The Open Nest Conference – #TakingCare

takingcareI’m probably the last to write a review on The Open Nest Conference, #TakingCare and it’s a little appalling as a trustee for the charity. However, besides all the not so great stuff going on for us at the moment around school, I’ve needed this time to reflect, absorb and process exactly what happened in The Royal York Hotel on October 18th .

I was nervous, not only because I was speaking and right at the end of the day too, but because this was a slight leap into the unknown. Although a fairly intermit and small event, it felt like this conference would be the platform by which the charity launched its intentions to the world of adoption. Amanda Boorman (founder of The Open Nest) had a very clear vision for the day, it was to be informative and real, raw content that would make those there, feel included and understood. However, it was also to feel like a day away from home, you were to feel as if The Open Nest were Taking Care of you.

Stepping into the beautiful oak panelled room, in which we were to spend the day, with the beautiful table settings and the striking striped “goody bags”, I immediately felt we were somewhere special, I felt special. I know these may be considered small niceties compared to the content of the day but this attention to detail is what immediately set this conference apart from any other I’ve attended.

The opening film, Severance, detailing Amanda and her daughter Jazz’s adoption journey, shown through extensive home video footage and a candid interview, delivered a less subtle message of intent. This uncensored, no holds barred representation of two peoples adoption story was a sympathetic hand, reaching out to all those struggling within their own story.  The film claimed everyone in that room, in some way, parents, prospective parents, adoptees and workers, everyone could relate to some aspect of what they saw.

As the day unfolded we all travelled to some of the darkest corners of our lives and were shown the power there is in sharing them. Al Coates did this magnificently through humour, crafted to show us that we all have misgivings in the most challenging of times.

Fran Proctor, through bravely sharing her own story, showed us the courage our own children reveal each day, in facing their own trauma. This for me had the greatest impact of the day.

I felt empowered by all the practical, sensible and well thought out advice that Sally Donovan delivered. Clear messages on how to take care of yourself,  I was especially keen on the” no need to do housework” point but  may have been taking care of myself in this way all my adult life. The notes on how to advocate for your child in school were again enormously helpful and I will be making use of them very soon. It crossed my mind that social workers could take a leaf out of Sally’s book, in times of budget cuts, encouraging adopters to take care and relaying how best to support your child doesn’t cost anything and is far more useful than playing the blame game.

Marie Louise from We are Family, delivered an inspirational model on running an adoption support group, the important factor seeming to be they were “groups for adopters run by adopters”. Again I wonder if LA’s could look at supporting this initiative, especially if their own groups, if they have them at all, are not well attended.

Finally, Vicki and I talked about how we had discovered the use of social media as a support tool and what we aimed to achieve for the online community through The Adoption Social. Phew, I was relieved once that was done.

Apart from all the incredible content the day provided there was the meeting of other real life people, people we often spill with and tell all sorts to, via our blogs and twitter. There is, to me, no doubt that the bringing together of people, was more than just the icing on the cake. Knowing when you meet someone you don’t have to explain the whys and hows of what’s going on in your life, that there is acceptance. For me living and breathing that acceptance and empathy for and with other human beings is the core of what the conference gave me.  In making those meaningful connections we truly learn how to Take Care.

I had a real desire, when walking back to my hotel room, to lie down in a dark space for a long time to just take in the enormity of the day. I felt overwhelmed by the sense of momentum the day had gathered, the empowering sense that our voice not only matters, but that it will also be heard.

Instead I donned a posh frock, reapplied my lippy and headed into the night to let my hair down with my new found friends.