Finding Mum and Dad at an Adoption Party?

Well done to Channel 4 for producing a moving and compelling documentary about children in foster care and the need for adoptors.

6000 children in England are waiting in foster care for a forever family – an adoptive family so this is an important and urgent issue.

“I wouldn’t chose to buy a sofa online from DFS without going to sit on it first”
Project Co-ordinator Bridget Betts

It was unfortunate that this was the metaphor that was used to rationalise the Adoption Activity Day, because it seemed to encourage the consumer model of selection even when it comes down to choosing children. This is already often the case – adopters are encouraged to pick a child that suits them rather than considering whether they are the kind of family that these so-called “hard to place” children need. Indeed this wasn’’t the only time such a metaphor was used:

“To put it crudely it’s a buyers market”
Project Co-rdinator Bridget Betts

Sadly as we live in a consumer society it is not surprising that we see this affecting the way adoption is approached. There is often almost a shopping list approach where adopters come with pre-discussed ideas as to the gender, age, looks, or needs of any child they would consider.

I can relate to the foster carer Katy (who came across as a brilliant carer who obviously loved the children in her care and would fight for their needs) who said she felt like she was “trying to sell an unwanted product”. In her case she had two brothers who at age 4 and 6, were outside the criteria of many potential adopters.

Sibling separation (one of the proposed paths forward for Katy’s foster sons as it enhanced the possibilities of the younger child finding a home) is a painful reality for many children. Perhaps younger children are chosen because they are perceived to come with less baggage or needs, or because they are ‘cuter’, or because agencies are actively recruiting adopters who want to ‘start’ a family. Whatever the reason it is hard to extract this consumer approach out of the equation.

In fact, adoption activity days have the potential to turn this consumerism on its head. Meeting and interacting with individual children and sibling groups can and often does have the effect of putting the paper profiles into perspective. The normal process for being matched with a child sometimes involves adopters making a decision based on a photograph and a couple of paragraphs describing the child’s background and needs. It is hard not to focus on the “problems” presented with each child. Once adopters encounter a child’s personality however, it reduces the importance of whether a child has a heart defect or possible learning difficulties. So an adoption activity day increases the opportunity for a child to be connected with as a person rather than as a set of facts or figures on a page.

The downside of course is that some children will be looked over even at one of these activity days. The programme presented a child that had been to three activity days and not been chosen. I am nervous that there could be on going rejection issues if these children ever discover or work out that they had not been chosen.

The television programme also revealed that these events seem to put pressure on the adoptors too. One couple reported how they felt they were not choosing children but rejecting them.

These are exceptional times and this calls for extraordinary measures. I am fully supportive of BAAF and their desire to find adoptive homes for the children waiting for families. I wish that these kinds of ‘parties’ didn’t need to exist but I can see how they could play a part in finding the families these children need. 42 children adopted out of 250 is an encouraging statistic and means that these parties will now be rolled out around the country in an effort to help the waiting children find families.

The Home for Good campaign is calling the church to take a different approach to fostering and adoption. We want to follow the model God has set for our adoption. God did not look at us with a list of demands or requirements. God was moved by our need and did whatever it took to meet it and adopt us into his family. If we followed his example, we would ask how we could fit around the needs of the children, not whether the children could fit into our families. We would love to see sibling groups kept together, children with additional needs helped to thrive and meet their potential, and we believe that churches could wrap around and offer the support to adopters that would make this possible.

“Finding Mum and Dad” seemed to portray couples coming forward who weren’t able to have birth children. However Home for Good is looking wider. We are calling on all sorts of people to “rule themselves in” for adoption. People with and without birth children, singles, empty-nesters – all sorts of families could find room to welcome some of these children.

The programme also showed predominantly white children and white adopters. I understand in London around 70% of children available for adoption are from black and minority ethnic groups, and many of our churches are multi-cultural and could offer homes to children from all these backgrounds.

The two boys who were the stars of the show did not have a happy ending by the conclusion. They were not picked, although it was decided not to separate them, and to keep looking for that special family. But despite the boys ages and needs and constant rejection, I can’t imagine many viewers who would not have felt that they couldn’t provide a home for these two lovely brothers. For me this was the best part of the programme. It clearly portrayed that we can fall in love with ‘hard-to-place’ children, and many of us can in fact meet their needs with a secure loving home and a spare bedroom.

Come and help us to find homes for lovely children like Connor and Daniel . Get involved as a champion, a supporter or a carer at www.homeforgood.org Sign up for regular emails and together we can make a difference for these children.

You may also like the blog post “Please don’t adopt a Snow Leopard”
 

 

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13 thoughts on “Finding Mum and Dad at an Adoption Party?”

  1. I don’t like the phrase ‘hard to place’. There are children who will need higher levels of support if they are going to have successful outcomes. I think if the focus shifted to working out how to support adoptive families there would be more people able to adopt.
    It shouldn’t be about persuading parents to ‘consider’ sibling groups or older children. It should be about planning high quality, long term post adoption support.
    And the Church could play a role here, not just trying to persuade people to adopt, but offering to help make adoptions succeed.

    1. Thanks for posting Rosemary – I agree the term hard to place is not very good – I would love to have a better description, what would you suggest.
      Why can’t it be both encouraging families to consider adopting sibling groups and offering better quality post adoption support?
      Every blessing
      Krish

      1. I think if we referred to children requiring extra support as such, it might go some way towards improving post adoption support.
        I also suspect that if churches emphasised the support they could offer adoptive and foster families it would automatically raise awareness and increase the number of people who consider adopting or fostering themselves. I don’t think a recruitment campaign would be needed at all. A support campaign could accomplish both goals together.

  2. I am a foster carer looking after a 15 month old child who went to an adoption activity day in November. On paper this child is looking impossible to place with a forever family due to the medical issues he has already had and the possibility of learning difficulties in the longer term. However, once you meet this child his smile is infectious, he is a bundle of fun , he is very sociable and outgoing and just a gorgeous little boy – none of which comes across in his profile.
    On the other side of the coin, friends of mine from the same village have recently been approved as adopters and were at the same Adoption Activity day. For some reason their preconceived idea of the children they would meet was that they would be nervous, sad children who wouldn’t interact with any adults as they would be scared. These ideas were blown out of the water as they watched the children playing and having fun, and it wasn’t long before they joined in and had fun too (I did enjoy seeing the “dad” getting stuck in the tunnel!). I spoke to another adopter who had gone to the day thinking that a 3 year od girl would fit into her life perfectly – and came away happily thinking of the possibility that she could offer a home to a boy, or an older child etc. her horizons had been broadened by meeting these children and by interacting with them. All in all I had a very positive experience that day and although we are still looking for a forever family for our little one we did have a good day and met some lovely people.

  3. Hi. Im not involved with adoption or fostering at all but after watching that programme I feel like Iwant to take in lots of children including connor and daniel myself. I spent most of the programme sobbing or shouting at the tv for the foster parent to adopt them. Does anyone have any advice on anything I could do to help children like these. At the moment I work full time but would gladly volunteer my time where possible.

    1. Nicky – contact your local children and families department. There may be opportunities to help with mentoring, especially older children in the care system.

    2. I’m a foster carer who often struggles with whether or not I should adopt the little ones in my care. I really identified with the feelings expressed by the carer in the programme – we want to protect our fostered children from the pain of seperation and i too hated that feeling of being a salesman at the activity day. But trying to be more objective we realise that it’s important to find the best possible match for the children. A family where they will receive all the love, attention and care they need and deserve.
      Nicky, I’d recommend you contact your local council. There are a vast number of things you could explore: adoption, fostering, respite, supported lodgings……..
      You can take as much time as you need to decide what to do and should get a strong welcome and support.

      1. Thank you I have done now. I take my hat off to any foster parents as it must be very hard letting go but also very rewarding knowing they have a new family.

      1. Thank you very much everyone. Ive contacted the local council to become a volunteer to help spend time with children in care to start with. I think I have been so naive in the past as I know a few foster parents and people who have adopted but never realised how many children are need of help.

  4. I have been searching since this programme aired to find out what happened to these children and can find nothing. Does anyone know of there was a happier outcome following the programme?

    1. I would love to know too. I thought about writing to channel four as ive googled and not found anything.

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