Today Amanda Boorman of The Open Nest gives her own overview of the #TakingCare conference and reflects on how adoption funding is currently being placed.
Thinking about this National Adoption Week 2014 has led me to think yet again about how funding is decided, gathered and put in place to support adoptees and their families. Anybody in the adoption community is likely to be aware of the media spotlight that has been shining on adoption for the last couple of years. Big announcements have been made by the Government of specific funds to promote adoption recruitment and in some areas to support those families who chose to adopt.
Not taking into account Government funding for adoption related research and diagnostic assessments into LA adoption policy and procedure, below are some of the figures available online:
£2 million to launch (and maintain over 3 years) The National Gateway to Adoption
£150 million Adoption Recruitment Grant
£16 million to voluntary agencies to increase recruitment
£1.5 million grant to launch three new adoption agencies
£19.3 million to launch pilots of the Adoption Support Fund
This alone is a huge total of £188.8 million. The focus is clearly on recruitment as the initial support pilot budget is clearly a relatively small chunk.
The results of this spotlight on recruitment are that adoption figures are up for the year ending March 2014. The total number of adoptions that took place were 5,050.
Being aware of the figures and having genuine concerns that recruitment of new families whilst not having support in place for existing families, was the motivation for us as a charity to hold a support conference that considered issues around #TakingCare. This was not just about taking care of ourselves as families but about adopted children and their parents being taken care of by practitioners and the State.
We decided to make our first conference affordable, accessible and user led. We wanted every speaker to be an adopter or adoptee and to encourage honesty and openness about the highs and lows of the adoption experience. We wanted attendees to genuinely feel taken care of in the venue and by us as an organisation.
We had 80 delegates including social workers and practitioners.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and proved that openness, information sharing, empathy and a non profit approach is what contributes to being and feeling taken care of.
The costs of the conference was as follows:
Venue and food: £25 per head. This was fully covered by the ticket price.
Information booklets and treats: £8 per delegate.Fundraising by the charity paid for this.
Speakers travel and accommodation expenses: £1500. Paid for by charity fundraising.
In total the conference cost approx £52 per delegate. This is a fraction of the cost of some training days and conferences and we are extremely happy and encouraged that attendees felt taken care of whilst they gained and gave support and inspiration:
“I really appreciated the luxurious setting after many years of plastic chairs and plastic cups”
“In terms of support, we feel better informed and more hopeful for the future”
“So useful to hear ideas from people who are living our lives and ‘get it'”
“An outstanding event. Full of useful information and REAL strategies for adopters”
“The day has been fantastically inspiring as a professional working in adoption support”
“I thought it was well organised and welcoming for such a good price!”
“An amazing and inspirational day”
“Informative, emotional and excellent”
“An agenda set by adopters for adopters. Very warm, welcoming, sharing and caring”
“Thank you for making me feel less alone”
“It has given us a boost and was worth using a child free day for”
“A really powerful, moving, incredibly useful day”
“All of the speakers were fantastic and the venue and lunch was brilliant”
“A great sense of peer support, I really hope this grows, evolves and develops”
“Above all the honesty is refreshing and I don’t feel like an outsider as I so often do in other places”
“I feel empowered with knowledge and support to continue. Also feeling great hope for a future with more understanding”
“Those who implement policies really need to hear these messages which have been done in a way that encourages collaboration and doesn’t apportion blame”
“Many comments helped me to feel less alone, less isolated and more widely understood”
“Powerful, moving, informative, nurturing, empowering, warming. What an inspirational day. Beautifully presented”
Many of those present also gave feedback via Twitter using our hashtag #TakingCare
“As prospective adopters @TheOpeNest conference made us grateful for adoptive heroes quietly living epic lives. Thank you!”
“Thanks for a reaffirming day”
“@TheOpenNest et al. So many thanks for a fantastic conference. Inspiring. Refreshing.Superb”
“#takingcare conference was the friendliest! most honest and practical adoption event I’ve ever attended. Thank you”
During the conference we provided an ‘Open Space’ session where guests could highlight issues they felt most relevant to them. Feedback told us that more time to discuss and share this information would have been welcomed and we have taken that advice for future events. The most common themes were as follows:
Fear of asking for support as current culture apportions blame to parents.
Lack of professional adoption expertise by social workers and teachers.
Lack of effective crisis response.
Support to parent therapeutically.
Meaningful preparation for adoption.
Child to parent violence.
Lack of support around life story work and birth family contact.
Support to adoptees post 18.
In conclusion we felt that the day was a resounding success because it was a forum for sharing information, honesty and empathy with no hidden recruitment agenda or need for agency/personal profit. The atmosphere felt like one of inclusion and community rather than an us and them, expert versus parent vibe that unfortunately exists aplenty in the adoption support arena.
On that note I would like to share a poem written by a guest whilst attending. He kindly read this out as a fitting end to the day:
The Open Nest Conference: My Take
I know that my parenting skills are not perfect
I know that I oft get it wrong
The shouting, the fighting, the stress and the fear
I just want to sing the right song.
Where is my empathy, my love and compassion?
Where is my therapeutic care?
Why am I angry so much of the time?
Why do I fall to despair?
My child is not bad or a force of great evil
It’s not their fault they can’t cope
They did not create the environment they grew in
That meant that they lived without hope.
The trauma they developed is not my fault either
I did not make their life hell
Why am I made to feel so responsible now?
No one listens, there’s no one to tell.
But still we keep going, the strength comes from somewhere
We love them despite all the pain
For we know in the end there’s a reason we do it
Our child is the one who will gain
To add your voice to the many asking MP Edward Timpson to prioritise funding for post adoption support sign this Petition HERE
Here are links to other posts written about The open Nest Conference #TakingCare