After months of lockdown and a few postponed Adoption Activity Days (AADs), we were delighted to run our first socially-distanced AAD at the Coram Campus on 30 July.
With delays affecting every stage of the adoption system, the important work of family finding must continue. For many children attending an AAD, other family finding methods have so far proved unsuccessful and the event is often their last chance to be matched.
Logistically, this event needed a whole new way of working. In line with Government guidance, we ran a smaller event, adhering to social distancing measures and prioritising good hygiene. While our usual events are capped at 30 children attending and around 15-20 adopter households, 15 children attended this event and were allocated to one of two separate social bubbles relating to their ages. We had our first cohort of children at our Collingham Gardens site, while our second cohort of children were in the Coram courtyard, meaning all children were able to play outside.
A further 14 children were “virtually profiled”, as part of a new service to meet the needs of those children who could not secure a place or where foster carers and children are still shielding.
Adopters (13 households) arrived for one of two briefings and then had the opportunity to visit both areas during the afternoon, meeting and interacting with the children safely and discussing the child’s needs with their foster carers and social workers.
Traditionally, events have taken place on Saturdays and during term time, but this year is different. So our new timetable includes weekdays, weekends and school holidays as we try to be flexible and make up for lost time.
In pre-pandemic times, events had the luxury of time to help nurture those all-important connections between children and adopters. This time though, safety was our main priority. There were individual craft packs for children, pre-prepared party bags, wipe-able toys, regular cleaning and sealed refreshments. We had a wonderful entertainer and still managed to create a party atmosphere.
It was an emotional day for so many people. Coram staff were so keen to re-commence this important family finding service to foster carers and adopters who were venturing to London (with some adopters even travelling from as far as Liverpool) for the first time since the pandemic. They were determined to push ahead with their family finding efforts for the children and for themselves.
Social workers were visibly pleased to be out and about, meeting colleagues and discussing their virtual working experiences and supporting carers and adopters face to face. Thanks are also due to our Coram colleagues and relatives of staff who joined us to show support and to help on the day.
Catching up with one social worker, it was clear that due to lockdown, the AAD team had not received all the outcomes from past events. But we were delighted to learn of Adi from our Hillingdon colleague who, at the age of 2, has just moved to live with his new family. Viewing the recent film footage of the virtual introductions was so affirming of the benefits of AADs for children who wait so long. Adi attended our targeted BAME event in London last October and met his new family from the Midlands who match his ethnicity. Dedicated family finding worked for Adi after he attended four AADs, which is rare in itself. Having first met him as a baby, it is wonderful to see Adi begin his new family life when he could so easily have remained in the care system.
After the event, the overwhelming feedback from adopters was a sense of relief that their journey to become parents could resume meaningfully. Many adopters are great advocates of this form of family finding and were clearly both pleased and grateful that Coram had managed to re-convene AADs so quickly and safely.
As a team who have worked so hard to adjust and adapt to a new way of working, we were very aware that providing a safely managed event would be crucial to those attending and to those still cautious about attending the forthcoming events. The positive feedback since the event has been amazing:
|“I wanted to follow up on today’s activity day and firstly say thank you so much, I thought it was absolutely brilliant” (Adopter)||“Our main concern was the safety of the event in relation to Covid, it was an amazing achievement to pull this event together so soon and so well organised, we felt very safe” (Foster carer)|
|“I was so worried that these days would not come back, I am so passionate about these days. With our son, we had previously read 70 plus pages about him, we were drawn to him but advised to not consider further as he had many challenges that we may not be able to meet. We came to an AAD and he was there (we didn’t know that at the time!) and that was it. We connected on the day and we have AADs to thank for that. I will do whatever I can to keep these events going, they are so important” (Ivo, Adopter)|
One returning adopter spoke on arrival so movingly about what it meant to be returning to the events to find a brother for their adopted son, now 8, whom they had met at a previous AAD.
The AAD team has facilitated over 500 of these Family Finding events since their inception. In the past, we have had to adapt to a shortage of children available for adoption, to being oversubscribed with adopters (true!) and then to managing the more recent shortage of adopters. Overseeing our first event after lockdown was challenging but so rewarding. We are confident and prepared to adapt to whatever situations arise to push for the best outcomes for children.Despite the social distancing, 13 expressions of interest were received on the day and more are in the inbox to progress. If our usual matching rate resumes, then five children will be permanently matched over the next few months.
For more information about Adoption Activity Days, including upcoming events, check out the team’s website.