Friday 27 May 2016

Smile for the camera

Back in 2007 there were a few weeks were I was quite undecided about whether we could or should put ourselves forward to be Flossy and Lotty's adoptive mam and dad.
It was murky time with emotions running high amidst two hours feeds for Lotty, 5am wake ups from Flossy, 7 to 4:30 work hours and daily contacts. There was a consensus from the big three, Queenie and the Good MrsC that we should adopt but I was nervous for a myriad of reasons.

With no certain decision for them the plan for the girls marched on and photo's were needed for Be My Parent that well known but now gone adoption publication. MrsC volunteered my photographic services and I was instructed to take some appropriate pictures to send to the publishers. So, on a sunny evening I tried to catch all that I knew and had grown to love in a photograph. I'm a fiercely average photographer but what a task trying get a worthy picture of this manic 7 month old and a feisty 19 month old.

I felt sick, their lives boiled down to whether I could take a good photograph. Bribery, persuasion, trickery, distraction and all manner of subterfuge failed dismally. After 30 minutes and without anything that I felt was worthy of them I gave up. I couldn't bear the thought of their faces on some publication like shoes in a catalogue. We called the Local Authority and told them we'd adopt them.
That decided that and the rest is history.

Occasionally I see photo's linked to children in various places, Placement Link, Children Who Wait, the usual places. There was all that who ha last adoption week about the child in the newspaper. Can it be justified? do the means justify the ends. I'm a pragmatic by nature and training but I remain on the fence. However, I do wonder about the fall out of your status and identity being displayed for thousands to see. With complex issues of identity and self frequently present are we adding another trauma or layer of complexity to adoptees and foster children? But should adopters make decisions wholly based on written information alone or is the essential spark of love required that a photo can ignite needed? Or can a photo blind the mind to the hard facts as laid out in profiles? a honey trap? Is it better to remain in foster care and protect your image than to advertise and be adopted.

Photo's often tell more than words can ever say. Today I came across such a photo with the headline underneath 'Could you be Sonny's forever parent?'. That's why I'm writing today because it made me feel sick, like it does most times I see them. 
That's me, my sickness is about Flossy and Lotty on that sunny evening. 
I still have the photo's I took and come across them from time to time I still feel sick. I see in those photo's the difficulties that we all faced at that time and recall the choices we made. 


  1. When we adopted Ben, our Social Worker told us about him on the phone, and later that evening she dropped off his file. No pictures. We expressed our interest, and few days later we met with Ben's Social Worker and Family Finder. It was only at the end of that meeting that we were shown a picture and video of Ben. Our mind was made up much before we saw him, and I love the fact that we decided we want to go ahead with the adoption based on what we knew about his life story and not his appearance. So no, pictures should not be necessary to ignite love.

    1. Like you we made our decision for the big three based on information and discussion with our Social Worker. When we met the Foster Carer we me the Foster Carer we were given a Photo. A very exciting moment, however that was a long time ago and lots of areas of practice have changed since then. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I get this, and I too feel uncomfortable about what amounts to advertising children. And yet . . . and yet . . . I've fostered wonderful children whose paperwork made them seem unrecognisable to me. I think of Baby Girl who I fostered a couple of years ago, and NB from even longer ago. Both of them had files that made for challenging reading, and yet they were living with me and it was fine, wonderful, even. I suppose it's not about photos as much as it is about trying somehow to paint a picture of a whole child, not just a backstory and a list of issues; a cheeky smile on camera can sometimes capture something the paperwork cannot. Baby Girl eventually found her forever family at an Adoption Activity Day - another controversial approach to which I can't easily reconcile myself. Yes, at less than a year old, her story made her 'hard to place' and her profile had been rejected several times, and yet as I already knew, everyone who met her, loved her. The adoptive parents who met her that day went away and researched her issues thoroughly, and came back determined to arm themselves against the future. IF they had not met her, I wonder if they'd have even had that discussion.

  3. It's circle that I can't square, my unease is over ridden by my pragmatism. Ultimately I wish none of it were so, that children did not have to be brought up outside of their original family.
    In a fit of pique I unfollowed the organisation that flashed up the image onto my timeline. I know it happens and I know why it happens but i don't want it invading my mind and personal space which i guess my timeline is. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I was a prospective adopter. On another note I thought the photo was poor and did no favours to the child. If i don't stop I'm going to write another I'll stop. As always, thanks for the comment.