Wales This Week – Forever Families is on Tuesday February 21 at 7.30pm and looks at the process of adoption and fostering in Wales.
By Fiona Scott.
The journey of making this programme has been very emotional for the whole team. It’s this reaction which really captures the essence of adoption for me – it’s not about pieces of paper, questionnaires and protocols, it’s about children who need help.
You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be captivated by the stories heard along the way.
Adoption in Wales is probably not working as well as it could be – though better than in England it has to be said. Politicians are hoping to do something about it and from March 7 will be hearing evidence from any interested parties about how adoption works and what, if anything, can be done to improve outcomes for children.
Hopes are high that if the recommendations of the inquiry are accepted by the Welsh Government that Wales could lead the way in improving the lives of thousands of children in care.
Many organisations will give evidence – but as the chairman Christine Chapman makes clear, it’s not the usual suspects that she wants to hear from. They need the voices of people caught up in the system, people who’ve been through the system, children who’ve lived through the system. This is a chance for them to be heard at the highest level inWales– anonymously if necessary.
But just outlining the parameters of an inquiry would be so dull – wouldn’t you agree? What we always need to remember is this is about parents and children – people are emotionally bound up in the system from the minute they pick up that phone or are removed from their birth parents.
There are inspirational children and adults in this film. You will not see their faces at all times but their stories are powerful testimony which show the pinch points in the adoption system.
It was a surprise to me to know that there are very few restrictions to becoming an adoptive parent – I thought being in my 40s I’d be far too old for example. Not true. Would it matter if I was gay? No. Would it matter if I was unemployed? No. Would it matter if I lived in rented accommodation? No.
What matters is that you can offer a stable, safe, secure and clean home for a child who is unable to stay with his/her birth parents. It matters that you are over 21 and have not been convicted of any offence relating to children.
If you enter the process of course you’ll be asked a million other questions – about your lifestyle, your home, your past, your thoughts and feelings, your hopes and dreams, your pets….the list goes on….
Many people who adopt get put off by all of the above so I’m told….also many people who want to adopt have a vision of a newborn baby in their arms. That is actually very rare now.
The average age for adoption in Wales is three years, nine months. That’s because the courts will give a birth family every opportunity to keep the child within the family unit – even if that means they stay in foster care for a number of years.
Adoption in 2012 is more likely to mean adopting older children, adopting siblings to keep them together and therefore, perhaps, adopting various emotional problems. Many feel that now adoptive parents need far more support once they’ve adopted to help them bond with their new child, especially during the first year.
When going through adoption, every prospective parent will come into contact with a social worker – as it is social workers who do the important work in the process. Therefore in criticizing the process, it’s almost inevitable that social workers are criticized.
For me, what this film shows is that the adoption process is out of date; it needs to be modernized so that it can cope more effectively with the growing numbers of children in care. It needs to embrace common sense so that social workers can work flexibly within the system.
We need to remember too that the majority of social workers go out in Wales every day and make horrendous decisions about removing children from harm. They go into confrontational situations to literally save the lives of children at risk – and for that they deserve some serious respect.
Fiona Scott is a freelance producer for Wales This Week. You can tweet her at @mum3fi
If you would like to give evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s inquiry into adoption services please go to:
- (Or email) CYPCommittee@wales.gov.uk.
For advice on potential adoption:
For advice on becoming a foster carer:
For people who have adopted or have been adopted:
For Birth Families looking for support:
- Family Lives
- National Association of Child Contact Centres:
- Natural Parents Network
- Family Rights Group
- Family and Parenting Institute
- Mothers away from their children
- CAFCASS CYMRU
Adoption and Birth Family Help lines:
- AdoptionUK Helpline: (Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.) 0844 848 7900
- AdoptionUK Wales Helpline: (Monday to Friday 11am to 1pm) 02920 232221
- BAAF Wales Helpline: 029 2076 1155
- After Adoption Helpline: 0800 0568 578,
- Family Rights Group Helpline: 0207 923 2628 (Mon – Weds) / 0808 801 0366 (Mon-Fri, 10am – 3.30pm)