Posts by Tanya Killick :
Family Action has been awarded a grant of £326,824 from the National Lottery Community Fund to expand its PAC-UK Adopteens service for adopted teenagers across Yorkshire and Humber.
PAC-UK, part of national charity Family Action, launched Adopteens in 2015. This unique and innovative service, which was initially commissioned by One Adoption, is designed and developed by adopted teenagers to reach out and connect with other adoptees.
The grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, will be used to build on the already fantastic provision by extending the range and scope of events offered by Adopteens. The funding will also be used to build upon the voice and influence work, to continue to give a platform for young adoptee voices to impact change in the sector, and significantly increase service provision.
The overarching aim is for Adopteens to be working with up to 500 young adoptees in Yorkshire and Humber, by December 2025.
Tanya Killick, PAC-UK Adopteens & Projects Practice Manager, said: “Adopteens was created by young adoptees, 8 years ago, to better meet the needs of adopted young people across Yorkshire and Humber. We are delighted to have been awarded the funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, as this additional funding means that we can expand our reach and service into even more areas, and we are looking forward to being able to connect with many more young adoptees in our community who are harder to reach, especially in rural areas.”
“We have seen first-hand how essential connections like these are for young adoptees confidence and self-esteem, and how these connections help them to develop new skills, experience, and knowledge, and ultimately to help them to fulfil their potential.”
Michelle Rawlings, Head of One Adoption West Yorkshire said: “The Adopteens project has really proved to be a lifeline for many adopted young people in the Yorkshire region. We are always so impressed by the fantastic opportunities the project team offer and we have seen the impact the team has in helping the young people grow and achieve their potential. We are delighted that the team will be able to expand thanks to this additional funding and reach even more young people with their valuable work.”
Currently supporting 140 young people aged 11-17 in Yorkshire and Humber, PAC-UK’s Adopteens service offers a range of online resources, chat forums, social activity days and runs a Youth Council.
The Youth Council looks to give young adoptees a voice to influence practice and policy and to work with professionals including social workers, therapists, and education professionals to increase their understanding of challenges facing adopted young people and their families.
Young Adoptee, Paul*, said: “The funding is brilliant news for us Adopteens. We all love the group and having an opportunity to have our voices heard. Events like the One Adoption West Conference were amazing as we were able to educate and inform others of what being adopted is like, how it is different for everyone and the divergent experiences we all face. With this funding I believe I speak for all of us, we are so grateful for this as it will provide us with more amazing opportunities.”
Joe Dobson, Head of Regional Funding for Yorkshire and Humberside at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We’re delighted to be funding Family Action’s PAC-UK Adopteens Plus project that has been designed by adopted teenagers to meet and connect with other adoptees. Thanks to National Lottery players, this project will support adopted young people across Yorkshire and Humber to thrive, providing information, advice and peer-support to improve their life chances.”
Young Adoptee, Jane* said: “This funding for the Adopteens is amazing. Many of the members of the group have formed such a tight friendship due to the opportunities we have received. We all work hard to educate other people about adoption and hopefully help other people to feel less alone and to understand that there are many other people in similar situations. This funding will hopefully allow us to educate more people and meet more people in our situation. Thank you so much for this funding it will help so many people.”
Phone: 07903 074 174
Notes to Editors
PAC-UK is an Adoption Support Agency that provides specialist support to all parties affected by adoption and permanency. Our vision is that all those affected by adoption, Special Guardianship and other forms of permanent care are supported and enabled to live their lives to the full. We have built our expertise over a 36 year period, starting out as Post-Adoption Centre in 1986. In recent years we have combined with other specialist providers to produce a more robust organisation with a wider reach and a more comprehensive range of services. In December 2018, PAC-UK joined national charity, Family Action. PAC-UK was rated as ‘Outstanding’ in all areas during our most recent Ofsted inspection in December 2022. Ofsted report
Ofsted registration number: SC066981
About Family Action
Family Action is a national charity committed to building stronger families and brighter lives. Since the charity was founded in 1869, we have continued to help children and families overcome the challenges they face through a wide range of practical, emotional and financial support. Today we work with more than 60,000 families in over 200 community-based services, as well as supporting thousands more through our national helpline, FamilyLine, which offers free and immediate support to adult family members and national schemes like the National School Breakfast Programme.
We help families and individuals to manage their mental health and wellbeing, working with families to reduce the impact of social isolation, poverty, addiction and other significant sources of stress and pressure. We also support families affected by adoption, special guardianship, separation, special educational needs, disability, domestic violence and sexual abuse. In addition, we provide thousands of welfare and educational grants every year to people in financial crisis.
For further information, please visit our website at www.family-action.org.uk
Registered charity number: 264 713
Sometimes it feels like the Children in Care Council (CICC) – a place where children and young people in care can share their experiences of the care system, to help their ‘corporate parents’ get things right and look after them properly – are light years ahead of us in terms of voice and influence work, with the world of adoption playing a big game of catch up.
‘Total Respect’ training which has been designed and developed by young people in care has been around for over 15 years, with the aim of improving practice and knowledge of professionals who work with them. It also empowers young people who often have very little say over their own lives and their training has had huge success in influencing change. Professionals love to hear and learn directly from young people who can share their personal experiences first hand… and unfiltered!
We figured our Adopteens would be brilliant at this, so PAC-UK worked closely with our Family Action fundraising team to secure funding from BBC Children in Need to develop our very own one-day training course for professionals working with adoptees.
Nine young people from our Adopteens service joined the project, which they very aptly chose to name ‘Adopt a Change’ in the hope professionals adopt a change in their own practice after attending our training.
Preparation work to develop ‘Adopt a Change’ training content started in February 2022 with a team building day at Herd Farm, which was closely followed for six group consultation sessions via Zoom. We then returned to Herd Farm for a weekend residential to really build those relationships and pull together the work we had done so far into something vaguely deliverable!
One young person shared:
“The most enjoyable bit for me was that I have made unexpected friends with new people who turn out to be a lot like me.”
On 24 April 2022 we held our first ‘Adopt a Change’ pilot training session in Leeds, We wanted to test the waters of the workshops the young people had designed and hoped to gain some valuable feedback to further shape the training – ensuring both their needs and professionals needs were met.
Our audience consisted of 17 professionals from PAC-UK and One Adoption. There was a great mixture of managers (two had travelled up from London specifically to attend!), therapists, counsellors, social workers and support service staff, who all experienced a morning full of surprises.
Five incredible young people led the training which consisted of three themed workshops, that were all interlinked:
- The first workshop looked at a tool that could be used by professionals to help build relationships with young people in a safe and gentle way
- The second workshop looked at several statements the young people either have had said to them or they feel about themselves – we asked participants to feedback their views on these statements to look at the assumptions and views (sometimes unconscious biases) we can all hold
- The third and most impactful workshop was an immersive exercise around the school experience for our young people, which was both hilarious and very challenging
We hadn’t rehearsed the whole event, so it was fresh and exciting and we had no idea how it would pan out, but we had a strong underlying faith in our young people and in the process and we were absolutely right to, because they all smashed it out of the park!
Their confidence grew as the morning went on, some young people spontaneously went to talk to attendees and many shared experiences and thoughts that were not planned but were very poignant and helpful. Most of all they supported each other and that consideration and respect shone through.
“It was nice to see that so many people attended and it was interesting how the workers were absorbing information like sponges, we could see this in their eyes and that was reassuring to see.”
We were thrilled with the Survey Monkey feedback we received from attendees, below are just a few examples:
“Excellent presentation. So well thought through it was hard to believe they are all still of school age. Their skills and abilities in planning and delivering training at this level was astounding.”
“I am so looking forward to seeing the next stages of this training develop, as if this is a shape of what is to come this is the most exciting training that I’ve been privy to in years.”
‘It was excellent from start to finish and the training was designed not just to give you a narrative experience, it immersed you brilliantly and cleverly into what the world of an adopted young person might feel like. This is what will bring much needed change for professionals when working with adopted and care experienced young people.”
“The young people did exceptionally well to deliver this pilot training and despite being nervous they conducted themselves in a manner that I can commend, they were supportive of each other and this was humbling to see.”
It was a really enjoyable and exhausting day and we learnt so much from it. Young people shared how much of a confidence boost it has been and also how they feel they might be a step closer to ‘productive and useful change’.
Next on the agenda is to look at what we’ve learnt, tweak our existing workshops and design the second half of the training. We can share that we have worked with brilliant theatre maker, performer and facilitator, Natalie Bellingham who has helped bring out their inner teachers and will involve some brilliant acting from the group (accents and all).
Tanya Killick & Adopteens | May 2022
Sat at the twinkly bar, in the Queens Hotel Leeds, with an untouched celebratory drink in hand, we breathed a collective sigh that can only come from the knowledge that you have just witnessed something incredibly special.
‘I have waited for this day for the last 6 years’ I said. ‘There is enough content to make an entire documentary let alone a 10 minute film’
Brad, our extremely talented film maker who the previous week had been working with the likes of Selina Gomez and Jamie Oliver, had a very tricky editing job on his hands. We bid farewell and wished him good luck, secretly all relieved that we didn’t have that responsibility on our shoulders. What would you cut out? How could you decide what stayed and what didn’t make the film? It was all so on point, all so honest and ALL so important for people to hear.
5 young adults invited to come tell us parts of their story and share what messages for change they wanted to give back to the sector. 5 young adults all with different beginnings and all with different experiences, some we knew well and some we had never met before. We had no idea how the day would go; would people turn up, would they be ok with the camera, the questions, had we prepared everyone enough?
Despite all these worries though, we knew we were in a safe pair of hands and that we needed to trust the process; and it didn’t take long for us to realise that our fears were baseless, because as each person turned up the group grew louder, more laughter flowed and as workers we just kept giving each other that knowing look when you know you’ve hit on something special because it was absolutely effortless.
Each person had an interview where Brad settled them in front of the camera, made them laugh, learnt what they ate (or didn’t eat) for breakfast, twiddled with the lighting for the umpteenth time and then started asking the important stuff. We sat in on each interview for support and prompt if needed, but it wasn’t needed. Each person took each question rolled it around their mouth and spat the answer right out. Almost as if they had been waiting a long time to be asked those questions.
Brad shared his unique position as filmmaker, explaining that often people rarely get to talk uninterrupted and genuinely feel heard, but the camera is the ultimate ear and Brad does not interrupt. He knows he can only use a small amount of what each person says, but that isn’t the point, and the person being interviewed also knows that. I was in awe of their ability to express themselves and be such story tellers.
It was different to the film ‘Voices’ we made 5 years ago with our teenage Adopteens members. There was more freedom with what they were saying, mixed with more self belief and a maturity that comes with being a young 20 something with a little more weight of responsibility on your shoulders.
I don’t think the two films are comparable because they each tell the story at a point in time in the lives of those individuals who shared their stories, and each film has a different purpose. They are however beautifully complementary. “Adopted for Life’ is the perfect sequel to ‘Voices’ and I very much hope the series doesn’t end there.
What has been created within both of these films, Voices and Adopted for Life is the very essence of what it means to be adopted from those affected. It is honest, raw and beautifully impactful. These are the voices of a generation who are passionate and resolute in their desire for things to change and their messages are clear.
So it is over to those who make the changes. The policy makers, social care leaders and social workers, teachers and health professionals we urge you to sit up and listen and allow these voices and experiences to influence what you do, how you do it and why you do it and we look forward to seeing what this looks like.
PAC-UK presents: Adopted for life
Tanya Killick | October 2021
Please note, all content published on this page is provided by our guest blogger/s, based on their real-life experiences. We invite you to discuss this blog via PAC-UK’s Twitter profile and ask you to tag @PACUKadoption in to your posts and use the hashtag #PacukBlog
This blog is the eighteenth of our regular ‘guest blogger’ platform which we started in 2019. We would love to hear from adoptees, birth parents (and relatives), adoptive parents/carers, special guardians and professionals who are interested in taking part in future blogs. If this interests you please email le**@pa****.org.
Instant Family-Reality or Fiction?- How our young people felt about the portrayal.
During lockdown our youth council has been discussing how adoption is portrayed in the media – in films, books and TV shows. How adoption is portrayed in the media is so important because it’s where the general public get most of their information from about adoption – unless they have a personal connection to adoption and as adoptees we feel we are best placed to challenge anything we think is misleading, confusing or potentially harmful. So we thought we’d review one of the most recent popular films ‘Instant family’
It is described as ‘Idealistic couple Ellie and Pete find themselves overwhelmed when they open up their home to foster teenager Lizzy and her two younger siblings, Juan and Lita. With the help of fellow foster parents and agency workers they learn to navigate the joys and pitfalls of parenting to become a modern family’. This gives it a rather rosy, light hearted feel and after all it is a comedy so there was only so far the film could go into what adoption can really look and feel like for those involved and this was something Adopteens members definitely picked up and commented as follows: ‘It didn’t show the real extent of what can happen in families and doesn’t show how hard it is for children and the sadness they can feel’. But the group felt it did manage to show that adoption can be ‘complicated and that children come with their own history and feelings around how important birth parents are to them, as well as how that differs between siblings’.
They also felt the film picked up on ‘how each sibling can feel their experiences differently and each character had their own way of showing this with Lizzy often being angry & defiant opposed to Juan who was highly anxious and scared (as well as very clumsy) a lot of the time’
We asked how they felt the professionals were portrayed in the film with one asking ‘are they really that honest with parents and straight to the point?’ They also felt in real life ‘social workers aren’t as funny (sorry social workers) and take things more seriously, they wouldn’t just shrug it off or laugh, they would do something about it’
When we discussed the adoption day scenes the group shared ‘how harmful they thought those days could be for parents and children, for example if people made instant connections and then those relationships couldn’t continue.’ There was also some huge concerns about safeguarding of the children so we talked about how the film didn’t portray the adoption days accurately, and that there is usually far more involvement from professionals, with safeguards in place and not in an open park, but still there no escaping the fact that it felt like ‘selling children’ . One member talked about how she was matched with her parents in contrast to the film
‘My parents were offered a magazine called ‘Be My Parent’ which had loads of pictures and captions about various children all looking for a family. However, they felt this was too pick and choose and really disliked the idea of playing God. Instead their social worker said ‘I have a child in mind for you’ and showed them a basic file about me. This was partly down to my parents having a really good bond with their social worker, so over a few weeks she could think what child may be a good match with them. This has always seemed such a nicer way to match and more personal, however it relies on that connection and time with the social worker to make the link.’
We asked the group members what resonated with them the most about the film and they responded with a wide range of answers:
‘That the parents are trying so hard not to get it wrong that they get it wrong because they are overthinking it’
‘How the grandparents judged the parents for wanting to adopt at first and then they inspired others to adopt’
‘The importance of keeping that sibling connection. How it is their identity and the only thing that isn’t lost as they go through the care system because they still have each other’
‘When the little girl was screaming in the shop and came out with doll, parents trying so hard not to give in to the behaviour ’
‘The hairbrush scene, when the parent thought they had done something lovely and couldn’t understand why she had thrown it in the toilet’
Overall it wasn’t just a film about adoption. The group felt that lots of families that are made up in many different ways such as families with step children, or those where grandparents or other family members are guardians/ parents, or those born via surrogacy or donor could also relate to the film. “Not because your adopted, but because it is showing how different families come together, and about how people work together through their differences’
It ultimately ‘Showed how hard it can be to be human, that doing really hard things and commit to doing something is not easy and it was positive that they showed the reality of how, at times, we want to run away, but that more often than not we stick with it’. And they are really glad they stuck with it because they all agreed it definitely wouldn’t have been a comedy if they hadn’t!
In many ways I can’t believe it’s been 5 months since the lock down started, but in others it feels like an eternity. I’m sure that feeling resonates for many. The way we’ve been able to work with people has changed dramatically and our project like many of the other service across PAC-UK has had to adapt so we can continue to support and engage with our young people.
Here are some of the ways we’ve done that.
Adopteens Lockdown Pack
At the very beginning we wanted to make sure people felt that we hadn’t forgotten about them, we were conscious of people feeling isolated and disconnected so we wanted to try and help people feel held in mind; we also we wanted to send a little joy. So we put together our lockdown packs.
We successfully sent out 115 packs to young people who were signed up to our project. We have thought about sending packs out to new members after lockdown and possibly doing annual mail outs to all members as a way of reminding members what our service has to offer. For many families receiving the pack it has encouraged them to re-engage with our service.
The packs were greatly received by young people and parents alike. This is some of the feedback received –
“I just wanted to say thanks a million for the mailing. It injected a bit of excitement and interest into our Saturday and beyond. The boys have started working on their Covid 19 time capsules and seem to be quite into it!”
“Thanks for the activity pack. ***** and I enjoyed looking through it and he really enjoyed getting the post. We talked through the time capsule sheets which prompted a good conversation.”
“Thanks for the tea bags for **** and I, we are just about to have a cuppa, and thanks for the activity packs.”
“L really enjoyed the activity pack. He took it up with him at bed time and……well in his words “it was really good” so thank you. The children haven’t burnt any energy during the day, so getting to sleep is hard. Your pack kept L occupied for a while.”
We’ve had an online chat forum for a long time, but our struggle has been to get people using it consistently and be online at the same time, so we’ve introduced ‘Adopteens Chat’ every Wednesday evening from 7pm – 8.30pm. It’s for all members who have signed up to use the online chat forum and supported by two project workers. Its aim is to bring members on line at the same time each week to develop friendships. We have also secured funding to employ an Adoptee mentor who is an adopted adult and will run the chat with us… watch this space!
Our activity days thrive on face to face interaction, it’s been a huge loss to us, however we haven’t given in and we’ve instead delivered activities via Zoom. We’ve held 3 x online activity days (2 x scavenger hunts and a drawing game) which have got people moving, dressing up & being creative with some hilarious moments.
Following the success of these we have decided to continue to do activity meetings on a regular basis, We are always trying to think of new ideas and we’ve thought about an online baking competition and online Karaoke for those of you who love a sing along. Singing has loads of mental health benefits apparently so it’s a win win.
Youth Council plans
We will continue with Youth council meetings online via Zoom – following the success of previous meetings we feel this is a great way of keeping in touch with and hearing the voice of our members. We also run a WhatsApp group for Youth Council members which is supported by the Adopteen Project workers, this again is running well and the young people are finding it a good way to access support from each other and workers.
We’ve talked about all sorts in our Youth Council meetings from the impact of COVID, loneliness, online safety, mental health, black lives matters, and adoption in the mainstream media. And of course how much we miss face to face meetings!
Its not been an easy transition, but out of the struggle has come leanring and positives which we can continue to apply- we are certainly thinking about how we can use remote working to stay in touch with our members between face to face meetings and how we can link up with other adoption groups across Yorkshire and beyond!