Friday, 25 February 2011

Turned down for adoption? You have an option: IRM case review demystified.

The IRM (Independent Review Mechanism) for adoption and fostering is operated by BAAF on behalf of the Department for Education. One of its functions is to conduct independent reviews for prospective adopters when their agency is proposing not to approve them as suitable to adopt. As with an agency panel, membership of an IRM panel includes people with personal experience of adoption. Karen, a former panel member shares her experience with us.

I’m an adopted adult; I was adopted as a relinquished baby in 1968. I became an IRM panel member in 2004. I sat alongside social workers, health professionals, and legal professionals. They also have other lay members like me, including adoptive parents and adopted people. It’s about striking a balance of expertise between a professional point of view and a personal point of view.

The IRM works in a similar way to an agency panel. However, IRM members don’t see the minutes of the original agency panel meeting, so they shouldn’t be swayed by the initial decision. It’s important to know that, like the adoption panel, the IRM only makes a recommendation to the agency. The final decision remains with the agency’s decision maker.

The process starts when you receive papers including the applicant’s Prospective Adopter’s Report. This is quite comprehensive and tells you basically everything you need to know about this person’s suitability to adopt, as well as all the interviews that were carried out by the social workers including the evidence gathering. Panel members then identify the applicant’s strengths and any areas for concern. The Chair then gathers information from all panel members to work out what the list of questions should be on the day.

As a panel member, you talk to prospective adopters and encourage them to ask questions also. I always found that meeting applicants and being able to discuss their case with them was crucial to understanding their motivation to adopt. The number one rule in social work is to gather evidence and never make assumptions about people. Panel members want to make sure they really understand the potential of prospective adopters their motivation to adopt. Panel members also need to be satisfied about the applicant’s personal capacity to adopt a child, which includes their support network, and that they understand the challenges of adopting a child from care who may have complex needs.

IRM Panel membership is very rewarding. It is important that applicants have the opportunity to receive an independent review which ensures the adoption system is transparent and fair.

Please be mindful that any opinions and information expressed in this feature are from the perspective of an individual panel member. For the most accurate, up-to-date information on the IRM, please visit:

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Voice in a Millions - fundraising for adoption and fostering

As a top celebrity hairdresser, BAAF Patron Andrew Barton is used to glamour and excitement. But he wasn't quite ready for the amazing time he had helping to raise funds for adoption and fostering at the Voice in a Million Concert at London O2's Arena. Here he shares his experience of that wonderful night.

When I was invited to take part in the Voice in a Million concert at the 02 Arena, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. As a Patron of BAAF and an adopted person I felt honoured to be asked to share my adoption story and talk about the work that BAAF does.

But when I arrived at the 02 and saw 7,500 children rehearsing, and the empty seats which would be filled with an audience of 12,000 people, my stomach started flipping. What had I let myself in for? Would I be able to stand up on that stage and get my words out?
I needn’t have worried. Although I was still nervous, the amazing singing from all the children, especially the young soloists, inspired me. As I walked out I could feel the warmth and support from everyone in the Arena. I can’t put into words the emotions I felt as I spoke about my wonderful parents who adopted me and helped me to become the man I am today.

The sound from all the choirs was incredible. The young vocalists from schools based right across the UK performed a programme of 13 songs, including Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’; the Glee favourite ‘Don’t Stop Believin’; and Guns ‘n’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine. It was a spectacular evening of awe-inspiring family entertainment, and a moving musical journey through the story of adoption and fostering.

Adoptive parents Ann Lowde and Gerald and Diane Keeler recited touching poems dedicated to their children. It was all so emotional – everywhere I looked, I saw people trying to discreetly (and not so discreetly) wipe tears from their eyes.

The two and half hours went by so fast. Suddenly I was back on stage for the final time. I joined the children as they ended the show with an amazing encore of ‘I Want a Mum’. When I looked out at the audience all I could see was a mass of smiling faces, cheering and clapping.

After my wedding and being crowned British Hairdresser of the Year, this was one of the best moments of my life. I would like to thank the organisers of Voice in a Million for giving me the opportunity, and all the children for making it such an incredible experience.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Inside an adoption and fostering publications team

BAAF’s very own Michelle Bell gives her account of life as the Publications Marketing Officer.

BAAF publishes more than 25 books and other resources on adoption and fostering every year and it’s my job to make sure that as many people as possible know what they are about, how they can use them and, of course, how they can get hold of copies. I work as part of a seven-strong Publications team and we all have distinct roles and responsibilities. I’ve been doing my job as Marketing Officer for just over five years and I still really enjoy it. Every book is different, with unique challenges and opportunities, and this keeps my work interesting.

There is no such thing as a typical week for me – my workload is largely driven by which books are published when. As I work part time it’s not always possible for me to read every book we publish so I rely heavily on the book editors in the team, as well as on the authors, to provide me with as much information as possible on each title’s content, key points and potential audience. Some of our books are very niche – like practice guides on specific issues for social workers – whilst others have a far broader appeal. For example, BAAF’s Our Story series explores the highs and lows of adoption through first person accounts and it appeals not just to adopters and childcare professionals but also to anyone who enjoys a good human interest story. Whatever the type of book or the subject matter, I’ve got to get to grips with it quickly.

I make sure that I produce a promotional flyer for all new titles. Thousands of these get used in mailings and at exhibitions, conferences and workshops every year. It’s also important that our books are attractively presented on the BAAF website (and included in other web-based bookshops) as more and more people are searching and shopping for books online.

If a book has just been published I’ll be busy sending out review copies to magazines and journals both in the UK and internationally. Book reviews are a great way of spreading the word about a new title and the good thing about BAAF publications is that bad reviews are few and far between. I can only think of two or three in the last five years! I also send out targeted promotional mailings to BAAF members and customers for very new title. This can be by email or by regular post – it’s just important that the information gets out there.

There are points within the year when I have larger projects to work on in addition to book promotions. For example, we produce four different catalogues and it’s really important to pay attention to details to ensure that everything runs smoothly. These may be small things that nobody else would notice, but they will bug me until I get them right!

Of course there are days when I am just sending emails, putting mailings together or writing copy. But every so often there is the opportunity to work on a really exciting project, like the event we held to celebrate the publication of an anthology called The Colours in Me. The children and young people who contributed their personal experiences of adoption to the book came together at The Drill Hall in London to read their stories and poetry to a packed audience of over 200 people. It was a privilege to hear them, in their words, revealing what it feels like and what it means to be adopted. It’s days like these which really bring my job to life.

Check out all of our books in the BAAF bookshop.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Clare Grogan: Why adoption means so much to me

Actress, singer, adoptive mother and BAAF Patron, Clare Grogan explains her journey to adoption, why it means so much to her, and why she supports BAAF.

I had a huge desire to be a mum. However, what seemed to happen so easily for other people was really hard for us. I became obsessed - it was a really difficult time.

I hadn’t even thought about adoption until a chance meeting with an old friend who had recently adopted a little boy. That day I went straight home and made the call.

Deciding to adopt was so liberating. It was like a new world opened up to me. Finally I was able to let go and accept that there were other routes to parenthood.

The adoption process was tough, but I felt it should be. I thought it was important for the social workers to take time to get to know us. In adoption you really have to learn to put yourself aside – after all, it is a service for children.

Our adoption took about two years from start to finish. When it actually happened it was so overwhelming. It still makes me cry when I think about the day we were at last a family. And I knew, however tough the process had been for us, it wasn’t anything compared to what our daughter had been through.

I’ve given a number of interviews to the media about my experiences. I know how important it is to be able to access information about adoption, and I love being able to help link others with organisations like BAAF. I get people stopping me in the street to ask for advice now. It’s great to connect with people like that.

Last year I became a patron for BAAF, which was an honour. Since then I have become an Adoption Champion, and now I’m encouraging people to get involved with their Valentine’s Day campaign. I love the idea that families can celebrate the day – maybe by sharing a box of chocolates, or writing cards to each other. But for some children who have been separated from their birth families February 14th won’t be anything to celebrate. Their day may be filled with loneliness, confusion and anxiety.

For just £3 you can buy a limited edition ‘virtual’ rose to show you care about a child in care. The money raised will go towards supporting BAAF’s work. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll know how important that is.

Visit the website today and show that you care.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Celebrating Social Media Week with some great online adoption and fostering resources

To celebrate Social Media Week 2011 (7-11 February), we’re paying homage to our favourite online adoption and fostering resources. The following are a collection of the some of the people and places we enjoy – and can’t help going back to! What are you waiting for? Click those Add/Like/Follow buttons!

On the blogs check out Mumsnet or Netmums. There are special forums on adoption and fostering which are good for sharing experiences (although please check facts with a professional). Keep up to date with all the latest news in the sector at Guardian Society

We love Facebook too. Some of our charity friends are on there, including The Fostering Network; Barnardos and; Adoption UK. And don't forget to come and say hello to us on our page.

Everyone is talking about Twitter. If you haven't tried it yet then give it a go. Some of our favourite tweeters are @AdoptResources, @GayAdoptionDad and @2Moms_and_baby

While Social Media can be lots of fun, there can also be risks too. To keep your child safe online check out some of our new resources. We've even got a new book out for young people too.

Share your bookmarked adoption and fostering resources with us in the comments section below. Happy Social Media Week!

Monday, 7 February 2011

The blog is relaunching

Apologies for letting the blog slip a little recently, but we decided to have a bit of an overhaul to ensure we’re bringing you the very best content.

Blogging is fairly new to us at BAAF, but we’re really loving it. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading what we’ve done so far. We’ve been tracking what the most popular posts are, and it seems you all enjoy reading other people’s personal accounts of adoption and fostering. So we have decided to try and make that a bigger focus for the blog in 2011. We’ll be sharing stories from parents, young people and also professionals.

Do let us know what you think of the posts by using the comments section below. And if you have a story you’d like to share then get in touch with us at press at baaf dot org dot uk. We can always share your story anonymously, and if you don’t like writing that much we can even do that bit for you too.

Happy blogging!

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