This week is National Adoption Week in the UK, a chance to promote adoption, and encourage people to consider it for them. From having a quick look through my twitter feed today, there is a lot of debate about this, and a lot of conflicting views and opinions. I’ve noticed that the fact it’s National Adoption Week is not always very popular, and have been thinking about why that might be.
I thought id think first about why we might need a National Adoption Week. I guess it’s to raise the profile of adoption, which is probably in itself not a bad thing. I think the more people who are aware of adoption and all that come with it the better it is. The more that services such as education and health are aware of adoption and how it affects all who are involved must be a good thing. Maybe if services are better informed, they’ll be able to provide a more appropriate service to those who need it. Secondly, it’s likely that there will always be adoption, and therefore there will always be a need for adopters. Sadly, society is not going to change enough to mean that all children are going to be safe to stay in their birth families. I know that some people think that adoption should be the last resort, but, for some children it will be their best option. Their best chance of a safe, stable childhood. If the publicity and campaigns attract just a few of the right people, then that must be a good thing.
Some people feel adoption leads to the ties to birth family being severed and so children are denied an identity. In some cases children are left in their birth families or returned to therm with support. These families are given support and second chances, but still do not change enough. I know there is much debate around this, and I’m not going to go into it, nor am I saying that all birth families are not willing to change. What I do know is that multiple moves, neglect, pre birth trauma cause massive trauma, and these children bring this to adoption with them. yes, adoption itself does cause trauma, but I don’t believe it’s the sole cause of some of the difficulties adoptive families experience. I know that some adoptees are very anti-adoption, and some blame their adoptive parents, and in some cases this is valid I’m sure. However, I feel that most modern adoptive parents understand the importance of concepts such as life story work and contact. They are honest and open with their children about their history, and do support their children in working out who they are.
Much of publicity around adoption this week will be very positive, and probably quite simplistic. It will imply that all these children will need is love and a warm, safe home. It often doesn’t touch on the other things they’ll need, and the challenges that might be faced by families. Some adoptive families will see this as unrealistic, and almost as if it fails to acknowledge the realities of modern adoption. I see where they’re coming from, but everyone needs to hear positive stories, they’re what give hope, they’re what keep people going through the tough times.
Saying this, I do hope that the agencies then make it priority to teach and inform prospective adopters about what they are likely to experience. I hope adopters learn about trauma, attachment and many other aspects of adoption. I would recommend that they read all the books, but so importantly they need to read and observe real life experiences. Blogs and twitter have been great. I think they’ll be so much better prepared as they’ll expect some behaviours and might even know how to manage them. I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for any type of parenting, but I do recommend that any prospective or new adopters learn about therapeutic parenting. We didn’t know a lot, have learnt as we’ve gone along, but it has made such a difference. A lot of adoption agencies will have an ‘experienced adopter’ come to talk at prep groups. Most of the time it will be adopters who have minimal difficulties who have had smooth time. But I think that it might be helpful for adoptive parents who have experienced difficulties to have a chance to share their story as well. Of course there has to be a balance, but I think most adopters would look back and say that they would rather they know what to expect than not. I hope that there is more teaching around other issues that might be experienced, such as sensory and education difficulties.
A popular phrase that comes with national Adoption Week is #SupportAdoption. Yes, I think this is really important, but the vital word is support. I think that all parties in adoption need support. For birth families, for professionals, for adoptive families. I’ve heard it said that for some children they could have stayed with birth families if support had been in place from the beginning. Support is needed to prevent the cycles that mean successive generations of children are placed in care. Support is needed to for adoptive families to help them become a family, and then stay a family. Post Adoption Support is very varied, and often families are not helped soon enough which leads to serious difficulties and breakdown. This is why I think #ProvideAdoptionSupport is equally, if not more important. I think professionals need support too. They’re people just like everyone else, and some deal with horrific situations with very little support or thanks themselves.
To conclude, as an adoptee and an adoptive parent I’m very for National Adoption Week. I am glad I was adopted, I could not have had the life, or have achieved what I have without being adopted. I am grateful for the support that has enabled me to become a parent. I love being my little girl’s mum, but it’s not always easy. I am passionate about helping her come to terms with her story, and who she is. I know that adoption will not make her struggles go away. I know that there may be difficulties ahead to come. I get that adoption is not perfect or the solution for all children, and I’m not saying it is. All I’m saying is, sometimes lets stop looking for negatives in everything, and lets celebrate the good!