Monday, 27 May 2013

Preparing the Flat for our First Social Worker Visit to our Flat

This reminds me of preparations made to have the parents over for the first time. The garden has been tidied and strimmed, the new bathroom has been finished and our plants have been watered. It all of course feels a bit unbalanced to put the flat's "best face on". It is as though we are trying to give the impression of our permanent domestic efficiency.

Other anxieties are in our minds as well. Will they think that having a cleaner (if they find out) makes us too middle class? (or too lazy to be effective parents?) Alternatively will the fact that we live a former council flat in a large estate, make us appear insufficiently settled and prosperous? I am sure that social workers are too broad minded to think any of this but it is odd to record the little things you worry about.

Wish us luck or otherwise


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Initial Enquiry Form

Ok, so this is not supposed to be a blog (just) dedicated to debating matching. Time to get back to discussing our experience of the process.Over the weekend we leisurely filled out the initial enquiry form. This is just a two and a half pager that elicits information from us prior to our first visit  from a social worker.

Three sections are of interest:

  1. What experience do you have of parenting?
  2. What experience do you have of looking after children?
  3. How many children are you interested in adopting? Of what age? and why?
The first two questions reminded me of a job application form. It is a common joke that competency based interviews select for those that are best suited to lying. Whilst the joke is not often true in a literal sense, living in a job market that constantly exerts you to sell what "you have done" what "you have contributed" certainly has a framing effect. The first question is however not spin-able. We are not parents, merely aspirational parents and the none left bleakly on the dotted lines after this question embarrassing attested to this.

On the second question we do not have much. It was a question of selling our limited experience of looking after relatives children and child-minding. In this case selling meant not mentioning the exact number of years that have passed since this experience....

On the number of children question, we are constrained by our housing situation. We own (well have a long leasehold on) a two bed flat and our council has specified that every adoptive child should have its own room. This makes an interesting juxtaposition against Government policy which encourages the less well off to make their children share. This is however only of interest to us academically as we are only looking for one. I understand that having one child (to start with) will be very daunting and there is no way we could cope with more (yet).

The age range question is a fine balance of supply. There are apparently lots of prospective adopters looking to adopt babies and young toddlers whilst the majority of children put forward for adoption are between 3 and 8. We decided to select a range of 0-4, so the upper end of this age range is likely to be the binding constraint.

Lots of thinking about a short form.... makes me apprehensive about the much longer formal one that comes further down the process.


Monday, 6 May 2013

The Bigger Point of Contention

At the end of the previous post I talked about my moderate (non ideological) objection to ethnic and cultural matching. Here I want to discuss my stronger and more ideological objection to religious matching. This was not mentioned in our talk apart from as part of the list (ethnic cultural and religious) of demographic characteristics that might be taken into account during the matching process.

I am not (yet) a parent and I do not claim to have the answer to every parenting dilemma; here is however an amateur's attempt to describe how to deal with the topic of religion:

  • Talk to the child about the world's religions ,encourage the child's school to educate the child in the major religions or the world and encourage the child to find out more information on their own (see Dan Dennett for a discussion of this ).
  • Explain to the child what you believe and why - In my case I am (as I am sure the reader has guessed) an atheist.
  • Describe to the child that it is up to them to make up their own mind but there is no pressure to decide once and for all whilst they are young.
  • Be willing to support the child in whatever choice they make and if necesary escort them to a place of worship of their choice.
  • [And an extra one in the case of adoption - Let the child know the religion that is associated with their background. Describe the basics of that belief with them and then if they wish tell them where they can get more information.]
I find it disconcerting that an adoption service could think that this approach is not enough or that the child not coming from the same religious background as the prospective adoptive parent would mean that this would be done inadequately. In case anyone thinks this is a hypothetical proposition I am going to quote from a webchat with Oona King. I respect Oona King as an adopter and as a writer about adoption (although I disagree with her stance on matching) so I would recommend the reading of the full chat at .  The relevant quote for this discussion is:

 I'm a Jewish aetheist, married to an Italian Catholic. When we were matched with our first son from East London (who was miraculously black and Italian) we were asked if we would agree to bring him up Muslim. It took me a while to persuade my husband (you can see the comedy potential here, with the Jewish atheist and Italian Catholic wondering around the East London Mosque), but eventually it was agreed. Luckily I know a lot of people at my local Mosque, and I asked them for help, and they were all very forthcoming. But then, after the baby arrived, we were told the birth mother wasn't Muslim, and the birth father was convinced the birth mother was doing it as revenge. We're not sure what the upshot was, and may never know. But my personal view is that you find a baby a home, and you do not exclude a baby from that home - ever - on religious grounds.

I believe that forcing adoptive parent to force their child into a particular religion is not just misguided but offensive. Religion should be a matter of choice for all including children and there is no need for us to inherit our beliefs from our (birth or adoptive) parents. An interesting point of comparison would be if a child was born to atheist parents and then put up for adoption would the prospective parent then be forced to bring the child up an atheist? Clearly not.

I should re-iterate that despite these views of mine being held strong and passionately, this has not been a problem so far in my wife and my (brief) experience of the adoption process so far.


The Talk

This post concerns a meeting where we went to get information about adopting from our council.

I should say that before I even write my first "proper post" I have a concern that there is something in this blog's nature that is going to make it read less balance than I would like. If I merely describe all the positive experiences about adopting (or intending to adopt) then it will be a very dull read. It is only the points of contention or of struggle that could ever be of interest but that could create the false impression that everything is difficult or a conflict. This is not to say that I don't expect adoption to be difficult (I expect it to be extremely difficult) but I do fear that all of the positive experiences and all of the support that I anticipate we will receive will be left out of my recounting.

Therefore I am forced to point out that the social workers at this meeting where very polite and helpful. They gave lots of useful information about the process and they were friendly to all the prospective adopters. The fact that recounting this is boring does not stop it from being true.

So what were my points of contention? None that I verbalised. To be clear, I did not speak out when things made me uncomfortable both because I wished to be impolite but also because I recognised that it would be impolitic. I guess this ability to vent my thoughts is the purpose of this blog.

So what made me uncomfortable. Well as I suspected before the talk it was the topic of matching. Specifically deciding whether to match a child to prospective adopters on the basis of that child's ethnicity, culture or religion. I do not have "an ideological" problem with ethnic or cultural matching. I understand (but I can not and do not calim to be able to empathise) that for a child to be in a situation where they are put up for adoption (be it via neglect abuse or bereavement) is deeply traumatic and being placed with parents that do not understand your culture can make it worse. Similarly I can understand that growing up without an understanding of your identity must be horrible and that this is exacerbated by having parents not from your culture and look dramatically different to you.

When asked about this (not by me) during the talk, the social workers were friendly and said that they would be open to intra-ethnic and intra-cultural adoption. They did however state that the parents must prove themselves to understand other cultures, demonstrate knowledge of what it is like to be from a minority background and be fully integrated into the mixed community of our borough. In an ideal world this would be an entirely sensible and worthy precaution. But we are not in an idea world.

What stood out for me though was when they said that they were looking for prospective adopters of a mixed heritage because the number one category of children in care that they could not find adoptive homes for was mixed ethnic children. As much as I admire social workers in general for their hard and self sacrificing work in a truly important field and as much as I admired these social workers in particular for the kind and helpful way they provided information in this talk, I cannot help but think that this fact is related to their over-stringent selection of parents. By only choosing mixed heritage prospective adopters and prospective adopters who are not of mixed heritage who have implacable credentials demonstrating themselves to be integrated and understanding they are not matching all of these children to the best parents but condemning the majority of these children to stay in the social care system.


Saturday, 4 May 2013



This is going to be a place to record the progress and my thoughts about applying to be a adoptive parent in an inner London Borough.

If you know me, please do not out me in the comments.