Virtual Preparation Group
Senior Practitioner Sarah talks us through how Sottish Adoption had to quickly adapt a Preparation Group that was already running but had to change due to the lock down restrictions.
We started our latest prep group at the beginning of March. It was a big group with seven couples attending. Ciara and I were the social work facilitators from the Family Placement Team and we were joined by the very experienced and capable Lynsey, who is one of our Parent Practitioners. The group started as normal, everyone’s a little bit cautious and nervous in the first week and I don’t just mean the prospective adopters! It went well, there were a few laughs, chatting and good questions asked, every came back for week two so we did something right.
In the run up to week two we were starting to get concerned about Covid-19 and what that might mean for the group. We were beginning to think about how we could do things differently and make it safer for everyone. So week two went ahead with individual sandwiches and non touch theraplay games, which is much harder than it sounds! However we got there and there were more laughs, especially at the “beans” game I made everyone play, while we let Ciara cover the serious stuff!
By now we knew that week three couldn’t go ahead together, in real life, so we needed to get imaginative. And we did! Ciara and I managed to record our presentation for week three without an audience. This was an interesting experience, it was odd presenting to a camera, but we had started to get to know the group so it made it easier knowing who we were chatting to. It was a lot quicker than if we had presented to the group because we didn’t have the insightful and thoughtful questions that prospective adopters bring. We as workers are very familiar with what we are discussing so sometimes we can think we have explained something well but actually we need to add more, give better examples or just chat it through further together, so this element was missing. One benefit for the prospective adopters was that they could stop and start the presentation as much as they wanted and go back to it if it didn’t make sense.
So that Saturday, Ciara, Lynsey and I got together in the office, this was just pre lock-down, and facilitated a Zoom discussion of the presentation and all the clips we had guided them to. This again was a new experience, one in terms of ensuring the technology worked without a hitch, which by and large it did. We tried to do an interactive activity, which again did work, but being new to this medium we perhaps didn’t give enough time for the sound lag. Overall it worked and the feedback was positive.
While we three were altogether we recorded the final session. Again, this was a slightly surreal experience, made even more so by just having finished chatting with everyone. Again we went through our presentation and again, missed the interactive nature of it. However we were confident that the prospective adopters would ask us questions, either directly, via the whatsapp group or by email, to be discussed at the final session.
The final session was on Saturday again via Zoom, this time though all us facilitators were at home. It is a strange part of video conferencing that you get invited into people’s homes and them yours which is unusual and a privilege. The final session was also a success and we thought that we all felt a bit more comfortable with the medium, in addition we had had another week of chatting via the whatsapp which helped everyone feel more comfortable and familiar with each other. The group bonded well and this could be due to a number of factors, being in a group of people who are all exploring adoption, all going through a pandemic together which has brought many communities together in new ways, and having these additional contacts through whatsapp and Zoom, not just the face to face group.
As facilitators we are really pleased and proud that we were able to ensure that this group finished their preparation through these uncertain times. We have all adapted to video meetings and they will be able to start their homestudies this way too. We hope that we can take the learning from this experience to enhance and develop the groups going forward, perhaps to increase accessibility to our groups, to facilitate groups in different ways across our service and to continue supporting people in their adoption journey during these unprecedented times.