Monday, 31 October 2011

Being adopted is the best thing that ever happened to me

As we kick off National Adoption Week, singer-songwriter Simon Clothier tells us about his experiences as an adopted person and how it has influenced his music.

I was born to a schoolgirl mother and adopted aged 8 weeks. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. An adopted child is a very special child, chosen by (not born to) very special parents. But many children have not been as lucky as me. Have you ever wondered what happens to a child that doesn't get chosen? I have, I do, and that's why I'm an Adoption Champion, to try to help get others thinking about the 4,000 children in care that need a stable and loving environment.

My adoption experience has been extremely positive. Not a day passes without me appreciating my good fortune. I was raised in a loving family as Mum and Dad already had a daughter, aged 4. They lavished upon me gifts of love, security and in Dad's case, a love of music. Being adopted and understanding my adoption has positively shaped the person I am today. It's core to my emotional fabric, manifesting itself in the music that I'm privileged to write and perform and which is one of the ways that I hope to give something back. If I can influence just one person or one couple to consider adoption it would mean so much to me. And therein lies the enormity of the challenge; getting people to think seriously about adopting a child, to look past the myths that sometimes cloud the perceptions of many because in truth you don't need a big house, you don't need to be under 40, in fact you don't need to be any number of things – what you do need to be is energetic, patient, generous and have a heart as big as an ocean. Trust me, I know.

In 2003 I pieced together my adoption story; it hit me how easy it is to become a mother or a father and how much harder it is to be a Mum or a Dad. I felt compelled to write to Mum & Dad telling them exactly what they meant to me, concluding as follows; "Thank you both for giving me such a huge chunk of your lives, I will treasure it always...x." And treasure it I do, every day, every week, every year.

Take the opportunity to give a chunk of your life to a child this National Adoption Week. Believe me, it'll be massively rewarding & they'll cherish it, always...

Over & Done, about one aspect of Simon's adoption, is available now thru Glider/Universal Records.

For more information about adoption, please visit the National Adoption Week website.






Monday, 24 October 2011

Educational experiences of adopted children

The educational experiences of adopted children can massively depend on the response of the school. While 'designated teachers' have been installed in most schools, to meet the needs of looked after children, when they then leave care and become adopted these children can sometimes fall through the gap.

Kim and Paolo adopted their two children, Bryony and Jasmine, when they were three and five. Their children's school has been mostly outstanding, but this hasn't happened without their hard work. A strong and trusting relationship between them and the teachers is essential, explains Kim.


"The school really went out their way to ensure the girls settled in when they first came to live with us. They gave them a real sense of belonging, and I believe the support our children received in the classroom helped them settle in at home too. The school have also been really good in supporting Bryony, who has been granted a Special Needs Certificate. They teachers have displayed great awareness of the self esteem issues that can come with learning difficulties, and worked well with Bryony to overcome the blocks.

"Where I think more could be done is extending the support out of the classroom, and into the playground. The biggest issue for children is being accepted by their peers, and feeling like they fit in. Jasmine spent a lot of time crying in the playground when she was younger, because nobody wanted to play with her, and it is still an issue with Bryony. They were moved around so much before they came to us that it's not surprising that they have a greater fear of rejection than other children. And this might cause them to lash out sometimes. Not having a central place of belonging in those early years can effect children's relationships with others later on in life. Teachers need to understand this. Schools need to find a more structured way to deal with the emotional fall out from children who have been separated from birth families, and get better at spotting the behaviour that stems from early years trauma.

"For Jasmine, although feelings of rejection still remain, it is an echo of what it was before. The school have been very good at helping her manage her anger, through practical exercises like breathing techniques and visualisation. We also used a book that the teachers would write in during the day, and I would write in at night. We praised Jasmine when her behaviour was good, but noted it when it was bad. This worked really well as it showed Jasmine that there was a communication between home and school. We were a team working together to try and support her.

"I think it's really important that adoptive parents create a relationship of trust with their children’s school. Sometimes the relationship a parent has with their children's school can be affected by the parent's own schooling experiences. But it's important not to project your own experiences on to the relationship. Inform the school about your child, and work with them to find solutions. And acknowledge them when they've done something well. A bit of thanks can go a million miles."

For more information and stories about education in relation to adoption and fostering, please visit BAAF's online bookstore.






Monday, 17 October 2011

National Adoption Week film competition shortlist revealed

You may have been aware that we over the summer we launched our National Adoption Week film competition, in which we invited anyone with an adoption connection to make a short two minute film about what adoption means to them.

We had some great entries in for the competition, but we have since shortlisted six entries:













Our panel of judges - including David Holmes, Nicky Campbell, Clare Grogan, Andrew Barton, and Phil Woodford - will be awarding the films Gold, Silver and Bronze honours over the coming weeks and the winners will be announced at our awards ceremony on November 1.

Don't forget - if you didn't get shortlisted, you could still win the People's Choice Award for most YouTube views. So get sharing!






Thursday, 13 October 2011

What does Steve Jobs' death mean to adoption?

Last Thursday satirical news website The Onion ran the story Last Man in the US Who Knew What the F**k He Was Doing Has Died. Like all good satire, it was brilliant because it was true. Jobs was an inspiration to many, but maybe particularly to adopted people due to own his difficult start in life and subsequent adoption. He is the proof that out of adversity can come greatness, given the right love and support.

It is a little publicised fact that Steve Jobs was in fact half Iranian. The story goes that his birth parents were young and his birth mother's father strongly opposed mixed race relationships. So he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.

Steve Jobs clearly enjoyed a close relationship with his adoptive parents. It was his father who taught him rudimentary electronics, and how to work with his hands. However a natural aptitude with technology meant he quickly overtook him. Many adopted people ponder the nature/nurture debate at length. We can only speculate whether this was something Jobs thought about.

Less than a year after he was born, his birth mother's father died and she finally married Jobs' birth father. Two years later, Jobs' biological sister was born. It was clear that he thought about his origins as in 1984 he tracked his sister down, although he kept their reunion a secret until 1986. Throughout the rest of his life they enjoyed a close relationship, with Jobs visiting her regularly in Manhattan. Through his sister he was reunited with his birth mother. However she had since divorced Jobs' birth father, and it seems the relationship remained strained as they were never reunited.

As someone who was ill for so long there is little doubt that this issue of medical history would have come up for Jobs. However, like many adopted people, he would have had little information to draw upon. The British Association for Adoption & Fostering has campaigned for years for not just adopted people, but care experienced adults and donor conceived children to be given access to information about their birth families. In particular we believe it is important to have access to information about medical histories. Although we do not know whether it would have made a difference in the case of Steve Jobs, it certainly highlights the importance.

For more info and advice visit the main BAAF website, or our Adoption Search & Reunion site.






Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The highs and lows of adopting a sibling group

Today on the blog we hear from adoptive father Al, who, in the run-up to National Adoption Week, describes the highs and lows of adopting five children.

When I was asked to write a blog it was suggested that I wrote something ‘upbeat’. That posed a little dilemma, I’m not sure I can be exclusively upbeat. I’ve decided to aim for honest and others can decide if I’m being upbeat or downbeat, more than likely I’ll hit somewhere in between. The reality is that like most things in life, adoption stories have a little bit of everything.

It sounds like a cliché to say that adoption is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. To be honest, I can’t help thinking that if I’d had birth children I would probably consider that the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So, no great surprises there.

So what’s the big deal?

Every adoption is unique, talk to ten adopters and you’ll have ten vastly different stories. My story is normal in that it’s twisty turny, with ups and downs, highs and lows. I didn’t mind the assessment process. I quite enjoyed talking about myself and getting my friends to talk about me. I’m probably an extrovert.

The panel was a bit scary. They couldn’t understand why we’d be daft enough to ask to be approved to adopt up to three children. With hindsight, I agree however they eventually approved us.

Not long later three children moved in and we went into shock. I’m not sure any training would have prepared us for such an onslaught. A subtle blend of enthusiasm, blind optimism and youthful exuberance got us through. A little faith and the fact that the three children we adopted were wonderful helped us through a few teething problems.

So things went well, so well a few years later we were asked to adopt two little girls. That’s another story, needless to say it was not without its ups and downs. So, turn the clock forward and we now have five children.

By ordinary standards my family is not normal we’re noisy messy and a theme park family ticket just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

Early life experiences have taken a toll to varying degrees on some of my children. I’ve been bitten ‘til I’ve bled by a four year old; called names that would make a pirate blush by a six year old and been thoroughly abused all in the name of parenting. Their experiences cast shadows, some long and some short, in their young lives. Yes, as adoptive parents, we have unique worries and concerns but we’d be foolish to think we have the monopoly on strife and trouble with our children. All parents worry.

I love my children, they’ve lived though experiences I can only imagine and my heart swells when I think of all they’ve been through. Having the honour and privilege of parenting my children is perhaps the most defining experience of my life. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Are you considering adoption? Head to the BAAF website for more information and advice. If you'd like to share you story on our blog, email press@baaf.org.uk







Monday, 3 October 2011

If I were Prime Minister: changing the care system

Last week, we heard what Matt would do if he were elected Prime Minister. Today, we speak to Kirby, 21, who spent around 15 years in the care system. She has seen both the good and the bad, and here shares some thoughts on how she would make improvements if she were PM.

“Having been in the care system for the best part of 15 out of my 21 years of life, I'd like to say I've come to note both its advantages and its disadvantages. Over recent years there has been a lot of recognition for children in care and care leavers. Some of the support I have experienced involves care grants or awards offered for achievements of education; care grants offered to aid a young person in setting up their own accommodation; a personal advisor to guide the young person throughout the leaving care period; and support until the age of 24, as long as the young person remains in education.

“From Ofsted's and social services' perspective thorough paperwork constitutes an efficient system in theory. But in practice it’s quite the contrary. Even though social workers have a lot of paper work, a crucial part of their job consists of dealing with the child that has been entrusted to their care.

“Paperwork is not an adequate excuse to neglect practical duties. From my personal experience it made me feel like I was just another case to social services. I didn’t feel like they cared. All I was asking for was to be treated like I was a human being.

“Another issue that I didn’t like was trying to maintain regular contact with a social worker. Often it would take me two weeks to get through to anybody, and when I did get through the excuse I was given was that there was a shortage of social workers. Irrespective of whether there are enough social workers, they still have a duty to maintain constant contact with that particular child.

“Children and young peoples’ views and voices are often overlooked. That made me feel undermined. I felt like I was being talked at as opposed to being talked to. Decisions were made for me by a group of professional strangers. I was told that social workers wanted to hear my views, and then everything I said was completely ignored. So I thought, what was the point in asking me if they were going to take an antagonistic approach either way??

“An ideal model of the care system would consist of a young person speaking, and actually being listened to, and reasons given where the child’s best interests override feelings. An ideal model would consist of an organised system where social workers were given a time limit in which to contact a young person back. An ideal model of the care system would ensure that the young person is given as much advice as possible in helping them continue their journey beyond leaving care. Finally, an ideal model of the care system would include informing a child about all of their entitlements at every change of circumstance, throughout their life.

“This is just a few of my personal future reforms, but for now they may remain just that. An ideal.”

Thanks to Voice for their help with this blog post.
















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