Guardian readers reflect on their experiences of being placed with adoptive parents when they were children
Letters Tue 21 Jan 2020 18.30 GMTLast modified on Tue 21 Jan 2020 18.40
• I am 66 years old and I have never recovered from the harm that adoption did to me; I live with the trauma every day. In the 1950s your name was changed and your identity sealed, never to be revealed. I was supposed to be grateful to the devout and emotionally cruel couple who supposedly “chose me”. I did not want to call them mummy or daddy but was forced to. I was continually told how lucky I was, and any questions were immediately hushed for fear of upsetting the adults. I was bad blood in need of tight control so I did not stray like my mother.
I have seen over the years how adoption has swung in and out of fashion, but what I haven’t seen is any recognition of the trauma experienced by the child when they are taken from their mother. Added to that, the trauma of never knowing what happened to you, why you were “given away” and who you really are is so cruel. When the law changed in the late 1970s it was still difficult to find anything out, and social workers had all the power. I eventually got my file, but most of it was blacked out or cut out for fear of upsetting third parties! What about me?
Speak and really listen to adopted adults and you will hear the truth. It might not be the truth you want to hear, but it is the only way that change for the better can be implemented.
Like Professors Brid Featherstone and Anna Gupta (Letters, 20 January), I was concerned to read that the government is yet again encouraging increased numbers of adoptions. But it seems to me that the plight of so many children has changed little in these last 100 years. Parliament approved the UK’s first adoption legislation in 1926, but legal adoption was to be the brutal severance that it still is. In the late 1940s, adoption law was overhauled, addressing inheritance rules and placing obligations on local authorities, and then there was major reform in 1975.
When I was born in 1952, it was still both legal and commonplace for parents to pass their children on, permanently, into the guardianship of whoever they pleased. People even advertised their children in the newspapers! I for one was handed over to grow up among strangers, and everyone around me – including neighbours, policemen, the clergy and schoolteachers – ignored my plight, ignored the abuse I obviously suffered, and ignored my clearly neglected condition. And what was the Conservative party slogan for the 1951 general election? “Preserving our traditional way of life.” So from my perspective, the Conservatives have had their way. And here we are having the same old debate.
Alan Graham Robinson
Adoption not always best for children
Prof Brid Featherstone and Prof Anna Gupta believe adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved
‘Adoption is not a risk-free panacea, as government policy seems to suggest. It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endure for decades,’ say Brid Featherstone and Anna Gupta.
We were concerned to read that the government has written to directors of children’s services, urging them to prioritise adoption for children in the care system (Local authorities urged to focus on adoption for children in care, 16 January). From 2016-18 we led an enquiry, commissioned by the British Association of Social Workers, into the role of the social worker in adoption. We heard from those who had been adopted, adoptive parents, birth families, social workers, legal professionals and academics.
While there was a recognition that adoption is suitable for some children, it was considered that it was not suitable for many of those who come into the care system. It is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognise these.
Adoption is not a risk-free panacea, as government policy seems to suggest. It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endure for decades. There are other options, such as placements with kinship carers or long-term foster carers, and legal remedies such as special guardianship orders, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships.
Currently, these do not receive the support and policy attention that is needed. Moreover, birth families themselves have suffered greatly under austerity and the research finding that a child in the most deprived part of England is more than 10 times more likely to come into care than a child in the most affluent part vividly illustrates the need to ask a fundamental question about contemporary policies. Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin?
Prof Brid Featherstone University of Huddersfield, Prof Anna Gupta Royal Holloway, University of London