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.

Race Across The World!

One couple who are going through their homestudy reflect on the adoptive family currently in the BBC2 show Race Across The World.

Race Across The World

This is a TV show on BBC2 now in its second series which my partner and I watch together. The premise is that five or six teams of two have to cover a large distance over land from a starting point to a finish point on a budget of £26 a day. They cannot use planes so have to rely on buses, trains etc. and teams get eliminated later on in the competition if they are the last ones to reach a checkpoint on a particular leg of the journey. This second series covers Mexico City to Ushuaia at the south of Argentina 25,000 km away.

The second series features Jo (Mum) and Sam (Son, 19). At first you don’t know anything about their relationship or history other than that they are Mother and Son however as the series progresses, we discover that Sam was adopted at the age of 6 months. Jo and her partner already had one birth child before adopting Sam. Once Jo reveals this you can understand their relationship better. Sam has been through numerous schools and been told that he is stupid by fellow pupils and teachers but he also has ADHD and Jo later found out about Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Sam wasn’t academic at school but relishes being outside doing physical work such as gardening and labouring, which also helps him work off his excess energy. He also can’t concentrate or take information in for long periods of time, so Jo often takes this lead in planning their journey. Jo is so supportive of Sam in every way but sometimes too focused on wanting them to win that she forgets why they have come on the journey together.

Sam finds his ADHD frustrating and it sometimes leads to tensions – during the course of the series they have to stop to do work locally to earn money to help keep their budget afloat. Sam really struggles working tables in a bar as he doesn’t like being around too many people and doesn’t understand the language. Because of this he gets very frustrated with himself and nearly quits the show. Jo is keen to drive them forward and do well in each leg of the race to stay in the competition. The situation in the bar causes Jo to reassess how she is mapping their journey and she then takes a different tack – instead of constantly travelling and working she builds in more frequent experiences to help Sam enjoy himself and release his energy by snowboarding in the desert or going to the salt lakes. Ultimately she wants the experience to be a positive one for him, whether they win or lose. She also looks for work that Sam will enjoy more, so instead of bar work the next job they do is working on the fields with a farmer, looking after goats and gathering firewood and Sam really flourishes here. Jo adapts their experience to better meet Sam’s needs, also giving him some independent time to explore cities so that she is not always with him and he can make his own decisions, and as a result they both work together better as a team. At the time of writing they are both still in the race. To watch the clip where Jo talks about adopting Sam click here.

For me, personally, it’s so great to see an adult relationship with their adopted parent. So many things you’ll see are about kids so it’s really refreshing to see the development of how that relationship looks over time. Jo and Sam are a brilliant example of a supportive mother/son relationship where they both understand each other and can talk to each other about their relationship. This way Jo can understand Sam’s needs better and respond to them. It’s great to see that despite Sam experiencing adversity in the form of bullying, his ADHD and FAS, these things have not held him back in finding out what works for him and what he enjoys doing. Jo has been his advocate every step of the way. Jo expressed anxiety about whether she could ever love Sam because he was adopted, but her obvious love and concern for him now show what a great model Jo is for us all. There’s a warmth to their relationship and they can have a laugh together too.

I really like seeing positive adult adoptee examples as it is helping me and my partner see things long term, rather than just thinking about the immediate placement/funnelling/initial issues we will have to go through. Something that at this stage in the journey, we sometimes forget about.

Series 2 of Race Across the World is on Sunday evenings on BBC 2 at 8pm and available on  BBC iPlayer. At the time of writing Jo and Sam are both still in the race!