Devon Life talks to Caroline Quentin about Families for Children

PUBLISHED: 00:16 24 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:20 20 February 2013

On location in Cornwall

On location in Cornwall

Caroline Quentin explains to Harriet Mellor why the work of a voluntary adoption agency in Buckfastleigh is close to her heart.

Caroline Quentin explains to Harriet Mellor why the work of a voluntary adoption agency in Buckfastleigh is close to her heart.

Adoption is frequently in the headlines at the moment and not always in a positive way. With such a focus on the obstacles and restrictive red tape, theres a real danger of putting prospective parents off.
Families for Children is a voluntary adoption agency based in Buckfastleigh which match UK-wide kids with forever families in and around Devon and the South West. Operating on a smaller, more individual and less confined scale allows them to focus on the real issue - that there are 64,000 children in the UK care system who are in urgent need of a permanent home.
Fortunately for Families for Children they have the support of actress and television presenter Caroline Quentin who proves an extremely passionate patron to help get that message across:
Anyone who has ever loved a child must be able to imagine what its like growing up without having anyone devoted to you. We all know how tough family life is and how it has its ups and downs, but surely thats got to be better than staying in a childrens home.
Families for Children place what are termed by Local Authorities as harder to place children. They tend to be older (over threes), sibling groups, of mixed heritage or with a disability. On the parenting side, love, stability and nurture take precedence over the usual adoption no-nos. The agency has no discrimination against the over 40s, single parents, religion, ethnic background or sexual gender. You dont even have to own your home. Its a system that Caroline is in complete admiration of:
Families for Children make no judgement and some of the children are what youd call harder to place but once theyve found the right slot in a family its a win-win.
The win-win shes referring to is the success rate Families for Children has in producing happy units. Their support starts pre-adoption, throughout all stages of family life extending into the adoptees adulthood and contact with birth parents should they want it.
Its incredible, the whole nature of the charity and the detailed care it gives people is a really wonderful and modern take on adoption. The Support system is unending and thats extraordinary.
I have (birth) children of my own but I have friends who were adopted and friends who have adopted and so Ive known it from different angles. If you like people and like children, the idea of any child not being in a family environment just seems so ludicrous.
She came on board, adding to the charitys fellow Devon patrons Judi Spiers and adopted celebrity chef Michael Caines, after meeting Families for Children fundraising co-ordinator, Alison Colton on an evening out.
I met Alison at the Castle in Exeter and we were out having fun. The next day she texted and asked if Id be involved. That was two years ago. I launched and voiced their appeal DVD and try and go to as many functions as possible. Sometimes having someone with a bit of a public profile can help and I also try if I can to give a bit of personal support to the parents.
Caroline, who lives near Tiverton with husband Sam Farmer and their children Emily, 12, and William, 8 plus numerous dogs, cats, chickens, sheep and the odd pig, was also drawn to Families for Children because it was based locally.
My links, heart and family are with this part of the world. We moved on an absolute whim. I was living in Suffolk at the time and my husband turned to me and said: If I dont see a hill soon, Im going to absolutely go out of my mind. I said: OK, wed better move. We are now in our eighth year and Im not going anywhere else.
Ive found it a very non-intrusive and accepting place. Ive made so many friends. The people are very easy going and non-judgemental, which I think is extraordinary.
Caroline is in massive demand and hasnt as much time at home as shed like at the moment. Just this year shes filmed Caroline Quentin on Cornwall, which is showing on ITV in the New Year, another series of Restoration Home and the autumn on the London stage, performing six days a week, plus matines in a play called Terrible Advice.
So Sam has been holding the fort. Long out of the TV world, he is currently working on a unisex teenage skincare range launching in 2012, and the couples joint business buying and renovating properties: Twelve in ten years.
After so much activity, this Christmas will be extra special. I just want to hunker down at home with my family and not move an inch.

The Sibling Adopters

Claire and Julian Mildren live in South Devon with brother and sisters Toyah 13, Britney 11 and Kane 10.

Both of us come from big families who are all part of each others lives. We knew our three were living together and got on together they were already a family unit. Anybody going from nothing to three children would find it hard work as you are bonding and disciplining at the same time. Im a GP and I took seven months off, and Julian wound his business down so we were both at home. We got lots of support from Families for Children and other adoptive families we met throughout the assessment process.
The kids began their life very under-stimulated and then they were put into care for two years. Britney (then 3) could only say two words. From day one they called us Mum and Dad and instantly began to blossom.
They are fantastic kids and we really cant imagine being happier had we had birth children.

The Single Parent

Rosina Kellman has adopted twice through Families for Children. First with Shah, now 13, and subsequently with Tiannah, 7. They live in Chagford.

I was married when we adopted Shah at the age of three. Subsequently we separated and are now divorced. I never wanted Shah to be an only child so adopting as a single parent was the start of another journey with them.
Tiannah came to me when she was 4, just over two years ago and now we feel very much like a normal family, but its taken a lot of support. Being a working single parent, I took adoption leave and got the equivalent of Maternity Pay and negotiated a six-month mortgage holiday. One of the questions is about bringing up mixed-race children in a predominantly white area. Fortunately Devon is becoming more global and its about not denying where child is from (both kids know the names of their birth parents and have photos). Its about being aware of any issues and how you would support them.

Can you help?
Families for Children dont just need prospective parents. Readers can help by providing much-needed donations. 300,000 a year has to be raised specifically to be able to provide their post-adoption support services.

Caroline Quentin says:
If theres anything anyone can do for the charity, they can pat themselves on the back and say I have helped a child into a loving family where they will not only have the support of a loving family but that of Families for Children forever!

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