17 October, 2022
This National Adoption Week (2022) and throughout season two of the Podcast, the National Adoption Service for Wales is highlighting the vital relationships between adoptees, and their families and connections.
Having a support network of people helps a child feel loved, develop a strong sense of identity, and maintain healthy relationships in the future.
Foster families play a critical role in supporting children through major transitions including into new adoptive families. Maintaining a relationship long into the future can be an amazing opportunity for a child to stay connected with their early life experiences. Moving on from foster care into adoption is a key milestone but it doesn’t have to mean a forever goodbye.
We spoke to two families who adopted with Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Adoption Collaborative who have stayed in touch with their children’s foster carers.
Rachel and her husband adopted their daughter in 2008 and still maintain a strong relationship with her foster family. Now foster carers themselves, they feel passionately about the importance of staying connected.
“When we adopted my daughter, Nicola, our daughters foster carer and Nicola’s birth sons were always really warm and friendly. They did everything they could to make it go well however, we were told, back in those days, that you didn’t keep in touch with the foster family and that it was a complete and utter split, which we now know is actually the worst thing possible.
My daughter really missed them so at the first opportunity I got in touch and asked whether we could go and see them, and they welcomed us with opened arms. If the boys know that we’re going round, they make an effort to finish work early. In the past, if they were out with friends, they’d come back. My daughter would always call them her foster brothers. And they are like brothers to her. If they see us out, they’ll always stop and chat, give her cwtches. They were really good to her, very encouraging of her and really accepting of her diagnosis of FASD; they’ve always accepted her for who she is.
We’ve decided now that they are part of our family. They are massively important to us and are very much engrained as part of our life. A massive part of our life.”
When Siân and her partner adopted their children, they were determined to maintain contact with their foster family. Siân feels strongly that their relationship is hugely important to her children’s identity and life story.
“When they came to live here, my daughter was three and my son was just turning two. I think my daughter remembers more about being with her foster family.
Our children were with their foster carers for 18 months and their foster carers had a daughter who was 18 when our children moved in. My daughter especially absolutely loved her. She graduated in the summer, and we had photos from her, and the children absolutely love seeing her. She’s really lovely with them, she plays with them in the park, gets them an ice cream. She genuinely loves seeing them, I think. We still meet them once a year and we send photos all the time.
It’s really important to keep in touch, there’s a lot of loss in adoption and those relationships are one of the things that they don’t have to lose. My daughter has had a lot of questions in the past about what has happened to her, and her foster family have been really helpful in answering those. They know the story of those early days; they lived it with our children, and they can talk to them in the future about their birth families.
It’s all about acknowledging and recognising our children’s story. Adoption is a lifelong journey and they’re in it forever so it’s about having support to help them through the challenging and difficult bits as well as the lovely bits. Relationship trauma can be repaired by having really positive relationships and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Cassidy’s family fosters in the Vale of Glamorgan. At twenty-seven-years-old she has become an incredibly important support to the children her parents foster.
“I am fully on board for the journey. I know that I have been able to be there for the young people in a way that sometimes my parents can’t be. As a young person, I’m someone who can relate to their youth experiences from a similar age. I’ve learned patience and understanding and not everything happens with the click of the fingers.
Being part of a foster family has taught me that it doesn’t matter your background or what walk of life you come from, everyone deserves that chance and that opportunity. Everyone needs someone and it’s really important for people to feel like they have a safe place and somewhere that they can be accepted to be themselves. Seeing that willingness to help and support others has definitely made me think that I could do it and that I would want to do it.”
These stories are just a small portion of the people who responded to take part in this article. From the response we received we can see that many people, over many years, have informally or formally kept in contact with each other and have formed positive, life-long connections which have created an inclusive and expansive family for children who are adopted.
Modern adoption practice in the UK is becoming more and more aware of the positive impact ongoing contact in-person and/or through letterbox / digital contact can have and as a service we clearly promote contact where safe and viable to do so, with both foster carers and birth family. Foster carers also hold a wealth of information about a child’s early years and this can be an amazing resource of knowledge for their adoptive family.
We appreciate prospective parents often approach the topic of contact with trepidation, but we would encourage prospective parents to ask questions and learn more with an open mindset to help themselves comprehend the importance of these ongoing relationships for their child(ren).
Ultimately a care-experienced child is loved by multiple people. The more this can be demonstrated through ongoing, real-life relationships, the more positive outcomes we’ll continue to see for children / young adults as they embrace their life-story and connections.
There’s currently a lack of information online about the importance of staying connected with foster family specifically, however, below are some resources about the importance of ongoing contact for a child:
- . Two Good Mums Podcast: First (birth) mother, Laura and adoptive mother, Peggy talk about how they built a relationship after Peggy adopted Laura’s children. They highlight the positive impact this had for them and their children: Podcast | Two Good Mums
- . Four Thought: Mum… Again: Angela highlights the trauma of losing contact with her birth children and what can be done to encourage ongoing contact: Four Thought, Mum... again
- . All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung: This book highlights the importance of adoptive parents being proactive in finding out more about their adopted child’s birth family and sharing this with the child.
- . Split Up in Care: Life Without Siblings: Ashley John-Baptiste, BBC Reporter and Presenter grew up in foster care. Ashley believed he was an only child until one day, in his mid-20’s, a man reached out to him via social media and shared that he was his brother. In this documentary Ashley shares his own story and interweaves the voices of care-experienced children, young people, and adults alongside social workers and foster parents: Split Up in Care: Life without Siblings
- . Our Lives: Searching for My Other Mam: In 2022, nearly fifty years after his adoption, Gerallt started the search to find his birth parents and the black heritage he’s never known. This documentary highlights the importance of belonging, finding identity, and the importance of cultural heritage: Our Lives - Series 6: Searching for My Other Mam
- . Our Lives: Finding my Family: Filmed over three years, this documentary highlights the journey that Leah, an adopted person goes on to find her birth family: Our Lives - Series 5: Finding My Family
We have a full time, in-house team dedicated to adoption support, letterbox and life-story work and we also have a birth parent advisor in our team who supports birth family to connect / re-connect with their children.
To find out more about direct and indirect contact through our agency visit our website: Contact (adopt4vvc.org)
If you are an adopted person, adoptive family, birth family or foster carer and you would like to connect or re-connect or would like support about life-story then please contact our adoption support / letterbox / Life-story team: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0800 023 4064. It’s never too late to form or re-build a relationship.
If you are a Foster Carer, you can also access support and advice from Foster Wales.