Tag Archives: adoption

A few musings on fostering and caring for looked-after children

Recently there has been much discussion in the media about a foster child in Hackney. I suspect that there has been misinformation and perhaps photo-shopping of images. I do not wish to comment on this actual situation.

I would however, like to sing a hymn of praise to people who register and spend much of their time as foster parents.

2015 My recent contact with foster parents. A couple of years ago I was invited for coffee by a Muslim friend. She lives quite near me in London. She is originally from Pakistan. She shares her fostering job with her adult daughter. They had just handed over black African twins whom they had cared for, loved and nurtured from the moment of their birth to the age of two and a half years. They had recently handed them over to adoptive parents who were living in the Midlands.

The matter of race, colour, religion was not relevant to the care and devotion of the foster family, nor to the little children involved.

At the time my friend feared that the adoptive mother was not looking for any further contact. I sensed that this was causing the foster family some sorrow. It must be hard to love and care for babies, then toddlers, then to try and explain simple things to them about their “new life”, and then all of a sudden to hear no more.

However, my friend and her daughter had been sufficiently trained in short-term fostering and knew the basic rules. In some cases adoptive parents might wish to keep in contact and in other cases this might not be so. And that is just how it is.

All I could say was that the love and care that they had expended on these twins will have given those vulnerable young children the best possible start in life.

Our story from quite long ago – 1980: Before we took Jah home, many years ago, we had a few visits between our family and the short-term foster family. He was nearly four years old and everybody involved prepared him as well as they could manage. The foster children as well as their parents needed to know where he was going to live, as he had spent over a year and a half with them and clearly at that time he was an important part of their young lives. Their feelings had to be taken into consideration. They all came up to our house, studied the bedroom Jah would share with his new big brother, and meet our two older children – the big sisters and played in our garden

J in Leicester garden

We gathered that the foster brothers and sisters approved of us.

Jah + croquet(the foster family had a field for a garden!)

We stayed and camped in their garden for a few days and had days out with thefamily before we finally took Jah home to live with us. Once Jah had moved in with us, we waited many months before getting him back in touch with the short-term foster family, apart from letters. We had been advised that this would enable Jah to settle down fully with us. All this seemed to work. We were guided in all these moves by excellent social workers.  (Later we arranged to meet up and the children were all happy to be back in touch.)

A story from this year 2017 : The mother in a family well-known to us had a recurrence of a mental problem and was in no fit state for a while to look after her four-year old twins and her 5 year old daughter. Make no mistake. This was an urgent situation! It was an emergency and the local Social Services came up trumps.

Miraculously to my mind, they found a foster family who could take in all three children together. Not only that, she lives in a medium-sized town, and they found a family in the same town, near enough for the five year old to carry on at her school. This must have helped the little girl so much. It would also give the mother peace of mind when she started to feel better. The family in question is a black British Caribbean family. To this day I have no idea what colour or religion etc. the foster family come from. Newspaper reports in the Hackney case made such a big deal about the ethnic background of foster parents, but there are many more important things to take into account when placing children. I just give thanks that everything worked so well for the family I know. Well done Social Services in the area!

Nowadays I understand that there are organisations to help families involved in caring for ‘looked-after children’. It is acknowledged that moving families is not easy. It is obviously a big disruption if it is for a short time, but if it is adoption and thus for life, there are still issues that a child might have.

In our day there was no help. One organisation was just being set up based at Coram’s Fields, but we did not hear of that with our older adopted son and our younger one had left school before we heard of it. I think it was called Parent to Parent Information.

Today Schools are given extra money to assist adopted and looked-after children in any way that seems appropriate for the child involved. There is an organisation called “Virtual School” and staff travel around visiting the children. I met one such teacher. The only example of help given that I can remember was where a certain child had a longing to learn a musical instrument and the Virtual School funding enabled the child to have music lessons. These lessons greatly enriched that child’s life. And that is only one example of what a Virtual teacher can arrange for a looked-after child.

music lesson

With the advent of Twitter and Facebook, parents of looked-after/foster children are able to hear about conferences** and keep in touch with each other in a way that used not to be possible.

**See #AUKConf, Attachement & Trauma in the Classroom, on Nov 11 http://bit.ly/2u7ar9J 

On Twitter one can search #Adoption

Here end my musings for today!

 

 

ADOPTION TODAY – Help/information/support

My last blog ended with this sentence “I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays.”

This is good news for people involved in adoption today.

Sam had been with us for one whole year in 1973 before we ever read or heard anything helpful about bringing up a black child as white parents. This was when our Adoption Agency sent us an article from an organisation called “The Open Door Society” in Canada . As I wrote in one of my earliest blogs:

The main thrust that came through to us was that ‘Love is not enough…  Society will see your children as black…  …… The parents have a responsibility to instil in their child, through the media of literature, art and music, a pride and understanding of his racial heritage.” 

 Apart from the only two multiracial families that we met in the North East of England, our support came mainly from the organisation called Harmony that we encountered when we moved to Leicester in the Midlands.

Harmony-badge

Harmony was an organisation for multi-racial families whether by adoption, fostering or through mixed-race marriages. It was at Harmony gatherings in the 1980s that we learned a lot about skin care and hair care, It was a supportive forum where we could share information  for example about books and toys that showed children who looked like our children.

Aurora 006

 

 

 

 

I have written about this before. So what is new nowadays?

  • More books featuring the diversity of our population (even if not yet enough. . .)
  • Recruitment of people from ethnic minorities in most areas of Social Work
  • Adoption websites, discussion forums, blogs, shared Tweets  #Adoption.  THESE CAN BE DISCOVERED VIA GOOGLING “ADOPTION SUPPORT”
  • Greater awareness in schools about the special situation of “looked after” children
  • Training and information for families. See the Pac-UK site:  Here below is information about help that is offered in schools in England.

http://www.pac-uk.org/   “From April 2014, schools in England can receive the Pupil Premium for children adopted from care, or who left care under a Special Guardianship Order on or after 30 December 2005. Schools can also claim the Pupil Premium for children who left care under a Residence Order on or after 14 October 1991.

The Pupil Premium is to help schools raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap with their peers.  It is paid to schools in respect of disadvantaged pupils in Reception to Year 11. The Government has extended the coverage of the Pupil Premium in recognition of the traumatic experiences many adopted children have endured in their early lives and a realisation that their needs do not change overnight”.

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I wish this kind of help had been available for Jah in the 1980s. (sigh)

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+ A Helpful booklet published in 2014

In April 2014 a group of multi-racial families in Cornwall has published an extremely helpful booklet in partnership with Barnardo’s.

“Children Visible by Colour in Cornwall: Suggestions for parents and carers raising BME (black and minority ethnic) and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.”

Kowetha doc

Kowetha is a pioneering community group of parents and carers living in the West of Cornwall who are raising BME and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.

The Kowetha Community group has written a handbook to support other families of diverse racial background, which is also valuable for teachers and practitioners. The handbook has been supported by Barnardo’s and considers the following:

  • How a child’s racial heritage influences their childhood experiences in Cornwall.
  • The importance of moving beyond ‘colour blindness’ and positively educating children in Cornish schools about racial diversity.
  • How schools and agencies might recognise and support the unique social pressures experienced by children who are visible by colour, thus meeting their duties under Ofsted.

The advice, information and shared experiences are applicable for all multi-racial families wherever they live . I can heartily recommend it.

Why I started writing my blog

My blog began in September 2013 because there were many things I wanted to say about adopting children of a different race. They are things I have learned as we went along and many are things that I feel strongly about. They are things that I wanted to share. I also wanted to describe how well we were served by our social workers.  Social workers don’t always get a good press.

Recently I have indulged in a few reflections about heritage and backgrounds.

I would now like to return to the narrative/memoir about Jah. When Jah joined our family he was nearly four years old. By then Sam was eight years old and the big sisters were fourteen and sixteen.

Scotland 1980

This photo was taken during our first summer holiday as a family of 6.  We went camping in Scotland.

Throughout their childhood we tried to give both Sam and Jah as much contact with black people as possible. When Jah joined us we were living in Leicester. In that city there was an annual multiracial festival held at the De Montfort Hall, a big public venue and we all enjoyed that. We made some good friends who had adopted a boy and a girl, both of Indian heritage. It was a really good feeling to be able to mix with people of all colours and from a variety of traditions. We enjoyed the music, the food, looking at the different fashions – everything!

Then we joined a group called “Harmony “ and that was excellent.

Harmony badge At Harmony group meetings we met mixed race and adoptive families and the children enjoyed relaxing times with the children. We parents benefitted from discussing shared issues. There was not much information available in those days. Today there are many organisations and much information about health, skin care, hair care and other important matters, as well as post-adoption support. Today one can find out so much via the Internet.

We did what we could to make contact with black people. D. took Sam to steel band practice in a Caribbean area of the city.

134px-Aasteeldrum

child steel band 1Picture courtesy of Owen Lydiard

He enjoyed playing in the band. He also took part in a drama group. In that group he was the only black child and had a role of a “baddie” – (reinforcing a negative image?) not good of course, but he enjoyed performing so we just left it.

As Sam neared the age for choosing a secondary school, we did careful research into the possible schools. As far as we could see, there were hardly any black boys at the local secondary school, so we made enquiries further afield. Fortunately we discovered one school that seemed to have more awareness of the need to acknowledge diversity.

We were about to sign Sam up for that school when D. received a telephone call that was about to change everything entirely for the whole family!