Thursday, 17 May 2018

Adoption: Pragmatic DNA

I'm really comfortable with the idea that adoption is second best, has pragmatic DNA and is fundamentally an issue held in a quandary that cannot be resolved.

For every article questioning the validity of adoption in the context of human rights, primal wounds, societal changes and austerity cuts to family support there is a counter argument that cannot be reconciled to that question. The argument being there are children that cannot and should not live with their parents or wider family under any circumstances including high levels of support and we all agree that the state is at not a great parent. Alternative parents do pretty well but want certainty and ownership so we have adoption. Perhaps ownership is too strong, perhaps.

That is a starting point. So, depending on your experience and political, religious, ethical and moral stance the pendulum swings to varying degrees to one or the other argument. That is reflected in the views of the minsters and the resources that are pumped into either side of the argument. It's reflected in the positions of the charities that support one or the other position. It's reflected in the paper you read, the bible verse you read and the documentaries you watch.

Both positions are right and neither is wrong. Come to my house and present your case for either position and I could shoot you down with hard facts and stories from each of my children's lives, academic research for the opposing position. There lies the rub. Adoption is not a binary issue.

Bear with me, I can't say it enough, it is not and it never will be a binary issue with a 'correct' position. It reflects the values, politics and perspectives of the society it's based in and it dates really badly. Look back 40 years at adoption practice and it's appalling. We'll look back in 40 years from now and be appalled.

I'm not sure that helps the adopters of the 55,000 UK children under 16 who inhabit the space between the two positions. The questioning or affirming articles and blogs appear with regular frequency and strike to the core of our family composition and DNA. Not always a nice feeling.

I know my children's story and it plays out this debate, a lack of intervention by the state layered over  terrible and inappropriate actions. Neither right but this is where we are, my naivety and, on reflection, dogmatic and blinkers perspectives at the beginning of my journey don't help me now.

Leaving adopters perspectives on these two view I'm even more convinced that the other deafeningly quiet voices of this adoption arrangement are equally disturbed by the two positions that ebb and flow.


As a society we've decided that we will have adoption but I believe we need to challenge every last bit of it every single day. Adopters, don't fall into lazy dogma push hard, fight back, reject the lazy narratives, be difficult and ask difficult questions. Be the change that adoption needs. Embrace the questions.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. I struggle with it so much. Especially as my 8 year old cries in our arms and questions why she had to be adopted, and therefore different.
    In an ideal world, I would never have met my children. And yet, given the imperfect world we live in, this is probably the best possible solution to their situation. (And I had to check myself and add the word "probably" to that last sentence.) I don't think it's about my "ownership" of the children - I hope it's about a sense of permanence for them. We are their family now, and they won't need a new one again. But what does that mean for their old family and their identity?
    I keep popping back to twitter as I formulate this reply - and in the last fifteen minutes have seen tweets about adopters being "blessed" and adoption being "meant to be", as well as tweets about adopters' mental health, and a report that 59% of adoptees have no contact with their birth family. How can those ever be reconciled?
    I agree that adopters need to challenge the lazy narrative - whether that's the fairytale ending or the primal wound. Neither is fully accurate. We also need to hear more from adoptees, and birth families.

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    1. Thank you for commenting, I think myself round in circles with the whole issue and I'm not sure that there's an easy solution. Like you say we need to keep challenging, even that is tricky as I'm not sure where to even start.

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