Autumn Newsletter 2017

Hello and welcome to the St. David’s Children Society Autumn Newsletter for 2017.

Follow the link below to gain access to the Newsletter which this year contains articles from some of our families who have recently adopted through us, useful resources to help with schools, dates for training in 2018, and some new faces to welcome to the team!

We hope you enjoy reading the newsletter and if you would like to contribute to next year’s edition please don’t hesitate to contact us on info@stdavidscs.org or call us on 02920 667 007

Many Thanks from all the team at St. David’s!

Autumn newsletter 2017

Adoption Journey

We follow three families who have adopted through St. David’s Children Society as they tell their stories from the time they first considered adoption to the ongoing support they receive from our agency.

The videos are available on our website under the ‘Adoption Family Sories’ section, or available on our Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube pages.

 

https://www.facebook.com/StDavidsChildrenSociety

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmz437De98tWZJzdUwjwwPg

https://vimeo.com/adoptionwales

Adoption Drop In Sessions

If you are interested in adoption but have no idea where to start, we open our doors every Tuesday and Thursday between 12noon and 2pm for people to come along and have a chat with one of our experienced members of the team to answer any questions you may have.

 

No appointment is needed, you can just come along and have an informal conversation with one of our social workers.

 

Our office is conviniently located in Cardiff city centre, opposite the National Museum of Wales:

28 Park Place

Cardiff

CF10 3BA

Adoption Activity Days

Achieving matches through Adoption Activity Days

St David’s families will be aware that there are lots of different ways that matches occur.  It may be via the Welsh Adoption Register, through publications such as Children Who Wait, from exchanging of profiles, from Exchange Day events and more recently through Link Maker.

What are Adoption Activity Days?

Adoption Activity Days have been taking place in England since BAAF (now Coram BAAF) first piloted the project in 2011.  Over the years a few adopters from Welsh agencies, and also some Welsh children, have travelled to England to attend these events.  In March 2017 Coram BAAF and the Welsh Adoption Register jointly hosted the first Adoption Activity Day here in Wales.

Adoption Activity Days are events that allow prospective adopters to directly meet children waiting to be adopted.   The hope is that adopters will consider children, who if they simply just read about them from a profile, they may not have previously considered.   ‘Adoption Parties’ have run continuously in the USA for the past 30 years or so, with lots of success.   Activity Days in the UK have proved to be successful too, with Coram BAAF reporting that on average one in four children attending  an event achieve a match as a result.  Adoption Activity Days are also sometimes used as a place to have ‘chemistry meetings’ between adopters and children where a very tentative match has been identified.

What happens on the day?

Children attend with their foster carers and their social worker.   The preparation of the children will very much depend on their age and understanding; foster carers and social workers are given guidance on how to prepare children for the event such as incorporating it into discussions around their Lifestory work.  They are told that it’s one of many things their social worker is doing in order to find the right family for them.   If a family isn’t identified following the event, children are helped to understand that it was because there wasn’t a family there that was right for them and their social worker will continue looking for them.  For other children, who don’t have the level of understanding to realise what the day is about, it’s simply a party.

There is usually a theme, with children, adopters and event staff dressing up.  There are lots of fun activities for the children to join in with and party food.  Like with other parties, the children leave with a party bag or present.  The emphasis is very much on the children having a fun day.   Adopters are prepared by their social worker prior event; many adopters enjoy the day but it can be hugely emotional and quite daunting.  At the event prospective adopters will receive some brief information on the children attending, they’ll get to meet and play with the children and chat to the children’s foster carer and social workers.  At the end of the event the children return home with their foster carers and a note is made of which adopters wished to express an interest in which children.  After the event it’s back to the usual process of social workers exchanging paperwork and having lots of discussions, with hopefully a visit from the social worker to discuss the child/ren in more detail.

If you’re going through an adoption assessment or are approved and waiting for a match, talk to your social worker about Adoption Activity Days!  For more information see https://corambaaf.org.uk. Following the success of the first one, another Adoption Activity Day is being planned for 2018, and we’ll keep you posted on this.

Our son has completed our family in the most beautiful imaginable way

When you make the initial call to enquire about adoption you have no idea of what awaits you. From our initial phone call, to our son being placed with us took over three years. People come to adoption for many reasons and you expect many things along the way to be difficult, but for us the hardest part was the waiting.

At the time of enquiry our birth daughter had just turned four years old and she was a part of our journey from the beginning. She met with Jodi our social worker and we had many discussions on what adoption meant and how it might affect her in an age appropriate way. It was difficult to explain the wait to her at that young age, when to her she wanted a brother tomorrow!

It is easy to become a little bit obsessed with ringing and emailing your social worker to ask for news, checking Linkmaker and the Children Who Wait newspaper and letting it crowd into everyday life. We had to find a balance between getting on with life with our daughter as well as making sure we kept up our reading and training so that when a match did come along we felt ready. In the meantime our daughter was getting older and our discussions became a lot deeper, so in some sense it was beneficial for her that she was actually 7 years old when our son came home as she had a much fuller understanding of the situation.

We did have a couple of matches in that time, but they fell through because it was felt that our family wasn’t right for that particular child. It’s immensely difficult to go through that at the time as you invest a lot of emotions in imagining that child with you, this part was also hard for our daughter as the child’s social worker wants to make sure you have prepared your birth child and so they are also involved in these linking meetings. Though your instinct is to shield your birth child from disappointment, it is just not possible as they need to go through this journey with you too. I believe as a family unit we are all a lot closer and stronger together as a result.

I remember a time when we were all in tears when a match fell through, as for a while it had seemed it was all going to work out; once we were approved our social worker felt almost like a friend to us as they were so supportive to us throughout.  We are glad that we trusted in the process and in the experience of our social worker to know what was right for us as when our son was linked to us, it was most definitely the perfect match.

Our son has been with us now for 9 months and it has been the best and worst of times adjusting to life as a family of four. Our daughter has been incredible and although it has been a difficult adjustment for her, the preparation and talking we did with her has paid off. They now have a pretty normal love/hate sibling relationship!

There are times in the adoption process where it feels like it has taken over your life as you are advised to not book any long holidays whilst waiting for a match and things like moving house, job or family bereavements (all of which happened to us) can also place delays on things. My advice to anyone waiting for a match would be to first and foremost, look after yourself. Concentrate your mind on your health and also on preparation. Read as much as you can, join social media support groups and if you can, book last minute weekend breaks away.

It is a very hard journey but it is worth every step. Our son has completed our family in the most beautiful way imaginable.

No Turning Back, Nor Do I Want To

Yesterday, our family waved goodbye to our children’s social worker, Claire, for the last time. She had been with them since the beginning of their adoption journey. The term ‘journey’ is so very X-factor, but for once, it really does seem appropriate. Our children have been on a journey of epic proportions in their short lives and Claire has been with them for most of it. She was there when they were taken from their birth family and during their time with a foster family; when they first met us – their two Dads – a year later, and during our first year as a family together.

Two weeks ago the Adoption Orders were granted. Our children are now legally ours. No turning back.

As our children waved goodbye before running off to play, largely unaware of the significance of what was happening, my body was overwhelmed by racking sobs. Moments before, I’d watched as Claire quietly looked at them, taking them in for one last time. They were sitting next to each other on the floor laughing as they played together. It was, on the surface, entirely unremarkable; and yet, the fact that they were sitting together at all – concentrating, laughing happily – was remarkable. Through love, boundaries, playfulness and empathy, they have come such a long way within the space of two years.

It was Claire’s cue to leave. Her job was done. We now continue the journey together as a family, for the rest of our lives.

Adopting isn’t always easy. On the morning we went to pick the children up from their foster carers, I thought we’d made “the worst mistake of our lives”, “the ‘match’ was all wrong”, “we really couldn’t do this” – or words to that effect, peppered with others that are unprintable. I wanted to turn back. The first three months after they moved in were the most challenging of our lives. Everybody said that adopting siblings would be really tough, and we nodded and smiled and said, yes, yes, we understand; and then they arrived and we nodded and cried and said, no, no, WE REALLY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND. Another father told me during that time that though he always loves his children, there are times when he doesn’t like them, and that’s OK. I quietly thought, “oh dear, I don’t like them but I really don’t love them either. What do I do with that?”

But the love grew.

I still have those days when I swear. A lot (in private). When you adopt, there will be days when your child will push you to your limit and you feel like the worst parent on planet earth. There will be days when you want to scream, and days when your children scream whilst wondering why you’re standing in the corner doing deep-breathing exercises in order not to scream back. As I said, it isn’t always easy; but parenting itself isn’t easy, and now we’ve made it through the first year we are encouraged that we must be doing something right because they are thriving. And the love? The love grows and grows….

Which is why there are those other moments, like the one I had yesterday when I sobbed, not because of the terror or the exasperation of it all, but simply because of the overwhelming love and pride I felt about how far our children had come, how we are part of that, and how we will continue to be part of that for the rest of our lives together.

No turning back; nor do I want to.

85 Days

85 days ago our home and lives changed completely FOREVER!!!! The rooms we had ready, the car seats we bought and the mountains of toys we had given to us by friends and family finally had little fingers to play with the toys, get sticky fingers all over the car windows & even nimbler fingers to pick the wall stickers off the bedroom wall in an arc the size of a 2 year olds reach.

Our whole family has totally embraced its latest additions, from my 92yr old grandad to our 9 year old nephew, who wrapped up his own toy diggers to give as a birthday present to one of his new cousins.  Our 20 year old daughter is totally adored by her 3 younger sisters who were 2, 3 & 5 only 85 days ago and are now so quickly older and, in their opinion, wiser.  Some of the cute toddler phrases have already disappeared but we feel so lucky to have those early memories & are sure that conkers will forever be known as “wonkers”, “toetats” formerly known as tattoos & “a car with a flat”, also known as a campervan.  But perhaps the most memorable comment was after a visit from their social worker we were all sat on the floor chatting about the visit, saying that one day soon we won’t have a social worker & our gorgeous 5 year old, the thinker of the trio, screamed “Yay, you mean I really am staying forever!”

85 days is no time at all to learn each other’s funny ways, and that goes for all of us – we are all still learning what makes things easier, how to calm conflict, who likes broccoli today when they didn’t like it 3 days ago. We are all still learning though, and learning from each other every day, they share bits of their past with us in the same way we talk about things we did when we were small.

We were lucky enough to have our gorgeous girlies at the beginning of summer so were able to spend hours playing in the garden, or at the allotment and just exploring.  They love being outdoors so walking up a mountain in August all dressed as minions seemed like a fun thing to do.  They were very keen on planning a holiday, something they had unfortunately never experienced before, so with a lot of planning and testing out the “party bags” (sleeping bags) we decided to give it a go.  We put the tent up at home first and tried out the sleeping bags in their own beds, talked about what happened on a holiday (apparently you have a stick of rock and go to the beach!)  We chose somewhere close enough that, if things weren’t going as we had hoped, we could easily pack up and come home.  We spent days picking what things they wanted to take from home and what things would be here when we came back – it’s a good job we have an 8 seater mini-van !!!!! We had more cuddly toys than Hamleys, Pop-Up Pirate, enough crafts to last the winter and enough bedtime stories an insomniac would struggle to get through……… Our thought was to let them choose the things they feel are important and made them feel relaxed at home – we read ONE story, didn’t play dominoes or matching pairs once & poor old Pop-up Pirate stayed in his box! They adjusted so well to being away (it was only 2 nights in Brean) and if we hadn’t been hit by a vomiting bug (not pleasant in a tent) the holiday would have been a roaring success.  They had the best time ever and talk about it all of the time & are already planning the next holiday !!!!!!

So 85 days really isn’t long but feels like a lifetime and its impossible to imagine life without our little ones now and in another 85 days we will have another big milestone – their first Christmas at home – we have planned already what we have for breakfast and we NEED candy canes on the tree & in the middle of august spent the evening singing Christmas songs – we think they wanted to make sure we knew the same ones as them !  We are sure the next 85 days will be as amazing and briefly challenging as the last but each one is a step closer to another big family event – but never as big as the one 85 DAYS AGO

Adopting a Sibling Group of 3

Our adoption journey had begun with a massive false start and an extended wait as we sorted out a few things, so when things actually moved forward we were impatient to get on. We started 2017 newly approved, knowing that there was a possible match with a sibling group whose social worker we’d met at an Adoption Exchange Day; however, we quickly came down to earth with a bump!

In our first meeting of the year with our social worker, we were told that the children’s needs were greater than we’d initially thought, that we wouldn’t be moving ahead with the match and that there were no other potential links at the moment. We were totally deflated and wondered when we’d hear any news, so it was a massive relief when just over a week later we got a message asking if we had seen a sibling group on Link Maker. We had, we remembered them (they were gorgeous) and we wanted to know more. We read and reread their profiles every day and after a few more weeks we had met with their social worker and family finder, and it was agreed to move forward with the match.

Over the following months we met with the foster carers, paediatrician and teachers. The more we heard about “our” children as we were thinking of them, the more certain we were that this match was right for us and them. We knew there was going to plenty to think about, the children would be losing contact with their older siblings and they had a close relationship with their carers after being with them for 18 months – a long time when you’re 6, practically forever when you’re 2 and a half.

As well as this new loss in the children’s lives, there were their different experiences to consider: neglect and abuse, one child being scapegoated whilst another was heavily favoured. Hearing about these aspects of their lives was difficult but also made us more keen to get on with it. So we filled our time with finishing bedrooms and the garden, taking no end of photos of ourselves around the house with the toys we were going to give them, and making their books about us and their forever home.

Finally we got to matching panel which was a lot less stressful but a lot more emotional than we expected – tears from us and the panel, but we were approved! The decision was ratified and our final step before intros was to meet the children’s older siblings. Knowing that they were going into long term foster placements and had been to their final contact with our children was tough but it was definitely worthwhile and our children are pleased that we “know” their big brother and sister.

Nothing can truly prepare you for the intensity of introductions. As helpful as the foster carers were, going into a stranger’s house for hours every day is not easy or comfortable.  We spent most time in their house in a small, very hot room and it was a relief when we moved on to the trips out part of the week.

It seemed strange at first being called mum and dad, and there were a few times when we had to remind each other – “that’s you they’re talking to”. It was exhausting and draining, and that was in spite of it all going smoothly. If anything, that was a worry to us as it was all too easy, I remember sitting in the review meeting saying that we knew it could only go downhill – and we were right.

The first few weeks seemed to consist of lots of crying (all of us) and refusing to eat (them). We quickly learnt that the change from a cot was not a good idea for our youngest, who on discovering she could get out of bed, spent the first evening doing just that, over and over and over again. A supermarket visit for a second bed guard the next morning sorted that out.

Other troubles haven’t been so easy to deal with; the relationship between the two older siblings can be challenging, seeing them take pleasure in deliberately spoiling things for the other is hard and the competition between them is grating at times; one’s seeming expectation and acceptance of poor treatment is upsetting and the teenager-like attitude of another’s can be infuriating. Add in tantrums that aren’t always from the toddler, plenty of oppositional behaviour, lying, screaming and shouting, and the difficulty of one child in particular desperately missing her foster carers, and it’s safe to say it’s been hard work.

But we know it could have been a lot worse and there have definitely been good times too. The children’s enthusiasm for even the smallest of things can be contagious; the caring nature of one and the sense of humour of another are lovely, and moments when we’re all able to have fun in the garden, play games and do puzzles or eat and talk together have kept us going. We’re getting to share the little moments that we’d hoped for, like cwtching on the sofa to watch a DVD, reading stories together and going to the park (although if we never have to push another swing, that will be fine with us!)

We’re lucky to have made some good friends through the different courses St Davids offer, and talking and messaging fellow adopters has been a godsend. It hasn’t mattered that we’re at different stages of the journey; they are there to moan to and share a laugh with. As good as our support network is, having people who are going through similar experiences to offload to is a great help.

As we head towards Christmas and the six month mark, we know that we are still in the early stages but we have gone from pretty much hating it and regretting ever hearing about adoption, then on to feeling like we’ve got visitors who outstayed their welcome, now to feeling like these children are ours. It’s certainly not a fairy tale, in truth we don’t always like our children but we’re getting there with loving them and I can now say we wouldn’t be parted from them. As we’ve told them, they are ours forever and we are (almost always) very happy about that.