Today we bring you an interview with Helen Costa, co-founder of new adoption initiative, The Cornerstone Partnership.
Helen became an adoptive mum five years ago and has two children through adoption Clare Brasier, the other founder, is also an adoptive mum, with one child. They met through their local authority, brought together by their social worker.
Prior to becoming a mum, Helen had worked for twelve years in the Public Sector including working for the Mayor of London’s office, she also currently runs a children’s fashion brand, Little Punk London.
Helen told me that the idea for the Cornerstone Partnership was born from a great interest in, and some input she had, into policy change around adoption.
Her involvement with the Department for Education included feeding in ideas ”on what adopters need” and from this work, The Cornerstone initiative grew.
Herself and Clare formalised a plan and applied for funding, which they received a successful confirmation of at the end of December last year. At the beginning of January, this year, they were finally able to set up office and begin work on the initiative.
The pilot for their work is taking place in Berkshire and work has already begun on setting up a buddy system.
This system aims to partner experience adopters with new prospective adopters, the practised adopters will then guide and support their “buddy” through the adoption process and into the early stages of adoption.
I asked Helen how they had recruited the willing adoption buddies?
The majority of the experienced adopters had already been known to the local agency, working with them on preparation courses and information evenings. Those that volunteered and where unknown to the agency, were interviewed and there suitability assessed on the grounds of their experience, where they were in their own journey and their emotional stability and therefore their ability to maintain support over the required period.
I suggested the reason we had not had much response from our on-line community for questions to ask in the interview, was that the scheme did not seem beneficial to existing adopters. This is despite the press release seeming to suggest that support would be across the board, quoting, MP Edward Timpson ‘this innovative programme will support adoptive families – from those who have been adopting for years to those at the beginning of the journey – every step of the way.’
Helen set the record straight immediately stating this observation is correct. The scheme is not for existing adopters, is to help new adopters through the system and during the early days of having a child or children placed. Helen recognised that “it’s a massive shock to your system in your first year”
She went on to explain that the there are three main aims on the Cornerstone Partnership.
Firstly to reduce the waiting time that harder to place children often face before a family is found. The Partnership will actively seek and work with prospective adopters to find a good match for these children.
Secondly, the already mentioned buddy or mentoring scheme.
Thirdly to train prospective adopters, post assessment and pre-placement, to prepare them for becoming a family. Clinical Psychologist, Kim Golding has devised a three day course, based on the DDP approach called “Beginning Attachment”.
From this three pronged approach, Cornerstone aim to offer adopters approximately two years of support.
The pilot is funded for 15 monthly and during that time the National Children’s Bureau will evaluate its progress. During this time and based on out comes, a plan to expand the initiative will be developed.
I finally posed the thought to Helen that sceptics may see this as another cost cutting exercise for local authorities by recruiting adopters to do the job of social workers.
In response Helen said “This isn’t something that LA’s can do and it does exist yet, not formally”(referring to the buddy scheme).
She finished by saying “It’s adding not replacing and with huge benefit to the end user”.