I I adopted my daughter when she was six years old. He had been in the care of a local authority practically from birth. Now 18, both she and I worry about the current plight of many children in the UK growing up with a local authority such as their corporate father, a situation exacerbated by the pandemic when lockdown puts families under pressure. “How can we change things?” my daughter asked me as we completed my book on adoption, The wild track, together. “Who will really listen?”
Government statistics show that, in England, as of March 31, 2020, there were 80,080 children in care. In that same period, only 3,440 children were adopted. But by 2015, the number of adoptions in England had risen to 5,360. Why this rise? And why the subsequent fall?
In 2005, a review of the adoption system introduced amendments, including supporting adopters and, reflecting changing attitudes, broadening the field of potential adopters to include single parents and the LGBTQ + community. In 2011, a significant adoption reform program followed by a report by Martin Narey, a government advisor on child social care, initiated by Tim Loughton, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Children and Families, and Edward Timpson, who assumed that position in 2012, and with the support of Michael Gove, then education. secretary. The latter two had a personal investment: Timpson, John’s son (from the shoe repair chain), grew up with children raised by his parents; Gove and his sister were adopted when they were babies.
The plan was to make faster decisions about release for adoption, speed up court proceedings, find more potential adoptive parents, and relax restrictions on matching and finding “perfect” homes. What Go put it in the moment: “We cannot afford to ration love.”
But then came some major legal rulings. In a 2013 case, the judges ruled that adoption was only appropriate. “where nothing else will do”. Also that year, a jurisprudence survey concluded that “the breakdown of family ties inherent in an adoption without parental consent is an extremely draconian step and requires the highest level of evidence ”. Social workers, while eager to put children at risk, felt limited and cautious.
At this time, special guardianship orders (SGO) also came into play. These give approved caregivers a greater share of parental responsibility (but not the full transfer, as with adoption) and can be delegated to other family members other than parents. The increase in adoptions until 2015, and the subsequent decline thereafter, can perhaps be attributed to these various changes and failures. In the last two years, the number of SGOs has increased, surpassing the number of children leaving care for adoption.
When there is an extended family capable of providing stability for a child, this has to be a good thing. But what about children without relatives who can safely care for them? Waiting children is an online service provided by Adoption UK, displaying those released for adoption. And believe me Wait it’s what those kids do. A “difficult to locate” child is: older than three years, with different abilities, with special needs, a sibling or of black origin and belonging to ethnic minorities. UK foster care agencies are desperate to find people willing to care for teenagers and groups of siblings. Many children will spend their childhood in residences.
In 1722 Thomas before, a successful carpenter coming to London on business, was distraught to see dead and dying children on the road. The children were there for numerous complicated reasons, including poverty, heartbreak, and desertion. Coram decided to do something about it. When he couldn’t find influential men to back his plan to establish a safe haven, he turned to eminent women, “ladies of quality and distinction.” His request for a Royal Charter argued that “no record has been found … to suppress the custom of exposing [infants] die in the streets ”. The foundling hospital it was finally established in 1739.
Today, Coram … children’s charity named after him – offers advice, support, legal and counseling services to children, as well as provides adoption services for many local authorities. Your work is vital now, as it was then. Dr. Carol HomdenCoram CEO says adoption is “first and foremost a service for children.” So there is a peculiar mismatch here.
For most people who want to become parents, the focus is on themselves and their desire to start a family. Couples choose to have biological children. Then the increasing success rates of fertility treatments and IVF, and the growing acceptance of surrogacy seem to offer new possibilities to those who take this route. Adoption is too often the last resort. Meanwhile, there are thousands of children out there, already in the world, desperately in need of safe and loving homes.
In 2011, Gove wrote that being a foster parent means “there is someone … who will wake up every morning forever in your debt.” I do not agree Children do not owe anything to anyone but themselves, nor should they. But, as a society, we owe them everything. Each and every one of us is responsible for all children. This is what Thomas Coram knew. This is what we must remember.
Right now, a strange combination of a focus on individual fertility, changes in the adoption procedure, anxiety over its “draconian” effects that result in fewer children being given up for adoption and more families under intolerable pressure with lockdown. , means that more and more children will be trapped in the system of care at the risk that they will never form the bonds that help lead healthy adult lives. Not everyone can adopt, but for the sake of all those children, it needs to be clearer from our point of view. Many children live, day after day, with the sad fact that they have no family that can safely care for them.
On your website the poet Lemn Sissay, who grew up in a residential home, lists many high achievers with a similar experience. In one room of the Foundling Museum you can see Sissay’s inspiring calligraphic installation that quotes fictional characters who were orphaned, adopted or adopted. Is named Superman was a foundling. And she calls out and celebrates all children who grow up in care, who are adopted or separated from their birth families, because she recognizes that difficult beginnings do not rule out a bright future.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism