'Adoption is not a line in the sand' - shifting the focus of adoption this National Adoption Week

The regional adoption agency for South Yorkshire, One Adoption South Yorkshire, is joining agencies across the country for National Adoption Week (17-23 October) to highlight the importance of identity and relationships for people who have been adopted.

Campaign organisers You Can Adopt has released a short film exploring the relationships and memories of four adopted people who look through their 'memory boxes' and keepsakes from their lives before and after they were adopted. These mementoes have helped them understand their history and develop their sense of identity.

The emotional film brings to life the connections adopted people make and how their sense of identity has been formed through various connections 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 father; Emma, who is joined by her adoptive mother; and John and Nikkita, who were adopted together. Each adopted contributor shares items they have - a letter from a birth parent, an old blanket from a previous foster carer - that have helped shape their identity so far.

The aim is to show adoptive people's lives as a whole life with various chapters, rather than pre and post being adopted and raise awareness of the importance of adopted people knowing their life before.

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 also adopting my whole history and family. 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. If not, it's important for adopted people to have information, stories and keepsakes as connections to their past can help children develop a positive sense of identity and emotional wellbeing as they get older. 

"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 cannot 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 shine a light on the ongoing journeys of those who have been adopted."

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."

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 mementoes from their early life or the opportunity to have contact 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. Meanwhile, a series of events will take place from Monday 17 October, to mark National Adoption Week.

To view the film, find out more about National Adoption Week or seek information or support, visit www.youcanadopt.co.uk/naw.

Stephanie Evans added: "If you feel you can offer a child a loving, stable, permanent home, and you can help them nurture their sense of identity and understanding of their whole story, then please come along to one of our information events. We would love to share how we can support you on your journey."

One Adoption South Yorkshire holds weekly information events – including some which are in-person. The next events are: 

• 18 October (online) - to book, call 01709 334 081 or email sue.bennett@rotherham.gov.uk

• 25 October (online) - to book, email adoption@sheffield.gov.uk

• 2 November (online) - to book, call 01226 77 58 75 or email adoption@barnsley.gov.uk

• 9 November (a central location in Doncaster) – to book, call 01302 73 77 40 or email adoption@dcstrust.co.uk.

More information about adopting with One Adoption South Yorkshire can be found on the One Adoption website.

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