The retired judge, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss is in my opinion, a brick. I have long admired her for her no nonsense, common sense approach to complex problems, her humanity and her sharp intelligence. She is never mealy-mouthed, but straight as a die, and posh, in a good way.
Despite retirement, she clearly keeps busy and has been chairing the Lords Committee on the government’s adoption legislation. This morning, as I hounded children through our morning routine, her well-bred, sensible tones cut through the chaos and rode the airwaves. Adoption is not right for all children she explained and many of the 60,000 in care have very complex needs. I needed more from her so later I braved the tobacco queue in Morrisons and bought some newspapers in the hope that some column inches had been allocated to her. I found her article in The Guardian, subtitled ‘The government fails to realise that post-adoption support is as important as finding families quickly‘ and was not disappointed. In it she points out the ‘nonsense’ that is the obligation on Local Authorities to assess adoptive families for support alongside the lack of obligation upon them to provide any. The draft bill still does not give adopters any right to support and is a glaring omission. To combat the ‘but there’s no money’ shrugging and helplessness, she sensibly points out how much the state saves by placing a child for adoption: around £25,000 per child, per year. On adoption breakdown, she says,
‘We do not know how many adopted children this affects, but it’s unacceptable that there is no robust data collection to support it.’
She has understood, what many adopters have known and lived through for a long time; we are an absolute gift to a society buckling under social breakdown and debt, we offer free, long term stability, repair and love to the benefit not only of emotionally damaged children, but to the benefit of society as a whole and yet we are left begging for scraps of essential therapeutic and support services. When we buckle under the strain, as some of us do, it can feel as though, the state, which was so keen to recruit us in the first place, now doesn’t give a shit. If adoptive placements break down, no one seems bothered about trying to repair them, or to learn any lessons which could feed back into improvements. I have observed adoption breakdown at close quarters and the impact on that child’s life of adoption breakdown, which may well have been prevented if any support at all had been provided, has been catastrophic. It has also been very costly to the state in cold economic terms.
I have no idea whether the government will see sense and follow the recommendations of Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and her committee but if they don’t they may be accused of trying to both have their cake and eat it, which is just plain greedy.