This evening, I finally watched the Panorama programme “The Truth About Adoption” on the BBC iPlayer. This is absolutely essential, and absolutely heart-wrenching, viewing. This is documentary making as it should be – helping us, as viewers, to grasp the real life implications of decisions by social workers, foster parents, birth parents and potential adoptive parents. Last year, just 60 babies in care were adopted in the UK – staggeringly, this figure is 3,270 fewer than in 2007. The documentary highlights the endless delays in the adoption process, which seem to damage children waiting to be adopted deeply. I have good friends who are hoping to adopt soon, as well as others who have successfully adopted, and I am very aware too of the pain caused by endless delays to those hoping and praying for children to adopt too.
Something is wrong with the system. But something is wrong too with people within the system – not just poor social workers (and those in the documentary seemed brilliant and passionate – unlike the usual social worker stereotype), but the rest of us who stand at arms length, with our doors firmly closed, whilst thousands of children languish in the care system, desperately hoping the day will come when they will be adopted and/or fostered. How is it possible that – in a “civilised society” – we have become so divorced from our neighbours, and from our fellow human beings in need, that children can end up living their entire childhood in institutions? Surely, if we really were “civilised”, there would be no children without homes, no children without an alternative “family” home? Surely every child would have a safe place to go, with someone known to them?
It breaks my heart that children can spend years waiting to be adopted, that some return to care after adoptions break down, that any child should face continual rejection because adoptive parents can’t be found. I feel deeply challenged about my own apathy. I love my adopted god-daughter very much and have always been interested in adopting children one day, but I have done nothing about it. I don’t think that adoption should be the alternative to giving birth to your children – I think the two can, and surely should, somehow be able to mix. It should not be an “either/or” scenario. What can’t it be “both/and”?
If you can, please set aside an hour to watch this documentary. Any sadness you might feel watching it (and I certainly cried) is only a fraction of the sadness many children feel each day as they wait for a new Mummy and Daddy.