Did I hear someone say adoption week? There were no big announcements from the government, the media seemed preoccupied/bored/disinterested and this general apathy was reflected in the public. “Oh you’re an adoption campaigner,” they say. “Isn’t that stuff all sorted now. I heard the government changed everything.” Uh. No, actually they haven’t changed everything or even very much.
This year the thrust of adoption week was the idea that people considering adoption should consider adopting groups of siblings That’s a huge ask when we have a system that struggles to fulfil the relatively easier task of single child adoptions. As many of 49% of adoptable children are siblings. The reason the figure is so high is that children are kept in care for far too long. So the first of three siblings might be removed from the family and put into care. Another child comes along. For reasons of neglect or abuse the second child is put into care. Another one or two arrive. Finding parents for these children who were already troubled but are now neglected by the care system, well how easy do you think that is? Remember, unlike foster care, adoptive parents get no support. None. So if you happen to listen to the government – and your heart – and adopt a set of siblings from a drug addled or alcoholic family, then you’ll be dealing with their traumas on your own. I doubt the policy makers in the government could ever imagine what that might be like. But then I seriously doubt they have any idea of what it’s like to be a forgotten child, being passed between care agencies and foster carers.
On Monday I was invited to host a chat at Mumsnet to open adoption week. Because Adopt a Better Way is not a licences adoption agency (this is only true for Councils and a handful of voluntary agencies vetted by the Councils) I am not allowed to give any direct advice on adoption. The questions that I received from adoptive mothers were utterly heartbreaking. Some of these were women who’d done what the government seems to think more people should do: they’d taken on either one or more children and had been abandoned. There were people who’d been violently attacked by their own children, bullied by their neighbours and abandoned by cash-strapped social services and local authorities. I’m accustomed to poring over data that reveal numbers of neglected and abused children and the consequences of this neglect. What I’m not used to is hearing from mothers who are stabbed with a biro by their own child, while they’re typing a message to me. To say I was overwhelmed by the desperation of these well-meaning people is an understatement. This was Edward Timpson’s ‘World Class’ adoption system at work. I wish he could have spoken to these women and seen and felt their pain.
I felt sad afterwards. I felt dejected. It happens to me often. And then, I decide I have to pick myself up and continue fighting for the thousands of kids who will never, ever grow up with the love and care of a stable family. Seventy two children a day go into care in the UK. That’s one every 20 minutes. And I won’t rest until we start caring about and respecting them as the human beings they are.