Why support groups matter and how to make them happen: Melissa’s story

Why support groups matter and how to make them happen: Melissa’s story

Melissa is the local movement co-ordinator for Suffolk and area co-ordinator for Ipswich and Felixstowe. As an adoptive mother with experience of fostering, she knows just how important support groups can be.

I have been involved in setting up support groups since before Home for Good was birthed, after seeing the need for them since the adoption of our children in 2009. We had an informal group that met monthly at my house, which grew as people told others who had adopted. After a while I managed to get the local children’s centre to provide a room for us to meet in and we were able to advertise through our local authority.

As our children grew up and began full-time school, us parents wanted to keep the opportunity to share and chat so we added an evening meet up. But we also wanted to ensure our children grew up knowing others who were adopted, so we also got together in the holidays and had a Christmas party.

When I heard about Home for Good and the chance to become a local movement it was so exciting, because I finally felt that we had a name to run these groups under. My dream was that all areas of Suffolk could access support like we had already established in Ipswich, and we are beginning to see this as we now have play sessions, evening meet ups and holiday activities across the region, all as part of Home for Good: Suffolk.

Our groups were initially for adopters as this was my background and the need I was aware of, but we now have groups for all carers. It’s so important that carers have a safe space where they can share with those who understand and experience similar difficulties. Unfortunately, friends and families aren’t always able to understand the attachment and trauma issues children may have as a result of their early years. There are other additional challenges too, such as ongoing letterbox contact with birth families, so being able to share ideas and ask each other for advice is priceless.

I believe a good support group is accepting and non-judgmental, with a good foundation of trust and respect for confidentiality. It’s so important to not always focus on the negative and, where possible, celebrate the positive, sharing resources and ideas when we can. But of course we should always take time to listen to the struggles and needs that others are experiencing, and consider what we can do to help.

In Suffolk there are a range of different groups, some daytime stay and play sessions or coffee mornings, and other groups meet in the evening for a chance to talk with nibbles, and maybe even a glass of wine. Some of our groups have a faith element and we pray together, but we are keen for them to be open to all parents and carers regardless of faith as we would hate for anyone to miss out on support.  

My advice to anyone considering setting up a support group is, if you can, do it! The need is great and it hopefully won’t take too much to organise and keep going, but it really can be a lifeline to those who are struggling. It’s useful to have one or two people who will take responsibility for co-ordinating the sessions, planning when and where they’ll be and sending out reminders via email or text. But it can be as simple as just opening the door and putting the kettle on!”

If you want to find a support group in your area, select your region on this map. If you are part of a support group that you would like to connect with us, or you are interested in developing a group in your area, please contact the Home for Good Support Manager Claire, as she would love to talk with you about this.

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