Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The BAAF blog has moved!

For regular visitors to the BAAF blog, we have moved to a new home here: http://www.baaf.org.uk/blog - please head over where you can continue reading real-life stories about fostering and adoption.

This page will continue to stay live, but new content will only be added via the relocated page.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A care leaver who saw hope

This week on the blog we hear from Anu, who recently joined BAAF to help out with the 2012 National Adoption Week campaign. Here, she shares her story as a care leaver who saw hope.

As a fostered child life was a little hectic at times, especially because I was a very strong character. I was placed into foster care at the age of 13 and moved back home at the age of 15. These two years were confusing to me, but really do remain memories I will always cherish. Being a young teenager in West London at the time, it was very hard to find me a suitable placement as most carers wanted younger children. I stayed with family friends for two weeks then was placed with a family of Eritrean descent; coming from a West African and Latin background this wasn’t suitable for me as tradition, cooking and just way of life was very different, even though I was only13 I kind of knew what I always wanted.

I was then after a week placed with and Afro Caribbean family, which was probably where I felt more at home, more welcomed, especially now as I had a little sister and two younger brothers. My foster mother and father were very nice and caring, maybe a bit too much for me as I wasn’t used to getting that much help in anything I did. My foster mother was so kind and caring, even spoke about adoption and really getting me settled in. I loved the feeling of having a mum, or maybe it was just the reassurance that this is a new family for me and it can only get better.

I was raised by my father, was taken away from my mother at the age of 4 and later met her at the age of 16. Being raised by a man I had taken up this DIY attitude and started having problems with my foster mother’s maternal side, she would wash my clothes, make my bed, make me breakfast, which I wasn’t used to at all. I was used to cooking for my family, waking up every Saturday to clean the house from top to bottom. These caused problems between us and really hindered our relationship. I started being distant as I was a person who never really spoke when I had problems, but kept it in and will find another way of dealing with things, like being around others, like my friends and just staying out and not coming back, as I felt I would have to deal with the situation which I never wanted to do.

8 months later, my foster mother had called my social worker to say she couldn’t accommodate me anymore and I was then placed into a children’s home. 6 months later I had the choice to be placed with another carer or to go back home to live with my Dad. I had missed my dad so much so went back home, but situations didn’t get any better and I was placed in temporary care. I felt very let down by children’s services as all I wanted was to just be happy in one home and to be heard and believed.

I am now 22 years old and have a daughter of my own; I applied for the National Adoption Week intern position with BAAF as I felt strongly for what they believe. From my own experience I believe that children of all ages need love and a stable family, a little patience and understanding from a carer can really change a life. I started eating, drinking and breathing adoption, would spot newspaper articles and collect any information that would help me ahead of National Adoption Week. I am only scheduled to come in 2-3 days in a week so juggling responsibility at work, at BAAF, University and home will be hard but it’s not impossible; I like to see myself as an example of a care leaver who saw hope and went a bright future no matter the struggle or story, but stayed positive!

To find out more about National Adoption Week, head over to the campaign website. If you'd like to share your story on our blog, please email blog@baaf.org.uk

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Sibling separation: words from an adoptee

(c) Carlo_it's
Karen Lomas adopted her daughter Emily when she was seven-years-old. Here she recalls Emily’s frustration and anger at being separated from her brother.

The day after our adoption had become legal I met my daughter Emily at the gates of her primary school. On this day there was no greeting, no kiss, no cuddle from my usually affectionate girl but what I can only describe as an "explosion" of the worst fury every: 'If they wanted me to be specially looked after, don't they know that my brother did that for me and my sisters, and he can still do that? Those stupid people!'

On and on she yelled. Her arguments were clear, reasoned and extremely well-articulated – she hated, with a passion, the social workers she thought had taken her away from her beloved brother and sisters. I felt impotent in the face of her rage. I also felt that what she was saying made a lot of sense.

Her anger did eventually abate, although she is still given to rants from time to time. Yet the vital importance of her siblings, especially her brother, was something I understood even more acutely on that day; a day, it should be said, when everything was sealed and our daughter was secure in the knowledge of the legally binding commitment we had made to her. Thus she felt safe enough to give full vent to her anger for the very first time. Until that point, all her energies had gone into ensuring that we were hers and that we would not reject her and send her away.

In the early stages of the adoption I was unable to relate her personal history to close family and friends without becoming tearful about the enormous loss she continued to feel, particularly with regard to her separation from her siblings. Emily still struggles a great deal to cope with the acute pain she feels as a consequence of living without her brother and two sisters.

Her yearning for her brother is stronger than anything. After a few months have gone by without contact, Emily's mood fluctuates and she often cries to see him. She misses him desperately and pines before our very eyes. Her frustration and anger at the situation naturally focuses on us, although she knows intellectually that we are not responsible. She is getting better at trusting that we do all we can. Emily is desperate to be with her brother, despite being happy and loved within our family, and we ensure she has regular contact, which now includes regular reciprocal visits. In some ways this appears to have helped Emily and in other ways it has increased her longing to be with her brother on a permanent basis. What is amazing, however, is that she says she would not live with him if she could because she would miss us!

You can read more of Karen’s and Emily’s reflections on adoption in the book I wish I had been born from you

Monday, 20 August 2012

Being matched for adoption

This week on the BAAF blog, adoptive mum Diana recalls her first meeting with Clare, an 8-year-old girl she was close to being matched with and explains the "mistakes" she thinks she made on that day.

The bill went up and up. The little girl picked out coloured notepaper and envelopes, pens, a sketchbook, a pencil case and crayons...anything she liked. She went from shelf to shelf, "amazed" (that was the word she used) and smiling. We were ecstatic just to be with her.

Just watching her joy was a thrill. Yet we’d just done the daftest thing you could do – let Clare, 8 the little girl we were in the early days of being matched with as adoptive parents, loose in a gift shop! This would rebound on us years later, but for now it was wonderful.

Our first meeting with her had been classed as "slightly unsatisfactory" by foster parents and social workers. So that first time we took her out alone we went overboard.

We never mentioned the word "adoption" on our first meeting, fearful of scaring her. After all the only reality she’d known, apart from her sad years as a seriously neglected and malnourished child, was with long-term foster parents. They loved her and had wanted to adopt her.

I was sure she would find it hard to imagine any other life, and wanted to go slowly. Wrong. It’s best to be open and tell the child you’d love to be her parents, from the start.

At that very first tea I heard Clare calling the foster parents "Mummy" and "Daddy" – painful. Weren't we going to be her mum and dad? She sat on their laps and touched their faces lovingly. She showed us her room and toys, but we didn't mention A-word. Big mistake. One of so many I made.

Apparently, when we left Clare had become distressed. She thought we didn't like her. And the foster parents had doubts about us – as they had every right to do. Their views counted. They had looked after her lovingly for two years.

But when I heard this verdict, I was distraught. I saw my hopes of Clare being ours evaporating. Maybe they'd ring, politely, and say with regret she was being matched with another family. I cried. We already adored her, and had imagined her playing in our garden, going to the school round the corner, growing up in the city.

But no – when the phone call came, it was that Clare would give us a second chance! This was a surprise, a marvellous turn of fate. There were meetings first to help us, of course – the social workers couldn't have been kinder. They want matches to work, but the final decision must be that of the child.

So – back to take Clare out, first with social worker and then, a couple of weeks later, out with just us in the car. I can't even remember where we went, a stately home with a well-stocked gift shop and a cafĂ©!

We wanted to show Clare beyond a shadow of doubt that we would love for to be our daughter. Buying her gifts and talking was all we could do, then.

She was thrilled but foster parents were not impressed...

You can read more about Diana's adoption experience over on her blog. If you need information or advice about adoption, please visit the main BAAF website.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Adopting a child with disabilities

Today on our adoption & fostering blog we hear from foster carers Ann and Kev who recently made the decision to adopt a disabled child, Rosie, who was placed with them aged six weeks. Here, Ann explains in her own words...

Our family have been fostering babies aged 0-18mths for 7 years now. Every child that comes into our home and shares our life with us, for however long or short, we all love so much and they naturally become one of "our" children. Just under four years ago a 6wk old baby was placed with us who would completely change our lives forever. My husband and I and our 3 children new from the very first sight of our little angel that she was special and she would be the one we couldn’t let go.

At the start we were told that she had failed her hearing test and went blue while feeding but this turned out to be the least of our worries and at 3 months old Rosie developed infantile spasms. Rosie spent her first year of life in and out of hospital and on breathing machines due to constant chest infections and apnea. Although these times were stressful for the whole family our children were very supportive and never complained about the amount of time we spent with Rosie. In hospital we met some lovely people, including the nurse that had named Rosie in neonates when she was born. Rosie has a long list of medical problems, she is deaf/blind, will never sit or walk or say mommy but Rosie is our world.

Rosie has had several operations over the last few years including four for glaucoma, a feeding button and an illeostomy. She is on 24 hour oxygen and has severe developmental delay but Rosie is a very special little girl that we all love very much. We feel blessed every day to have her in our lives. Rosie brings warmth and joy to the whole family with every smile that she gives and every milestone she achieves. I often say that Rosie is our angel that has been sent to us from heaven, she has completely changed our lives for the better and we could not see our future without her in it. The whole family feel a very strong attachment and bond to Rosie.

Two years ago we asked our children how they would feel if we decided to adopt Rosie, I knew I didn't really need to ask as they all jumped for joy, screamed yes and hugged and hugged Rosie. It took us about a year to adopt Rosie and we have never and will never look back.

Rosie started nursery last year and she has a carer that takes her. It was a very difficult time for me as I had always been the person there for her and I struggled to let her go. She is making new friends and loves to go in the swimming pool and gets lots of enjoyment. Rosie starts reception in September, I can't believe the difference from the little tiny baby that came at 6 weeks old.

We continue to foster and it's obvious from the smile on Rosie's face that she loves all the babies that come to live with us.

If you need more information or advice about fostering or adoption, please visit the main BAAF website.

Monday, 6 August 2012

I was lucky to have been adopted

Today on the BAAF adoption & fostering blog we hear from Iain, who looks back on his adoption in 1975 and tells how adoption has been a "very positive experience" for him, his adoptive family, and his birth family.

I was adopted in 1975 when I was a little baby. Well, I say 'little', but I was 10lbs at birth and was so long my feet dangled over the end of the Moses basket my adoptive parents had brought to collect me in! My mother still tells people about how she waited for me in an upstairs room and heard the nurse's bounding footsteps gradually turn to heavy thuds as she carried me up the stairs!

I moved to Middlesbrough with my new parents and their adopted son, who became my older brother. I always knew that I was adopted; my Mum told us a story about a lady who wasn’t able to look after her baby offering him to another lady who had always wanted a baby of her own. So from a young age I simply accepted that I was adopted and never thought it odd. I always knew my parents loved me in the same way that my friends' parents loved them.

I was always curious about my birth family and who I looked like. When I became an adult, I decided to trace them. Fate obviously wanted to help! The letter I wrote to the tracing agency was in the same social worker's in-tray as the letter my birth mother had written to try to trace me! We spoke on the phone and then met up. I already had loving parents and a family so for me it was all about curiosity rather than feeling something was missing, but still felt something 'click' as I met my three half-siblings and extended birth family. There was a strong family resemblance (especially our eyes) and it was very funny to notice our shared mannerisms.

My parents had encouraged me to go to university but I was unsure what to do afterwards. My birth mother is a social worker and, after tracing her, I felt that this was something I would like to do. Over the years I have worked a lot in fostering and adoption. I now spend much of my time assessing potential adoptive parents and foster carers. There were so many things that adopters need to know that I decided to write an eBook ('The Essential Adoption Guide: Everything the potential adoptive parent needs to know') on my experiences in the hope that it will increase awareness of who can adopt children and what the assessment process is like.

I know that I couldn't have lived with my birth mother and was extremely lucky to have been adopted as a baby by such a loving couple. Adoption has been a very positive experience for me, and I really hope that today's children can receive the same advantages. My birth mother visits every few weeks. There's no awkwardness between her and my Mum... and my children have the benefit of an extra grandmother!

If you need info or advice about adoption, please visit the main BAAF website If you would like to share your adoption or fostering story on the blog, contact press@baaf.org.uk.

Monday, 30 July 2012

A “real boy”

Jeannie Mackenzie adopted Gordon when he was 10-years-old and living in a psychiatric hospital. Here she describes their emotional and life-changing first meeting.

I was quite unprepared for the shock of recognition when I met Gordon for the first time. Of course, I recognised him from the photo albums and videos I had been shown, but this recognition was at a much deeper level – I felt as though I had known him all my life. He was not only instantly loveable, he was immediately someone I felt I could understand, with whom I could share feelings and dreams.

I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility for him; a drive to protect him and to nurture him. Friends have told me of “falling in love” with their babies when they are born – that instinct was as strong in me as it was in them, though this “baby” was a fully grown 10-year-old boy! I can only imagine how strange and terrifying it was to meet me for the first time, but he showed no sign of fear, he simply got out of his social worker’s car and walked up the path calling out, ‘Hi Mum!’ as he walked past me into the house.

When I showed Gordon the bedroom that was to be his, he cried out, ‘It’s just as if I was a real boy!’ The bedroom was not that special – it was only a small bedroom in a tiny semi-detached bungalow and furnished very simply. Delighted that I was that Gordon liked his new bedroom, I was sad that he felt himself not to be a “real boy”. What I knew already of the first 10 years of his life made me understand why he regarded himself as different.

He had suffered years of abuse and neglect in his family home, had been bullied in a children’s home and locked up in a psychiatric hospital. Yet he had also experienced love within his birth family and had strong feelings for family members he had lost through death and separation. And there were staff within the care setting who had become important to him. It was a complex story, a twisted knot of incidents, experiences and people. From this snarled mess, Gordon was struggling to build some sense of who he was and where he belonged. I think it was when I heard his heartfelt cry about being a “real boy” that I decided that one of my top priorities would be to let him have as normal a life as possible

You can read more about Jeannie and Gordon’s life together as an adoptive family in their book As if I was a Real Boy.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A family at last

Stevan and Elly Whitehead adopted two children – Veronica and Osvaldo – from Guatemala. Here, in an email to their friends back in the UK, they describe the day their family came together for the first time.

Dear friends

Well, here we are in Guatemala having met the two most beautiful kids in the world – and that is now official and irrefutable – we know, we were here!

We waited until just after 5pm this evening to meet them and Silvia, their foster mother, and Guillermo and Diana, our lawyer and his wife. When the moment finally arrived we went off to the lift with our hearts in our mouths. The lift doors opened as we got to the ground floor and there waiting were Veronica and Osvaldo and the rest of the party.

To say we were overwhelmed is an understatement, but being very British we kept a stiff upper lip or two and greeted all the adults and got to work getting to know our kids. We all went back up to our room – a little cramped but at least it gave us some privacy – and got out a few toys and offered coffee, juice and biscuits all round. We then got down to the serious stuff of playing on the floor with some of the presents we had brought.

I fell in love with Osvaldo the very second I saw his photo for the first time, and have always felt a special bond with our little boy. Well, real life is better and hundreds of times stronger. From the first time I picked him up it felt as if we had always been together. Meanwhile Elly and Veronica were hard at it getting to know each other – and it appeared to be pretty much instantaneous as well. Veronica is a much more reserved child than Ossie but Elly soon had her laughing and playing games.

Veronica mellowed into the situation, assisted by the fact that Ossie had fallen asleep and was snoring quietly on one of the beds. She was now the star of the show, receiving undivided attention and playing to the crowd unashamedly. She walked – well, OK, she staggered like a very well oiled sailor – from Elly to me, laughing and smiling all the time. She made a toy out of a piece of hotel notepaper, playing peekaboo, blowing kisses to it and with it, and making hats.

Finally Guillermo and Diana took the children away to sleep and dream happy dreams and come back tomorrow. We went off to a tearful supper, with all the pent up emotions finally coming out, and now just six hours after they arrived and three hours after they left, here we are celebrating and sharing our happiness with our friends.

Have we got any doubts or regrets? None. We are a family at last and forever and words cannot describe how good that feels.

Stevan and Elly
Hotel Marriott El Dorado, Guatemala City

You can read more of Stevan and Elly’s story in Finding our familia

Friday, 20 July 2012

Statement on DfE consultations on sibling groups, contact arrangements

Martin Narey and the Government have today launched an important debate around contact arrangements for children and placing children in sibling groups for adoption.

Contact and plans to keep siblings together or to place them separately are key and complex parts of the child welfare system. When decisions are made about these issues, the child’s needs and long term welfare must be our primary concern. We need to ensure that this drives policy and practice.

Contact Arrangements for Children

We welcome the fact that the call for views recognises that most children in care come into care for short periods and are soon reunited with their families and that most children who come into care are not adopted. It is absolutely right for all these children to maintain contact with their birth families where it is safe for them to do so. In our experience for children who are adopted contact can be an important way for those children to maintain positive links with members of their birth family and may even help them to settle into their adoptive home. However, any contact arrangements after adoption will have a different purpose than for those who are returning home to their families and it is important that legislation and policy and practice encourage a clear assessment of what is right for the child and will assist the child in establishing themselves in their permanent families.

BAAF has however, been advocating for a change in practice in relation to the level of contact that is being agreed for some babies and children – daily contact sessions in some cases often accompanied by long journeys – this cannot be good for children and is contraindicated by research. For this reason we particularly welcome the suggestion that statutory guidance should be strengthened to ensure that more consideration is given to the purpose of contact for infants. Indeed contact for all children needs to be purposeful and should only be agreed when it is in the best interests of a child.

We look forward to responding to the call for views on behalf of our membership.

Placing Sibling Groups for Adoption

Again we welcome this call for views. The decision whether or not to place siblings together or apart for adoption is one of the most profound decisions that a local authority can take. It is a decision that will impact upon a child and their siblings for the rest of their life although for some children we agree that separate placements will be the right decision. It is a decision that must always be taken with great care and on the basis of sound assessment evidence.

BAAF’s greatest concern in this area is that we do not have enough adoptive families in the system that are ready and willing to adopt children in sibling groups where assessment has established that it is right for them to be placed together. This problem is getting worse.

We know of many adoptive families who have successfully adopted sibling groups and we hope that this call for views will provide a springboard for national awareness raising work about the need for more prospective adoptive families for children in sibling groups to come forward. There are currently hundreds of sibling groups waiting for adoption in England but we believe that there are also hundreds of families who could adopt and keep these children together and if given the right support would find great rewards in doing so.

Again we look forward to responding to the call for views on behalf of our membership.

David Holmes, Chief Executive

Monday, 16 July 2012

Adoption blog: a tale of two siblings

(c) Sunshines.Silhouette
Today on the blog, we hear from a young woman who was adopted aged 4. Here she gives a frank account of her adoption experience, including her close relationship with her birth brother.

I was adopted when I was four and my brother was seven. We were taken into care because our birth parents could not look after us properly due to their drug abuse. At first we stayed with our auntie and uncle, but they all ready had seven children of their own. So we were placed with a foster family.

We knew that we were getting adopted. We were told by our social worker through play therapy that we would have a new forever mummy and daddy. It was explained that our birth mummy and daddy couldn't look after us as they had grown up problems, but as I got older I was told what this implied. My brother and I both had life story books which explained everything from birth to being adopted. As I look at it now I realise how much my life story book helped me. We also had a welcome book that was all about our adoptive family. It had photos and written pieces about the whole family, even the pets, which really helped, I liked reading about our new family.

Being adopted was very emotional. I was scared, excited and nervous. At first I didn't like any one having my adopted mummy's time and attention and my brother was sometimes an angry little boy. But my mummy and daddy were very patient and open with us. My brother did art therapy which really helped and we settled in. I had always wanted a mummy, but was not very fussed about having a daddy which my adopted dad understood. Then one day we were at the park and I was scared about a motor bike coming across the field and I screamed and ran to 'my daddy'.

My brother amazes me. He was the one who fed me when I was a baby when my birth parents were out of it. He looked after me like I was his child even though he was just a toddler himself. It amazes me that he had the knowledge and took care of me and I still think that's amazing today.

Three years later we found out we had a baby sister who was adopted into another family. Me and my brother decided to meet her. She was adorable. I loved being a big sister even though I was still young. We all got along and decided between the families to have regular contact and we still do today and it's great. Like any other little sister, she can be annoying, but I love her to pieces.

We had letter box contact with our birth parents which carried on till I was 15. A letter come from them saying how much they loved me and missed me. I will admit it stressed me out and really upset me. So I told my mum 'no more contact' - it made me too sad. I was a teenage girl with teenage girl problems and that was making it worse, so the contact stopped.

I want to help other adopted kids by sharing my story or listening to theirs as being an adopted child I know what they are going through. There are a lot of different emotions in the situation from upset and angry to being excited, happy and settled, but I was never ashamed to be adopted. I'm not saying adopting a child is easy, but having a child naturally isn't either.

If you need more info or advice about adoption, please visit the main BAAF website. For more personal tales about adoption, head to the blog homepage.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Adoption story: It is a year since a tornado ripped through our lives

Today on the blog we hear from Kathryn, who shares an honest experience of what happened when a "whirlwind of sparkly pinkness" came to be her adoptive daughter.

It is a year since a tornado ripped through our lives.

I remember the day our little girl came home like it was yesterday; the first day we became a family.

She was a tiny blonde princess, dressing her daddy up in bunny ears and play jewellery, whilst she carefully dressed herself, layering princess dress after princess dress on top of her day clothes, and turning the house into a fairy castle.

We were ecstatic. It was everything we had wished for and dreamed of but didn’t dare think would be reality.

We had four days of this whirlwind of sparkly pinkness and a child that was beyond 'good'. She was a quiet, 'busy' girl; always racing around and willing to help out (I found her one morning making our bed!) Doesn't it sound perfect? But we were worried. She was too compliant, too independent, never sat still and it just didn't feel right.

On Day Five, the tornado was replaced by a volcano and boy, did she erupt. All the grief, confusion, anger and fear she was feeling spilled out. She could tantrum for hours on end and responded with aggression if we tried to get close. She also completely rejected my husband, to the point where she would physically turn her back on him or claw at him. We were prepared for the rejection of one of us (expecting it to be me as the mother figure is often a target for anger), but this was on a completely different scale to anything we were expecting and it put a strain on our marriage and we’d bicker between ourselves. Our daughter was an expert 'splitter' and she tried to manipulate this weakness so she could feel in control and therefore 'safe' and at the beginning she managed it rather successfully.

We realised then why so much time was taken up during Home Study, talking about the strengths and vulnerabilities within our relationship and the importance of presenting a united front and having a great support network. We are not a couple to struggle and we asked for help.

Our LA was magnificent and we had lots of face-to-face and telephone advice and they set up CAMHS support which was tremendous. We've also done lots of research about attachment ourselves and have learnt a great deal about the reasons behind her behaviour and also the reasons for our reactions.

A year on, she is a different child. Yes, she still has her moments but we recognise her triggers and we have lots of strategies in place to help.

She has blossomed into a funny, clever, affectionate child who is a bundle of energy. Our relationship has gone from strength to strength and the love we feel for her is indescribable.

And her relationship with daddy? Well, if I tell you that this morning she told me she was looking forward to spending a day with daddy because she loves him sooooo much, that just about covers it!

For more info and advice on adoption and fostering, please visit the main BAAF website. If you would like to share your story on the blog, please email press@baaf.org.uk

Friday, 6 July 2012

Early Permanence for Babies and Children - a response to David Cameron's statement

Early today, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a 'foster to adopt' plan which would see new-born babies being taken into care fostered by people who want to adopt them. Here, BAAF's Chief Executive David Holmes responds to the Government.

"The British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) fully supports the policy objective of aiming wherever possible to place babies and young children with carers who may become the child's potential permanent carers as early as possible. We know that this is in the developmental interests of vulnerable children and will minimise any disruption to the child as long term decisions are made.

"All children in care need clear plans for permanence and this policy has the potential to be applicable to a wide group of children. BAAF thinks that there is a real advantage in the Government consulting on a change to the law that places a duty on local authorities to place with carers who may become the child's permanent carers. Such a placement will always in the first instance be a temporary foster care placement with family and friends carers or 'stranger carers'. Only when the court agrees, will that placement be secured through an adoption order, special guardianship, a residence order or for some permanent foster care. It is also important that return to the child’s parents is always the first option wherever this is possible.

"These proposals will be demanding to implement responsibly. They will require well trained, knowledgeable and well-resourced professionals, properly informed and supported carers and the support of the courts and judiciary."

For more info and advice on adoption and fostering, visit the main BAAF website.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Finding the son I'd never met

As a teenager growing up in the 1960s, Andrew Ward fathered a child who was immediately placed for adoption. Thirty years later he set out to find the son he had never met.

I learned about the baby by chance. My parents and I returned from holiday abroad and called in to see old friends in the town where we used to live. I borrowed my parents' car and went to visit Carol. It was 10am one Sunday morning and the curtains were closed. That was very unusual. It was normally an up-and-at-em, crack of dawn household. Maybe there was a death in the family. I knocked on the door and nobody answered.

I went away and then returned an hour later. This time the door was opened. Her parents seemed sombre as they escorted me into the lounge. I felt like I was going into the headmaster’s study. I sat down and they told me that Carol had just had a baby.

A wave of shock dropped from the ceiling. It tied my hands behind my back, stuffed cotton wool into my mouth and pinned my stomach to the chair seat. The quiet lingered.

'Can I see her?' I asked at last, when I'd learned how to talk again.
'No, that wouldn't be for the best.'
'Boy or girl?' I asked.
'Boy. Do you admit that you're the father?'
I didn't see Carol. I never saw, touched or smelled the baby. It became clear that the notion of adoption was uppermost in the minds of Carol's parents.

My memories of the adoption aftermath are hazy. It was as if I was hypnotised. I was incapable of putting up a fight. I was expected to be like a cuckoo rolling someone else’s egg out of the nest with no concern about whether or not it would land safely. The adoption decision was presented to me in such a way that I had to be very strong in order to scupper that decision and find another option. I had a dearth of information and insufficient experience of life. I ruled out the prospect of Carol and me jointly raising the child because I assumed that she was going along with the adoption and that our relationship was over.

A fortnight later I borrowed my father's car and drove 200 miles to see a social worker in the town where I’d first met Carol. Carol's parents had told my parents that I had to be adamant about the adoption and adamant that Carol and I would never get married. I'd had to look up the word adamant in my dictionary. It wasn't a word that suited my personality at the time.

The social worker was jolly and friendly. She asked me questions about my school and my A levels. Then she looked for ways to describe me.
'What are your hobbies?'
'Bridge and chess.'
'Oh, chess. That's good.'
I never wanted to play chess again after that.
'Are you willing to sign a consent form?' she asked.
'I suppose so.'
I didn't understand what was happening. It didn't really matter whether I signed a form or not. Carol's signature was all they needed to crank up the adoption process. The family adopting the child had the right to change Christian names and surnames and thereafter the path to my son grew mistier, murkier and muddier.

You can read more of Andrew's story in The Birth Father's Tale. If you need info or advice about adoption search and reunion, please visit the ASR website.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

First ever National Adoption Week Awards announced!

In 2011 we launched our first ever National Adoption Week Film Competition. The idea behind the competition was to give people with experience of adoption a new forum with which to communicate their passion. Film can be incredibly powerful, and with the rise of social networking sites, such as YouTube, it's become even easier to share with others. It is the perfect medium for inspiring others.

This year, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the campaign, we are launching the National Adoption Week Awards! The categories for the 2012 awards will be as follows:

• Adoption Film of the Year
• Adoption Champion of the Year
• Supporter of the Year
• Adoption Social Worker of the Year
• Adoption Service of the Year

For further info about the Adoption Film category, continue reading below. To find out more about the other strands, head on over to the National Adoption Week website.

As part of this year's National Adoption Week Awards we are launching a short film competition with the chance to attend an awards ceremony in London, and of course raise awareness of adoption. You don't have to be a professional film maker, or even have professional equipment. Some great films have even been made on mobile phones. So why not give it a go by making a short film about what adoption means to you?

We've deliberately left the theme wide to allow you to interpret it in the way that means most to you. As National Adoption Week is all about encouraging other people to adopt, the judges will be looking for films that are creative and inspiring to anyone thinking about adoption.

How to enter
1. Make a video about what adoption means to you
2. Upload your video to YouTube and tag it NAW2012
3. Register your details via our website and send us the YouTube link

Here's a short video that explains the process a bit more:

To watch the winning entries from 2011’s film competition, please head here: http://www.nationaladoptionweek.org.uk/film-competition

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Trekking the Inca Trail to raise funds for adoption & fostering

Last month, BAAF Chair Anthony Douglas trekked the Inca Trail in Peru to help raise funds for adoption and fostering. Here, he talks us through the amazing achievement and encourages others to think about undertaking a challenge of their own.

When I decided to trek the Inca Trail for BAAF, it was a long way ahead (9 months) and a long way away (6,200 miles). Although my training did not conform to the plan I was scrupulously sent, I realised from speaking to some friends and colleagues who’d been there and done it that prior training might make all the difference between completion in style or the potential humiliation of having to turn back or, even worse, to be carried down the mountain by a team of fleet-footed porters. So I spent two weekends climbing in the Brecon Beacons, one of them in a minus 10 degree blizzard in April! The effort paid off. Other trekkers prepared by climbing up and down stairs at home for hours on end.

Starting out in the middle of the night from Heathrow, I wondered what I had let myself in for. Some trekker’s kitbags were straight out of a Mountain Warehouse catalogue: two pairs of everything and exquisitely squashed down rather than packed like a binbag. But what was instantly reassuring was that all 55 of us were there to do whatever it took for our charities, and to justify the faith and optimism placed in us by our sponsors. The charities ranged from unique and local, particularly hospices, to unique and national like BAAF. I wore my BAAF orange T shirt with pride at strategic moments during the trek, including one night in a dimly-lit tent when I gave an after-dinner speech about what BAAF does for vulnerable children in the UK. It was just as much a privilege to do that high up in the Andes as it is in the Westminster village. And both matter to BAAF, as they increase the number of people we reach, who in turn can talk to others about what we do, in a network of influence.

The 4 day trek was preceded by 3 days of vital acclimatisation. Being alcohol-free from the moment we stepped off the plane at 9,500 feet in Cusco until we reached Macchu Pichu was also good advice! Crucially, we were taught by our guides, both back in England and on the trek itself in Peru, to find and understand our own pace, so that we could walk at our own pace when the going got tough, as it did from time to time. The trek itself was an ascending crescendo of personal effort for all of us, culminating in seeing Macchu Pichu through the legendary Sun Gate. The scenery throughout the trek was like being in Avatar, with the most amazing shapes, smells, sounds and sights. For the Incas to have built a city like Macchu Pichu in such a wild and inaccessible place was a feat of community engineering. The mysteries of how, why and who remain to this day, which adds to the magic.

I was proud to raise more than £5,000 for BAAF. It will make a small but significant contribution to our work. What drove me on was what I was doing for BAAF.

If you would like to undertake an overseas challenge to help raise money for BAAF, please visit the fundraising section of our website.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Father's Day: a note from an adoptee

Timmy, 26, is a PR professional from London who was adopted at just six weeks old. In the lead up to Father's Day (June 17), he looks back on his relationship with his adoptive father and looks forward to adopting himself in the future.

My parents were always very open with me about my adoption, even from a young age – they welcomed questions, and I had a children's book explaining what adoption is, which was given to me as soon as I learnt to read.

My birth mother was 16 when she fell pregnant with me and knew she wanted to have me adopted. I was placed with a foster family after birth and then six weeks later, I moved in with my adoptive mum and dad. I'm 26 now but I still receive birthday cards from my foster mum!

Growing up, mum and dad were always supportive and I had everything I could possibly want and need from a family. I lived on a farm in the most beautiful countryside with a big family around me – dad would teach me how to ride the tractor. He's very patient, which he needs to be when it comes to me! We get along well and he shows interest in what I do and takes time to understand and ask about what I'm doing. He's a typical Devon farmer, which is where we're different. Dad comes from a long line of traditional families, so in that sense I'm a bit of a black sheep. But even when I came out to dad in my first year of uni, he supported me and accepted me for who I am.

This Father's Day, I'm hoping to go back home and visit my family. In previous years the whole family would gather round for a big lunch. I'm really lucky to have been welcomed into a loving family, and I have the same relationship with my parents as anyone who hasn't been adopted.

Father's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas, birthdays, Easter – they are all huge family celebrations for us. I remember on my 18th birthday – and I'll never forget this – my mum turned to me, upset. When I asked why she was upset, she said, "because your biological mother hasn't been able to see you grow up the way I have." Your parents aren't your DNA – they are the people who support you and help you grow into what you become, which is why I'm so fortunate to have my mum and dad.

When it comes to having my own family, as a gay man, adoption is absolutely a route that I would explore – but the time has to be right. You have to be emotionally resilient – my adoption was quite straight-forward, but I can imagine it would be really tough in different circumstances.

For more info and advice about adoption, visit the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF)’s website: www.baaf.org.uk

To watch videos from adoptive fathers, head over to the BAAF YouTube channel.

Monday, 11 June 2012

A Modern Family

Last month we launched the first in our series of adoption and fostering videos, made with help from the BBC. Today, we unveil the second - an insight into adoption in Wales - which features the story of Sara, who adopted her daughter Sam as a single mother.

We hope that this short film will illustrate that there are many different routes to a happy family life.

I was in my late thirties and in a long term relationship when I first started thinking about adoption. When the relationship broke down, I applied as a single person as I knew I still wanted to be a parent, even though many people would consider the challenges of raising a child as a single parent would be greater than those faced by a couple. I was assessed and approved as a single adopter and eventually my daughter Sam moved in with me shortly after her fourth birthday. Meeting Sam for the first time was an emotional moment for me as the idea of becoming a parent became real when I realised that this little girl was to become a part of my life forever. Sam had been living with a foster carer for the previous year,so it was a hard time for her dealing with all the changes, but luckily I was able to take eight months off work before she started school, which gave us time to bond as mum and daughter.

Sam is now ten years old and a lot has changed in our lives over the past six years. Soon after I adopted Sam, I met my future husband Terry, a widower with three grown up sons. We came together as a family and when Sam was eight, he adopted her as well. We married last year, with Sam as our bridesmaid on a happy day for all the family. Sam now has three wonderful brothers as well as aunties, uncles cousins and friends who have all embraced the new extended family.

Sam is a wonderful daughter. The love I have for her was difficult to convey in the interview I gave but she has brought so much joy to us and to both our families. She is lively and full of fun, loving and caring.Sam was keen to take part in the project and enjoyed the brief moment of fame as she was filmed in the park as well as the added attention from school friends who were impressed with her being filmed by the BBC! We were lucky to have a warm and sunny day for the filming and we were able to go outdoors and make the most of the good weather.

We hope that the film shows something of how three people can come together from very different past lives to create a new life together... We love watching 'Modern Family' and feel that we have our very own modern family which may not have come about in a traditional way but is all the more appreciated because of that.

For more personal stories and videos about adoption and fostering, please visit our YouTube channel.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The three of us; for the first time, and forever

This week on the blog, we hear from Jane and her husband who adopted baby Freddie two and a half years ago. Here, Jane looks back on the moment two became three and shares her experiences as an adoptive mother.

We had a house full of cards, bags full of hand-me-downs from excited relatives, and a diary clear of any commitments for a month...but as Andy and I stood together, looking down at the 4 and a half month old baby in the moses basket, we genuinely had no idea what was going on.

The night before we had been to a restaurant, had a nice meal and a few glasses of wine, and "celebrated" our last night as a twosome. Eighteen hours later we were at home with baby Freddie and had closed the door on the world. And suddenly it was just us. Just the three of us. For the first time ever, and forever.

We were that very lucky couple. Our son's placement order was granted exactly 12 weeks after he was born. Fifteen minutes later our social worker phoned and said (in the calmest voice I have ever heard); "You have been linked with a baby. He's a littlie. He's three months old."

From that second, our lives changed forever. We had his file that afternoon, three days later we had a visit from his social worker and the family finder. The following day we had the phone call saying that they wanted to proceed with the match. Within a month we had met his (wonderful) foster carers, the medical adviser, and completed our matching report. Within 5 weeks of that first phone call, we were at matching panel. Ten days later, Freddie was home.

Adopting a very young baby is incredible. Every day we count our blessings that we were chosen, and settling him into our lives and routines was a doddle. We got all the "firsts" that so many adoptive families don’t have...words, steps, birthday... Alongside that, however, is the weirdness in baby groups, where other Mums ONLY talk about pregnancy, birth and labour. The strangers who stop your pram in the street to ask you who he looks like, and the neighbours who couldn’t remember whether or not you had been pregnant, but were too polite to mention.

We have the "telling" to come, and we know that there are likely to be issues borne from Freddie's erratic start. But we are so very lucky that we will have known our son for nearly all of his life, and two and a half years on, we can’t remember a time when he wasn’t here.

For more first-hand experiences of adoption, check out the rest of BAAF's blog. If you need info or advice about adoption, head over to the main BAAF website.

Monday, 28 May 2012

15 years in fostering: Our story

Vaughan and Sian Jenkins from west Wales have been fostering for 15 years and are both full-time carers. They work for a local authority scheme doing task-focused work with children with challenging behaviour, who are often at risk of going into custody or secure units.

Declan was a lovely lad. He had a lot of problems – and still has – but there was something about him that you took to…The thing about fostering is you don’t know what is round the corner, what problems children are going to bring to you, so if you can latch onto something likeable in the child’s personality, it makes it easier to care for them. With Declan, you went not just that extra mile for him but 50 times round the block! He had endearing characteristics and infuriating habits. I drove him for a contact visit once and he sang "Roses are red, violets are blue" non-stop for 120 miles. By the time I got there I was starting to foam at the mouth a little!

Not long after he came to us, Declan went to a neurologist as he had a tremor and problems with motor skills. The neurologist was very dismissive, saying Declan would never be able to do anything. But we bought Declan a bike and stabilisers. As I went outside to fit the stabilisers, Declan came past riding the bike! He'd learnt to ride in 20 minutes. Declan achieved all sorts of things while he was with us. He got a Royal Yachting Association Qualification and was competent to take a small dinghy out on his own. When he came to us he could not write his name; 12 months later he was reading the Goosebumps book series.

With a child like Declan you have a list of the things that you have to change. You start by working on something very small and move towards bigger things. Declan really wanted to please, and if a child wants to be well regarded, you are on to a winner! What you try to do is establish the behaviour you want and cut across negative behaviour. You then reward children for the positive behaviour. These are children who have never succeeded, never been praised. All of a sudden they are making discoveries about themselves, finding out what they can do. Declan could see himself as someone who could steer a dinghy and ride a bike. He was not just someone with a learning disability but someone who could do things. It gives the child a sense of self-worth.

It was incredibly hard work caring for Declan. It was probably one of the most difficult pieces of work we’ve ever done, but also one of the best. There were negatives, but there were more positives. Declan made a lot of progress while he was with us. The rewards of fostering aren't what you achieve but what the young people achieve for themselves and knowing you’ve been part of that.

You can read more of Vaughan and Sian's story, as well as the experiences of 11 other foster carers, in the BAAF book 'If you don’t stick with me who will?'

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Looking back: diary of a foster child

(c) Alan Mezzomo
Last week we heard from Niki, a foster carer who contributed to our BBC video series. As Foster Care Fortnight continues we hear from Leila Stroud, who looks back on her experience as a fostered child.

I think that my story starts in much the same place as other children in care. Young parents, both with difficult early experiences, their families did not approve, they got pregnant. When I was born, neither of my parents could look after me without causing me harm, and I was removed by the local authority and placed in foster care. I had a few foster placements, some good, some not so.

This is where my story becomes different from many other. The council began to search for a long term placement for me, and after what I like to think was much searching, they found my foster parents, my mum and dad.

Although not my birth family, they always made it clear that although I hadn't been born to them, I was meant for them. They swiftly became, and still are, my parents. Living in a long term foster placement was not without its difficulties, my foster sister (their birth daughter) and I did not always see eye to eye. She was 5 years older than me; had always done everything first, and was definitely "always right". The fact that we were not related did not stop us doing everything that sisters will do including many interesting disagreements, much 'borrowing' of all her clothes and make up and general little sister annoyance. I often wonder what it must have been like for her to have lived 7 years of your life being an only child then to one day arrive home and find yourself a big sister to this child from outside of your family, with all the social services involvement that being 'looked after' brings.

When I first arrived, apparently I would acknowledge nobody apart from my foster mum, regardless of cajoling and kindness. The bond was immediate for us and that strength of relationship is something which carried us through some really tough time along the way. Contact with birth family; fall out from my early experiences; the usual teenage things (involving much black clothes wearing and a penchant for heavy metal), dislike of one of the many social workers that came along; all these thing came and passed during my placement. But something which never changed was my parents love and commitment to me. I never doubted my place in their home, never worried that if I were naughty I would have to leave, never feared that they did not want me. Knowing all these things meant that I had the experience growing up that I should have had from the start – the experience every child should have.

As an adult, I now have contact with my birth family - my birth mother, sisters, grandparents. I enjoy these relationships, I am related to them, but as I have grown older I have realised it is much less about blood and so much more about love and caring.

For my sisters, they have not had the chances and opportunities I had. For them, the situation begins to repeat itself with their children, and this worries me. I have grown up, gone to a good school, got some decent qualifications, been to University, trained as a Social Worker, met my partner and have a family. I am happy, well adjusted and so grateful for the life and childhood that I had. My sisters? They had foster placements and time with my birth mother. For them, things aren't so simple.

I don’t even know where to start when I talk to people about what a difference the right people can make as foster carers. My parents are amazing people, and I know that there are so many other amazing people out there who could make massive differences to children and young people who have had such a poor start, so they can have all the chances and happiness they deserve.

For more information about fostering, please visit the main BAAF website. To hear more about Foster Care Fortnight, head to Fostering Network's 22 Minutes site.

Monday, 14 May 2012

What does it mean to be a foster carer?

To celebrate the start of Foster Care Fortnight (14-27 May), we have teamed with the BBC to produce an inspirational video highlighting the amazing work that foster carers do. Today on the blog, we hear from one of our contributors, Niki, who reveals what it means to her to be a foster carer.

A day in my life is never dull, one minute I could be playing on a trampoline, the next picking daisies or perhaps visiting a museum or zoo. Recently I took part in a film for BAAF on what it means to be a foster carer – never in my wildest dreams did I expect to spend part of the day in my dressing gown reading stories on camera! Like all experiences related to foster care this was incredibly rewarding and offered me the opportunity to share the love and commitment I have for my job and my fellow human beings. Somehow describing foster caring as a ‘job’ feels fundamentally wrong, it is more of a vocation. Nothing else quite measures up.

It is not a run of the mill nine to five occupation; it is unlike any other profession. There are no set hours, no two days are ever the same and no two placements are ever the same because all children and young people are individuals. One minute I may be changing nappies, the next perhaps completing documents to submit to the courts – this of course is the serious side of foster caring. You have a responsibility to keep records, a need to keep up to date with training, you are accountable for the children in your care and as such must ensure that you are performing to the best of your ability – this takes time, it takes energy and it takes tenacity. Foster caring is not for the faint hearted!

A foster carer is to all intents and purposes a substitute parent – we raise the children in our care as if they are our own, we love them, worry about them, rejoice in their achievements, hurt when they hurt, laugh when they laugh, they belong to our family. We also share them with their own birth families. Most foster children still have contact with their families and it is part of our role to encourage this special relationship. Contact of course is not always an easy arrangement, family circumstances can be complex; relationships difficult and when contact is no longer feasible the foster carer will be there to continue to offer love and support unconditionally. When the time comes for a child to move on, it is the foster carer that ensures a smooth transition.

Each child or young person needs the space and time to make sense of their previous life experiences whilst also being encouraged to take those vital steps forwards; either back to their families or onto another life. Of course we will be left behind with our tissues and our memories but a piece of our heart always goes along side each and every child or young person; we will never forget them or the joy they have brought to our lives and we can rejoice in another job well done.

That is the essence of why I feel foster caring is so special, once in the role, very few decide to leave for no other job offers the hope, the happiness and the pleasure of fostering caring. Ultimately I am a foster carer because unlike every other profession I have experienced, this is the only one to ever give love back and in abundance.

Click 'play' below to watch BAAF's Foster Care Film.

If you would like more information on fostering or are considering becoming a foster carer, please visit the main BAAF website. For more stories from foster carers, why not visit our online bookstore?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A Love Less Ordinary

(c) E>mar
A little over a year ago, David and Lisa Chandler adopted twin boys. Fourteen months into their 'happy ever after', David reflects on their very first days as a new family.

It's around 7pm on a Tuesday in late February, or 'Day 1', and there are two small boys in our bathroom, dressed in robot pyjamas, brushing their teeth. They are, more or less, complete strangers to me. And they'll be here forever.

This is the prickly paradox at the heart of the adoption process. They are 'your' children, you have been trusted with caring for them indefinitely and they look upon you with the expectation any child might have of his or her parent – yet you are aliens to one another.

Just a fortnight before, after the kind people of our Matching Panel had given it all the green light, the four-year-olds were handed two little books containing photos of their new mum and dad and their future home, far away. They were told by grown-ups that the dreams the boys didn't know they had would soon be coming true, that this lady and man would be their 'new mummy and daddy' and that they’d be meeting them soon. The boys, of course, as kids do, just accepted this as fact even though, by and large, grown-ups have done nothing but let them down the whole of their remarkable little lives.

And, then, before anyone really has time to do anything, they're here. Don't think that this shock, this reality check, was due to any lack of preparation. It is not always the case, I'm sure, but our agency and the boys' social care team seemed to miss nothing in preparing us for the adoption. No stone was left unturned. The reality, however, is something that no other experience in life can ready you for. We studied, we read, we listened and talked and talked. Then we decorated two bedrooms and bought a few toys. We invested emotionally and physically.

As the lads brushed their teeth that night, on the mantelpiece downstairs sat a half-dozen kind (and very welcome) cards carrying heartfelt and well-intended messages of love and excitement. 'You've got your family now!', 'You all must be soooo excited!!'. The truth is, we hadn't got our family yet. We had four people and some cards.

There are many touching tales of love-at-first-sight adoptions and I don't doubt their veracity for a moment but, for us, it wasn't like this. We liked the boys straight away, of course, and felt confident that love would inevitably follow, as it has. But, in those early days, there was just function and regulation – management, really. No one likes to speak in those terms but, if you're readying yourself for adoption, be prepared.

Long after those robot pyjamas have been replaced (they grow so quickly) these boys, our boys, are loved perhaps more than they have ever been by anyone. It is a happy ending of sorts but the penultimate chapter was by far the hardest. Just make sure you read to the end.

For more information about adoption, please visit the main BAAF website. For more stories about adoption, check out our online bookstore.

Monday, 30 April 2012

An insight into adopting a child with disabilities

I thought long and hard before deciding to write this story. We're just an ordinary family of six, who, like thousands of others, happen to have a child with disabilities. And he just happens to be adopted. There are thousands of children in the UK waiting for adoption, and many will never be placed with families. I hope that by sharing our experience we may be able to offer a bit of practical advice and insight to others who might be thinking of adoption, and in particular if they are thinking of adopting a child with disabilities.

The decision to adopt, or even to make that first phone call, isn’t at all straightforward. It's the beginning of a mystery tour…an unknown journey. We thought a lot about the sort of child that would fit in best with our family. We ended up thinking that a child with mild disabilities might be the best fit. Of course, the term "mild disability" is a bit elastic. William, who we eventually adopted, has cerebral palsy. He is more physically disabled than we'd envisaged and we think that he may never be able to walk.

When he joined us it was a bit like being parents for the first time again – having a being who is totally dependent on you, despite your utter lack of experience and skills. William didn't come with an instruction manual. There was lots of information about his background and the nature of his disability, and there were lists of the routines he was used to, the things he would eat, and his bedtime rituals. We've had to put our own unwritten manual together about how to fully care for him as we've gone along, and as we have got to know William and grown to love and understand him.

William has enriched us and our other children. We re-read his early life history the other day: his premature birth and subsequent withdrawal from opiates as a result of his birth mother's drug addiction; periods alone in hospital; nine different care arrangements in the first six months of his life; the overwhelming grief he went through when he came to live with us and had to leave his foster carers; the struggle to find his sense of self in the light of being unwanted by his birth family; coming to terms with being a wheelchair user. And if that wasn't enough, it was then discovered that he had a visual impairment, he developed migraines and he was shunned by other children when he desperately wanted their friendship. Given all this, it is remarkable that he's as cheerful, loving and courageous as he is, and that he shows no shred of self-pity. He can light up a room with his infectious love of life. It is a privilege and joy to be his parents.

Robert and Evie, along with their three birth children, adopted William, a little boy with cerebral palsy. You can read more about their life together in The Family Business.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Running the London Marathon to raise funds for adoption & fostering

BAAF's very own Senior Media & PR Officer Dan French was among the thousands of runners who took part in the 2012 Virgin London Marathon on Sunday, April 22. Here, he talks through the day and encourages others to consider signing up for the 2013 race.

When I agreed last summer to take part in the Virgin London Marathon 2012, I had no real idea what I was letting myself in for. Sure, those that have raced before explain how difficult the training can be, but nobody truly prepares you for running in the freezing cold, the pouring rain, and the amount you sweat during a rare moment of British sunshine – not to mention the horrific injuries you sustain!

Last Sunday, the big day finally arrived. I don’t care what any bride tells you – travelling down to the VLM has to be far more nerve-racking than making your way to the church for your wedding.

Just after 10am, I, alongside thousands of runners, set off on my 26 mile mission. I have to say that the first 10 miles passed by without too much pain, but after that I began to count the miles and look out for each mile marker.

I spotted friends and family around the 18 mile mark, which truly was a high. It sounds clichĂ©, but if it wasn’t for the amazing crowds on the day, I doubt that runners would make it through the race. The adrenaline and excitement of the day started to wear off shortly afterwards and by mile 24, I was ready to give up. For the first time during the race I started walking, which was the point that I saw a young girl in the crowd, cheering me on. “Come on, Dan – keep running, you can do it!” I rolled my eyes, begrudgingly picked up the pace, and somehow managed to break into what can only be described as a pathetic hobble.

Those next two miles were pretty excruciating, but the pain began to fade when I saw a banner claiming “Only 800m left!” and promptly broke into a sprint. I saw a man in a rhino costume and a couple of people dressed as Wombles – no way was I going to let them beat me!

Five hours and two minutes after I started the Virgin London Marathon, I crossed the finish line, euphoric, proud, and SO pleased I agreed to take part in such an amazing challenge.

If you would like to sign up to the 2013 VLM to help raise money for the British Association for Adoption & Fostering, please visit the BAAF fundraising site. If you would like to sponsor Dan for his efforts on the day, head over to his sponsorship page.

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