Thursday 7 April 2016

The rise of the Adopters

I've had this feeling that's been brewing and festering that then turned into a title for a blog 'The Rise of the Adopters'. It's been a struggle to turn my feelings into words that make sense and accurately express how what's going on in my head. So, I've been reading, thinking, talking and pondering.

Adoption is not a human right, for adopters, it's a choice and a privilege. Adopters come to adoption for a myriad of reasons through different routes, often painful routes, with different expectations, hopes and dreams. These factors all impact on what we actually want and expect. I sometimes meet prospective adopters and I'm nervous for them as we talk and their expectations are shared with me. The views of adopters, and prospective adopters, are valuable and useful but should they be used to inform policy? Of course they should but the weight that they are given is where my thoughts linger. Adopters punch way above their weight in many regards, emotionally, culturally and politically. We rarely see anything other than agreement over adoption announcements in the press? The nation is outraged when we read the headlines:

'Too fat to adopt, too thin to adopt, too old, too whatever'

But as I said adoption is not a human right. However, for whatever reason the dynamic is that adopters are placed on a pedestal as saints and children are labeled lucky to have been adopted by them. Laws are massaged to suit adopters with approval times reduced and the requirement to consider the culture and ethnicity of children when matching removed. Pragmatic realism or pandering to popularist views, we could, and should, argue the toss. But the balance of power remains with adopters. Adopters have a voice. 

Children are given no, or very little choice in relation to their adoption. This is the history of adoption favours the adopter. Children are the victims of circumstance, policy and culture. My children had no choice.

Where are the voices of adopted children?

Though few and far between adult adoptees do have a voice but we rarely hear the voices of children. Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that children have the right to say what they think should happen in decisions that affect them and to have their views taken into account. I'm not sure that's what it looks like on the ground.

Of course gathering anybody's views is hard let alone children especially those perhaps more vulnerable than their peers.  All parents know the challenge of weighing what we think is in the best interests of our children with what they want, a challenge that we as a family face on what seems like a weekly basis.

So, what am I saying?

I'm an advocate for adoption but I see that it's a system and model with flaws and for some children and adults it falls short of the ideal. I believe that for many the security, love and safety of adoption is the best option. I also believe that it can and should be better and that it could be different.

To be honest I'm thinking aloud. Adoptive parents fight like lions for their children on a daily basis and we promote the best interests to a myriad of friends, family and professionals. The DfE is investing in the views of adopters through the Adopter's Voice initiative to influence policy and practice. I would suggest that those who can use this opportunity to not only share our experiences but to share not only the experiences of our children but where possible the views and wishes of our children.

Lets be a voice for the voiceless. Let's shout louder.

I've not mentioned first families but as you can imagine I have thoughts. 
This blog was a lot longer but in the interests of sanity I cut it to nothing.

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