These days it is a year ago that We are Family saw the light of day.
We were a few parents who met on the grass in our local park with our young ones. Every week, or trying to. A year on and our local group now count 55+ families. If our members choose to we can meet once or twice a week – with or without our children. And we can stay in touch in between via the Interweb.
The last six months has seen a real growth spurt: we now run four local groups in and around London; and there are more in the pipeline. All four existing groups offer playgroups and social gatherings. Presently, the Hackney/Islington group is only one offering a Parent Support Group.
In total approximately 140 WAF families use our services as much or as little as they wish. We are still a very diverse bunch of young and older, reflecting the community in which we live and that our children will grow up. While the majority of our members are families, we are welcoming an increasing number of prospective adopters.
In north London, we continue to have a good working relationship with the North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium (NLAFC). Since the beginning of the New Year we have been meeting regularly, and we have now settled on meeting quarterly. We have established a dedicated working group consisting of two social workers and two adoptive parents, though other SWs or parents may join our meetings as and when necessary. This group has been set up in recognition that we cannot do our work efficiently on our own. So far we have found this arrangement very worthwhile. And it is definitely a two-way thing.
Current collaboration in the WAF/NLAFC working group focus on a number of issues in Post Adoption Support (PAS), mainly recruitment and training. The recruiting part is straight-forward: The SWs help spread the word, so that new families can join us. The training bit is more complicated and multifaceted. We parents bring up the kind of training we would like to see and discuss how to focus existing support evenings (as SW are present these evening have a different flavour to our Parent Support Evening). Like all London Adoption Consortia, NLAFC covers a large area, too large for all their adoptive families regularly to make it to our local meetings, therefore this working group are now considering where to set up further WAF groups. We have been speaking with adopters and SWs in another NLAFC local authority (LA) to further this idea. In the autumn we will visit and speak at more LAs.
One major result that has come from this WAF/NLAFC working group is that NLAFC has opened their training to all WAF members in their area, whether or not they adopted through one of their LAs. September will see our first collaboration on training as we have scheduled a workshop on quotidian therapeutic parenting with Sally Donovan. An event we are particularly excited by the prospect of!
Moreover two of our parents are now training for adoption parenting course, Adoption Changes. The aim is for them to deliver training along side the SWs.
In May, two of our mothers spoke at the newly formed London Adoption Showcase at Somerset House. The response and support from floor, including existing partners was very encouraging. This meeting lead to new collaborations and new ventures – more on that another time, suffice to say that we are hoping to replicate WAF/NLAFC in other London consortia, as we are very interested in working on this level. In fact, this month we have been to speak with the South London Adoption Consortium and the East London Adoption Consortium. Both are keen to support us and similar initiatives.
Recently, we have started the process of becoming a charity. To this end we have formed We are Family HQ, which has members from existing groups. First move is getting a constitution. Truth be told we are a bunch of enthusiastic parents. So this part of the learning curve is extra steep! It is clear that we need to think realistically about how best to grow, so we remain in close contact with our members and their wishes.
Once again, we would like to stress that we are not in competition to PAS offered by other institutions and organisations; we just feel there could be much more peer-to-peer and user-led PAS in London, as indeed all over the UK. Too many adopters are still much too lonely on this life-changing path that is adoptive parenting.
We are celebrating our first anniversary with a big summer picnic for all our members.
Thank you to all our families. For being there. For being part of this.
And thank you to all of you out there, who have helped and talked and tweeted with us over the past year. It is more appreciated than we could ever express, and it’s been our absolutely pleasure!