Karin and Richie Blog

26th June 2014 - Session 5

Today was our last prep group and there was a real end of term feeling. There was a fair bit of noise today compared to week 1 when we all sat in the room in silence before the start.

We started off talking about behaviour, about all the ways children can act up and how the way we react with each other's annoying behaviour (sulking, shouting, etc.)  isn't usually the best way to react to a child.

Dan Hughes is a respected child psychologist and we watched a few short films of him talking about certain aspects of child behaviour, the possible reasons behind it and the way he would react to it. These were really fascinating, would be great to clone him and have him come and live with us all.

I will miss the wee café down the road and their sandwiches. Hopefully they won't miss us too much!

The one thing that we as a group agreed seemed to be unique to Scottish Adoption was the support provided after adoption. After lunch Julie came in and spoke to us about the different types of support they offer to both children and parents. It's a good feeling to know that this is available and we know from some of the people we met over the last few weeks how important this can be.

We went over the process again and finally were handed out the official application forms. I expected it to be pages long and for it to take the weekend to complete but it's just one page, nevertheless we had to take them home before signing and sending back.

There's only so much you can learn in 5 weeks but my thoughts on several aspects of adoption have changed quite a bit, Judy and Alex have been great trainers, their knowledge and experience shone through and their positivity on everything adoption related was obvious.

We're really looking forward to getting the approval process started and moving on, the thought that next year at this time we could be parents still seems very far away and unreal but it feels like we've actually started the journey now.

The group might have gone to the pub afterwards just for a quick debrief but I couldn't possibly comment...

19th June 2014 - Session 4

 So this week was another hot and sunny day, it must be summer, that's 2 sunny Thursdays in a row.This morning we spoke a lot about contact and also a bit about neglect and abuse. We were all really looking forward to the afternoon when an adoptive parent was coming in to talk about his personal experience of the adoption process.

Contact with birth families is something a lot of us feel a bit uneasy about, I guess thinking about something in the abstract is always harder than the reality - or maybe in our cases not, only time will tell.

Alex and Judy have talked a lot about contact over the last 4 weeks and the teenagers we met last week also talked about it and I feel like I really get it now. All evidence and experience collected over the years indicates the importance of contact between adoptive children and their birth families. It's hard for us who have their whole life story told to them by parents and available at all times to understand, but the knowledge of where you came from and who you are is very important for developing a sense of self and identity. If there are grey areas or unknowns in the history then it's likely the child will be more insecure about themselves and spend a lot of time wondering about their birth family. We watched a short film which told the contact story from all 3 sides: the adopted child, his parents and the birth mother. The thing that struck me most was how secure the parents must have been in their relationship with their son to encourage him to have more and then direct contact with his birth mother and I am full of admiration for them.

We went on to talk a bit about neglect and abuse, the sad fact is that many adoptive children come from backgrounds where drug/alcohol misuse is normal behaviour and a pregnancy does not change that. We watched a short film about child behaviour after abuse/neglect in their early years. We need to bear in mind that we won't always know the full story and that every child's situation and reaction is unique. It was a pretty negative note to end the morning on but it is reality.

The afternoon was a lot brighter; one of the parents who had adopted a child 5 years ago came in and talked to us about his family's experience of the process from beginning to end. It was great to ask him directly about his experiences and hear about things like contact and home study and the infamous "Form F" and be able to put it into context. It was reassuring that he said a number of times how they only think about adoption a small percentage of the time and that about 95% of the time you are just being a normal parent!

Next week is our last week as a group, it's hard to believe how quickly time has passed but I personally can't wait to finish and get that form in so we can officially start the process.

12th June 2014 - Session 3

The sun was out this week and there's some football tournament starting tonight so excitement was in the air from the offset! This week was structured quite differently to previous sessions and I think a suitable overall theme for today would be journeys.

After we arrived we split into gender groups and spent the entire morning talking about our own personal journeys to Scottish Adoption, everyone's story is unique, individual and obviously very personal. It was good to get to know the rest of the girls better and also to be in a situation to be able to talk openly about all things adoption, As well as our stories we discussed some of our fears and feelings around adoption and concluded that the main thing was we had all made it to Scottish Adoption and were all at the beginning of an exciting new journey. It's amazing how quickly time flies when girls are talking and before we knew it, it was lunchtime. Apparently the boys group were much more practical in their approach but everyone agreed it had been good to talk and open up about our situations.

There are many different ways to learn about things and so far we've watched films, done some work in groups, we've listened a lot to Judy and Alex, talked and probably all read some relevant material but nothing beats hearing things straight from real people. We were extremely lucky this week (and apparently unique!) in that 3 of the teenagers from one of the groups run by Scottish Adoption came along to talk to us about their personal experiences of adoption, this was brilliant. They were all very open, impressively self-aware and didn't hold back with telling us about their own journeys and current situations. The main thing I took from their stories was the absolute importance of honesty and good communication. As kids grow up, they need to know their stories for their own sense of self. The importance of contact was also very clear and even an annual letter can keep curiosity satisfied and also build on a child's self esteem and confidence in who they are. I think I speak for everyone in the group in saying that this afternoon made a really positive impression on us all and I was on a lovely high for the rest of the day. Personally it reinforced my feelings that we can do this and again we're on the right path.

5th  June 2014 - Session 2

This week's themes turned out (in short!) to be names, development and attachment. We started off by thinking about names and their significance, firstly to us in the group and then to children. There can be potentially damaging effects to changing someone's name and it's not until they find out that all kinds of negative feelings can come to the surface - often their name can be the only link they still have to their birth family.In two groups we then had to place cards with developmental stages against different age groups on a board, this was quite tricky and luckily there were no prizes involved! Afterwards we discussed how these stages can be delayed if children have not spent their early years in a stimulating, secure and supportive environment and how their behaviour will sometimes regress to that of a younger child almost to make up for what they have missed. It seems to be a human behaviour that is entirely instinctive, not consciously played out or something that can be helped.

Before starting to talk about attachment we watched a short documentary set in a Russian orphanage. Purely from a scientific standpoint it was fascinating but from a human point of view parts of it were quite difficult to watch. Although their basic needs were met and they were cared for physically, not having a special person to comfort them, care for them, even just give them eye contact and spend time with them meant that some of these babies appeared to shut down and reject the adults who did give them any attention. The effects were profound and also happened relatively quickly, a baby who learns all the positive stuff from their parents could also learn the negative stuff just by not having that basic care that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted. Luckily the human brain is an amazing organ and although we're not sure how, these instinctive behaviours can be "relearnt"

Lunch was a welcome break and we headed towards the shore for a sandwich.

We kicked off the afternoon with gains and losses from the perspective of a child who is going to be adopted. We started off with lots of gains but quickly realised that most of these could be accompanied with a corresponding loss, even although they are gaining lots of good things they were at the same time losing familiarity, identity and birth family.

The final part of day two was the best part so far. It was pretty simple; a film featuring some children who had been adopted through Scottish Adoption talking about their thoughts on various aspects of adoption but I loved the way it was so matter of fact, it was very uplifting and a real positive end to the day that reinforced our thoughts on what we are doing here.

29th May 2014-Session 1

We first contacted Scottish Adoption before Christmas and these 6 months feel like they've taken forever but it's also given us time to think about what we're doing and whether this next step is the right one for us so we were really looking forward to starting the group. Despite having read the previous prep group blogs my husband and I had no idea what to expect and there was a definite air of apprehension in the room before we started but Judy, Christine (and later Alex!) were lovely and really put us all at ease.

We were 7 couples, having entered the room and been given name tags we were asked to go through introductions, (this seemed initially more foreboding by the mass of flipchart markers on the table - a sign of things to come?!?), thankfully we were tasked with picking another person (not your partner) from the room and taking 10 minutes to find out as much about each other as possible, after this fact finding ice breaker it was down to you to introduce your new found acquaintance. Following a short break and a breakdown of what to expect over the course of the next five weeks, the flipchart markers made a reappearance as a now relaxed room was asked to create a bit of art, the task, to draw a picture of our homes as children and then as adults. Most people came up with similar images: houses, siblings, pets, friends, family and parents, and we discussed how these things contribute to your feeling of identity and security.

From the above we moved on to discuss the concept of identity through memory, what early memories actually happened and how sometimes we have memories that we're not quite sure if we remember but we know they happened as we've seen the photos and heard the stories so many times. Adopted children won't necessarily have had either the support network above or the number of stories we all possibly take for granted but we discussed the many ways to help them preserve a few memories from their early years, thus removing gaps from their own early identities.

Next we were given some profiles of real children who had already been placed and in groups we discussed them and came up with more questions which formed the structure of the afternoon session. Some of the details in the profiles were pretty eye opening but as all were real cases the social workers were able to reassure us of their current situations. The subject of possible contact with birth families came up as part of the afternoon, previous to this group I had really thought I would want nothing to do with the birth family but this changed my viewpoint, hearing the social workers talk about actual situations made me see it in a different light and to realise that things are not so black and white.

The final part of the day took us through the adoption process from now until finally being matched with a child, there's no denying it's a long process and we still have much to learn but I'm very happy the journey has started.