This year I seem to have read more posts and blogs about National Adoption Week (NAW) than any previous year. The sharing of positive stories as well as the sharing of warnings. Views in favour of adoption and those anti adoption. People upset and angry and confrontational both at the campaign and at adoption itself. It’s a confusing mix but I guess that’s quite reflective of the nature of adoption!
And how I feel about the whole thing is also complex. This blog isn’t really to join the party, its to try to help me work through some of my own thoughts on the subject.
I obviously support adoption where it is in the best interests of the child. I know there are some who say that would be never, but right now I disagree. I believe adoption does offer hope and security to a child who for whatever reason can no longer safely live with their birth-parents.
But what is the point of NAW? Despite the increase of approved adopters there is still a shortage of adoptive parents. My understanding is the purpose of NAW is to try to attract more adoptive parents and to find homes for children who need them. How the campaign goes about this – children advertised in the press, sugar-coated interviews – really is questionable. NAW also often sticks in the craw for many adoptive parents who would like to see a little of their reality shown. And the voices of those who are adopted expressing their opinions of what adoption means to them often go unheard.
But if the point of NAW is to find more homes for children who desperately need them, then in a way I can understand why the tougher aspects of adoption are not always actively promoted during this week (though I note this year AdoptionUK are releasing information about CPV and First4Adoption are doing a live webchat later in the week on the tougher aspects) as it might scare people off finding out more. But that’s what we, as adopters, want isn’t it? To prevent people from getting sucked in to a fantasy? And yet, I think people are more intelligent than that. As far as I can tell, this week is just trying to grab people’s attention, to even register adoption in their minds. To start to ask the question. From there people find out more. They call information lines, they go to information evenings, they question more. I know people who have attended information evenings and decided adoption wasn’t for them after what they have heard there. I know people who have attended evenings and decided that it isn’t the right time for them. They go through the process if they think they are up to it. They don’t make a decision based on one interview they hear.
Ah, but the process is far quicker now and so people aren’t as well warned about the reality are they? Having been through the new ‘quicker’ process, I find that quite insulting. I often ‘hear’ people saying ‘this isn’t what I signed up to’ or ‘nobody warned me it would be this difficult’ and I’m so sorry that’s the case. I feel my training and reading did warn me. If anything my LA did all it could to put people off. We need ‘Super-parents’ they said to us and explained why – they didn’t hold back! They also made it clear they were looking for the right families for the children they had, not the other way around. They explained that might mean a long wait or that we might never be placed with a child at all but the children come first.
What it didn’t do was equip me for the tools I might need and sadly I think this is where the warning might need to be more direct – you’re going to need all the tools in the box to parent these children, but you have to fashion most of those tools yourselves. I actually think we are ‘Bat-parents’ in that respect – we’re not superhuman, we’re normal people fashioning utility belts of PACE and therapeutic parenting, and capes of theraplay and active listening. But unlike Bruce Wayne we’re not multimillionaires who can fund all of that ourselves, we’d like an ‘Albert’ to help us…ok I’m stretching the analogy a bit far and…I digress!
Do I think NAW goes about promoting adoption in the right way? No – especially not those ‘are you my forever family’ adverts. Do I think it serves a purpose? Yes. I know there are people out there who would make fabulous adoptive parents – with all that would entail – but who might need a shove up the bum to do something about it and find out more. NAW can give people that shove.
I think perhaps we are asking too much of one week in the year. It can’t do everything we want it to. Adoptive parents desperately want a voice – despite those who say we might have too much of a voice on the whole issue – there are those who rightly feel their children’s needs are being ignored, that they have been left unsupported and afraid for the future and nobody is hearing them. May be we need a National Support Adopters Week aswell? One where the needs of adoptive families are explained and promoted and out in the open. Where we can take the opportunity to lobby our MPs for better support, alongside agencies, LA’s and charities who might explain what they are doing and would like to do to support families (- if they had the funding!).
And of course adoptees – their voices need to be heard by everyone involved in adoption. Could we have a National Support Adoptees week too? Where the reality of the adoptee experience could be honoured and heard rather than drowned out by all the other shouting. Where they might drag into the light the mistakes of the past so we can all learn from them. And also help us to be better parents to our children today.