Thursday 13 October 2016

National Adoption Week 2016 - Long lost families 2050

It's National Adoption Week and I'd like to take you on a little strole through my imagination.

Imagine the scene, it's 2050 and I'm 79 years old. I go to the telly box and tune into my favourite bit of TV, Long Lost Families. The music swells and the presenters, a celebrity adoptee and a much loved presenter, start to tell you the stories that they are going to feature that week. Adult adoptees looking for the families that they were adopted from in the first years of the twenty first century, people telling their stories.

Pause a second. 

I look back now at the acceptable practices in relaiton to adoption of the 1950's, 60's & 70's with amazement. Society accepted a totally different set of norms that allowed children to be forcably taken from parents with the acquiescence of courts, Social Workers, families, communities, churches and media. In fact those groups and individuals perpetuated the conditions that made adoption a  reasonable, acceptable and a proportionate response to what was seen as moral weakness, sin, immorality and a corrosive element in society. Pretty grim days.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I think that part of the popularity of the long lost type program is astonishment at the judgement of society and the hope of justice in reunification. It's nice to think that would never happen now.

Back to 2050.

How will future society and adult adoptees view the government's push to recruit adopters, the money poured into advertising campaigns, the adoption fairs and websites with children's faces on? How will the restriction on adoption support and limits on resources be seen? the political influence exerted over judges and the fight back? the stigmatisation of mental health of birth parents and limited support as their children move on, the dogma of severance and the perspectives of all but a few countries as they move away from a policy of adoption.

I'm not sure how adoption will fair and if society will judge our norms as dogmatic, naive or worse. Will they see the Gove/Cameron Adoption project as a roaring success? What will they say?

Perhaps the narrative will change, the needs of children will be prioritised above the needs of adopters and birth families. Maybe judges will be allowed to rule and the decision will be supported by financial and therapeutic support. Where adopters are equipped, empowered and engaged in caring for the children they are responsibility and birth families are not framed as the enemy. Adopters, professionals  and extended families working to meet the needs of children.

Every day my views and perspectives have changed, everyday I've become less binary and increasingly murky. More and more I'm compelled to ask myself, 'am I on the right side of this story and is there a right side to this story, am I one of the good guys?'

I'm not sure how history will judge us, more to the point how my children will judge me.

Adoption is not what it was but it certainly not what I would hope it could be, parenting other people's children is damn hard.


  1. Hi Al- it's great to hear your thoughts in National Adoption Week. On reading your post though, I wondered if your third paragraph actually answers your second? I think, personally, that the narrative of adoption hasnt changed that much over the years- in fact, I think the modern day marketing of children is actively worse than some of the practices of the 50s, 60s etc. But perhaps there isn't really a right/wrong, good/bad when it comes to adoption- maybe when we apply moral judgements to anyone involved in adoption, we risk opening an ugly can of worms- one which only serves to propagate the division between adopters/adopted people/ birth families/ extended families/ professionals etc etc (ain't no such thing as a triad!) I absolutely agree though that the priority needs to be the children at the heart of adoption, it is their voices that are seldom heard, their experiences that can inform how to do things differently- it would be amazing if we could listen.

    1. Hi, thanks for commenting and you're right I think I did answer my own question. I agree with you that not much has changed and in a lot of regards children are still a commodity. I fear that, like most can of worms you can only keep the lid on for so long.