Guest blog from Phil Hodgson, Chair of National Adoption Service Advisory Group

Hello, my name is Phil Hodgson and I chair The National Adoption Service (NAS) Advisory Group.

During the last 18 months I have been fortunate and grateful to have met adopters, adopted children, and managers & practitioners across voluntary adoption agencies, public sector organisations and academics.

My background is in social work in the statutory and voluntary sectors.  I lived in Wales when I qualified as a social worker in the late 1970’s and have worked in England and Wales during my career.  My home is in the Brecon Beacons and I enjoy the opportunity to walk and run in a beautiful part of the United Kingdom.

The opportunity to chair the NAS Advisory Group and meet a wide range of people involved and engaged in adoption has clearly highlighted the achievements of children, parents and professional staff.  It has also sharpened focus on key issues:

-          Children talk about very positive experiences in their families whilst expressing concerns about bullying, schools limited experience of understanding adoption, where and when needed consistently good access to therapy, CAMHS and ensuring their parents also have access to reliable and skilled support when required.

-          Parents delight about their new family whilst, in some cases, explain the complexities of the parenting task; attachment, access to social work support that has a sophisticated understanding of adoption, schools sensitive and aware of the needs of adopted children, access to a range of quality health specialist services.

-          Professional staff striving to improve the service whilst maintaining the strengths of the existing system by embracing change that focuses on good quality, accessible, interactive intervention that supports parents and children.

The National Adoption Service has successfully implemented change that has demonstrated improvement across adoption services.  However, listening to and drawing on the experience of adopters and children the challenges during the next 12-18 months include:

-          Post adoption support that is provided across multiple agencies; education, health, social services and voluntary agencies that is dynamic, timely and relevant.

-          Access to quality training and learning for adopters, practitioners and managers that improve the adoption experience.

-          Continue to engage and listen to what adopters and children say about their experience.

-          Work with policy makers across Wales to achieve change that delivers a positive difference to adults and children.

Guest blog: my experience of adopting an ‘older’ child

I decided to adopt in my late thirties, and having just left a long term relationship I applied as a single adopter. As part of the assessment process with the Social Worker we discussed how I would manage as a single parent and talked about the age of the child and what would be best for my circumstances. As I needed to return to work after my adoption leave, we felt it would be good to have a child of school age so that I could return to work part time without having to arrange alternative childcare. I was approved for one child aged 3-8 years old and my daughter was four when she moved in. It worked really well for me as I took 8 months adoption leave and returned to part time work when my daughter started school the following September.

Our first meeting was soon after her fourth birthday at the foster carer’s house. She looked at me shyly as she stood beside the foster carer. I had tried to think of something memorable to say for such a big moment in our lives but decided in the end that a big smile would say it all. She was full of fun and pleased to hear that I had two cats who featured prominently in the book I had put together about my home and family.

My life changed overnight when my daughter first came to live with me- in a good way. She was a fully formed little person with her own personality and character. It came as quite a shock as Barbie first took over the bedroom and then a tide of pink things swept through the house. Not content with just the decor, Barbie also took over my mind as I found that I knew all the words to ‘I’m a Barbie Girl’, and most of the dance moves. Suddenly all my priorities changed and I had a lot to learn, the main one being the importance of chocolate in your life, as I was now living with a dedicated chocoholic.

Four is a wonderful age when children do and say lots of funny things. She was a real chatterbox and it was a steep learning curve for me as I struggled to answer those unanswerable questions that children like to ask. Difficult questions arose such as ‘Mum, do slugs like thunder?’ and lots of questions about tooth fairies. While out on her tricycle one day she looked up at me and said ‘I’m a little cutie pie aren’t I?’ and she wasn’t wrong. There are so many memorable moments to treasure such as her first day at school, first time riding a bike without stabilisers, first time swimming a width in the swimming pool, and so on.

During our first 8 months together we spent a lot of time watching films (the Wizard of Oz is still a favourite), making items out of playdough, going to dance classes, and visits to the park and swimming pool. It was fun. I really enjoyed being with a four year old as she was learning so much and still had so many new things to experience. When my daughter started school I returned to work part time and we managed well although like most working parents I had to put a lot of thought into how to manage school holidays and unexpected sickness.

It’s now ten years on and my daughter is a fully fledged teenager – still a chocoholic and now able to reach the hidden stash in the top cupboard! The house is less pink. She cannot remember a life before Instagram. There are the usual teenage challenges of having to get up before 1pm and your parents are just so embarrassing.

We’ve had lots of changes since I met my husband and we now have a much bigger family. I also have three adult stepchildren, and am about to become a grandparent for the first time as one of them is going to have a baby soon. I’m really looking forward to having a baby in the family to fuss over, but in terms of my own experience of having become a mother to a four year old, I really wouldn’t change a thing.

UPDATE FROM SUZANNE

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Since the last blog we have seen a milestone with the central elements of the NAS being fully operational for 6 months. That, and drafting our first Annual Report, has inevitably led me into thinking about how it is all going……..

It’s going well, I think……………this is what I tend to say when I am asked…….. it is quite difficult to tell! I know we are all very busy but that doesn’t always equate to success and what we really want to see is some real changes to benefit children, young people and adults who use adoption services. We are always keen to hear what you think so please let us know via contact@adoptcymru.com

Last time I said that Adoption UK and the After Adoption, Talk Adoption Group had given us an up to date view of the current issues for adopters and adopted children & young people in Wales. These reports are now on our website news and events page  or from the organizations if you would like to have a look? The work dispels any myths that children and their parents rarely agree; there is huge agreement about what the issues are! Namely support in / by education services & schools, emotional health & wellbeing, life history, contact and generally being able to access different types of support when it is needed. This has all informed our priorities.

The annual report has pulled together lots of information, including what adopters and children and young people have told us, what we think we have achieved and data from the first year of the National Adoption Service Performance Measurement Framework. There will be a shorter easy read version available too. There’s some really good news in there as well as confirmation about the big changes that need to be made. It also contains a plan for the coming year and some targets. It will be published this month so watch out for it on http://adoptcymru.com/en/news-and-events

NAS First Staff Conference “Achieving More Together”

The National Adoption Service for Wales held its first staff conference on 24th March 2015. The conference saw delegates from each regional collaborative and the voluntary adoption agencies coming together for the first time as a National Adoption Service.

An opening address via video by Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Heath and Social Services highlighted the key aims of the National Adoption Service as being the improvement in the recruitment process for adopters, increasing the number of adoptive families for children in Wales waiting to be adopted and better consistency in adoption support services throughout Wales.

Guest speakers included Prof Sally Holland, presenting CASCADE’s research on adoption support; Dr John Clifton presenting findings of a study he undertook with Dr Beth Neil on success factors in adoption recruitment, as well as a research study by Karen Williams on recruitment of adopters in Wales.

Suzanne Griffiths, Director of Operations at the National Adoption Service told the conference of the truly collaborative approach being taken to improve adoption services in Wales; the aims of the National Adoption Service are clear; the work is now beginning to address these.

The Conference also heard that the voice of adopters will continue to play an important part in shaping the work of the National Adoption Service. Prof Sally Holland, Director of CASCADE, reminded delegates of the research study on the experiences of adoptive families in Wales which invites responses from families who’ve had a Welsh child placed for adoption between 1st July 2014 and 30 June 2015.

If you are interested in taking part click here
http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/adoptioncohort/research/

For more information about the adoption process in Wales, please click here http://www.adoptcymru.com

Adopters’ Voices Wales

As the work of the National Adoption Service gets underway with the aim of recruiting more adopters and improving adoption support services we are keen to hear from adoptive parents in Wales.

A survey has been designed by Adoption UK working in partnership with the National Adoption Service to consult with adoptive parents about their priorities and how adopters may wish to be involved with the National Adoption Service in the future.

We would be very grateful if you would take a few minutes to answer the questions which apply to you.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NASadopt

 

National Adoption Service

Wales’ new adoption service has appointed a central team to head up the national body.

The National Adoption Service has appointed Suzanne Griffiths as Director of Operations, Wendy Carroll as Business and Performance Manager, Martina McCrossan as Policy and Practice Officer and Bethan Thomas as Administrative Assistant.

Launched in November 2014, the National Adoption Service aims to improve services for all those affected by adoption and speed up the adoption process in Wales.

The new service is being led and delivered by local government, working closely with voluntary sector partners and is a key part of the Welsh Government’s plans for transforming the way social services are delivered in Wales.

Suzanne Griffiths, who has over 25 years’ experience in social work, will be responsible for leading and developing adoption services across Wales, to achieve consistently responsive services and to ensure improvements are made.

Suzanne said:

“It is an honour to be appointed as the service’s Director of Operations. Now the central team is in place, we can really drive forward positive change across the sector in Wales. Bringing together adoption services across Wales on a collaborative basis will deliver more consistent and improved adoption services for children, prospective and approved adopters as well as other adults and children affected by adoption.”

Prior to this role, Suzanne was Director of Social Services for Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and previously held the position of Head of Children’s Services for the council.

Suzanne has a degree and masters qualification in Social Administration and Public Services Management, and has managed adoption services in three Welsh local authorities over the course of her career.

Wendy Carroll has over 30 years’ experience providing business support to the social care sector. Her role will be to lead the implementation and co-ordination of the national performance framework across Wales, which will monitor adoption across local authority services and voluntary agencies.

Martina McCrossan, the service’s new Policy and Practice Officer, previously held the role of Adoption Team Manager at Cardiff Adoption Team. Martina has over twelve years’ experience in adoption services and qualified as a social worker in 1997. Her new role will be to develop common policies throughout Wales to streamline adoption services across regions.

Bethan is an experienced administrator, having worked in the education sector. Her role will be to provide a sound support system for the team and the national service.

Suzanne added:

“We are thrilled to have appointed Wendy, Martina and Bethan, who together bring with them over 50 years of relevant experience. Our focus as a team is on significantly improving the adoption process for all those who use the service.”

Christmas and Adoption

Christmas can be a time of great fun and excitement! Christmas parties, the Christmas play, the countdown to Santa coming and of course all that chocolate!. For parents it’s the shopping, cooking and entertaining and spending time with family and friends. So much to do! But all of this can be overwhelming for some children who’ve been adopted and may have different memories about this time of year. Adoption UK, using adoptive parents’ own experiences have produced information to help you and your child at Christmas time. One of their key messages is to “keep it low-key and familiar”. Click on the link below to read more advice from adoptive parents:

http://www.adoptionuk.org/resources?category=&tagging%5B%5D=14

The Adoption Process in Wales: Where to start?

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It’s a huge milestone in your life when you decide to become an adoptive parent and you’ll no doubt have an abundance of questions swimming around your head; we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to the adoption process in wales to answer some of your key questions and show you exactly what you can expect:

Step One: Making the Decision

Now, you may not consider this as a starting point for the process, but by deciding to look further into the option of adopting, you are actually taking your very first step – and a very important step it is too.
Here you will consult with your partner if there are two of you adopting, or you may speak to family and friends to get their input.

Step Two: Contact an Agency

Your next step in the adoption process is to contact an agency to express your interest. The agency will be able to talk you through everything that’s involved, and answer any questions that you may have there and then. You’ll receive an information pack and you may also be invited along to meet other potential adoptive parents which can be a great help, and a great comfort, to many.

Step Three: A Home Visit

If after gathering more information and meeting with the agency, you want to proceed, then the next step will take place when someone from the agency comes to visit your home. This is another opportunity to get to know the agency better, and to get the answers to any other questions you may have. By now, you’ll understand a lot more about adoption so naturally your questions may have changed considerably.

Step Four: Application and Assessment

Understandably, the assessment process is extremely thorough, and as such, it can take up to six months to complete. There is also much involved at this stage, including:

  • Preparation Classes:  These give advice and guidance on the adoption process and the effect it will have on your life. Your expectations will be explored and you will be able to meet with others who are at the same stage of the adoption process as you.
  • Social Worker Visits: You will receive regular visits from your social worker as they aim to assess your suitability for a role as an adoptive parent.
  • Providing References
  • Criminal Background Checks: A background check will be conducted to ensure you haven’t been convicted of any serious crimes.
  • A full medical examination

Once you have been fully assessed, your social worker will send the report to an adoption panel who will be able to feed recommendations back to your chosen agency.

Step Five: Matching You Up

Perhaps the most exciting, and nerve-wracking step of the adoption process is step five. This is where, after a successful assessment, you will be matched up with a child that is deemed suitable for you. If you are happy with the match, then a decision will officially be made to finalise the process.

After this stage, your new family life can begin.

Are you currently considering becoming an adoptive parent? Get in touch today with your questions – we’d love to help you out.

What to do in Wales This Summer

It’s the summer holidays and the sun is shining, so get out there and enjoy some great family fun days out. Here is our pick of the best things to do this summer:

Cardiff Bay’s Urban Beach

cardiff bay beach(image: Photgraphicallsorts)

Live in the city centre and not sure where the nearest beach is? Well, you do now. From the 25th July to 31st August the Oval Basin is home to plenty of excitement. Key features include a manmade beach lined with deckchairs and palm trees, open air swimming pools and even a lazy river.

And when you get bored of splashing about or sunbathing there are fairground rides, miniature golf, climbing frames and water zorbing. Then sit back and relax in the tiki bar and café. This is a great day out for a low cost!

Of course you could always get involved with the events held here on a weekly basis. There is something on every day of the week:

Monday – A Caribbean beach party with music from steel pan group DUOFLEX and entertainment from Captain Jack Sparrow.

Tuesday – Sports fun with Zumba lessons and a beach volleyball tournament.

Wednesday – Every Wednesday there is a showcase of music from around the globe, featuring a different country each week.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday – The best of South Wales’ musicians.

Sunday – A great family day out with plenty of music and dancing. The pinnacle event is the Vegas experience held by Darren Tyson. This is not to be missed!

This is a recurring attraction and this year’s event is sponsored by Braces Bread and Capital FM, which give you the chance to win ‘A Grand in the Sand’ simply by posting a selfie of yourself at the attraction. Could you be a winner? Get down there from 10am for free entry!

Peppa Pig’s Big Splash in Llandudno

Peppa Pig is hugely popular among young ones and she’s coming to Venue Cymru, Llandudno on August 20th! This is an all singing, all dancing show which brings this favourite TV character to life with puppets and plenty of sing-alongs.

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Clever Little Celts at Melin

For a family day out that is educational, pay a visit to Melin in Pembrokeshire on any of the following dates:

  • 14th-15th August 2014
  • 21st- 22nd August 2014
  • 28th- 29th August 2014
  • 28th- 29th October 2014

At this family friendly event you can meet Celtic characters and experience some jobs and tasks that were everyday activities thousands of years ago, including grinding grain and willow weaving. You can then have your face painted to look like a real Celtic warrior.

Welsh Folk Music at St Fagans

On the 23rd August, make a trip to St Fagans National History Museum for a day of traditional Welsh folk music. Enjoy performances from:

  • Aled Rheon
  • Gwenan Gibbard
  • Trwbador
  • DnA
  • Olion Byw
  • Kizzy Crawford
  • And many more!

During your visit you can meet instrument makers and take part in music-themed arts and crafts. You can even pick up a few more albums from the famous Spillers Records. This is a great day for experiencing Welsh culture in a laid back atmosphere.

So what will you be doing this summer school holidays? Will you be attending any of these events? Have fun if you do!