To mark National Adoption Week, we are shining a light on a unique service. Adopteens was developed in Yorkshire and Humber by and for young adopted people, as a safe space to be themselves, make new friends and make a difference. Here, we speak to Sadie about how the project, and the chance to be part of its Youth Council, has helped her.
Feeling different from everybody else
I was about eleven when I first accessed the Adopteens group. A social worker recommended it before, but I was a little young, so I came back to it later when I needed it. At the time it felt like I was different from everybody else and there wasn’t anyone around that I could relate to. I didn’t feel down, as such, but I was interested when I was told that it would be a chance to meet other people who are adopted, build confidence and feel less alone.
From my point of view, I just thought it would be nice to meet other people who shared my experience – not necessarily to talk about adoption, but just to talk about everyday things and know they felt the same as me. I started off using the online chat forum and it was good… we’d talk about school and what we were doing; just general, everyday things. I was worried about meeting people in person, but the service hosted an activity day visiting some historic caves and I decided to go.
At the time I had quite bad anxiety, so it was a big step for me. I remember walking up and seeing everyone standing there but when my mum left, I started talking to people who were my age and it was just like having a nice chat. There were a couple of people I’d met on the forum already and, although we didn’t feel we had to exchange numbers, as we could always use the service, it was good that I had someone who I could share experiences with.
For me the second trip I went on was the best, as we visited York Theatre. It was amazing, as I’m really into acting and theatre production and I have always enjoyed drama lessons at school. Since I first joined Adopteens I’ve been involved with acting groups and a small company, and I’ve worked on productions both on the stage and behind the scenes. I love acting as it’s like an escape, isn’t it? If you’ve got loads of things going on in your life it allows you to get away from them for a while, and it’s also a really upbeat, exciting way to spend your time.
Educating others about our life experiences
I’ve been able to use of some of those performance skills working on the youth council at Adopteens, which I joined shortly after that trip, as we spend a lot of time planning seminars and making short films to educate people about our life experiences. For example, I think a lot of us have an issue with school.
Certain classes you find especially difficult, such as a massive topic at school where we discussed family
Sitting in a room with lots of people can be a difficult thing to do for adopted people and a lot of us say it’s like a trigger as you’re dealing with people who don’t share your situation, holding everything in your head and feeling quite alone.
I’m now at college, but I remember also feeling misunderstood by teachers; as there are certain classes you find especially difficult, such as a massive topic at school where we discussed family. It’s hard because, as an adopted person, you know there’s another family somewhere, and you can’t discuss their characteristics because you might not know them.
Explaining you’re not like Tracy Beaker
People who aren’t adopted don’t know what it’s like so the Adopteens Youth Council is all about telling them how they can help us, what they can do to change, and things they might have misunderstood – like explaining the difference between fostering and adoption or highlighting that just because you’re adopted it doesn’t make you an orphan.
Or, as people have told me, explaining that you’re NOT like the children’s TV star Tracy Beaker (who lived in a care home, which isn’t everyone’s experience). With the youth council we’re working on a film for schools looking at the way we’d like school to be and how teachers can understand us better, and I’m looking forward to getting the chance to act in that.
Running training sessions for social workers
Because, in the real world, it might be your song… but not everybody’s going to know the words or how to dance to it
I love acting and performance as, combined with the council, it’s given me the confidence to speak to people about the problems we’re facing and help people address them.
I’m pleased everyone’s so interested at the training sessions we run for social workers, which includes a bit of performance and roleplay. We try and make it interactive, speak to them about their experiences and ask them what they want to take away from it.
Adopteens supports young people in person in Yorkshire and Humber, however the website is full of resources that are relevant nationally. PAC-UK provides advice and support for anyone affected by adoption, while FamilyLine is there for general information and support.