This blog is long overdue, all I can say by way of an excuse is it that starting a kid in nursery school is no joke: we have been taking turns in being ill since the beginning of September. Our kids (and their illnesses) trumps all! Anyway, here is what I have been meaning to say since a lovely day late in the summer hols:
On the 26th August 2015 we became a fully fledged charity! With the official number: 1163318. Oh what joy in a short sequence of numbers.
Hurray to us all!
Becoming a charity is a welcome recognition for all that we do, edging our way as we are towards support for all adopters, starting with London. The new status, however, does not change our profound wish to remain a grass roots organisation with a good sprinkling of the grounded and inclusive, hosting regular, informal and largely free or very low cost events for all our families.
Our focus remains stoutly the parents, hoping that supporting them will help support all our children as well.
It fills me with great joy and pride to see how far we have come in just two short years.
We now count no less than seven groups across London and beyond (East London, Enfield, Hackney/Islington, Richmond, Shepherd’s Bush, Southwark and North Buckinghamshire). In addition, we have three groups lined up, with a view to launch these in the New Year. These are Croydon, Havering and South Buckinghamshire.
Our core activities remain:
· Parent Support, which is run by all but one local group
· Playgroups for under-fives, which is run in five out of seven
· Family days
Furthermore, our groups are able to access pan-London subgroups, that is, our Prospective Adopters group and our Single Adopters Group. Both these groups popped up as it became clear they needed different kinds of activities and meetings than we were then offering; both groups are thriving.
We are also proudly working with four out of the six London Adoption consortia, in the acknowledgement that the dialogue with the professionals is key to being a successful organisation.
But fundamentally, there is no denying that our main asset is our volunteers and members: our fantastic parents and our parents in waiting. You know who you are. Without you, there would be no WAF. Your dedication is what keeps it alive, and as it happens, keeps it growing.
In building WAF we have been able to draw on the vast resources of our members and their skills (the range of professions in our midst never ceases to amaze me). Adoptive parents tend to be older parents, often professionals with a well-established career, and often ready for a new challenge, perhaps even a new career. WAF benefits enormously from this pool of extraordinary people and their warm energy.
To date we have been operating with practically no money. It’s a new world, we are in a recession, and frankly an awful lot can be done with very little. But there is no denying that we have been extremely fortunate in finding much support from a number of local authorities, adoption agencies and other professionals. Without them we would not be where we are today. Full stop.
The relative success of WAF may also be seen as a part of a new trend in self-organised volunteering. A move away from established charities that are often seen as corporate, whether or not that is a fair perception. Whatever the reason, we are part of a larger trend of people across the country are getting involved locally; they want to make, and feel that they are making, a difference – here and now. Thus adopter-led groups are springing up across the country.
The core of emphatic parent enthusiasm is a strong motivator and definitely our driving force. This fact makes the learning curve no less steep. We are certainly skipping along a tight rope. We are trying our hardest to strike a good and sustainable balance between the intimacy of grass root ideals – including the autonomy of our local groups and establishing replicable and reliable events and groups – with safe working parameters for some of our society’s most vulnerable people. Not an easy thing to do.
Thus, at a central level (yes, we now do have a central level!) we are working apace to develop necessary policies, establish procedures and digest it all to produce easy to follow guidelines. Some of this is simply necessary to protect our members and those who take a more official role. But we are adamant to try to keep these policies and procedures to a minimum, so our members can continue to dip in and dip out as they see fit. It is the hope to make all this (dare I say boring) work an open and free resource in order to inspire and support others considering setting up similar groups.
Perhaps the mission closest to my own heart, as the interim chair, is for WAF to be anti-isolation by nature. Isolation is a major factor in all kinds of depression (PADS included), as it is in all families in crisis and in adoption breakdowns. So if you are reading this is in crisis, the number one thing you can do is to draw on your network. Ask for help. But even if you seem to be bumbling along nicely, build on your network, and listen to those who need to talk. It is our hope in WAF to help building such supportive networks, face-to-face. To break down towers of isolation. We just provide the platforms.
I would like to end this brief look at the two-year-old WAF with some thanks, that cannot be overstated or repeated often enough.
If you are a WAF’er: Thank you for your particular part in this, for taking a chance on us. You are the reason we are here.
If you are one of our lovely supporters: thank you for believing in us and for giving us the help you have! There is no way we could have gotten this far without your help and trust in us. No way.[Opens champagne: POP! Spills it every where, OOUHhhh, oh dear…, oh well…]:
Here’s to the future! THANK YOU EVERY ONE!