This morning I had to attend a meeting about the support available during the adoption process. The morning was split into two halves with an information giving section at the beginning and personal testimony at the end. I’m going to start at the end: the personal testimony came from an adopted person, who very unusually knew all about their adoption from birth. They spoke to us about their upbringing, the reasons why they chose to access their records and what they got from it. I am not going to blog about what that person told us as I feel that is their story to tell. Whilst they were very open and upbeat about their story, I could well misrepresent something they told us and that would be extremely unfair. The one thing I took away from their story, that confirmed what I already knew, was that openess about adoption and life stories is key.
So, as I have been asked by a fellow adopter to fill her in on everything I found out about during the session, that is what I am going to do – it will also be a good record for me to look back on in case I need to draw on any of the support they mentioned! But its important to stress that the information here about the support on offer from my LA, is unique to my LA, so as usual comparisons can’t really be drawn. Where post adoption support is concerned it sounds a little like a postcode lottery – some LA’s will be much better than this, others won’t match up.
Here, adoption support begins as soon as we are approved as adopters. Our information is added to their database and remains there until the child placed with us is 18 (unless we tell them to take our details off it!). As a result of this, adopters are sent newsletters several times per year to keep us up to date with support available. If our contact details change we must let them know so that the database is kept up to date and they can keep in contact with us.
Adoption support includes:
- Social events and meetings
- Help and advice with behaviour and attatchment
- Help with contact related issues
- Adoption related activities
- Allowances and reimbursements
- Financial Assessments
- Help when adoption breaks down
This was the area I was most impressed with. I will be offered training sessions for the following:
- Talking to my child about adoption
- Dyadic Developmental Pyschotherapy (an introduction)
- Attachment theory and brain trauma (this is an advanced session – we already have to have training in this as part of prep)
- Introduction to Theraplay (I was the only person who knew anything about this – now I understand why my SW says I’m ‘further on’ than most adopters at this stage)
- 10 week course on Webster Stratton Parenting.
All of this training is voluntary and runs on a rolling program. It doesn’t matter how many times we wish to access the training. In the case of talking to children about adoption, many parents attend right at the beginning of placement and then again as the child grows older. We are invited to attend the Webster Stratton training 3 months after our child is placed. Half the post adoption support team are theraplay trained and there are groups offered for preschool children and 1-2-1 sessions offered for any child who may need it.
My LA prefer to provide support internally rather than buy in providers. They feel they will already have a strong relationship with their adopters and its also cheaper and quicker to provide support this way. They have support workers trained in cognative therapy, play therapy and music therapy.
We were told that if we choose not to come to training we still need to keep them informed of any needs or issues, however small, that may arise. If we don’t keep in contact at all and then suddenly appear asking for help with an enormous range of needs, its more difficult for them than if we’ve maintained a relationship and they have an idea how things are going and flagged up any concerns along the way.
Adoption Support Plan
When a child is placed for adoption with us we will be given a support plan unique to our situation. The younger the child the more basic the plan is likely to be, as (as my social worker keeps emphasising) the younger the child the less we will know about how they are going to grow and develop and what likely needs they could have. However this plan is reviewed and updated. Things like health, finance, social/emotional/developmental needs, contact etc are all covered.
Who provides the support?
The LA the child is from is legally responsible to provide the support needed until the child is 3 years of age. After that it is the responsibility of the LA where you live. However, if I moved house and out of the area but my original LA was already paying for some form of ongoing support or therapy for a particular need, that LA would continue to fund that provision. Its if something new emerged that we would need to turn to the new LA.
Here I only noted down those things relevant to me – there was also stuff about council houses amongst other things. I also already knew this but, I will be entitled to 15 hours free early education provision for my child from the age of two (a year early than the majority of children). When my child is of school age, I will be able to choose which school best meets my child’s needs and they have to give my child a place.
The government announced £19.3 million to be put towards supporting adoption. Since then they have backtracked. They still haven’t come up with a policy and keep putting the training with social workers back. The extra money at the moment is being filtered through a bit ad hoc. So, for example, some money was given in order to promote adoption but could only be used on that. The extra funding is not as straightforward as the media makes it sound and will take some time to filter through into the system properly.
This was the bit I am least happy with and I’m uncertain whether the trainers have correct. We need to make sure we self declare our child’s adoption status when we apply for schools so that the funding can come through. It is up to the school how they decide to spend the money – they are allowed to spend it in a variety of ways, as long as it somehow relates to our childs needs. So, (and this was an example given) if our child is good at music, it could be used to buy the school musical instruments! They did say of our child had very specific needs then it could be used to pay for one-to-one support, but I thought we as parents had more of a say and that the money had to go directly to our child – not to resource the whole school!
Post adoption contact scheme
When a child is placed a contract is drawn up between the adopters and birth family declaring the arrangements between both parties. It is a working document and can be changed and reviewed. There is support on offer for both sides to help write the letters. If letterbox contact arrives that is unsuitable to pass on to the child it will be held on file for the child to access as an adult, we will be informed that is what has happened. Letterbox contact is available for the child until they are 25 years of age. This is so that at no time will the adopted person feel they have to give over more information than they are happy with giving – it remains an unthreatening way to maintain contact. At the age of 25 then an adopted person can choose to access their records if they wish to remain in contact with birth family.
We were given examples of the agreements and appropriate letters from both parties to take away.
Memory boxes, Life Story books and Later Life Letters
When a child is placed with you they are given a memory box. This could contain photographs, hospital tags, first pairs of shoes or first outfits, first cuddly toy etc. This is put together by the Foster Carer and unfortunately they vary in quality. Some FC’s go to town in making lovely books or boxes, others will just hand over a memory stick of photos.
They aim to get the Life Story Book to us around the time of the Celebration Hearing. They tend to be made by the child’s SW. They warned us that the volume of books they have to create means that there is currently a backlog. They also prioritise older children as they are more likely to need access to their Life Story Book earlier than a baby or very young child. We were encouraged to have the LSB available for the child to access at all times as it belongs to the child and we should be using it to tell their story. We were told that if we weren’t happy with the book it could be sent back for alteration – similarly, if there were bits that we felt were not age appropriate we could take those bits out and add them back in at a later date when we felt our child could cope with that level of information. Again we were encouraged that it is important that our children feel we have always been open and honest about their past and foster an openess about questioning their past. Don’t be tempted to tell white lies but be as honest as possible but in an age appropriate way. If we had difficulties with this in practise, the ‘telling your child about adoption’ training will help.
A Later Life Letter is written by the child’s SW to the child and given to us at the time the child is adopted to keep safe for them until they are old enough to read it. It will be a personal letter and will give more detailed information than the LSB about why they were placed into care, how the decision was made and what role the SW played. It is aimed for a child of 13 to read but it will depend on the emotional maturity of the child as to when a parent wants to share that letter with them. There will be a copy of the letter on file, so if it gets lost in a house move they will be able to replace it.
All of these things help to build up layers of information for the child. A child should never be hit with all the information about their adoption at once, but drip fed it throughout their life as they grow up and form part of their identity.
Access to Birth Records
50% of adopted people go on to access their birth records and to contact birth family. There are a number of reasons for this. Curiosity, for background information, to know what their birth family looks like and medical information are all reasons given for this. Over the last 5/6 years there has been a dramatic rise in people applying. This could be down to an increased interest in genealogy with programs such as Who do You Think You Are? and online ancestry records being more readily available. The other is the way reunions have been portrayed on the program Long Lost Family, with an increase in calls every day after the program is shown. Post adoption support workers now have difficult job in counselling people before they make contact so they realise it is not always like they see it on the TV.
Adopted people at the age of 18 have the right to recieve a copy of everything an adoption agency was required to give their adoptive parents at the time they were placed for adoption. We as parents can give them our files or they can request them from the LA.
They also have at this age the right to access everything that is held about them on file by the LA. If they wish to access all the information they will be supported through this by the adoption support team.
We were also given several information leaflets produced by the team (that I haven’t had a chance to look through) on:
- Attending the adoption panel
- From approval to placement
- Introducing children to their adoptive family
- From placement to adoption order
- Dealing with disclosures of abuse
- Adoption support services
- Post Adoption Contact Scheme
- BAAF advice leaflet on contact