Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Commodity

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.




10 comments:

  1. I don't think it is an unsatisfying post just complex and thought provoking one -much like adoption itself. I always wanted children and when things didn't happen naturally considered lots of options, tried fertility treatment and finally adopted I don't think the reality of parenthood particularly adoptive parenthood was ever properly explained...maybe I wouldn't have done it if it had! I'm glad I did though.

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    1. We all travel to adoption through different routes and challenges and then try to make it work through many struggles and trials. We all say we'd do it again but differently!

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  2. I find this very hard. Adoption should be a service for children and I am rapidly going off the whole concept. That isn't of course to criticise any adopters. It is rather to suggest the dissonance between the support, training, and payment that foster carers and adopters receive is in nobodies interests. My new idea is to have a growing up family, so you can't grow up with your own family, but you can see them (risk permitting and managed) and this is where you will grow up. Adoptive adults have more commonly than not people who have experienced infertility and explored many other ways to have their family. That's a trauma of its own, adults do of course live alongside their own trauma, but it is odd that we place traumatised children with traumatised adults and leave them along to get on with it. The balance between what people need and normal family life without state intervention needs revisiting.

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    1. Like you I've more questions than ever, one of the positives of adoption can be the belonging and lifelong commitment adopters should give. Adoption relies on a willing and committed adopter and I fear that we're asking too much of the cohort that we've traditionally seen come forward. All is not as it was.

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    2. I agree but there is also an issue with the political rhetoric which has been very loud about adoption since Blair really. Along with the general negativity about social workers, it contributes to some adopters not really hearing the information they are given about who the children are. I also think there is something in that 'journey' that is so emotional for adopters sometimes that they can't hear who the children are and what the issues are. I say this having witnessed very good training and heard comments from adopters following it which contradict the content, not just misunderstand it. This is all anecdotal of course and again really not to criticise anyone, but I breathed a sigh of relief when there was a same sex couple to assess, whose first choice was adoption. I don't want children to have state interference, I want them to feel they belong, and to have stability in a 'normal' family life. I do thought think the support needs are the same for adopters and foster carers and that anyone goes away before children become teenagers and need more help is a bit daft imho. More help is needed later not less. I don't know whether we should have some kind of annual review with adoptive parents. Anyway, there's a lot I don't know how to resolve but you are right in so far as it is different beast, has been since the Children Act really, and that we are pretty much only placing traumatised children needs to be acknowledged.

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    3. You've raised some good points and I fear that I've experienced that inability, or unwillingness, of some to accept the reality of what this cohort of children need, have experienced and may present as. That is a unique challenge and not one I can work out how to resolve. I wonder if those that go to international adoption understand and are looking to negate early trauma as much as possible. Though I think international adoption is another subject all together.

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  3. I apologise for all the typos, chemo brain is a real thing apparently, and I very often use entirely the wrong word when I am writing...

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  4. Foreign adoptee here, you’ll finally have to redefine adoption, because adoption is now all you have writen. Identity theft and Alienation. It means slavery. It means desire of being parents. The key of adoption is fulfill the couple’s wish, it is never focused on the child needs.

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    1. Not knowing more about your circumstances beyond what you've said I agree that much of international adoption raises serious ethical questions. Of course children are often the commodity that are bought to appease an adopter's desire to have a child at any cost or for them to work out a mission that they have. There are others who's motivations are different but ultimately children are moved and money is exchanged.
      In the UK its a small number and domestic adoption is within our social care system with no money and for children who cannot legally live with their parents. There remains questions and ethical concerns but very different to international adoption.

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