Byline: VICKY ROBSON
THOUSANDS of children in the UK spend their childhoods growing up in care.
Never knowing their 'real' parents, where they truly come from and therefore, who they really are, adopted children often face a lifetime without answers to the crucial questions concerning their identity.
Launching this week, a new book written by a group of adopted young people aims to explain the process from a child's perspective in a bid to help others.
"Everyone at some point will look back on their life story and wonder about where they come from and how they became the people they are," says Lynn Charlton, chief executive of national charity After Adoption.
"For some adopted people this can be very challenging. They have had disrupted pasts and therefore, the continuity of their life stories can also be disrupted.
"Identity is critical for adopted children. They need to know who they are and this book was born from their ideas to help younger children understand what adoption means," adds Lynn, originally from Newcastle.
The book, called The Making of U, has been created by a group of seven adopted young people from the North East - Charlotte, Jordan, Jason, Melissa, Stacey, Stephen and William - as part of an After Adoption project.
They worked in collaboration with Newcastle-based illustrator Josie Brookes and writer Paul Summers, from Blyth, in Northumberland, with artistic support from Bethan Laker.
The project, Getting It: Together, aims to give 11 to 25-year-olds a voice and a space to talk about what adoption means to them.
Lynn says: "The young people who worked on this particular project described things very similar to what other adopted children have said, like they can sometimes feel very isolated for instance, especially when they are talking to friends in school.
"Things like 'normal' school activities, where a teacher might innocently say 'bring in a picture of your family' or a baby photograph, has a greater significance for adopted children.
"They have the family that they live with, but also have this other family that they were born into, that they probably know about, and they have to carry these two around in their heads at the same time.
"So for them to follow through with their own ideas to educate other people about adoption is fairly amazing. This book just shows what can be achieved with the support of an agency like After Adoption."
The book's main character is an alien who travels the galaxy in a special space taxi driven
by a friendly giraffe, searching for a planet to call home. The idea aims to reflect the journey of self discovery all children - not just adopted children - will inevitably go through at some stage early in their lives. Illustrator Josie Brooks, who lives in Heaton, said: "I thought it was a brilliant setting and for me, as an illustrator, there was just so much to work with. "There are quite exciting scenes and the space setting is something that all children love because it's another world. The concept of the space giraffe taxi was quite challenging, but I think he looks really good.
"He was based on a sketch done by one of the young people, so I tried to stay true to that design and used it as my inspiration." As the alien's vo yage progresses, Josie's drawings change in colour to reflect the mood and emotions experienced by the soul-searching space explorer. Josie adds: "It's not about having a romantic happy ending. Adopted children can sometimes feel a bit confused and their identity is a bit of myster y. "It's more about letting go of things that they are never going to find out and being happy and content with themselves. "They wanted to create something that would benefit other adopted children, but all children can relate to it because it's about a journey of self discovery, which all children go through." The space analogy was used to help emphasise the multi-dimensional process of adoption, with both the search for a home and identity, to the seemingly endless and often lonely journey along the way. …