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Adoption parties…

January 16, 2014

There was a documentary on Channel4 last night called Finding Mum and Dad. I was about to go to bed, the TV was off and I popped onto twitter, as you do, and saw a tweet announcing it was about to start. I quickly flicked the telly back on for what I knew was going to be difficult viewing.

It was about “older” children looking for parents to adopt them, to find their ‘forever families’ by attending Adoption Parties. It followed three children in particular, brothers Connor (6) and Daniel (4) and another boy called Scott (6) who were unsuccessful in finding adopters via the formal routes.

Over the course of the next hour I went through a boat load of emotions from sad to angry to anxious to helplessness. There was a small trace of happiness in there too but it did not dominate and only surfaced when I saw just how happy the children were when they interacted with their foster mothers and each other.

The most heartbreaking element for me was when Katy, foster mother to the two boys, explained to a six and four year old that they were going to a party to see if they could find them their forever families. What on earth must be going on in these boys heads? I have a six and three year old at home so I know how their little minds work. This is not the sort of pressure, anxiety and possible disappointment children this age should be dealing with.

It then cut to a room full of potential parents for these precious children who flicked through a booklet with photos and descriptions of the children like it was a car auction. I am getting more and more angry with every word I type so before I explode I will add that from the 251 children that attended the three Adoption Parties 41 found forever families and were adopted. That is the silver lining but what about the remaining 210 children?

Adopters prefer younger children and girls. Adopters prefer single children. This was the clear message from the documentary. Most children attending these parties had younger siblings and many appeared to be male. They played at the party and appeared to have great fun, unaware that their foster parents where dying inside, watching them, watching the adopters size them up and decide not to talk to the beautiful children they had in their care.

My heart broke for the foster parents. They must have felt how dare these people judge their little angels on a glance. I know it is all for the greater good but what sort of damage is done if they are not chosen or engaged with?

I nearly leaped into the telly when a lady from the Adoption Association in the UK used this analogy to explain the Adoption Parties. “You wouldn’t dream of buying a sofa without going to the shop to see it and sit on it”. How dare she compare adopting child to buying a sofa. Again, I know the message she was trying to convey but she should have checked her phrasing with someone, anyone first.

I was at my pre-marriage course many moons ago and the lady giving it had been in a position where she had to consider adoption as herself and her husband were unable to conceive. She then went on to say that she struggled with that as an option and she used the following analogy for adoption. “Why would anyone want a second hand pair of jeans when you could have a new pair”. Again, I nearly ran for her. What a stupid thing to say. These are real breathing people being spoken about like a couch and pair of jeans. A huge complaint process incurred with that agency on my behalf and I know the same phrase was never used again.

Back to the Adoption Parties… it also followed a couple attending as potential adopters and their nerves were palpable. They felt awkward and didn’t quite know what to do and settled in doing some drawing to sit with some of the children. They said that this was the first time they felt they were refusing children and it did feel funny about it.

There was a Case Worker there who had the dreaded job of asking adopters “What sort of child are you looking for? I have two boys with me today. They are great boys”. How hideous!

Then came the clanger that little Scott had been living with his younger sister in their foster home but she had found her Forever Family and been adopted. Well. That was it for me. I cannot understand how separating siblings can benefit any party including the siblings and the adopters. The psychological damage must be immense for all. I get that it’s “better” to have one child adopted than none but at what cost?

So I guess the bottom line is, yes, I get that Adoption Parties are the final phase in the search for families for these ‘older’ children and it was fantastic that 41 were placed. But poor Connor, Daniel and Scott were not.

The only good thing to come out of this programme is that the authorities decided not to split Connor and Daniel up throughout the adoption process and anyone who saw the documentary last night will agree, it will need to be a very special Mum and Dad to be deserving of these two fabulous boys…

Did you see it? What are your thoughts?

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7 Comments
  1. The parties are a good idea poorly executed I think.

    For a start they were billed as events for children that were difficult to place – immediately putting a negative spin on it. The prospective adopters would be going in thinking. “Why are they difficult to place?”.

    Secondly they should have arranged it so every set of parents spent time with every set of kids. The way it looked most of them avoided any interaction with a lot of the children – interaction that could have changed their minds.

    And yes the Social worker talking about DFS sofas was not the best phrasing but her point is valid. We are going through the process – we are approved and currently going through matching. At this stage we get profiles and records, a few pictures and a DVD maybe.

    You have to commit to a child at this point. The go to another panel and get approval and at this stage al other options are closed off. And you haven’t even met the child yet. What if when you meet them there is no connection?

    I think the process is lacking in opportunity for parents to meet potential children and these parties are a good start on addressing that, they just need to be improved.

    And there has to be balance against protecting the children from being “paraded” like products to be sold.

    We were in tears all the way through. If we had the room for two – we would have rung up there and then for those two brother’s. Who couldn’t fall in love with them?

    • Thanks for sharing your journey with me. You are absolutely right in what you say. the parties do have a function but need a lot of tweaking to protect the children better. The repeated rejection is causing so much damage to these children that will absolutely raise its head when they are older. It couldn’t not effect them regardless of the love and care they may experience.

      It would nearly be better if the children were unaware of what was happening and were told that it was a foster children’s party to bring foster kids together to play. they just don’t need to know people are judging them to see if they are ‘good enough’ to join their family.

      I wish you the very best of luck in your search.

  2. So, so sad Jill, The thoughts of my two little boys ever being separated. And treating kids like a commodity, just awful.

    • thanks for your comment Sinead. I do see the silver lining in it all but the hurt and pain caused to these children at being rejected repeatedly will stay with them for life. It’s so damaging.

  3. Drika permalink

    I just watched it, as we have been thinking of adopting for nearly 5 years now. Must admit I was so pleased that they allow prospective parents and children to meet, as this is the main reason why my husband never wanted to start the process. He always felt that being matched to a child through a social worker would be unacceptable. We felt like we are not only numbers and data that can be matched or mismatched, relying on someone’s “expertise”. We wanted to see our child coming to us, as has happened to the couple who adopted little Thomas on the program.
    On the other hand, I felt really sorry to see that it was a bit like a market. But it is obvious to me that the program wanted to pass a message and all resources have been used to pass it through. It has been shown very little of how much fun those kids had at the party.
    I don’t know. We’ve got a little girl and I would dread if she were to be exposed like that. But I am not really sure she would understand it all, or even be damaged by the whole process. What I know is that I wouldn’t like her to live with no family, every child deserves to have a family to love and support them.
    And yes, now with the activity days we will reconsider adoption. Definitely. That is the only way to go for us.

    • Thank you for your comments Drika and telling me your story. I can see it from both sides and I do understand that these parties are so positive fora number of adopters and children however it seemed a little cruel to the children, who were very aware of what was happening. They have already experienced the loss of their natural parents and now they are repeatedly being exposed to loss from not being chosen at these ‘matching’ parties. I wish you all the luck in the world in your search and I am sure you will be lucky enough to find a fantastic child to join your family.

  4. This was a tough documentary to watch albeit very insiteful. I have never had the urge to have my own children and when the time is right I will adopt. My heart broke for the children shown. Scott especially who had been separated from his sister. I’m sure untold damage will have been done. However, like Drika, I feel the interaction between potential parents and children is wonderful and essential in finding a connection. A lot of tweaks need to be made though to make this experience smoother and less painful for everyone involved.

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