The Closure of BAAF

The closure of BAAF was of course, as for plenty of adopters, a huge shock to me. The organisation, which many saw as the cornerstone of British adoption, gone just like that over night. What’s not shocking about that? However did I feel personally affected by this loss? No.

When Mr H and I first looked into adoption, some ten years ago now, much of the relevant literature and online information about adoption was published by, or provided by BAAF. It was difficult to find books, leaflets or training, which they hadn’t published or hosted. They really were the big guns.

As we threw ourselves into our family and became absorbed by the day to day, I forgot to search for more to read and more information to take on board. I knew few people who had adopted, so occasionally accessed The Adoption UK chat forums but, really, I relied a lot on instinct and the occasional bit of input from my Local Authority (LA).

That is until things became really, really tough. By this time we’d moved house and our LA was different and also fairly incompetent. All requests for support were met with a fair bit of indifference, a lack of understanding and little belief in what we were reporting.

This is the point at which I joined twitter as an adoptive parent. I lifted my head above the parapet of our everyday life, to seek others with whom I could relate, and I found them. There amongst the scrolling screen of my smart phone were other people experiencing my life. Not only did they tweet about it, they wrote about it in their blogs. Suddenly there was so much more to take in, again, reading about the lives of other adopters made me feel so much less alone. These people were supportive and friendly, sharing their experiences and recommending sources of information. Here I discovered Dan Hughes, wow what a revelation that was.

So what does this have to do with the closure of BAAF?

Well, as many of you will know, from these tiny social media seeds grew The Adoption Social, a free website, offering up the experiences and thoughts of others involved in adoption. An organisation that aimed to promote and support the online adoption community, a community you can be part of for free.

Whilst running The Adoption Social, we’ve had very little to do with BAAF, despite often trying to engage with them through social media. I must add here that on the odd occasion I’ve met staff from BAAF, at conferences and training, they have all been very friendly and interested. However online, they refused, for a long time, to even acknowledge our existence. This is not me showing bitterness or regret, it’s just a fact. Whilst organisations like Adoption UK, Coram and TACT, to name a few, were supportive and interested. BAAF never really were.

I’m not suggesting that we were ever in the same league as this mighty organisation; however, it somehow seemed a very antiquated approach, amidst this very friendly and supportive community, they seemed, to me, to maintain their seniority. I have been known to refer to them as the “dinosaurs” of the adoption world, which now I feel a little unkind about. However no matter all the incredible work they did, it seems a shame that they seemed unable to move with the times and engage in this new format, which many of those involved in adoption were embracing.

I’m sure there is much, much more involved with the closure of BAAF than a lack of social media savvy, and I can’t help feel that the government are playing a big part in the drama which is gradually unfolding. Whilst I don’t feel personally affected by the loss of BAAF, I do feel truly saddened that such an institution of adoption has been found to be so removed from what is currently needed in the adoption sector, and therefore unsalvageable. I think it casts a very dark shadow over adoption, and whilst questionable decisions are being made, and other queries remain unanswered, a sense of instability exists over British adoption.

 

A Year On

A Year OnTo reflect on the last year, with all its grit and grime, is an extremely hard ask for me. I’ve taken a look back at the blog, one year ago, and discovered it’s a year since my boiler broke and we endured three days without heat or hot water. A painful experience that I don’t really want to contemplate again and that’s just it, most of last year I don’t want to have to contemplate again. I honestly feel that 2013 was the hardest year I’ve lived in all my 41 years on this planet. I’ve never been overly superstitious but I am eternally grateful that I won’t live to endure another year with the number 13 in it. And yet, strangely, I personally, did achieve some amazing things in that year.

I ran the London Marathon and raised a large sum of money for the charity TACT.

I started The Weekly Adoption Shout Out with Vicki from The Boys Behaviour.

I started the website The Adoption Social with Vicki, providing support for adopters, adoptees and others working in or touched by adoption.

I produced a youth play for my local amateur dramatics group.

I became a trustee for The Open Nest Charity.

I made some incredible new friends from the land of Adoption and even got to meet some of them when The Adoption Social and The Open Nest exhibited at The Adoption UK Annual Conference.

Yet I measure my year by none of these achievements, I instead reflect on the emotional rollercoaster that the year was for my family. Allowing my mind to even wander near the edge of those deepest and darkest of downward facing times frightens me. My muscles tighten, my throat constricts, and a sickness is rising from within, from the depths of my core a wave of tears is swelling. So, now I’m taking a deep breath……….I’ve found composure and I have stepped away from the precipice. I’m going to stick with my resolution, to live in the here and now and allow only hope for the future.

What I can say, is that to have survived the year can only have made each of us stronger. We are now taking tiny steps towards firmer and more certain ground and I’m sure amongst these pastures of increasing confidence and blossoming optimism, our growth will become more evident. The children are already showing signs of progress, relinquishing 2013 seem to have made a huge difference for them.

Stig has been managing and regulating his anger in a far more positive way. A contentedness, which he lacked for much of that fated year, has returned and glows softly within him. He is growing up, and I think he is coming to terms with it. Maturity can be a difficult attribute to steer at first but he is taking control and beginning to benefit from, even enjoy, the fruits that it brings.

Tink remains a boy of two extremes. Beyond his cool, astute and steely stare is a soft and squidgy little bundle, which requires the tender nurturing of an infant. The softness at his centre is well protected and few are privileged enough to benefit from its tenderness. I however am being allowed increased access to his vulnerability, as he allows me to assist him, asks for my help and even voices his concerns and fears. As always it is all very much on his terms, or so he believes, I’ve also become increasingly clever at letting him think he’s in charge.

My relationship with Mr H has near enough weathered what has been some exceptionally treacherous storms. We cling to our life together by our fingernails alone, but sheer determination that we will not be beaten by a bad stretch, keeps us holding on. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I know we can get through, but damage has been done and healing may take time. We know however that it is worth the endeavour, as at our core the embers of the love we have for each other still radiate warmth.

For me the last year seemed an endless battle with my old adversary, depression. I struggle to recall any long periods when lightness was in my step and cheer was in my heart. I feel much of my time I was weighted by worries and anxieties for those around me and strained by the intensity of living with those filled with worries and anxieties. I have started taking steps to lift myself from beneath the heaviness and I am learning new ways of keeping my old friend at a distance.

So today I prefer to look at the year ahead and hold hope in my heart for the future. In this vein I will say that a year on we are now on an upper ward turn and I am optimistic we are leaving the darkness behind.

My Visit to The Launch of The Care Inquiry

On Tuesday this week I was very privileged to be invited as a guest of TACT to the launch of The Care Inquiry. This inquiry has involved 8 different charities who aim to support children and young people within or from the care system,  Adoption UK, BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering), Family Rights Group, the Fostering Network, Research in Practice, TACT, The Who Cares? Trust, and the Together Trust.

The aim of this inquiry was to look at the way in which children are cared for when they can no longer live with their birth families and to make recommendations as to how the lives of these children can be improved. The reason being that all charities involved are very much aware that whilst a lot of hard work is being done to improve the care these children are provided, evidence would most definitely suggest that the in many areas the best possible provision is not being achieved.

As well as looking at current and relevant reports and documentation surrounding the care of children and young people outside their birth families, The Inquiry spoke widely to those involved within this system. The Care Workers, The Foster Carers, The Kinship Cares, The Adoptive Parents, The Birth Parents and most importantly the young people and children who these people aim to support. The importance of the voice of the young was made clear in a film shown in the opening of the evening where those from the care system spoke of their own experiences and also their desires for how this service could best support them. See for yourself….

We all gathered in a grand, by my standards, room in Deans Yard behind Westminster Abbey all of which I was very much impressed by. There were representatives there from all the charities as well as some of those who had been invited to give evidence during The Care Inquiry. The evening opened with time to meet others gathered and share thoughts and ideas on why we all converged on this spot. I, along with my good friend Amanda Boorman from The Open Nest Charity were introduced to Jim Bond a long time foster carer of teenagers and support worker with adoptive families, he was also one of the speakers that evening.

It was wonderful to converse with people who showed understanding and comprehension to my own experiences and were interested and excited by the work Vicki from The Boys Behaviour and I do on The Weekly Adoption Shout Out. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to the experiences of others and their opinions on The Care Inquiry and other related topics that were discussed.

From the outset of the introductory speech made by Robert Tapsfield, Chair of the Care Inquiry steering group, to Edward Timpson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families and then to different representatives of the care system, the message was “communication”.

Communication needs to be improved to create more secure placements of permanency for our vulnerable children. The children need to be listened to; their wishes must be taken into consideration. Ashley Williamson a care leaver spoke of his own experiences of having his concerns for what the future held for him ignored when he moved to foster care at a point when his mum was having some personal difficulties. Instead of explaining to him what was happening he was repeatedly told not to worry and focus on his school work. This was the very last thing he was capable of doing when he was anxiously contemplating where home would be for him in the future.

The report has been titled Making not Breaking – Building Relationships for our most Vulnerable Children, and as each of the speakers took to the stage their individual stories spoke about the important of this. The requirement for all children on the edge of or within the care system to create positive bonds with those supporting them, bonds that are permanent and long standing. Jim Bond spoke of his own experiences of the teenagers he had fostered and how on too many occasions they had to come to terms with a new social workers as the one previous moved on to pastures new. These inconsistencies are damaging to vulnerable young people and any prospects they may have of forming meaningful relationships in the future. Building relationships is considered, in the report to be “the golden thread” and in my limited experience I must agree.

For me the evening was inspiring, I am not a journalistic writer and so to read more of what the report has to say please read here. For me there was a room full of hope on that evening, one where a brighter future can be created for the vulnerable young in our society, for those like my own children and the ones I read about weekly in all the wonderful adoption posts I get to see. But also other children, those that adoption doesn’t suit and isn’t right for, these children also have to the right to good quality permanent homes being available to them. I have written previously about a sibling of my children who I feel more consideration and thought should have been afforded and it was with much optimism I listened to recommendations for the individual child’s requirements to be a priority.

I understand that the words were being spoken on this evening and creating the reality of these words will be a hard and arduous task but with commitment from all those there and supported by the likes of Lisa Nandy, whos passionate speech really convinced me of here concern and dedication to the cause, I believes things can be done. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I felt very privileged to be there and to be amongst such hope for the future. I have, to myself and anyone willing to listen, pledged to do my bit to support the cause as much as I can, so beware you’ve not heard the last of this from me.

Digging Deep

DigDeep

Yesterday I ran the London Marathon and I did run all 26.2 miles of it, no walking, even though at times my pace was almost that of a snail. It was an exciting day that turned out to be one of the toughest and most painful of my life; I can say that having never given birth or sustain any major injuries in my life.

In the last 10 miles it was a prolonged agony, which mentally I had to break down into small bits, 5 minute chunks and whittled down the miles to get through. I put my head down under my cap and focused on lots of things to take my mind off my legs, mostly I thought of my family, my boys and my husband and all the things we’ve been through and continue to move through together. I imagined Tink’s warm little body snuggled up against me in bed, I recalled Stig’s beautiful eyes and infectious smile beaming at me and I looked forward to the strong embrace of Mr H.

On a number of occasions I really thought “I can’t do this” but I would push this thought from my mind and think of all the wonderful words of support I’d received from family and friends, all the encouraging words I had from twitter and Facebook and the desire to make you all proud and not let anyone down kept me going. Seeing my lovely in-laws cheering me on at 25 miles was a massive boost, and even though my name wasn’t on my vest having a common name like Sarah has its advantages when running a marathon, there were plenty of “go Sarah” shouts, I took them all. There is also the massive amount of donations and sponsorship money I’ve received for the charity TACT, people have been so generous and every penny really does count and helped me to put one foot in front of the other yesterday. Seeing the pink TACT cheering groups and hearing lovely Megan shouting my name helped put a smile on my face at quite a low moment.

I knew arriving at the start line yesterday that it was not going to be an easy task. My training had been much hampered by the weather and family events; we’ve been in some dark places in these last few months. A couple of time I set out to train in tears and found even doing a short run really hard work, even though it’s only a year since I last trained it all just felt a lot harder. But I went to run a marathon, not walk it and I was determined to do just that and I did. Even though my time was slower than I would have liked I’m very proud because I didn’t give up. I kept telling myself that walking would be just as painful and it would take twice as long to finish. Today I feel very tired and I ache a lot but I’m happy, happy to know that if I put my mind to something, no matter how hard I really can do it.

My last word of thanks goes to the lovely lady who placed my medal around my neck as I crossed the line, I said to her “Oh I could kiss you” and she replied “you can if you want” so I did and she gave me a lovely hug too.

If you haven’t sponsored me but would like to please click here.
If you have sponsored me thank you, thank you, thank you……

Marathon Running for TACT

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Ok, just a couple of days to go until I’m running 26.2 miles around London, yes that’s right I’m running the London Marathon. Please support me and this amazing Charity TACT ,The Adolescent and Child Trust that I’m raising funds for. All the funds raised will go towards important services that TACT provide for children and adolescents that  are living within the care system. They also provide much required support for families and children post adoption, something I wish I’d had access to at times. Here’s  an idea of some of the services they provide…

  •  Individual counselling sessions –  £20 will pay for an individual counselling session for either a parent or child.

 

  •   Leaving care mentors – £20 will pay for a session with a mentor. TACT provides mentoring support to young people preparing to leave care by people who have already left care themsleves. TACT mentors are able to provide support, advice and guidance and most importantly life experience as they have previously gone through the process of leaving care and the transition into adulthood.
  • Children’s activities – £65 will pay for a whole day of activities for a child or young person. Our activity days allow children to take part in activities such as raft building, high rope walking, water sports and wall climbing.
  • Post adoption support services – £600 will provide ten specialist therapeutic sessions for a family with adopted children. These sessions involve the entire family, while allowing for consultation with the parent/s and individual workshops for the child/ren.
  • Skills4Life – £2000 will pay for TACT to run our Skills4Life training workshops. This course is aimed at young people aged 14-18 who may require addition support in preparing to leave care and become independent. The five workshops cover Money matters, Social Skills, Health and Well being, the transition to becoming independent, employment skills and managing the home.

So please be generous and help provide these much need services and make a donation here…

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Sarah-Hill