Thursday, 31 March 2011

Why we decided to adopt

Paul and his partner David adopted a sibling group of two boys in 2006. Here, Paul explains what led them to the decision to adopt.

During National Adoption Week 2005, my partner and I read a story about a male same-sex couple who had adopted. The article highlighted the changes in the law which meant unmarried couples could now adopt jointly. This made us start thinking seriously about adoption.

We were incredibly lucky in that we read the article during National Adoption Week in October 2005, then called social services and had an initial meeting with them pretty much straight away. There was a place on the adoption training course that December, which was fantastic because sometimes it’s a three or four month waiting list around here. There was a social worker living very close to us, so as soon as we’d finished the course, she was assigned to us and we went to panel in June/July 2006. We were matched in the September, and the boys moved in during half term of October 2006. So that was 12 months start to finish!*

So many things fell into place just right. I’m so grateful that things worked out for us.

Did you apply to adopt after seeing something during National Adoption Week? Please let us know by completing our short survey.

*Timings may vary for area to area and case to case.

Monday, 28 March 2011

My memories of being adopted

Image by video4net
We chat to Zoe, who gives a frank account of her experience of adoption.

My adoptive mum is my hero. A legend that has supported me through good times and bad. When I was younger I went through a stage of not wanting to leave the house in case she left or died. I had to constantly phone her to make sure she was still there. It was a really difficult time but she never gave up on me.

Yet however much my parents loved me it never felt enough. I still felt empty, like there was something missing. I just couldn’t understand why my birth mother gave me up.

Then in November 2002 I met a researcher at an adoption meeting in our local library and we talked about tracing my birth family. Incredibly, by Christmas he had found every person in my family.

Writing a letter to my birth mum was hard. I rewrote it so many times before sending it. Within two days I had received a package back. She had filled it with photos, chocolates, socks and potpourri, which flew out everywhere when I opened it. I studied all the things intently – it was like I had always known them, yet I hadn’t at all.

The photos were amazing - finally I could understand where I got my looks from.  In one of the photos I noticed a young girl. When I looked on the back of the photo it said ‘Lucy’. She was my younger sister. I had always prayed for a little sister so this was like all my prayers and dreams had come true. In fact they had been true all along, I just hadn’t known it.

Since that first letter I have had a journey of ups and downs with my birth family, but what family hasn’t. We’ve had to do a lot of catching up and learning to do. We’ve learnt not to take offence when learning the truth and we’ve learnt not to place expectations on each other.  I have also learnt a lot about what it means to love, and not give up on relationships, as well as the importance of honesty.

I am grateful for the opportunity of being able to meet my birth family and have them as part of my life.

For more personal accounts of adoption, check out the 'Our Story' collection in BAAF's bookshop.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Somebody Else's Child: Privately fostered, two years on...

When Keelie was 15 a series of arguments with her parents led her to leave home and move in with her best friend and become privately fostered. A few days turned into weeks, then months. Fortunately her best friend’s father called their local authority and a private fostering social worker was assigned to make sure everyone in the new arrangement was happy.

When I lived with my parents, we would clash an awful lot. Especially me and my mother—everybody says it’s because we’re so alike, but I’m not so sure about that! My parents were very strict, and when you’re 14 or 15 you feel like the world can’t touch you and nobody can tell you what to do. I didn’t talk to anyone about the problems we were having because I was too embarrassed, and when my friends were out doing things I sometimes had to lie to them or make excuses about not being able to go because I wasn’t allowed off our street.

After one really bad argument, my best friend Vickie invited me to stay at her house for a few days. A few days passed and I still really didn’t want to go back home. It seemed like such a bizarre suggestion at the time, but Vickie asked me if I’d like to move in with her permanently. So, Vickie asked Steve—her Dad—and he agreed, just as long as we all went through the proper procedure. I always got on really well with him, but it was still strange that he just said “yeah, you can move in”!

Steve officially became my private foster carer and we got a social worker to help us. I was a little worried about the social worker getting involved at first. I thought they were going to be really nosy and expected them to be knocking on the door every three minutes, but they were really helpful. They would check up on us every six weeks, and every time they visited they would take me to one side and ask if there was anything I’d like to talk about in private. That was really reassuring because I always knew if there was something I wasn’t completely happy about I could always let them know.

My relationship with my mum and step-dad has improved so much since I moved out: now I’m always so happy to see them. I still really miss my sister though.

My relationship with Vickie has definitely changed, but we’re closer than ever in a lot of ways. We were always best friends and always got on really well, but now I’ve learnt so much about her that I didn’t know before. Sure, we sometimes fight, but eventually we’ll laugh and make up. We’ve built a very strong relationship - she’s like my sister now, she even tells everybody we are.

If you know of a child who is being cared for by someone who isn’t a direct relative for more than 28 days, please let your local authority know. For more information visit our

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Week In The Life Of...A Private Fostering Worker

As part of the private fostering campaign, Somebody Else’s Child, this week we chat to Moira Keen, who manages the Private Fostering Team at Tower Hamlets Council in London.

Privately fostered children are vulnerable. This is a safeguarding issue – you’ve got children outside of their immediate family with people who have been asked to look after them and who aren’t necessarily trained. They’re not foster carers and they haven’t been trained by a local authority so they don’t necessarily have the skills. Additionally, they don’t have their own social worker for support. If you’re privately fostering a child, and you’re not their immediate carer, it can be a very different experience to raising your own child.

Although most private foster carers do an excellent job we know sometimes that children have been badly abused, or even killed, by the people who are asked to care for them. Victoria Climbie being the most pertinent example. These children can be exploited or abused and nobody really knows because they don’t have family to turn to. Often they’re too frightened or ashamed to tell anyone at school, so it’s important that we know about them and that these children are able to build up a trusting relationship with a support worker.

I think more needs to be done to raise awareness. Here in Tower Hamlets, we spend a lot of time with professionals because we can help them identify privately fostered children. But for us to raise awareness within the community, it’s often very difficult. There needs to be a national awareness campaign on a public level because it really is important that we safeguard these children.

For more information on private fostering, please visit the Somebody Else's Child website where you can view BAAF's new private fostering resources fo professionals.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Somebody Else's Child in a Big Society - private fostering conference LIVE

This blog is now closed.

That's it for today. I hope you have found this blog useful. Please do share it with others, and remember to visit our campaign website for more information.

Final speaker of the day is Alison Bailey from Ofsted.

A new inspection framework has been developed that includes five individual judgements: quality of service; safeguarding and promoting welfare; promoting equality and tackling discrimination; leadership and management; capacity to improve; overall effectiveness.

Six inspections have taken place under this new framework. This will now be evaluated and the framework amended as appropriate. Recommendations from the Munro report will also be considered.

Florence Merredew, BAAF's Health Group Development Officer, explains some of the health needs of privately fostered children.

A survey commissioned by BAAF showed that 46% of privately fostered children felt sad, anxious or lonely, and 14% felt confused. 8% said they didn't know why they were being privately fostered, and 42% said they didn't think anyone outside of the family was told about the arrangement.

Privately fostered children have a range of health issues, from a confused sense of self worth, self image or identity; to practical issues like immunisation history, management of allergies or dietary needs. Information from parents is essential. Practitioners are urged to follow the model of health assessments for looked after children.

Questions for the Minster now.

One delegate asks about budgets. With budgets being cut it makes assessments difficult, especially in private fostering.

The Minister responds by saying that through the Munro review there will be an overhaul in the child protection system in this country. There will be a reduction in form filling and they'll start allowing social workers to make their own decisions, spending more time at the frontline if it is needed. If a local authority wants to invest more in private fostering they will be free to do so, but central Government won't be making that decision.

What does the Minister think about the Common Assessment Framework and what is happening out there at the moment?

The Minister said he is delighted that we got rid of Contact Point as it did not do what we wanted it to do. He is in favour of better information sharing locally, but we also need accountability streams. There needs to be an action plan on how to deal with issues so we have quality outcomes rather than just box ticking.

Tim Loughton, the Children and Families Minister starts off by saying that we need to get better at disseminating good practice and believes the online tools BAAF have developed are a good example of this.

When a carer takes in a child, the Minister says, it is an act of enormous generosity. However others are out to exploit. We need to shine a light on private, but not secret, arrangements to flush out the abusers.

People have a moral duty to act if they know of a private fostering arrangement. We all have a responsibility not to turn a blind eye. We need to be alert to the possibility that a child could be in danger. Let's not forget the shocking case of Victoria Climbie who was privately fostered. Victoria was an extreme case but she was not the only one.

Although the numbers of notifications are increasing, the Minister believes they are not increasing fast enough. He has not ruled out compulsory registration, but is aware of the concerns of advisory groups. They will proceed with care and the jury will remain out until Professor Munro's report is out.

This is a very important, but understated area of safeguarding that we really need to get right. We all have a duty to ensure our most vulnerable children are safer than they are today.

Back from lunch and Tim Loughton, the Children and Families Minister is here. But first we're going to run through some of the aspects of our private fostering website. You can visit our website at

The live video stream will return with the Minister's speech in just a few minutes. Stay tuned...

Chris Gould, from Child Safe International, set up his charity after a career in the police force. The aim of the charity is to prevent the abuse of children and young people away from home. They tend to focus on young people on language school trips.

Many of the children coming into the UK to study English will stay with a host family. If over 28 days this becomes private fostering. However many language schools are ignorant of private fostering, avoid the requirements, and lack contact with the local authority. Regular abuses occur and many go unreported.

The Police need to know what the legal definition of private fostering is, how to spot the signs and what to do if they suspect an arrangement. When visiting a child's home they must ascertain who has parental responsibility, be alert to signs of trafficking, liaise with other key professionals, and consider the young person's needs.

Child Safe are trying to engage with both the Police and the Travel Sector. They have an event for Police on 25th March, and events for the Travel Sector on 7th and 19th April. For more information visit the Child Safe website.

Back from our coffee break with Jan Myles, from the National Association of Head Teachers. She explains that a lot of Heads do not know about private fostering. It's a message we need to get out there, but the question is how?

Through the admissions process we need to be picking up information on who has parental responsibility and passing the information on to the private fostering teams where appropriate. It needs to be a bottom up process.

Schools need to know about what is happening in their pupil's lives both within and outside the school. Build confidence with the children to create a safe haven so they can talk if they are experiencing difficulties. Make time to talk to children on a one-to-one basis if the child seems unhappy. Manage it in a child friendly way so the child can feel relaxed. Issues come out when children are invited to talk.

Head teachers should organise meetings and weekly bulletins to share information between all staff. And where relevant this information needs to be shared with the local authority.

Schools have an important role as they provide a universal service comprising of key professionals working with children. Local authorities and multi agency teams must work together.

Mike Gallagher from the UK Borders agency talking now about how they see protecting children as one of the key aims of border control.

Hillingdon, the closest borough to Heathrow, have produced a short guide on typical private fostering cases, how to identify them and how to notify. It's considered a very useful document by the Borders Agency.

Peter Tolley Service Manager at London Borough of Harrow talks about how to work together to protect trafficked children.

Some privately fostered children have been trafficked. This is the hard end of private fostering. There is guidance and tools available to professionals to help identify if a child has been trafficked.

Harrow works closely with education and the police. They meet regularly and sometimes do joint visits to homes. Together they attempt to build a bigger picture of the individual experiences of children, and assess whether they are being exploited.

In Harrow they received two notifications from a school who were concerned about children. They started a private fostering process but when they conducted their visit they became aware that these cases were part of a bigger network, and other agencies were also interested in that household. A bigger pattern emerged which helped to uncover 38 suspected victims of trafficking.

The 'big society' is a global society. We need to safeguard children whose immigration status and nationality may not be settled. We need to challenge presented information and use tools to help with assessments. But most importantly we need to ensure professional networks are there, and local authorities have a lead person for child trafficking.

Jeremy Curtis, Business Manager from LSBC Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead up now explaining an audit they did on private fostering.

The survey findings showed that many in the children's workforce had not heard of private fostering, their managers were not clear what they could do, and barriers existed to notifying.

Private fostering is a system of regulation and support. Children may be isolated, carers not trained so may be struggling, the parents are not able to monitor the child's welfare, and some of the children may have been abused.

Private fostering matters.

Private fostering describes an arrangement that lasts 28 days or more where a child under 16 (18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who isn't a direct relative. David Holmes has just given some examples of the types of children who are privately fostered. They include teenagers who have had a row with their mum and dad; children who come to the UK for education purposes; and children in language schools who may come over for the summer.

Why is this conference called Somebody Else's Child in a Big Society? Because it is the community that is being asked to care for someone else's child. The challenge for local authorities is that these children are invisible. They need the help of the children's workforce to identify these children.

We need everyone to understand what private fostering is, recognise the signs and know of the duty to notify the local authority if they think a child is being privately fostered.

The conference is now open. Our introductory speech is from David Holmes, Chief Executive of BAAF who is chairing the conference today.

Getting everything ready for our private fostering conference today. We'll be live blogging throughout the day and we have some interesting speakers from both education and health sectors. Children and Families Minister, Tim Loughton will also be making an appearance. Stay tuned for more....

Friday, 11 March 2011

Calling all Education and Health Professionals for help with private fostering

With Somebody Else’s Child—our week-long initiative around private fostering from the 21-27th March—fast approaching, we’re looking for all kinds of social media-loving professionals from within education and health to help spread the word about our new materials for the Children’s Workforce.

If you blog or use Twitter, we’d love to hear your thoughts about our new resources via reviews, opinion-pieces, or tweets. Be sure to head on over to the Somebody Else’s Child website to view the materials and learn more about the issue.

Private fostering is an arrangement where someone other than a close relative cares for a child for a period of over 28 days. By law parents and carers must notify the local council, but sadly, most don’t. We want to help professionals working with children to identify those who may be being privately fostered in order to ensure their safety and make sure their carer is getting the proper support.

This year’s Somebody Else’s Child launch event will be happening on the 22 March, and will feature a keynote speech from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Tim Loughton. A live-stream of the event will be broadcast via our Facebook page, and if live-blogging or tweeting is your thing, we want to hear your thoughts on the event as it happens. Be sure to follow the BAAF Twitter account, where you can join in the discussion with the hashtag #pfweek.

If you’re interested in taking part, feel free to drop us a line in the comments or e-mail (for education professionals) or (for health professionals).

Friday, 4 March 2011

A Week In The Life Of...An Adoption Recruitment Officer

Nicole Harman from the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea adoption team tell us about her role as Fostering and Adoption Recruitment Project Officer.

My role encompasses the advertising and marketing of adoption services, which involves placing adverts for families – prospective adopters – into various media, plus getting word out about children waiting for adoptive families.

We place adverts with a freephone number, aimed at encouraging those people who wish to know more about adoption to contact us. On calling, prospective adopters speak to a social worker who asks a few questions about their background, their partner, where they live etc and most importantly, why they wish to adopt a child. If the caller would like further information, an information pack is sent to them. They are also informed about the forthcoming events and invite them to attend. These meetings are held on a 6 weekly basis and are open to members of the public who wish to hear more about adoption. Following attendance at this meeting, if a prospective adopter wishes to proceed further, they are asked to contact the Adoption Team Manager to this effect and if it seems appropriate, two social workers will visit to provide further information and hear more about the prospective adopter’s interest in adoption.

In my job, I am conscious that adoption is a service for children and our aim is to recruit prospective adopters who can meet the needs of our children waiting. Therefore, from time to time, it may well happen that we have sufficient adopters waiting and in the assessment process. On such occasions, we advise prospective adopters that whilst we are unable to provide them with a service at present, they should approach our neighbouring boroughs, who are also members of our Adoption Consortium and who may be very willing to recruit them. I provide the prospective adopter with the appropriate telephone numbers and suggest they contact the Adoption Duty Social Worker who will be able to offer them support and advice.

For me, my role is about ensuring the prospective adopter has a positive experience when they make an enquiry and that they are fully supported in having their interest in adoption validated and heard.  I actually love my job – it’s the kind of job where yes, it is hard work and you have to be very pedantic with getting the information right, but perseverance and going the “extra mile” reaps rewards and ensures those spontaneous moments of press coverage for our children live with me. It’s about taking an opportunity and making it positive and that’s what I try to do thereby enabling children to have a second chance at family life.

NB: Agencies will undertake the same recruitment tasks but might vary slightly in some internal processes such as how many social workers might visit or the frequency of information evenings.
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