Olivia* was adopted through PACT when she was just over a year old. She is now 18 and lives with her mum Jane*. Jane’s husband passed away 11 years ago.
Jane first heard about PACT’s Adoptee Voices group three years ago. Olivia was asking questions about her birth family and Jane felt unsure how to handle some of these complex topics.
Olivia said: “For me, I think it was around about 15 or 16, I started asking about my birth family and whether or not I had any siblings or anything like that.” Jane added: “She was just getting older and… she wanted specific information that I didn’t quite feel that I either had or knew how to share sometimes.”
Jane reached out to PACT for support and they suggested that Olivia attend their Adoptee Voices group for teenagers and young people. The group provides a safe space for young people to meet others who were adopted and may share similar experiences, and is run by trained PACT staff who are able to explore some of the questions and issues young people can have about their life story and identity.
Before she began attending the group, Olivia said that she didn’t know any other adopted people: “It was really when I first joined the group that I started to know more people who were adopted, but before that I didn’t really know anyone else that was adopted. It’s sort of something that I keep to myself when I’m at school and people sometimes do bring it up. Every now and again they ask me about it but I just never know how to answer it directly.”
Olivia, who is autistic, first joined the groups when they were run online during the pandemic. She is outgoing and enjoys meeting new people, though doesn’t like change. The first time she went along, she said she felt excited. “I was looking forward to it actually because it means that I can meet other people that are in my position as well and have gone through it before.”
She now attends both the online and in-person sessions, where she is able to try new activities and build connections with the other young people who attend. Some of the in-person activities Olivia has attended include going to a climbing wall, dragon boating, kayaking and a pizza party. Her favourite so far has been the climbing wall. “Because I’m quite tall I’m able to reach and get to the top pretty quickly because of my long arms and long legs – I’m like a spider monkey up that wall!”
Adoptee Voices provides a space for Olivia and her peers to share experiences, and Olivia said that knowing everyone else in the group was also adopted is important to her. “I find the groups really informative as well. As I said, everyone in the group, they’re always saying about similar experiences that they’ve been through, things where people have said horrible things to them about adoption and things like that. It’s a good way to sort of… talk about it in a positive way compared to those people who do tear us down for it and say things along the lines of, ‘that we weren’t good enough for our birth parents’ and things like that, and they give suggestions on how we can deal with people like that.”
Olivia has made friends through the groups and stays in regular contact with another young person who attends. They message frequently and Jane notices that as well as general chat, sometimes they talk about things that they might not be comfortable sharing with other friends, which Jane believes has been beneficial for Olivia.
Jane has found that, as a parent, the groups have enabled her to meet new people and get to know other adoptive parents which has been valuable. She has learned about new support services that she hadn’t heard of before, and particularly if things aren’t going well, she said it’s helpful to talk to other parents who are in a similar position. “It makes you feel not alone and that everything we’re doing has happened to everyone else so it’s normal.”
She said: “It’s just nice to go somewhere for a couple of hours where you wouldn’t generally go perhaps – we wouldn’t generally go dragon boating! So Olivia gets to do something, I get to have a coffee and a chill and a chat and it works for both of us.”
Both Jane and Olivia feel they are well listened to by the group leaders. Each time they meet, the young people are asked for suggestions on what activities to do next, and this shapes the way the group is run. Olivia said: “I definitely feel like when they ask us at the end of the session ‘Are there any activities you want to do when it comes to the in-person sessions and in the future?’, it’s always taken on board.”
“It’s good because then it means that I’m not alone. For me at school, I tend to keep it to myself, I don’t really say anything about it but people do ask me about it and sometimes they ask me questions about it and then when I tell them what it is and stuff like that, they then start making horrible things about it and are not that understanding about it. So it’s good that I’m with people who have gone through something like that, and that they’re able to give me advice on what I can do.”
Olivia would highly recommend Adoptee Voices to other adopted young people:
“I definitely recommend it because you’re able to meet new people and you’re able to be able to share your experiences of being adopted and things like that, and you can be able to share your opinions without being judged for it. Because talking about adoption and being adopted is quite an important thing to talk about and sometimes, not just me but other people who were adopted may feel like it’s not getting talked about that much, it’s not getting the recognition it should be getting.”
*Names changed in line with confidentiality
About Adoptee Voices
PACT’s Adoptee Voices group was created to support adopted teenagers and young people. It provides a fun, safe space for young people to meet others who were adopted, spend
time together and share their opinions,
feelings and experiences.
Sessions take place every two months through a mixture of online and in-person events. They are led by a PACT social worker and the young people are regularly consulted on how they would like the group to operate and which activities they want to do.
Parents can also attend the in-person sessions and spend time together while their children take part in the activity. All sessions are provided to PACT families free of charge. Find out more here.