A letter for Edward Timpson MP

I’ve been waiting for the last two weeks for my personal letter of thanks from Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson.

I first heard about his thank you letter on Facebook and Twitter during National Adoption Week. There’d been a big announcement: “Adoptive parents across the country have received a personal letter of thanks from the Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson”. He was supposed to be thanking me and other adopters for our love and commitment in caring for some of the country’s most vulnerable children. But neither I nor any of the adopters I know have received his letter.

It’s only this evening though that I’ve realised that the personal letter that I’ve been waiting for isn’t in fact an ACTUAL letter, but a PRETEND one that the Government has only posted online, and that you’d only read if, like me, you’d heard about it on social media.

You can read it here if you’re interested. Forgive me though if I am a little cynical, and think that the intention was never to write to us personally. The Minister simply wanted to be seen to be saying the right thing during National Adoption Week.

The people at the Adoption Social (an online gathering of adoptive parents and adoptees, most of whom are based in the UK) have suggested we share our responses to his letter. To be honest though, I don’t think that this PRETEND personal letter is worthy of a personal response.

Edward Timpson boasted in his PRETEND letter about a 63% increase in the number of adoptions over the last three years. The number and proportion of children adopted aged five to nine had indeed declined between 1999 and 2009, from 1,672 to 1,138 children. But, as Sir Martin Narey, Ministerial Advisor on Adoption, has since said: “After two years of significant progress in finding more adoptive homes for the thousands of children waiting – transforming their lives along the way – we have seen a sudden and significant fall-off in the number of children being put forward for adoption”. Nothing is as clear cut as the Government claims.

Edward Timpson also sets out in his PRETEND personal letter that he and the Government are there to provide us with support “every single step of the way”. J aged about 9 This especially interests me. Now, I have tried to get support in the past when things have been tough. My son came to me aged nearly seven with what I thought was a cast iron guarantee of support from SLAM, the Child and Adolescent Adoption and Fostering unit at the Maudsley in South London, in the event that we needed it, and to be funded by my son’s Local Authority. However, when push came to shove, the funding wasn’t in fact there, and it took many very challenging months for it to be agreed. The LA fabricated reasons for seeking support in their referral letter to SLAM. I found it incomprehensible not just that the LA lied, suggesting that there was something wrong with me rather than that my son was traumatised, but that it was made so difficult for me to access support when I was struggling, and especially when I was saving them the £25,000 + per year it costs to foster a child.

In the end we got the support we needed from SLAM and it was excellent. Many, many adopters though have never received the support they need and have been left feeling misunderstood and blamed for the often very severe effects of trauma. I have also watched friends’ adoptions struggle and sometimes break down, and there wasn’t anything like the level of support for them either that they needed, before, during or afterwards.

So I welcome the Government’s commitment, as expressed in Edward Timpson’s PRETEND personal letter, to providing much more specialist support for adoptive parents and adopted children.

This though is worth very little unless the Government also commits to ensuring that professionals involved in education and social work itself are also properly informed about the traumatising effects of abuse, neglect and abandonment, and receive training in working with, rather than against, adoptive families.

So…. No personal letter from Edward Timpson to me, and no personal letter back from me to him either I’m afraid. But show me the plan, the evidence that there is properly joined up thinking, that all adopted children will come with a cast iron guarantee of therapeutic and/or other appropriate support, that there is training for teachers and social workers as well as support for adoptive parents, and I will be writing a fulsome letter of personal thanks to the Children and Families Minister. No, really.

***
I am linking this post up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out as well as to the Adoption Social’s Collective Response #WASO Special.

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10 comments

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with all you so very eloquently say here! I also blogged about my thoughts on this letter and didn’t send it to him, although others said they think I ought to send it, and perhaps you could send yours too ?
    xx

    1. I’ve just read your post – brilliant! You should link it up to the Adoption Social’s special page at http://theadoptionsocial.com/uncategorized/a-waso-special-collective-response-to-national-adoption-week-and-edward-timpson/. Everything posted there is being sent to his office x

      1. Thanks Izzwizz. I had previously linked it with waso but hadnt realised they were doing a special link up – missed that! I’ll do it tonight.

        1. Excellent 🙂

  2. Not sure whether to laugh or cry when I read blogs that resonate like this one. I so agree that those working in education and social work should be properly informed about the traumatising effects of abuse, neglect and abandonment, and receive training in working with, rather than against, adoptive families. I should feel relieved it’s not just us, but instead I feel angry that so many families are going through this. I would add educational psychologists to those that need training, and also a therapeutic profession driven by solution focused brief therapy that refuses to acknowledge developmental trauma. But thanks for the reminder about the pretend letter. I will be writing a real one back as well.

    1. I think a lot of people are tearing their hair out over this one. So much to improve, and some hope that things are going in the right direction… But still no real sense that there is a good grasp of the big issues or the vision to make real changes. Sad really.

  3. Well done for capturing the frustration so many feel at the lack of any co-ordinated support for adoptive families. The government has shown it can take national action on recruitment and approval of adopters, but then leaves it to chance that individual families get any help. I am determined to make change happen in school support. If we don’t get change we need to co-ordinate our anger and fight back. Through social media and blogs like yours we can make a difference. Thank you.

    Gareth

    1. I suppose it’s easy for the Government to get away with inconsistency at the heart of its policy-making (in the way you describe) with adopters (1) having really such different experiences, (2) adopters being so taken up with the day to day of dealing with the challenges, and (3) the adoption community being quite fractured, with educators, social workers, psychologists and parents often having different and opposing views. I agree we need to coordinate and probably need to build allies in these different communities, sooner rather than later, and putting children’s interests at the heart of it all. Easier said than done! Thank you to you too.

  4. Hi izzwizz
    Firstly thank you for visiting my new blog and being the first person to comment on it ! I really appreciate that.
    I had no idea of the so called personal letter until reading about it here and on other adoption blogs / tweets. I would dearly love a letter from someone with the influence of Mr Timpson, because my reply would, sadly, be full of all the massive frustrations we adoptive families experience in all our dealings with education and social care professionals. Sorry, I will stop ranting!
    I’m off to read more of your posts!

    1. You have a fan! Glad to be number one but I’m sure I’m the first of very many 🙂
      You will find a supportive community at the Adoption Social, if you haven’t found it already.
      That letter has been rather an own goal I think and the angry responses are building up. I do hope Edward Timpson takes it all on board.

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