Friday, 26 August 2011

Cycling from London to Paris to raise funds for adoption and fostering

Guido talks about how he cycled from London to Paris to raise funds for adoption and fostering.

I have been going through the overseas adoption process with my wife now for 2 years; we have survived the social worker, and some of the high points for us have been courses provided by BAAF. These helped and guided us through decisions we knew we had to make and opened our eyes to issues we had not even thought of.

Last year, BAAF was running a charity bike ride from London to Paris - plenty of time to get fit and meet everyone so I signed up...

The ride was starting, very glamorously, at the Travel Lodge in Croyden. I arrived the evening before and knew I had the right place when I was directed straight to the bike storage room by reception. After checking in I wandered down to the bar and over a pint got into conversation with two men who looked about as (un)fit as me. This was a good start.

Breakfast was early next morning - in fact the only people at breakfast were lots of people in cycling gear. I was not that keen and after a full English had to go change ready to ride. Safety speeches and introductions were all passed quickly, a quick cheer for the radio while Nicky Campbell was interviewed and it began.

I think everyone on the ride had highs and lows. My training had failed to include any hills of note and Day 1 was hilly. At every step of the way there was always someone from the group cheering you on and pushing you forward, and at every food stop the crew were smiling, fixing bikes and motivating us with sweets and advice.

Day 2 started early again. I felt like a Tour de France rider cycling through Northern France but this was my worst morning; everyone overtook me, I stopped on every hill and my motivation hit zero. Luckily the spirit of the other riders pushed me along. Everyone had encouraging words and no matter what befell them everyone smiled - even when plagued with punctures.

Day 3 I woke with lots of energy. My body knew this was the last day and was raring to go - until it realised it was frosty and cold outside! But we soldiered on. Undulating hills gave way to flat and then the final push into Paris, over the hills and into the city.

The final ride to the Eiffel Tower was through traffic, but the gang was all still here - no one had dropped out and we finally made it, swinging round the last corner. Stopping to the sound of popping champagne corks and cheers made me feel so special!

If you would like to take part in a fundraising challenge to raise funds for BAAF, please visit our website. You may also enjoy reading one of our Adoption Champion's story about running the London Marathon.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

What does adoption mean to you? Tell us this National Adoption Week

So it is now about a month to the deadline for our national film competition. If you missed our previous blog on the National Adoption Week film competition, the basic idea is that we're asking adoption experienced people to make a short film about what adoption means to them.

If you'd like to enter, but aren't quite sure how to make your film, here are a few tips that might help you along the way.

Use your passion
Adoption changes lives, and if you are reading this then chances are you too have been changed by it. Speak from the heart, share your journey with us, and be yourself.

Don't worry about being the next James Cameron
While your film should be lit well and the sound should be audible, don't get too bogged down with the technical side. Most of all the judges will be looking for films that inspire others to adopt.

Ask a friend for help
If you're stuck for what to say, maybe get a friend to interview you and then edit together the best bits. You could also do interviews with other members of your family if you don't want to appear in front of the camera yourself. Remember however, we don't advise including children on screen. Their help is better behind the camera.

Get inspired
Have a look at other films people have made to inspire your own film. You might like to watch some of the father's day videos that feature on the BAAF YouTube channel.

Don't forget copyright
Remember you can't use any video footage, music or photos that belong to someone else. You can always create your own, or try some free software packages that provide free music. Garage Band is one example, but you maybe able to find others with a quick internet search.

Watch our video on how to create and upload a film to YouTube

And here it is...

Now all that's left to say is, lights, camera, action! Good luck and we look forward to seeing your entries.

For more information about the film competition visit

Friday, 19 August 2011

Working for an adoption and fostering charity

Today, BAAF's Deborah Adams talks about the multi-faceted nature of her role as Receptionist, her experiences as an adopted person tracing her birth mother, and why she sometimes feels like an octopus. Yes, you did read that last part correctly.

Being Receptionist here at BAAF is a rewarding all-round job. As well as being the first port of call in the office, I'm also very active in helping other departments. It's not unusual for me to be juggling three or four things at once so it really helps to work here if you're an octopus. I'm going to learn to write with my feet soon, just for the sake of efficiency!

Every day is different for me, but there's a general structure to my day in that I do things like take care of the post, deal with couriers, log cheques, and generally assisting people with any other jobs that need doing. It makes me happy to help take a little bit of stress from someone else by helping out. As well as doing a lot of work for our office manager, I sell books for Publications, assist Fundraising in a variety of ways, and I recently designed a workshop access database for our Southern office from scratch.

One of the things that makes this job particularly rewarding for me is that I'm adopted, myself. During the process of tracing my birth mother in 2006, I became interested in working for BAAF. I'm the poster child for how not to trace your birth relatives using the internet, and I wish that I had had access to the help that BAAF can provide people who wish to trace. It's so, so important to talk to someone professional and impartial about it. For me, it just would have been nice to have access to someone with experience who could to offer me advice. Or explain some of the unexpected, often conflicting, feelings adopted people may feel that they may not realise in advance. 

If you're going to trace, you have to be ready to accept potential rejection. Luckily, for me it worked out and I'm now in contact with my Scottish birth mother. I'm not going to lie and say that it was all puppy-dogs and flowers - it wasn't - but it was worth it to discover that little bit inside me that I always felt was missing.

If you are an adopted person and seeking advice on how to contact birth relatives, please visit the BAAF website. Publications on search and reunion can be found in our line bookstore.

For more info on the subject and to share your experiences, join BAAF and Barnardo's live on Twitter Thursday, September 8 to discuss search and reunion. Tag tweets with #adoptfosterchat to join in.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Gaining a new brother through adoption

Following on from our piece with Alison, we hear from her daughter Rebecca, about what it was like suddenly gaining a new brother through adoption.

When mum and dad first told me they were adopting again, and I'd be getting a younger brother, I was all like excited. But at the same time I was a bit worried about no longer being the youngest as I liked being the baby in the family.

Then we actually got to meet William for the first time and that was really exciting. When we went to visit him in his foster home we got to stay in this posh hotel which I really liked. I also remember being really excited because I'd heard there were pets at the foster home and we weren't allowed pets at home at the time. I was really excited about being able to play with this cute little boy and cute pets too!

William wasn't very confident when we first met him and he ran upstairs crying. He calmed down later though, and we went to the park together and played around there. I enjoyed being the big one for the day, even though at the time I wasn't very big at all.

It's difficult to remember now, but thinking back I think even on that day I was starting to feel a bit jealous. I remember mum and dad were playing with William in the park and I wanted them to play with me not him. Mum and dad tell me that when we left I burst into tears and said I didn't want anything to change.

When William moved in things got quite bad for a while. He had quite a number of behavioural issues at the time. For example he might get offended at something we said in our childish ways, and one time I remember him threatening to throw a brick at us. He actually had it in his hand. I realise now he probably wouldn't have thrown it, but at the time it felt quite bad.

I don’t really think there was any one thing in particular that changed how we were together. I think over time the tensions just eased off and we got in to our new routines. I think I also learnt to see things from his point of view. For example I went to watch him at his school sports day once. That gave me a really good insight into the attitudes of others, including the teachers, towards children like my brother who have special needs of some sort. I guess I've learnt to walk in his shoes sometimes to see what he is going through, and I've also realised William needs his big sister's help at home and not her criticism!

To those thinking of adopting I would give a word of caution - if a child has learning delay or any problems due to early life experiences, then they can be younger emotionally than they are physically. I personally still find it hard to think of William as 14. He looks his age – he's taller even than me - but emotionally he is younger. He often needs hugs and kisses and for people to tell him everything is OK.

Me and my brother still have our moments of sibling rivalry, but I think all brothers and sisters do. I think we've learnt that there are some things more important in life than who stepped on someone else's toy or something like that.

For more features on adopting siblings visit the Be My Parent website, or try our bookshop for books on adopting siblings.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Growing your family through adoption

Every year people who already have children decide to grow their family through adoption. Gaining a sibling through adoption can be a wonderful thing. But however enthusiastic the family might be initially, there can be some unexpected consequences that are worth taking into consideration. Mother of three, Alison, explains how adopting their son brought with it a range of challenges they hadn't been prepared for.

In 1994 we adopted two girls, Rachel and Rebecca. I had enjoyed being their mum so much that five years later we decided to adopt again. I thought that if we got a son who was quite young the girls may take a mothering role with him, especially Rachel who seemed to love babies. We talked it through with the girls and they seemed keen. So we began the adoption process for the second time.

We had been approved for two boys, but when we met William we felt he was the right one for us. Although at six he was older than we had originally planned, due to some of his early years experiences he was more like a toddler in his behaviour.

But although he needed mothering, the girls just weren't able to connect with him in that way. Emotionally he might have been a toddler, but physically he wasn't. This meant that he would have raging tantrums like a two year old, but as he was a six year old, they felt much more powerful. The impact on our family environment was huge.

Things were very tough for both the girls for a while. They were clearly overwhelmed by their own feelings and the disruption to their lives. We tried to talk to them as often as we could, explaining how William's behaviour was linked to his early years’ experiences and tried to relate it to their own lives as much as we could. We also took some practical steps to create a sense of normality. For example, Rebecca, who was 10 at the time, had her usual bedtime routine with a story from her dad every night. We also told William he wasn't allowed in the girls' rooms unless they said he could. At the time William was being home schooled and could make quite a mess being in the house all day. So we also stopped him from going in the front room so there would be a tidy space for the girls to use when they came home from school.

I think it's really difficult to judge the impact that bringing a new adopted child in to your family will have on your existing children. It can be much bigger than you expect. Even if the children seem happy at first, it can actually take them years to get used to it. Our family has definitely turned a corner now and the children get on much better. William too has changed - he has a much better understanding of people's feelings. Although I might think twice about adopting again, we'd never want to be without William.

For more features on adopting siblings visit the Be My Parent website, or try our bookshop for books on adopting siblings.

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