A project that brings together young adopted people to share their experiences is finding that anxiety and feelings of isolation are reduced while participants’ self-esteem grows. Jackie Cosh reports
Being adopted can be an isolating experience. No matter how wonderful a child’s adopted family, most placed children report feeling different and struggle with issues of identity.
To help adopted children come to terms with these feelings, the charity After Adoption started a project called TALKadoption, a series of workshops for children and young people to explore their feelings.
TALKadoption is a three-year project run by the adoption charity After Adoption with groups running in London and Wales.
The aim is to support young adopted people, and let them mix with others who have been placed in order to reduce anxiety and feelings of isolation and low self-esteem; and to give a voice to young people affected by adoption.
The groups meet weekly and are led by a social worker who encourages the participants to discuss feelings through group sessions, workshops and activities, such as climbing, digital media and music.
Christy Creighton, 14, from London (pictured), took part in one of the first TALKadoption groups earlier this year. Here he talks about the help TALKadoption has given him.
I was adopted when I was nine months old and am in a closed adoption so I don’t have any contact with my birth parents. My mum picked up a flyer about the TALKadoption groups and asked whether I was interested in going. I was already interested in becoming involved in After Adoption and thought this would be a good way to do it. I’m interested in the care system and how it operates in this country and, if change is to happen, I want to be part of it.
I went to the group about once a week for six weeks. There were four of us – all boys. When I walked in the first time I spotted a boy I recognised from school and also my friend’s little brother. These were boys who, until then, I didn’t even know were adopted. It was the weirdest experience. It was also funny because it is not often that you see others who you know are adopted.
Even though it was obvious we were all going because we were adopted there was no pressure to talk about it. We talked about it a bit but not loads and we didn’t focus on it.
A couple of times Julie (the practice manager) brought up topics to allow us to open up. I was pretty open but one of the younger boys wasn’t. But that was ok because one of the best things about the group is that you don’t have to talk about adoption if you don’t want to.
In each session we would cover a specific theme like loss of family or personal identity. We would all sit in a circle and talk about the day’s topic and about different related scenarios that Julie suggested.
We would then do fun activities. For the identity topic we drew round each other and we did a bit of art and a bit of drama. It was mostly for the younger kids. Another time we were given set questions for everyone to answer and we would then compare how we saw things differently. It was stuff like: ‘If you could save one thing in a burning fire what would it be?’
Doing it this way meant we could talk about adoption if we wanted but we didn’t have to.
It definitely helped me, not so much in talking about adoption but in getting more involved in After Adoption and feeling I could help change things about the process. I’ve since taken part in an interview panel for people who want to work for After Adoption. I gave After Adoption an overview of what I thought of them.
I still see some of the other boys. We don’t really talk about it but I do think that they were helped. The boy who I said wasn’t so open and who was quiet has now slowly started coming out of his shell.
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Title Guide to Life Story Work
Author Pat McMullan, independent social worker and trainer
Author Jonathan Pearce, director, Adoption UK
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