In today’s Adoption Social Times we mentioned our support for the next conference from The Open Nest, which takes place during National Adoption Week. Here we bring you a post from The Open Nest explaining all about Adopted Voices.
Many adopters have a good understanding of what effect social care systems have had and continue to have on their adopted child. How they as parents are part of that system and the tensions within it. Trying to advocate for your adopted child’s rights as they grow up can be exhausting in a system that views you as the final solution and adoption as the cure.
If some adoption professionals and therefore some prospective adopters have little informed understanding or training around the impact loss and constructed identity has on some adopted children as they grow up, or don’t have access to detailed life story information, things can get off to a confused start and it can be possible to pathologize the child’s response to trauma and loss along the way. Focusing on the perceived failings of the child rather than the system the child has found itself in can cause failure to support adopted children fully.
The adoption system and agenda within the UK is informed by a constructed view of adoption as the best permanence option, in fact a golden opportunity for all involved. There is some truth in that, but it is only part truth. There are difficult aspects of the culture of adoption in this country that are yet to be openly discussed let alone thoroughly researched. There are also gaps in knowledge in health, education and social care and as a result there are uncertainties in practice that are passed on to adopters. With gaps in knowledge and a lack of access to adoptee led training and research material, adopters and professionals can find themselves learning on the job which is not really fair for anyone involved, particularly children who are bottom of the ‘having any choice’ in adoption list.
Adopters may feel they want to question standard advice or information given from LA’s on issues such as contact, life story, parenting and choice of interventions. This can be hard to do, especially when you are at the beginning of a process and may not be used to the workings of the culture and system. Adopters begin from a point of having to trust, and take as red, the information and advice professionals are giving them in order for them to best support their adopted child. Sometimes this works out really well but other times there becomes a clear mismatch between the expectations and limits of parents and services and the needs and rights of an adopted child.
In recent adoption reforms, media attention has been given to policy that champions the rights of prospective adopters to receive a quick and efficient adoption service and one which removes potential barriers to accepting or receiving a child. Against this back drop, some individuals, organisations and charities have called for an emphasis on improving support to adopters and have cited the reasons and quoted research to demonstrate why support is important.
These calls seem to elicit some opposing responses. Openly discussing or representing the difficult parts of adoption does not appear, for some adoption professionals, to fit easily alongside the governments positive marketing of adoption. On the other hand, with talk of adoption support on the political agenda, specialist support agencies, and charities are being government funded, improved and formed in order to be commissioned to address the recently highlighted needs for support. This shift in thinking has been largely informed by government funded research with adopters.
The Adoption Support Fund has been used as a positive adoption marketing tool in that it acknowledges support is needed. This acknowledgement alongside resultant funding are a way of reassuring prospective adopters that lessons have been learned. That they will not struggle supporting an adopted child in the ways some of those that went before them have, that we are in a new era of understanding adoptees. If the adoption support fund budget extends well beyond it’s pilot year in 2015 it has the potential to do some good work.
As a charity we feel that although support is improving for some adopters, there are currently gaps in support information that is produced by and for adopted adults. We would welcome a long term policy commitment to hearing the many voices of adopted children, young people and adults. This would mean funding and finding effective, accessible, longterm ways of listening to, recording and publishing the views of those who are adopted rather than those who wish to adopt, or who have already adopted.
Including adopted adults in all discourse around adoption that leads to policy making would be a great start. Further to this, funding independent research by and with adopted people, inviting adopted adults to take leadership in reform and promoting equality in support systems for all adopted people regardless of age.
At our charity trustees meeting in April 2015 we committed to organising a conference where all speakers would be adopted adults. We decided the event should be held during National Adoption Week to encourage open debate and discussion. Delegates of the conference will hear varying and unedited experiences and what it means to the individual speakers to be adopted in the UK.
Liz Blakey: psychotherapist, mental health trainer, mother, writer. Liz will be introducing her new research project ‘Growing Up Adopted’
Lucy Sheen: actor, writer, film maker. Lucy will be showing her amazing documentary ‘Abandoned Adopted Here’ looking at International transracial adoption.
Fran Proctor: care manager, inspirational speaker, mother. Fran will be talking about her incredible life story so far and promoting adoptee rights.
Peter Sandiford: CEO of adoption support charity PAC-UK. Peter will describe the experience of spending his early years in residential care prior to being adopted in the early 50’s.
Charlie: historian, researcher. Charlie will examine the policy and practice that affected her as a child who was adopted from care aged 12.
Kay Purcell: actress in television, film and theatre. Kay is going to talk about how adoption is seen through the eyes of her adoptive family members and their individual experiences.
Speakers are looking forward to welcoming other adopted adults, adoptive parents, and social care professionals for what we hope will be a really interesting day.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to look around the museum which has been privately hired within the ticket price.
The conference is taking place at The Foundling Museum in London on Monday October 19th 2015. Tickets will be on sale from 1st September via The Open Nest website and payment will be in the form of a donation. In line with our policy the conference will be non profit making. Tickets are £35.
There is a hashtag for the event so please feel free to use it #AdoptedVoices2015
Further details will follow shortly via the charities Facebook and Twitter