Judith Craig Morency writes: I had the pleasure of speaking at The Future of Adoption in the UK about ‘Social work and the Adoptee Voice’, hosted by The Public Policy Exchange on February 1, 2017.
The focus was on the Adoption Reform that is occurring and the impact this will have on the families. I shared the stage with Dr. Anna Gupta Royal Holloway University, Mr. John Simmonds, OBE Coram BAAF, Ms. Brenda Farrell of Barnardo’s, Ms. Ann Domeney of Medway Council and Ms. Helen Costa of The Cornerstone Partnership. Initially I was a little intimidated to be speaking amongst such a high calibre of my colleagues but then I realized that I was representing the most important voice in the room, the voice of the adoptee. I didn’t take the responsibility lightly. I worked with my colleague Joy Carter, CEO of Adoption Arena and fellow adoptee to highlight what we felt were some serious issues within the reform and drew on my 12 years of Social Work practice in the UK.
I felt it was essential to focus on the stages BEFORE a child is placed for adoption. With 90,000 children in care the focus was imbalanced. I focused on the following areas:
- Lack of support for birth family preservation
- The discretionary thresholds for children entering into care
- The trauma all children face when being taken into care
- The lack of enough high-quality care and support for both children and carers
- The need for more therapeutic training for Social Workers and Carer’s
- The extra issues that children transracially adopted have to manage
- Lack of support for adopted adults
In my experience, not enough preventive work is being done with birth families before a crisis stage is reached and therefore children are being removed from the home unnecessarily. It’s very difficult to understand why a government would want to spend more money on assisting in the creation of new families instead of strengthening the families that already exist. The somewhat arbitrary way decisions are made for children who enter into the care system means not all children and families are given the same opportunities to succeed.
The research is clear children who are taken into care regardless of the circumstances experience trauma, increased rates of mental health, are less likely to engage in post-secondary education and training programs amongst other challenges. If we continue to provide a bare bones support package to these children, we’ll continue to see these children have lifelong challenges and become a burden on society instead of an asset. The government’s own report Future in Mind clearly recommends that “each child in care should have a five-year transformative plan to cover the whole spectrum of service for children and young people’s mental health and well-being.”
Once a child is placed into the care system they are not always receiving the highest standard of care that they deserve. While we have some carers, who go the extra mile and advocate for the children in their care they often do it without having all of the necessary tools and they need to be equipped to manage children who have suffered trauma and have complex needs. Equally Social Worker’s require additional training to manage these children and to ensure their ‘whole spectrum of service’ is being delivered to a high standard.
Minimizing the importance of culture, race and identity specifically for transracially adopted children has swung the pendulum too far to the other side and these adoptees will suffer even greater trauma and identity crises if this is ignored.
While I’m pleased to see the Adoption Reform will bring some much needed additional support for adoptive families with the Adoption Support Fund and the additional professional support being provided to young people until age 25, and the shorter waiting times for the assessment process. I strongly feel that all the money being poured into this end of the fostering/adoption arena is greatly imbalanced and less adoption would be necessary if more funding was allocated to preventative work being undertaken with families where this was appropriate, mandatory therapeutic training was provided to ALL foster carers and Social Workers and formal and informal support was available for adult adoptees.
I can personally attest to how life changing support services were on my journey of self-discovery, acceptance and diminished my feelings of isolation and fear. I could connect to my adoption community and have a sense of belonging while I heal from the trauma I experienced. I feel more whole and can assist others as they embark on this necessary healing.
Adoptees voices are so powerful and we need to feel empowered to share our journeys; the success, the failures, the triumphs and the challenges. Our voices will assist the next generation and their parents as they navigate the adoption journey.
Judith Craig Morency
*Why not book Judith to talk at your event and/or screen her film ‘AdoptionID’?
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