never made us feel as though our children deserve anything other than great support and we have not had to battle for help as so many others like us have.  As a mark of my support and high regard for the school I am a Parent Governor.

Sally Donovan

Mad Cow Mothers – Enduring Stereotypes

When a tired, tearful woman questions a powerful wisdom, only two conclusions can be drawn:

1)  The tired and tearful woman is right to question the received wisdom and the powerful ones must admit they were wrong and adjust their view.

2)  The powerful ones were right all along, equilibrium is preserved and she is revealed for what she is, a crazed and hysterical drama queen (medicate her at once).

Sometimes the line between being judged either sane and capable or barmy and unhinged is a fine one.  I found myself walking this particular tightrope four years ago.  I was an adoptive mother, four years in and managing what is euphemistically referred to as ’challenging behaviours’ at home and fending off the fallout from similar behaviours at school.  I was certain that these behaviours were typical in a child who had endured neglect and abuse within his birth family;  the books told me so, social workers told me so and other adoptive parents recounted strikingly similar experiences to my own.  So I felt no pressing need to wear my sanity on my sleeve.  That was until, in search of help, I had appointments with a pediatrician, a GP and a health visitor, all within a few weeks.

I was tired, frazzled and tearful.  They were polished, professional and on their home turf.  They each listened with varying degrees of concern and then each delivered a variation of the following, 

‘He’s been with you for four years you say.  He should be alright by now.’

For a statement not based in modern science in any way, it has a remarkable potency and many who parent children like mine will have heard the same.  It sounds innocuous enough but delivers a number of blows; it is your fault, you are parenting badly, you lack perspective, your mental health is under question.  It also undermines the child’s experience, the sympathy for them is time-limited and once the bell has rung they are no longer seen as a damaged victim of abuse but as a naughty, disruptive child.

My GP handed me a box of tissues and opened his prescription pad, the pediatrician was even quicker with his prescription pad and tetchily questioned my motives when I refused his offer of Ritalin for my son.  The Health Visitor was careful with her words,

‘So things are not working out quite how you had imagined they would,’ she belittled as though it was all just a matter of perspective.

I was lucky that I managed to summon up the fortitude to shake off the growing assumption that I was mentally ill and/or deluded and have since found the right kind of help for Jamie and our family.  But I felt like I came close to something paternalistic, controlling and kind of Victorian (mad mother in the attic).  I sense that attitudes are changing, but then I might talk to a another parent or read a frightening account on the Adoption UK message board and see that progress is very slow indeed.  

Us tousle-haired, tearful, frazzled women might conform neatly to the outdated stereotype of the mad woman witch.  But we do a difficult job which benefits the whole of society and the last thing we need is to be drowned when we are asking for help.


The Parents’ Evening Blues

In the parenting of my adopted children I have faced many situations when I could have done with a bit more front and confidence than I had on tap at the time. Parents’ evening yesterday was one of those situations.

Regular readers will know that my son Jamie has just started seconday school.  It has been a tricky time and that is an understatement.  Parents’ evening at the new school, I now know, is a sort of survival of the fittest experience.  Children are given a list of time slots on a sheet and then three days to collect appointments.  After much badgering (from me), much sulking (from both of us) and some help from his tutor he arrived home last night with three five minute appointments.  They were spread over an hour and a half.  They were for woodwork (the only appointment he made of his own free will), maths and english.   The first was half an hour before my husband was due to get home to take care of our daughter. It was clear that Jamie didn’t want me to go. 

To cut a long story (lots of phone calls, precarious child care arrangements) short, I made it. I was frazzled, but I was there.

There was talk of too much talk, a lack of focus, immaturity, too much clowning around, some sighing, a little bit of hopelessness.  Some positive things too.  I found myself  trotting out a question which I have found useful in the past: you do know about his background don’t you?  I find it polite, asked in the right way and yet it gets straight to the heart of things.  I am then guerilla-style, able to smuggle in some facts about attachment disorder and some hopefully useful pointers.  This was of course the main reason why I went to parents evening. 

To my surprise most of the other parents were there with their children  and were clutching full appointment sheets.  It was becoming clear to me how very much my son hadn’t wanted me to be there.  For a short time I fought back a creeping crisis of confidence.  I was the only parent there on my own.  I began to feel a bit battered by hearing what I know spoken by people in authority and with the accompanying body language.  And as I had resolved to try and see as many staff as I could, I had to hijack some of them when they were not seeing other parents.  This wasn’t easy as Jamie claims not to know the names of any of his teachers, so there was a fair bit of guess work and deduction involved.

On the drive home I caught in myself a fleeting feeling of shame and I am not proud to admit that.  I saw confident children and relaxed parents and I felt jealousy too.  I also fought back feelings of grief for what might have been.  Horrible as these feelings are, they did connect me more closely with how Jamie must be feeling.  He used all the tactics he could to keep me away from school because of the toxic levels of shame he experiences.

When I got home he didn’t ask me how it had gone and avoided eye contact with me.  I told him it had gone well and passed on all the positive feedback I’d received.  I quickly mentioned that a few teachers suggested he try and chat a bit less and then quickly glossed over it all. 

Instead of reading we watched ‘The Great British Bake Off’ in bed together.  He snuggled closely into me and needed repeated reassurances that he is loved.  He also noticed that Saira Khan kept opening her oven,

‘She needs to be more patient with her banana cake or it won’t rise, will it mummy?’

And I felt proud that he knew this particular cooking fact and reminded myself that I need to remain patient too.  Raising the child victims of neglect and abuse is a long and difficult road, but I am hopeful of a good outcome, with a great rise.      


Under a Black Cloud – shame-based behaviour systems in schools

My son spent much of his first three years at school under a black cloud.  I’m talking of course about a ’school behaviour system’, in other words, teachers trying to get children to do what they want them to do.

Jamie would often not do what his teachers wanted him to do.  He started school at four, a few months after he was placed with us for adoption. 

His name, along with the names of the other children in his class, was printed on to card and laminated and a piece of velcro was attached to the back.  Three pictures were similarly printed; a sunshine, a sunshine poking out from behind a cloud and a black cloud.  On the first day of the year, all the names were stuck on a felt covered board under the sunshine, because all children are good and the sunshine is a good place to be.  If a child stepped out of line then their name would be moved underneath the sun and cloud.  If they offended again, their name would then be moved under the black cloud.  The black cloud is a bad place to be, it is cold and dark there.  The child would then have to display some consistently good behaviour in order to be moved back towards the sunshine.

The board displaying this weather system of compliance was on a wall of the reception classroom for all to see.  I first noticed it during a parent’s evening.  There were two names under the black cloud, my son’s and another little boys.  Everyone else’s names were basking in the sunshine.  After that I checked the board most days.  The state of affairs mainly remained the same.  Jamie came to school in the morning, four years old, full of joy and his name would be under the cloud, from the day before.  At the end of the day it would normally not have made any progress towards better weather.

Before long Jamie was known as ‘one of the naughty ones’.  You may know children like this.  You may parent one yourself.  It is not long after this that teachers and other parents start to use the word ‘plumber’.

The crux of such behaviour systems and there are many variations on the theme is public shame and humiliation.  Most children have some ability to recover from public shame and humiliation because they know deep inside that they are good people and they want to please and be adored by adults. 

May I be so direct as to say that these systems DO NOT WORK for my son and many like him who have spent their early years becoming acquainted with neglect and abuse.  These children know deep inside themselves that they are bad and that they deserved everything they got.  And we know, don’t we, that victims, even adult victims, blame themselves for that which happened to them? So when a child, who knows they are bad and feels deep shame, is shamed in a classroom, in front of their peers, it only goes to prove to them, that the adults around them see their badness as well.  It confirms that what they know about themselves is right.  And knowing they are bad, they do not have the capacity to prove to others that they are good.

After failing to convince this particular school about the weak points of a shame-based system of behaviour for my son and seeing a similar system in practise in the next school he would attend, we moved Jamie to a different school in a different area.  He was taught by a very empathetic teacher who understood shame, blame and their relationship to abuse and neglect.  She accepted him and nurtured him and understood that in order to make progress he had to be approached differently to many of the other children.  He made great progress and the word ‘plumber’ has not been heard around these parts for a while.

It is time for educators to think more smartly about helping children grow up to make the right choices, or in other words ‘to behave properly’.  These ‘systems’ are crass and can be cruel and they don’t work, particularly for those children most in need. 

As always, comments are welcome.

Say What You See – Resolutions for 2012

2011 has been a testing year in the Donovan household.  So much so that by the middle of December I found myself contemplating whether I had the mental fortitude to survive another week with my traumatised children, let alone another eight years.  And the prospect of Christmas was hanging over me like a threat.

I spent a day wallowing in self-pity and grief for what might have been.  I dreamt of getting on to a plane, starting a new and simple life somewhere in the wilderness.

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic meltdown for me to realise that I need help.  So the following day, quivery voiced, I rang Mr R, our therapist who deals with all things trauma and attachment.  It was the day before the schools were about the break up for christmas.  He agreed to come the following day.  I rang off and cried again.

When he arrived I reeled off the problems from a crib sheet which Rob and I had prepared the night before.

‘Jamie won’t do anything we ask him to do, won’t get out of bed, get dressed, get washed, anything, it’s all a battle.  He has constant and unrealistic demands which we can’t meet.  And if he hears ‘no’ he becomes uncontrollable.  He fronts up to us constantly.  He’s abusive, threatening, physically destructive.  It feels like we don’t have any good times anymore.  And none of the old methods work.’

Mr R is a man whose mind races ahead at speed and I could tell he was getting itchy listening to me.  I could also tell that he was relieved I didn’t cry. 

We talked about how the landscape around Jamie has shifted, his recent start at secondary school and about his friend and role model Michael, also adopted.  To cut a long story short, Michael had been experiencing such extreme anger that the resulting violence had caused my friend Clare and her husband, his adoptive parents, to put him into care, for everybody’s protection.

I described a strutting and swaggering in Jamie which I hadn’t noticed before, an untouchability.  He was becoming uncontrollable and at eleven years old, I was fearing for how I was going to cope with him as a big, strapping teenager.  I had started to project an uncomfortable future for us all.

Luckily Mr R has the knack of getting straight to the heart of he matter.

‘Do you think that Jamie is worried that his anger is going to take him on the same path as his friend Michael, into care?’


‘Do you think his anger is coming from shame?’

‘Yes.  He told me recently he must have been an annoying baby to have deserved to have been beaten.’

‘What did you say to that?’

‘We talked about babies we know and Jamie thought they would not deserve to be hit.’

‘OK so he gets it intellectually.  But he probably doesn’t really get it, deep inside.’

I agreed.

‘You have to find the right times to reach that shame and blame.  Remember to say what you see.  Try starting with ‘I think I’ve worked out that getting angry isn’t about me, I’m slow aren’t I?’.  And be more direct about Michael.  Don’t be afraid to say ‘I see you are not Michael, but maybe you think you are’ and ‘what might happen if your anger takes you over?  Who would I phone? How do you think things would change around here?  I guess we’d have to get some special help and work it out’.  Jamie’s fears are projecting him ahead so you need to project with him and show him that things could go differently.’

A few days into the christmas holidays the opportunity to talk with Jamie arose.  He made some surprising revelations.  He had locked things away in his head and a pressure was building up inside.  He agreed that we needed to try to open up the boxes a little and have a look inside.  He thought this might help to stop the angry feelings because he was sure they were coming from the boxes.  We talked until he suddenly said ‘stop, I’ve had enough now’.  Then we drank hot chocolate and ate mince pies.

His behaviour became worse for several days.  Play dates were cancelled, in as therapeutic, non-blaming way as I could muster.  Then four days before christmas he woke up after a long sleep and he looked different.  It was as though his face had a light behind it and his body had lost the swaggering body language.  We managed a trip to the cinema with a friend.  It was successful.

We talked about how we could handle the stresses of socialising over christmas.  We agreed on some secret signs and some escape routes.

At last it feels as though we are battling this shame thing together.  Christmas, bar a couple of minor meltdowns, was peaceful and happy.  No longer engaged in constant battles, Rob and I now have energy to spare and have been able to reach out to our children much more.  Jamie and Rose have enjoyed beating me at Plants vs Zombies (‘you are so rubbish Mum, shrooms only work in the dark’).  Jamie and Rob are playing Call of Duty together on the new X-Box (‘cover me Dad, while I reload’).  I know that there are no easy solutions when you are parenting traumatised children, but I feel positive about 2012. And my new year’s resolution?  To seek help when I need it.

The Truth About Adoption, Panorama, BBC 1

I watched Panorama, The Truth About Adoption last week hoping to see something of my own experience reflected there: my experience as an adopter of children from the UK care system.  I wanted to see something of the tremendously hard task faced by many adopters and something of the adoption myths which hamper us.

In fairness to the programme I did see something of the process, its hold ups, complications and frustrations.  I saw what this meant for the children that were featured, the children who were buffeted this way and that, by the bureaucracy, by its inefficiencies and its confusions over what was best for them.

There are many myths about modern adoption.  One such myth is that adoption is the silver bullet which soothes and loves away the hideous effects on the baby brain of neglect and abuse.  Fortunately modern science has proven this particular myth to be just that. There is now bucket loads of evidence to support what many social workers, foster carers and adopters have long known, that parenting these children can present a significant challenge.

Kieron, Katie and Chloe had been in an adoptive placement for three years before it broke down and they were returned to the care system.  We heard from everyone bar the adoptive parents themselves, which is understandable given the huge pain that they must feel and their probable need for anonymity.  But their position wasn’t even represented.  Instead we were treated to a dose of the old myth by an Independent Reviewing Officer, spouting his simpleton views as though modern brain imaging had all been a dream. 

‘I couldn’t quite believe that three years down the line they could say I don’t want them anymore, I could quite understand that after 6 weeks ….. but after 3 years, I was gob smacked by it,’ he said as though he were propping up the bar of the local hostelry.

I was not gobsmacked by it, neither was my husband and neither were many posters to the Adoption UK message boards.  We know the reality of parenting children like these, the raging, the fighting, the shouting, the breaking, the anxieties and the fears. And many of these difficulties only come out from the light several years into the adoption journey, when the children start to feel a real and to them frightening attachment to their new parents.  What did gobsmack me however was that the reviewing officer did not appear to know anything of this, nor of the lack of support provided by the state to help parents striving under these difficult circumstances.  He appeared to blame the parents (oh such a cop out) and in their absence they were painted as being a bit flaky, indecisive, not really having their hearts in the thing.

The professional approach should have been to undertake a full ‘lessons learnt’ exercise.  Why did the placement break down?  Was adequate support provided?  Did the parents feel the training offered to them had been adequate?  Had all information been shared?  What were the surprises?  Instead of this we saw a void of empathy for those parents and then the truck was put back into first gear and revved up again for the next adoption placement.  It was like watching a car crash. 

There were many other parts of the programme which left me feeling exasperated; the dog, the lifestory work and the confused approach to contact being a few of them.  But the one message that I would shout from the rooftops is ‘LISTEN TO ADOPTERS’, oh and ‘start collecting some meaningful statistics’.




How I Lost Weight by Eating Real Bread

That’s correct, you haven’t misread the title, I have lost weight by eating …… bread. 

I have held off writing this post for some weeks just in case I had fluctuated or was hosting a tape worm, but no, the results are irrefutable.  Five pounds, gone, sustainably.

My blog followers may remember that I recently spent a day in a craft bakery learning the essentials of bread making.  I came away having seen the light and vowed to banish quickly risen, mass produced bread from my diet with its air and its spikey gluten and its foul preservatives .  

By way of scene setting, I will just tell you that one of the problems of doing a physical job (gardening) is that one can struggle to fill the tanks, resulting in much stuffing of chocolate digestives and the like.  I long ago learnt that a bowl of commercial cereal does not provide the fuel to get through even a couple of hours of heavy work whereas a bowl of muesli or porridge does.  But I hadn’t thought too hard about the sandwiches I was eating for lunch and why I was coming home from work and mainlining sugar.  And a few extra pounds had crept up on me and hung around and wobbled now and again.

I have kept my vow and been making and eating bread.  White bread, wholemeal, rye and spelt.  I have been eating toast with eggs, bread and cheese, bread and soup and warm bread with butter oozing through it.  And I have been feeling FULL.  Yes full and satisfied.  I have not been getting home from work and raiding the cupboards.  I no longer obsess when there is chocolate in the house.  And five pounds have gone and stayed gone.  Not a lot, but enough to get into some clothes I was starting to miss.

So my unlikely advice this merry calorie-ridden season is, eat real bread, either your own or that made by one of our growing number of craft bakers.  It tastes fantastic.  It’s a meal on it’s own.  It’s filling.  And its the new wonder diet food.  What an uplifting New Year’s resolution it would make.  Hang on, that’s the dinger I hear, I’m off to get my next loaf out of the oven.