An article in yesterdays Children and Young People Now magazine, written by Joe Lepper explains that Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education is referring to the challenge that according to his Departments data there are currently 2,400 children waiting to be adopted and yet only 1,800 approved adopters. He is about to launch a significant campaign to try to increase the number of adopters which is a very good approach for them to take. They are focusing on specific areas and specific groups of people. However tragically his judgement or reflection on what he has been told is
“When it comes to adoption, what we have seen over a number of years is something I can only call narrow mindedness or even snobbery, For example, some local authorities make it harder to adopt if you rent your home rather than own it, or if you’re not a perfect ethnic match. These outdated messages are putting off people who would otherwise come forward when the only qualification you need is the ability to love and care for a child. I am urging local authorities to help us break down these barriers so that we can unite more children with the families they deserve so much.”
In the first instance these comments will simply discourage the very people who his campaign is seeking and it will also damage the prospect for good responses from the local authorities which are the agencies responsible for making this process work. The challenge for Ministers and even for MPs to find out what is happening outside of the Westminster bubble is not easy, given that they have many priorities and also start off with a limited amount of personal knowledge on many subjects. I have the privilege of knowing several people who have adopted children or fostered children for short term periods and I also know several people who are responsible for making adoptions and sadly blaming anyone or any group of agencies for what is a very challenging process is mistaken unless there is real evidence of these criticisms. Human mistakes get made throughout all organisations, including in Councils, in families and in Governments. It is certainly true that the level of checking up on potential adopters is huge as while any of us can take part in becoming parents in a conventional way, if the Council is going to place a child that may have already been badly impacted by a series of conditions, into another setting on a permanent basis, they are under huge responsibility to avoid mistakes and avoid problems that later on will emerge. By the same token asking anyone to adopt a child and go through the reasonable processes and then at the end of the process be waiting a long time for a possible adoption seems to be very harsh, but the decision to let a child get adopted is not based on simple and long term plans. I know of people who travel miles and spend many hours attempting to find suitable adopters for the children they wish to get adopted. The number of children that need to be adopted and their ages, their ethnic and religious background is sought to match to the requirements or preferences of the potential adopters and ensuring the children will be secure and protected is a huge challenge. However the need for the children and their natural parents to be able to reconnect in the future should they wish to do so is also vital for these people.
According to the article Krish Kandiah, the founding director of fostering and adoption organisation Home for Good who I know although we have never spoken about this subject said he was
“encouraged” by Williamson’s comments around addressing racial disparity in adoption. “We are grateful for the funding that the government has made available for this work,” he added. “We recognise that lasting change is a marathon and not a sprint, so greatly look forward to working together to find a loving, safe and permanent family for every child who needs one.”
It is clearly important to try to increase the number of potential adopters but doing so requires the Government to promote the positive elements and challenge any genuine problems in a more discrete way. If in the same time the ignorance within the Government is dealt with our whole nation will benefit!