The POTATO group

Door left ajar

Was it ever right that I tried to be your mummy?
How could you accept that when I wasn’t ‘tummy mummy’?
She made you and she bore you,
And she loved you from the start,
She just didn’t have the wherewithal to keep you in her heart,
I wanted to replace her
And give you all l could,
I wanted you to be secure
And make your life feel good.
We took you in our family
A daughter and a sister,
We loved you and we cherished you
But still you really missed her.
No love nor understanding
Could take away your pain,
No therapy nor counselling
Could make us both feel sane.
We battled and we struggled

And I tried to keep you near,
But it wasn’t really possible
Because of all the fear.
It all went wrong, we asked for help
But no one really cared,
Or maybe they just didn’t see
We both were really scared.
I let you down, I should have had
The strength to battle on.
I never will forgive myself
Now that our chance is gone.
But even now, there is a bond
Of that I feel quite sure
I only hope you feel it too
And leave ajar the door

Used with permission from Poet:  Janet Barraclough

Professionals and Adoptive Parents

word bubbleHi all,

We are so fortunate in our group because there is such experience and expertise in adoption matters. Read an excellent article by Dave Bagshaw and Mair Richards adapted from their presentation at the POTATO conference and AGM 2015.

The full version can be downloaded for free here on the LINKS and RESOURCES page.

With thanks to Dave and Mair for this helpful resource.

Sally Donovan’s Article

It’s Sunday and the roar of Sally Donovan has begun to die down. She did a great article in this weeks “Community Care” and there has already been a huge amount of feedback.

The article points to experience of member families and the fundamental hampering of professional progress due to a lack of learning from mistakes.

Take a look at the link below.


Conference and AGM

potato conf 2015

Hello all POTATO group members and interested people ūüôā

In November we held our AGM and conference with a mix of speakers and information sharing amongst peers.


The Steering group met and it was decided that the roles within Potato Group needed some changes due to the increased work load involved in a larger, and expanding membership.

The roles decided upon were:

  • Chairperson. x1
  • General Secretary. x1
  • Membership Secretary. x1
  • Welfare Secretary x2
  • Treasurer (with supporting signatories)

Steering Group Persons were proposed and seconded by members, duly elected.

Points of discussion included development of a membership map and database for meeting support. Further discussion about revenue streams and finance followed. Members were asked to consider dates, times and venues for AGMs and Conferences in future. Ideas on the day included having a summer conference and a winter AGM, keeping things as they are, having a separate “self care” focus weekend.

To contribute further ideas, or for a full set of minutes, please contact the steering group via email, or twitter @thePOTATOgroup


Dave Bagshaw- Adoptive Parent, dealing with professionals and understanding each other better.

Exploring reasons that social care misunderstand adoptive parents and are very much geared towards working with dysfunctional parents with dysfunctional children. Whereas we are (generally speaking) functional parents host to dysfunctional young people.

POTATO group parents looking at destructive and challenging behaviours will read these as trauma-induced difficulties which require de-escalation. The parents are often under enormous strain dealing with extreme ¬†issues and find their young person’s needs bring them to the attention of various services. Or they approach services asking for assistance.

Whereas police, social care and other professionals may view this dangerous, rash, threatening behaviours as a result of poor parenting and inadequate boundaries. Dramatising these perspectives it was helpful to recognise what is going on and the practical tips for managing in meetings when the professionals come with this mindset was very helpful for members.

Sarah Phillimore, Barrister.

Sarah’s Website-¬†

Sarah¬†has worked extensively in the family law courts. ¬†Via the contacts made with POTATO group she has become aware that section 20 is often being used in respect to adoptive young people who cannot be at home, most often due to their high risk behaviours, significant harm to parents or other children in the home. Section 20 means that the adoptive parents retain FULL parental responsibility. It is our group experience that this is often ignored and the local authority often behave as if they hold PR and the adoptive parents are “to blame” for their child being looked after.

Sarah has looked into this and has done a specific piece of work debunking the narrative that meetings with professionals cannot be recorded. They can be recorded. It is not illegal, saying that you are going to record the meeting is a wise precaution in many cases.

Jackie, ECHP expert advisor.

Very informative talk about the new EHCP plans. You can as a parent apply for an EHCP for your young person but you will need substantial evidence that your child is behind and has been unable to catch up despite support and intervention. It is worth considering applying for a plan, even if your YP is 16yrs old or over because that plan can continue until 25 years old.

The school/ college will be asked for evidence too but it is not essential that they are on side. The EHCPs are very much education orientated but any plan will encapsulate additional health and social needs.

One of the negatives of EHCPs is that all the information you provide to get the support, is shared with that young persons professional team throughout the time under the plan. So consider carefully the evidence presented and whether you want, or your young person will want, that forever on the record.

Jenny Jones, Adoption Support Fund

Jenny Jones website:
Twitter: @JenniferJ432

Adoption support fund is a recent development allowing adoptive families to apply for and obtain funded support for specialist services, relating to their post adoptive needs.

Basically the process is this:

  1. Family applies to the local authority with responsibility for their support for an “Assessment of Needs”.
  2. The Local Authority should send a suitably qualified and experienced worker to assess the family needs and complete the documentation.
  3. The resulting needs outcomes are shared with the family.
  4. If there are specific specialist needs identified for funding, the assessment is considered by the ‘expert advisory group’ for the ASF for consideration.
  5. If agreement is achieved the local authority assist the family in finding adequate resource to fund and get started ASAP.
  6. This process is reviewed.

There are a lot of families and local authorities that have been helped to achieve support the likes of which would have been beyond the scope and means of Adoption Services normally. This has been most welcome. Helpfully, Jenny has detailed this in her powerpoint .

There are several issues that have arisen within ASF processing as several LAs appear to not be applying, lack personnel to assess as well as run a busy department and additionally there are problems with additional panel based bureaucracies within LA’s before the application even reaches the central fund. If the LA has internal panels these are not permitted to change the assessing social workers decisions.

POTATO Group members are looking to see improvement in the general awareness of the ASF and increasing access. Wide misinterpretation of Post Adoption Departments re access of ASF for S20 families is one issue raised from the members. Many families have been treated poorly by LAs that have tried to access support in the past, (see Dave Bagshaw’s talk notes above) that they just cannot pick up the phone and speak to the LA again. Comments from the floor emphasised that increased and easier access review would be welcome.

There was a lot of thanks given to speakers, individual members and the steering group for organising, attending and delivering a diverse, useful and enlightening conference relevant to many areas of parenting adopted teenagers.

Many POTATO Group members enjoyed various social and individual activities over the weekend, enjoying meals out, pampering, shopping and other chances to indulge in some vital self care.

If you attended, thank you for coming along and we will update you with future dates and details of AGM and Conference(s?) for 2016.

Jenni, General Secretary.



POTATO MASH, AGM and conference. 

On Sunday 8th of November we invite our members to come to Birmingham for our AGM and conference. It is peer led, warm, friendly and kind gathering of parents of traumatised adopted young people, aimed primarily at those with 11-21 year old adoptees.

So if you are a member and would like to hear from our experts on: ASF (adoption support fund), legal matters surrounding s20 and pr, post 16 education and EHCP’s plus service providers, culture and ethos. Please contact us letting us know you plan to attend:

– subject heading- agm.


To run our peer lead group we do need funds and so request a donation- £5, £10 or £15 whichever you feel you are able to contribute towards the cost of running this event.

There will be drinks available on the day, but please bring a packed lunch.

Bbqs, holidays and first on the list.

It is time for the seasonal blog and its BBQ weather. Yes…. British weather so darting indoors missing the showers, hoping the gateau will defrost in time for pud. “Man cook with fire” pervades and thankfully someone has brought some proscetto and pimms punch.

If you’ve never had pimms punch, give this lovely one a try….¬†PIMMS PUNCH

On the whole this vision of domestic bliss is achievable in most families and on the whole our adopted young people have managed them better over time, trouble is that there’s a lot of buffet related angst. If doing your own BBQ, then get the tats a plate each set up ready for the burger deposit and get them a large bottle of cola each. That way food is readily available and their worries over managing the etiquette when they feel they may starve, vanish.


A nice role, such as skittles putter-upper or garden Jenga monitor can really help those¬†who find interaction hard. Getting them to set up the music so that there’s something for grandma- the babies is quite a task and overwhelming until the last year when we thought we’d try it again and they actually came out with some good party mixes.

We have come to some peace over actual holidays. For us, we look forward to holidays with thoughts of relaxation and excitement. For our adoptees, despite many years to tell them otherwise, holidays represent scarey changes and settled relaxation and positive happiness are a long way off. The way home almost as bad as the way there and cross exhaustion swiftly follows on everyone’s faces.

So instead we’ve gone for a few days meeting up with family for picnic bbqs (as above) ideally in pubs so less clearing up… Holidays, well, perhaps they are too hard still. Maybe cutting your losses is a good idea. Younger ones could try doit4real, Pgl, Christians in sport, outward bounds courses while parents perhaps holiday nearby.

Tats being older can in theory be left and over time we’ve built up to being able to have a week away with all food labelled up ready, friends and family “dropping in” and various planned meals out. This year it’s big stuff….. Yes! We are off ABROAD and leaving a tat in control for a week. There’s a wall planner up to help. Google calendar is a good thing so your tats and you know what’s what and who is where, when. Leaving them to look at gaps and fill them up, plan transport and when they are going to actually eat each day is a good set of life skills.

For me, I have discovered¬†Audible¬†I’ve found sleeping an increasing challenge as worries about the TATs seem to crowd in at nights. Right now it’s free for 30days and I’ve kept it on, enjoyed the latest c j sansom book “lamentation” (it’s a bit like cadfael but more earthy) and enjoyed being transported off elsewhere in my mind.

Please do remember the last people on your list really should be first and self care is key to holding it together, you do need a break. #selfcare

We are always interested to read about your Tats adventures whether it be family BBQ or a week in Spain and how you all managed it. Twitter @thePOTATOgroup we already have some fantastic pictures by all means add to them.

APV when planets collide


We live on planet adoption. Our lives are so very distinct to other parents. We applaud when our child cries… because its rare that they’ve trusted us enough to show emotion. We are disappointed and distressed as the leader says all our son did at scout camp were the rubbish jobs no one else wanted. This is upsetting because we know that the reason he selected those roles is because he feels utterly worthless. When your daughter refuses school and swears, kicks you and punches a hole in the wall you think that its a run of the mill morning and your greatest achievement is to be able to step out of the drama and drink a cup of coffee while its still hot. #selfcare is a key aim rarely met.

Other planets like the one of domestic abuse collide with our planet more often than we knew. We share a lot of similarities. The backgrounds of people who abuse is often peppered with trauma, abuse and poor support in their early years much like modern adoptees.

In simple terms, the aim of domestic abuse support is normally to make sure the perpetrator and the victim are separated, moved away and both go onto live with happier choices. In CPV (Child to parent violence) or APV this just is not the aim for the families involved. They need to stay together, generally want to stay together but need to find a better way forwards.

Its a big deal, APV over here on planet adoption. It wrecks lives.

Bristol University research published in ‚ÄúBeyond the adoption order‚ÄĚ 2014 by Julie Selwyn et al, commissioned by the DFE explains:

  • Violence was a significant factor in the young person leaving their adoptive home in 80 per cent of cases, combined with involvement in crime, life threatening self-harm and running away.¬† Of those interviewed, 27 per cent of parents reported worrying behaviour shown by their child around the use of knives

Without the welly of a local team of willing, funded professionals the glorious heights of a supported way into Non Violent Resistance as widely advocated for use within adoptive families, many are left assimilating the techniques of presence raising and written agreements alone. The actual evidence for NVRs effectiveness in adoptive families is limited. There is lots of training aimed at adopters on this NVR mainly by Dr Peter Jakob. Here is a great blog piece on an adopters experience from recent training: Frogotter’s Blog

As an alternative, POTATO group were attracted to the LINX programme run by Hampton Trust. The programme recognised that young people who are abusive often are victims themselves. They have shown that developing the SKILLS OF EMPATHY is a key protective factor and that the course delivers that. They use a Wall model similar to the Wall in adoption Uk’s excellent training.

Together, Hampton Trust and The POTATO Group have consulted adoptive parents and are developing a version of the award winning LINX course specifically for them. Unlike NVR the young person has to commit to want to change and the adapted course will provide them with the tools to do this.

As it is CPV week, POTATO group members will be sharing their stories together and supporting one another with kindness. Hopefully, with adoption LINX we will be able to offer more practical support.

Let them eat cake! (UPDATE)

We have a lot of fantastic mothers in POTATO group. Often holding it together with really traumatised young people and as parents ourselves we know that Mothers Day can be a real flash point.

Understanding (as we do) that our young adoptees are often angry, confused and generally troubled about the “Mothers” past and present we salute you. Adoptive mothers are often trying to be brave and not want a bit of demonstrated love from our TAT.

The shops are full of flowers, cards and Mothers Day merchandise. POTATO parents cannot miss it. If your young person has been unable to connect with you and show the affection that Mums would ordinarily expect it rubs salt into the wound.

Not only are POTATO parents deprived of gifts and cards and a chance to celebrate mothering, the jumbled feelings about mothers stirs up a hornets nest of unwanted behaviours in your young person. It can feel like walking on egg shells trying to play down what should be a point of relaxation, fun and celebration.

Lets change stuff.


On Saturday 14th March any time of the day go and eat cake- feel wonderful for few minutes and enjoy time just for you.

If you can take a selfie of the CAKE of choice so much the better! Print it off and stick it up somewhere as your happy moment…

You’re welcome to put any cakey pictures up on here. (Flowers buying optional but also highly recommended #selfcare)

So- How did it all go? Well Twitter was a flurry and we got sent some fab cake pictures and stories via email and the private Facebook.

LOVELY Cakey pictures thankyou-

cake1cake2cake3cake 4

In support of Red nose day we had a lush tray of red nosed Biscuits… YUM! #RND2015red nose cake

Members who joined in felt:

cared for for just those few minutes

Strong enough to face the Mothers Day trials from my teen knowing I’d had something lovely just for me

An adoptive Dad commented:

It is great, that POTATO group. This cake time has given my wife a smile all day, it is a simple thing but what a difference

Festive Flounderings…

potato nativity

POTATO nativity with Potato-y sheep!



As Christmas approaches us in the POTATO group we have mixed feelings about surviving the season with young people who often struggle with change, overwhelming pressure to do “family” and supporting young people who have odd levels of present expectation. As parents the responsibilities mount up and its hard to balance the expectations of the wider family and the capacity of our young people to manage without massive fall out and destructive behaviours repeating.

We all started out in adoption with some dreams and hopes of what a family life could look like:christmas_family460

But, the reality for many POTATO families is trying to settle for the lowest possible impacting Christmas which makes it more manageable.

It means that several members have not received any gifts for YEARS from their young people as giving to parents of any description is too big an ask for many traumatised adopted young people. Or the gifts they have received are ones they have had to engineer themselves or are wholly inappropriate. Tales of being given perfume that was originally given to a girlfriend and one gift of a roll-on deodorant with attached PUBE occurred on the facebook group! In all seriousness Christmas can be a particularly upsetting and hard time for members.

So, POTATO group decided to change things to make a Happy Christmas.

We have run a Secret Santa project.

How it works.

Members have confidentially given their name, address, likes and dislikes and in return have been given a fellow POTATO members details.With a maximum spend of £5 it was hoped many would feel able to join in and we have had 46 members join this years scheme via our private Facebook.

Planning ahead.

On Christmas Day, at 8pm we are going to take POTATO selfies of us opening our gifts… and thank one another on line….(toes wiggling excitedly as I type!)

The gift of Christmas JOY !

Hannah from Yorks– “it’s about us as real people caring for each other as we truly understand. Making us feel good when most of the time we feel s***!”

Pauline from London– ” I didn’t want anyone to get me a present but I really wanted to get one for someone. I would like my Spud to know that I’m thinking of them; that I care; that I want to put just a tiny spark of light into their life and that, even though they’ve probably never met me, I’m their friend.”

Laxme from Oxon “I was so excited to send out my little effort which I designed and kept adding too – all for under ¬£5!”

Mary from Boston It felt genuinely good to buy a present, knowing that this small gift would brighten up someone’s day.
Receiving mine made me feel as though someone else ‘gets it’. They know that Christmas can be tough, and sending/receiving presents isn’t always easy when you’ve got a traumatised teen.”

John from Winchester “When mine arrived I was so excited I tried to open a bit to peak at what it could be. Someone who actually cares about me and sent me a gift- POTATO is such a wonderful thing for Dads like me.”

Theresa from Kent “It’s reassuring us that we’re not alone in Potato Land. Others understand and care cos they hold the same passport!”

Jasmine from Sussex “I did a little happy dance a present sent to me that I didn’t have to sort out.. To enjoy with no guilt”

*We have changed the names and some locations for privacy reasons, but comments are genuine*

See you all at 8pm on Christmas night with your selfies!


If you would like to be a part of this wonderful supportive group, please contact us using the form on this site or simply email Paypal a donation and we can: meet face to face,collect your membership information and you can join our private secure facebook group.

Welcome to the world of LEGGIT & SCARPER…

When life in with your teen isn’t tough enough they start a whole new range of activities! One that comes up a lot within our community is the young runners and leavers. These expert terrified toddlers are inexpert young adolescents and therefore attract a whole heap of troubles due to many factors.

Vulnerable, excited and with a very limited grasp on cause & effect our young people represent a high level of risk to themselves and others that often the professionals and authorities fail to grasp. As parents it can be incredibly hard to get the Police, Social Care and other services to recognise the level of risk posed and act quickly.

Often, our young people just have not developed enough genuine empathy and appear completely indifferent showing ingratitude for the good life choices their adoptive families have demonstrated to them. Their inner world (developed from their backgrounds in their birth families) means they read life as full of fear, guilt, shame, horror and negativity and cannot accept the loving care from their adoptive families and struggle with secondary attachments (teachers, foster carers, mentors, social workers, medics, support workers e.t.c) to a degree too.

Again, with all things adoption, there are teens who run away from home but the intensity, frequency, level and frankly the reasons why they are doing this are at a completely different level from your “average teen”. We would argue in POTATO group that there should be a specific protocol for professionals to follow. Primarily we are into encouraging and supporting adoptive parents and going through the night, wondering if your wayward teen has hooked up with the local druggies at the park or offered sexual services for a packet of fags to the peadophile is something many of us have not only lived through but struggled through repeatedly. That constant bombardment of threat is a serious thing for the strongest parent and so we have put together some tips for surviving it. Don’t become a MASHED POTATO!

In comfort to most, the running off seems to arrive and then go as quickly as it came. Something, somewhere clicks. Maybe its the young person simply maturing. It does not seem event driven so a really serious event like being hit by a car or assaulted may not stop the running. But eventually, it stops in most.

So IF your young person is running then what do you do? Can you get prepared before it even starts? Read More