National Adoption Week – Monday 14th to Friday 18th October 2019

National Adoption Week is an annual event that raises awareness about the adoption process and encourages more people to consider adoption. This year, the week (Monday 14th to Friday 18th October 2019) will focus on finding adopters for ‘priority children’ – sibling groups, BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) children, older children, and children with complex health needs.

National Adoption Week leaves me conflicted. The fact we need to raise awareness is problematic. That money needs to be directed into recruiting adoptive families rather than addressing the causes that lead to the need for adoption is troublesome. It is easy for me to suggest investment in birth families before crisis point but the solution is less straightforward. And well beyond my comprehension.

Previous year’s events and ethos have drawn criticism, not least from those who believed that adopters’ needs were being placed above the children’s. That the children featured in national awareness campaigns were treated as commodities. And that adult adoptees were being completely forgotten (or ignored). There is validity in all these arguments.

But the recruitment drive is needed. The tide of prospective adopters ebbs and flows. In my region, East Midlands, there are 68 children currently waiting to be adopted and just 25 approved adoptive families. More adopters are needed. Adoption must be about finding forever families for children (not the other way around).

I think my view of National Adoption Week has also changed this year because I have changed and my circumstances have changed. Two years ago, we were waiting for confirmation of Little Chick’s placement order. Having been matched, we were still unsure if we would even meet him let alone parent him. Last year we were still waiting for Little Chick’s adoption order to be granted. We were in legal limbo and our parental status was less clear. This year, we are his legal parents, which removes some tensions but adds plenty more. Last year we were bobbing along nicely. It wasn’t always easy but it was manageable. National Adoption Week came and went with little fuss. This year is much tougher.

In previous years I have championed the National Adoption Awards held, recognising success in adoption. I have (successfully) nominated individuals for these. These Awards served a valuable purpose, but this year the money and energy are being spent elsewhere. If viable, I think the Awards should still be held, though perhaps in a different guise and at a different time. National Adoption Week should focus on the adoptee, though others – birth families, foster carers, social workers, adopters, etc. – should be acknowledged, at another time.

This year I will spend National Adoption Week seeking support for myself and my family. I will be chasing adoption support to follow up last month’s plea for help; I will be meeting with Little Chick’s headteacher to find a manageable way to keep him in school and happy, safe, and well; I will be meeting up with other adoptive parents and spending my one child-free evening talking about my child, but to people who ‘get’ it. This year my family are living the reality of adoption. It is the best thing my wife and I have ever done but it’s the hardest too.

If you are considering adoption, I urge you to contact your local agency and find out more. Similarly, if you have any questions that I can help you with please get in touch.

National Care Leavers’ Week 2017

Hot on the heels of National Adoption Week, National Care Leavers’ Week is running from October 25th to November 3rd. Receiving far less coverage than National Adoption Week, I would argue that National Care Leavers’ Week needs and deserves more attention, primarily because we all have a role and responsibility as corporate parents. But I guess hormonal teenagers suffering trauma are less media friendly than cute toddlers or adorable sibling groups.

I’m not going to lecture people on what they should be doing, because I’m definitely not doing enough. I’m also not sure what I really could or should be doing.

But two messages filtered through to me from the discussion on social media (because National Care Leavers’ Week doesn’t seem to have gained wider media coverage, or certainly nowhere near the attention National Adoption Week receives).

1. The term ‘care leavers’

It struck me this week that the term is awful. I would hope it’s a misnomer, but I’m not convinced it is. These young people shouldn’t be leaving care. They may be leaving a specific form of care, but they are not (or should not) be cut off from care. We should still care about their outcomes and how they can be positively helped.

Just because a young person reaches their 18th birthday doesn’t mean they can do it on their own. Very few people are – at any age – but care experienced young people may, arguably, be even less prepared.

2. Every Child Leaving Care Matters

Every. Child. Leaving. Care. Matters.

No exceptions.

Children in foster homes can stay until they are 21, while those in residential children’s homes are only given until they are 18. This is clear discrimination. ECLCM is a campaign group, without funding or political affiliations with any other group, formed to stop Government discrimination against children in residential care who want support to 21, the same as those in foster care.

ECLCM ask all those who share their view to support their campaign for equality. It is the least we can do for our children. If you share this view, please sign and share the ECLCM petition.