Bruce Oldfield, the couture dress designer kindly contributed the foreword to my book. He reflects on his experiences as a foster child and the “obsessive bureaucracy” of our adoption system in the UK which is failing children. This is what he wrote:
Common sense might suggest that the route to adoption should be as uncomplicated as possible but we now have a situation in the UK where there are thousands of children in need of a stable permanent home in spite of the increasing demand from potential adoptive parents.
Yes, there need to be the necessary rules and checks, however the current experience is one that is exasperating, gruelling and unintentionally inhumane. That description does not simply apply to potential parents but also to the children in waiting, and, frequently, the birth parents.
Today it is nearly impossible for a white family in the UK to adopt a black or dual-heritage child. Back in the sixties me and my four ethnically different foster siblings were raised by a single, white woman. Can you imagine that happening in today’s climate? It wouldn’t because political correctness and the attendant issues of colour and race would take precedence over the need to give a child a loving home. So we wouldn’t have had a secure home, food, warmth and the inspiration of a wonderful woman who shaped the way we see the world today.
When I read Mexican Takeaway, I strongly felt Francesca’s exasperation in her own attempts to navigate the system. While this is a personal book, she does not attempt to wring pity from the reader but rather to show that despite her and her husband’s resources- along with her dogged Latin determination and sheer stubborness, it was still insanely difficult to adopt a child either in the UK or internationally.
It appears that our society has replaced basic human needs (especially those of children in care) with the kind of obsessive bureaucracy that has led to race, religion and class becoming key criteria for matching children and potential parents. As desirable as this looks on paper, it doesn’t acknowledge the realities of the world we live in; a world where the majority of children looking for homes are black or of mixed race and the majority of parents willing or able to adopt are white.
The system also fails to recognize that children do pass their sell-by date in the adoption stakes once they leave toddler-hood so it is ill-advised to let children languish in temporary care, waiting for all the boxes to be ticked in the search for a politically correct.
This is as much a book about a life-changing journey as it is a story of a couple’s attempts to adopt. My view is that even if you are not directly interested in the subject of adoption you will be gripped by this emotional, funny and observant road trip through Mexico.
At the same time Mexican Takeaway raises some key issues that I hope will inspire discussion and action. When tens of thousands of children, both here and abroad, languish in care until they are teenagers only to be thrown into the big wide world with no support, something isn’t right.
A merry go round of multiple foster homes is simply not an alternative to a secure, permanent home for a child. In the end it is about love. Luckily today we live in a world where the concept of family is a diverse one. If there are people who will love and care for you, then you have a chance in life. In writing this book, Francesca wants to open up the debate so that ultimately more children can have that shot at a life. I hope so too.
Bruce Oldfield OBE