News - Autumn Newsletter 2009

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NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
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 info@stdavidscs.org.

Joan

NEW STAFF
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

SPOTLIGHT ON PRACTICE
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!!

ADOPTION UK SURVEY
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.

CHILDREN’S CORNER:
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
(www.netmums.com)

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.

ADOPTERS’ TALKING:
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.

Anne.

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.

YOUR CHILD AND INTERNET SAFETY
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 (www.yourprivacy.co.uk). 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

GOOD NEWS
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.
CHRISTMAS CARD ALERT
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.

Gerry

Author: Gerry Cooney 21.09.2009

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