Adoption and Education
Published: 26.02.16 by Online Team
Posted on behalf of @GayAdoptionDad
I am not sure what possessed me, or whether I just have a natural ability to not use the word "No", but I agreed to speak to a large group of Prospective Adopters, Adopters, Educational specialists and Virtual School Heads on behalf of my dear friend Gareth Marr.
If you have anything to do with Adoption, then the name Gareth Marr you should know, and if you don't then you really need to! I 'met' Gareth on twitter nearly two years ago, when I started to realise the power and impact of social media with adoption and some of the issues faced by Adoptive families. Gareth's Local Authority, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead had made the big leap to provide support to Adoptive families through the Virtual School Head - and Gareth had started to publicise this - as well as trying to get other Local Authorities, Adoptive families etc on board.
I don't tend to be a huge campaigner, lack of further education is partly to blame, however, when I have experienced something and I can relate to it, I will jump on board. Roll forward a few months, and I was appointed Regional Manager for the East of England at Adoption UK. I had spent 7 years volunteering with Local Authorities and with Coram, using the experience of adopting our older two children to help and support new adopters - a perfect roll for me, and one that saw me having the opportunity to meet Gareth face to face at the Annual Adoption UK conference. We clicked. His Barry White impersonation had all the ladies weak at the knees, and some of the men - but Gareth has an aura, he says what he likes, and campaigns for what he believes in - and yet he is non-offensive and has friends in places some of us can only dream of.
Our relationship has developed into a mutually respectful one, and I have listened to Gareth speak on a number of occasions about why children who were in care NEED support in our schools. Gareth's idea is that Virtual School heads within Local Authorities could be the answer - the foundations are already there, and as adopters we all know that when a child who comes from the care system is placed in a permanent family, whether through Adoption, Special Guardianship or Long term fostering, the needs of that child don't change over night, if at all.
There were a few things that I always hear asked when Gareth speaks - the main one is usually from Local Authorities who are under increasing pressure to save money - how can we afford to increase the capacity when we lack the funds? That question is one that I am sure all LAs have, and I am sure that if we as adopters take a step back we can understand. The answer is quite simple though, and I heard it answered in RBWM by Alison Alexander - Director of Children's Services and Managing Director - How can we afford not to?
To break it down:
- Julie Selwyn's et al's report - Beyond the Adoption Order - clearly states that a high level of Adoption Breakdowns were/are as a result of a lack of understanding in schools.
- Adoption breakdowns cost Local authorities much much more money than extending support to children who were formerly in care.
This alone, and my black and white thought process is reason enough to support children in schools.
To balance this out:
- There are some schools who get it, and are supportive
- A small number of LAs have expanded their VSH and Education teams remit
- The DfE are aware of this issue, and back any improvements made in LAs
- There are a number of Adoption Social workers who are on board with this and are trying to educate school about the needs of children from care.
It's a good start.
I was appointed Senior Regional Manager at Adoption UK back in April, and since then have had increased exposure to a number of additional groups and reluctantly agreed to start speaking (Not because I don't love the adoption community, of course I do - I just don't rate myself as a speaker!) I agreed to speak on behalf of Gareth last night at an event held by We are Family in London. When I first introduced Gareth to We are Family it was on the basis that it was a simple introduction.... It came back to bite me on the backside - Gareth's previous medical condition has resulted in a laryngectomy - which needs work and means currently his voice is a croak. I was honoured to be asked to go along and talk on his behalf.
There was also representation from the Virtual School in Islington, Hermione Michaud doing a fab job within Islington of supporting adoptive families in schools.
I decided to blog this, when a question from a gentleman in the audience hit home. His son (now 6) is mis-understood by the school. His behaviour is becoming increasingly worrying - and the school are not dealing with it, despite the gentleman and his wife educating the school about the trauma his son has experienced prior to becoming a part of their family. There is no EHCP in place, and it would appear no plans to apply for one by the school. The child is now being subjected to more and more shame - being made to stand outside the Head Teachers office when he is "naughty". He is also in tears BEFORE he even gets to the school gates.
His behaviour is NOT his fault.... And yet he is being made to feel even more shamed than he needs to be.
There are a number of things that could help this poor little boy - an attachment figure in school, the school remembering he is different, an agreement for him to be able to take himself off to feel safe.... but the parents are no longer being listened to. What will it take? Hermione covered this and believes the experience of Virtual Schools carries some clout in schools. A little like a parent partnership for adopters the VSH can go into the school and be the link between the school and the family to improve the child's experience - they can also encourage the schools to listen to those that know the child best - THE PARENT.
This is one child from someone who needed support and advice, imagine how many more of these children are going to school throughout the UK.
Thanks to everyone who came along last night, and who spoke with me afterwards. I don't profess to know everything about this topic, however, am learning as I go, and as a community we can improve things, not over night, but certainly over time.
My involvement with Adopter Voice - a DfE initiative being run by Adoption UK is definitely one way of being able to influence those changes, with data being presented from Adoptive parents in a format that will lead to change. Education is a hot topic for us all, and you can help to influence this change in a number of ways:
Online: www.adoptionuk.org.uk/welcome - Register for the online forums and leave your comments on education within the LA you have experienced.
OR if you prefer to do it anonymously, send the details via email to AdopterVoice and we will anonomise your details but create a wider conversation.
[This post was also published on www.gayadoptiondad.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/adoption-and-education.html]