Ever since Duckling and Gosling have been in the care of the local authority their social worker has explained to them that her job is to ‘find a special family for them to live with’. On the day she told them she had found an ‘extra special family with two daddies’ to be their forever family, she also gave them a bag of goodies that we’d given her at matching panel. In the bag was a book and cuddly toy for each of the children, an audio book of the Gruffalo, and a DVD. What was special about these items was that we had made them ourselves (not the cuddly toys).
The introduction book aims to let the children know about who we are and where they are going to live when they move in with us. Each page had a large picture with a description of the room it was showing. We had great fun putting the cuddly toys into each of the pictures – my favourite is the one of the two of them playing the piano. We also made sure the children’s favourite things were on show. In one picture the rabbit was drawing a princess crown with some glitter spread all over the place, in another there was a huge bowl of fruit that the cuddly toys were tucking into. We did our books in Photoshop and then sent the files to a local copy shop who printed and bound them for us. We also got a spare copy in case they got ruined with the kids looking through them.
The cuddly toys were a rabbit and a dinosaur which we’d been told by the foster carer were the children’s favourites. Being able to actually hold the cuddlies whilst they are reading the books is supposed to help the children understand that the pictures they were seeing were real.
We had also asked the foster carer what the children’s favourite book was. I could have probably guessed as it was the Gruffalo. So Tom and I set up a mini recording studio and read the story with us doing all the voices and narration. Tom then did a bit of editing and added some music at the start and end. It was really easy to do and we were really pleased with the outcome. Thankfully, both kids loved it and we listened to it at both the foster carer’s house and in the car when we were driving with them during introductions. I have to give a huge shout out to Suddenly Mummy who shared this idea on The Adoption Social.
The DVD was a physical embodiment of the book and we hated making it. Tom and I both work in the arts and I think people expected great things from our DVD. However, we both work ‘behind the screen’ as it were and the thought of being on camera made us feel sick. We duly filmed ourselves in each room and Tom did a great job of using some great music and every style of edit in iMovie to make the film more exciting. The end result looked like a cheap and not very interesting edition of Location, Location, Location. As soon as we’d burned a copy and were on our way to the panel I had loads of ideas of how to improve it – songs, costumes, or more interaction with the toys and rooms - but by then it was too late.
We were told by the children’s foster carer that the children loved the toys, books and even the DVD. But the audio book went down an absolute storm and it has become a firm favourite in our house and car ever since.
We were really pleased with the introductory items we created for the children and I think they really helped in the early days of introductions. In fact reading the book together made for an easy way to chat to them and listening to the audio book was lovely when we all snuggled up together for bedtime.
If you’re making a book, DVD or anything else the best advice I can offer is to be yourselves and try to enjoy the process. The more you can show who you are it will really help the children make sense of what’s happening.
I'd love to hear what else people have done...
This morning I had coffee with six mums (I’m getting used to being the only dad around) who all have adopted children at Ducking’s school. It was all very jovial as we swapped stories about our kids and what we had planned for the weekend. But there was another reason for this meeting of adoptive parents and it turns out to be rather revolutionary.
On Duckling’s first morning I was introduced to Caroline who had adopted her daughter four months before us. Somehow she had managed to meet lots of other adoptive parents at the school and hearing how hard they had to work to get things done she decided we should all get together to support each other and get what we needed for our children. We worked out that 1 in 46 children at the school are adopted - I have no idea of the national average but 2.1% of the school cohort feels like a big enough group to have a voice. Particularly when that group brings in over £17,000 a year to the school budget.
As a relatively new parent, I have yet to encounter the heights of bureaucracy that have to be scaled in order to receive the support and help that is often needed by adopted children – whether it’s the Adoption Support Fund, Pupil Premium Plus, or just getting the SENCO to respond to an email, it seems as though a fight is often required. And a fight with the support of six other parents is always going to be easier.
So in-between cups of coffee, the odd biscuit, and the obligatory swapping of stories, we came up with an action plan. An action plan that included aiding the school in developing attachment awareness for staff, transparency about how the Pupil Premium is being spent, and the hope that the SENCO respond to all communications. We all agreed the last one on that list would probably be the one to fail at our school.
Most of us had only met this morning but we left with hugs and a flurry of WhatsApp messages, along with a sense that something might get done to make our children’s lives a little bit easier. And, just as importantly, we would now have someone to call upon when things go wrong, who knows exactly what we’re going through.
As a side note, I got called into to see Duckling’s class teacher, Ms Miller, at the end of the day. I felt sick about what I was going to find out. I was relieved to be told that Ducking had got very emotional during the day, which culminated in crying, running away and hiding, and it had taken Ms Miller a good while to soothe and calm her. Everything was OK but she wanted me to know and to ask if there was anything else she could to help. I could have wept with gratitude as I know that she’s listened to what I’ve told her about Duckling’s past and will do everything in her power to support us. We really are so lucky with school. Long may it continue.
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...