Newsletter 2009/2010

Note from the editor

Welcome to our second Edition of the St. David’s Newsletter. Many thanks to all those who have contributed, even those who have done so under duress. We couldn’t have managed without you!!

This edition heralds a number of changes within St. David’s not least that the previous editor has moved onto pastures new, hence part of the reason for the delay in production. It now falls to me in the short term at least!!

So here we are at something of a crossroads, when the Society moves into a new era, but with a very firm foothold in its past. More on this from our Director, Gerry and Archbishop Peter Smith, Bishop Edwin Regan and Bishop Mark Jabale later ….

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy reading about the experiences of other adopters, what is happening within the Society and any updates on adoption issues that may be of interest to you.

Joan

CATHOLIC CHURCH WITHDRAWS FROM ADOPTION SOCIETY OVER NEW LEGISLATION.

For 65 years St. David’s Children Society has provided a comprehensive range of adoption services across all of Wales and Herefordshire. St David’s is also the longest serving adoption agency in Wales.

Recent equality legislation has presented significant challenges for the adoption agency. Following an extensive period of consultation, legal advice and reflection, Archbishop Peter Smith and the trustees of St. David’s have agreed that if the agency is to continue its good work, it will be necessary to comply with the new equality legislation. However, this will result in a separation between the agency and the three Catholic dioceses in Wales. This change will take effect on the 31st December 2008. The Bishops, Trustees, and staff have all agreed that, in the circumstances, this is the most responsible and transparent course of action. In doing so, St David’s Children Society aims to preserve its adoption services to some of the most vulnerable children in Wales.

In complying with the new legislation, St. David’s will continue to provide its full range of services with the same values, the same dedicated staff team and the same absolute commitment to place the best interests of children at the very heart of our work.

To date the Catholic and faith communities have been great supporters of St David’s. Those who give so generously to our charity are aware that we work with the most marginalized children in society; children who have been ill-treated, neglected or abused; children who have lost everything including their birth family. Our benefactors realise that their support makes such a direct difference to these children’s lives. They understand that there is a moral imperative that our work goes on.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick chair of the board of trustees said: ‘These changes are naturally tinged with sadness at the ending of a long-standing relationship, but the board of trustees is determined to make the transition as smoothly as possible, and without any detriment to the current high quality of services St David’s offers. It is essential that our work evolves for those children who are currently looked after to have the joy and security of family life as soon as possible.’

Gerry Cooney
15th October 2008

The AGM of St David’s Children Society was held at 3.30 pm 14 October 2008, during which the necessary changes were passed by the board of trustees.
The Charity Commission has given consent for these changes to take effect.

Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Peter Smith, Bishop Edwin Regan and Bishop Mark Jabale

Dear brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are writing to you today about the future of St. David’s Children’s Society which, as our approved Catholic adoption Agency, has been working throughout Wales and Herefordshire for the past 61 years. Children awaiting adoption are amongst the most vulnerable children in society; they are often children who are disabled or suffer from learning difficulties, or who have been neglected, ill-treated or abused in various ways. During those 61 years, our Children’s Society has provided adoptive families for some 2000 children, including 1600 Catholic families. That has been an outstanding contribution by the Church, not only to the Catholic community, but to family life in the wider community of Wales and Herefordshire.

However, in the light of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, if our Children’s Society is to continue that work, it will be required to give equivalent status to couples of the same sex as we have always given to married couples. In other words, couples of the same sex must be treated as being absolutely equivalent to married couples as prospective adoptive parents. If our Children’s Society does not implement these Regulations, with effect from the 1st January 2009, it will be denied public funding for the work which it does.

In the light of Church teaching on marriage and family life, and for the good of the very vulnerable children who need to be adopted by a committed mother and father, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has repeatedly argued for an exemption from this aspect of the Regulations for our Children’s Societies. Our Societies should be able to act in accordance with Church teaching and with integrity, and should not be required to do otherwise. Despite repeated requests, and a great deal of public debate over the past eighteen months, the Government has resolutely rejected our requests. What was given, was a period of eighteen months as a transitional period for our Societies “to adjust to the new regulations”. The threat that hangs over the future work of our Children’s Society is not a problem of our own making. It is entirely the result of the Government’s decision to include our adoption services within the scope of the Sexual Orientation Regulations without giving a reasonable exemption in the light of Church teaching and religious conscience.

The cost of providing these services is very high, and despite the financial contributions of the Catholic community in Wales and Herefordshire, the majority of those costs have been covered, and still are, by the fees which the Society charges to Local Authorities for preparing and nominating prospective adoptive parents. Such funding will be denied, unless the Society conforms to the requirements of the Regulations.

Consequently, and with deep sadness, the Trustees of St. David’s Children’s Society resolved last week to become a Society independent of the Catholic Church. We appreciate that they have done so in the light of Church teaching and legal advice, after many months of prayerful discernment. In complying with the Regulations, the new Society will continue to provide its full range of adoption services, drawing on its tradition of the past 61 years and with the commitment to continue to put the best interests of children at the heart of its work. It will continue to give support to parents who have already adopted children, and will carry on its work of recruiting prospective adoptive parents from the Catholic community in Wales, from those of other faiths and those of no faith at all.

We hope that many of you will feel able to continue your support of the new Society particularly by providing contributions to the ongoing support of those families which have already adopted children. This work is not funded by Local Authorities and it would be a great shame if the Society were to be restricted in this vital support and encouragement of those families which have been so generous in finding a home for very needy children. We thank the staff of the Society, past and present for the dedication they have shown to this great work, and all of you who have supported the Society in so many ways over the years. We thank especially those families who have taken on a lifetime commitment to welcome some of the most vulnerable children in our society into their homes.

With an assurance of our prayers and blessing,

Archbishop Peter Smith

Bishop Edwin Regan

Bishop Mark Jabale

SPOTLIGHT ON PRACTICE

NEW ASSESSMENT REPORT FOR PROSPECTIVE ADOPTERS

Gone is the Form F assessment and in comes the BAAF Prospective Adopters Report, which is the new standardised way that information will be presented to adoption panels. Basically, the report looks at many of the same issues that were previously contained in the Form F but tells the story in a more cohesive streamlined way, which hopefully will make easier reading for adopters, panel and social workers alike.

ANOTHER NEWCOMER IS THE SECOND TIME ADOPTERS COURSE

The South Wales Adoption Agencies Consortium has taken the lead in developing this for those adopters who decide to come back for more. So far two courses have been held and the feedback was positive. We have 4 families who have taken this brave step, so well done to you too.

SPOTLIGHT ON EVENTS

Here are some important dates for your diary:

The next Post approval group meeting is on December 6th when Father Christmas is in attendance!

An additional session will be held in February, so watch this space.

Once again, our annual celebration of adoption went well, with a lively energetic group of children, their worn out parents and a bouncy castle in place! Our appreciation goes to all those who helped to make it a memorable day including:

The Nuns of Nazareth House for their catering and hospitality
Archbishop Peter Smith and fellow clerics
The parents and children who provided the music and the readings
Our admirable admin staff Jackie and Sue whose planning and organisation made it happen on the day and last but not least
ALL THOSE WHO CAME ALONG!!

ACCESS TO INFORMATION by Jane Smith

A significant part of this Society’s role is to provide an ‘Access to Information Service’ for adopted adults, and their birth and adoptive relatives.

Since 2004, I have undertaken this work on a part-time basis. To begin with, the main focus of my work was with adoptees who were placed for adoption prior to the 1960’s i.e. Relinquished babies.

With recent changes in adoption law, my work has changed, and it is the impact of this that I intend focussing on in this brief article.

Karen, an adopted adult featured in the publication “Preparing for Reunion” writes “great courage is needed for everyone in the triangle of birth mother, adoptive parents and adoptee when you decide to go in search of your origins”.

We know that many adopted adults will have possibly be thinking of contacting a relevant Adoption Agency for a number of months if not years before they make that initial contact via a phone call, e mail or letter.
Research indicates that significant life events e.g. a marriage, death or the birth of a child can often trigger the enquiry.

Historically, adoptees knew little about their personal or family history, or indeed their birth name. Nowadays, the significance of this information in terms of an individual’s ‘sense of self/identity’ has become increasingly recognised, and the emphasis is on sharing as much information as possible, with adopters and children alike.

Information about an adoptee’s past is usually shared after a Counselling session, and for those adopted before 1975, this remains compulsory.

Verification of identity is sought, and the session aims to establish what the adopted adult already knows about their background, who is supporting them in the process, whether they have shared this with their adoptive parents, and what the motivation, hopes and expectations of the adoptee are.

The whole area is obviously very complex and gives rise to a wide range of emotions.

Curiosity, rejection, loss, uncertainty, anger, hope are all words that come to my mind when thinking about this work.

Adopted adults will often say to me that my ‘mum and dad’ are the people who brought me up, but that they often have a longing to learn information that ‘will fill in the missing jig saw piece’ of their existence. Adopted adults often experience torn loyalties, but we know that relationships between them and their adoptive parents are strengthened, if they are jointly able to undertake this journey in an open mutually supportive manner.

For many adopted children the big question is “Why did I come to be living with my adoptive parents”?

As an adopted adult, contemplating the birth mother, this may become “Why didn’t you protect me from an abusive partner”?

From the perspective of the birth family, a birth mother may not have shared her child’s existence, with a subsequent partner / children, or indeed with anyone at all. Faced with an enquiry, she too experiences a range of feelings/emotions, which will affect how she responds to possible contact with her birth child.

All parties involved need support, and this has now been recognised in law with the advent of Adoption Support Agencies that undertake a counselling and intermediary role.

Hopefully, the opportunity to explore these issues beforehand will help to prepare the adopted adult for what they may learn about their birth family /origins (even sometimes as fundamental as their racial origins), and for thinking through the complex issues about contact..

My experience confirmed by research, suggests that all involved in the “adoption triangle” should take things slowly. The “Adoption Reunion Handbook” undertook research in this area and it recognised that a birth parent may instinctively appear to reject an unannounced attempt by an adopted adult to make contact if their past had been kept secret. An adopted adult may on the other hand be ‘overwhelmed’ by a birth family who wish to ‘embrace’ a birth child into their midst.

As a worker, I feel privileged to be involved in this work, and remain committed to safeguarding and supporting the adopted adult on this journey.

NEWS FROM FAMILES

This has been a really hard section to edit as so many of you have contributed! For those of you whose contribution is not here…. please do not worry, as it will be in the next one, and/or on the Website if you have given permission for this.

Names of the children have been changed to preserve confidentiality.

There is also nothing more encouraging for new adopters than to hear the positive stories!! We all know that parenting any child is never straightforward, and that adoption brings with it an element of parenting plus. But as well as the trials and tribulations it does bring fun, pleasure and expense, so is worth celebrating!!
Here are a couple of stories, describing the introductions and beyond.

The 2nd June 2008 was the day that would change our lives forever. It was the day we met our son, Bobbie. We had been told about a potential link with Bobbie in February and it seemed like an eternity until the day we met him. We had prepared ourselves, well at least we thought we had for this day, but nothing prepared us for how we actually felt. It was a mixture of being excited and terrified all at the same time. The drive down was silent. We wondered how you could be scared of a 4-year-old boy, but we were. Our lives were going to be so different, in a good way but different. We arrived early and parked around the corner from the foster home. We sat there holding hands not knowing what to expect. Would he take to us, would we take to him?? When we went in we saw our son, a beautiful little boy with big brown eyes staring at us. He was perfect and everything we had expected and hoped for. We couldn’t wait to get to know him. Introductions lasted 10 days. There were good days and bad and it was probably the most emotional time of our lives. It initially felt like we were borrowing him, but as the intros progressed we started to feel like a family and loved being with Bobbie. He came home on the 12th June 2008 and we haven’t looked back. There have been lots of tears (and not just from Bobbie) but lots of laughter too. It’s amazing and he has done brilliantly. It’s still early days for all of us but he is settling in and making fantastic progress and we are loving it. We actually can’t remember what we did with all our spare time now.

Matt & Susie

WORKING WITH YOUR CHILD’S FOSTER CARERS

This is an overview from 2 sides of the triangle, the adopter’s social worker and the adopters, and most importantly the child’s perception of what it has meant to her.

ADOPTERS SOCIAL WORKER – EDWINA

For those of you who have attended the workshop Introductions and Beyond, you will know that that this agency encourages adopters to keep in touch with foster carers, whenever possible. It will also have been discussed in the preparation training and with your social worker.

Clearly on times, this will not be possible for a variety of reasons, but generally it should be a positive experience for all concerned.

The foster carer should not be seen as a threat because they have had an attachment to your child but as someone who knows them. The foster carer will know what soothes them and their likes and dislikes. They can be a font of knowledge, and usually have a lot of experience of looking after a number of children who have had different needs.

Recently adopters whom I support had a little girl placed with them, who had a complicated history, and where some continued contact with her foster carer was vitally important for her.

The adopters’ views are set out below, but for my part, in supporting the placement, it was a relief that there was ongoing contact and support from a very experienced foster carer, and my visits sometimes seemed superfluous, as together they were managing the transition, and the new relationships so successfully.

Following on form this positive experience, I would recommend that all adopters consider placing the foster carer on their support network, even if the connection is only going to be for a limited period of time, as particularly for older children this can provide the reassurance and continuity that they haven’t previously experienced in their lives.

ANITA AND DYFAN, WHO ARE IN THE PROCESS OF ADOPTING KIM, TELL US ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE OF WORKING TOGETHER, AND WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT HAS MADE TO KIM AND HER FOREVER FAMILY.

Sitting in the waiting room at St David’s waiting for our first introductions meeting to begin we felt all shades of emotions, but mainly nerves. Both if us hold down responsible jobs, meeting and working with lots of different people – but THIS meeting had to be the most nerve wracking of our lives. Not only were we going to meet various people from (hopefully) our daughter’s social services team-we were going to meet the woman who’d been caring for her for the past 3 years !!

Would we get on? What would she make of us? Will we feel threatened by her? One hundred and one thoughts were racing through our minds. That’s aside from the mind-blowing fact that we were meeting our future daughter the following day.

Fast forward 3 months and Kim has settled really happily with us, and we know that is largely down to Sue, and our relationship with her. We realised quite quickly that any fears we had were unfounded. Sue was welcoming, non-judgemental, and full of advice and guidance. She was like a walking “guide to child rearing” and most importantly, a guide to our child. And looking back now, we realise that Sue was not only training and supporting Kim to be ready for adoption, she was training us too, although her approach with us was more subtle.

She gave us coping strategies, tips and techniques for dealing with all sorts of situations and behaviours. She always did this with respect and sensitivity, when I am sure that a few times she must have been thinking “oh my goodness, they’ve never lived with a child before …are they really going to cope?”

In the first month in particular, I am not sure how I would have coped without Sue…sometimes we spoke daily, asking her “What should we do?” or “why do you think she is behaving like this?”

Other times we simply texted or called her to let her know how Kim was getting on.

Since then Kim has called her weekly, and we’ve been in touch by post and E-mail. From Kim’s perspective it has made all the difference to her to know that we were all in regular touch, and out her mind at rest that Sue was on hand whenever any of us needed her.

Of course it helps that Sue is an incredible Mum and a lovely person. We named her Super Sue soon after meeting her. We have never felt threatened by the fact that our new daughter has such a huge love and affection for her. After all, she was her Mum for 3 years, and although we may not be in touch so intensively as we have been, we hope Nanny Sue, as Kim has called her, will be part of our family life.

Kim has summed it up in her own words “ It helped me to settle here because I knew we were going to be in touch with Nanny Sue and I’d lived with her for a long time!” (pink is her favourite colour!)

If you have a story to tell, and want to share your experiences, please let us know at info@stdavidscs.org We would love to have some contributions from children as well.

IDEAS AND INFORMATION

CHILDREN’S CORNER:

Ideas for a wet day: Make a kite, do some baking, paint some pasta, do potato prints. Tell jokes:

Do mermaids use knives and forks when they eat?
No, they use their fish fingers!!

Waiter this soup tastes funny !!
Then why aren’t you laughing?

Write a story or a poem. Here are a few to give you ideas. These are all available on the Internet on http://www.funnypoems.co.uk

Little Miss 
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating a Big Mac and fries
Along came a spider and sat down beside her
“Yuck !” it said, “ I prefer flies “

Bar Humbug 
When I took my zebra to Tesco
It got scanned by mistake at the till
How I wish I’d discovered the error
Before I settled the bill…..

With Christmas approaching, you want to make some treats. Again this is courtesy of the internet!! www.kidsandcooking.co.uk.

Coconut Ice
10oz desiccated coconut
12 oz icing sugar
Tin of condensed milk
Pink food colouring

What you do:

  • Mix the coconut, the sifted icing sugar and the condensed milk together. This will be quite a thick mixture, so use your hands to mix it together.
  • Divide into 2, and add some pink colouring to one half, but only a little.
  • Shape each piece into a rectangle. Try and get them the same size as you will be placing one on top of another.
  • Put one on top of the other and press down.
  • Chill, uncovered until firm, and then cut it into squares.
  • Line some coloured tissues paper with a piece of kitchen towel or paper napkin, dust with icing sugar and put some coconut ice cubes on it. Tie up into a bundle with pretty ribbon.
  • Of course you can always just make it and eat it yourselves!!

GOOD NEWS

Achievements in the past year (April 07 – March 08) include:

  • We have placed 17 children, which makes a total of 12 new families, and it is all down to you. So on behalf of all those children, thank you and well done
  • We have revised our Information pack
  • Our web site continues to develop in leaps and bounds, and is ever more popular.
  • We have published our Post Approval booklet for families, available to everyone after they are approved as suitable to adopt. …please let us know if you would like a copy !

We are aiming to further develop our services in Mid/West Wales within the next six months.