Caution: This is a wild offensive rant that solve no problems, probably offends everyone whilst being simultaneously a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. It is not my intention to offend (well not overly) but sometimes that niggling voice in my head just needs to be heard.
Every year many of us ‘adoption bloggers’ pop out blogs on what we think about National Adoption Week and so here’s this year’s contribution from me.
First of all, I think it’s important to say that I hate adoption. When at my bleakest I know I hate everything about it. Obviously, like most ‘thinking people’, I hate the need for it <cue sad but resigned face>. But it’s more than that. I hate the fact that there’s a voice in my head that says “This model cannot be right”. I hate the fact that I feel like a willing conspirator in a system that we know tackles the symptom and not the cause, and that by supporting adoption in and of itself I am arguably reducing the pressure that forces social change.
I hate a model that demonises and penalises those whom society has broken. I feel uncomfortable when I see fellow adopters focus on their joy at having children, whilst seeming sometimes to avert their eyes from the cause and the cost of their joy “Of course I would rather it hadn’t happened, but as it did…”.
I feel uncomfortable when I see those who say they are ‘adoption advocates’. Really?? How can you be? It’s horrible. How can you advocate for adoption without campaigning against the causes of adoption? Please do both. And if you do, bravo, because you are a better person than me: just firing at the players from the sidelines and doing neither.
You’ve no idea how many times my mind plays with the idea of burning the whole thing down. It’s the voice in my head that says “Let’s call a national adopters strike and deliberately put off all prospective adopters”. In my mind it’s simple: you want better adoption support? Refuse to adopt until you get it. If you think adoption is the wrong answer to one of the most important questions we face as a society then let the whole system collapse and then let’s see whether there is a better way forward. Yes, I know that it isn’t an option in the sense that those we seek to protect could suffer most, but I cannot believe I am alone in thinking this. I sometimes struggle to understand what other leverage we have to change a broken system.
I hate the fact that every £ invested in the ASF should have been spent ten years ago in helping the mother of my son come to terms with some of the brutal childhood experiences that made her the grossly neglectful Mother she tragically became. Just like her mother before her. And her mother before her.
I’m not a naïve utopian (well, obviously I am) but I’d rather start with what should be and compromise from that starting position than seeking to fine-tune a flawed model. It’s why I read The Guardian and my Father read the Telegraph. He believed his worldview started pragmatically, mine ideally. I am entirely comfortable with that.
That said, I am both a Guardian reading lefty adoptive Dad and a businessman, and I realised this week that there’s an absolute connection between these two roles and National Adoption Week. In particular, it struck me that National Adoption Week reminded me of one of my favourite business tales. It’s a tale that demonstrates what can happen when you confuse the ends with the means. It’s the story of why so many American railway companies went bust in the mid-20th century. They went bust because they had wrongly told themselves they were in the business of running railroads. They went bust because they failed to remember their job was not to run railroads but to get people and goods from Point A to Point B. And so, inevitably, because they confused the means (trains) with the end (transport) the newly formed airlines ate their lunch. If they had focused on the end they may well have started airlines themselves.
National Adoption Week risks championing the means over the end – which is not adoption but permanence, preferably within the family of birth, in a safe environment where families have access to all of the resources they need to thrive and the benign family-centred monitoring required to ensure the safety of the child.
The role of National Adoption Week should be to bring about its own elimination. Each National Adoption Week we should do as The Open Nest did this week at their conference The Myths & Monsters of Child Protection and talk about what we can do to prevent its need. We should campaign to help birth families break the cycle of violence, abuse, neglect and poverty, we should campaign to get families the help they need, and against the demonization of the poor and against injustices within the child protection system. We should march against those welfare cuts that impact children, for an effective CAMHs and high-quality non-judgemental support for families who struggle under the weight of what is stacked against them. We should campaign against ourselves and against the myth of “breaking the cycle” – as if adoption was somehow a ‘tough love’ solution that opens the eyes of the underclasses to an alternative possibility. It doesn’t, they aren’t and it isn’t.
Of course I know deep down that for some children adoption may well be the best outcome, and I know that some birth parents cannot or will not be ‘saved’ by liberal do-gooders like me, I know that solutions may be generations in the making, but we should never forget that is a truly terrible question to which adoption is the only good answer, and we should campaign as steadfastly for its elimination as for its promotion.