When we started - following the usual speech about fire escapes, toilets, drinks, and general other stuff - we had to find out 4 facts about someone else, and introduce them to the group. I was paired with another teacher, we talked about teaching; our schools; where we live; his birth son. I was then able to introduce him to the rest of the group - although we did get side tracked from the job talking about teaching...
Once everyone had introduced someone else we watched a video about the process of adoption. It was a department of health video, which is about 8 years old. It showed a cross section of people, and they talked about their experience of the process. The preparation course, the home study (and their social workers), approval panel and then matching. I think the key thing I picked up from this - which was more reinforcement than anything else was the fact that your social worker gets to really know you, all the things that you don't normally talk about - you will have to discuss.
We talked as a group about our hopes and fears about adoption. It was reassuring that we all had similar fears - about the process, about the issues an adopted child might have, attachment to an adopted child, but equally similar hopes - to feel complete as a family and learn how to be a 'good enough' parent. M commented that he feels less isolated with worries now.
We discussed the importance of names; how different people got their names; why names mean so much; the fact that often a name is the only thing that an adopted child may get from their birth family and how our names make us individual.
We talked about why children need adopting... not going to repeat that list here at the moment!
We finished with a questionnaire - with lots of facts and figures. In some respects M and I knew enough - but there were things that I didn't know. Things like how many children waiting for adoption are part of sibling groups (55% in the UK).
The Adoption Circle. We talked about how the birth parents, child and adoptive parents are interlinked. We talked about the losses and gains involved in adoption. We looked at those life-long losses for everybody involved. And the fact that there are few (if any) gains for the birth parents in adoption.
After a break we settled down to listen to one of the social workers tell us the story of a family that he was involved with for 10 years. He represented each person in the story with plastic figures - and there was a table full by the time he had finished.
This afternoon we had a birth mother come and speak to us. She was amazing, her story was really emotionally, and she was honest and open.
We finished up the day by looking at letterbox contact letters. We broke into three groups and each group was assigned a person (birth parent, child, adoptive parent) and we had to think about what we would want to receive and what we would write. I was in the birth parent group - which was really hard, it was hard to think what to write, we knew what we wanted to hear, but what to actually write. I understand now how hard birth parents find the task!
This morning we had a social worker speak to us about attachment, she is also an adoptive parent, and because of her difficulties she decided she needed to know more about the issue of attachment.
We started off looking at a wall of needs, and how if some of the top bricks are missing a person can cope, but if the needs of an infant are not met how it's impossible to build a proper wall. I think this link - adoption UK the Wall shows it really well.
We looked at the circle of need - how most children have a need, protest, the need is met and then they relax. We talked about how some children have a need, protest, nothing happens, so they protest more and eventually give up - or may have response given in anger. How this can result in a negative view of the world - I am not okay, adults are not okay and the world is not okay.
We discussed the effects of poor attachment, we talked about avoidant, ambivalent and disorganised children. We talked about what we as adoptive parents we can start to do about it to help children. We briefly touched on the need for children to possibly regress and about theraplay and other types of therapy. The importance of trying to get those early missing bricks in place.
This afternoon was about abuse. The different types, what that actually means (examples) and the effects of abuse. The long term effects.
We also had a visit from a foster carer. She talked about the children that she has fostered - both the good and bad. She described how as a family they become attached to foster children, but when she hears that a child has a 'forever family' she starts to detach. She talked about how she prepares a child for adoption. How she takes photo and photo and collects everything to pass on to a child's forever family. How excited she feels when she hears that a child has a new permanent home.
We then had a talk from an adoptive parent. They adopted 2 girls, one aged 20 months and one aged 5 1/2 years. This happened 3 years ago. She talked about the different characters that her girls are, and how hard sometimes it is to judge what behaviours are happening due to adoption. She told us about the issues that they have had, and what problems they have encountered.
In the afternoon we talked about identify - and how important it is. We did two exercises linked to it, but one was a lot more effective than the other. We were asked for memories, from whenever, and whatever. One social worker wrote them all on the board, and whilst someone was speaking the other social worker, ripped them down, and ripped the paper and screwed it up. It was then impossible to smooth out. This was then related to the fact that adopted children will have memories, and that we won't be able to smooth them all out, but how important it is to stay in contact (no matter how little) with the birth family, so we can ask questions. Our memories are built with help of our families, saying 'do you remember when?' adopted children won't have that about their early life.
We also listened to a post adoption support worker, who told us about all the work that our agency do after adoption. Things like a stay and play group for adopted children and parents only. Things like offering phone support. Putting people in contact with CAHMS and other support.
She described the problems that she had at school with anger, and not being able to trust. She says she still finds it difficult to trust.
She contacted her birth mum when she was 18. She says that she was too young, but even if she'd been told to wait, she wouldn't have. She seems to have a lot of anger towards her birth mum - that she wasn't able to sort her life out in order to keep her. That even now her mum is lying about why she was taken into care. That she would have nothing to do with her birth mum apart from she wants a relationship with her siblings.
She says that her parents were fantastic. That there is nothing that she wishes they had done differently. That she always knew she was adopted, and that her parents were always totally honest with her (in an age appropriate way). That her parents were there for her, and supported her no matter what. In fact, that was her top tip: be honest and be there!
Hearing her story was really really interesting. She was absolutely positive about adoption - even though there were things that she has done wrong, it's not because of the adoption.