Pack Your Bag and Worries

As students get ready to move out, this young person tells us how an #adoptionexperience might affect leaving home for the first time!

At age 18, I’ve decided to move into my very first flat. When I first moved out, just a little over two months ago now, I considered things like location, how I’d pay my rent and basically how to physically survive. At the time, I just felt happy in that this move would give me the freedom that I so desperately needed, but what I missed, was the huge emotional side to this.

After a week or so, living away from home, I got to thinking about some of the deepest topics of my life.  When living alone, it’s difficult to not over- think sensitive topics. I began think a lot again about my birth family and even though I’ve had great support from my adoptive family, there’s a bit of me that still questions why this happened to me and wonders what things would have been like if I’d stayed at home. Maybe the thinking became worse and especially difficult as I was no longer surrounded by the people who love me and care about me and I felt like all of a sudden, had no one to talk to. Now, I’m not saying that moving out on my own was my biggest regret, but I really underestimated how big a thing this would be for me personally.

Looking back, I realise now that I left my birth mum, then I left foster parents and friends from primary school and now, I’ve found myself leaving home voluntarily and missing my parents, my brother and my dog, more than I ever expected.

The process of being adopted removes your sense of control. Sometimes when I was younger,  I felt like a SIM character in a game. Now I like my routine. I like to know what’s happening and change can make me feel overly worried.

So, when I moved out things changed. I didn’t have the same routine, the same food and the same timetable. Instead, I’ve had to adapt. For me, adapting has meant finding a new routine in my new life and sticking to it, but also realising that it is now time to look at getting some help to talk about my past.

So, my advice to those of you who are care experienced and either moving out or thinking about it, take some time to think about what this change might mean for you personally. Think about, not just the financial and practical bits, but the bits you can’t see. The feelings, the memories and the worries you might also have to pack, for the big move.

Scottish Adoption Ambassador age 18

 

Ben’s Preparation Group Blog

Ben is back with the second of his blogs, this time on his experience of the Online Preparation Group.

Preparation Group – Bonds Over Fears.

One of the most rewarding experiences of my time so far at Scottish Adoption has been co-facilitating a preparation for adoption group. This is an opportunity for prospective parents to explore processes, development, attachment, expectations, and improve understanding of what adoption really means. This opportunity really opened my eyes as I went into this group with an expectation that the focus would be on the learning and practicalities of the adoption process. What I came out with was a deeper understanding of the journey that prospective adoptive parents will go through and a shared collective spirit of support we all had for one another.

Initially I found the prospect of facilitating a group through an online platform to be daunting. I visualised looking at a computer screen with sixteen faces looking back at me and considered how achievable this could be without us all being physically in a room together. As this was early into my placement at Scottish Adoption it would be my first time speaking to a large group of people at the same time. I felt reassured that many of the feelings I was experiencing early into my placement would run parallel and potentially resonate alongside the prospective adopters experience of them themselves being in the early stages of their own journey into adoption.  I considered how this could connect everyone together in the group as many would be carrying many of the same fears, uncertainties hopes and excitements as I was and thus creating a collective experience for all. As the groups progressed it became clear that the prospect of overcoming fears together would create a connection and shared resilience that would set the foundations of turning hopes and expectations into a reality.

A real inclusive attitude to the preparation group is realised through working in partnership with prospective parents, online resources and activities are shared through an online space were feedback, thoughts and opinions are encouraged between each group session. This creates an environment of shared learning and opens the floor for everyone to explore and voice their own ideas, values and understanding of the themes and concepts throughout each week.

Central to setting an environment that provided a space that nurtured bonds and connection were the fantastic and highly experienced facilitators that I worked alongside. They both brought humour and positivity that shone through the online platform and made something that could have been a disconnected experience radiate with life.

This has been a running theme through my time here at Scottish Adoption, the unconditional support and good humour that stems into every aspect of work goes far to make something that could be a lot more daunting just that bit easier. Key to this is celebrating different personalities, bringing out the strengths of all those involved and by doing so highlighting what each of us can offer one another.

Over the weeks I could feel my own confidence grow as well, as well as my skills and knowledge, and this has formed many of the foundations of my understanding of adoption and the journeys of those people involved and has ultimately set me in good stead for my work here at Scottish Adoption and my future career within social work.

Ben’s First Week Reflection

Finding connection in the heart of Leith.

Taking my first steps into the world of Social Work, I was happy to discover that my placement would be with Scottish Adoption. Being a resident of Leith myself, I was excited to find out its office was situated in the heart of the area that I most consider to be home.

Starting my studies back in January at Edinburgh Napier University, I could not have envisioned the surprises that the year ahead would hold. The transition from hands on learning into a world of the virtual required adaptability and resourcefulness that I did not know I was capable of. Being a student on a course that relies so heavily on the human element of supporting and working in partnership with people, Covid would go far in creating barriers to what attracted me most to the course – building connections with individuals and communities.

While I initially considered to have the potential to isolate myself and utilise support from fellow students and the university, this consequently led to a shared resilience and bond that has gone far in strengthening our resolve as students and as people. It is this attitude I hope to take into the real world of social work practice, through my placement opportunity here at Scottish Adoption.

With social distancing meaning that I have had to work from home for most of the year, I was delighted with the prospect of being able to physically come into a working office with real people, doing real social work things. I hoped that I would be entering a work environment that reflected the down to earth, inclusive, and good-humoured attitude that makes Leith so great. I was not disappointed. The people that I have met so far, in person and virtually, have been warmer and more welcoming than I could have hoped for.

The spirit at Scottish Adoption is that the work doesn’t stop no matter what challenges are presented by current complexities in health and social care. The practice that I’ve witnessed so far has left me with a real sense of what drives the work here, this being characterised through means of character building, recognising strengths in individuals, celebrating identity, offering empathy and establishing trust.

It is clear from the little time I have spent here that the shared spirit of community and connection that this organisation radiates will continue to support people through the complexities, frustrations, and uncertainties of these times and I can’t wait to be part of that ethos going forward and ultimately discovering the impact this will have on my development as social work student.

Finding connection in the heart of Leith.

Taking my first steps into the world of Social Work, I was happy to discover that my placement would be with Scottish Adoption. Being a resident of Leith myself, I was excited to find out its office was situated in the heart of the area that I most consider to be home.

Starting my studies back in January at Edinburgh Napier University, I could not have envisioned the surprises that the year ahead would hold. The transition from hands on learning into a world of the virtual required adaptability and resourcefulness that I did not know I was capable of. Being a student on a course that relies so heavily on the human element of supporting and working in partnership with people, Covid would go far in creating barriers to what attracted me most to the course – building connections with individuals and communities.

While I initially considered to have the potential to isolate myself and utilise support from fellow students and the university, this consequently led to a shared resilience and bond that has gone far in strengthening our resolve as students and as people. It is this attitude I hope to take into the real world of social work practice, through my placement opportunity here at Scottish Adoption.

With social distancing meaning that I have had to work from home for most of the year, I was delighted with the prospect of being able to physically come into a working office with real people, doing real social work things. I hoped that I would be entering a work environment that reflected the down to earth, inclusive, and good-humoured attitude that makes Leith so great. I was not disappointed. The people that I have met so far, in person and virtually, have been warmer and more welcoming than I could have hoped for.

The spirit at Scottish Adoption is that the work doesn’t stop no matter what challenges are presented by current complexities in health and social care. The practice that I’ve witnessed so far has left me with a real sense of what drives the work here, this being characterised through means of character building, recognising strengths in individuals, celebrating identity, offering empathy and establishing trust.

It is clear from the little time I have spent here that the shared spirit of community and connection that this organisation radiates will continue to support people through the complexities, frustrations, and uncertainties of these times and I can’t wait to be part of that ethos going forward and ultimately discovering the impact this will have on my development as social work student.

The Log Blog

After 6 months of covid restrictions Mel looks at how she can repair the damage caused by lack of face to face groups.

How do we reverse the impact lockdown has had on vulnerable teenagers?

How do you rebuild 6 months of lost confidence?

How do we get back to face-to-face group work, if face-to-face groups have become a risk assessment code red?

For those of you who are working or living with teenagers who are currently struggling with the social impact of covid, the signs and symptoms will be evident. But for everyone else, it can be hard to imagine what teenagers have to worry about. I mean, we got them back to school right?

Unfortunately for some families, therein lies the problem.  For children who found school, education and friendships hard, or for those who thrived being at home full-time, returning to the (new) normal is the real tough bit.

So, what’s the answer to safely practicing group work and at the same time, restoring our young people’s sense of confidence and connection with others? The answer for the Scottish Adoption Teen Group turned out to be right on our door step.

Thanks to Justus, Jamie and their team at the Leith Croft Carbon College, this autumn term our Young Teen Group will be led through their Mine Croft program. Here, we hope to use fresh air and space as our weapon against covid and use therapeutic outdoor group work to re-sow some of the resilience the pandemic took away.

Positivity aside, first sessions with any newly formed group of teens are daunting.  Nerves and anxiety can play out in all kinds of ways, but mostly this looks a bit like reluctance and non-engagement.  Luckily, the Croft team had the kind of relationship building skills that made it impossible for the teens not to get involved. For example, knowing each of our young people’s names from the moment they arrived, to  projecting a welcoming, calm, but importantly fun vibe. In terms of the activities, show me a teenager who isn’t into axes, hatchets and fire…

Fun”,  “good”, “great” and  “freezing” were some of the words used by our teens at the end checkout to describe their first session. Although it may have been cold, the temperature of the group dynamics was uncharacteristically warm, so a win as far as I’m concerned.

After the group, I (a naturally reluctant reflector) thought about how the Croft might have changed some things for me too. As I watched one of our teens balancing on a log, flailing around and shouting, I found myself encouraging them to keep on going and praising their skill. In that moment, I realised, had this taken place in the old world, with the group in the office, the balancing would have been on a chair, or on my desk. I would not have cheered them on, or boosted their confidence. I would not have laughed. My face would have twitched and I would have promptly told them to GET DOWN. The natural space makes you view behaviour differently. What inside is difficult to manage, outside can become positive risk based play.

So the Croft might just be the answers to a lot of our new world problems. Restoring connections, enhancing confidence, building resilience, beating Covid and… my twitchy face!

The answer: #getgroupsoutdoors 

Becoming Us

Does online group work really work?

During deep lockdown, I asked myself this question every single time I logged onto zoom to hold an adoption teen group.

Today, looking at our group, reunited for the first time in person since February, I’m thinking, yes it does!

This evening, we’re celebrating the end of last years group with a trip to Foxlake. Coming together one last time before we welcome our new recruits and saying goodbye to Sarah (appointed 2nd most embarrassing group facilitator) as she moves onto pastures new.

The last time these young people came together in person, in February, the group did not quite feel like a group. It still feels like 6 individual young people, only half aware of their common connection (an adoption experience) and group identity.

But this time it felt different, because today I saw…

  • Good Communication – relaxed chatting and genuine interest in one another.
  • Empathy – helping and supporting each other physically and emotionally get through the challenges of the rope course.
  • Connection – eye contact, nudging, pairing up and shared jokes.
  • Group identity – remembering “old times” together and acknowledging that “our group” will change soon and that there will be both benefits and challenges to that.

Online group work is not without its challenges. It can feel like an emotional vacuum. Screens freeze, people literally disappear in front of your eyes and there’s a very good chance that the kids will know their way around the technology better than you!

But, for this group, it did work. It helped promote all off the above and we continued to build relationships and friendships and then, we became an “us”.

To Sarah who we will miss a lot.

A Study Into Adoption

Chloe opens up about problems she faced in school soon after she was adopted.

My first problems in school started soon after my adoption.  I eagerly told all my classmates that I was adopted. I think because I didn’t want it to come out as the big surprise.

To me, adoption seemed like a fresh start, where people didn’t judge me for my family and the things they’d done.

However, as I had a sibling, this meant that everyone now knew my brothers story. He wasn’t pleased. He wanted to be the normal kid, living the normal life.

Many adopted young people have to move school after their adoption. For me, this was also the case and it was tough. In those first few weeks, I followed the customs of my old school, where we were asked to sit cross-legged and to raise our index finger onto our lips when we wanted to talk. When I did this at my new school, they thought I was weird and old fashioned.

Another school issue I faced was the gaps in my learning. Before my adoption, I didn’t go to school all the time and as a result of that, my math’s was dreadful. Many, “normal” people have trouble with maths or English, but I truly struggle. People have told me I probably missed the bits at the start, so my whole foundation to learn math’s was actually missing.

To try fix it, I had to spent my summers catching up on what I missed, and to this day my addition and subtraction is not up to scratch. Finding something so simple as primary school math’s difficult was a really embarrassing for me and I feel it’s the reason I have some insecurities and it hurts if I’m called a name like “stupid”.

Lastly, I feel the social element of school also affected me. Bullying and care-related name calling has left me feeling very insecure about how people see me and how they think of me.

To manage this, I’ve spent some time speaking to Scottish Adoption about how I think about myself and others.

For any adoptive parents out there, a fairly easy way to help your  child through this school stuff is to listen and listen well. Sometimes we, as adoptees, feel like we aren’t heard.

I also believe that most adopted children will need more support to get through school, so be ready!

Chloe, Aged 17, Scottish Adoption Teen Ambassador

I See Me

“Now, when I feel negative about my past, I remind myself that only I  have the power to change my identity. . I see Me!”

Are you still trying to figure out who you are or have you already found yourself?

If the latter, congratulations! However, for those of you who are still finding yourselves, here are some things from my journey that I would like to share with you.

For me growing up, when adoption was spoken about at  school, if mentioned at all, it often came from playground insults. I heard a lot of “lol, your birth parents didn’t want you” or “Is your life like Tracey Beaker?”

I’m sure for those of you who have been pointed at and insulted, you experienced the same thing as I did when this happened. It affected my confidence and how I viewed myself.

For a long time, I took these insults.  However, within the past year, I decided, no longer! The last time I was insulted I replied with the following “No my life is nothing life Tracey Beaker and why I was adopted is none of your business”.

Back in my birth town, everyone knew me and my family as a problem family that needed to be taken care of. This impacted too on how I saw myself.

Throughout my adoption journey, there have also been a variety of feelings that have troubled me. For example, a sense of abandonment, confidence issues and a lack of control. These feelings have come from both my experiences and from how others perceive adoption as a whole.

With both, the result has meant that we as adoptees often end up feeling that how we feel on the inside, is how others think about us.

The good news is, things are getting better. Growing in age, leaving the toxic environment of school and realising that through things like work, I know have confidence that I can control my own future.

Now, when I feel negative about my past, I remind myself that only I  have the power to change my identity. . I see Me!

Chloe, aged 17, Scottish Adoption Teen Ambassador

Lucky

“Perhaps, some young people don’t understand what it means to be adopted and be “in the system” until they’re older, but I always knew.”

Perhaps, some young people don’t understand what it means to be adopted and be “in the system” until they’re older, but I always knew.

Adopted at 8 years old, I worked out early what foster care was and accepted that I would move around different homes continuously and that eventually, I would leave the system. I also understood that I was… lucky.

Being in foster care was a fairly confusing and upsetting time for me. It was “decided” that every second Thursday I would be allowed to meet my birth mother. At first, I’d be over excited and sometimes even be physically sick before she arrived. Soon after, it turned to a case of absence. She stop turning up and this fact would make me so ill, that on the day after the contact, I’d again become very ill.

My foster carer soon became my long time carer and from this time, I have a lot of memories. I’m not sure if this is the same for all of you, but for me, I felt that my foster carer and I formed a kind of mother-daughter bond, which as we all know, includes both good and bad times.

Strangely, some of my clearest memories are the weirder ones.  For example, I’m extremely glad to see the back of haggis; my arch nemesis. It was a Halloween night and I was told that I wasn’t allowed to go out trick or treating unless I ate my haggis, which she knew I hated. Maybe it was a test, but I’ll never know.

However, I’ve lots of good memories, which balance the bad. For example, our trips to Edinburgh zoo, Chill Factor in Manchester (sledging/skiing) and my all time favorite, horse riding.

Can I trust you with a secret reader? My biggest memory with horse riding was when my brothers pony handler let go of his pony momentarily and the horse spooked, making him fall halfway off of his pony. It then started to canter off with him hanging there. I know that this seems to be a weird thing to put in a blog but my point is that memories are weird, you can’t choose what sticks.

Foster care definitely is not convenient, or the best thing to go through, but if your lucky, you’ll be able to make good memories and look back at that time with fondness.

Chloe, Aged 17, Scottish Adoption Teen Ambassador

I’m Still Standing!

Arran writes about what ‘Yourself’ means to him.

Individual Identity is important, we can all agree on that. But when I hear someone say, “Just be you” I can’t help but squirm. For one, Yourself is rarely what is best in most situations. Two, I also wonder, if simply being yourself creates the illusion that you have no power to shape or to mould out the (prolonged pause) bad bits?

Being a teenager and learning that such ‘self-crafting’ is possible could be an extremely powerful thing. Hoverer, there is a downside to this, because part of yourself is your past. And your past, well you can’t change that.

For some, the past they carry is heavier than for others. For anyone who is adopted, this burden can be quite large. This can take hold and then shape their identity more than they seem to be able to themselves. More than they want.

In my family, my adoption was talked about in a way that meant I created a toolset of motivation. What happened in my past with my birth parents wasn’t fun, good, or of benefit. But without sounding like a hippy; I firmly believe that life is riddled with rough times, and after adoption, with the right support and mindset, we can all go on to take on the world headfirst.

This is the basis I have built my foundation on as a person, and this is a way for you too to take control of your past, no matter what it is.

I’m thankful I have the resources to do so, because even though it was tough. I’m still standing.

Arran Age 17 Scottish Adoption Teen Ambassador

A Peace of Friendship

Chloe, 17, writes about her experience of Friendship!

When I was asked to write a blog about friendship and how my early life and adoption experiences have affected this, I considered two things: Kindness and Trust.

The definition of kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate” and trust “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability in someone or something”

We all witness kindness and trust at different points in life, real or imaginary. I don’t know about you, reader, but I know from a personal perspective that it isn’t something I witness every day.

My life has featured a various number of events, that have built on and knocked down my experience of these two concepts. From having been adopted, starting a new primary school (at a young age), high school and most recently, being an apprentice worker at a nursery.

At these points in my life, there have been times where trust, kindness and friendship either came for free or with a price. Through the years, I have gained and lost people from friends to family. Sometimes through things being out with my control and sometimes through myself.

Back in the past, I found it easy to look for the best in everyone, to look for trust in everyone I met, but it’s become far more difficult. It was especially difficult when I arrived in the institution known as High School.

In the movies you see the conflict in teenagers at high school. High school for me was very hard. Whenever I made friends, I couldn’t seem to keep them. I like my space and sometimes socialising is hard for me. However, my friends from school thought I should do what they wanted and that I should live up to their expectations. When my friends found that it suited them, they would tell some of the private things that I told them about my adoption. In other times, they would take advantage of my friendship, by getting me to pay for things, or even choose not to be my friend, due to who my other friends were. All this was made far more difficult due to the foundation of distrust I already held from my birth mothers lies and manipulations.

However, during this period of time, I was invited into my adoption group. These guys understood my distrust in people in general. It was there, when I found the most trustworthy friends, as they understood my pain and my wariness around people. My advice to you, reader, is to find a group of people who understand you and with whom you can be kind without being taken advantage of. I left high school in S5 and it was the best thing I’ve done. I left for an apprenticeship looking after children in a private nursery and here I found it easier to fit in and relax. Maybe I had learned to trust that people could be kind and trustworthy?

When I look back to compare my high school “friends” to my friends/co-workers, I find that I personally act more mature and more myself with my work friends. Earlier in this blog, I said that I could lose myself and by that, I mean that when I lose trust in others, I start to make myself an island. When I look at who I can trust now, I see my family, I see my co-workers, I see the couple of friends that I have and my adoption group. The last thing I say before I go is that trust and kindness is a two-way track. One doesn’t work without the other.

Chloe Age 17 Scottish Adoption Teen Ambassador