When we raise our concerns and highlight the struggles that many adoptive families face are we in fact driving a nail into contemporary adoption’s coffin?
October rolls around again and National Adoption Week creeps into my calendar, faces of happy adopters and lovable ragamuffins looking for a mum and dad appear in the media.
I’m pausing as I write, the temptation is to fall words about truth and lies in recruitment but that’s an easy cynicism that has no nuance. I don’t believe that there’s a conspiracy or a covering of the realities but how I feel about the push to recruit adopters is complicated. Adoption is the best thing I’ve ever done, of course I’d do it differently, that’s hindsight for you, but would I recommend it? Erm… it’s complicated.
Of course, I understand that National Adoption Week is a recruitment drive. I don’t think that it’s being duplicitous when it shows the pictures and tells the good news stories. I don’t think that it’s a sinister plot marketing plot. #NAW17 is the same as it’s always been – it’s about supply and demand. Yes, that is perhaps a crude phrase to use in relation to children. However, it’s the reality and an ever constant concern for many policy makers and those charged with keeping the system running. Too many children that are in need of permanent homes and too few prospective adopters.
With the figures of children waiting for adoption remaining static and the number of prospective adopters falling then questions are being asked how do we arrest this trend. A lot of money has been thrown at the problem but the trend is set in. What are the underlying causes? I’m no sociologist but I’m sure the answers are complicated.
As a community of adoptive parents we’ve had a frenetic year raising the profile of some of the difficulties that many of us face as we seek support for our children. The list of challenges makes for dire reading; school systems, family understanding, health services, mental health services, challenging behaviour, aggression and violence, challenges with access to service and poor understanding. This year I feel we’ve seen a tide change, my perspective may not be right and I know that many, if not all, still face significant challenges. I feel people are starting to listen but I’m under no illusion that there’s a long way to go. Adoption is not all bad, far from it, AUK’s survey highlighted that most adopters would do it again, as I said it’s the best, and most difficult, thing I’ve ever done. I love them.
However, I’m not sure what prospective adopters are hearing or reading, perhaps prospective is to strong a word. People don’t see an advert and make a U turn in their life, run to the nearest prep group and sign on the dotted line. The idea grows over years, is influenced by experience, knowledge, culture, media and circumstance and then is perhaps realised in National Adoption Week when all the moments up to then align.
However, the narrative is changing. Is adoption, once held so dear, not seen as the gold standard any longer? Media raises the spectre of misuses, abuses and injustice through the likes of Long Lost Families and revelatory documentaries. If you search the internet the adoption community has filled it to overflowing with blogs, Twitter threads and Facebook pages brimming with the ‘reality’ of adopted life. Adoptees tell their stories, adopters tell theirs and birth families theirs. By the very nature of people, we rarely rush to our phones and laptops to tell our good stories or our normal days but we share our worries and struggles. Even our #Glomos are small and sometimes only reflect a lack of challenge and conflict rather than achievement as measured by the wider parenting world.
Can #NAW17 compete with this tide of information, freely available, at the fingertips of the curious and the potential? I don’t know. Are we, adopters, unintentionally casting a fatal shadow over adoption as we know it? Is that a bad thing?
As always National Adoption Week leaves me with more questions than answers.
This blog was also posted at alcoates.co.uk