Activity Day

Sarah shares her experience of an Adoption Activity Day.

One of our Senior Practitioners, Sarah, attended an Activity Day in Bristol with her adopters. Here Sarah shares her expereince of the day.

On Sunday I attended my first activity day or play day as it was called. This play day was being held on the outskirts of Bristol which meant a very early start for a Sunday morning, leaving the house at 6am for an 820am flight. I wouldn’t normally make such an effort to travel from Edinburgh to Bristol for a random play day. This however, was no random play day. A couple of weeks earlier our agency had recieved a profile for two boys, 4 and 5, who needed a new forever family, or as we later learned, a growing up family as they understand it. These boys were not only adorable in the photos with cheeky grins but also love dogs, being outside, walking, exploring, are crafty and arty and have a lovely sibling bond. They sounded like a great potential match for my adopters who also love all of the above. So after sharing the profile with my adopters and numerous conversations with the boys social worker, we were invited to come to the play day as the boys were going to be there. Needless to say my adopters jumped at the opportunity to meet these cheeky chaps and so this led to my 5am Sunday morning start.

We arrived at the play centre where the day was being held and were warmly welcomed by all the staff facilitating the event. They all knew we had come from Edinburgh and I think they were just as excited about the adopters meeting the boys as we were. This wasn’t the boys first play day and while they had had another potential match this had fallen through, so it felt like everyone was invested in the boys future.

The staff had set up a grown up room where we had bottomless tea, coffee and biscuits. In here they also had pictures of the children who were attending, with their names and any geographical restrictions for placement. That was all we knew about the children. Altogether there were 14 children, a mixture of single children and siblings groups of 2 and 3, aged from 18 months to 8 years old. From our side there were about 11 sets of adopters. After an introduction from one of the organisers, explaining the structure of the day, play, tea and snack, parachute games and then storytime, some hints and tips about conversation starters with the children and foster carers, it was play time as the children had started to arrive.

To begin with it all felt a bit awkward, at the best of times, grown ups are not very good at playing without children, then add in the mix of anticipation and nerves and you have some very awkward adults! Things soon became more relaxed as the children began playing and were supported by the helpers who facilitated some crafts and music. Soon the boys arrived and they were even more adorable in real life than the photos showed! After some play inside, the foster care suggested to the boys that they explore outside and they were off. My adopters tried to wait a few minutes before joining them outside and I followed them 10 minutes later. The boys loved the outdoor activities, the swing, flying fox, slide and balance beams. My adopters and the boys were having a great time just playing and generally being silly. The next 30 to 40 minutes was all outdoor play and by a touch of fate no other children or adopters came out to play so my adopters were fortunate to really spend a lot of time with them. The boys decided that they would like to play on the bikes and we felt that we had possibly hogged the boys and their carer’s time, so we went inside to warm up, take a breath and get a reassuring cup of tea. It was easy for me to see that my adopters were rather smitten already.

We then all gathered back to have some group parachute games, during which the boys kept connecting with my adopters through eye contact and silly faces (though that might have been the adopters more with silly faces)! After story time, we all went on a bear hunt and we were only a little bit scared! And a ball flight in the soft play ball pit the day was being to draw to a close I don’t think any of us wanted it to end. The boys wanted to show the adopters their bikes as they had ridden here, and then it was time to say goodbye.

For us the day was a great success, getting to meet the children the adopters had read about was invaluable and really helped to cement the connection they were beginning to feel. Over dinner that evening we all reflected that it would have been a very different experience to attend without knowing anything about any of the children. It would have been much more overwhelming, as it would be walking into any room full of children you don’t know and trying to play, but with the added knowledge that you could possible adopt one of them it adds a certain level of anxiety. However, from my perspective I would also have prepared the adopters differently if we were attending the event without having a specific child in mind, so perhaps that would have been much more reassuring to the adopters or perhaps they would have decided it wasn’t the right type of event for them.

Overall I am so glad that we attended this play day and I would encourage others to do the same if they are given the opportunity. For more adopters it has made them more committed to pursuing this link and proceeding to the next stage of meeting all the professionals around the boys. Nothing beats meeting the children, they are the centre of this process and while we don’t want to expose them to too much uncertainity or risk, they have also had an opportunity to show that they also had fun with the adopters and hopefully also felt a connection, I think this is a strong foundation for a match going forward.

The children all appeared to have fun and left with smiles on their faces. Hopefully not only will these boys have a new growing up family but hopefully many of the other children who attended too.

Scottish Adoption Experience

It is hard to summarise the support given to us by Scottish Adoption into a few paragraphs, given that they have offered us such varied and tailored support over the years.

It is hard to summarise the support given to us by Scottish Adoption into a few paragraphs, given that they have offered us such varied and tailored support over the years, but here goes:

Scottish Adoption, and particularly our social worker, have taken the time to get to know us and our needs, both as a couple and laterally as a family. The support they offer is always thoughtful and tailored towards our needs. We have attended Theraplay sessions, which helped us to focus on using fun to help us meet our son’s attachment needs. These sessions provided us with new ideas and games to engage with our child at a time when things were proving difficult for him. They also offered us the opportunity to engage with other parents and develop further support networks.


We have always felt it possible to approach Scottish Adoption when in times of difficulty. Post adoption, we’ve always felt that our social worker knew us well, and we’ve felt trust in her. As a result, whenever in times of crisis we have felt no qualms about lifting the telephone and asking for support. Knowing us well she has always been able to spot when we need to see her and has managed to take the time to come out and talk with us. She’s always had insight and great ideas to circumvent the most varied of behaviours from our son and has also been able to help us explore why certain behaviours may be challenging for us as parents. Above all, she’s listened non-judgementally and offered us support.

With the support of Scottish Adoption we have been able to parent our child therapeutically, to help him develop from an anxious, frightened child, to a loving, caring, funny and charming young man. He is still only very young, but thanks to the support we have received, we now realise that we, as parents, have what it takes to support him on his journey to greatness.

Adoption has been far more challenging than we ever could have realised when sitting in the room at that first information meeting, but by far, the best thing that we have ever done in our lives.

Single Adopter

I approached Scottish Adoption after having researched various agencies and the local authority.

I approached Scottish Adoption after having researched various agencies and the local authority. I had an initial meeting before being warmly invited onto a Prospective Adopters Preperation Group which was followed by the 6 month Home Study process. The approval panel followed the home study and it was an unanimous YES! I was now approved and the family finding porcess started. Not long after my approval panel I was linked and then matched with a lovely little boy.

I have received great support from Scottish Adoption throughout the process whom I found to be very friendly, professional and approachable.

“Adoption has been both rewarding and challenging in equal measure and I’m very grateful to Scottish Adoption for its ongoing help and assistance”

I have also enjoyed various networking opportunities to meet with other adoptive parents and children. Just today, I was able to help contribute to refining the agency processes and procedures for future parents by taking part in a focus group – I would certainly have no hesitation in recommending Scottish Adoption for those looking to build their families through adoption.

Adoptive Dad

Our journey to starting a family was definitely not straight forward and we certainly took the scenic route.

Cake Off 2019

Our journey to starting a family was definitely not straight forward and we certainly took the scenic route. Our rather different route to a family makes us appreciate everything and take nothing for granted and this is how it went.


We called our local authority to enquire how we applied to be adoptive parents and they arranged to come and meet with us both in our home. The local authority social worker was very helpful and painted a more realistic picture than the one we imagined. She advised us that there were several different routes and agencies involved and we should spend time investigating the options and consider which would be best for us.

This was sound advice as it moved our decision to adopt away from what we could do for another child towards what we could manage and deal with as a couple. It made us talk to each other about ages of children, their backgrounds and how we would talk about adoption with family and friends.

From what we had read and heard in the media we thought we knew about the adoption process. We had read and heard about the changes in legislation and the much hoped for shortening of waiting times for children waiting for adoption and their prospective adopters. In hindsight we did not have a clue until we discovered Scottish Adoption.

“Scottish Adoption has provided space, balance, support and listening and this has been absolutely critical to manage the different stages of the process”

We had one initial meeting with a Scottish Adoption social worker and he was very helpful. He asked us a lot of questions and we asked a lot in return. This enabled an open and honest discussion about how serious we really were about adoption and if we had considered the whole picture. Scottish Adoption provided space, balance, support and listening and this has been absolutely critical to manage the different stages of the process.


We attended a preparation group through November and into December. Along with five other couples we spent quality, dedicated time exploring adoption, attachment, grief, loss, identity, ourselves and our relationships. I found this extremely testing and after the first session felt like I had been hit by a train. This was when I fully realised that I was unable to have a family of my own. It took time, but through the preparation groups, we were able to understand what adoption meant for our relationship and for our future family. It also allowed us to start talking about it to our parents and they could not have been more supportive and I can say from first hand experience, talking helps.


By the end of the preparation groups we were desperate to move on to the next stage. This involved meeting our social worker who got to know us, our histories, strengths and vulnerabilities with a view to becoming parents. She completed a home study which is a full and detailed report about us. We had been anxious about this part of the process but ended up feeling very positive about it, a feeling we had not initially considered. This was largely down to our Scottish Adoption social worker, we would not be a family without her and her supportive style and approach throughout the process. Thank you to her, from all the family.

We asked our family, closest friends and work colleagues whether they would consider writing a reference to support our application to adopt. The process took about six months and the regular interviews, conversations which covered more than just the weather, were all worth it. The final result was a report which we were able to half read as there are parts of this report that we do not get access to. Having been through this part of the process, we found reading about our life story and reflections a very positive experience.

The first approval panel we attended was the Scottish Adoption panel and this was unknown territory; we were petrified, but the phone call made to each of our families after we were accepted for adoption was one of the greatest emotional memories we have had so far!

We did not have had to wait too long before our social worker phoned about a wee girl! A family was becoming a potential reality at last. This was everything we had focused our efforts on since deciding to adopt.

Getting to know us

The next stage to the adoption was getting to know the local authority social worker. This was so she could consider whether we would be appropriate parents for the child for whom she was responsible. We then met the foster carer, saw a photo for the first time, met with her doctor and finally were formally matched by the local authority.

The process of waiting and going into adoption: from being approved, receiving the relevant forms, living with a report, the meetings with the social worker, the local authority legal representative, foster carers and medical professional brings everything alive. It is so important that this part is well managed even though it takes time. It is difficult to understand how it feels when you are waiting for a child and then matched. There are so many questions about being matched and waiting for a child. Some can be answered and some cannot but we definitely began falling in love with our wee girl at this stage of the process.

Our new life begins

The sheriff ruled in favour of adoption. A huge and momentous day. A year later and we celebrated our first anniversary in McDonalds – our daughter’s choice!

We had a long wait before it all became official and it was not until we had been to court and the adoption became official that we felt safe and secure as a family. The process has made us learn to deal with uncertainty and now I think we are pretty resilient as a family and we are a family and that is all that matters.  All the waiting, all the meetings, all the uncertainty, are now a distant memory. Our family has started and we have support from Scottish Adoption for whatever lies ahead.

“Our family has started and we have support from Scottish Adoption for whatever lies ahead”

I’m a father now and I could spend lots of time thinking about what is different between being a birth father or an adoptive father but right now what programme we are going to watch on Cbeebies is actually far more important.

Do I look at my daughter when she is playing outside or at a party and worry if she is doing ok or knows the rules of the game? Of course I do, but is that not what any parent does – birth or adoptive? We consider ourselves the luckiest people in the world to have such a beautiful girl in our lives.

People often congratulate us for what we are doing but that is the wrong way to look at it. The rewards far out weigh the decisions and the process which can all too often take up too much focus in the adoption process.  We thought we could not have a family – we were wrong.

Our Sibling Adoption Story

We took it for granted that we would have a family easily, so my first miscarriage was such a shock

We took it for granted that we would have a family easily, so my first miscarriage was such a shock – as if someone had knocked me flat with a baseball bat. We were devastated. Over the next five years there were two more, and after the third came the medical investigations. IVF was recommended as our best option. Of course by this time, I had read up on it, on what the process was, on the chances of my being successful. I had my doubts.

At this point my husband and I were already considering adoption somewhere in our heads. I guess we were considering all our options. We wanted to share our lives with little ones, to be a family. In due course, IVF was unsuccessful, and I decided I didn’t want to carry on with further treatment, with the full support of my husband. So we gave ourselves some time to lick our (rather deep) wounds, spent some time taking care of ourselves and only then did we look at adoption properly.

The decision to adopt wasn’t easy. My childhood wasn’t brilliant, and I had worked with kids from backgrounds that may be similar to the child or children we might adopt. These experiences made me more interested, yet more cautious, somehow.

Making the Call

“This was a big moment – it signified that we really were making a commitment to ourselves and to an unknown child or children”

But after a lot of soul searching, we made the phone call to Scottish Adoption. This was a big moment – it signified that we really were making a commitment to ourselves and to an unknown child or children; committing to what we knew would be a long process before one or two strangers come to be part of our family. It was so exciting and very scary. On the phone, I had a short chat with a worker and we made an appointment to visit Scottish Adoption and talk to someone properly. She was great – we chatted through why we wanted to adopt, and told her a wee bit about our background, and came away having signed up for a “ Preparation group”.

Preparation Group

A few months later (there was a bit of a waiting list at this point), and the first day of prep group was upon us – how daunting it was! Even though we knew the other five couples there were in the same boat, I somehow felt very vulnerable. But that changed quickly and as we got to know each other the group began to feel very supportive. We covered such a lot of ground, including looking at the losses that everyone involved in the adoption process may go through – ourselves, the child and their birth parents; exploring some early child development which was significant to children that need adopted; we looked at attachment, and how it is affected by poor parenting and also at some of the experiences that children may have had before they came to be in need of adoption. Oh, and we drank lots of tea and coffee and ate lots of biscuits. None of the prep group work was intrusive, none of us had to give out any information that we might be uncomfortable with.  It was often emotional, sometimes surprising, sometimes funny. Every session ended on a positive note. At the end there was a piece of paper to fill in to indicate whether you wanted to go on to home study. As if we needed to be asked!

Home Study

I know that there is a preconception that home study is tough going – long and supposedly intrusive. It wasn’t like that at all to us. We enjoyed getting to talk about ourselves once a fortnight for a couple of hours – it’s not often that you get that opportunity!  Home study with our social worker gave us a chance to reflect on what we could offer to a child, and importantly, who we could turn to in our own circle of family and friends if we needed support. We talked about what my husband and I brought to our relationship and how our backgrounds and experiences (the happy and the not so happy) could contribute to our ability to be parents. I began to think that every parent-to-be should talk to someone about these things!  At this point we asked friends and family to be referees for us and they were happy to do so.

Only towards the end of home study did we begin to look at what kind of child we might like to adopt. We knew we wanted two (and our social worker thought we could cope with two at once), and we knew we wanted children that we could really ‘bond’ with. We thought that would be children under primary school age, but we thought we might consider kids in early primary. We knew what issues we might cope with, and what we might not deal so well with. Our social worker compiled a report based on what we talked about and decided we were ready for ‘Approval Panel’.

Nerve-racking Approval Panel

Approval Panel was the next really nerve-racking point in the process, but thankfully it went well. It’s funny – although we knew that we would not be at the panel unless our social worker thought we were good enough, those doubts were there anyway – ‘What if they say no?’ Perhaps that was because of our own previous losses. As I write this, I’m suddenly equating our ‘What if’ thoughts, to the difficulties some adoptive children have in believing they will always be part of their new family. Even though everything points to the contrary, they often think,‘what if I have to move again?’

The panel (social workers, a medical adviser and an adoptive parent) asked us questions based on the report our social worker had compiled – there were no ‘surprise’ questions. Finding we were approved was a very emotional moment, for now we really could move on to the life changing part!

Matching and Running!

It took us a while to be matched with our kids. The wait is really tough. We had come through a long process that had taken a year from our initial phone call, and now we were just waiting – waiting for all of the talking to turn into real children, for us to become a family. I took up running at this point – I needed to do something to deal with all the emotions I was feeling; anticipation, nerves, a wee bit of fear, excitement – and running gave me a chance to mull over all of the practicalities of getting ready to be a parent (I still run now, over two years later!). During this time there were potential matches that turned out not to be for us, and although we were quite emotional about these at the time, it was for the best. ‘Matching’ is a two way process. Our social worker told us that we had to make these decisions with our heads and our hearts, and she was right.

Finally, she presented us with the details of two siblings, with some reservations, because one was older than we’d anticipated. But their details (and those of the older child in particular) really spoke to us, in a way I hadn’t expected. We were discovering that the details of older children convey more of their personalities and interests, obviously because they have had time develop these, but it made us think more and more positively about adopting an older child. So we asked to find out more about these two kids – an almost nine-year old girl and a four-year old boy (two from a family of four siblings, who sadly couldn’t find a family together and who were fostered separately). The more we read, the more we wanted to know even more.

The kids’ social worker and her line manager came to visit us at home (our house has never, ever been so tidy!). Our social worker, who had been our assessor before we were approved as adopters, was to became our strongest ally from here on and was there to make sure we got all the information we needed. After all the social workers left, we went for a walk, and went over everything that was said over and over again, knowing that we had already made a commitment to these two kids in our heads and our hearts. A few days later the news came back that the childrens’ social worker wanted to proceed with the match. Hooray!!!

Matching Panel

We went to ‘Matching Panel’ not long after that, the set up of which was pretty similar to Approval Panel, except it was within the placing local authority with social and other workers there on behalf of the children. The panel were keen that our children keep in touch with their two siblings (and so were we) and the match was unanimously approved. We had lunch with the children’s foster carers, and shed tears over pictures and stories of our children. A week later we were back to make plans for meeting our kids and working up to taking them home.

“The moment when we knocked on the door of our daughter’s foster home and this little girl opened it will forever be etched into our minds”

This part was so surreal. We cleared the decks and took ourselves off to meet the kids. The moment when we knocked on the door of our daughter’s foster home and this little girl opened it will forever be etched into our minds. She looked so different from photographs, and yet it was her – and so lovely. Our son-to-be was so over-excited, he barely sat still and his foster carer kept apologising for him. Our daughter-to-be was very quiet, just watching and taking it all in.

We took them out and asked them to ‘practise’ calling us mum and dad straight away – starting as we meant to go on, and we chatted about what food we all liked and didn’t like. One of the first questions our daughter asked us was “Do you two fighted?” (sic), which was a poignant moment – she obviously had some fears about her new life, but we were quick to reassure her that we sometimes disagreed about things, but would never ever hit or hurt each other. Our wee boy was a little out of control – but of course he was out of control – nothing was in his control at all!

As the days went by, we all became more comfortable with each other. We had a fun week of visits to different places – and took lots and lots of photos. These have become so precious to us. They came for an overnight stay in their new rooms and then finally, the day came when we were to pick them up and take them home forever.

Taking the Children Home!

It was a shock to the system for all of us when they finally came home. Life changed forever, as we got on with the practicalities of being a parent to two children that we had written information about but very little practical experience of. In any spare time I found I made lists and lists – what to feed them, what activities we could do, what we needed to buy for them. Everything I found out, I wrote down. We enrolled our daughter in a local school (but were lucky enough to have an extended Easter break with her before she had to start), and we tried very hard to stay at home and in the garden so that it was just the four of us. We fended off a couple of well meaning friends (our closest friends knew to give us space). Our social worker popped in every so often, but although I felt tired and slightly frazzled, everything was going well. We had a honeymoon period, as expected, where the kids were as good as they could possibly be (and so, I suppose, were we). We read lots of books on adoption and attachment in bed at night, even though I’d read them all before, and generally we tried very hard to be great parents! We were exhausted, all of us. ‘Family film nights’ gave us a chance to relax together.

Things settle down – but they take time. Both children had night terrors or nightmares for a long time, and still do if there’s any sense of unsettledness. I learned that I could sleep when the kids were in bed and that they would still be there in the morning! A sense of humour is essential to parenting our kids – for example, their responses to any event was way over the top at first (whether that was excitement at a present or denial of a wrongdoing), but they have become calmer and we talk through appropriate responses to them, or laugh about it!

There is a definite sense of ‘reparenting’ our wee boy, now six. He has gone through the emotional stages of a much younger child with us, from tantrums (he’d never had them before he came to us, but they’re an essential part of development) to ‘playing’ at being a baby. It really helps to know that he’s just revisiting the baby stages he never got to have. He was quite angry for a while. He couldn’t remember his birth parents and didn’t want to be taken from his foster carers. But although he likes to try and be in control, he’s becoming such a happy, contended and clever wee boy who loves us to bits and he pushes boundaries in much the same way as all his friends. We’re discovering that as well as love, consistency, empathy and all those other therapeutic parenting essentials, strong (but generally kind) boundaries are also necessary. Holly van Gulden said in a workshop that I attended at Scottish Adoption that children who push boundaries are actually trying to find them and needing to find them.

Our daughter, now almost eleven (wow, I can’t believe that), had learned to cope with life in her birth home remarkably well. But she came to us very over-compliant and absolutely terrified of any hint of trouble. She had no opinion of her own and her get-up-and-go had got up and gone. She also had some eating issues – although not as bad as some I’ve read about. She was incredibly behind at school. All of these have improved hugely, although they’ve not disappeared and we’re still finding things out about her that are legacies of life with her birth family. She desperately wanted a new family and a new life and we hope that she has what she dreamed of (although sadly, we can’t provide the dog, horses, or skiing holidays!). It has been so rewarding to adopt an older child and to begin to see her real personality shine through now she’s in a loving and stable home.

We got our adoption order nine months after they came to live with us. It was a special day, especially for our daughter – I think she began to feel that everything would be all right after that day. Mind you, they were our children long before a piece of paper said that they were!

Such Joy and Happiness!

I can’t express the joy that our two kids give us. Some days it’s a quiet glow inside that I’m barely aware of (while I’m repeating ‘wash your hands when you’ve been to the toilet’, for the fifth time that day) and some days I feel so happy for myself , my husband and for them that it has me in tears. I cry at every achievement. I admire how much they’ve come on, how much they’ve achieved for themselves, how much they’re thriving. I love them to bits. We’d do anything for them, because they’re our kids.