Monday, 6 December 2010

A look back at National Adoption Week

BAAF's Press Officer, Jane Elston looks back over National Adoption Week.

Our feet are just touching the ground after one of our busiest National Adoption Weeks ever.

As usual our media partners, This Morning and the Sun, both featured children who need to find a family. We received over 400 enquiries for the children which is really encouraging.

Celebrities involved in the campaign this year included Heart Radio Broadcaster Toby Anstis and his twin sister Kate. They shared their experiences of being adopted on This Morning. We were also thrilled to have Lisa Faulkner signed up as an Adoption Champion. Lisa is an adoptive mum and also appeared on This Morning on the Wednesday. She spoke so movingly about adopting her daughter, and hopefully inspired viewers to consider adoption.

We were also delighted when Tim Loughton MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families launched our Adoption Champions scheme. Two of our Adoption Champions, Shegun Olusanya and Kim Checchetto, shared their adoptions stories at the special launch hosted by the Minister (pictured left). They were both so passionate about adoption and great ambassadors for adoption.

Our event at Channel 4 to promote our family finding services was planned for the Wednesday evening. But then disaster struck - a tube strike! Would any of our guests be able to get there? Would we be able to get there? But a mere lack of tubes was not going to stop us – people came by foot, taxi and bicycle. And they were rewarded with hearing BAAF Patron and celebrity hairdresser, Andrew Barton, speak very movingly about being adopted and why he supported BAAF. There were very few dry eyes left in the house.

Bright and early Thursday morning two of our Adoption Champions, Hilary and her daughter Mary were live on BBC Breakfast. The BBC sports presenter and last year’s winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Chris Hollins came into the Green Room and noticed how nervous Mary was. He very kindly gave her a quick tour of the studio and gave her some reassuring tips on being interviewed – what a lovely man!

Mary may have felt nervous, but it didn’t show. She and her mum were fantastic! Hilary explained that although she was over forty and single when she began to consider adoption, she was still welcomed to apply. This year’s National Adoption Week theme was to dispel the myths about who can adopt. BAAF research found that many people were ruling themselves out as adoptive parents because they were not married or thought they were too old. Other misconceptions included that someone had to be heterosexual and own their own home. One person even thought that not being able to swim ruled them out!

Afterwards I had a chance to have a coffee with Hilary and Mary and have a proper chinwag. All our Adoption Champions do such a fantastic job and I rarely get a chance to meet them in person.

Come Friday, we are all exhausted, but happy. There has been widespread coverage of National Adoption Week across the country, from BAAF Patron Clare Grogan being interviewed by the Big Issue, to Adoption Champion Greg Shearman appearing on BBC Radio 5 Live. The campaign was featured in hundreds of newspapers, radio stations and websites. We could not have done it without the support of all our wonderful Adoption Champions, and BAAF members so THANK YOU everyone. And yes, we did have a quick celebratory drink on Friday night!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A family like ours - siblings by adoption

Elizabeth was nearly five when her parents adopted her younger sister. In a direct an honest account of her life she explains what it means to be siblings by adoption.


Nearly five years after I was born, my parents adopted my younger sister Kara. Twenty-five years later, and for the first time, I’ve come across a book about a family like ours.

When Daisy Met Tommy recognises that adoption means huge changes not only for the child being adopted and his or her new parents, but also for birth children gaining a new sibling.

My sister Kara was about to turn two when she became part of our family. Because she was born in Colombia, and I’m a pale freckly Celt, we’ve got used to comments like, “You don’t look anything like each other!” or “No…do you mean half-sisters?” Some people try to insist it’s the same as being biological siblings, as though to reassure us that we really are sisters. I think there are differences, but none that diminish our relationship.

Like most siblings, we grew up with the same parents, same pets, same homes, same extended family. If she starts a story about our early years I recognise it immediately, and vice versa: her impressive range of I’m-not-going-to-bed-and-you-can’t-make-me techniques when she first arrived; my habit of bossing her around (her view) or looking out for my little sister (my view); the endless hours she spent drawing and I spent reading; the car journeys during which our alternate giggling and squabbling would drive our parents mad. Although we each have our own individual recollections – and I’m sure there are things we’ll never agree on - those stories are drawn from a shared childhood.

But I think there’s also something special about becoming siblings after separate starts in life. Maybe it’s knowing it might not have happened - that if our parents had been approved as adopters a few months earlier or later, we might not be sisters. Although it sometimes seems a difficult concept for others to grasp, Kara has every right to find out as much as she can or chooses to about her origins without feeling that in any way threatens her relationship with our parents or me. And while being from different ethnic backgrounds certainly doesn’t define our relationship, it does matter. Not least because when people realise we’re sisters, adoption tends to come up pretty quickly. This can lead to complete strangers asking personal questions about Kara’s background and feelings.

As adults, although we have of course argued and hurt each other’s feelings at points, she is central to many of my favourite times - from visiting her during her extended trip to Colombia to our daily chats on the phone or by email. Six months ago we bought a flat together (a home for me, an investment for her and her partner) and we’ve spent hours furnishing it, findings lodgers and planning renovations.

Being siblings by adoption – particularly intercountry adoption - brings aspects that can be difficult to describe to people who haven’t experienced it. But for the most part it’s pretty straightforward. I have a kind, funny, talented sister and I am incredibly proud of her. I can’t imagine my life without her, either now or growing up. If ‘Daisy’s’ experience turns out to be anything like mine, she’s a lucky girl.

When Daisy Met Tommy is available now from the BAAF bookstore.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Collection of adoption blogs brings National Adoption Week to an end

During National Adoption Week we posted several blogs, each telling a unique story of how adoption can affect people in different ways. Although this year's campaign is now over, here is a final selection of our favourites:

Half an inch of dust is a compelling account of an adopted person whose teenage pregnancy resulted in giving her own child up for adoption. Able to empathise with her birth mother, she went on to trace her and describes their reunion. Later on she too has been fortunate to be reunited with her own birth child.

Tigerlily-Tigerlily is a blog that reflects on the moment that changed her and her husband’s lives forever: when their social worker told them the news that they had been matched with baby Grace.

Now a grandparent, Jean re-tells her story of being an inter-family adoptee. Surprisingly there are over 300,000 inter-family adoptions in the UK and this blog reveals a few of them.

Read the Chandler’s heartbreaking story which lead to their decision to adopt. Finally there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel.

Nicola has a sister who she has never met and is not supposed to know exists. National Adoption Week inspired her to share her secret….

Read this story written from the perspective of a prospective adopter who is anxiously waiting for a child to join her family.

A selection of blogs written for National Adoption Week including a particularly moving story told from a birth mother whose daughter was taken away from her many years ago. Also a tribute to an adoptive mum following her recent death.

Sam relates the touching story of re-visiting her old home with her newly adopted daughter and all the memories that this conjured up from her past.

‘Positive about adoption’ takes a different spin on the adoption process, claiming that it should be hard work and a challenge, as you are being selected for the most important role that life can offer.

Read about an adoptee who defends her decision to refuse to trace her birth parents, touching on the nature v nurture debate.


If you have read any other adoption blogs that we have not included, please post them below in the Comments section.


Monday, 8 November 2010

Champions of all ages promote adoption

Elsie, one of BAAF's older Adoption Champions. She was adopted in the 1930's and here shares her story.


I was adopted at eighteen days old. I have always known I was an adopted child, I believe this has been really important that I have had this knowledge. In my memory I was about three when my mum told me for the first time what seems like a fairy story, of her desire to have a baby girl (she already had a son of her own, age fifteen). I loved this story and enjoyed it being retold time and time again. This made me feel special and loved. As I grew older I realised what the story meant and what the word adopted meant. Very wisely my mum added the information that she had of where I was born and to whom and she gradually answered my questions as I asked them over the years. I know the way in which I was told made me feel special, wanted and loved and consequently I have never had a serious problem with the fact that I was adopted.

I was between the age of four and five when I started to wish I had a sister. I recall hearing some of the conversations between my granddad, mum and dad as this was discussed and the result was that my parents adopted another baby girl. We have always had a loving relationship.

There have been many times during my life when I have thought of my birth mother with curiosity especially on my birthday and wonder if she has thought of me. As a mother myself, I feel she must have. I have often hoped and prayed that she knew I have not been affected in an adverse way by being adopted.

There have been many occasions in my life when other people’s comments regarding adopted children have been momentarily hurtful. But I believe that because of the security in my upbringing these comments have affected me no more than any other thoughtless comments that one encounters in life.

My story is a positive one due to the security of love I experienced within my upbringing

Friday, 5 November 2010

Adoption survival tips

Being an adoptive parent isn’t always easy. Adoption Champion and mum of three, Fiona Strachan, shares some tips on how you can keep your self well during even the most challenging times.


Being a parent through adoption presents its own set of unique challenges and you can get so caught up in trying to meet everyone else’s needs that you forget to look after yourself. But, like that cliché of the safety routine, where parents are asked to put their oxygen masks on before looking after others, you too need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others in the family.

So here’s a few reminders of things we know we should be doing but sometimes forget to...

Sleep – anyone who knows me will laugh at this one. As the children have got older and bedtime a bit later, I go to bed later because I want a bit of time in front of the tv or computer with them safely tucked up in bed. So I get less sleep but when I do take a sensible turn, and get to bed earlier, I feel so much better and more able to deal with things.
Eat – often if we’re stressed we don’t nourish ourselves properly. We might spend so much time thinking of nutrition for our children but end up eating on the run or skipping meals. Even if things are busy try to make time for regular meals and stock up on healthy snacks if you are pushed for time.
Time out – before you panic, I mean for you not your children! Even if it’s just to go into another room/sit down for a cup of tea/read a magazine, a short break can re-energise you...
• Think about the family routine – is there anything you can do to make some of the stressful times less stressful?
Talk to someone who understands
Ask for help – another thing that we can be bad at, especially if things are difficult.
Have fun – often we get so caught up in dealing with the hard stuff, we forget to have fun – it can take the pressure off and helps everyone to see each other in a different way. Keep it simple and don’t expect everyone to show that they’re having fun!!
• Remind yourself of the positives and the progress you’re making as a family – if things are difficult it’s easy to forget what has gone or is going well

There’s loads more that you can do – exercise, get outside, play some music etc. The important thing is to pay attention to your needs as well as everyone else.

Do you have any top tips you’d like to share?


Fiona runs AdoptResources and has recently launched an ebook Boosting Self Esteem in Adoption, with Naomi Richards, The Kid’s Coach. The ebook is free to download during National Adoption Week from www.adoptresources.co.uk/ebooks.html.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Adoption Can Be A First Choice

Day four of National Adoption Week and we bring you a very different tale of adoption. Byrony, her husband (and her cat!), decided that they would like a family. However they decided on a non-conventional route to parenthood. Here's her story.



Like most couples, starting a family is something we have thought and talked about lots and we have decided to adopt, rather than try to have biological children. There are so many children in need of a good home and we feel that is something we can provide. Perhaps not the first reason that springs to mind when people think of adoption but one we thought would be valid and accepted.

I was prepared for peoples initial reaction. I knew they would presume we had problems conceiving. However the second reaction was one that I wasn’t prepared for. That is the question: “Aren’t you a bit young?”

We're 25, have been together 7 years, married for 2, with our own house. I never thought we would be considered a “young” couple. To get this reaction from friends of a similar age that have children of there own makes me think the problem isn’t our age at all, but the idea about who adopts. I'm certain if I told them I was pregnant my age would not have crossed their mind.

When looking into adoption before we applied I found it quite hard to find information about younger couples adopting. This goes hand in hand with the idea that adoption is generally a second choice. If you are unable to have biological children, the time it takes trying to have children, realising there is a problem and perhaps trying IVF before coming to the decision to adopt, will inevitable notch up the years. The legal age to adopt is 21. However the message I got from some of the people working to find adoptive families is that they didn't believe someone in their mid 20's is capable of adoption, although it seems to be an accepted age to start a biological family.

Some of the agencies I spoke to were extremely negative from the moment I mentioned our ages, making the decision that we were not suitable to adopt from a five minute telephone conversation. We have been accepted to be assessed by an agency who are very positive about us being a “different type of family.” But the whole fact they we are considered different makes me feel a little disappointed as well. Although adoption seems to have got a lot more open it is still considered second best to having "your own" children.

I'm not so naïve as to think that adoption is the same as having biological children and therefore should be the first choice for everyone. Adopted children will have a different set of needs to other children. But I do think that adoption needs to be promoted as being a choice not a last resort. I believe the best way to do this is for people starting their family through adoption by choice talk about their experiences. Although they might not be considered the norm, they are certainly not alone.

If you are interested in adoption visit www.nationaladoptionweek.org.uk

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

30 years of adoption

As we celebrate our 30th birthday our Chief Executive, David Holmes, reflects over the changes in adoption over the past three decades.

Today we celebrate our 30th anniversary, fittingly during National Adoption Week. Over the years that we have been in existence we have seen some major changes in adoption, from the way we understand the child’s experience, to the role and contribution of adopters as well as the particular needs of birth families.

In the past the focus of adoption work tended to be more on helping people who had not been able to have their own children to build a family. This has completely changed. Although infertility remains an important reason why people come forward to adopt, we now view adoption as primarily a service for children. Over the last 30 years we have seen this understanding really take hold and adoption has become a very child-centred service. In a recent survey with adopters and prospective adopters subscribing to BAAF's Be My Parent service, nearly two-thirds said they felt the adoption process has the child’s best interests at its heart.

We have also seen a massive shift in the reasons why children become adopted. Changes in society mean that these days young or unmarried mothers rarely feel forced to relinquish their babies. Today adoption is not about finding families for healthy babies but about children who have experienced significant early adversity. Sadly, of the 4000 children who require adoption every year in the UK, around two-thirds have been removed from their birth families because of abuse and neglect.

At the same time it is now widely recognised that adoption is a key route to recovery from early adversity. We understand how damaging delay can be, and that finding a family as early as possible is essential. It is vital to match the children with adoptive parents and other support services who can both meet their assessed needs.

Despite the difficulties many of these children experience, we know they can grow up to be happy and resilient adults. There are so many examples of adopted children who have flourished due to the wonderful quality of care provided by their adoptive parents. And it is now recognised that in order for adoptive parents to meet their children’s sometimes complex needs they must be properly supported themselves. This understanding led to the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which gave adopters the right to ask to be assessed for post adoption support. Sadly these services remain under resourced, and parents can sometimes find themselves in a postcode lottery when it comes to accessing appropriate support.

One of the biggest changes we have seen over the last 30 years is the recognition of the needs and entitlements of birth relatives. Adoption is no longer a secret to be swept under the carpet, with birth parents left forgotten, isolated and ashamed. And adopters are now actively encouraged to be open and honest with their adopted child about their adoption. This has resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of adoptees left shocked, angry and confused when they discover the truth about their origins in later life.

Today adoption is an open process. We know the importance of access to information about genetic origins, and most children are aware of their ‘life story’ from an early age. In addition most will have some form of contact with their birth relatives - either direct, in the form of visits; or indirect, in the form of an occasional card or letter. While resources to support birth relatives may not have kept pace with this change, it is a drastically different picture from the days when birth relatives were left to struggle alone.

We hope that the next 30 years will see even more investment in the resources needed to support everyone involved in adoption; as well as more being done to find adopters for those children who still wait the longest. This is especially true for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and children from some black and minority ethnic backgrounds who still often wait too long for a family. We know that adoption works and we must ensure that every child who needs adoption is helped to achieve it without unnecessary delay.



Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Adoption comes to life in Child Appreciation Day

Life or Child Appreciation Day give prospective adopters the opportunity to meet with people that have met the child that they are soon to be matched with. At this stage the prospective adopters have not met the child. The Child Appreciation Day is an opportunity for them to make the next all important decision. Prospective adopter, Ali tells us about the Child Appreciation Day they went to recently.


We started our day very early in the morning and with a very long journey ahead of us. We were looking forward to making the journey as we felt it was important to meet the people that knew the child we are hoping to adopt, who we simply call “Junior”.

Even though we had read Juniors Child Permanence Report (CPR), back to front, and upside down, there is nothing that can replace meeting the people that have worked or lived with him. It was planned that we would meet Junior’s foster mum, his family support worker and teacher. His social worker was also there.

The meeting started with a cup of coffee and the various people arriving at staged times. We started off by talking with the family support worker, who has known Junior for the longest time. She explained about the family situation, and how Junior ended up being in care. Most of what she had told us was in the CPR, but there were little tit bits that we hadn’t known before (e.g. his grandmother hadn’t said goodbye to him!).

Then the foster carers arrived, not just foster mum but foster dad too. They were very friendly and we asked for a warts and all version, not the rose tinted glasses one as we were already sold on. That’s what we got!! We got to ask them lots of questions that only they would know the answers too, like what he eats for breakfast & what are his favourite toys, as well as listening intently to what else they had to tell us about him.

Finally we were very lucky that his teacher was able to join us. We felt very privileged as she is with Junior for probably what is the biggest chunk of his waking day. She described him as being bright and friendly, easy to get on with, a little naughty at times, but able to take criticism and politely know when to back down.

We found the whole meeting invaluable. We really did appreciate all the time that the foster carers, social workers and his teacher had given up to come to chat with us.
The meeting ended with just us and juniors social worker. She looked at us expectantly once everyone else had gone. We both looked at her and said, almost in unison: “Don’t worry, it hasn’t put us off.” She breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Matching Panel – here we come!!

Hear more about Ali's adoption journey at: http://www.juniorcampbell.blogspot.com/

Monday, 1 November 2010

Failed IVF leads to a heart warming story of adoption

As part of National Adoption Week we will be sharing adoption stories every day, starting with Ros and her husband Garry, who adopted a two year old boy. Ros shares with us the highs and lows of adoption and parenthood.


Ten years ago, after three failed attempts at IVF, we asked ourselves if we could love a child that wasn’t our own. We knew the climate for adoption had changed – it was no longer a case of newborn babies being relinquished by young mothers. Many of the children up for adoption are older, with troubled family histories. So we thought long and hard about it and, in the end, decided that we could.

For the next year we investigated adoption agencies and talked to social workers. We attended workshops in overheated rooms with name tags and flip charts, taking part in embarrassing role play between coffee and biscuits. We heard difficult, painful, stories about how some children came into care. Undaunted, we signed on with a voluntary agency and spent the next six months being asked deeply personal questions by our social worker for the home study. I didn’t mind, in fact I quite enjoyed it. It made us realise how committed we were.

After we were approved by an adoption panel we were thrown into limbo. It was a strange, occasionally distressing time. We were sent details of children whose life stories gave me a glimpse of a cruel, hellish world. Others just didn’t feel right and it felt awful turning them down. Friends around us began to have children and our vision of becoming parents seemed to be slipping away.

Then, in March 2004, our social worker rang with details of a little boy. We’d found our son. We were sent a photograph – he was wearing pyjamas and a huge grin, his hands clenched in excitement. We’d say ‘Hello’ to his picture every morning.

After being approved by the matching panel, we spent an introductory week with him in the small coastal town where he’d lived with his foster carers since birth. It was a surreal experience. He was an early riser, so we’d be round there by 6am, barely awake. When we took him out for the day I felt as if we’d kidnapped him: we were in charge of a child that wasn’t ours, and didn’t quite know what to do with him.

He was funny, bright and easy-going but by the end of the week I was gripped by fear. I felt as if I was about to do a parachute jump but couldn’t throw myself from a plane. In a tearful conversation with our social worker I was reassured that it was a perfectly normal reaction and that I’d get through it. In many ways adoption is like an arranged marriage. You don’t instantly love the child you’ve been matched with. You have to wait for love to come.

He came to live with us the week before his 2nd birthday. The first few months were exhilarating and exhausting. My overriding feeling was one of inadequacy – I didn’t have a clue. I winged it, and hoped no one noticed. It didn’t help that for the first six weeks he called us both Garry (my husband’s name), which he’d call out loudly in swing parks.

But slowly we fell in love and six years on and he is at the heart of our life. There may be challenging times ahead – he’ll have to come to terms with his history and what has happened to him – but hopefully we’re giving him the confidence and understanding to deal with it. I can’t remember life before him and I can’t imagine life without him.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Control Freak: a story about leaving care

Control Freak is BAAF’s first novel aimed at teenagers. Told in diary form it follows Holly Richards over one summer as she juggles the challenges of leaving care with the trials and tribulations of teenage life and family trauma. Author Henrietta Bond reveals the story behind the book.


I first saw Holly at a bus stop. Just for an instant - as I was driving past in my car. She’d been in my head for several months but she hadn’t taken a shape of any sort. But there she was a confident, attractive looking young girl with longish hair and wearing the plaid shirts that were very popular at the time, together with denim shorts and black wool tights. I seem to recall she was on her mobile – looking extremely purposeful.

I’ve wanted to write about young people leaving care for a very long time. As a media trainer I’ve spent many years helping young people to make their voices heard, and as part of that I’ve heard all sorts of experiences, good, bad - and often somewhere in between.

Through the years I’ve also interviewed many foster carers for various articles and books I’ve written (several for BAAF) and I’m always amazed by the stories they tell about the difficulties faced by young people in their care – and the patience and commitment they put into helping young people to succeed. And how they hang on in there, through thick and thin, enabling these young people to find a sense of belief in their future. Allowing space for them to make mistakes but keep going – in the way that most ‘regular’ families would.

My aim was to capture something of the complexity of those stories. Something that would both challenge stereotypes of being in foster care but also reassure young people who are care-experienced that they are not alone. I wanted to write something that would help them understand that they don’t have to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, that it’s OK to admit mistakes and change your mind – that it’s an intrinsic part of developing and becoming a young adult.

Like many authors I get passionately involved with my characters and notice myself becoming a bit of a ‘control freak’ about this book and BAAF – like the good foster carer - has guided me through the process, nurturing my freedom to write, and putting boundaries round me when I overstep the mark.

Most of all, writing Control Freak has been a great deal of fun. It’s one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever known (which doesn’t contain calories). I can’t wait to share that experience with a wider readership – and will be fascinated to know what BAAF readers, and the young people they care for, make of this story.’


To find out more about Control Freak, and to order a copy, visit our website. And if you have read it let us know what you think in the comments section below.












Thursday, 30 September 2010

Two tales of adoption, search and reunion

Karen

From an early age I was aware that I had been adopted. While I was always inquisitive it was not until I turned 30 that I decided it was the right time to trace my birth mother. The main reason for waiting this long was the feelings of guilt attached to my adoptive family, particularly my mum with whom I have a very close relationship.

As a result, I decided not tell my parents that I was going to trace my birth mum. It was a daunting task to take on all alone though, so I contacted an adoption agency who helped prepare me for the journey ahead.

Reading my adoption file was such a bombshell. The biggest shock was finding out that my name had been changed from Anne to Karen. Reading about Baby Anne was surreal. It felt like reading about a complete stranger. If I had not had the support of a social worker sitting alongside me at this point, I don’t know what I would have done.

From my records I read about the difficulties my mother faced in keeping me, as back then illegitimate pregnancies were not socially acceptable. I felt no bitterness or anger towards my birth mother, which when we finally did meet made things easier, although it was still very emotional. We shared photos and information about our pasts and got on well. Although we haven’t met again we do communicate through Facebook. Other than this I would find it difficult to fit my birth mother into my life, as she does not know me as my friends and adoptive family do.

I am extremely grateful for my adoption. I have had a wonderful life, meeting my soul mate, as well as an extremely close circle of friends and family. I do not want to lead a different life. I am also sensitive of the people around me, and wouldn’t want to do anything to upset them.

The thought of an adopted person searching for their birth family on social media sites concerns me, as they do not know that what they are being told is true. The internet can make adoptive people extremely vulnerable as they are often desperate for a quick answer. I was lucky, my search and reunion took only 6 months in total. During this time I was able to find out every detail of my birth, knowing that it was completely accurate. I know for other people it can be much longer, and there is the temptation for shortcuts, but I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. In all circumstances adoption involves pain and loss on both sides. Who knows what may be in your file - it could be deeply unsettling.

My advice for other adopted people is always have an intermediary such as a social worker, on hand to prepare you for all possible outcomes.


Alice

Since beginning my search for my birth mother I hae realised that there are no guarantees in life. I knew this before I started. But when you're about to search for the person that, in society, should always be there for you, I guess I thought it might be different.

I spent ten years searching for my birth mother. The reason it took so long was due to the amount of information I needed to work through. With each new bit of information I found I had to take time to process it and consider what it meant. It was a long and hard process and one where the final outcome was not positive. However it allowed me to put things into perspective with my adoptive family, my husband and most importantly my son!

My birth mother was not young when she had me - she was 26. But she came from a Greek Orthodox background, where having a child out of wedlock was not acceptable. She was sent to the UK on her own to give birth. After she had me she went to back to Greece. A year later she went to Sweden, and has stayed there for the past 35 years, not once communicating with her family back in Greece.

When I got it contact it came as a huge shock to her. She wrote a very angry and hurtful letter to me saying: "It doesn't happen this way. You don't get in contact with your biological mother and some sort of magic will change everything." Following the letter I spent a lot of time crying, and feeling very angry.

Since receiving that letter two years ago I have wondered whether sometimes things are best left to the unknown. However, for me this is very hard to accept. When you're adopted you are always searching, and have all these questions that only your birth mother can answer.

Oh dont get me wrong, I would love the answers (i.e who is my father and what is his name) especially now that the Pandora's box has been opened. Maybe one day she will write and tell me... but suspect she wont.

The experience has made me stronger, however there will always be a longing to know the answers to my questions, but one that I know that I no longer need to pursue.


If you are interested in tracing birth relatives visit www.adoptionsearchreunion.org.uk





Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Tips for adopted people on tracing birth relatives

Starting your search for birth relatives can be a daunting task. Here are some tips for adopted people to help you on your way.

Don’t start the journey until the time is right for you
Start the search and reunion journey when you feel the time is right for you. Don’t feel pressurised by others to embark on something you are not ready for or that does not feel comfortable for you.

Be aware of those involved
Most searches and reunions have a positive outcome. Welcomed and happy reunions can be exciting and consuming, but don’t forget about the other people around you. It’s important not to make them feel left out.

Prepare yourself for potential outcomes
Remember all reunions are unique, but it is good to have considered some of the potential positive and difficult outcomes that you may encounter along the way.

Consider the process from different perspectives
Sharing your thoughts and feelings, and thinking about how other people might be feeling can help you understand the search and reunion process from all the different perspectives.

Use an intermediary for initial contact
Do use an independent intermediary if you can - contacting birth relatives out of the blue can be exciting but also unsettling. Using an intermediary gives the person being contacted time to consider what the reunion will mean for them and their family.

Seek out support
Make sure you have the support you need. Talk to people you trust such as adoption counsellors, partners or friends, or join a support group to talk about your hopes, fears and expectations.

Be realistic and flexible in your expectations
Think about the expectations you have about the search and reunion as well as other people’s too. Sometimes these will not match so you need to think of how you will manage this. Be prepared to adjust your expectations along the way.

Involve your adoptive family in the process
If you can, do try and let your adoptive family know about your search and reunion journey - they may be a good support for you even though they may need reassurance that they will always be your family.

Be aware of the possibility of negative response
Receiving negative responses from birth relatives can be very upsetting and unsettling. Make sure you have people around that you can talk to and who can understand why you feel hurt.
Accept your changing emotions throughout

All people affected by an adoption reunion are likely to have a mixture of feelings about the event that may alter over time. Remember it can take time to get it right and comfortable for


The following is tips about searching that has been summarised from The Adoption Reunion Handbook (which reported the experiences of adopted people who searched for information) by Liz Trinder, Julia Feast and David Howe. Wiley, 2004 and has been included on this website with kind permission of the publisher.

For further information about adoption, search and reunion visit our website at www.adoptionsearchreunion.org.uk



Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Adoption, search and reunion: when and how is right to trace birth family members

Over the years I have had contact with hundreds of adopted people, birth family members and adoptive parents, and it never ceases to amaze me how unique each adoption, search and reunion experience is. What is really important however is that adopted people who are about to embark on a search for birth relatives have time to prepare and think about their motivations and possible outcomes.

Before adopted people begin a search for birth family members, it is important to think about their motivations. Their life and those of others may be changed forever. It is vital they ask themselves a few questions at the start. For example, what do they want to achieve by tracing and contacting the birth family? Is it to satisfy curiosity, to complete a family tree, to clarify the past? Do they want to establish or renew a longed-for relationship?

It may be a combination of these questions and others. Sometimes motivations are hard to put into words, but it is helpful to be as clear about these as possible. By thinking things through in advance, the adopted person will be more prepared for what may lie ahead .

People also need to think about, and prepare themselves for, the range of positive as well as negative outcomes they may encounter. For example, how will they feel if the person you find does not respond or does not want contact? What if they learn that their birth relative has died or cannot be located? What if the birth relative does not want contact or not as much as the adopted person would like?

The majority of search and reunion stories have generally positive outcomes. Even when the contact and reunion has not worked out, it is not unusual to hear adopted people say that they are glad that they searched. Often they will have gained more background information and are now living with a reality, not a fantasy.

It is vital that adopted people have support when they are searching for birth family members. Such support can be provided by the adoption agency that was involved in the adoption. Alternatively the adoption team at the local authority where the adopted person lives can help. Adoption workers can be a good source of support when the search is frustrating, or leads to sad or disappointing information. They can help the adopted person talk through their hopes and fears, as well as the decisions they may need to make along the way. They can also act as an intermediary and make the initial approach when the birth relative has been located.

BAAF’s Adoption Search Reunion website has lots of helpful information for adopted people as well as for birth and adoptive relatives. Tomorrow we’ll be back with some handy tips for adopted people who want to locate and make contact with birth relatives.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Family connections through the eyes of an adopted child

The family connections of adopted children can be very complicated and confusing. An adoptive father shares with us how his son explained his own family tree with a drawing.

My 9 year old son was asking me the difference between step-brothers and sisters, and half-brothers and sisters, so this gave us an opportunity to sit and talk about how children are created and how he relates to his (half) brother who we have also adopted.

He then sat down and drew this picture (below). At first I couldn’t work out what he’d drawn, but then he explained; along the top row were his birth mother, birth father, and the other 2 men his mother had had children with. Along the middle line were all his siblings. Finally along the bottom, was me and my partner, and the other adoptive parents than make up his siblings families.

Despite all the training, it wasn’t until I looked at this diagram, that it really brought home the complexity of my boy’s life.


For more information on how to talk to your children about adoption visit the BAAF Bookshop.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Week in the Life Of...Be My Parent Deputy Editor


Felicity Francis, Deputy Editor of Be My Parent, provides insight into a typical week in the Be My Parent office.

The hum of activity in the Be My Parent editorial team always follows a monthly wave: children’s profile writing, chasing social workers for information, proofreading profiles and sending the newspaper to print, before starting the process again with booking in referrals. But all of this is mixed in with writing web profiles, writing features for the website – and this week for the November National Adoption Week issue – editing video clips, reviewing website content and doing a bit of marketing. I’ve only been here six weeks and I’m still in the process of understanding our team’s fine mechanics, but I already know that we don’t often have time to spare!

I begin Monday by writing profiles for the website as I’m waiting for the newspaper proofs. I’m often affected by children’s profiles, but one today is particularly heart-breaking. A little girl has had such a sad time so far in life that, in the social worker’s words, she appears ‘frozen’. When she’s given a toy she just sits and holds it, not knowing how to play. I really hope she finds a family soon!
Another profile is for a baby who has some complicated medical conditions. We’re lucky to have a short film clip of this boy, which Isabelle, the editor of Be My Parent, has checked and uploaded on the website. Children with video clips tend to receive more enquiries because prospective adopters can get a more rounded idea of the child.
Writing profiles for the newspaper can be really tricky, because a standard profile is only 175 words. When a social worker sends two pages of information, we just have to cut it down. But how should I decide what is more important to tell prospective families? That the little boy won a prize for writing a short story at school or that he finds it hard to give people cuddles? How should I balance including crucial medical needs with words that let the child’s personality shine through?
Tuesday begins with the first set of proofs. After Dinah, the editorial and production officer for the newspaper, checks that all the children are in the right place with the right details and photo, I proofread the entire paper. This takes some time, but I’m one of those strange people who loves checking grammar!
I end Tuesday on a lovely note; I interview a family who recently adopted a little girl. They are so happy and feel so blessed to have their daughter, and the support from their families has been incredible. The feature is for our special National Adoption Week of the newspaper, which goes out to a lot of prospective adopters, so I hope their story will encourage even more families to adopt.
On Wednesday I have another look through the proofs after writing the feature – there is a lot of to’ing and fro’ing between me and the printers to make sure everything’s right. I get a phone call from a social worker who wants to make a last minute change, as sadly a child’s birth mother has passed away. Changes will come trickling in until we go to press, as it can take some social workers a while to get back to us!
On Thursday I turn my mind to reviewing websites pages. A lot of people come to Be My Parent online for information, so it’s important that it’s up to date, well structured and fresh. I’ve got a lot of ideas for developing the website, so watch out for changes to the site over the next year!
Emily, the editorial and production officer for the website, leads the process of publishing children online, but Dinah and I do this too. It’s quite a complicated method of checking the information and photos and adding links to the glossary pages. We’re getting more and more web only referrals these days, so we need to make sure we keep on top of this.
Friday is a happy day – a sibling group got placed! We don’t always find out when children who have been featured find a family, but when we do it’s always a brilliant feeling. It can be very hard to find adopters for sibling groups so we’re particularly happy. What a lovely end to the week!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

What does an adoption and fostering press officer do?

 Jane Elston is the press officer at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering. She explains what a press officer in adoption and fostering actually does.

I’m usually one of the first in the office around 8 o’clock and, whilst I love working in an atmosphere of camaraderie and chaos that is the open plan office. I really relish the calm and peace of the first hour or so when it’s just me, my coffee and the day’s newspapers.

By 9 o’clock the phones start ringing. Along with the usual calls from journalists asking for stats or general information, there is always something that isn’t routine, with everyday bringing a different challenge.

On Monday myself and one of our consultants, have a meeting with a TV producer who is researching a documentary about looked after children. The producer would like BAAF’s input on what the most important issues are, especially as she is well aware that this is a subject that has to be treated with great sensibility and sensitivity. Through the press office, BAAF is always being contacted by programme makers of both fiction and non-fiction who are working on projects about adoption and fostering. Although BAAF won’t necessarily get a mention, we endeavour to help as we feel it’s important that the right information is given out to the public, and that the issues are treated in a sensitive way.

Tuesday sees me working on a pitch to secure coverage in regional press for BAAF’s new scheme ‘Adoption Champions’ as part of National Adoption Week (1-7 November). We have asked adoption experienced people to be ‘Adoption Champions’ and help ‘spread the word’. The uptake has been really successful and one of our fantastic media volunteers, a single adoptive mum whose daughter is now a teenager has signed up. She is happy to be interviewed by the regional press in her area so I have written a press release about our mum to send out to the local papers and radio stations. BAAF is so grateful to all our wonderful media volunteers who generously share their time and adoption stories with a wider audience through the media.

On Thursday it’s a big treat – I get to leave the office! BAAF’s Fundraising Officer, Daisy, and I go for a meeting with BAAF patron and TV’s favourite hairdresser, Andrew Barton, at his gorgeous salon in Covent Garden. Andrew is adopted and is a fantastic supporter of BAAF. He has very generously offered to host a fundraising event at his salon. It will be a glamorous evening with guests enjoying champagne and canapés as they have exclusive hair and make-up consultations with Andrew and his top experts. Daisy and I became very excited when Andrew, on top of all the other wonderful things he is offering to help us with, suggests that the BAAF volunteers helping with the event (i.e. us) should be given red carpet hair for the evening! BAAF is so lucky to have Andrew and all our other patrons who are so generous with their time and support.

As the week draws to a close, I am in contact with a producer from BBC Radio 4 who is making a programme about attachment disorder. As well as arranging for our Director of Policy, John Simmonds, to take part in the panel discussion, I arrange for the producer to talk with one of our media volunteers. They agree to do a pre-recorded, anonymous, interview about her experiences, which will be used throughout the show.

This is just a glimpse of what I get up to as BAAF’s press officer, but whatever I am doing, it is always interesting and incredibly fulfilling and satisfying. I LOVE MY JOB!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Insight into the Adoption Register for England and Wales


Andy Stott, Manager of the Adoption Register for England & Wales, takes us through how the service runs and the difference it is making to the lives of vulnerable children.


The Adoption Register is an important national tool for local authorities in finding families for looked after children in need of adoption. The Register is run by BAAF on behalf of the Department for Education and the Welsh Assembly Government. It has been run by BAAF for over five years, and I have been the manager throughout this period.

Previously I had managed a local authority adoption team. I made the move because I felt strongly that the Register could make a real difference to the lives of harder to place children.

At the beginning of August 2010 there were around 1100 children on the Register, and each day we get between 15 and 20 new referrals from local authorities. These children are typically of school age, to be placed with brothers and sisters, disabled and/or from a black and minority ethnic background. They are children for whom their local authority has been unable, or is unlikely, to find a family locally.

At the beginning of August, there were also around 820 approved prospective adopters on the Register. Prospective adopters can be referred to the Register by their adoption agency, or they can refer themselves. However, it is important to note that not all approved prospective adopters, or children in need of adoption, come to the notice of the Register (see Adoption Register for further details of the targeted referral system).

The role of the Register team is to identify potential matches between prospective adopters and children on the Register. Over the last five years or so, more than 1150 children have been matched at local authority adoption panel as a result of potential matches identified by the Register. This is a significant achievement, and the Register has now become an integral part of the adoption family finding process in England and Wales.

The Register team also holds a number of adoption exchange days every year. At exchange days approved prospective adopters can look at the profiles of children awaiting adoption and discuss these with the children’s social workers, and sometimes see DVD’s of them as well.

We held two national exchange days at the start of July in Manchester and London. These were attended by over 150 prospective adopters and 50 local authorities. Exchange days bring children to life for adopters. At such an event, it is not unusual for up to 20 children to be matched with families in a single day.

Details of future exchange days can be found on the website.




Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Our first holiday with our adopted sons took an unexpected turn

In the second of our holiday blogs, Paul describes his experience of taking away his adopted sons for the first time, but it wasn't quite what his oldest son was expecting.

Our 2 boys moved in with us in October 2006 and were aged 3 and 5 at the time. During training we’d realised that stability was important, and not to introduce change, new environments or people too quickly, but by February half term the following year, we thought they’d be ready for a long weekend at Center Parcs.

We spent time explaining to them where we were going, and all the great activities they could do there, and they were both very excited by it.

Unfortunately we had a heavy drop of snow the night before we went, so we didn’t leave as early as we had hoped, and we were a little worried about travelling in such bad weather, perhaps something the children picked up on, but by 3pm on Friday we set out. All was going well, and the conditions were improving, but just 5 miles from the motorway the traffic stopped! It was getting dark, and we were all bored, and there we sat for 3 hours waiting for an accident to be cleared. We eventually made it to Center Parcs around 10pm that night, so it was a fun bath for the boys in the whirlpool bubble-generating bath and a late night before going to bed!

The next day started well with fun in the pool, but as the day went on our oldest became slightly distracted, although we put that down to being tired. It wasn’t until that evening, back at the chalet, that he picked up one of our mobile phones, that displayed a picture of them sitting at home and he said “that was at our old house”. The penny dropped, they thought we had moved house. Before arriving with us, they had moved around a variety of flats and B&B’s and sometimes had to leave quickly for a variety of reasons. Our stressful journey to Center Parcs in the appalling weather, and then the new “happy” environment perhaps reminded him of some of these moves.

It made us realise that, although they had settled in very well with us, there remained a sense of insecurity and that we still had a long way to go before they would feel totally at ease.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Our first holiday as an adoptive family

Summer is here and it's time for holidays. But what's it like going away for the first time as a new family that's come together through adoption? In the first of a two part series about summer breaks, we hear from adoptive father, and author of Frozen, Mike Butcher, about a holiday of a lifetime.

As a couple in our early 40s, my wife and I have had plenty of time to enjoy some very special holidays. We’ve travelled the world, seen the sights and experienced adventures of one kind or another in more than 30 different countries. I suppose that’s what happens when you don’t have children. The arrival of our wonderful baby boy, just seven months old when he came to live with us in September 2009, signalled an end to all that and the beginning of a new era of ‘new-parent paranoia’, serious responsibilities and acute nervousness about any kind of travel with our son on board. We were also conscious of his (and our!) need to settle into new routines and into what had finally become our ‘family’ home.

So in July this year it was with some considerable excitement (and a little trepidation) that we set off on our first holiday as a family. Not to some far-flung destination, but instead to a lovely little two-bedroom lodge in mid-Devon, just on the edge of Exmoor. Naturally, the journey there took longer than expected (refuelling stops for us, the car and our little one are all factors we are learning to take account of these days), but when we arrived the sun was shining and our son sprang into life, eagerly exploring our temporary home with great amusement. It is surprising how quickly you can collect up all the ornaments around a new place and relocate them to a higher shelf. And if you miss one, well, it only takes a nanosecond or two for a toddler to find it for you!

The next 24 hours saw no less than four brief visits to local supermarkets to stock up on food and a handful of items we had forgotten despite our meticulous planning. Our son was beginning to think that we had come all this way to tour the local grocery stores, but a couple of new toys to play with in the car helped placate him and he seemed to forgive his foolish parents. Finally, we made it to the beach and everything was looking up. A giant sandpit... no, a really giant sandpit!

At first, I think our little boy was quite overwhelmed by it all. He just plonked his bum on the sand, waved his bucket and spade in the air and looked around in wonder. We made him small sandcastles and he knocked them all down, laughing merrily at his sandy trail of destruction. It was lovely! At last, he got used to the feel of the sand between his feet and set off running around the beach, with poor Daddy doing his best to keep up and make ‘sand-monster’ noises at appropriate moments.

Despite some up-and-down weather, lots more fun ensued over the new few days: a trip to a model railway; visits to several different beaches; and many ducks were fed at the local lake. Our son was having the time of his life and so were we, but come the end of our week, we were all ready to head for home. Our little boy couldn’t actually tell us what he wanted, but there was something in his eyes that said: “Can I have all my regular toys back now? And my house, and my garden.” With the car packed up for our return journey, he settled into his baby seat with a contented smile and showed his approval by managing to sleep for almost three quarters of our drive home.

The broad smile on our son’s face when he walked into his living room in his house – our ‘family’ living room in our ‘family’ house – was just as good as the holiday itself. And it made us realise that you can keep your fortnights in Mauritius and your explorations of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The holiday of a lifetime? We’ll take sitting on a beach on the North Devon coast with our coats on and dodging raindrops while our little boy digs a big hole in the sand anyday!

Frozen is available from the BAAF Bookshop or via Amazon.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A week in the life of an adoption and fostering trainer

At BAAF we provide training for professionals in adoption and fostering. Here we give you a glimpse into their busy lives and the contribution they make to children separated from their birth families. We start off this week with the highs and lows of Andy Sayers, a trainer in BAAF's Southern Division.


Monday.
Travelled to Exeter today for a Child Appreciation Day (CAD) training session for Devon County Council. As many people who have known the child as possible are invited to a CAD to contribute anecdotes and memories to pass on to prospective adopters. The facilitator takes people on a guided journey of the child’s life and asks them to see it from a child’s perspective. I did the first part of the training last year and stayed in a lovely B&B in Totnes, where I had a great curry and bought myself a ukulele. This time I’m staying in a Holiday Inn on a roundabout in the middle of nowhere.

Tuesday.
The venue for the CAD training is a disused secondary school. It’s swelteringly hot and participants have to bring their own lunch. How times have changed!

The training goes really well, however, and everyone is enthusiastic about putting plans into action. I later hear from the organiser of the day that several participants (including managers) remarked that it was the best training they have ever had. (Note to self: ask BAAF for a rise).

I finally get home at 10pm.Take out the Devon training packs and replace with ones for Milton Keynes Council.

Wednesday.
IRM (Independent Review Mechanism) training for Milton Keynes today. The IRM is a service where people can appeal fostering and adoption decisions. The training was for fostering panel members and social workers, to inform them of the structure and workings of the IRM and how it may affect them.

Before I leave the house I do a training inventory. Training packs plus pens etc – check! Laptop – check! Projector – check! Speakers – check! Extra leads – check! Train tickets and venue map - check! The older I get the more checks I have to do. I really worry about forgetting things, like the training day itself or turning up in the right place at the wrong time or vice versa.

Getting on the train to Milton Keynes and I show my ticket to inspectors. They ask to see my charity ID as my ticket had been booked through their Charity Line (a discounted service for people who work for charities). I have never been asked for this before and have to rummage around in my work bag for any ID. Eventually I managed to find a crumpled business card, which after a lot of pleading, was accepted. I get on the train by the skin of my teeth.

On arrival at Milton Keynes my ticket would not go through the machine. I’m told by another Virgin employee that my ticket was only valid for travel after 9am. Since I was travelling before then I would have to pay another £76. I explained that I had paid for an 8.20am seat reservation, so how could this happen. His response: ”Seat reservations and tickets are not connected.” When arguing that maybe Virgin should not have sold me this ticket, he replied: “It is your responsibility to check!” After causing a big tailback he reluctantly lets me through with a wagging of his finger.

I get in a cab with a very chatty driver and gave him my map. As it was a very hot and stuffy day we had the windows open. All of a sudden a suicidal pigeon came zooming through my open window and landed by my side. After both screaming (that’s me and the driver, not the pigeon – although he/she may well have screamed in ‘pidgin English’) the driver pulled over. I opened the door and we bade farewell to a confused but otherwise ok pigeon.

I arrived safely at my training and was directed to the room. I started setting up my equipment and waited for the people to begin to arrive. As people start to filter in one of the participants approaches me and asks why was I running this group for women only? I explained that in my training men are usually outnumbered 20:1.She looked at me strangely and began talking to the others. Then the penny dropped - I had been shown to the wrong venue and was in the roomfor the 'women's group'!

In the end the training was well attended and well received. There was a nice lunch too!

Thursday.
Off to Barnet today to meet a social worker to plan the facilitation of a Child Appreciation Day. The meeting goes well and boosts my faith in social work. Here was a social worker fully informed and up to date. She spoke about three young children with true passion and was a real advocate for them.

Friday.
Working from home today –phew! This gives me time to go through the feedback sheets from training, email the people who commissioned the training with comments and see if they require anything else. I write up my notes from the Barnet meeting and email the social worker, plus her manager, to say how impressed I was by her knowledge and commitment.

At 4pm I get a text from a friend asking if I’m free for a game of tennis at 5pm - you bet! It’s my wife’s birthday party tomorrow– 28 people for a Keralan curry and a birthday cake shaped like a pair of running shoes.


Thursday, 29 July 2010

How we made our adoption film

As we launch our new adoption film, BAAF’s PR and; Media Manager, explains how the concept for the video was developed.


If a picture can tell a thousands words, then video can tell even more. With an issue like adoption, that carries so many emotions, it is the perfect vehicle. Yet making a film about adoption isn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking. Therefore we asked ourselves how we could bring a new lease of life to the format, to ensure we captured people’s imaginations.

While many films of this type use a string of adoption experts in ‘talking heads’ format, we though it could be more powerful if we simply had the children talking. After all, adoption is a service for them. We were lucky enough to know a family who had adopted three children, all of whom have flourished. The children represented a mix of those who traditionally wait longest – sibling groups, older children and boys. Through their stories we could show people that adoption isn’t about new born babies ‘given up’ for adoption, but about children with complex backgrounds and a range of needs.

I also really liked the fact that each of the children, even the two sisters, had such different stories to tell. And their unique personalities really shone through in their interviews. They had the courage to speak honestly about their problems – from jealousy and rivalry, to bickering and fighting. But there was also no doubt that they loved each other very much, and they helped each other through any problems.

When making a film about adoption, you are often faced with the problem of how to illustrate life before the adoption. There may be photos here and there, but they never show the whole picture. So we came up with the idea of using animation. It was the perfect tool as it gave us images where we had none, and was an easy solution to protecting identities.

The feedback we’ve had from our film so far has been really positive, with orders from adoption agencies pouring in. However we hope that it isn’t just professionals who use it. We want it to become a valuable resource for our Adoption Champions, who will be running events in their local communities during National Adoption Week. They can use the video to illustrate the real voices of children who need permanent and loving families. We believe it will have a powerful effect on prospective adopters.

To become an Adoption Champion yourself visit our website.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Adoption family matching through video

Mo O'Reilly, Director Child Placement at BAAF, explains how we are constantly striving to find new ways of family finding for children waiting for adoption.


When we launched the Be My Parent website in May 2007, we were asked by many social workers about our plans to show videos of children being featured for family finding. ‘Do you know that it works?’ they asked. ‘Do you think it will make a difference to children finding families?’ All good questions, which we could not really answer. At the time there was little out there that we could point to, to help us answer them.

We were sure they would help as the 3-4 minute video clip embedded in a written profile of the child really conveyed the ‘essence of the child’. So we decided to raise some funds and do the research ourselves.

In December 2007, we started a video project in BAAF to assess the impact videos had on finding families for a cohort of children. We had some money donated to us from the Dorus Trust, BBC Children in Need and Marsh Insurance which allowed us to offer FREE videos to local authorities for children they were family finding for. In return they agreed to participate in answering our questionnaires and telephone interviews.

We worked with two brilliant film companies who made excellent videos of the children. Fifty videos and 66 children later, we have finished the project and written up our findings. Our report ‘Seeing the Difference?’ is published at the end of July and will be distributed free of charge to BAAF member local authorities.

So what did we find? Well...
• 96% of social workers saw the film clip as a valuable tool and would use them in future to feature children.
• Children featured in the research received more enquiries than other children featured online.
• 60% of social workers agreed that the videos played an important part in attracting enquiries.
• 83% of families found the videos ‘very helpful’.
• Social workers used the video in very creative ways to find families for children.
• Children, most of whom lose touch with much of their personal history when they come into care, get to keep a video of a time in their life that they can look back on for years to come.

If I had a magic wand then every child in need of a family would have a good quality video as part of their family finding effort...automatically. But in these times of financial stricture, that seems unlikely...sadly.

To find out more about how we use videos in family finding, visit the website.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Are you adopted and trying to find a member of your family?

Are you trying to find a member of your family? Has your search gone cold? Or do you just not know where to begin? You may be a birth parent, adopted person, a separated sibling, estranged parent or someone who has grown up in care - hoping to be reunited with lost relatives.

From the makers of the hit family history series Who Do You Think You Are? a new documentary programme called Long Lost Family with Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall will aim to reunite long lost families.

If you are over the age of 18, have experienced family separation and now feel ready to seek a reunion then please get in touch.

Go to www.walltowall.co.uk and follow the link to the application form.

Alternatively, please write to Find My Family, Wall to Wall Television, 8-9 Spring Place, London, NW5 3ER for an application form.


** This is not a BAAF project **

Friday, 16 July 2010

Response to Facebook questions on featuring children online

Following questions on Facebook, here is some further information on why and how we profile children waiting for adoption online, from our Director of Child Placement.

Every year in the UK there are about 70,000 children who are in public care. About 5000 of these children can never return home safely and new permanent families are sought to look after them. In an ideal world we would have many families waiting to embrace these children and be willing to make a life long commitment to them. Thankfully each year, thousands of families do make this commitment but each year we fall short of the number we need. In an effort to attract more and new families to adoption or permanent fostering, we give information about children waiting for families. We do not ‘advertise’ them.
There is evidence from research that seeing images of the child increases the likelihood of response. How can we ask families to consider parenting children without the benefit of seeing the children and giving ‘chemistry’ a chance to work? For many children the level of response is low and agencies have to work very hard to find families for children, most of whom have already had a difficult start in life through no fault of their own.
Often agencies turn to Be My Parent after exhausting more local possibilities of finding families.
No child is featured on the BeMyParent site without consent of the Court or their Local Authority who are acting in loco parentis. Every subscriber to the site goes through a registration process and a credit card check before they can access the children’s profiles to confirm that they are UK resident and their details match up. On the site we have three levels of security and one of these levels only allows access to children’s profiles to people who have been successfully Police checked. However the best guarantee of security for the child is to ensure that no identifying information about the child, such as family name or current location, is included in profiles that otherwise try to give a balanced view of the child.

I appreciate that relatives of children featured might find this difficult. However we need to do what is in the best interest of the child, and finding them a permanent new family who will give them a chance to grow into healthy independent adults, is definitely in their best interest.

Adoption and permanent fostering is fantastically successful in turning children’s lives around. We remain committed to doing everything we can to promote this.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Creating sustainable futures for children

If we care about children we must look at issues that affect them now and in the future. We believe that climate change is a reality and the ones most affected are children.

The services we provide are essential, but we recognise they are also energy intensive. From the paper we use to print leaflets, books and newspapers, to the water used in our air conditioning systems - all of it has an impact on our environment.

To address these concerns a group of volunteers at BAAF set up the Sustainability Action Team. The team look at every function of BAAF’s operation, and see if there are ways to make the organisation more sustainable. So far a waste recycling system has been introduced; we have installed energy saving devices on electrical equipment; we have introduced a Cycle to Work scheme; and we have done an audit of our paper and printing services to ensure that we are using either recycled paper, or paper from sustainable forests.
Our latest challenge in our Head Office and Southern Region office, is to sign up to the 10:10 campaign. The campaign aims to get people to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% within the next year. We will be doing this across three key areas: fuel usage; vehicle usage; and flights. We are exploring the possibility of rolling the initiative out across our regional offices later in the year.

Climate change is an issue that affects all of us, but particularly children. If you want to see what you can do as an individual to tackle climate change why not sign up to the 10:10 as well.
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