Many adoptive parents feel isolated from typical parent and toddler groups. They cannot talk about what kind of pregnancy they had, the birth of their child, or why they chose their names. They have a story, it’s just not one they can tell everyone. Having adopted children myself I found out that adopters don’t automatically have the same support network that comes from bringing up a child from birth, but with the extra challenges adoptive parenting brings, support is particularly needed. It was for this reason that I decided to run a parent and toddler group at our church purely for adopters. We already had a successful group running, so we kept the same format but just ran the new group on a different day.
I took the idea to a local private adoption agency and to our local authority who were keen to have this facility available for their adopters. The agencies then mailed their adopters to invite them to our group. It started with about four families but now has about ten. Therefore at present a session consists of ten children, ten parents and four helpers. We have to be aware of the safeguarding issues, so we do not advertise the group: we do not want birth families turning up to see if their child attends, so it is by invitation only via social workers. The parents have to sign a confidentiality form to ensure that everyone is safe. We have a security door so only those with the number can enter.
The focus of the group has been to form a network of support for adopters of pre-school children and to listen and give any support that we can. All the helpers are adopters of slightly older children, and it has been important to have leaders running the group who are aware of the impact of developmental trauma. Adopters need people who understand and can empathise with what they face on a regular basis. Often a listening ear and someone who ‘gets it’ will make a huge difference to how they can cope. It’s great to know that when our adopters enter the room they feel safe to be themselves. We understand the look in their eyes; we understand when they say, “It’s been a difficult morning”. It is proving to be an extremely valuable resource, especially for adopters who are feeling a little isolated.
We have been running the group since June 2016 so we are still finding our way, but to see how much it means to the parents that attend and see these children settle into their forever homes is a privilege. We are meeting some amazing parents who have begun a journey that is hard and far from ‘normal life’. The demands of caring for children who have suffered trauma and loss can be overwhelming at times. We want to provide this group for them so they are not alone but supported and encouraged.