‘Adoption is not a line in the sand’ - Shifting the focus of adoption this National Adoption Week

Adopted people who feature on the National Adoption Week film

The three One Adoption agencies are joining agencies across the country to highlight the importance of identity and relationships for people who have been adopted, during this year’s National Adoption Week.  
To mark the start of National Adoption Week (17 to 23 October), campaign organisers, You Can Adopt, have released a short film exploring the relationships and memories of four adopted people, as they look back through their own ‘memory boxes’ and keepsakes from their lives before and after they were adopted. These mementos have helped them understand their history and develop their sense of identity. The emotional film brings to life the connections that adopted people make and how their sense of identity has been formed through various relationships in their lives – including birth family members, foster carers, friends, and adoptive parents.

The film features the stories of three families; Tiegan who is joined by her birth farther, Emma who is joined by her adoptive mother and John and Nikkita who were adopted together – each adopted contributor is sharing items that they have (a letter from a birth parent, a blanket from a previous foster carer etc.) that have helped to shape their identity so far. The aim is to show adopted people’s lives as having various chapters, rather than pre and post being adopted and raise awareness of the importance of adopted people having knowledge of their whole life.

Tiegan, who speaks with her birth father about her memory box in the film, said:

"Finding out about my birth father when I was 18 was a really happy moment: knowing each other, even if it didn't come to anything, helped me understand where I stood in the world. I also found out my Dad kept a sonogram from my birth mother's pregnancy, which I now have and is so special to me. As an adopted person, you don’t expect to have baby photos, let alone a sonogram – I couldn’t believe it. To know he kept that is amazing, it shows my life is an ongoing journey.”

Tiegan, who met her birth dad two years ago, added: 

“I think it's important to be told you're adopted from the very beginning - my mums knew they weren't just adopting me, they were adopting my whole history and family as well. There are still struggles - you'll never get every piece of information. But there were four years of my life before I was adopted, and that’s still part of my story.”

Sarah Johal, member of the National Adoption Recruitment Steering Group and National Adoption Strategic lead, said:

"It's really important for adopted people to know about their own history, their family and where they come from.  Having continued relationships where that is safe and appropriate is ideal, but if not, it is important for adopted people to have information, stories and keepsakes as connections to their past. These can really help children as they get older develop a positive sense of identity and emotional well-being. 

“With this campaign we want to show that adoption is not a line in the sand, when adopted people close the door on all connections to their life, memories, and relationships from before they were adopted. For the person who is adopted, it is one life – and issues around identity and belonging can come to the fore, particularly if they are not able to have a face to face relationship. It is so important for each person to have the information and connections to their life before adoption. That’s why, during National Adoption Week, we’re urging people to find out more about what modern adoption looks like and shining a light on the ongoing journeys of those who have been adopted.”

Howard Lovelady, head of One Adoption North and Humber said: 

“One Adoption North and Humber is proud to support this year’s National Adoption Week. Children are at the heart of what we do and by raising awareness and understanding of the importance of identity and relationships for adopted people, how identity and belonging is shaped through a wide variety of relationships, including birth family and adoptive family, we can help support those relationships from an early stage.

“National Adoption Week is not only a chance to increase understanding of modern adoption by sharing perspectives and hearing the voices of those involved; it is also an opportunity to highlight adoption as an option for some of our most vulnerable children and support anyone considering adoption as a pathway to creating a family.” 

Stephanie Evans, head of One Adoption South Yorkshire said: 

“Here at One Adoption South Yorkshire we welcome the shift of focus for this year’s National Adoption Week. Children are at the heart of what we do, and what we do today to support their understanding of their own story and development of their sense of identity will be vital as they move into adulthood. 

“By raising awareness and understanding of the importance of identity and relationships for adopted people, and helping our adoptive parents nurture their children’s understanding of their whole story, we can help support those relationships from an early stage.”

Michelle Rawlings, head of agency at One Adoption West Yorkshire said: 

“At One Adoption West Yorkshire we believe in helping our adoptive families support their children to continually explore their own stories, to help build their sense of identity and belonging. By having open, honest conversations, using memory boxes and life-story books, children are supported to understand all the aspects of their lives which makes them who they are.

“We also have a dedicated Adoption Support Worker who is there to support adoptive families to build and maintain connections with people from their child’s life, such as birth relatives and foster carers, to help nurture their understanding and identity.” 

The You Can Adopt campaign also acknowledges that identity, especially for adopted people, can be a life-long journey and is always evolving. While not all adopted people will have keep sakes from their early life or the opportunity to stay connected with people from their life before they were adopted, modern adoption encourages access to a range of quality information. Meanwhile many adopters today make it a priority to help their children to understand and develop their identity. 

A new podcast from You Can Adopt, featuring presenter Ashley John Baptiste and adopted adult Jamal, will also be launched for National Adoption Week exploring the issues of identity, birth relatives, and the relationships developed along the adoption journey. A series of events will be taking place from 17th October to mark National Adoption Week.

To find out more about National Adoption Week or to seek information or support, visit: https://www.youcanadopt.co.uk/naw

Michelle Rawlings added: 
“If you feel you could offer a child a loving, safe and permanent home and support them to understand their life story and develop their sense of identity, we would love to hear from you. In West Yorkshire there are over 100 children who we are searching for families for. These are mainly children in groups of brothers and sisters, over 4 years old or are from Black and mixed heritage backgrounds. Please come along to our next online information event if you are interested in starting your own adoption journey.”