This year, National Adoption Week is encouraging more people to find out about modern adoption and the importance of identity and connections for adopted people.

As part of the week, we wanted to share some of the work we do to support our adopted children and young people at ARC Adoption, with exploring thoughts and feelings related to adoption.

We caught up with Caroline and Lauren, who work in ARC Adoption’s Therapeutic Adoption Support Service to find out more about our ‘Children and Young People’s Group.’

A safe and fun space to talk about adoption

Introducing the Children and Young People's Group, Lauren explains:

“For some children, adoption isn’t an easy topic to talk about, so we set up the Children and Young People’s Group so that there was a supportive space for children to come together and talk about adoption with others who have it in common and can relate. Even within the same household, one sibling can be more open than another, in talking about adoption and their feelings related to it – so this group provides an open and comfortable environment that they can join to explore and share those feelings.”

The group meets once a month on a weekend to explore a range of topics such as; feelings associated with being adopted, talking to friends about adoption, foster families and how different families look. They also have lots of fun!

The ages of the children attending range from seven to 13, so it’s quite a mix. The team felt the group could and should be open to a variety of ages, but that seven was probably the right age to start in line with emotional development, and ability to understand what the group was about. Caroline and Lauren have found it interesting how the children interact and bounce off each other.

Caroline explains: “For one of the older children in the group it’s been noticed by her parents, teachers and ourselves how she allows her younger self to come out during the group – whereas in other environments she acts much older. She lets go, and allows herself to have fun and join in with games, which is lovely to see.”

During the sessions, Caroline and Lauren also set up an area of the room with a tent and sensory activities, so that if any of the children need to take a little break they can head to that quiet area. This has been used a few times by some of the younger members of the group.

Caroline adds: “We respect the fact that the children are at different stages, with different thoughts and feelings - some more comfortable discussing certain things than others. At the beginning of our sessions, we go through a visual timetable of what the session plan looks like. We also go through the group rules, let everyone know where our safe space is, and remind everyone how we are all linked and connected by adoption.”

Group discussion related to adoption is combined with physical activities throughout, and followed by a calming session to finish, such as children’s yoga.  All activities aim to support the children in growing friendships, building trust and developing useful social skills.

Caroline said: “I am always very impressed and admire how well the children respect each other’s opinions. How they understand they may have different likes, dislikes and opinions, but that they are all valid and allowed in the group.”

Social events

The core sessions have been interspersed with social events too, planned during school holiday times, where the children can come together just to have fun each other. This year the children have enjoyed trampolining, having pizza together and paddle boarding!

The group come up with ideas together of what they would like to do for a fun social activity and then they vote to make a fair and final selection.

Growing confidence

On asking what the most valuable things have been about setting up the children’s group, Caroline said:

“Seeing the children’s confidence blossom. In the first session they were very shy, and took a lot of encouraging to get involved with certain topics and conversations. Now the children share a lot more, share feelings and experiences which helps them feel a sense of connection with the others, and know they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings. Sharing the fact that they are special and adopted with others who can relate is really valuable.”

Lauren added: “It has been amazing to see the individual progress that each child has made ranging from building the confidence to talk about adoption, to simply building up social skills in a supportive environment. All the children have contributed during each group session and have built up the courage to share whatever they feel comfortable sharing. We celebrate every child’s achievement, and at the end of year, we are holding a celebration event where all progress is celebrated no matter how big or small it is!”

Family feedback

At an end of year celebration of the Children and Young People's Group, both parents and children were invited to provide feedback relating to the sessions. Below is some of the feedback received from the parents: 

"It has been a treat for us. As a family, after each session, our daughter felt more affectionate, calmer and talkative. Acting as a 'big sister' in the sessions is a positive feeling for her."

"Our son is able to freely talk about being adopted and what that means, as well as understanding that he had a life before our family. It has given him the foundations to ask questions and feedback around the process, and also who his biological Mam is."

"It has helped her to see and speak to other adopted children and share thoughts and feelings." 

We also had feedback from the children about what they liked most about the group:

"Talking about adoption and learning about it, doing activities and play."

"The activities in the sea and the fact that I can make more friends outside of school."

"Making friends, doing activities, having treats."

Future plans

Both Caroline and Lauren are excited to see the Children’s Group grow and evolve, as new children and young people join it. It is hoped that the group will provide an ongoing, social network of friends, who have a special connection and shared understanding – with lots more social events to plan! They also feel that it’s important for the group to be child or young person-led, and grow with the emerging needs of those participating. Lauren said:

“The efforts made by the children have really made the group a success this year and we are really looking forward to seeing where it goes next. We are also grateful to the parents in wanting to support their children to feel comfortable talking about adoption and what comes with it, and encouraging them to attend the groups. We appreciate this can be tricky, however being open about their life story so far and celebrating adoption is key, so thank you!”

It is also hoped in time, that the young people involved in the group can provide more valuable feedback to our team at ARC Adoption, as part of focus groups, which can inform, influence and improve our work that we do in the field of adoption. It is so important that we provide the children with the opportunity to feed back their thoughts and experiences. 

If you are an ARC adopter and would like to find out more about our Children and Young People's Group, please contact us here. If you are a prospective adopter interested in how we support our children and families in other ways, please click here