Our ethos and approach is one of co-production. We believe that those who wish to help us, can best do so, if they understand and appreciate our needs, as well as our problems.
Being ‘child focused’, which many professionals and organisations state as being their central tenant and core aim, could and should mean the positive involvement and support of parents – who can be a tremendous resource for professionals. A loving committed parent knows their child really well, with their knowledge acquired over years of parenting. Such parents will be there, by their child’s side, long after the child has reached 18 and moved onto adult services.
Parents of children, whose behaviour stems from trauma and loss, can become very isolated socially. Even friends and family may not understand and peer support groups, peer support groups have grown over the years – groups like POTATO (parents of traumatised adopted teenagers organisation), where adopters can be supported with kindness by others in a similar situation, have proved a lifeline to many of our group. Adoption UK, which started as a parent to parent information forum, now has a helpline, magazine, and forums to discuss parenting issues and raise concerns through the organisation to Regionalisation Boards. But the organisation has come a long way from its peer support roots, and none of these forums can provide us with the services we need – this is clearly not their role. Especially in more recent times of austerity, when resources are squeezed, we parents have had some terribly negative experiences of seeking help for our children, despite the introduction of the Adoption Support Fund. The help that is offered to us is not what we need – because professionals and organisations are not in a position to provide it or fund it, and the ASF does not cover it – or it may not be accessible to the child/family when the child has re entered care.
Getting help for our children, and achieving understanding about their needs, and ours as parents, can be a battle. A battle that should not need to be fought.
Whether you are involved with educating the teachers, social workers and mental health professionals of the future, or you are from CAMHS, a local authority, a school, a children’s home, or a foster care agency – we can offer you a better appreciation of adoption issues. Our co-production training methods will help build trust and empathy skills with those you support, and hopefully offer better outcomes for our children.
Our parent group, which is nationwide, includes educators, head teachers, health researchers, children’s rights advocates, therapy providers, professionals who work with asylum seekers, as well as campaigners for change and improved outcomes for adopted children. Depending on your specific needs we can allocate the right adopter(s) to work with your group or organisation.
We are most encouraged that we were considered ‘experts by experience’ in the recent SCIE project on improving mental health for children in care (including adopted children). We were also pleased that the Expert Working Group has highlighted that adopters and foster carers should be given the same status as professionals.
There are many reasons why it feels there is a long way to go before equal status can become a reality.
“I am feeling jaded, drained yet rarely despondent, sometimes desperate but not defeated, and disillusioned at dealing with professionals….The elation, optimism and promises at placement can be replaced by the destruction and burning of the bridges between professionals and adopters, leaving a deep chasm that is difficult to span to bring the two sides together. Many children in care need adopters, and we need support from understanding professionals. We cannot do everything alone and need to use our knowledge and understanding to bridge the gap to enable everyone to work together for the benefit of adoptive families. Adopters Together can contribute a lot to this aim.” (Mike, parent to two adopted children and one birth child).
“I felt as if I couldn’t do or say right for doing wrong, and then came the allegations of mental illness. I have no history of mental illness, but once made, to a court (apparently these are standard allegations in such cases involving children), these allegations had to be investigated. There was, of course, no mental illness identified, but it was so frightening for my child and me, when he was taken away from home and family, and re entered care. This had come about because I had asked for help and been unable to access respite, except under a S20 Care Order – when his disabilities were, and still are, not acknowledged by the local authority. All this is despite the fact my son is on DLA/PIP for a decade, on the basis of the advice of the medical advisers who were involved when he was placed for adoption. Surely if I had developed a mental illness as a result of caring for my dearest son I should have been given support, not see him removed? I wanted to work with professionals. It felt like I was being persecuted rather than supported, and my child paid the price with loss of home and family for a number of years” (Megan, single mother of one adopted son)
We believe that learning from each other, and listening to each other, is the best way forwards for our children.
We hope our co-production methods are of interest to professionals, organisations and statutory agencies. This approach will, we hope, help build a better support infrastructure for all adopted children.
Please get in touch with us if you are interested in finding out more about what we can offer and are interested in working with us.