iDad – Your Child’s Right to Privacy

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I’m a geek. There, I said it.  I’m not ashamed of my saucy inner urge to own the latest gizmo, gadget or discombobulating techno toy. I revel in the ridiculous notion that my tawdry internal dialogue is worth sharing with a broader audience than just the rear bumper of my eyeballs.  I tweet on twitter, flap on Facebook and have even been known to ‘check in’ on Foursquare. I don’t consider myself particularly verbose, but I do like to think that I have something to share from time to time and take little shame in this. I Instagram, Push Notify, Find My Friends, Blog, blether and spend my spare time publishing all of this on the World Wide Web.

And why not, I hear you ask. Well indeed, why not? After all, I obviously consent to all this data being out there. I am geek enough to know a little about how to control who has access to the most personal elements. In fact, I live in absolutely no doubt that if someone wanted to steal my identity, my online presence would of course make that task infinitely simpler. We have seen however that even companies like Natwest are not immune to the probings of determined web terrorists, so I feel we all need to recognise that our data is out there and at risk to some extent regardless of our intent. I for one though embrace this as a fact of digital life in the digital age.

But here’s the thing (yes I do have a point oddly). I am now a matter of months away from becoming a father. Not only that, but a father to a child that will almost certainly have experienced terrible abuse and neglect at a time when they deserved nothing more than the love and innocence of youth. A child who’s birth parents may very well present a serious risk and may be actively – even aggressively – seeking their adopted babe. It’s no exaggeration to say that adopted children have had photos of themselves posted on sites like Facebook by their birth parents with the headline ‘Have you seen our kidnapped child?’

Of course this is an extreme although very real example, so let’s take it down a notch. Who am I to post pictures of my child online without their consent? Hands up if you hate being tagged by camera happy friends in snaps that you’d be ashamed to show your mother or work colleagues.

Here’s another example for you. During our Stage 2 Adoption Training we took part in a great exercise. I don’t want to give too much away (after all, one day you may do it yourself), but in short, it involved thinking of three things about yourself. One you would tell anyone, perhaps where you work. One you wouldn’t like to share but maybe you’d tell your friends, perhaps that you still listen to STEPS Gold from time to time (WHAT!?). And then one that you wouldn’t tell a soul unless you trusted them totally. Now it’s your turn: post one on Facebook or turn to a total stranger and tell them all about it. Go on. Bet you picked the first one!

Imagine the most secret, terrifying and sinister factoid about an adopted child. It may be that they were sexually abused, neglected, beaten or worse, all of the above as a child.  It’s not their fault, how could it be, but they have to live with that information for the rest of their lives. Of course, if you become their parent, you want to protect them and help them carry that burden, sharing it in some way to lesson the fear and horror of such a vile abuse of their whole being.

Now imagine you told Auntie Sheila about the abuse. She’s a little ditzy (whose Aunts aren’t?) and they don’t really think before posting it as a message on a friend’s wall. ‘Oh gosh, I just found out something terrible about our new nephew, he was sexually abused by his birth father! #Horrific.’

She meant well, she was shocked and needed to talk to a friend. But now everyone knows your child’s deepest secret.  How are you going to explain when they get a little older and start to really understand their horrific past that you thought it was okay to just share that without their permission. Think about that for a moment. How will you answer the inevitable question: ‘Who else knows?’.

So I ask you this. In a digital age, brimming with images of you, your friends, your family, will you continue to assume consent as I have done here, posting a picture of my own mother and I.  Will you publish your child’s life online for all to see, and ultimately, will they thank you for it?

* If you’re considering adoption and you’re unsure as to the risks presented by internet use either by yourself or the child, please speak to a qualified social worker or contact a support group such as Adoption UK, New Family Social or First4Adoption.

A Very Zumble Christmas: Brandy Spiked Spicy Peaches

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With NanoWriMo a distant memory (and an almost complete novel staring at me) I find myself ready for the wonderful distraction that is Christmas. At this time of year our home bursts into life with the smells of cooking and the sounds of festive grumbles about the price of gifts.

Of course a wonderfully simple way to keep this cost down and to be able to produce a last minute gift if lazing about until the last minute is your want is to produce a homemade treat for your loved ones. In my experience little else goes down as well as something deliciously edible.

So with that in mind, here’s a fifteen minute recipe that requires minimal shopping and only a handful of simple ingredients to commence my, A Very Zumble Christmas, series. On with the show!

Brandy Spiked Spicy Peaches

This is an adaptation of a recipe from our very own (slightly fallen) domestic Goddess, (well who hasn’t huffed a little cocaine? No? Oh right…) which will get you high on festive spirits, namely brandy in this case.

Here’s what you’ll need to make up 4 x 380ml Jars:

4 380ml (or slightly more) Kilner Jars (or Kilner Style as lots of supermarkets now stock this type of jar)

6 Tins of Peach Halves in syrup (No need to get pricy ones)

8cm Ginger

1 TSP of Dried Chilli Flakes (It’s amazing the heat you will get from this so adjust at your will)

1 TSP Black Peppercorns (Pink would work just as well if that’s all you have about the place)

9 Cloves

4 Short Cinnamon Sticks (or two big ones snapped into four)

150ml – 200ml Brandy (No need to splash out, a good supermarkets own will work fine)

All you’ll need to do is peel the ginger and slice it into thin circles (or whatever gnarled shape you can manage) and then slop that into a large lidded saucepan with everything else. Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan and then ladle out into your jars.

These can be eaten warm if you fancy, but I chill mine in the fridge for up to four weeks and dish them out as gifts as an when required. If you’re attending a party these make a great alternative to the ridiculous bottle of red we all insist on arriving with.

Enjoy!

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Local Council or Adoption Agency, therein lies the question!

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Local Agency… There, you need read no further. However, you may very be interested in why it is that I have so straightforwardly asserted that an Adoption Agency would be your best choice. I shall now endeavour to share a few choice experiences of our very own to highlight a little of my reasoning in the hope that it helps you along your journey to making your very own choices about adoption. After all, planning the best way to have a new little person join your family isn’t as straightforward for some of us as we would like to think.

Firstly let me say this. The council by no means refused us or made our inquiries difficult, or at least no more difficult than you might expect inquiries of this nature to be. What I can say however is that the level of warmth of positivity we received here was abysmally low and in stark contrast to the wonderful reception and hugely informative support we received from our very first moment with the agency we eventually chose. We knew from the moment we set foot in the door at our first information evening that we had made the choice, and that feeling has made the entire journey so much better.

Our local council were a dour and sober lot. At every turn it felt like we had to prove ourselves, to the point where it really felt as if they thought they were doing us a massive favour just making the time to talk to us. After a full year of inquiries and work on our part (including completing the full questionnaire which we have since found out should be after registration of interest) they finally told us they couldn’t accept us onto stage 1 as they were over booked. Well I have to say that’s the best thing that happened to us at that point.

We were put in touch with the national adoption gateway (http://www.first4adoption.org.uk), the council more or less saying they ‘had’ to put us in contact with them. Well I phoned em right up, got the most comprehensive support I had received to date, including lots of new information, and within a week we were in touch with an agency local to us and had been invited to an information evening.

Of course we went along and here we were told the details of how it works when you choose an agency. And low and behold the one thing the council hadn’t explained is that primarily they will try to place you with Children from their local authority. Apprently the fact is that the plan for many children in care is often to be placed outside of the local authority due to the potential risks of being in close proximity to the birth family.  This of course isn’t always the case but it limits the children they are likely to consider placing with you at first.

With an agency you are able to search the whole country for a match that is best suited to you and your family right from the start. I’m sure you all feel strongly, as we do, that the ‘right match’ should be the main goal. It seems on the surface like local councils are limited slightly in their ability to help you search for that match by comparison to the way an agency can search.

So before you consider the local authority in your area, give First4Adoption a call, talk to them about your plans and your area and find out more from your local agencies. Most importantly find the best fit for you. You might not find your council experience the same as us and I hear great things about the council in our area from others. But know the facts, the differences and make the right choice for you, you can even check the Ofsted reports for that vital peace of mind. Ultimately my message is this: Councils are not the only option.

Since our first meetings we have had a wonderful time with our agency, all the way through stage 1 we felt looked after and as if everyone was focused on finding the right child or children for us and our little family. We’re starting stage 2 this week and can’t wait to get to panel.

Good luck whatever your choice!

Nanover

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Nanover, it’s a bit like a hangover, but for when you’ve just sprinted to a word count close to 50000 words.

The big question on everyone’s lips (well okay, at least two or three of you I hope) is: ‘Did I finish one time?’ The easy answer is a somber no… However, I feel now that I must leap to my own defence.  I tapped out a grand total of 42000 words by the final hours of November, this represents the biggest single contiguous piece of work that I have ever produced. Not only that but in my humble opinion (ghastly punctuation and typos galore aside) the story actually holds water. Of course I am gutted that I didn’t quite make it this year, but I still have an awesome sense of achievement.  Not only that but I feel like a better writer for it! And of course I now have the time and space to finish that crucial first draft before I pull it apart, up end the story with a mighty shake and then see what’s left.

All in all a wonderful time was had, and I am mighty glad as Christmas approaches that I now have time back to think about getting ready to be all festive.

Normal Blogging service will now recommence.

The Finish Line is in Sight!

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I’ve not vanished, however my words have been occupied elsewhere this month as any regular readers will know. This month has been the glorious and annual event that is NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I have attempted once again the challenge that is 50000 words in a month. As I sit here now I am at precisely 36,272 (what can I say, I started a little late this year, the 7th to be exact) and I will not be allowing myself to partake of sleep until I have comfortably surpassed 40000. This allows me a few here and there tomorrow, although he best part of the day will be spent celebrating a belated Thanks Giving (US pals). And thusly I shall be left with a reasonable days work on Saturday with which to limp over the finish line.

I am of course today experiencing my favourite part of the creative process. The part where you think, this is a big pile of shitty shit shit that no one in their right mind would ever enjoy much past the first page should they even deem to pick it up in the first place.  And therefore it is with that terrifying thought that I fling myself back the word count tool upon my dear little MacBook Air (thank goodness for the exceptional battery life)… Goodbye! See you at 50000

Nano Update

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Quick update on the as yet unnamed draft of, what I like to call, the novelette.  It turns out that my usually lack lustre attempts at comedy have given way to the more comforting ground of fantasy fiction this year.  And at a stonking 7438 words strong (only 2241 a day to finish on time) I am thus far pleased with the results.  Phillip Pullman once wrote in a NanoWriMo pep talk that I mustn’t look back at what I’ve written, no editing, no tweaking, no fiddling. I must only look forward at the goal!  A 50000 word strong DRAFT, the skeleton of a book, an outline of an idea.

So wish me luck for the next 7438! I’m gonna need some baked goods for energy! Which reminds me, just found a lovely recipe for Christmas Pudding… No, get out of here you naughty distractions! Back to the novelette!

Sourdough Starter, My New Pet

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I shall love him and hug him and call him Cedric!

Today I formed a rather lovely Sourdough Starter, he’s made from a lovely fresh organic apple, grated into roughly 250g of Strong White Bread flour and 250ml of warm/tepid water.  Given a little light agitation with a large spoon he was then slopped off into this rather spiffy Kilner Jar.  The only requirement is that the jar be airtight.

I shall watch him for bubbles and growth (good signs) and then hopefully in a few days time I will be able to slough off about a third to half the mix and then feed him up with a little more flour and water.  If he’s not growing much apparently I should add a little more apple.

Can’t wait to use him and frankly, why would you not make Sourdough when creating the yeast is a super easy task that requires nothing more than a little love and patience!