March 2014 Prep Group Blog

29 March 2014 - Session 4

After 3 great Saturday’s, here we were at our 4th and final day.  As always we were asked if we had any questions or concerns with anything covered the previous week.  It was agreed by everyone that it was a tough day but necessary to prepare us for what we might face in the months ahead.

For the first session of our final day, we looked at child behaviour. We were asked to think about children we know or look back to our own childhood and shout out different behaviours that children may display e.g. tantrums, arguing.

Next we looked at how we deal with situations when we are angry. Pieces of paper, each with different behaviours were put on the floor and we had to stand on the one (s) we felt best described how we are when angry.  We then discussed our behaviours with each other.

We were then split into 2 groups to work through a number of ‘what if?’ scenarios – for example – what if we bumped into our child’s birth mother in the supermarket?  A number of the scenarios were very challenging and split opinion amongst the groups.  The group leaders then covered each scenario with their opinions.

As this was our final day we decided to all go for a group lunch in a local cafe.  We were given a bit longer for lunch but unfortunately, we were still slightly late back much to our embarrassment.

On our return from lunch we were joined by Trudi from the After Adoption team.  It was strange to be hearing about the many things which are available post adoption when we are so early on in the process but it was really interesting and reassuring to hear that Scottish Adoption are there for life and there is so much they can offer in the way of help and advice.  The groups available range from toddler age right through to teenage years and beyond.  We then heard about two different case studies and the various ways the After Adoption team have helped.  We were then able to ask questions.

We were approaching the end of the day and indeed our Preparation Group but before we would say our goodbyes it was time to get our Application forms.  It had been stressed on more than one occasion that we should take our time and review the entire process before sending the form back.  We were told that once all the forms from the group had been received we would hear back in 2 – 3 weeks advising us of our allocated Social Worker and a proposed date for panel.

We were given a final chance to ask any questions we had.  We were never shy in asking questions during the sessions so we didn’t really have any questions left to ask.

We all swapped phone numbers and e-mail addresses and promised to keep in touch with everyone during our journey and then that was it, the Preparation Group finished. We have really enjoyed it and we have met 3 lovely couples who we wish the very best of luck to for their Adoption journeys.

22 March 2014 - Session 3

I can’t believe I’m writing blog number three already! The weeks have flown by and both my wife and I are feeling a bit sad that it is to be the last week of Preparation Group next week.

Group Session

As a group we spent the first part of the morning each discussing our path to Scottish Adoption and any other thoughts, questions or concerns we had.  We did this without the Group Leader who gave us some time on our own. It was interesting to hear everyone’s story so far and it was nice to have a chat about the previous two weeks and the future.

Our Group Leader returned and gave us the opportunity to ask questions on anything we had discussed and was also able to reassure us on a number of concerns we had, mainly on finances and the Home Study.

Hearing from an Adoptive Parent

The next part of the morning we heard from an adoptive Mother who was accompanied by her Social Worker. She came to talk about her and her husband’s experience of the adoption process from the Preparation Group right through to finally adopting their daughter. It was lovely to hear a positive story about adoption from someone who had ‘been in our shoes’ a few years ago. We were able to ask her and her Social Worker any questions we had.

Neglect and Abuse

After lunch we were asked to shout out all the things that we think children need, e.g. love, a home and warmth.  This would signal the start of a very difficult afternoon.  We then looked at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  It made absolute sense that if basic needs are not met then it has a huge impact on a child’s future holistic development.

Next we split into two groups to discuss ways in which adults fail to meet a child’s needs and the behaviour which may be demonstrated by a child whos needs have not been met.  This exercise was extremely difficult as it brought home the harsh reality of how some children live their lives.

We then watched a DVD about Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). We heard about the affects drug misuse during pregnancy has on a child. These affects include sleep problems, irritability and dislike of physical contact. The DVD included footage from foster parents who described the difficulties caring for children who suffer from this syndrome.

The afternoon session was particularly hard for everyone and we were all feeling a bit flat, however, I do feel that these issues have to be covered in order to prepare us for what our future child may have gone through. The Group Leader was keen to finish the session on a more positive note, so we were given a sheet to fill out about ‘House Rules’. We were to do this without our partners. We had to tick yes or no as to what we thought was acceptable in a home or family e.g. a father and son toy fighting. We then shared our thoughts (number 31 was a particularly interesting one!!) We more or less had the same opinions on each of the rules and thankfully my wife and I were exactly the same.

15 March 2014 - Session 2

It’s amazing how quickly week 2 has sneaked up on us. It felt like only yesterday since we had the first day nerves of last week’s session. No such problems this time however as we left home at a more reasonable time looking forward to the day ahead. It was great to see everyone again and one couple had even brought my favourite – Krispy Kreme doughnuts!!! I was quite proud of myself that I resisted the temptation to eat one........well almost, but I did last until 4pm before I finally gave in!!

Week 2 started with the Group Leaders offering us the opportunity to ask any questions based on last week’s session. There weren’t any so we moved swiftly on.........

Child Development

We split into 2 groups.  Each group was given a whiteboard and a series of cards, each with a statement relating to various stages of child development.  On the whiteboard were a range of age groups, 0 – 2, 2 – 3, 3 – 5, 5 – 11 and 11 – 16.  We were to discuss the statements and place the cards on the board in the category we felt was correct. It was interesting to hear the different opinions within the group as some of the statements were interpreted differently and therefore needed more discussion. We then re-joined the others and shared our thoughts. In most cases both groups had placed the cards in the same age category.

The group leaders then talked through each statement and told us in which age category the cards/statements should be placed.

The group leaders then presented to us The Cycle of Need.  There were two examples given, a healthy attachment cycle and an unhealthy attachment cycle. The cycle showed both the positive and negative impacts on a child if their needs are met or unmet and how this can affect them in their future development.

We were then shown a You Tube clip of ‘’The Strange Situation’’ – Mary Ainsworth, an experiment showing a child in a small room.  The child was put in a number of situations with Mum and with a stranger.  It was interesting to see the different reactions the child had during the experiment. This again was good in highlighting the different forms of attachment.

Next we were shown a film about a baby home in Russia. The children featured all had differing experiences of interaction with adults.  This was difficult to watch as some children had regressed and had no interest in bonding with other children and adults, again highlighting the importance of a healthy attachment cycle. I felt the earlier session on the Healthy Attachment Cycle helped me understand the issues surrounding the children in the Home better. While the film was emotional and upsetting it was very relevant and I can understand why it was shown.  On a positive note, through interaction, stimulation and a child’s needs being met an unhealthy attachment cycle can, in time develop into a healthy cycle.

Gains and Losses

Last week we looked into the Gains and Losses for adopted children.  This week we looked at the Gains and Losses for birthparents and adoptive parents.  We split into 2 groups again, with our group concentrating on birthparents. Throughout this session we grew more of an appreciation towards the birthparents as we discussed their losses in the process.  Obvious losses such as the loss of their child and the loss of self esteem and confidence were identified. A number of gains were also identified, the main one being the knowledge that their child was being cared for.

Both groups came together to shared their thoughts.

The Grief Process

We looked at the Grief Process (Holly Van Gulden) which describes the stages of grief and how this can affect adopted children throughout their life. This was followed by a film about a birth mother who appeared to be quite positive about adoption. After discussion with the group leaders it was clear that the parent had to go through a number of stages of grief before she could become accepting of adoption. Her children have now been placed with an adoptive family and she made the comment the she wished she could find a family like that.

Contact

The group leaders talked us through the different types of contact in the adoption process. Direct contact with birth family (meetings) and indirect contact (cards or letters once or twice a year depending on arrangements)

We had time without the group leaders to discuss any issues or worries we had regarding contact with birth families. We all had questions we wanted answered, but the overall feelings were the same. How will contact affect the child, how will it impact on our relationship with the child, can it be increased/decreased? We talked through our concerns and question with the group leaders.

We then watched various films regarding the importance of contact. It was lovely to see some familiar faces from the film last week and the positive effect contact has had for them. We heard from adopted children, birth parents and adoptive parents. I found it interesting to hear the stories and views from each perspective. It has been made clear to me just how important and positive contact (if appropriate) can be to a child. We were reassured by staff that support and advice will be given to families throughout the child’s life.

Week 2 was hard and sometimes quite emotional, but again we learned so much more about the process which will stand us in good stead for the journey ahead. The standout quote which came from one of the children featured in the film was “Respect the past”.

That’s us halfway through the Preparation Group and it’s been amazing so far. For next week’s session, we’ve been told that we’ll be split into groups, with no Group Leaders present and will have a chance to talk about why we’re here and the journey so far.  I guess it will also be an opportunity to get to know the others in the group that bit better as well. 

8 March 2014 - Session 1

Eight months after our initial meeting with Scottish Adoption, Saturday 8th March had finally arrived.  We left home 2 hours before the meeting started, knowing fine well that the journey would only take just over an hour but we were certainly not going to be late on the first day!!

We were understandably nervous approaching the Scottish Adoption offices however the nerves soon eased with a warm welcome from the Group Leaders. We were offered tea, coffee and biscuits on arrival and were asked to take a seat in the room while we waited for the others to join us. In total there were four couples in the group.

Introductions

We sat in a circle and were asked to face the person sitting next to us (not our own partner) and introduce ourselves.  After 5 minutes were up the next task was to tell the group what you had learned about the person you had been speaking to.  I was worried that I would forget something, even the person’s name!!   Thankfully the name badges which were provided prevented this from happening.

Next, we were asked to draw our childhood and current home on a piece of paper, highlighting particular memories and people in our lives.  We then discussed our drawings with the rest of the group.  I really enjoyed this task as it brought back many happy memories of my childhood. It also made me realise how fortunate I was and am. It also brought home to me that children placed for adoption may not have such happy memories, if any at all.

Children’s Profiles

We split into 2 groups for the next session where we were each given a profile of adoptive children.  We looked closely at the profile and had to consider various questions.  It was good to discuss this with another couple and we all shared our feelings. Reading and discussing the profile made me realise that this was real life and real children. Lots of different emotions were felt during this exercise but it was worthwhile and thought provoking. We then rejoined the others to discuss our thoughts and heard from the other group who had a different profile.

Process of Adoption

We learned more about the adoption journey and were given a more detailed understanding of the process and the various steps which are ahead of us. The next stage after the Preparation Group is to decide whether or not to proceed. The Group Leaders advised us not to rush and take time to think about our decision.   A Social Worker would then be allocated and the Home Study stage begins.

Gains and Losses

We worked with a different couple for this session and we focussed on children’s losses through adoption.  Thinking from the child’s point of view made this task easier and it made us realise how difficult the adoption process could be for the children involved – losing family, friends, roots, identity and foster families. We re-joined the others who were considering the gains in the adoption process.  It was good to see that the gains outweighed the losses. Once again, this session was very thought provoking.

We discussed the importance of keeping adopted children’s names and how the loss of a name can affect a person.  We were shown a video featuring an adopted woman whose name had been changed and the impact that it had on her.

Hearing from adopted children

The final session of the day was spent watching a DVD which featured adopted children who spoke about their experiences of being adopted.  It was lovely to see the children looking so happy and talking openly about their lives. It was a really positive way to end what was an enjoyable day .We look forward to next week.