Why does We Are Family Adoption exist?
Adoption today is very different to 30 years ago: virtually no children are voluntarily relinquished due to social stigma - for example from being a single unmarried mother, as often occurred in earlier times. Adopted children today are the youngest and most vulnerable within our society. The vast majority of adopted children were removed by the courts after suffering extreme abuse and/or neglect at the hands of their original families. Most adopted children have high Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) scores and some sort of Special Educational Needs (SEN), usually brought on through in utero and/or early childhood trauma. It is well documented that occurrence of certain diagnoses such as autism, ADHD, FADS, ODD and other similar disorders is significantly higher amongst adopted children than the national average.
In short, adoptive parents experience greater pressures on their families, be it emotionally (e.g. these children usually require different and more time-consuming parenting approaches), physically (e.g. many adoptees do not sleep well, or may be violent towards other family members) and/or financially (e.g. the complex needs of this group of children mean that many parents give up work to look after them).
I became an adoptive parent when my son came to us at only ten months old. I felt distinctly out of sync with the mothers of babies the same age as mine. For homemade children, as it were, pregnancy is the first access point to a community of parents. I imagine you, reading this, know someone who counts someone who they met at an National Childbirth Trust (NCT) meeting or another new pregnancy/parent thing as a friend. There was nothing equivalent for adopters. Together with some other adopters feeling the same, I set out to change this gaping hole in the post adoption provision
And so WAF was created by parents, for parents in 2013 in North London. It has since grown to 10 groups across London, with over 500 members. We see and feel the value of a support network to address issues associated with living as adoptive families. We seek to support adopter's and prospective adopters' well-being, which in turn supports the chances of better outcomes for adoptive kids. WAF now runs around 20-25 parent-led events a month across London for all kinds of adopters. These range from parent support groups to family meet-ups, socials and playgroups. We also have lots of online resources and a weekly blog.
We currently run all of this with just 40 volunteers and 1 part-time member of staff.
Our Project: Strengthening our Parent Support Groups
Why do we need to strengthen our support groups?
Our parent support groups take many different forms - they might be specific to a local area, to single adopters or prospective adopters. They might take place in an evening or on a Saturday morning. They might look like parents sat round in a circle in a private space or they might look like a drink in the pub. The thing they have in common is that they build crucial networks and communities. They create a safe space for parents to share their highs and lows. The groups (and WAF membership) are also free. We know that many parents cannot afford membership fees or event costs so we strive to continue offering these services at no cost.
Our groups are so important but sometimes they hang by a thread, as you can read about here:
How are we going to strengthen our support groups?
We have 10 groups in London. We want to strengthen and future proof these groups. We can do this by recruiting enough volunteers from within our membership to sustain them. We need volunteer parents who are willing to facilitate sessions and feel confident in doing so. We want to provide high quality training in group facilitation. We want our volunteers to have a toolkit to make running their groups easy. We want to make sure we can keep reimbursing childcare for our single adopters. We want to make sure we can afford venue hire. We want events to be more local, we want single dads as well as single mums to benefit from the community and we want those who don't already know about us to know about us!
We can achieve all of this with funding for staff time to develop volunteer recruitment, toolkits and training. We would also be able to sustain the running costs of the group - venues, childcare etc. With additional funding we can also run marketing campaigns so more adoptive parents know about us.