Following yesterday’s shocking headlines which reported that only 60 babies were adopted in England last year, I was asked by the Daily Mail to describe my experiences of adopting two babies in Mexico because of our failing system. This is what I wrote:
We had to go to Mexico to escape UK’s twisted system: How one couple who wanted to adopt got round council bureaucracy
Twice, my husband and I have tried to adopt children through our local authority. Twice, the over-bureaucratic, ideologically-twisted local authority has stood in our way.
Eventually, we had to travel halfway around the world, to Mexico, where thanks to a far more efficient, orderly, sane system we now have a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Gaia, and one-year-old son, Luca.
The adoption system in Britain is a mess. The average child will wait two years and seven months to be adopted and during that time they will be bounced around the system while their birth mother – often addicted to drugs or alcohol – continues to neglect them.At the same time, the desperate adoptive parents are forced to jump through every hoop the local authority asks them to.
One of the most pernicious ideas in current thinking is that children should be placed with parents who exactly match their racial make-up.
I am white and Italian – although I have lived in Britain for 16 years – and my husband is white and British.
Our local authority, Ealing in West London, rejected our application immediately without even seeing us in the flesh. Apparently they deemed we were too white and middle class. Although we are medically able to have children, we chose to adopt. I have an adopted younger brother and I have seen at first hand the wonderful benefits of adoption.
We were a perfectly ordinary, decent, suburban couple hoping to provide a child with a loving home. We were both in full-time employment: my husband Rick is an ex-banker who works for an energy company and I used to be global communications director for Greenpeace.
We didn’t even smoke – often a problem for prospective adoptive parents.But we were treated like criminals. We were presumed guilty until proven innocent. The local authorities will talk to your parents and your relatives, get bank references and work references. It’s extraordinary – why would we be prepared to go through all this if we didn’t want to be good parents? It was extremely frustrating and invasive.We already owned our own home but we had to renovate it in order to satisfy the local council even before the process of being approved for adoption had begun.
After they had rejected us, Ealing even admitted they had a cap on the number of white parents who could adopt black children and in a farcical twist, after denying us the chance to adopt a non-white child from the same postcode, they suggested we adopt abroad. Mexico was a bit of a roll of the dice, chosen partly because I could speak Spanish. The Mexican end of the process was wonderfully efficient. Our caseworker met us within a week, and talked us through the process.
The authorities were a hundred times more caring than in Britain. Here, we never once met our caseworker at the Department for Education. Whenever we sent them an email, we got an automated email response, saying we couldn’t contact them; they’d have to contact us.
The only problem in adopting Gaia came from the British end. It was a shambles every step of the way. We were approved by our local authority and the Department for Education before going to Mexico. But once we got to Mexico, the British Department for Education lost our papers, and we had to wait three and a half months for them to post the documents to us.
Finally, when we came back through Heathrow, our two-and-a-half-month-old daughter was detained for six hours by immigration authorities, and we were accused of being child traffickers. But Gaia settled in happily and we began to think about adopting again.
When we returned to Ealing to tell them that we wanted to adopt another child, we thought our chances were better as a mixed-race family. No chance. The local authority told us we could only adopt another Mexican baby, from Ealing. What were the chances of finding a baby with that exact background in that exact postcode!
So we returned to Mexico and adopted Luca. This time, the process took only three months (it took six months for Gaia, because of British inefficiency). To adopt a baby in Britain takes nearly three years.
In February, the Government tried to reverse this farcical state of affairs, laying down new guidelines covering ‘transracial’ adoptions, saying that race should not be an issue. But inter-racial adoptions haven’t increased as a result, because local councils and social workers blithely ignore the guidelines and refuse to make the interests of vulnerable little children a priority.