Wednesday 28 February 2018


I was listening to a couple on Radio 4 discuss their journey through infertility and considering their options for becoming parents. Their honesty was refreshing and their view on adoption was interesting, it was just an option that was available to them to meet their need. As they talked they weighed the pros and cons.  It was their honesty and language that made me pause and re consider adoption again. (In writing my thoughts I don’t want this to be read as a criticism of them more a reflection on motivations to adopt.). The desires of the couple were front and centre, there's nothing wrong with that, after all the piece was focusing on them but it was in stark contrast to what I know of the needs of the children who are available to be adopted.

I couldn’t help think that the reality is many adopters are meeting their own needs in the first instance. We want to be parents and adoption is an open route to us, we may have tried many before we came to adoption. The couple spoke about international adoption and how it appealed to them for a range of reasons with one being the age of the child. As they spoke it felt like children were reduced to goods meeting their desire to parent. However, I’m not naive, that is the reality that lurks within what are complex issues in the hearts and minds of many adopters. Issues that are often hidden under loss and disappointment. Sometimes, a few weeks, months or years those issues resurface. 
Of course this is not universally true but I'd hazard a guess that it's true for the majority. 

Then the next day I caught the end of a discussion on surrogacy on the radio. Again, the language was that of  commerce with children framed as commodities and the desires of adults the primary issue. Language matters and the interviewer spoke of 'supply and demand' it wasn't tongue in cheek and it was expressing the reality that many adults are unable to get what they want and what they want is a baby.

We've all set off to the shops with aspirations to buy something we want only to discover it's out of stock or not available. We are faced with a choice, do we wait and return or do we compromise take the bigger size/ different colour or walk away and go without? That sometimes works out ok, but I've also regretted buying when it wasn't really what I wanted.
Adopters compromise their desire in light of market forces, if you want a baby you're going to struggle to get one. So, do you go for 'second best' and accept a toddler, not what you want but what you've got a good chance of getting. Or, do you take an older sibling to get a younger child. All pragmatic and difficult decisions to get what you want.

I wonder if we can reconcile the two issues of the wants of adopters and the needs of children. Children 'need' adults that can nurture them, raise them, love them. Adults 'want' children perhaps dreams of children that don't exist.  It's this want that is tricky. Do we need to find a different type of adopter adopters that have different desires and wants. To do that do we need to offer a different sort of support?

I don't need to explain the challenges that contemporary adoption faces and to meet those requirements do we need adopters who are willing to give up on their desires, hopes and aspirations for parenting and become the parent that their child needs. That parent may look very different to the parent they wanted to be.

I'm not sure that I've got answers but I've certainly got some questions. So, I apologise for a slightly unsatisfying post.

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