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.

Online Preparation Group Blog

Louisa shares her experience of our new online preparation groups!

My husband and I were a bit apprehensive before the Virtual Prep Course. We hadn’t met any of the social workers in person or any of the participants either! We needn’t have worried though. One of the social workers arranged a Zoom meeting with us the week before the prep group, just to introduce herself and let us know what to expect. We were immediately put at ease as she was so easy to talk to. She admitted that they were also anxious about delivering the course in this way as it hadn’t really been done before and, let’s face it, none of us really enjoy seeing ourselves on screen!  (Especially with lockdown hair!)

Before Session 1 we were sent some work on Google Classrooms. This involved a slideshow, some films to watch, materials to read and some short questions to answer. We were anxious about answering the questions but we were reassured that none of the Prep Course is assessed. It’s an opportunity to reflect on issues that you might not have considered before and to explore a range of approaches to parenting children who may have had adverse childhood experiences.

A WhatsApp group was set up for all the participants of the Prep Course so that we could get to know one another before the course started. This was very valuable as we felt like we knew a little about some of the others on the course before meeting them on Zoom. Our group was comprised of several couples and one single adopter. It was led by two social workers and an adoptive parent.

Session 1

We logged onto zoom for our first Prep Session and it was great to put faces to the names in our WhatsApp group. Everyone was really friendly and we started to feel more relaxed about things. During the first session we had group discussions about the materials that we had covered in Google Classrooms. Some of the discussions were as one large group and for other we broke into individual ‘virtual’ rooms so we could work in smaller groups.

Session 1 covered a wide variety of topics including; exploring the Adoption Process, secure and insecure attachment styles, responding to Case Studies of ‘looked after’ children, hearing some personal experiences of adoptive parents and also exploring the range of post-adoption support that is available through Scottish Adoption.

Hearing the stories of other adoptive parents was really beneficial for us. It was great to hear accounts  from ‘real’ people about what the adoption experience was like for them from the beginning through to having their child/children placed with them.

We were also really intrigued to hear about the post adoption support that is available through Scottish Adoption. We hadn’t realised that Scottish Adoption offer so much support to adoptive families, such as social worker input, family days out, group sessions for children of different age groups and theraplay sessions as well. It was very reassuring to know that the post-adoption support would be ongoing if we needed it.

We were both quite tired after Session 1 as it was two hours long, we were meeting new people and also hearing lots of new information all at the same time! It worked really well though and it was great that Scottish Adoption managed to make it all happen. It enabled us to continue to move forward through our adoption journey, albeit with a slightly alternative approach!

Session 2

We were sent our ‘homework’ ahead of Session 2. This week we looked at a continuation of our case study, and watched some films recorded by teenagers who were adopted through Scottish Adoption. They teenagers were called ‘ Adoption Ambassadors’ and it was really helpful to hear how the adoption process was for them and listen to them express their thoughts and feelings about it.

We also listened to some podcasts and discussed different levels of contact with birth family and the benefits and challenges of this contact. It was interesting to hear from the teenagers whether they felt that contact with their birth family had been a positive experience for them. We also explored the topic of Adverse Childhood Experiences and how these early childhood experiences can affect a child who is a placed for adoption.

This week’s Zoom session was very similar to week 1. There were a number of Group discussions as well as time splitting off into smaller groups as well. We felt much more comfortable talking with the group this week as we had really got to know each other during the previous week.  I think the whole group was feeling a lot more relaxed!

Session 3

Before Session 3 we were sent some material on Google Classrooms about ‘theraplay’. It was interesting to learn about play activities that can be used to increase closeness and bonding between the child and caregiver. We discussed child development and the PACE approach when parenting children who have experienced grief and loss. We explored some situations and discussed how we would use PACE [playful, accepting, curious, empathetic] to respond to the needs of the child whilst also regulating our own emotions. We also discussed the next steps in the adoption process and what would happen in terms of proceeding forward to the next stage.

By the end of Session 3 we were actually quite sad that we weren’t going to be having any more Prep Group! Due to the nature of the discussions we had learned a lot about the other people in the group and we felt close to them even though we had never met any of them in person. We were all going through quite similar journeys and it had been such a lovely opportunity to spend time exploring our thoughts and feelings with other people who had been through similar experiences.

The two social workers running the course were amazing. They were so easy to talk to and no question was too silly for them to answer! They made us feel so comfortable. Having an adoptive parent in the group was really helpful as well as she was able to give us her personal experience about the process and things that she found beneficial.

The team from Scottish Adoption were fantastic throughout the entire process. They got in touch between Zoom sessions to see if we had any questions and to check if we were ok. Some of the material can be quite emotional and can remind you of aspects of your own childhood so it was great to have this ongoing support as a safety net between sessions.

We were encouraged to ask questions between sessions, during sessions, at any time, and we were always reassured that no question was too silly to be asked.

By the end of the course we also felt much closer as a couple. We had explored such a wide range of material, talked about memories from our own childhoods and also had many discussions about how we might develop our parenting style together as a couple. This really  helped our relationship to grow and we now feel much more confident going forward to the next stage of the adoption process.