I watched Panorama, The Truth About Adoption last week hoping to see something of my own experience reflected there: my experience as an adopter of children from the UK care system. I wanted to see something of the tremendously hard task faced by many adopters and something of the adoption myths which hamper us.
In fairness to the programme I did see something of the process, its hold ups, complications and frustrations. I saw what this meant for the children that were featured, the children who were buffeted this way and that, by the bureaucracy, by its inefficiencies and its confusions over what was best for them.
There are many myths about modern adoption. One such myth is that adoption is the silver bullet which soothes and loves away the hideous effects on the baby brain of neglect and abuse. Fortunately modern science has proven this particular myth to be just that. There is now bucket loads of evidence to support what many social workers, foster carers and adopters have long known, that parenting hurt children can present a significant challenge.
Kieron, Katie and Chloe had been in an adoptive placement for three years before it broke down and they were returned to the care system. We heard from everyone bar the adoptive parents themselves, which is understandable given the huge pain that they must feel and their probable need for anonymity. But their position wasn’t represented. Instead we were treated to a dose of the old myth by an Independent Reviewing Officer, as though modern brain imaging had all been a dream.
‘I couldn’t quite believe that three years down the line they could say I don’t want them anymore, I could quite understand that after 6 weeks ….. but after 3 years, I was gob smacked by it,’ he said.
I was not gobsmacked by it, neither was my husband and neither were many posters to the Adoption UK message boards. We know the reality of parenting, the raging, the fighting, the shouting, the breaking, the anxieties and the fears. And many of these difficulties only come out from the light several years into the adoption journey, when the children start to feel a real and to them frightening attachment to their new parents. What did gobsmack me however was that the reviewing officer did not appear to know anything of this, nor of the lack of support provided by the state to help parents striving under these difficult circumstances. He appeared to blame the parents and in their absence they were painted as being a bit flaky, indecisive, not really having their hearts in the thing.
The professional approach should have been to undertake a full ‘lessons learnt’ exercise. Why did the placement break down? Was adequate support provided? Did the parents feel the training offered to them had been adequate? Had all information been shared? What were the surprises? Instead of this we saw a void of empathy for those parents and then the truck was put back into first gear and revved up again for the next adoption placement.
There were many other parts of the programme which left me feeling exasperated; the dog, the lifestory work and the confused approach to contact being a few of them. But the one message that I would shout from the rooftops is ‘LISTEN TO ADOPTERS’, oh and ‘start collecting some meaningful statistics’.