Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Top ten tips on social media and contact in adoption and fostering

Following the launch last week of our guides on managing contact in adoption and fostering and social media, we have brought you a handy top ten tips to get you going. The full guides for both parents and professionals are available to purchase on our website.

Top ten tips

1. Talk openly and honestly with your children about social media, contact issues and the risks involved. Then work together to come up with solutions.

2. Look at privacy settings so that your children’s profile can not be seen publicly, and also hide lists of ‘friends’.

3. Explain to your children the risks involved in accepting random unknown people as ‘friends’.

4. Make sure they are not making public information that could help identify them, such as their date of birth or address.

5. Discuss the possibility of using a nickname online instead of their real name, perhaps even having an unusual spelling (e.g N1ck Sm1th).

6. Avoid using profile pictures. Instead use the default pictures or something generic like flowers, landscapes, football team logos etc.

7. Children should be discouraged from posting any information about their school or local area.

8. Don’t tag children in photos posted online, and ask friends and family to be aware of this also.

9. Make sure your children are aware of the risks of joining groups or networks that identify where they live or go to school.

10. Make sure your children know how to ‘block’ people so that if they do receive unwanted contact it can be managed.

For more information about contact in adoption and fostering visit the Be My Parent website

Photo posed by models by Sharon Aldridge-Bent

Monday, 21 June 2010

Andrew Barton becomes new adoption patron at BAAF

Adopted person and celebrity hairdresser Andrew Barton SRH, shares his experience of being adopted and why he has become a BAAF Patron.

Becoming a patron for the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) is an honour. As an adopted child myself I care deeply about how adoption is perceived. Being a patron of this amazing cause and its work to help children, adults and families is dear to my heart and one I want to use every opportunity I can to sing its praises. Life is about sharing and giving, my life has been blessed and I hope I can help through my media work and profile.

My experience of being adopted is full of joy and happiness; from the moment I arrived into my parents’ life I was their world. I was, and still am, loved like one of their own and when someone asks me about my natural parents, I say they are my natural parents - they are the ones that have shaped me into the man that I am today through their love and care.

My business life is successful and full of exciting opportunities and having a high profile is, I dare say, useful to many charitable organisations and I have been approached by many charities to help their cause. But for me it had to be something that was very personal to me, something I truly "felt about" and was passionately interested in and so I approached BAAF.

I'm very honoured to speak on behalf of BAAF. Its work and my time with the team has been very rewarding. Opportunities like BAAF’s fundraising reception and designer handbag auction ‘Bag Ladies’ where I will be their special guest speaker, give me the chance to share my experiences and make people more aware of what we do at BAAF.

Find out more about Bag Ladies on our website.

Social media risks in adoption

Social media sites, such as Facebook, could pose a serious threat to families involved in adoption. The ease in finding and contacting people through social media sites is already having an impact on many adoptive families, and has the potential to affect many more. Young people are using the internet to trace and contact their birth parents and other birth relatives, while birth relatives are using it to trace their children. While information about birth relatives is important for adopted children, unplanned and unsupported contact through sites like Facebook, by-pass the safeguards that are usually in place. This could cause disruption and upset to a family, and in some extreme cases present a real danger to the child.

While there can sometimes be positive outcomes from contact via social media there are also a number of risks, including:

• A child may not fully understand why they came into care, and therefore not understand the danger they are putting themselves in;
• A birth parent may be unprepared for, and unable to deal with an approach from the young person;
• Some birth mothers belong to a family or community where sex outside marriage is taboo and so may have kept the pregnancy, birth and subsequent adoption a secret.

However, we recognise that social media is here to stay – we can not put the genie back in the bottle. We need to learn how to deal with it in relation to contact issues with birth families. We strongly urge adoptive parents to familiarize themselves with social media, so they are able to talk to their children with confidence about all the issues.

The use of social media needs to be incorporated more generally into understanding the importance of a child’s curiosity about their origins, and how this changes over time. Adoption agencies have developed great expertise about this, and social networking needs to be incorporated into that expertise. Adopters and adoption agencies need to become tech-savvy so they can talk with confidence while recognizing the natural curiosity and the need for information.

As part of their internet safety campaign, we have published a guide called Facing up to Facebook, to help adoptive parents get to grips with social media and the risks it presents.

We are urging social workers to familiarize themselves in all of the aspects of social media so they can support adoptive families. The charity recommend that the issues are discussed in preparation classes; that social workers advise adopters and young people of the risks of tracing through the internet; and explain the benefits of contact through an intermediary. A detailed guide has been produced for professionals, along with a conference in London at the end of this week.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Celebrating gay adoption this Father's Day

Andy and his partner recently became adoptive dads. Andy also runs New Family Social a UK support group for lesbian and gay adopters and foster carers, and he talks here of the positivity in the group.

"We are just coming up to our first father's day as dads, three years after taking the plunge with adoption. We had our ups and downs going through the process, and were lucky to have shared our adoption journey with many other parents-to-be, who, along with their new children, are now good friends.

"When we were taking our first tentative steps, I was surprised that we couldn't find a support group for gay and lesbian adopters. That's why I started New Family Social, which quickly became a very large and active group, with hundreds of adopters, prospective adopters, and now foster carers, all over the UK.

"New Family Social members can share advice, support and news on a private message board, and get together with others in their area. The most important aspect of this is how much it benefits our children, who gain the confidence and resilience of knowing other adopted children of LGBT parents.

"There is a real sense of community and positivity in the group. It's probably true to say that for most of us, adoption was our first choice for forming a family. I work with many adoption agencies in running New Family Social, and staff are often struck by the energy and enthusiasm lesbians and gay men have for adoption, and by our openness to the additional demands of being adoptive parents.

"Some social workers and panel members still have their doubts about the value of lesbian and gay adopters. However, the practitioners and team managers I know who have experience of placing children with these families are unequivocal in their support, and are keen to share their positive experiences with those who still need convincing. New Family Social is working to help with this, as well as with future research, and media work to increase public awareness.

"I have certainly noticed things move forward in the last few years, as more and more children's social workers recognise the specific strengths that lesbian and gay adopters may have. Whereas we were once treated as a "last resort", we are now often seen to offer a helpful mix of skills, experience and positive attitude. There is still some way to go, but many in our group are being chosen, quite quickly, as the preferred parents for the children they enquire about.

"On father's day, we should celebrate all adoptive dads. My partner and I feel very lucky that the law changed in time for us to be able to adopt together, and I love the fact that thousands of LGBT people are now growing up knowing that when the time is right, they can apply to adopt like anyone else. With so many children waiting for adoption, this must be a very good thing."

Check out our shop for books about gay and lesbian adoption.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Adoption through the eyes of a single dad

In today's Father's Day series we hear from a single dad who adopted.

"We have been a family now for over three years. The adoption process was long and arduous, but nothing that was unexpected. The approval panel agreed to a sibling group of two. Shortly after panel the details of the children were sent and 6 months later they moved in. When friends and family heard of the plan to adopt they were not surprised and very supportive.

"The day the children moved in we were sat around the table having dinner and one of them asked: 'Why don’t we have a Mum and just a Dad?' The other replied: 'Because we ARE a team.'

"So we became a team. We don’t see anything different or unusual as we have never known anything else. Occasionally the subject is brought up, but less and less now.

"My biggest regret over the time we have been a family is not writing a diary. I would then see how far we have progressed in such a short time. When they first moved in they had lots of problems. They would run around the screaming. They would run at doors to open them, disappear out of the house, never quite long enough for the police to be called. Meal times had to be exactly at 8, 12, and 5. They could not tell the time, but knew when to panic about food not coming and they ate with their hands.

"I bought them dummies to help them sleep on a night. I would carry keys around the house as they would lock me in or out constantly. They would indiscriminately go up to strangers and cuddle them. Supermarket shopping would involve coaxing one of them down from the highest shelf they could find.

"On the day they were supposed to start school they came out in a chicken pox rash each, and were not allowed to go to school. I was simply desperate for them to start. During the summer months they would wake at dawn and fall asleep at dusk, they would be on the go constantly. I lost so much weight friends were noticing! We would be out of the house as much as possible as their screaming and shouting was less confined.

"So now? Well they can read, swim and ride their bikes. They go to bed at 8.30, and generally sleep through to morning. We still need reminding about table manners at meal times, but delay food without panic. The screaming and shouting has stopped, but we still have the random clapping and trying to make people jump. If we had a list of rules I suppose we would remember our manners, no shouting out, and keep our rooms tidy (mine included!).

"Do I have regrets? Yes, the main one being is that if we had not become a family they would still have had access to so much support, which after adoption becomes a battle to get.

"Would I do it again? I don’t know if I would as it has been the most difficult thing I have ever done.

"Do I wish we had not become a family? Not for one moment. I have experienced so much life through them. We have laughed so much; we have experienced so many highs as well as the lows. I am so proud of them and can not believe what they have come through. There is nothing special about us, we are not unique, and we simply blunder our way through life like everyone else. We simply ARE a team!."

For more information about how to apply for adoption visit our Be My Parent website.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Adoption from a father's perspective

The first in our series of Father's Day adoption blog posts, comes from Shegun.

"I still cannot believe it been its nearly 5years. You gave me a leaf you picked up from the front garden. Without a shadow of doubt I knew this was meant to be.

"Our home was transformed with your early morning cry of Cereal!! Cereal! Cereal!! when you first came to as a 2 years old. I know you love your cereal and I keep your favourite cereal handy even till today.

"The joy you bring is amazing. After a long day, I just want chill out. I have to pick you up from school. You come running out of the school gates arms spread wide to jump into my hands. It is obvious you are glad to see me – it has been a long day. Wow!! All that tiredness just disappears. I am ready to hear you chatter about all the fun things you have done in school. I remember that timid boy who will not say a word. I used to wonder if there was something wrong.

"One of the most memorable days of my life was the day you entered yourself for a recital at the local Poetry festival. I wondered if you really knew what you were getting yourself into. You are very shy and retiring. To stand in front of loads of strange people reciting your poem? I thought this would be too much! But you did it!!! You did it!!! You did it!!! I was over the moon. I shed a tear of joy. I said that’s my boy!!!!!

"Your charm amazes me. You always say in your baby voice, I like your shirt, I like your tie and I like your shoes. Most of all, once when your mother and I had a bit of a tiff, you asked her for a kiss and then you asked her for mine as well. I could see a satisfied smile spread across your face as you saw us touch lips.
"Some say, what is in a name. I say names make a difference. You are Mutesa (Prince). I know you are a Prince and through you many children will be saved. Since starting my adoption marathon, knowing you has affected me so much I am on a mission to help as many children as possible. I know the more I know you the stronger the urge to help children in care will be. One day when you are old enough you will take the mantle from me and continue the work you have starter. One day we will be able to say all hail Prince Joshua!"

Interested in adoption? Visit the Be My Parent website to find out how to apply.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Men urged to consider adoption this Fathers’ Day

Men often get forgotten in adoption but they have a significant role to play in the lives of vulnerable children, particularly boys.

ICM research we commissioned revealed that while women said they would prefer to adopt a girl over a boy, men would adopt boys over girls. There are more boys in care than girls and some boys are waiting longer than girls for families. We believe that if more men take the initiative to find out about adoption, there is a real opportunity to change the lives of many boys.

The ICM research also showed that over half (53%) of the people replying felt that the media portrayed boys in an overly negative way. Men felt this more than women, with 55% of men agreeing, compared to 50% of women.

There are around 4,000 children needing new families in the UK every year. Men could be an untapped pool of people that can make a huge contribution to the lives of some of the most disadvantaged children in the UK.

We know that fathers are important, and men can make a huge difference to children’s lives. This Father’s Day, we hope that we can get more men thinking and talking about the issue. It is a great opportunity to talk to your wife or partner, family and friends and consider whether you could offer a child a loving and permanent new home.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Champions needed for National Adoption Week

Adoptive parents often say that they had never considered adoption until a chance conversation on the subject with a colleague, distant relative or neighbour. The power of seeing and hearing what an amazing thing adoption can be, from someone who has been through it, can be life changing. That’s why, as part of this year’s National Adoption Week, we are launching a new initiative to turn ordinary people in to ‘Adoption Champions’.

Adoption Champions is a national community involvement scheme that encourages adoptive parents and adopted people to go into their local communities and use their experience, passion and enthusiasm for adoption to encourage others to so the same. The initiative is the first of its kind in the sector and we hope that is will help find families for some of the 4000 children waiting for adoption every year in the UK.

An estimated one in four people have a connection to adoption so there is a real possibility of creating an army of literally hundreds of volunteers. Whether you are 18 or 80, if you have had a positive experience of adoption you could have the power to make a difference. You could be the one who helps find a child their ‘forever family’.

We have tried to make the Adoption Champions scheme as straight forward as possible by creating a range of tasks to help spread awareness. Some are simple, like putting up a poster or using social media networks; others are a bit more involved, such as organizing an Adoption Conversations event, but have the possibility to make the biggest impact.

A toolkit has been created to help our Champions in their work. This includes How-To guides, posters, balloons and leaflets. There is also a special social networking website for Adoption Champions where they can share tips and chat with other Champions across the UK. It’s free, its fun and most importantly it all helps children waiting for adoption.

Anyone over 18 with experience of adoption can sign up to the scheme from today. However we are encouraging people to hold off on doing their actions until National Adoption Week (1-7 Nov) so that we can all make a big noise together.

The Adoption Champions scheme is part of BAAF’s 30th anniversary celebrations which will also see a mass participation charity bike ride in September, called Cycle for Children, and a comedy gala in November.

To find out more about the Adoption Champions scheme, and how you can get involved, visit www.nationaladoptionweek.org.uk/champions
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