Friday, 8 November 2019

Adoption: A Nettle we Should Grasp?

I’ve been seeing the  Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem’ phrase a lot recently and I.........well I'm not sure it's that simple. I really would love it to be. 

It is succinct and to the point and encapsulates a position fantastically well and I get exactly what is being said but it really doesn’t reflect the complexity of almost all situations. For clarity I'm not talking about historic adoption, or necessarily other models and cultures of adoption, that is a truly complicated picture and way above my pay grade. I'm thinking about contemporary UK adoption. *

Anyway. that phrase reduces a lot of things down to what are murky and complicated issues in a way that does the adoption conversion no favours at all. I see lots of perspectives in the online debate, one position that wants it to be simple and one that wants it to be complicated and never the twain shall meet. Both reluctant to engage in meaningful conversation and I find myself pulled between the two positions and often agreeing and disagreeing with both, again I'm a total cop out. 

Like surgery, adoption is traumatic, painful, messy, dangerous and sometimes planned, sometimes carried out in less than ideal situations, often a judgement call based on best evidence. Never the less, it is a trauma, carries inherent risks and is rarely a guarantee of anything. That all said, we can all agree that sometimes surgery is needed and we weigh the cost, balance the risk and make that decision. Only with hindsight we know if it was the right thing. 


Through my work I read the stories of children in families every day and it is mostly really complex. Act or don't act, intervene or not, remove or support. The answers are judgements made on available information, no crystal balls available, 10 years down the line we may see clearly but right then we can only go with what is shown. Should we support families more, with no caveat yes. However, for some families that isn't good enough for children for a raft of reasons. We can all play a hypothetical game on twitter but that isn't an option for those with the actual decisions. 

A few years ago I attended one of the consultation days of the adoption enquiry and it was a challenging day to say the least. Talking with parents of children removed then adopted as a ‘user’ of the adoption system is to say the least is a complicated conversation. It was tense at times, it was emotive at times and I questioned myself, my children’s story and the system that managed that process. However, we could all agree that some children should not and could not be cared for by their parents and that their families cannot and should not have physical contact with those children. In that case we need to find permanent homes for those children. We know that long term foster care is often an illusive thing with inherent challenges and SGOs not always possible. So why not adoption? Why not? The key arguments against are hydra but identity, contact and access to information are primary issues. If we resolve those issues then does that change the conversation? does that alter how we view adoption? 

I'm not sure. This year I've thought harder than ever about the ethics and values in relation to adoption, questioned my motives and parenting, listened to adopted adults and stretched myself out. 

I don't want to stretch the surgery metaphor too far, though why not? Medicine changes, practice develops, surgery becomes more precise, sometimes redundant but for now it remains a necessary tool in some situations. I think that is where I stand that in balance for a small number of children** adoption remains necessary trauma that may be the best bet. 

In writing all of this I'm conscious that I'm presuming that it's a service solely for children, it's not and may never be. Perhaps that changes everything. 



*You say it's all the same, I say 'nope' it really isn't but I'm more than willing to publish your guest blog. 

** I'm talking UK and we clearly need to talk about the number and we clearly need to make practice better. The conversation around international and pay for babies is clearly a different one. 















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