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Q&A about adoption with First4Adoption's Head of Service, Gemma Gordon-Johnson - ANSWERS BACK

(76 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 12-Apr-13 16:24:59

We're running a Q&A this week with First4Adoption, the new information service for anyone interested in finding out more about adopting a child in England.  If you have a question about your suitability to apply to be an adoptive parent, or if you want to know where to begin the adoption process, First4Adoption's Head of Service Gemma Gordon-Johnson will be on hand this week to give you the information that you need. Post your questions by lunchtime on Monday 22 April and we'll post the answers up on Monday 29 April.

There are more than 4000 children waiting to be adopted in England. Recent research shows that 1-in-7 people would consider adopting but they are held back by a lack of information and myths about who can adopt.  First4Adoption is run by the charities Coram Children's Legal Centre, Coram and Adoption UK, and funded and supported by the Department for Education (DfE).

To find out more about adopting or for information about adoption agencies in your area, call their friendly trained advisors on 0300 222 0022 or visit www.first4adoption.org.uk

GotMyGoat Wed 17-Apr-13 19:26:57

Lilka - that's great to hear - thanks for responding to me. I think my experience of meeting other people who have adopted has all been rather well off people, so I've always had that in my head.

Think it will be worth speaking to our LA in a couple of years when dd is a little older... look forward to hearing the answers from this thread.

Devora Wed 17-Apr-13 22:53:04

I'm kind of interested in how you're going to talk to enquirers about the realities of adoption. As an adoptive parent, I'm fascinated by the contradictory, polarised ways potential adopters are treated. First of all there's all the cosy adverts and outreach campaigns stressing that what is needed is normal families, emphasising how you don't have to be special, illustrated with photos of happy families romping around.

But as soon as you engage with the system all that changes and suddenly the emphasis is on how very unordinary you have to be to adopt. You get lots of horror stories about how difficult it all is, discouraged from daring to hope for anything like normal happy family life, and encouraged to be positive about signing up for life as an unpaid therapeutic carer.

Tell me, everybody, if you think I'm wrong - perhaps this was just my experience - but I think I see it reflected in some of the confusion and anxiety expressed by potential adopters who post queries here. I'm not saying any of this information is wrong - the good and the bad - but I think the current system is really bad at communicating with potential adopters about what the experience may be like. Partly because they're so insistent on keeping the emphasis on the child as priority, I expect.

Sorry, long ramble from me. But I think this new service is a real opportunity to improve on what we currently have.

Maryz Cote D'Ivoire Wed 17-Apr-13 23:09:43

That's spot on Devora, and the experience of everyone I know who has entered the system.

From the first contact, the job of the agency/la/sw etc seems to be to put off prospective parents. I have always assumed that was to make sure that those who got further along the system were very, very, very sure that adoption was the way to go.

I would like to ask what provision is being put in place for "after-adoption" support. I think many more adoptions would be happier and the children better off in the long run if the support offered after adoption was on a part to the support offered if a child was still in care. I don't know whether that is changing?

The amount of effort and the resources put in to selecting adoptive parents isn't matched by the effort and resources put into supporting them, ime.

Maryz Cote D'Ivoire Wed 17-Apr-13 23:13:51

Sorry, on a par not part hmm

Devora Wed 17-Apr-13 23:28:36

And now I'm going to agree with Maryz (mutual appreciation love-in going on). How many great potential adopters drop out because they hear all the horror stories and think they can't possibly cope? They hear that there won't be any support, that they won't be able to work outside the home, that it will be a disaster for their other children, and they (sensibly) feel they can't possibly match up. Actually, you could argue that those of us who plunge in are seriously deluded fantasists who luckily usually find out that our children are glorious and adoption can be fantastic.

It would really help people to make informed choices about adoption - and to be great adoptive parents - if it was treated more as a partnership, with guarantees that the system will be on your side, that if your child needs extra help you won't have to fight for every ounce of it.

Maryz Cote D'Ivoire Wed 17-Apr-13 23:33:32

Yes, sensible people drop out because they are convinced they won't cope. I think deluded is a good description of those of us who continue - and for the vast majority there is a very happy ending.

Lilka Wed 17-Apr-13 23:40:30

Here here Devora and Maryz!

There needs to be a change in the way we talk to prospective parents - we need to be able to talk in a balanced way which I don't think happens often. Raise the issues such as impact of abuse without only talking about horrible disruptions which is frightening. I personally always try and emphasise how you can have a positive family life living with 'extra issues'. My DS is a joy to parent and he has certain issues other children do not. This is an extra layer/challenge...it is not 'negative' however!

I also find social workers often talk in terms of ideals and not reality, whether that's in terms of work, children's names, post adoption support or anything. Just because in an ideal world (or in the social worker's ideal world, which might be a different thing!) something would work a certain way, does not mean we should present this as the 'only way'. It isn't, and we need to talk in terms of what really happens.

More contact between prospective adopters and adopters during the process might help with this. I have spoken at a prep course, and people had plenty of private questions they did not want to ask the SW but needed an answer. Contact between PAP's and AP's is important.

Also I wholeheartedly agree about post adoption support which is something I bang on about a lot!! More support = better outcomes, simple as that

Moomoomie Thu 18-Apr-13 11:13:18

I totally agree with the need for more post adoption support, especially while the children are still young. It's often too late by the time the children are teenagers.

Hayleyh34 Thu 18-Apr-13 17:52:42

I agree with Devora and Maryz too. I also feel that there needs to be masses more post adoption support. We applied to legally adopt our DD as soon as it was allowed. Our SW told us that perhaps we should wait as once we legally adopted we would have NO access to post adoption support. They talk about the importance of building families but then discourage you because they can't support youconfused. We ignored them anyway grin( for anyone interested this is Surrey Social Services I am naming and shaming)

marjproops Thu 18-Apr-13 18:25:09

Hayleyh my friend got brilliant support from Surrey adoption services.

agree with social services though, I ve had dealings with them regarding stuff with my DC.

But my friend deosnt live in surrey any more and where she is now she says the adoption service And soc services is a word that rhymes with mitt! post ad I think she was talking about.

isnt it like, if a partner leaves theyre supposed to pay maintenance and stuff? what about ad children? shouldnt a service be helping them financilally, just cos theyve been 'taken off their hands' -(not my words).

Hayleyh34 Thu 18-Apr-13 20:19:11

Marj, Surrey have been awful for us. My brother adopted at roughly the same time with a London agency and has had/still has amazing support. The problem is that you don't know what type of support you'll need as your child gets older. For us, that has been non-existent with Surrey (but we were warned)

marjproops Thu 18-Apr-13 21:20:48

hayleymaybe Gemma Gordon can answer that one for you, Id like some answers myself about a few things. hope so.

hate it when you ask questions and then people pussyfoot round the answers (Prime minister and dep Im looking at you 2 !!!)

and well done adopting, and to your brother too. adopters need more encouragment.

this is a subject very close to me, too personal to say why. so encouragment and support from me to all adopters. thanks

Hayleyh34 Thu 18-Apr-13 21:42:04

Thanks Marj and I hope you get the answers you're looking for. We're an unusual case, I adopted one child and my brother 3. My parents went from having no grandchildren to 4 within a space of weeks! Seeing my brother go through the same process made me very aware of what Surrey were lacking

Angelblue01 Sat 20-Apr-13 09:29:33

Finding the discussion really interesting as a single adopter and find that I agree in part with experiences of others who have been through the process in terms of some of the hard hitting info shared in the process although I was very fortunate with my experience - had excellent SW through the process and prompt assistance PA when this was needed recently.

In terms of some of the issues raised -

1. Recent experience of children for me was addressed by helping out at local scout group as I work full time and this was done 1 evening a week.

2. Working full time was not a significant obstacle - SW was concerned about being available during the initial placement period for as long was needed so they did check what arrangements were going to be in place for time off, financial support during this period and what would be in place when I returned to work - obviously more important as a single adopter with no partner support. For clarity I am not wealthy and also need to work full time.

3. Sibling adoptions are considered and I know of groups of 3 & 4 being placed for adoption by my authority when it was the right thing for the children and a suitable family was found. I also know of separate placements for siblings and direct contact between them arranged through the year which work equally well.

4. Finance is considered but as previously stated the focus was on if you had outstanding debts and on issues around not being able to work for a period.

I agree there should be more contact between adopters and those going through the process to share experiences and answer questions and I am happy to answer questions if I can for anyone considering/going through the process

Snowrose1311 Sat 20-Apr-13 23:06:57

I am a lone parent with 2 biological DS in primary school. I'd love to adopt in a year or 2, but I'm on my own with little family support. Can you tell me how much support (e.g. from friends, school / nursery, childcare) a single adopter would need to have in order to be approved? I feel confident about my ability to manage three children on my own, even considering that an adopted child may have emotional and/or behavioural problems, but I've heard that potential single adopters must demonstrate that they have a support network in order to be approved.

poynton Sun 21-Apr-13 10:45:09

I used to be a foster carer for the highland council for 2 years and absolutely loved it.
But I had to report a female social worker for phyically, verbally and sexually abusing a 10 year old boy on 3 seperate occasions that I and another child wittnessed.
As you no doubt would quess the fact I reported it did not go down well with social services and they removed the child from me and ignored my allegation.
I came across another boy that told me he had been abused by the same social worker and once again I reported what he told me to social services. I was told by the head of fostering and adoption to drop the allegation or else, I asked what she meant by that and she said that it would effect me financially as would be very difficult to get placements for me as no social worker would trust me.
I told her not to threaten me and I did not get into fostering for money as I worked full time.
Within 3 weeks I had my name removed from the approved foster carers list they said that I was not seen as a team player so could not be trusted.
I was also told verbally that I would be blacklisted from working with children again. The manager told me this with a great big smile on her face.

I have been blacklisted as a foster agency approached me and told me to ignore it and they would investigate. The agency social worker himself had been a social worker in Inverness and had left due to the amount of abuse and corruption being ignored by his managment and knew and was very sympathetic knowing what I had gone through and said "you will never beat the system"
They forwarded the letter they received from Inverness social services about me and it barely said anything bad about me, but even so the agency told me they wouldnt be able to take me, the social worker from the agency told me that it wasnt what it said in the letter but what the head of fostering at Inverness had said behind my back about me to his boss who was friends with that manager.

I would love to adopt but would the fact that I have been blacklisted by my local social services would it effect my application due to the fact that no doubt the local social services would be involved.

I still have a lot of paper work and communications I had when fostering proving I was been told to do things that not only went against social services own rules but also morally wrong.
Even the police (I spent 3 years trying to get the abusive SW exposed) could not believe what they where seeing and copied everything.
The police investigation was abrutly stopped with no real reason apart from being told the child involved refused to talk about it, and they never spoke to the other wittness of one attack.
I personally think someone higher up in the police force stopped the investigation as the officers were keen and positive to start with and I thought I was going to be finally getting somewhere, but the officers seemed very downhearted when they told me they would not be carrying on with the investigation and did not to want to talk about it.

Anyway I could go on all day about what happened but I have asked my question about the effect all this would have on future adoption as fostering for me is now totally out of the question. all this happened in 2008.

ukbristol Sun 21-Apr-13 12:51:42

Hi there,
We went to an adoption talk 2 years ago - we're normal loving people looking to provide a loving home for a child but didn't know much about it all.
As white middle class couple we were virtually told 'we have lots of people like you, little chance of adopting' and the case studies of children were all very extreme (babies having to go into drug withdrawal after birth as birth mother on heroin and children burned by fire by mentally ill birth parents).
I understand that the adoption agencies don't want to paint an overly rosy picture but we really got the impression that a) our approach wasn't really welcome b) you'd have to be a saint to be able to cope with extreme physical and emotional challenges.
I'm interested to understand if this is the reality or if we would be welcomed as adopted parents?
I'm 44 and my husband is 48 - we are young minded and physically for our age, married for 10 years, loving without children of our own and financially solvent.
I understand the concept of therapeutic parenting and we have thoughtful personalities so could probably help encourage a cautious child to have more confidence.
My questions are:
Would we be welcomed as adopted parents?
We were put off by the adoption talk in central Bristol - does this mean we're not suited to be adoptive parents?
How could we find out more thoughtfully about the spectrum of issues of the children that need adopting to understand what type of children we could best love/ support?
Thanks
UkBristol

ukbristol Sun 21-Apr-13 15:52:42

Hi again,
I remember the other issue we faced was that we live reasonably centrally in Bristol and the adoption agency were concerned that the adopted child as he/ she grows older may come into contact with relatives from birth family - siblings, cousins etc. - who also lived in Bristol and this may cause the child distress. Apparently they have had cases where cousins have looked out for the child who was adopted and then tried to make contact against the child's wishes. As such, the agency wanted adoptive parents to live close enough for social workers to visit but a reasonable distance away from the birth family and they felt that we lived too close to potential adoptees.
It seems a difficult balance - too close isn't good and too far away isn't good either as too far for social workers to visit. We were felt confused by all this and unsure what we should do.

Again, any advice for us with regards where we live would also be appreciated. We live in a lovely child friendly neighbourhood in Bristol and yet this also seems to count against us.

Thanks
UkBristol

Devora Sun 21-Apr-13 16:42:02

ukbristol, I'll just comment that I don't think being born drug dependent is 'extreme' in adoption terms - it's depressingly common. There are not many children up for adoption, IME, who do not have some combination of these factors in their immediate background or heritage: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, mental illness, learning disabilities, physical abuse, sexual abuse.

poynton Sun 21-Apr-13 17:28:35

ukbristol. When I did the fostering courses I was told all sort of horror stories, you know the sort.
But in the 2 years I had 9 children, yes they did have problems but within hours of being shown respect and trust they changed completely including, schooling, out of school activities and of course behaviour.
It would have helped if I had been given some background about the children but our SS as posted above were and are very lacking.
So I wouldn't bother too much about the horror stories they are only children after all.
But I was dealing with preteen and not babies.

ThinkingofAdoption Sun 21-Apr-13 20:17:44

First of all, thank you to Mumsnet and First4Adoption for arranging this Q&A. It's really helpful as my DH and I have been to an information session and are thinking of applying to adopt. I have two questions.

1) My first question is a personal one about ethnic matching. My DH is white and I look white but am mixed race (white/and a group of which there are not that many in the UK). My family is mixed race so if you look at my parents and siblings, between us all we are white/mixed race/black. How would ethnic matching work in our case?

I am worried that if a specific match was sought for my ethnicity, we would have a very long wait. Would we be considered for a white child even though I am mixed race? Or would we be considered for a black child, even though neither of us is black, because close relatives (who we see a lot of) are?

From our own perspective, we don't mind about the child's ethnicity, since we are used to mixed families anyway. I guess my concern is that a close ethnic matching policy would mean we needn't bother applying.

2) Do you think policies of matching ethnicity mean that children of some races stay in foster care for longer (perhaps even not being adopted)? If so, what can or is being done to increase the adoption chances for those children?

ThinkingofAdoption Sun 21-Apr-13 20:23:29

UKBristol, great questions. My understanding of prenatal exposure is that it's a spectrum - good parenting strategies can mitigate the effects of some levels of prenatal exposure to some drugs, but on the other hand foetal alcohol syndrome causes permanent brain damage. Sadly these issues are very common. So it is definitely worth researching and I will be interested to see the answer you get as to where to begin this research!

chrissyjay Mon 22-Apr-13 12:47:50

Can self-employed people receive adoption pay?

I'm delighted that this Q&A has been set up. Thanks to Mumsnet and First4Adoption for organising this. I am an adopter of a, now 5 year old girl, and am just about to adopt her baby brother (currently 6 months old). We have now been through the approval process twice and I would agree with many of the points raised thus far.

The preparation and home study process can feel extremely negative. I totally understand that Social Workers need to highlight that the majority of children needing homes come from backgrounds of serious neglect and abuse either within the home or in-utero. Adopters need to know that their child may experience a lot of different issues and difficulties throughout their life and signing up as an adopter will most likely mean you have to parent difficulties that a birth parent may not experience and you will certainly have to deal with issues that birth parents don't i.e. contact and life story work and the emotions that that brings up, both in your child and in yourself. I do know of several people who have pulled out of the process due to the levels of negativity. There needs to be a balance between being realistic and enabling adoptive parents to manage any difficulties that may arise. This ultimately comes down to post-adoption support.

Post Adoption Support is lacking in the majority of areas and cuts to public funding are impacting even more on this issue at the current time. Many adopted children are waiting months and months for access to support such as CAMHS and Theraplay etc and their difficulties can then increase putting their home placements at risk. I feel that this is an area that needs to be addressed before the government starts pushing to approve more adopters otherwise this is a disaster waiting to happen. I support changes that now enable adopted children to maintain their LAC status within education, thus enabling adoptive parents to choose the school that best suits their child's needs but more needs to be done within schools as well. Many adopted children are suffering due to lack of planning and IEP's within school so their educational needs aren't being met. Adoptive parents can then be viewed as overly fussy or annoying by the school because many SENCO's don't seem to understand the impact that education may have on an adopted child e.g. a change of teacher or school day at short notice can be traumatic for a child with attachment difficulties.

I think my question is what will the government be doing to support adoptive parents and their children more effectively post-adoption and within school and will First4Adoption have any role to play in this?

I will just add that we couldn't be happier as adoptive parents and I wouldn't change anything for the world. We were blessed with wonderful Social Workers through both adoptions (although experienced lots of hiccups with difficultie with paperwork being "misplaced" etc). We have a wonderful daughter and we are all excited to be welcoming her brother into our family. I would encourage people to come forward as adopters and do read the many adoption blogs and stories out there on the web. There are many people writing very positively and proactively to share their experiences so that prospective adopters can see into the lives of adopters. You can ask us lots of questions and we'll give your our own experiences. I found that invaluable as a first time adopter. I was lucky to meet lots of adopted children who were all regular children living with some wonderful people. Don't be put off by the negative stuff out there. It's important to keep a balance of all the viewpoints in your head.

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