Beyond The Order (And Blah Blah Blah)

So this week the long awaited research “Beyond The Order” came out. A thorough and excellent piece of work from Julie Selwyn and her colleagues at Bristol University. Funded by the Government it describes in upsetting detail the problems some adoptive families face, including the reasons for adoption disruption.

Twelve years ago when I was one of those families in crisis I was commissioned by The Sunday Times to write about the situation. At the time Tony Blairs cabinet were talking about reforming adoption including suggesting that adoptions should go through quicker and also more easily to ‘save’ children in need.

I wrote about the fact that it took me to research, on my own, my daughters condition to find she probably had serious attachment issues. I described violence in the home and warned of fast tracking adoptions without expert training to social workers and therapeutic support to parents in dealing with the issues. Remember at this time big adoption charities offered training in attachment and much literature existed in the profession.

I described the ineffective treatment of my daughter by Social Services as something like treating a broken leg as if it were a sore throat. I ended the piece by saying “no wonder she is screaming”.

The new report is not shocking news to most of us in the adoption world. It isn’t even news. I’m sure however that many will feel its a great attempt by the Government to recognise and address the issues. I really hope nobody is holding their breath.

If it were good news it would be all over the papers and television with accompanying plans for imminent change. Every prospective and current adopter would have secure, written in legislation rights to post adoption support based upon the findings. Adoption would be promoted as a caring commitment and not as ownership. As of now.

Last year ‘The House of Lords Committee on Adoption Legislation’ results were published. All the adoption industry big guns featured as witness to the lengthy process, very few adoptees or adopters of course. Even without the horses mouth all the evidence of struggles was there. Recommendations from Baroness Butler Sloss were made that post adoption support should be written into legislation. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

Today Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families ran the London Marathon to support First 4 Adoption (can’t help thinking Phones 4 U) This is a Government funded adoption promotion organisation. ‘Only positive adoption stories here please’  is the unwritten rule. This chosen organisation by Mr Timpson perhaps shows us firmly where he feels his children and family’s policy sits. Or am I being uncharitable?

The facts are wether we like it, or agree with it or not, the current Government have little visible sympathy for mothers who are dealing with issues of poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse or mental health issues. The main reasons children are damaged in family homes. They cannot afford to. The priority is not in fixing social welfare, housing and health issues but in saving money and privatising undermined services. Privatising means ‘somebody making money out of it’.

The demonising of those on benefits is part of the process as is pitting ‘bad’ mothers against ‘good’. Little room for ‘there but for the grace of God’.

With one child every twenty minutes being removed from its birth family the country has a social welfare crisis on its hands. Looked after children cost lots and lots and lots of money. Something has to be done. So it makes sense to cut through the sympathetic attempts of agencies, charities and social workers to support families. Remove children quickly with no recourse to a fair hearing in court, no legal aid, no birth family contact commitment, no support to next of kin. Give social workers targets to turn around removal and adoption in six months. Penalise and disempower if they fail to meet the required numbers. Once the adoption order is through its over to you nice families. Not our (financial) problem anymore.

As this sounds a bit unfair and cold it also makes sense to find research that backs that decision. The earlier the babies are removed from the evil family the less problems nice families might have dealing with the ‘blank slate’ baby. Do a massive all smiling hearts and flowers, dress up party marketing drive for adoption at the same time. At the head of it all put people who believe wholeheartedly in privatisation and the free market. Make sure adoption charities life blood comes from the Government to edit any non believers.

As an adopter, a children’s rights believer, a social activist and a feminist I feel we are being played.

Back in our house we still struggle with the results of my daughters mother going through the care system with a learning disability. It was a system that was cruel to her when she was a child and that cruelty was passed on through ignorance and inability.

We now have the resources through hard work and sheer determination, to offer free post adoption support services to families who are in crisis and need safe respite. This includes twenty acres of beautiful land we lease, a camping barn and an apartment. It also includes informed expert carers with years of experience in attachment and trauma. We are expert by professional and direct personal experience. We fight for every penny as a charity. This often involves us working for nothing, cleaning and managing the accommodation we raise funds on. Like other adopters we take no wages for the awareness raising work and informal support we give. We have no big charity boss salary or salaried fundraisers. Many in the industry are aware of us and we have blinding, experienced and vocal trustees. Funny that not one person ‘in the money’ has yet approached us effectively to support us in giving our free, expert services. We must jump through the nightmare hoops of Ofsted, regulation, insurance, safeguarding, data protection, health and safety etc etc poor and alone.

Meanwhile the Government fund protracted think tank shennanagins that discuss and dissect and regurgitate information about adoption support, employing the professional party believers and buddy’s along the way. And the children wait. And wait. And wait.

Funnily enough I got an email recently from a regional boss type person (probably not an adopter/adoptee) of one of the massive adoption and fostering charities. They introduced themselves, said they were aware of our work…..I got excited thinking we were going to get some support, advice, encouragement, credit or some other such positive response. Turns out they were just coldly telling us in a polite officious way that they had clocked us and we better be registered as an Adoption Support Agency if we were offering support. And this is, I feel, a general problem in a ‘jobs for the boys’ culture. Nobody truly concerned with supporting adoptive families would not encourage and support, even financially, an innovative and cost effective resource such as ours. And whilst I’m on it resources such as The Adoption Social  ( and their user led community initiatives which probably effectively support adopters and adoptees more than anything else I’ve seen. Instead we are turning desperate people in crisis away. All they want is a few days break to enable them to carry on. An empathic support worker, some knowledgable advice.

Don’t get me wrong, I know we can’t have unregulated, untrained, overstretched workers dealing with the serious issues in adoption. They could get it wrong and offer ineffective support. They could make things worse. They could blame parents and cause them isolation and depression. Physical and mental harm could take place. That would be absolutely irresponsible and potentially damaging for children. It mustn’t happen, not for a minute.

Who on earth involved in the politics and the business of adoption would ever allow such a thing to happen…………..

5 thoughts on “Beyond The Order (And Blah Blah Blah)

  1. I’ve read your link via the Adoption Social link. You’re obviously extremely knowledgeable and doing an amazing job for the greater good. Well done.
    So much for the ‘big society’ which the government were advocating a few years ago. It appears that what you’re doing is taking things into your own hands yet you are now being hamstrung by their red tape – ludicrous. You sound very determined and with the right number of people who come out in support of what you offer I’m sure you’ll get there…slowly but surely.

    I’ve read a few blogs this morning via the adoption social one of which was a follow up to the 15,000 kids programmes. We’re in the process of adoption and will be going to panel in June. We’re trying to do the right thing and make the right decisions both for ourselves and for children who we hope to adopt but it seems like a mine field and that you only truly understand what questions to ask, how you will cope and what you need to do if you work in the field or you’re one year down the line with a personal experience.
    We’re none of these yet we’re doing what they’re saying – getting the experience formally (although we’re surrounded by children in our family all of whom test the boundaries). We’re at a key time where we’re considering what type of children we want but I feel like ‘give me any of those children and we’ll cope’ – as we would if they were born to us. I hate the element of choice in all this.

    We’re reading as much as we can including blogs like yours. We’re attending our training sessions and learning about Theraplay, we’re meeting current adopters and their families. Basically doing as much as we possibly can whilst working full time saving money to get our house together preparing to be skint for the next few years.
    But the system is out of our hands, we just hope that people like you who have gone before us or work in the field can pave the way for better practice and support. When we come through I hope that we can be the next generation who will join the ranks to make the system better for future generations. I’m keen to read that report recently produced, do you have a link to it?

    Sorry that was a bit of a ramble on your blog. Thanks for reading if you get this far and best of luck, your place sounds amazing.

    • Hello there, thanks so much for your comments. I think because you are reading stuff and researching and communicating with others you will be very well prepared. A lot of what I write is in defence of adopters, adoptees and birth families but to reassure I wouldn’t change a thing. It is the most challenging but rewarding thing I have ever done. I think it’s very important to be fully prepared and ready to make sure all your support options are firmly in place.
      Whilst the Government are removing children at a high rate there are so many children who need consistent and committed care from families like yours.
      I agree with you about the choice thing it is a really uncomfortable experience but I believe fate plays a part and again despite our struggles I feel my daughter and I were matched perfectly! Will be really interested to hear of your journey as it unfolds : ) xx

      • Not sure we’ll ever be prepared, fearing the worst is probably the best thing to do! I’m glad you’ve said it’s the most rewarding thing you’ve done, it’s always useful to have that in amongst the issues – as there are obviously a lot!
        I’m leaving the corporate world which can be extremely ruthless. Where you spend your days stressed right out for things that at the end if the day don’t matter that much. I can’t wait to do something that matters.
        Thanks for your email, likewise I look forward to your updates and insight.

  2. THAT IS SO TRUE! A lot of persons who have jobs to offrer support to adopters/adoptees instead tick boxes and pass judgements!! Meanwhile, children are still waiting for loving parents and potential adopters feel dishearted!!

  3. I’m glad too you said it was the most rewarding thing you’d ever done! I was adopted in the 60s and I feel that the placement process is so much more ‘critical’ somehow. I was adopted as a baby, I feel the process now is so much harder for parents, I had many foster brothers and sisters who were often at the mercy and shunted about by ‘r
    edtape’ decisions.

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