In 2003, the Guardian published an account of my family's experiences of the adoption system. We had fostered Louise when she was two and a half, and adopted her five years later, still optimistic – despite the hell we had lived through already – that all would end up happily. In the early years, she smeared herself with excreta, picked wounds in herself until she bled, attacked anything that moved, and screamed day and night. We told social services that we would not knowingly take a child with learning disabilities because we didn't think we could cope, but we were told Louise was suffering from emotional deprivation, and all she needed was tender, loving care.You see, social services deliberately - and with malice aforethought - lied to her.
Back then we were naive and didn't understand the rules. For instance, if we wouldn't "knowingly" take a child with learning disabilities, they just wouldn't tell us.Yes, it’s still lying if you do it by omission.
What they also failed to pass on was that she had brain damage from having been battered and had a family history of mental illness.Quite a different kettle of fish, then, from a child with ‘emotional deprivation’?
The people at social services laughed when we wondered if Louise might have learning disabilities and by the time this became too apparent to deny, Louise was our child. That is what social services count on: if the child can be kept with you long enough, you will not want to give her/him up.Just read that again. Blood chilling in it’s calculatedness, isn’t it?
I wrote the 2003 article in response to a surge of adverts featuring celebrities encouraging people to adopt smiling, but needy, children. Tony Blair was in office, feverishly burnishing his public image by volunteering as patron saint and saviour of little children.And what’s changed? Well, as you might expect, just the faces…
What has changed since 2003? Well, David Cameron has assumed the mantle of patron saint and saviour of little children, abetted by Michael Gove, who was himself adopted as a baby. What they are ignoring is that adoption has changed from what they think it ever was.Given the way our society has changed (in many ways, not for the better) it’d be amazing if it hadn’t.
For a start, there were never any well brought-up little orphans looking for loving parents. What we had were unmarried mothers who couldn't afford to raise children alone – though many did – and couldn't take the embarrassment and stigma of bearing an illegitimate child. But times have changed. Unmarried mothers are now single parents who have financial support from the state and there is no stigma these days – the "illegitimate" label that once marked children from cradle to grave has gone, and rightly so. What this means is that mothers are far more likely to keep their babies and there are virtually none available for adoption, so couples are encouraged to look at older children instead. And thereby a can of worms opens up.Because if people can’t be ‘encouraged’ without being flat-out lied to, well, so what? They can hardly go to the Advertising Standards Authority, or the council’s Trading Standards team, can they?
The children available for adoption these days have often been removed from parents who have mental health, drug and alcohol problems. They have most likely been left with those parents until the bitter end because the state believes that children do better with their own parents. By the time these children are removed, they are already damaged by years of neglect and abuse. They are no longer children in need of an ordinary family; in fact often that is the last thing they can cope with, and they are the last thing an ordinary family can cope with.But, to the adoption agencies, all that matters is getting them off the books. They have targets for that.
And they’ll hit those targets by any means possible…
But one thing that has changed since 2005 is that adopters are increasingly prepared to fight back. Social services are destroying marriages and lives, trying to get problem children off their books. It feels as though they will use any means, and that legal action against the local authorities concerned is the only thing that might stop them.Except…they have shedloads of taxpayer cash to fight with. And adoptive parents rarely do.