Children & Young People Inquiry into Adoption

There are four Local Authority (LA) adoption consortia operating across Wales. The consortia in SE & SW Wales (a total of 6 LAs), are meeting their internal demand for adoption placements, sometimes by purchasing from St. David’s. These LAs service relatively small populations.
There are a significant number of children within the South Wales Adoption Agencies Consortium (SWAAC – 9 authorities) and the N. Wales Adoption Consortium (6 authorities) with an adoption plan but without an available adoption placement resource.
As the regionalisation agenda gathers pace, there will inevitably be some restructuring of consortia arrangements.
No national data is recorded in Wales on the number of children currently waiting for an adoption placement.
The Welsh Government has set out its aims in Sustainable Social Services for Wales, A Framework for Action, to develop a National Adoption Agency.
Improving permanency through greater placement choice is a key part of the Sustainable Wales programme.
WLGA & ADSS are exploring greater collaboration including moving towards regional services and a national adoption service. There remains the critical question of timescales in achieving all of this.
These past 5 years have witnessed a 20% increase in the looked after childcare population. *1
LAs are burdened by the critical mass of child protection. Partly driven by the Baby P case.
Workforce issues: recent years have witnessed a decrease in number of qualified social workers.
St. David’s Assessment:
Adoption Works
The legislation, processes & structures are fit for purpose.
All approved prospective adopters within St. David’s Children Society complete their training, checks, assessment & are approved within the 8 month guideline.
If prospective adopters face delays, children face delays and as a consequence are disadvantaged before they reach an adoption placement.
Yes we can always improve systems, but the critical issues that impact on children are to do with delays, adoption agency capacity, service delivery, low outputs and a limited understanding of the true costs of providing adoption services.
Adoption works: Outcomes for children placed for adoption with a St. David’s approved adopter far exceed the national average. In our last 100 placements we experienced a breakdown rate of 3% compared to a national disruption rate of 20%. *2.
BAAF estimate that 1 in 4 children available for adoption will not be placed primarily due to the lack of an adoptive parent resource.
Where children experience delays in being placed for adoption, this has a detrimental effect on their life chances. The chances of being adopted reduced by nearly 20% for every year of delay. *3.
Successful adoptions reduce the likelihood of an over representation of the adoption population dependant on mental health services, in prisons, etc. *4.
Financial cost to the public purse:
DCSF (2010) estimate that the cost for a local authority to secure an internal adoption placement is £36,000. *5
The cost of an interagency fee for a single adoption placement with a St. David’s approved adopter is £27,000. This includes life long support to the placement.
The core cost of placing and keeping children in care is very expensive and represents an ongoing cost for many years. *7.
The more instability there is in the child’s care journey, including multiple fostering placements or residential care, the greater the financial impact. The equivalent annual cost for such a care journey has been estimated at £56,225 per annum. *6.
Swifter family finding by LAs & VAAs leads to reduced care costs per child resulting in substantial costs savings to local authorities including reduced fostering & residential care costs, legal challenges, reviews, etc.
Efficient, effective adoption services enable children to exit care in a timely manner and help to stabilise a rising looked after childcare population.
6 Recommendations:
1: Partnership:
We suggest that the Welsh Government consider spearheading the exploration of partnership arrangements between LAs and St. David’s as we work together to achieve high quality adoption placements for children.
The highly successful Coram & London Borough of Harrow partnership provides a bench mark for such working: this partnership delivered a 100% success rate in placing all children with an adoption placement order with all children being placed within the recommended 6 month timescale. *7.
2:  Effective Financial Governance:
Service commissioners should develop a greater understanding of the social value that adoption provides including the contribution of St. David’s to reduce the LAs current & future spending costs.
We suggest that the Audit Commission conduct a study into the financial costs of providing adoption services within Wales: for example:
Last year an English Council reported that its adoption team of 41 social workers achieved 43 placements.
While adoption teams in Wales have lower staffing numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests that greater efficiencies can be achieved in staffing to placement activity ratios.
By contrast, five St. David’s social work staff will achieve 35 adoption placements this year.
Efficient auditing of services should measure inputs, outputs and outcomes.
We acknowledge that local authorities’ adoption budgets are at times under resourced. It is imperative that we change rigid structures to one that is cost effective and delivers a future for children requiring adoption.
Currently, the adoption VAA Interagency Fee is paid in two lump sums over a period of a year. We propose that this fee be paid on a monthly basis out of the fostering budget.
3: Practice:
We suggest that each local authority set itself a timescale of 2 months, after which if it is unable to identify a suitable family for a child within its own resources or consortia arrangements, that authority must look further afield including the voluntary sector to achieve a placement irrespective of the age of the child.
Where an adoption agency is unable to progress an adoption enquiry within 2 month of first contact, that agency must refer the enquirer to another adoption agency with the capacity to immediately progress the application.
4: Establish a disruption register for Wales:
Adoption UK reported that as many as 1 in 5 adoptions in Wales breakdown (11th Oct 2010).
Need to record accurate disruption statistics across Wales and to urgently agree a standard format for recording and reporting this data.
5: Establish a National Register within Wales for:
All children with a placement order whose assessed need is adoption.
All prospective adopters waiting for a placement.
Given BAAF’s experience of managing the National Adoption Register in England & Wales, we suggest that BAAF be considered for this task.
6: Establish a National Adoption Helpline for Adoptive Enquiries:
Supported by an effective adoption recruitment campaign.
This should be managed by professionals &
Part staffed by service user volunteers.
Offered as a localised free phone service.
BAAF, Adoption UK & St. David’s could pilot this service.
We believe that all 6 of these recommendations are consistent with the vision of a National Adoption Agency for Wales.

Adoption is a serious business for children… Because of the complex processes involved in adoption, young children quickly become older with more demanding needs and are considered harder to place.

Adoption works. It is the structures that are failing children. New approaches work as is clearly evident by the Coram Harrow model. Until we get past decisions that are driven by short term financial considerations, children will not succeed.

The ‘Social Return on Investment’ report (2011), concluded that for every successful adoption from care, where the adopter is able to support the child in resolving the issues from their past, there is a social return of over £1m per placement. *8.

1: Personal Social Services Statistics Wales 2010–11

2: Adoption UK ‘Disruption Report.’  11th Oct. 2010. + PM Review of Adoption 2000. (Performance & Innovation Unit).

3: Selwyn, J., Frazer, L. and Quinton, D. (2006) ‘Paved with good intentions: The pathway to adoption and the costs of delay’, British Journal of Social Work, 36, pp. 561–76

4: “Handle with Care” by the Centre for Policy Studies (Sept 2006).

5: DCSF: Selwyn, J. Sempik, J. Thurston, P. & Wijedasa, D.  “Adoption & the Interagency Fee,” 2010.

6: Hannon, C, Wood, C, Bazalgette, L,In Loco Parentis (2010), Demos


7: A report on the partnership between Coram and Harrow Council to increase quality and reduce cost of care in Children’s Services

Gerry Cooney – St David’s Children Society – 1st Feb 2012

‘Adopters, like children come in all different shapes and sizes’

‘Adopters, like children come in all different shapes and sizes’
Adopoters of all shapes and sizes article.

Every child should have a right to the security of family life, but a lack of adopters mean that one in every four children up for adoption will never know what it is like to have a loving mum and dad. Cathy Owen visited a charity trying to make a difference…..

To read the full South Wales Echo article please click here.

A suggested structure for the proposed National Adoption Agency

St. David’s fully supports the proposal for a National Adoption Agency viewing it as a moment of great opportunity for children waiting adoption. The National Adoption Agency had the potential to be the single greatest vehicle to deliver significant long term costs savings to child care budgets and has enormous potential to improve life chances for children in the looked after system in Wales.

While the proposal creates immense challenge in performance, scale and outcomes, it has the potential to place Wales at the vanguard of adoption services within the UK, a beacon for others to follow. This is a defining moment for adoption services in Wales. It must be seized.

Reduce delays and achieve better outcomes for adopted children.
Provide greater choice of prospective adopters for children.
Establish clear targets for completed assessments, placements and reduce delay.
Free up foster carers – (currently a shortage in England & Wales of 10,000), thus enabling LAs address their ‘sufficient duty’ requirement.
Reduce the need for social workers, team managers, legal challenges, IRO, mental health services, CAMHs services, after care service, etc.
Result in increased savings to the LA as child is looked after for a shorter period, which increases best value for the rate payer.

It becomes a centre of excellence for domestic adoption – while this will be a challenge, it will be more easily achieved if the focus is on the fundamentals which is securing high quality, life long placements for looked after children and are not distracted by inter country or step parent adoption – or indeed birth parent counselling.
It drives forward placement outcomes for adoptive children
It is imperative that the new agency not only succeeds but in the first instance seeks to promote and provide high quality, accountable client focused adoption services.

The new agency to become a single reference point for all children with an adoption plan.
The new agency establishes and maintains a register for all children with an adoption plan.
A similar register of approved available adopters.
That is has responsibility for recruiting, training and approving new prospective adopters.
That it has initial responsibility for identifying and recommending proposed links of children with prospective adopters.
That it has the responsibility for ensuring that children are prepared for adoption and that life story books are in place, etc.  These omissions create significant delays for children.
The new agency being the placement support agency – until such time as the adoption order is granted.

That the LA retains the decision to approve children for adoption, including panel approval of the adoption plan.
The LA adoption panel and decision maker retain responsibility for approving the link – the link being proposed to the LA by the new agency. – To further reduce delays, Guidance may be required for timescales between the link being identified by the National Adoption Agency and the LA panel approving the match.
Issues of Inter country and step parent adoption may require further careful consideration. The growing demands of step parent adoption are of concern and risk draining precious resources away from domestic adoption. The Assembly may wish to consider setting up a separate section for these two elements, but we would suggest that the initial focus of the new agency concentrate on domestic adoption, revisiting step parent adoption after a period of five years.
That responsibility for post adoption support after the granting of the order remains with the LA, or alternatively is commissioned out to Adoption UK or After Adoption.

The Assembly may wish to consider the establishment of a ‘Board with Special Responsibility to advise on Adoption Matters,’ including a chair, a senior member of CSSIW, a local authority chief executive, a civil servant, an experienced child care & family law solicitor, a child psychologist or paediatrician, an experienced researcher in child law and family law outcomes, and an experienced adoption social worker.
The board works with the Chief Executive on matters of governance, strategic planning, accountability and financial oversight.
The chief executive / director of the new agency to report to the board.
The Chair of the Board prepare written six monthly reports to the Minister with Special Responsibility for Social Services.

In 2010 there were 229 children adopted in Wales. The increase in looked after child care population suggests it is prudent to estimate an increase in adoption placements to 250 children.
To secure widest possible placement choice for children the new agency would require a pool of 300 approved prospective adopters.
The St David’s team of social work staff deliver training, assessments, support to adopters, response to high numbers of initial enquiries, support to existing placements, support groups for adopters & children, workshops and an increasing role (and number) in providing guidance to individuals seeking contact with their birth parent, child they gave up for adoption, brothers and sisters etc.
Each member of the team achieves an average of 6 prospective assessments per year, each making approximately 5 – 6 adoption placements per year.
Using that staffing ratio, the national adoption agency would require a compliment of approximately 55 social work staff all working at an exceptionally high level of skill, outputs and outcomes – achieving 300 assessments.
55 social work staff would require approximately  8 managers, plus 3 higher tier management. The National Adoption Agency would lead to substantive savings in existing budgets.
Children often experience delays due to the slow response of district social workers in reading the prospective adoptive assessment report (PAR.). This is due to the critical mass of child protection, court work and staffing shortages. A designated linking team of 3 – 4 experienced social workers employed by the new agency to specifically explore and identify links between children and prospective adopters would significantly reduce delays for children, free up foster placements and provide substantive savings to budgets.
Additional social work staff would be required should the new agency consider preparing children for adoption, including life story books (this being another source of delay for children).
Admin support of approximately 15 full time equivalent.
Approximately 5 – 6 regional offices.
The new agency to consider securing the services of a pool of experienced self employed social work staff to respond to periods of increased demand, sickness periods, holiday leave, etc.

The new agency would need to plan for the approval of approximately 300 prospective adoptive applicants.
A workload of 5 – 6 applications per panel.
A permanent adoption panel that would meet weekly x 2 days activity: 1 x day report reading. 1 x day attending panel. Alternatively the panel could meet fortnightly though this would still require 4 days work over a period of 2 weeks.
The primary task of this panel would be to make recommendations to approve prospective adopters, including de-registration. – Approving children for adoption and linking children with new families would remain the task of the local authority panel.
A permanent adoption panel would require a change in legislative guidance.

Training programmes for prospective adopters consume a significant proportion of social work hours.
Where social work staff are providing training, this is usually sporadically delivered requiring three days delivery by 2 -3 social workers with another 1 – 2 days preparation.
The appointment of 3 lead experienced trainers, (one North Wales, / two South Wales, each supported by a social worker from the new agency during the training programme), consistently delivering all training across Wales, would lead to significant time and cost savings for the main task which is assessing and approving prospective adoptive resources. – The linking being secured by designated staff.

Advertising, marketing, raising the profile of the new agency.
The National Adoption Agency will have its own unique, exclusive ‘brand.’ It will attract considerable media attention and quickly be viewed as a centre for excellence in adoption services.
Its uniqueness will do much to raise the profile of adoption and give rise to a new generation of prospective adopters.

It is imperative that in preparation for the new agency, the Assembly capture greater statistical data on children with an adoption plan. The annual number of children adopted each year in Wales may not represent the total number of children with an adoption plan. (It is not unusual to find approximately 15 – 18% % of the looked after child care population initially referred to the local authority adoption agency. While the adoption plans for a significant number of these children will change, the 4% – 4.5% annual statistic of adopted looked after children appears modest and considerably short of the initial referral rate. A successful National Adoption Agency may witness a considerable increase in referrals).

On occasions, the plans of children waiting for adoption are altered due to the lack of an available adoptive placement resource. (Situations occur where the adoption plan is changed with the child moving to long term fostering for reasons such as within a pre determined period an adoptive resource has not been identified, or that the child has reached a certain age, is part of a sibling group, has contact arrangements, etc. The Assembly may wish to devise an early formula for capturing such data, perhaps sourced from the IROs. Such data may evidence a marked increase in the number of children being referred to the new agency potentially leaving it under resourced at an early stage of its development).
Last year saw an increase of 500 children entering the looked after system in Wales, in part driven by the Baby Peter case. Eventually this will lead to an increase in the numbers of children being placed for adoption.
The establishment of the National Agency will result in a greater emphasis being placed on adoption with LAs viewing it as a positive option for children and budgets leading to a marked increase in the number of children being referred.
Over these past few years BAAF have consistently reported that somewhere between 25% & 35% of children (in England & Wales) with an adoption plan will not be placed primarily due to the lack of an available adoptive family resource.
The financial and emotional costs of keeping children in long-term care are immense:
Beyond Care Matters (Narey, 2007): Estimates that the average annual cost of a looked after child in 2005/6 was £33,000 but rises to £50,000 for children with emotional and behavioural problems.  For children with complex needs the estimated annual cost is £95,000.”

The adoption budget is of significant importance to the reduction of long term costs, particularly fostering costs. (We need to take greater cognisance of ever increasing foster fees, residential fees, reoccurring legal challenges, district social work and management time, governance time, medical reviews, IRO, GAL, reviews, staff offices & overheads, etc).
All agencies need a greater understanding of the true costs of adoption related activity. The Hadley Centre (A study of the financial costs of 9 local authority adoption agencies Sept 2009), evidenced that the cost to a local authority of placing a child internally was £36,000 per child. Loughborough University Sept 2009 estimated the same as £44,000 per child. Greater financial clarity is required on the full unit costs of running an adoption service.
The Adoption Act, the Children Act and the Human Rights Act all support the fundamental principle that every child had the right to family life. The legal status of so many looked after children has seen this most basic right diminished. The National Adoption Agency has the potential to champion this right. The creation of a National Adoption Agency would be a great legacy for some of our most vulnerable looked after children in Wales.

Gerry Cooney
Chief Executive
St David’s Children Society

St. David’s Children Society

Today’s Times and Independent newspapers (29th September 2011), highlight the dramatic decline in children in care achieving adoption placements. For these children, time is crucial in finding an adoptive family.

There are many concerning messages about adoption: that it is bureaucratic, too many people are rejected, it is burdened by political correctness or has high placement breakdown rates. This is not the case for all adoption agencies

Established in 1942, St. David’s is the longest serving adoption agency in Wales placing over 2,000 Welsh children for adoption.

In our last 100 adoption placements we had a breakdown rate of 3%. This is the lowest breakdown rate of any adoption agency in the UK and compares favourably with the average local authority disruption rate of between 15% – 20%. In effect 97% of our adoption placements are successful.
This year we anticipate achieving 35 adoption placements which will result in 1 in every 7 children placed for adoption in Wales being placed via St. David’s. (Figures calculated on an average of the 2010 & 2011 adoption statistics for Wales).
Our very recent CSSIW inspection report reflected an outstanding service. There were no ‘action points’ or ‘recommendations’ identified in the report.
Wales has a strong tradition of placing the child at the heart of family life. There is an acute shortage of available adoptive families to adopt the many children in care in Wales waiting for such placements. We urgently request that families across Wales consider adopting one of these children who are waiting for a forever home.

Gerry Cooney
Chief Executive
St David’s Children Society

Press release on the opening of St. David’s Children’s Society new offices

Children must come first – Deputy Minister urges local authorities to continue adoption work in partnership with voluntary sector adoption agencies

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM has today praised those local authorities who work in closer partnership with voluntary sector adoption agencies. She urged them to continue to grow those relationships to ensure they enhance the life chances of more children, by helping them to secure places in loving, family homes.

The Deputy Minister was speaking today as she officially opened the new offices of St David’s Children Society, the only voluntary adoption agency in Wales approved by the Assembly to provide a comprehensive range of adoption services across Wales. She said:

“Achieving permanence for a child is a key consideration from the day the child becomes looked after, we are all aware that there are a number of options to help achieve this through reunification with the child’s family, through long term foster care and ultimately through adoption….”

“With an increase of a further 500 children entering the looked after population, there is a need now more than ever for collaborative working between the voluntary, private and public sectors. We all have the same aim to provide emotional, physical and legal stability for the children of Wales, so it is time that we embrace the situation and break down any barriers that may exist and work in partnership for the best interest of the child….”

“I applaud and recognise the commitment and energy St David’s has in securing adoptive placements for some of our older children who have been let down for whatever reason and find themselves within the care system, and also for providing the specialised services they need.”

Chair of Trustees, Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, thanked her for her strong support for the work of St David’s which places about 10% of all

children placed in Wales annually. He said: “I know we can do more. We already work with a considerable number of local authorities but if all of the services across Wales could see us as the important resource we are, we can, together, create many more opportunities for children who are otherwise left behind in the search for a family. We can help so many of those couples who approach us to become the wonderful adopters they can be. I echo the Deputy Minister’s words –‘ to break down barriers and ensure that not one child should wait one day longer in care than necessary.’

Gerry Cooney Chief Executive of St David’s Children Society said: “We are delighted that the Deputy Minister could take the time to meet with us, and today, to open our new offices in Park Place here in Cardiff. In recognising that the services provided by voluntary adoption agencies are of excellent quality, we also acknowledge the work of our dedicated staff. These specialists offer an exceptionally high degree of support to adoptive families and children at all stage of the adoption process. Voluntary adoption agencies have been at the forefront of developing and offering new ideas and approaches to the provision of adoption services. We hope to take forward this excellent and innovative work in new partnerships with local authorities, and that our new offices will provide the springboard for us to continue to grow our core commitment – to support the adoptive family and child for life.”

Address by Gerry Cooney, Chief executive of St. David’s Children Society

“We are very pleased that the Minister is meeting with us today and agreed to open our new offices here in Park Place. Thank you for affording us this time and for recognising and applauding the Society’s contribution towards adoption services in Wales. We hope to take forward this excellent and innovative work in new partnerships with Local Authorities, and that our new offices will provide the springboard for us to grow our core commitment – “to support the adoptive family and child for life.”

St. David’s is the longest serving adoption agency in Wales. In our 68 year history, we have placed over 2,000 children for adoption, a very significant contribution to Welsh children and Welsh family life.

Our work continues. Since 1st April 2010, working in partnerships with Welsh local authorities, 17 children have been placed for adoption. Our adoption team are currently undertaking adoption assessments on 20 families, with over half of these applicants being assessed for sibling groups of children.

I would like to thank our adoption team for the exceptionally high degree of support they provide to adoptive families and children at all stage of the adoption process. In particular a very sincere thank you to Joan Price, our adoption manager, whose leadership, commitment and professionalism has been instrumental in securing the quality of these services.

The quality of the team’s work is not just evidenced in their high outputs, but by the fact that we have one of the lowest disruption rates for adoption breakdown rates in the country; a rate of 4%, compared with local authority disruption rates across England & Wales averaging between 15% & 20%.

There are a considerable number of representatives from SWAC (South Wales Adoption Consortium) present today. SWAC is a partnership of 9 local authorities and 2 voluntary adoption agencies. In working together we have achieve many great outcomes for children awaiting adoption.

It would be fair to say that St David’s has been a significant contributor of approved adopters to SWAC. The statistics demonstrate that in past five years, St. David’s not only referred more approved adopters to SWAC than any other member agency, but has consistently referred more approved adopters for placements for sibling groups of children and children over 5 years of age than any other agency.

The Minister advised that with the increase in the numbers of children entering into the looked after system, it was important that all of us break down operational barriers that negatively impact upon partnership arrangements for the best interest of the child. One such operational barrier is the interagency fee.

Recently the DCSF, after consultation with BAAF, ADSS & CVAA, jointly commissioned Julie Selwyn at the Hadley Centre and Loughborough University to consider whether the interagency fee was value for money. Selwyn reported :

The average cost to the local authority making an adoption placement to one of its own approved adopters was just under £36,000.
Selwyn: evidenced that local authority adoption teams consistently omitted the financial costs of running their offices, their legal costs, pensions, governance, buildings costs, utilities, maintenance, etc. In local authorities, these costs are arbitrarily attributed to other budgets, whereas are allocated on a proportional basis to each placement made by voluntary adoption agencies.
Those local authorities who made use of the interagency fee not only created greater choice of prospective adopters for children but more importantly created better outcomes for children; as is evident by the lower breakdown statistics.
Selwyn demonstrated that those authorities that used voluntary adoption agencies made significant savings across their child care budgets, reducing the need for foster carers, respite carers, frontline staff & management, costs for ongoing legal challenges, Independent Reviewing Officers, etc.
Selwyn’s research raises the question as to whether the child’s placement is determined by local authority budgetary constraints rather than the assessed needs of the child.
This (DCSF approved) research, suggests that it is not the interagency fee that is a barrier to achieving adoption placements, rather the structure of local authority adoption budgets.

Various reports have evidenced that the true cost of keeping a child in care from 3 to 18 years totals in excess of £750,000. It truly is a false economy if there is not an external fee (currently £25,000) for a child who could be placed through a voluntary adoption agency

The cost of external fees are met by a small adoption budget with immediate and for the most part non-transferable savings made to the substantitive fostering budget and district budgets. As social workers, adoption managers and senior managers, our duty is not just to be an advocate for the child, but to understand and develop structures that ensure best outcomes for children. There is a duty upon us all to understand how one budget relieves another and a responsibility to ensure that our financial structures are fit for purpose. Audit calculations must start taking into account the social return on the investment in adoption services.

The Assembly Government for Wales has invested enormous energy in developing legislation to ensure qualitative outcomes for children. The Adoption & Children Act sits alongside the Human Rights Act guaranteeing every child the right to family life. As custodians of the Human Rights Act we have a duty to ensure that the most vulnerable children in our society are afforded every possible opportunity to secure family life. Our Equal Opportunity Policies are meaningless if they create good outcomes for staff, but deny children in care the right to the widest possible placement choice when it comes to finding a forever family.

Ultimately the argument for interagency fees is not just about significant savings for the local authority, or about best value to ratepayers, but one in which, as the Minister said that we break down all barriers to achieve best possible outcomes for children.

As social work agencies, we constantly focus on meeting the assessed needs of the child. Yet we would achieve very little by way of successful outcomes for these children without the support of people in our communities who will consider adoption. We have a considerable number of adoptive families here today, including Arfon & Rachel who adopted two children, including ‘S’ who spoke so beautifully about her positive experience of adoption. In particular I would like to offer a very big thank you to all of our adoptive families, whose enduring love, endless energy and overwhelming commitment has been the prime mover in creating new families and new worlds for these children.

Address by Gwenda Thomas AM. Deputy Minister for Social Services on the official opening of St. David’s Children Society new offices.

I am delighted to have been invited to the official opening of these new offices and to be part of such an important day for St David’s Children’s Society and their collaborators.

It heartens me to listen to the story Seren has to tell about her experience of going through the adoption process, finding her forever family and the truly important part St David’s played in orchestrating it. It is important that we listen to the children and young people as their own experiences can help us to shape our policy agenda.

Achieving permanence for a child is a key consideration from the day the child becomes looked after, we are all aware that there are a number of options to help achieve this through reunification with the child’s family, through long term foster care and ultimately through adoption.

It is imperative that throughout every stage of the process the child’s views are taken into consideration where possible.

The care system is fluid and requires continuous improvement to ensure children and young people have the right opportunities for permanency.

We have in place some significant drivers that strengthen permanency through;

• Children and Young Persons Act 2008

• Children and Families Measure and the implementation of the Integrated Family Support Services teams

• Children and Young People Committee – who have focussed heavily on the placement of looked after children

• The Adoption and Foster Care Advisory Group- of which St Davids and ADSS are members; these are to name just a few.

With an increase of a further 500 children entering the looked after population, there is a need now more than ever for collaborative working between the voluntary, private and public sectors. We all have the same aim to provide emotional, physical and legal stability for the children of Wales, so it is time that we embrace the situation and break down any barriers that may exist and work in partnership for the best interest of the child.

I applaud and recognise the commitment and energy St David’s has in securing adoptive placements for some of our older children who have been let down for whatever reason and find themselves within the care system, and also for providing the specialised services they need.

In the economic climate that we find ourselves in I commend their decision and determination to continue to offer these services throughout Wales, they are truly an important resource in Wales.

We all agree that adoption is a service for children and not a service for adults but people tell me that the adoption process has become increasingly more burdensome and intrusive; on occasions the bureaucracy has become a deterrent – we need to strike a balance whilst ensuring the safeguards of the child not to provide too many obstacles for the prospective adopter.

These are interesting times and the whole environment of work in the social care field is changing, early next year we will consult on a White Paper on the future of social services. Providing professional excellence for qualitative care to the children of Wales is central to the agenda.

Although there are challenges ahead I hope we can strive towards better partnership working and continue to help provide the best start for children in the care system.

I would like to close in paying tribute to Kevin, Gerry, their team and to all of you who work together to champion the rights and entitlements of looked after children and young people in Wales.

Newsletter 2010


I guarantee that everyone reading this will appreciate that some things slide when a move is imminent, and this together with the World Cup has delayed our Newsletter so firstly, apologies for this but I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s better late than never.

The moving experience however positive and necessary, did bring home again for all of us the impact a move has on us as adults and served as a timely reminder of what it must feel like for children. In essence they lose their familiar bricks and mortar and everything else in their lives that held meaning for them. Sometimes it is hard to imagine what this loss truly means for them.

For children being placed with adopters it truly is a leap of faith – a step into the unknown – and we should never underestimate how long it takes them to build trust and develop faith. After all it may even be the first time ever that they have been able to truly trust their care givers.

We often talk about the honeymoon period and the range of testing behaviours we can expect to cope with. But sometimes even being well prepared leaves us struggling to make sense of things, deal with the relentlessness and begin to love the child. Never forget that you are not on your own and as a team we are here to listen, advise, support and even occasionally laugh (!) with you.

Our website ( is also there to be used and we are always grateful for input from fellow adopters who can offer valued experience and empathy.



The annual report captures a picture of the work and life of St. David’s Children Society over the last year.

There have been many successes:

22 children were adopted with another 17 children placed with new adoptive families.

The number of formal applications to adopt has also continued to grow. We wish all these families every success and reassure them that the Society is always here should they wish any advice or support.

However, there have been some considerable challenges also. The offices so generously provided by the Archdioceses of Cardiff are no longer available to us, resulting in the Society moving to new accommodation. Rent, rates, utilities and insurances coupled with the loss of diocesan income will add an additional £60,000 to our annual budget. In this harsh economic climate it will be a challenge to meet this new expenditure, but with your continued support we remain confident that the Society will continue to thrive.

Our new offices are centrally located, strategically placing us near the National Assembly buildings in Cathays Park. Staff are delighted with the building and in due course you will all be invited to a formal opening ceremony.

Any account of a year in the life of the Society would be incomplete without a very genuine and sincere thank you to the trustees, adoption panel members and advisors to the Society who so generously share their experience, skill and time to support us in so many different ways.

A very special thank you to all those who generously support the work of the Society through covenants, gift aid and other donations also. As a charity we rely on donations to develop and sustain our adoption support services and remain very grateful for your help.

Thank you also to our social work and admin team for their stellar efforts to achieve quality standards in our work. All have shown great professional skills and flexibility as they so generously respond to the needs of children and families.

Our mission remains as strong and vibrant as ever: To improve the quality of life for children through the provision of excellent adoption services. With your continued support we can look forward with confidence to the future.



For these past 15 years our offices at Bishop Brown House have been kept looking spic and span with the assistance of Margaret de Santi and Shelagh Hill. Now as we move to new offices (28 Park Place, CF10 3BA), Margaret and Shelagh have finally hung up their dusters for a well-earned retirement. All of us would wish to offer Margaret and Shelagh a very sincere thank you for their reliability, commitment and great support shown over so many years. During that time they must have washed hundreds of thousands of used coffee mugs as we finished meetings and rapidly escaped from the mess! We will miss your support, friendship and your forever happy dispositions and wish you a very enjoyable retirement.



On Sunday 22 August 2010 Matthew, (who was previously adopted through St. David’s) his partner Samantha and a group of friends will be travelling to Fort William, Scotland, ready to start the huge challenge of climbing the three highest mountains in the UK: Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scarfell Pike (England) and Snowdon (Wales) all within 24 hours.

They will begin by touching the sea at Fort William around 4.30 pm on Monday 23 August and will finish by touching the sea in Caernarfon around the same time on Tuesday 24 August, climbing all three mountains and driving in between. This is a huge challenge for all involved including Ben who will undertake the driving.

Matthew and Samantha are based in Swansea, and will be climbing to raise as much money as they can for St David’s Children Society.

Matthew states, “My parents and I were brought together by the Society in 1988 and a few years later, St David’s helped us again when my brother Tim joined our family. For the last 22 years the Society has remained a valued feature in mine and my brother’s life story and our family hold the organisation and its staff close to their hearts.”

”We would like to raise as much money as possible for this charity, in order to thank them for their work over the years and give them the recognition they deserve. We know the money will go towards supporting families past, present and future who are associated with this cause. “

If you would like to make a donation or sponsor Matthew and Samantha in this challenge, please click the link on the home page of our website. (

Alternatively you can always post a donation to our new office address: 28 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3BA


We would like to wish Matthew and Samantha every success with their challenge.

From the Trustees, staff & families at St. David’s: All the best!


It is now nearly a year since I’ve been part of the St David’s team and during this time, I have been developing links with key agencies involved in Adoption in Mid and West Wales. These agencies include West Wales Adoption Team, Adoption UK, After Adoption and Powys Adoption Team.

We have been looking at developing joint support networks for adopters and their children. Part of our work has been to develop a questionnaire for adopters, asking what type of services you feel would help and support you as a family or individually. You should have received copies of the questionnaire (if not, please ring the office in Cardiff to ask for a copy) by now and we would be grateful if you could complete and return them to the office.

We really value your views and hope that by analysing your comments, we will then be able to channel our energy and resources towards further meeting your needs.

Part of looking at developing services and a possible support network of and for adopters in Mid and West Wales was the Family Fun day arranged at the Waun Fawr Community Centre in Aberystwyth on July 3rd. St David’s, West Wales Adoption Team, After Adoption, Adoption UK and Powys Adoption Team all contributed to the organisation of the event, which was a resounding success. Thanks to Mr BoBo for providing entertainment.

Sera A Llewelyn.

Mae’n flwyddyn bron ers i mi ddod yn rhan o dim Dewi Sant ac yn ystod y cyfnod hwn, ‘rwyf wedi bod yn datblygu cysylltiadau eraill gyda chyrff sy’n ymwneud a mabwysiadu yng Nghanolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru. Mae’r asiantaethau yma’n cynwys tim Mabwysiadu Gorllewin Cymru, Adoption UK, After Adoption a Thim Mabwysiadu Powys. ‘Rydym wedi bod yn edrych ar ddatblygu rhwydwaith o gefnogaeth i deuluoedd mabwysiadu. Rhan o’n gwaith oedd datblygu’r holiadur i fabwysiadwyr, gan ofyn pa fath o wasanaethau yr oeddech yn deimlo fyddai’n gymorth ac yn gefnogaeth i chi fel teulu neu i unigolion. Fe ddylech fod wedi derbyn copiau erbyn hyn o’r holiaduron (os ddim, ffoniwch y swyddfa yng Nghaerdydd gan ofyn am gopi) ac fe fuasem yn ddiolchgar pe gallech eu cwbwlhau a’u hanfon yn ol i’r swyddfa. ‘Rydym yn gwerthfawrogi eich safbwyntiau a’ch barn a gobeithiwn wrth ddadansoddi eith sylwadau, fedru sianelu ein hegnion a’n hadnoddau tuag at ateb eich anghenion. Rhan o ddatblygu’r gefnogaeth a’r gwasanaeth i deuluoedd yn y Canolbarth a’r Gorllewin yw’r diwrnod Hwyl i’r Teulu a drefnwyd yng Nghanolfan Gymunedol y Waun Fawr, Aberystwyth SY23 3PN gan Gymdeithas Dewi Sant, Timoedd Mabwysiadu Gorllewin Cymru a Phowys, After Adoption ac Adoption UK. Cynhaliwyd hwn ar Orffennaf 3ydd rhwng 2 a 4 y p’nawn a death Mr BoBo i’n diddanu!

Sera A. Llewelyn


St. David’s Children Society’s Support Group for approved adopters has been running an incredible nine years. We aim to meet on four occasions a year with the final session of the year given over to the popular ‘Christmas Do’ which appears to be much enjoyed by parents and children alike.

Topics covered over the years have focused on subjects relevant to the adoption experience from many viewpoints.

We are very grateful to people who have given of their time on a precious Saturday morning to coming along to the group to make a presentation whilst feedback also tells us that the sessions people find very useful are those with just the workers and adopters. These sessions often are helpful to adopters wherever they are in the process and the chance to network is felt to be invaluable.

Numbers of people attending the group has remained constant at an average of 16 – ­20 adults with accompanying children.

Information from evaluation sheets also relays the children’s enjoyment of the crèche with the opportunity it affords of meeting up with friends they have made through the group, as is the case in respect of the adults.

Our last session of the group in March when Sue Brooks School Liaison Officer for Cardiff City Council made the presentation was well attended and a lively affair. It is planned for the next session after the Annual Celebration will be on October 2nd 2010 when the topic will be the Internet and its safety in relation to children.

Following Support Group dates for your diary are as follows:-

4th December 2010
12th February 2011
7th May 2011
10th September 2011
3rd December 2011.

Thank-you for your support of the group over the years, we hope it is of use to you, we certainly get a lot from the sessions and are always open to suggestion for topics of interest.

Jane Smith


  • We have placed 17 children in total and have started the new year with a further 6 children being placed. These are excellent beginnings due to effective team work and of course all those families who have come forward to adopt.
  • All our available families attended the second SWAAF Adoption Exchange day and indicators are that some of our families may achieve a placement through this event.
  • We have provided Preparation training for 30 families in the course of the last year and have started this year with another good sized group and a further three courses planned. Special thanks go to Diane Morgan, Mary Jones and Sister Maureen and Billy at the Pastoral Centre for all their help and support.
  • We have had two celebration days for adopters. One in Cardiff on June 26th and one in Aberystwyth on July 2nd. The Aberystwyth event is in collaboration with Ceredigion, After Adoption, Adoption UK and Powys. Thanks to Sera Llewellyn for her input in this and to everyone in the Cardiff office and Nazareth House for all their support.
  • Along with Adoption UK, After Adoption and Ceredigion we have undertaken a survey of approved adopters in Mid, West and North Wales. This has been in order to plan a more responsive adoption support service including groups, so if you haven’t contributed and would like to do so please let contact us either via the website or by email. ( email


We are in the process of developing a new strap line for the Society and thought this would be something that our families can assist us with. Of course, there is the added bonus of winning a small but not insignificant prize! Not quite the Eurovision Song Contest but something not a million miles away either!

We are looking for a short phrase that tells people what we do. It is as simple as that. It can sit alongside our logo and the name of the Society too.

There are no restrictions on the amount of entries you can submit and here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

All are prefaced as follows:

St David’s Children Society –

Achieving fulfilment and happiness through adoption.

Realising a fulfilling future through adoption.

Future building through adoption.

Delivering a family for life.

Achieving family life through a first class delivery.

A new horizon in adoption.


Updates in medical advice are constantly influencing the way we live our lives and adopters are no exception. Recent discussions with our medical adviser have highlighted how much the thinking has changed in terms of our eating and drinking habits and reinforced why we need to reconsider what we eat and drink, the exercise we take and the model we are providing for our next generation.

The Chief Medical Adviser for Wales, Dr Tony Jewel has now published guidance on children drinking alcohol and with many children coming from families with alcohol related problems, this may be a timely reminder to look not only at our own consumption but on how we educate our children about alcohol and safeguard their future.

In brief Dr Jewel states that:

  • Children under the age of 15 should not drink alcohol, as there is evidence that it damages their developing brain, bones and hormones.
  • Drinking post 15 years can be hazardous to health as there is the potential for binge drinking, involvement in anti social activity and crime and the possibility of unwanted pregnancy or drugs.

Britain is increasingly becoming an obese nation and we have to acknowledge the risks to our own health and the wellbeing of our children. A healthy eating plan, regular exercise and a smoke free environment are just as important to our children as the most sophisticated hi-tech electronic games or plasma television and the message seems to be that they are safer too.

For more information on the effects of alcohol, obesity and smoking, look at the NHS website (


Here are a couple of tried and tested recipes courtesy of Sera that your children could with careful supervision help to make. As always, cook with a health and safety hat on and never leave a child unsupervised when cooking!

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Grapes and tangerines.


1 punnet of Strawberries,
1 bunch of green grapes
2 tangerines
1 or 2 bars of white and milk cooking chocolate


Break the chocolate up into two bowls (one in each bowl) and place each bowl over a saucepan of hot water.

Stir the chocolate until it is melted and remove from the heat. Dip half the strawberries, grapes and tangerine segments halfway into the melted chocolate.

Then lay them on greaseproof or parchment paper to dry. Eat and enjoy!

Nutty Chocolate Biscuits


150g plain chocolate chopped
150g butter
2 large tbsps golden syrup
225g crushed digestive biscuits
25g chopped hazelnuts or almonds or dried fruit.


Melt the chocolate with butter and syrup in a large bowl over simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir in the biscuit and nuts or dried fruit. Spread into a 20cm square tin, lined with greaseproof or parchment paper.

Refrigerate for a couple of hours or if you are in a hurry, place the tin in the freezer for about 50 minutes. To finish, cut into small square pieces.

Whilst you are in the kitchen you could also consider making some Pasta Paintings, or Spaghetti Heads.

Pasta Paintings:

You will need to equip yourself with a variety of pasta shapes, some saucers of paint mixed with child friendly glue (messy but good fun), and some paper.

Spaghetti Heads:

A simple but effective method to follow:

  1. Cook some spaghetti until it is just tender, drain and rinse under cold water.
  2. Spread a thin layer of glue over a sheet of paper, and when the pasta is cool enough to handle, give a handful to each child and encourage them to make face shapes on the paper.
  3. Cut the spaghetti into short strips to make hair and use other cuts and shaped pieces to make the face features.
  4. To keep the picture when it’s finished, cover it with greaseproof paper and leave a heavy book on top of it for a while. This will allow the pasta to stick firmly to the paper.

Alternatively, try Pasta Jewellery: You will need:

  1. Uncooked pasta of any shape (pasta tubes for a necklace).
  2. Thick paint
  3. String or ribbon


Paint the pasta and leave to dry.

Tip – for a sparkly finish, sprinkle with glitter whilst it’s still wet.

Measure a length of ribbon that will fit over a child’s head or hand and when the paint is dry, thread the tubes onto the ribbon.

For best effects use a nice variety of colours and lengths.

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.



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



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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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 We would love to have some contributions from children as well.



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

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!!

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!!


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.

Autumn Newsletter 2009

So here we are, almost another year and what’s new? Well we will have placed over 30 children since our last newsletter, and despite the potential impact of the separation from the Catholic Church we have with their continued support managed to keep the creation of family life for children central to our work.

We have expanded our staff group with the addition of Sera Llewelyn, working part time and covering Mid and West Wales. We have also developed a close working relationship with Janet Jones in North Wales, so are able to achieve a more responsive service, which is continuing to develop…so watch this space.

Don’t forget….we are always looking for contributions so please get in touch, and/or E mail us at


I joined St. David’s Children Society in May of this year and I am based in Aberystwyth. I have over 25 years of experience working in children’s services for Local Authorities in Gwynedd, Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and West Wales as a Social Worker and Team Manager. I have also worked, in recent years, for Dyfed Powys Probation Service as divisional manager and practise and development assessor. I have also carried out assessments on prospective adopters for St. David’s Children Society in the past three years.

My aim is to expand the services and profile of St. David’s Children Society in Mid and West Wales and as a fluent Welsh speaker, I am able to offer assessments and support in either Welsh or English to prospective adopters and families. I am really looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead!

If you are interested in knowing more about St. David’s Children Society, adoption or know of someone who might be interested in knowing more about the services offered, please contact St. David’s office or visit our website.

Best wishes,

Sera Ann Llewelyn

‘Rwyf wedi ymuno a thîm mabwysiadau Cymdeithas Plant Dewi Sant ers mis Mai ac ‘rwyf wedi fy lleoli yn Aberystwyth. Mae gennyf bron I ddau ddeg pump mlynadd o brofiad ym maes amdddiffyn plant ac yr wyf wedi gweithio dros y blynyddoedd yng Ngwynedd, Caerdydd, Bro Morgannwg a Gorllewin Cymru fel gweithwraig gymdwwithasol ac arweinydd tim. Yn y blynyddoedd diwethaf, yr wyf wedi gweithio i Wasanaeth Prawf Dyfed Powys fel rheolwraig adrannol ac fel asesydd ymarfer ac hyfforddwraig. Yn ystod y dair blynedd diwethaf hefyd, fe fum yn ygwneud ychydig o waith i Gymdeithas Plant Dewi Sant yn asesu a chefnogi darpar fabwysiadwr.

Fy mwriad yw datblygu gwasanaethau a phroffeil Cymdeithas Dewi Sant yng Nghanolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru a achan fy mod yn siarad Cymraeg yn rhygl, gallaf gynnig gwasanaeth asesu darapar fabwysiadwyr a chefnogi teuluoedd drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. ‘Rwyf yn edrych ymlaen yn fawr at yr her sydd o’m blaen.

Os ydych a diddordeb mewn cael gwybod mwy am waith y Gymdeithas, am fabwysiadu neu yn gwybod am unrhyw un sydd eisiau gwybpd am ein gwaith, gallwch gysylltu a swyddfa Cymdeithas Dewi Sant neu ymweld a’n gwefan.

Hwyl fawr,

Sera Ann Llewelyn

Some of you will have experienced the new Prospective Adopters’ Report, and the feedback from social workers and the Adoption panel is that it easier to read, and helps families to think through what they are able to offer. It also contains a photo of the applicant/s, which admittedly may put people off if they feel they are not that photogenic!

There are new procedures developed which come into force in October 2009 relating to the safeguarding of children, and other vulnerable groups. This arose as a result of the Soham case, and introduces an additional vetting and barring scheme, which will be used alongside the current CRB. All of our adoptive applicants will be subject to this new procedure once implemented, via the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

Our workshops on Presenting Ourselves, and Managing Introductions and Beyond have proved a hit, but as in most areas of our work, we could not do it without you, so thanks again for your continued support. One of the most consistent comments from newly approved families is how much they appreciated hearing the adopters’ experiences.

Future developments: We are aiming to develop a buddying scheme, Prospective Adopters Pal, PAP which would be available for all newly approved adopters with a child in placement. This scheme would aim to match an experienced adopter with a brand new one.

We recognise that there are often teething problems that arise in the crucial early stages of a placement, and that a PAP could be a listening pair of ears, who may have experienced similar difficulties/feelings themselves, and come through them.

We will be aiming to develop this scheme over the winter months in a series of workshops, held jointly with any adopters who may wish to be included in this. If anyone is interested …then please let us know, and we will be in touch. Offer subject to availability …as obviously not everyone can participate!!

Other news: Quite often as adoptive parents we may feel that we never get things right, that only adoptive parenting has its challenges, but looking around for parenting tips and ideas, a recent article in the Western Mail, June 09, looked at the perils of parenting, warts and all, as described in a book written by two young mums, called Can I give them back now? Published by Square Peg.

This recognises that for all parents …not every moment with your child is a good one. In essence this is a book that has a wry humorous look at parenting…. from people who wanted to celebrate the joys of parenting but also the harsh realities of what being a parent is about.

Maybe a message here for all of us that parenting can be fantastic, good fun, but sometimes it is hard going and that it is ok to say that too!!

As many of you will know Adoption UK is a charitable organisation set up by adoptive parents to support adoptive families. You may not be aware that they have recently opened an office in Cardiff. They are continuing to develop their services to include a staffed helpline 0292032221, Mon – Friday 11am –1pm. and a lending library amongst other things.

As part of developing their services they are carrying out a SURVEY of adopters across Wales to find out about their experiences of education and therapeutic services. If you are interested in responding go to the Adoption UK web site and click on the Wales page, or for a paper copy give them a ring and they will put one in the post. 02920230319.

Q. Where to cows go on their holidays?
A. Moo York

Q. Where do wasps go when they are ill?
A. To the waspital

Q. What do you get if you cross a centipede and a parrot?
A. A walkie talkie

Marvellous meals for tired children:

Young children worn out after a busy day at school will generally prefer a familiar meal to eat in the evening. The first few weeks back at school are not a good time to be trying to introduce new foods, so try playing it safe and give your children meals you know they will eat, until they have settled into their new routine.

Remember that dinnertime is a great time to talk about the days’ events at school – much better than bombarding your child with questions as soon as they come out of the school gates!
Here are some of our most popular, tried and tested family meals:

Beef Casserole
Cauliflower Cheese
Chicken Risotto
Fish Pie
Macaroni Cheese
Sausage Special
Tuna Pasta Bake

This website is a good source of information and tips dealing with a range of issues around food. One point of reference could be Judith Wills, the author of Children’s Food Bible and Everyday Eating for Babies and Children.

Toddlers and young children can be notoriously difficult about eating what you want them to eat, when you want them to eat it but try not to worry too much! The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) says that food problems in pre-school children are common, to the extent that they are seen as a stage of normal development at that age, and that a third of under-fives practice food refusal or selective eating.

Just to give a bit of a flavour, here are some tips for happy mealtimes:

Give a 5 minutes warning so children (and Dad) know that they will have to stop playing or watching TV.
Plan ahead so that you are calm and not stressed from the effort of getting the meal together and on the table. On busy days plan quick to cook meals and save the more complicated stuff for days with more time.
Keep it simple – serve things you know the family will enjoy.
Mealtime rules could include:

Come to the table when you are called
Sit nicely and not leave the table until everyone has finished
No TV on during meals and no reading the paper (Dad!) or texting or phoning (Mum!)
No toys at the table (although under-2s might be allowed one little toy if you think it helps)
Everyone tries everything – even Dad – before they decide if they like it or not
Take your plate to the kitchen/sink/dishwasher when you have finished.
Praise the children for following the rules. Catch them doing it right “That’s lovely sitting”. If it goes wrong, stay calm and don’t give up. It might take time, but children will eventually follow your example and fall in with the family.

Keep investing in family mealtimes as they are worth it. But like everything else with parenting don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always achieve this ideal. Work out what meals work best for your family and then build slowly from there.

My journey to motherhood had taken about four years and I had just made the decision to give up and move on with my life when I was told about Jenny. I really feel it was destiny that brought us together.

I had always maintained that I would only take on a child I felt confident I could cope with and I knew it would be unfair on both of us if I took on a child who was more challenging than I, or those who were willing to help me, could manage. As a single mother I knew I had to be realistic and honest with myself as there would only be me to care for the child and sort out problems. Even with a strong support network it still comes down to just you.

At eight Jenny was older than the child I had hoped for, but when it came down to it, that didn’t matter. This really hit home about 45 minutes into our first meeting. We had gone for a walk with her social worker and this little girl with her bright face and eager smile took my arm and looked into my face and said: “Can I call you Mummy?”. It was such a special moment.

Today I am the mother of a gorgeous nine-year-old girl who is going from strength to strength and I have no regrets.

To adopt , especially as a singleton, you need to be strong and tenacious, but they are qualities which will get you through the whole process and help you continue when you have got the child you so desperately want.


Meeting the birth parents – a personal experience
On a sunny Thursday in June, off we went to a local, very upmarket Garden Centre for a coffee and to meet the birth parents to our soon to be adopted children.

The decision to meet the parents had followed a discussion with our Social Workers, which involved considering whose interests were best served by the meeting and whether it was safe to meet each other.

My husband and I arrived early and nervously waited for the birth mother and her Social Worker to arrive. They arrived shortly afterwards and we began chatting. The birth mother was very unsure of the situation and has learning difficulties so needed the support of her Social Worker. She was unable to ask us any questions, even when prompted by her Social Worker, so between the Social Worker and us, we answered questions that most people ask. The birth mother got very emotional at one point and had to go for a little walk, then she came back and we chatted about ourselves and the children. After about half an hour, the birth father arrived and the birth mother’s dislike of her ex-husband was clear and she immediately came and sat next to me for comfort. We then continued to chat with both parents for another half an hour or so. The conversation was now led by the birth father and his interpretation of events in the past was somewhat interesting. Both parents asked us to tell the children that they loved them and we assured them that we would do our very best to love, care and bring the children up to the best of our ability.

At the end of the meeting, we all walked to the exit of the Garden Centre to say goodbye. We shook hands with the birth father and he walked off looking very sad on his own. We then walked to the Social Worker’s car to say goodbye to the birth mother who hugged both myself and my husband tightly and needed a lot of comforting. It was at this point, we realised how needing and vulnerable she really was and although she was only slightly younger than me, it felt like I was comforting a 12 year old girl.

This meeting was a very surreal, highly emotional experience, but one I am very glad we attended. It felt as though we had also in particular helped the birth mother and she later told her Social Worker that she liked us and the meeting left her reassured that her children would be looked after well. Being able to picture both parents when our children talk about them helps enormously and it will also help when we start letter box contact. From meeting the birth parents we can further understand how things went wrong for them and have a greater empathy towards the birth mother which, in time, we will share with our children.

For us meeting the birth parents was a very positive experience and one we would highly recommend if it is appropriate to do so.

R. & C.

Some Tips about Introductions:-
Plan ahead: try to do as much around your home (de-cluttering, sorting out the child’s room, doing any gardening etc.,) in preparation for the placement as possible. You will have neither the energy nor the time to do it during the introductions!
Be open minded: try to keep the information you have received about the child at the back of your mind while going through the introductions (especially if it has been more negative than positive) and go with your instincts and the evidence in front of you as you get to know your child.
Communicate: use the regular telephone contact with your Social Worker and the calls from/Reviews with your child’s Social Workers as the opportunity to discuss any concerns you have, convey the positive aspects of the visits etc., Above all, be open and honest – if you are finding anything particularly tough, say so.
Be prepared: check out the amenities/places of interest in the area in which your child is currently based and plan where you can take him/her. However, do not just do things that could be classed as a treat – do ordinary things too!
Have some time for yourselves: during introductions, it is all too easy to spend so much time thinking and being with the child, you forget to have quality time with your spouse – there were times we even forgot to do the mundane things, like having a meal together!
Keep a diary: use photos and write a diary of how the introductions are going, what you are doing together etc., these will not only serve as an aide memoir when you have the Reviews, but they will be records of the amazing time you will have getting to know your child.
And last, but definitely by no means, least: Enjoy: introductions mark the start of a long-lasting relationship with your child so enjoy every precious moment (the tantrums as well as the fun time) you have getting to know your child.
J. & D.

According to figures released last year there are over 60 million users of Facebook throughout the world, and 8 million of those are based here in the UK. For most, it offers the chance to catch up with friends, organise social activities and upload and share photo’s.

But Facebook, like other social networking sites including Myspace and Bebo, can also pose a threat to younger users.

A recent statement by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, claimed that the excessive usage of such sites by teenagers is having negative effects on communities. He believes that the growth of “transient” relationships online is having a dehumanising effect on community relations.

But of greater concern is that through participation in online activity, children and teenagers are increasingly susceptible to the hidden dangers of cyberspace. It’s well documented that paedophiles use the anonymity provided by the internet as a means to identify and target potential victims. So, parents need to be aware of the dangers, and what steps they can take to reduce the risk posed to their children through online participation.

Communication is key according to the online privacy advice website Your Privacy ( Educating your children on the potential dangers that lurk on the various websites and chatrooms they are likely to be using is a must. If they aren’t aware, then indirectly you, as parents, are putting your own at risk.

Essentially, online social networking sites, “are a playground with no parental supervision,” according to Dr Dimitri. A.Christakis of Washington University, who was speaking recently on the subject. But they needn’t be. Most of what children need to know might appear obvious, but there’s no harm in spelling it out to them.

Things like, never giving out your address online, or other identifying details such as full name and telephone number. Don’t post photo’s of you and your family online, or talk to complete strangers. Simple steps, that needn’t cause undue stress to either parent or child.
Communication needs to be a two way process also. Children should be encouraged to talk openly if they feel uncomfortable about someone’s online behaviour to them.

It needn’t be the case of preventing children from using online networking sites such as Facebook – after all, this is what the majority of their friends will be doing – but rather, educating them and yourself on the potential dangers of such sites to prevent them being put at risk.

Emyr Joseph

Achievements in the past year (April 08 – March 09) include:

We have placed 20 children, which makes a total of 16 new families, and it is all down to you. So on behalf of all those children, thank you and well done
19 adoption orders have been granted.
Our web site is gaining popularity….so log on and have a look.
The Post Approval booklet for families is still available so if you would like a copy let us know.
Services in Mid/West Wales are being developed, so if you live in these areas and have any suggestions, please get in touch.
In previous years the Society was a member of a Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies, which sold Christmas Cards. That scheme is no longer functioning.

The Society has joined forces with Clifton Children Society, offering a similar range of Christmas Cards. The scheme will be operational within the next few weeks. Profits from the sale of Christmas Cards are used to develop our range of post adoption services. We hope we can continue to rely on your generosity and support as you purchase our cards. Thank you.

Please phone or email us for a catalogue. Details will shortly be logged on the message board of our website.