Thursday, 16 January 2014

'Finding Mum and Dad'

Today's blog was supposed to be about the psychological challenges of being a stay at home parent - the feeling of losing self and, most importantly, self worth - it was one of the reasons I started writing again but also something I am only just coming to terms with. If you asked me what I 'did for a living' - I very rarely admit to being a stay at home Dad... but I think that will have to wait until tomorrow, or later today if I can get the washing and the shopping done before lunch.

Instead I am going to write about a show that was on British TV (Channel 4) last night. Called 'Finding Mum and Dad'. It focussed on the new 'adoption parties' that the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) are running to encourage more approved adopters to consider taking on 'Hard to Place' children. These are usually sibling groups or children aged over 4, primarily boys who are traditionally harder to place than girls. Once a child hits 7 they are considered 'unadoptable' and the state stops looking for adoptive placements for them and instead puts them into long term foster care. So for any child aged between 4 and 7, this is a crucial time whereby their futures will be decided. If they are in a sibling group with younger brothers or sisters then by 6 the decision is usually made to place the older child into long term care and continue looking for adopters for the younger child(ren). Of course, this is a generalisation and I'm sure their are some social workers that will fight tooth and nail to find adopters for their older children but the reality is, as the show said, its a buyers market and adopters can pretty much pick and choose with those children who are not 'chosen' being put back into the care system.

What I was stunned by though, as this was billed as a BAAF programme, was the title - 'Finding Mum and Dad' - and throughout the show there was constant referrals to finding these children 'a new mummy and daddy'. The would be adopters they focussed on were heterosexuals and the children were all told they could possibly be meeting their new mummy and daddy.

In my opinion, I think the main reason that the government are pushing to recruit more lesbian and gay adopters and single adopters - all of whom were alienated by this programme - is that they, as a group, are far more likely to consider a 'harder to place' child than a heterosexual couple would be, who are more likely to be looking for a baby. Indeed nearly all the gay couples I know who have adopted have all adopted sibling groups of boys, ourselves included.

I heard from the boys' old foster carer today who said the programme moved her to tears - mainly because the two boys featured were so similar to our two and their situation was exactly the same - indeed I think many of the conversations that were filmed between the foster mum and the older boy were similar to conversations she had with KC when he learned he was to be adopted and removed from her.

Her opinion was that the adoption parties took on the form of a cattle market, where the children were paraded in front of would be adopters who then got to choose those they would like to play with and know more about. There was a couple who were interested in the two boys the show featured but decided against it as they met another child instead. That's wonderful for the other child but for the two boys it must have been horrendous - they are taken to party, given a long chat about finding a new family and then come home after being rejected. Of course the boys weren't told the people they had been playing with didn't want them but as any parent of an adopted child will tell you, our kids are far more aware of change in mood and know immediately when they are being talked about.

So I have mixed feelings about adoption parties. If Papa and I do look for a third then maybe we would attend one but I imagine I would find it a bit over whelming and just want to take all the children home - I can't imagine playing with lots of different children with the idea that I might take one of them but not the other.

Ok, with the old system we only learned about our children through their paperwork and a DVD but that meant that we had very few pre-conceptions about them before we met them - yes there were problems but they were problems we had to deal with. Had we met them at an adoption party and watched KC flying around the room bashing people with a toy sword then there is no way we would have taken him on. TJ would have been very different, probably sitting in a corner quietly, making him immediately adorable and ensuring that we would have enquired about him but they would have had to split the boys up to get anyone to take him.

For over 40 children families were found - but what about the 200 plus who didn't get a family but were taken to the party anyway.

I know we need more adopters and we need them to take older children but adoption parties... I'm not so sure....

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