National Adoption Week — are we duping prospective adopters?

There are many things that bother me about National Adoption Week. That awful gendered logo (there was a once more gender inclusive version); what Sally Donovan describes as the “faux party atmosphere” that jars with the lived experience of parenting a traumatised child; most of all I hate the idea of a mass marketing campaign to recruit adopters for hard-to-place children. It is not the right way to find forever families, it is simply the cheapest.

To be clear: we 100% need to recruit adopters for these children. They are some of the most vulnerable in our society and we fail them in many different ways. But mass marketing is not the answer. It’s like doing a leaflet drop to find the new CEO of Facebook.

Parenting the hardest to place children requires people with specialist skills. We need to be honest, most of the general population will not have these. Even those parenting less complex children (who are still pretty complex) will require nerves of steel and dogged determination.

While there may be the odd nod to this during National Adoption Week, it’s not explored deeply. It may be mentioned in passing at open days, and in preparation groups they should talk about the complexity of the children. But in my experience they never talked about the impact it would have on me.

Adoption is now considered a service for children. This is a shift from a few generations ago when adoption was about helping childless couples create a family. Now its all about the needs of the child. While I don’t disagree with this shift in principal, it has come at a price. Adults are excluded altogether.

At no point in our adoption process was the risk of secondary trauma explored. Although our past was discussed in the assessment stage, there was no discussion about how adoption can revive your own past traumas. Maybe some social workers cover this — ours wasn’t great — but even still, I would argue at this point it’s too late. It’s like a bride standing at the altar with the man she realises she doesn’t really love. You can’t back out now, so you say whatever it takes to get through the process.

There was also no mention of the strain it would put on our marriage; the fact we would struggle to have any time together as a couple; that I would find myself having to give up work to support my child; the financial struggles we would face.

There is no excuse for not discussing these things because they are well known. I hear all the time from adopters who face the same challenges.

If we are to have National Adoption Week then the time and effort would be better spent on campaigning for improvements in post adoption support. Professionals should do targeted recruitment to find parents who can deal with the acute challenges of hard-to-place children. And we need to be more honest with prospective adopters — this is not the simple solution to your childlessness.

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