Three Cheers for Elizabeth Butler-Sloss

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.


7 thoughts on “Three Cheers for Elizabeth Butler-Sloss”

  1. Sally you are absolutely right to give fulsome praise to Baroness Butler-Sloss. The Government knows that this is the right thing to do, Directors of Children’s Services support it in principle but it needs the Departments of Education and Health to join up. With the PM’s personal interest in this it shouldn’t be too hard. Will the Govt listen to the Lords on this one? At Adoption UK we hope so as it is morally and financially the right thing to do.
    Hugh Thornbery CEO Adoption UK

    1. Thanks Hugh. It feels like the right time for the government to make these changes for the better. I have my fingers crossed that they will listen to the Lords.

  2. I totally agree, some of the first words of sense on the matter of post adoption support that I’ve heard in a long time, form on high anyway. The recognition she provides of the immense undertaking which is adoption makes me feel like jumping up and down shouting “see I’m not making it all up”. If only there were more advocates of such prominence. We all need to keep on shouting and maybe finally we will be heard. Great piece. xx

    1. Thanks Sarah. I agree, it does feel like a vindication to hear someone like Baroness Butler-Sloss discussing the reality of modern adoption. And thanks for your comment.

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