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.

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