Sunday 11 October 2020

A letter to the incoming Chair of the Adoption & Special Guardian Leadership Board

October 2020

Dear Incoming Chair,

As you take up your post as the Chair of the Adoption & Special Guardianship Leadership Board we would like to share our perspective with you. As being adoptive parents, we have worked within the adoption community at a regional, national and governmental level. Additionally, over the last four years we’ve spoken to many adopted adults, birth parents and families, special guardians, kinship carers and adoptive parents in producing the Adoption & Fostering Podcast.

Adoption and special guardianship services are peculiar, the vast majority of people that the Board serves find themselves caught up either as children or birth family in a system that they do not want to be a part of. That is the crux of the challenge set before us all.

Children have no choice, neither do the vast majority of their parents who are fed into the system. Kinship carers find themselves asked to care for the children in their families in difficult circumstances feeling that their option to say ‘no’ is limited at best and not available else their family’s children fall into the hands of the state.

Only adoptive parents come willingly to this world and in reality their start point is predominantly meeting their own desire for children. The board is tasked with ensuring the good governance, running and development of this system and to ensure that the government’s agenda is fulfilled. You know that so forgive us for restating it.

In our view the board needs honest, balanced and fair representation of all these
voices. Those that have passed through the system as children; those that find themselves caught up in the system as adults and those that come willingly to it. The insights of 'experts by experience' are invaluable to an honest, responsive and appropriate service. If those voices are unavailable, unheard or fettered we run the risk of perpetuating a patriarchal system that reflects the needs and perspectives of those at the top and not those that live in the system.

Good representation can be hard, it is not easy to shepherd views and experience into easily digested soundbites and voices. National charities can be a proxy for their members but beyond their palatable voices we need the raw realties to be reflected to those that hold the keys to this system.

The Adoption & Fostering Podcast Available on all Podcast streaming services

Currently the Adoption & Special Guardian Leadership Board is weighed towards those that create and maintain the systems and adoptive parents, but for it to be truly reflective of the system we believe it needs to be a place where all voices can be amplified and heard. Even practitioner voices need to be represented not the 'Heads of Service' but those that sit in living rooms, social work offices and maternity wards making sense of the policies given to them.

As adoptive parents, we know that we do have a seat at the table. We are palatable, we came to adoption willingly and our views are listened to exponentially more than the other parties that you represent and for that we’re grateful.

We politely request that you extend those seats at the table to those that are adopted, have their children removed or are caring for their families children in kinship and SGO arrangements.

We wish you all the very best in your term as Chair and look forward to working with you during this time.

Al Coates MBE                 Scott Casson-Rennie

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