Thursday, 3 December 2020

Adoption, Soundbites and Mount Stupid

In a world of soundbites and pithy slogans some topics just don't fit, I think that has put me out of steps with recent adoption recruitment drives. The tension between my desire to unpick complicated issues within a changing social context and the sector's need to keep the machine running is at odds. Hey ho, what's to do?

It's not uncommon for some poor unsuspecting soul to sidle up to me on some social media platform and PM me with a 'I know someone who's thinking of adopting, would you chat to them'. Well, there's a tricky question, of course never one miss an opportunity for an audience I say 'yes' but with a caveat that I won't be held responsible for the outcome.  

Dunning-Kruger Effect
Dunning-Kruger Effect - See 'Mount Stupid'

20 years ago, even 15 or 10 years ago my conversation with then would have been a resounding, fist pumping, cheerleading: 

   'Go for it, you've got this!' 

But I've read a lot of books, listened to a lot of voices and been down a few paths since then. Actually, been down a lot of paths and lived with six children who have traversed the care and adoption system in all it's widescreen technicolour glory.  So, in my mind it just isn't that simple anymore and if you want me to tell you how un simple it is it may take some time. Simple one line answers do everyone a disservice at best and are harmful at worst. 

It's clear that the current government are sold on adoption from an ideological perspective and so far have invested in that. That's good, but as always the worry is that it is frequently focused on the adopter's journey to placement with limited focus outside of that journey or other participant's journeys. That doesn't sit well anymore. 

I do talk to the poor soul set before me trying to make sense of my thoughts, experiences and freeform ramblings.  Often they just want the simple answers and I'm not willing to give them. 

Please don't think that me saying its complicated means I'm against adoption as that's not true but the answer isn't simple and in my mind no longer a binary one.

Not a hugely satisfying post I'm afraid but that's that. Perhaps I'll air it out in a podcast. 
Stay well, enjoy Christmas and may all your festive hope come true.

PS Here's some homework, google the Dunning-Kruger effect and mount stupid. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm possibly completely falling for your point here but wanted to express my own rambling thoughts anyway. Hey, with my n=1 experience I know everything about adoption! :-)

    If you've never adopted before you are almost certainly going to be naive and underestimate the challenge, both your own and your child's. There are still not many accessible books or videos about the nature of being an adopter under the current system, and were none that I could find when I applied to be an adopter many years ago now. I guess all adopters, just like all parents, learn from experience. It is just that we have less time to learn and more to have to do. Prep gives a false sense of confidence I suppose although I don't see what else they can do about it, other than make sure there are some adoptees, foster carers and birth parents at the sessions (I was lucky to have the first 2 at least). Just emphasising the sheer amount of extra time, effort and (yes) money required for a child with severe developmental delay and post-trauma/mental health issues over having a birth child without any additional needs might be useful. Perhaps assigning new adopters 'buddy' adopters who are 5 or more years in might help.

    I like the idea of the Dunning-Kruger effect, although judging by the amount of gaslighting from non-adopters on social media about adoption I don't think it is just adopters who may be guilty of it!

    I am sure that there are saints and angels out there who are prepared to look after someone else's child for 10-15 years, not get paid, have a lack of personal physical security, expend all that emotional and physical energy, and then 'give back' the child, all without having full parental rights over the child, and at great financial cost to themselves. That is essentially what special guardianship is, and they are amazing. They are also usually relatives, perhaps not suprisingly. So for the most part if you need other people to provide that level of commitment then most will need the security of being sole parents, forever, with all that entails. That doesn't mean wiping birth parents from the record of course (the median age of a child when placed for adoption was 4 in the year I adopted, my own son was 5, so even if you wanted to you couldn't because they remember), but equally it doesn't mean they can have an equal role in the child's life. Because otherwise the adopters would not be parents, by definition. So if we want to turn adoption into another form of guardianship how do we go about finding the saints and angels to do it?