As part of Adoption Week Scotland (16 – 20 November 2020), Aberdeenshire Council is sharing the story of a mother and daughter whose journey underlines the need to ensure all children and young people can enjoy family life full of love, nurture and patience, and simple pleasures.
Sadie was initially fostered by Jackie – whose names have been changed for the purposes of this story – when she was just three years old. As a single mum with two older children, Jackie’s intention had been to provide a supportive foster placement to Sadie until she was matched with her ‘forever family’. But when she was six Jackie, her son and her daughter decided to adopt Sadie and say their whole extended family adores the fun-loving young woman she has become.
Jackie said: “Sadie is amazing. Don’t get me wrong we’ve had some struggles as she has developed, but we got through those challenges with Sarah’s help and she is so loved not just by me but by my brothers and sisters, her cousins and of course my older children too. We are so proud of her.”
Sarah is Jackie and Sadie’s family support worker. Even though Sadie is now 18, and although contact is less frequent, Sarah still visits now and again to provide Sadie with some additional emotional support and guidance.
Jackie added: “Sarah has been a fantastic thing for Sadie, and she has been a fantastic thing for me as well. The support we have had from Aberdeenshire Council has been amazing. Right at the beginning I had the support of Morven Campbell – she’s the boss now but she wasn’t then – and I really can’t thank the Adoption Team enough for all the support they have given us. We had some behavioural challenges, you sometimes worry with children in care they cannae love themselves, but we’ve come through all that with their help.
“Mackie Academy, and the head teacher in particular, has been brilliant too. She was always so willing and open to adapt things to meet Sadie’s needs and after going for a Foundation Apprenticeship Sadie has now been able to do a Modern Apprenticeship with a local nursery.
“Sadie just loves kids and especially my grandchildren, she’s nothing but amazing with them, she pours everything she’s got into them, I think because she knows she’ll get that unconditional love back. It’s just so lovely to see.
“I remember when one day when Sadie was a bit older and we were thinking back to her big day and she said: ‘Remember that day I got adopted… I got an ice-cream!’ which is a great memory to have.”
Like many families, Sadie and Jackie found ‘Lockdown’ was a struggle but Sadie says it was her mum who helped her get through it.
“I like structure and going to school and that was gone. I didn’t like it because I didn’t get to see my friends but it helped mum being there. At the start my sister had her second child so looking after her older daughter made it much easier and after that mum made sure there was some structure in each day – baking, walking, watching TV and making cakes,” said Sadie.
Talking about the impact family support worker Sarah has had on her life, Sadie added: “At the start of this year there was a job opportunity I wasn’t sure whether to go for and Sarah just talked it through it with me, she was really supportive. She’s there for me if I ever need it.”
Jackie is grateful to have been able to be there for her “gorgeous lassy”, not just this year, but through all the years they have been together. For anyone else thinking about adopting, she offers this advice:
“The thing children are looking for is security and love, and you dinnae pay for that.
“I left fostering until my children were much older and that’s what worked for me but everyone is different. I think whatever your situation it’s important to try not to have huge, high expectations of children you foster or adopt.
“If you try and let the child – with your guidance – be all they can be then their wee life can be so good. It doesn’t matter if they don’t succeed at everything, just to be a good person and achieve all you can at your own pace is the best thing you can do.”
Jackie and Sadie’s story highlights the importance of therapeutic parenting when it comes to offering support and guidance to any care experienced child. This is a key theme of this year’s Adoption Week.
Morven Campbell, who’s now Team Manager for Adoption in Aberdeenshire explains why: “All of the children we work with will have some experience of loss and trauma that comes with leaving their birth families and adjusting to a new home environment. This can be difficult for them to process and to explain, and it means a nurturing, therapeutic approach to parenting is even more important. What this means in practice is adoptive parenting is less about sending children away to think about their actions and more about keeping them close, talking through how they feel and working through feelings of frustration or sadness.
“It is a privilege to have been around to see Sadie grow up. We match children with families by putting a lot of work into getting to know prospective parents and it really was a pleasure to have worked so closely with Jackie all those years ago. She is an amazing lady with fantastic family support. We work with lots of amazing families.
“We want people to know you don’t have to be rich, or already have family, or even be in a relationship. What’s important is you’re in a position to offer a stable, understanding, loving and nurturing environment. We’re here to help from the moment you just want a bit more information about adoption, to the years ahead when you may ask us for advice or support.”
Members of the public can work directly with their local authority to become adoptive parents. Aberdeenshire Council offers an open ended period of post-adoption support which includes workshops on topics including therapeutic play techniques, managing challenging behaviour, life story narrative and helping adopted children to explore their history, and even sessions for grandparents as well as advice and support any time you need it.
An online information evening for prospective adoptive parents led by Aberdeenshire Council’s Adoption Team will take place on November 25 from 6.30pm to 8pm. To register for this, visit: https://bit.ly/VirtualAdoptEvening
For more information about other online events taking place nationally as part of Adoption Week, visit https://www.adoption.scot/adoption-week