This month's PAC-UK guest blogger is our very own Emma Crowther-Duncan who is the Practice Manager for our Birth Parent Service in the North West.
PAC-UK’s First Family service in the North West is working with birth parents whose children have an adoption plan or have been adopted within the Adoption Counts, Adoption Now and Together for Adoption areas.
We are thrilled to be able to provide this much needed support to birth parents who are struggling with the loss of their child. We have had a really positive response since the service was commissioned in November 2019 and staff are working hard to reach as many birth parents as possible in creative ways by offering support, guidance and counselling to help them make sense of their experiences.
For many birth parents and relatives, the loss of a child to adoption is a pain only those who have experienced it can understand. It is vital for families to feel that they can express their story, to be able to talk about their loss in a nonjudgmental environment, to undertake therapeutic activities to help them feel connected to their child whilst giving families the tools to reflect and process their journey.
Many families also need practical support such as helping them establish what their letterbox arrangements are, and we work closely with letterbox teams so that birth parents know what their letterbox agreement is and support them emotionally through the letter writing process. Some families also ask for support to put together a letter to be placed on the child’s file should a child access their records later in life.
Our team are experienced in helping families work through their loss and understand the processes that take place around them. We are often working with families who are experiencing significant difficulties with their mental health and emotional wellbeing, addiction and domestic violence. We recognise the sometimes when people are experiencing difficulties it can be really hard to keep appointments with us, to feel able to leave the house and face going outside, or have the means to get to community centers to meets us. We understand the barriers that sometimes stop people from reaching out for support, but we will not give up on people and we are here to support families whenever they need us.
In a short space of time, we have made some really positive impact with our families and we have been overwhelmed with comments such as the following:
“I want to say working with adoption counselling has been good for me because it still feels like your part of your child’s life and you’re not just forgotten about as a birth parent. I think the service is great because once the decision is made in court that’s it a piece of paper tells you that on a certain date they will no longer be your child and that’s devastating for any parent but adoption counselling has helped me still feel part of my sons life and do activity with my other children to keep his memory of him going not that I would ever forget about him ever but I really made a positive out of a negative situation”
“Your service is important as you help women and men when they have lost a child to adoption and there is help when it is difficult and confusing time. You are there to talk, listen, give advice and help with letter box contact. This service means a lot as I have been looking for help for a long time and knowing that after lock down there will be a support group set up where I can meet others that have lost their child(ren) I feel a feeling of relief and will be able to move on with life without feeling guilty and can get proper advice and help I have been looking for. I am grateful to you for giving me hope.”
“It has been dead good. This service wasn’t available when I lost my other children. I couldn’t have got where I am without you. I have been able to tell you stuff I haven’t told anyone. I have got trust with you, I get on with you, you are nice to talk to. Your service should go on forever.”
Since 19 March 2020 we have been delivering our First Family Service remotely either over the phone or by video call. This step has been taken to protect our service users and our staff and ensure we follow all necessary guidelines set out by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team have embraced this change in working wonderfully, and we have had to get used to using technology in a very short space of time! For many birth parents, the support we can give is needed more than ever. We have had many birth parents worrying about their children in their adoptive placements during this pandemic, we have had also had families who are isolated and really value workers calling them to check in and see how they are coping.
We are also supporting those birth parents that were still having direct family time with their children who are now speaking to their children via their foster carers or via video call. This is a massive shift and uncertain time for all of us, and we are able to support parents with these new issues that have been created due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the best way we can.
Even though our workers and families miss face to face contact, we have still had some wonderful feedback from our birth parents:
“You are easy to talk to. It’s nice to have a different pair of ears that really listen. It can be difficult coz I don’t see many people. Really enjoyed the activities we have done, especially the salt jar. I prefer seeing you face to face but it’s still been nice to speak to you over the phone.”
“So my life’s been an absolute roller coaster and I’ve always said I’ve never wanted to have counselling because I struggle talking about the way I feel, but for the first time I decided it won’t hurt just to give it ago. Even though due to the current situation with COVID-19 I’ve only had one session it was so nice to engage with that first session. I didn’t feel anxious or nervous I enjoyed it very much and to know there is support from the first family service means a lot. You were very patient with me at the beginning as I cancelled a few times and I appreciate that very much. I feel like other people would benefit from this support and guidance as I know I have. Thank you.”
If any birth parents are reading this, please get in touch with us, and let’s look together at how we can support you. It can be really daunting making the first steps to talk about your child’s adoption, but we are patient and we are here just for you.
You can contact us by emailing email@example.com or by calling our free and confidential PAC-UK Advice Line on 0113 230 2100 - we will respond to your request as soon as possible. More information about our services for birth parents and relatives can be found at www.pac-uk.org/our-services/birth-parents
Please note, all content published on this page is provided by our guest blogger/s, based on their real-life experiences. We invite you to discuss this blog via PAC-UK's Twitter profile and ask you to tag @PACUKadoption in to your posts and use the hashtag #PacukBlog
This blog is the fifteenth of our monthly 'guest blogger' platform which we started in 2019. We would love to hear from adoptees, birth parents (and relatives), adoptive parents/carers, special guardians and professionals who are interested in taking part in future blogs. If this interests you please email firstname.lastname@example.org.