Thursday, 5 October 2017

Questions & Answers #NAW17

In raising our concerns, highlighting our struggles, developing our knowledge of the impacts of trauma, loss and separation to better serve our adopted children are we in fact killing adoption one convert to our message at a time.

October rolls around again and National Adoption Week creeps into my calendar, faces of happy adopters and lovable ragamuffins looking for a mum and dad appear in the media.
I’m pausing as I write, the temptation is to fall words about truth and lies in recruitment but that’s an easy cynicism that has no nuance. I don’t believe that there’s a conspiracy or a covering of the realities but how I feel about the push to recruit adopters is complicated. Adoption is the best thing I’ve ever done, of course I’d do it differently, that’s hindsight for you, but would I recommend it? Erm……….. it’s complicated.



Of course, I understand that National Adoption Week is a recruitment drive. I don’t think that it’s being duplicitous when it shows the pictures and tells the good news stories. I don’t think that it’s a sinister plot marketing plot. #NAW17 is the same as it’s always been it’s about supply and demand. Yes, that is perhaps a crude phrase to use in relation to children. However, it’s the reality and an ever constant concern for many policy makers and those charged with keeping the system running. Too many children that are in need of permanent homes and too few prospective adopters.

With the figures of children waiting for adoption remaining static and the number of prospective adopters falling then questions are being asked how do we arrest this trend. A lot of money has been thrown at the problem but the trend is set in. What are the underlying causes? I’m no sociologist but I’m sure the answers are complicated.

As a community of adoptive parents we’ve had a frenetic year raising the profile of some of the difficulties that many of us face as we seek support for our children. The list of challenges makes for dire reading; school systems, family understanding, health services, mental health services, challenging behaviour, aggression and violence, challenges with access to service and poor understanding. This year I feel we’ve seen a tide change, my perspective may not be right and I know that many, if not all, still face significant challenges. I feel people are starting to listen but I’m under no illusion that there’s a long way to go.   Adoption is not all bad, far from it, AUK’s survey highlighted that most adopters would do it again, as I said it’s the best, and most difficult, thing I’ve ever done. I love them.
However, I’m not sure what prospective adopters are hearing or reading, perhaps prospective is to strong a word. People don’t see an advert and make a U turn in their life, run to the nearest prep group and sign on the dotted line. The idea grows over years, is influenced by experience, knowledge,  culture, media and circumstance and then is perhaps realised in National Adoption Week when all the moments up to then align.

However, the narrative is changing. Is adoption, once held so dear, not seen as the gold standard any longer? Media raises the spectre of misuses, abuses and injustice through the likes of Long Lost Families and revelatory documentaries. If you search the internet the adoption community has filled it to overflowing with blogs, twitter threads and Facebook pages brimming with the ‘reality’ of adopted life. Adoptees tell their stories, adopters tell theirs and birth families theirs. By the very nature of people, we rarely rush to our phones and laptops to tell our good stories or our normal days but we share our worries and struggles. Even our #Glomos are small and sometimes only reflect a lack of challenge and conflict rather than achievement as measured by the wider parenting world.

Can #NAW17 compete with this tide of information, freely available, at the fingertips of the curious and the potential? I don’t know. Are we, adopters, unintentionally casting a fatal shadow over adoption as we know it? Is that a bad thing?


As always National Adoption Week leaves me with more questions than answers.






14 comments:

  1. From someone who is currently going through the process with my husband and birth daughter, I think information can only ever be a good thing. Those blogs and rants and calls for help on message boards have served as an educational tool I had no idea I would need when we made that first call of interest. But for me at least, as you say, adoption is something that has built up throughout my life and by the time we were ready to say go, we were all in. Knowing about the struggles adoptive families face has made it more important to read everything we can and self-fund training where necessary on attachment and trauma and therapeutic parenting ect. Had I not read those blog posts about families hanging on by a thread, I would have stuck with the 'How to talk to your kid about adoption' books and called it a day. Maybe the information will create a new wave of adopters who are more prepared to walk into the deep end? I don't know, and I'm still on the other side of this so we shall see. I will say, because of those who've shared their stories, we at least won't be caught off-guard if we find ourselves in a similar situation. Although, to be honest, if the prospective adopter groups are anything to go by - there are still a lot of people going through the process with tunnel vision, who aren't educating themselves further than required basic training. For those, I'd say keep shouting from the rooftops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for commenting, your view is essential as I can't put myself in your position and I hate trying to second guess your view (if you ever want to write a guest post just DM me). I'm intrigued that your route is perhaps different to the traditional route and you bring a raft of experience as a parent that some applicants don't. To my mind you sound like the future of adoption, progressive, informed and experienced. Good luck!

      Delete
  2. I think and very strongly feel that blaming or even implying that these struggling adopters who speak up, write blogs, turn to media in desperation because otherwise they are ignored and not supported 'cast a shadow' over adoption is a Daily Fail attitude. I know some of your challenges, you know some of our challenges and we are one of those who would never in our sane mind do this again, I would even hesitate on the 'do you regret your decision' question... SOme of it comes down to we were not told the full story, we were misled by the challenges of our children, we don't feel supported in meaningful ways and dare I say we weren't assessed properly and were just rushed through panel because we said we want hard-to-place children... Before we went down this road I was also complaining that I only read about hardships and no happy stories about adoption and now, I am blogging about depressing stories week after week. But despite this, even friends of mine want to adopt and they find my depressing posts helpful to dismiss the rosy cloud that LA's still cast on adoption and fostering.

    It would be interesting to hear of those who responded, how many adopters adopted because that was the ONLY way for them to become parents and how many adopted for other reasons. I believe more adopters are needed who don't do it out of desperation, but those should have absolutely clear information and facts on how challenging it will be and how difficult it is to get support.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mostly agree with you and I don't regret our decision at all but am very cautious in recommending it. It's not an issue of blame or judgement it's a simple question are we putting people off? Are we part of the reason that the number of approved adopters is decreasing?

      Delete
  3. Great Blog, just to add to the mix, one of the things I have observed is that those who foster first, i.e foster a particular child, maybe one with lots of problems, and then chose to adopt that child. They then have no illusions, and seem to accept the children for what they are, because they already knew. Seems to me quite a good way to go...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a great believer in that model.

      Delete
  4. Following the recent media coverage I, along with many others, read an eloquent blog post by an adult adoptee entitled "I am not like that". The adoption triad is a strange beast, interwoven, interdependent, yet at sometimes almost unbearable tension. It is extremely regrettable if raising awareness of the difficulties faced by some adoptive families causes any adoptee to feel judged, demonised or categorised as 'bad'. It makes me cringe back and wonder if it's just best to keep quiet. And yet, each member of the triad ought to have a voice. To tell adopters that they should be grateful, that they got what they asked for, that they should not speak out about challenges for fear of causing offence denies that voice, and does nothing to help the very adopted children that they are advocating for. While children are young, parents will fight for them. At the moment fighting for them means uncomfortable truth telling. How that will play out in the lives of adopted young people as they grow older, we cannot tell. But I hope my children are articulate, self aware and confident enough to be able to express their opinions when the time comes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've raised a really important issue. I worry constantly that in raising challenges that the pendulum will swing to a point where all adoptees are labelled as challenging and that's the last thing they need or I want to do. When I speak publicly the first thing I do is try to bring context to the conversation and make it clear that it's not an attempt to blame anyone. Very tricky though. As always your comments are much appreciated.

      Delete
  5. Great blog! I think you might be right about some people being put off but, for me, just like the anonymous commenter above, the information made me read more widely, attend more courses and question myself at a deeper level before going ahead.

    Feeling Mum Yet talked about whether adopters choose this route because it is their only one. It's an interesting question. I chose adoption because it seemed the only possible way that made having a family 'worth it'. I can't easily articulate why I felt that way but I just knew I felt no desire to have children by birth. I felt that my children existed somewhere in the world and I went looking for them.

    I confess there were times when I read Twitter posts and blogs about the reality of adoption and thought I'd be better off building my career and getting a dog! In many ways I know this to be true but my life would have none of the colour and meaning it has now.

    Perhaps that's something we adopters need to blog about a bit more? Maybe we need to share the great things that are happening, the milestones reached, the developments achieved, the hugs and kisses that didn't used to be forthcoming, the 'cheek' coming from a child who previously said and did exactly what she was told for fear of repercussions. There are so many wins. Maybe we need a hashtag for those and we can start bringing the good stuff into focus a bit more.

    One last thing (I didn't intend to write such a long comment!), a friend of mine made enquiries about adopting through LA in North London and was turned away on the basis that they weren't taking on new adopters. That was 6 weeks ago. Makes me wonder how many others are being turned away at the door.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Firstly, it's great to get peoples comments, there's nothing worse than think you're just shouting into the wind. So thank you for the long comment.
      I agree with all of what you've said, mainly because I think that we need to have informed and nuanced conversations that are specific to every applicant, catch all courses tend to catch very little and in reality we need to meet people where they're at and walk them through the process and into the land of adoption.

      Delete
  6. I’d agree there is a lot of evidence of challenging situations and stories of complex children. I’m sure that sounds more professional that it is meant to. After all, aren’t we all complex individuals. Admittedly some of us have more helpful ways of communicating our needs, desires and fears. Some of us have more fears and needs than desires but I guess that’s not what I am responding to here.

    As part of deciding if we applied to assessment I remember asking an experienced adopter if you had to be super positive to adopt or whether it just helped. The answer was fundamental in us proceeding (for me anyway) as I’m not super positive. I can’t quote ‘word for word’ but essentially the answer was that not all children needing placement were as needy as you might fear – or be led to expect.

    We went through the assessment process with our eyes open and did our research. In my opinion all the training had a potentially negative edge; had we considered ‘y’ possible difficulty, had we thought how we’d cope if ‘x’ happened in teenage years. The training forces you to consider these questions and it would be fool-hardy not to give thought to the honesty of the answers. All the time though I balanced the answer from the experienced adopter against the ‘professional advice’ and what we knew could cope with. The most positive questions I recall were at Panel when we were asked “what it would mean to be approved” and “where we saw ourselves in 5 years’ time”.

    It's early days but I’d class us as having had a good news story yet I have to confess it was a negative aspect that lead to me sharing it just the once. That’s on-line though. Ask me in person and I have numerous pictures and stories of happy family life. I just don’t share them on line. In large part I’m following guidance and I’m pretty clamped down on Facebook. Perhaps I need to find an effective way of sharing every-day life more widely / more often and overcome a cultural understated-ness. Who would be interested in reading how lovely my weekend was even though we didn’t give birth to our child? The joy of seeing grandma building with grandchild; snatching time to share stories as you walk by other un-knowing parents – just two positive experiences in one morning I thought I’d never have. Would sharing what many take for granted help to redress the balance or be dismissed as “that’s lovely for you but how does that help me with…”? I’d certainly have to be more intentional about sharing if I literally needed ‘a thousand words’ to explain the picture I’d otherwise post with a few clicks.

    There is also a bit of me that just wants to blend in to the background and not stand out; I had enough of that being half of a childless couple in a seemingly fertile world.

    We found our way through but I guess I’m also part of the reason the negative may be allowed to dominate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for commenting. Challenges may be over represented but there are many good 'normal' stories of life lived like many other families. We can only represent our own stories in our own way, for you to paint a picture and present yourself to the outside world in a way that isn't you seems like no solution. I don't think that there's a simple solution and in some regards the pendulum of public perception is swinging from wholly positive to perhaps something else. However, in this vacuum we operate and we just do tell our stories, if we want to, in a way that reflects our personalities. Hey ho.

      Delete
  7. I read your article with a great deal of interest. My husband and I are adoptive and long term foster parents of older children with special needs in South Africa - a country struggling under the overwhelming number of children in need of care and where adoption is on a steep decline for various reason including cultural bias and bureaucracy. With that in mind, when people approach us (we're multicultural so the fact that we've adopted is obvious) and exclaim about how they are interested in adopting etc, I have to bite my tongue when they expound on how they would love to adopt an older child(That whole saviour thing comes through way too often). Anybody who has adopted older children(7, 8 and 9) or any other special needs child should be well aware of the challenges as well as the joys ahead of them. I find it difficult to encourage the idea of adoption and still be honest about the pitfalls. Yes - if we had the ability to foretell the future we would still do it over again, although perhaps without the rose coloured spectacles and blinkers. We have three beautiful, courageous and healthy young adults who are well established on the path to independence and being able one day to take care of our grandchildren so that the next generation does not enter the social welfare system. That said, RAD, FASD, ADD etc (or alphabet soup as it is known in our home) has made the journey excruciatingly painful for everybody at times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Firstly, thanks for commenting. Like you I feel it sometimes seems too complex an issue to draw a simple and concise conclusion to. Your story is typical, we love our children, it's been hard, we'd do it differently and we'd undoubtably do it again, pain and all.

      Al

      Delete