We Are Family started on the grass in a local park in the summer of 2013, about a year after our son had moved in.
It was borne of a strong need to be with other adopters and their children, and frankly also out of a sense of disbelieve that after such ongoing intense scrutiny of our private lives if not parts, the flurry of social workers and other officials just seemed to vanish soon after placement.
There was no two ways about it: A traumatised child, who had not asked for any of this, had been placed with us. A child with a complicated background and at least one other set of parents.
However happy we might have been, he was in shock. The early days was the time when I really needed a network, or just someone to talk to.
Instead I was stuck at home with a toddler who was also a stranger, and completely out of sync with parents of children the same age.
I was astounded that there wasn’t really much post-adoption support to be found.
Where was that village that was going to help me raise my son??
Actually my exact thoughts when the gap in the post-adoption provision dawned on me was ‘You’ve got to be kidding me… after all this you hand us a traumatised kid and then you disappear?!’
I am well aware that some people think that adoption is a happy ending of years of trauma… Forever families, love is all you need and all that jazz. Well, let me state this for the record and as a main reason for starting We Are Family:
Placement is just another beginning.
So after attending some training offered by our local adoption consortium and with the encouragement of other adopters, I just got started along with a few other kindred spirits. Building the village from scratch, every Friday afternoon in the local park. Sometimes no one came, but other times we were 25 parents with our children. And it grew from there.
A friend in Southwark who had adopted around the same time as us had started coffee mornings for local adopters in her area, borne out of the same need and disbelieve. A few months later another group was born in Richmond. We got together to support each other and started calling ourselves We Are Family or WAF for short. We all soon met more adopters who felt the same, and soon we were many parents doing something for WAF on a very regular basis.
Then, people from other parts of London started contacting us to hear if there was a group in their area, and if the answer was no and some of them decided to get going themselves with our support.
In other words there are only groups in areas where parents have been and are proactive. In the NLAC area alone there are currently two WAF groups: One for Hackney/Islington and one for Enfield.
At the time of writing this WAF now consists of ten groups, mainly in London, each with their own head and steering group of volunteers. We count over 700 families. We believe in meeting regularly and informally. Face-to-face. We carry a strong belief in the comfort of knowing that when you open your front door and step outside you are not alone. And you will have somewhere to turn when you need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to share a success story with or just to rant.
WAF is unashamedly parent-focussed. It is in essence about meeting others in the same boat, and we aim to do this as low key as possible. With a thermos and a muddy ball under your arm if that’s what it takes.
As we have grown it is interesting that so have the expectations of WAF. It may be timely to remind everyone and ourselves that we are ‘only’ parents or parents in waiting, who feel passionately about adoption support for all families. WAFers do what we can – in our spare time – on a shoestring. If you think our charity status has offered us a certain standing and corporate responsibility, please lower your expectations a tad to meet us at eye height. We are not councillors, we never give advice, we don’t mentor, and we don’t have any quick fixes for any of the hard stuff that happens to so many of us on a daily basis, but we are happy to share information and our own experiences.
We are very passionate about you adopters getting to know about the training and other useful stuff out there, especially if it is good, free or low cost. We are all grown ups, who can make judgements about who we want to hang with. WAF just provides opportunities. In practical terms that means that WAF offers parent groups, playgroups, family meet ups and other socials across London. Most of our groups met monthly, if not every other week, or in some cases weekly. These events are all run by our small fleet of volunteer adopters or prospective adopters, who we welcome from stage 2 onwards.
In the beginning many of us had younger children, and our events seemed to cater mostly for families with primary school-aged children. We now have an increasing number of kids in secondary school, and so there is now mounting pressure to host a group for parents of teenage kids.
Critical to WAF is a non-judgemental atmosphere as some of our parent groups often have their fair share of heavy stories.
Essentially it’s all about people who just ‘get it.’ People to whom there is no need to explain about trauma, loss and the other baggage that comes with adoption.
WAF has regular contact with all five London Consortia, some of them have even offered us some funding. We meet with their social workers to discuss the interface between our organisations (WAF is a social worker free zone).
Of course as well as WAF, I must point out that there are other peer and user-led adopters groups out there. In London, Adoption UK (AUK) runs groups too, and we are aware of several informal or social worker-led support groups across the capital. If you live outside the capital, your local authority may be able to help you. You can also find support online, through twitter or facebook, who may help you locating groups of adopters nearer you. And if you haven’t already, be sure to hook up with the wonderful Adoption Social, now hosted by The Open Nest. They too are aware of networks in various places.
Because we believe you really shouldn’t feel or be alone in this topsy turvy world of early trauma. There should be a group for you too.
For more information please take a good look around our beautiful new website designed by Here Design: And maybe consider sending us a blog, all written by adopters from this community.
Most of all, do get in touch in you are interested in joining us.
We’d love you to.