Agenda item

The views of Young People in Care - update on post-adoption support services

Minutes:

1. A party of five young people attended the meeting with three members of staff – Rebecca and Clare from the post adoption team and Yashi from KCC/Coram - to tell the Panel about their experience of being adopted and the services available to support children and families following adoption.

 

2. The young people introduced themselves and gave an introduction about the type of work undertaken by Coram’s ‘Adoptables’ team, including the Ambassador Programme for young people aged 13 to 25, drama projects in national theatres and the Participation Programme that had been set up in September 2015. They organised 2 residential weekends a year, media training, public speaking and other activities to raise confidence.

 

3. The young people spoke about the benefits that they had each gained from being part of the Adoptables group, how they wished to see the group develop in the future and how they would promote the group to new members. The young people spoke about their achievements as members of the group, including learning presentation skills and the boost in confidence and self-esteem that being part of a group had brought. One of the young people explained why adoption was important to her personally and the impact that social media has had on the group. The group supplied information to schools using the education schools toolkit to help them to understand how to approach the issue of adoption.

 

4. A presentation on adoption was introduced to which all of the young people contributed, it summarised what adoption is, the impacts that adoption can have on a child and a parent’s life and issues to be aware of.

 

5. One of the young people explained that a short film was in the process of being created in which he would have the opportunity to share his adoption story with members of the public and other adopted children. He said that he would like to be able to feel that he had helped others and answered questions based on his experiences.

 

6. Clare told the Panel that the Coram’s ‘Adoptables’ groups worked with the Young Lives Foundation to arrange events and activities for children aged 12+ in Kent. The young people said the workshops were a good opportunity to learn, build confidence, make new friends and have fun.

 

7. Rebecca added that feedback from adoptive parents had emphasised the increased self-esteem and confidence their adopted children had gained from being part of the group, as well as help to overcome their feeling of being ‘different’ from friends and classmates. Rebecca added that the group’s drama productions had been a great success and had been very well received, and the young people involved said they had gained a sense of belonging by being in a group. Rebecca said the growing group had accomplished a lot since last visiting the Panel in November 2016 and had come a long way since being formed. The group hoped in future to create a ‘Young People’s’ page on the adoption website, continue to liaise with the Young Lives Foundation and make short experience films to help others. Clare added that the group were hoping to form other support groups for younger children in the future with a similar focus already described for the other groups. She hoped to come to the panel again in the future to tell them about these new groups.

 

8. Clare, Rebecca and Yashi thanked the Panel for allowing them to attend with the party of young people to tell the Panel about their work.

 

9. The visitors then responded to comments and questions from the Panel, as follows:-

 

a) One Panel Member thanked the young people for sharing their experiences so confidently and then shared a personal adoption experience with the Panel. He asked the young people how they thought adoption experiences differed based on age. A young person responded explaining that he was adopted as a baby but believed certain issues such as attachment to be very similar.

 

b) A Panel Member questioned whether there was a difference between private agency adoption and KCC. Yashi explained that there were no private adoption agencies in Kent; adoption was either by KCC or the voluntary sector. There were also services for those wishing to adopt from abroad and these were very highly regulated with many checks.

 

c) Mr Segurola asked the young people about adopted children being able to have contact with their siblings and if the County Council could do any more to help this. Rebecca said more could be done in terms of making arrangements for siblings to meet, every circumstance was different but most adopted young people would meet with their siblings at social events or meetings arranged by the adoptive parents. One of the young people told the Panel about a Christmas party event that was very important to her as she was able to meet with her adopted brother whom she was only able to see once a year.

 

d) A Panel Member praised the young people for their presentation and asked how the County Council could make a difference to the group’s work in raising school’s understanding of adoption issues. Clare said the post adoption team were very aware of this issue and was involved in a pilot scheme with schools and head teachers to address attachment issues and support adoptive parents in dealing with schools. Coram’s education schools toolkit had been rolled out to schools and was used in planning PHSE lessons. Rebecca followed on from Clare’s comments by saying that the workshop was a powerful and very different experience which was guided by the young people and its key aim was to make a change to their lives. The workshop had addressed adoption-related bullying, which needed stronger attention, and schools’ awareness of adopted children’s needs.

 

e) Yashi explained that attachment training was something that was very valued by schools and adopters and those adopters felt well supported by schools. The workshops, which had been run in conjunction with Virtual School Kent, focused on developing the education of the young people and allowing them to make new friends in a comfortable environment. There was much work currently starting including a pilot scheme to develop ‘educational champions’, in which 9 adopters would be trained as champions to work closely with schools, and the establishment of a mentoring group by adopters.

 

f) The Chairman made reference to a personal experience as a fosterer and said it was important to find the balance between awareness and information whilst making protecting the young person’s privacy.

 

10. The Chairman thanked the young people for attending once again to update the Panel on their experiences and the work they were doing to raise awareness of the issues faced by adopted children and young people.