Keith Towler says we need more families to come forward to adopt needy children in Wales
Statistics just released by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF Cymru), highlight a number of widely-held misconceptions surrounding the adoption process in Wales. They show that 31 per cent of Welsh people surveyed consider a low household income as a barrier to adoption and a quarter of people believe having a disability would rule a person out as a prospective adopter. In fact, neither would stop somebody from being able to adopt.
BAAF Cymru is concerned that these misconceptions are preventing prospective adopters from enquiring about giving a permanent home to a child, as they may fear rejection from the outset.
As somebody that works with young people on a daily basis, I know the most important quality in an adopter is the willingness to give a loving, secure home to a child. From speaking to children in care, they place great importance on feeling safe and being able to trust those that care for them. As long as an adopter can offer security and love to children with varying and sometimes complex needs, then their background is of little relevance.
In order to encourage more adopters to come forward, we need to highlight the support available to people from an early stage. Providing detailed information on different stages of the adoption process from the beginning will help people make the right decisions for them.
It is an undeniable fact that children who have been in care are more susceptible to feelings of insecurity, and a loss of identity particularly affects those that have been in the care system for a number of years. In Wales, children are in temporary care for an average of 18 months before finding a permanent home. Although this instability may spark some initial difficulties, it is crucial that prospective adopters are aware of the levels of support that are offered to them from pre-adoption to adulthood. Prospective adopters are never alone, and there are a number of post adoption support groups that will help them ensure the child’s needs are accommodated throughout childhood and beyond.
For instance, Talk Adoption, a youth group set up by After Adoption, is a perfect example of a platform where children and young people have been given a voice to express themselves. This support group gives teenagers a platform to discuss their feelings and experiences with others. We have learnt over the years that expression is a great source of therapy for adoptees. My Children’s Commissioner annual report released on the 8 October, showed the importance of giving young people a voice.
It is therefore the responsibility of the Welsh Government and adoption agencies to support prospective adopters from the beginning and to ensure children are listened to and their needs are handled in the correct way. Placing a child with the right family is crucial and should always be highest priority in the adoption process. However, the shortage of adopters in Wales is a growing challenge that prevents deserving children and young people from finding a “forever home”.
During National Adoption Week we should celebrate positive adoption stories from people of all different backgrounds. Single parents, same sex couples, those that are disabled, overweight or have a low income, are all capable parents that can offer the dedication and love to give a child a happy upbringing.
We will see many of these rewarding stories come to life through the Adopting Attitudes campaign commissioned by BAAF Cymru, Barnardo’s, St David’s Children Society, Adoption UK and After Adoption. However, we cannot forget the 300 children that still need to be placed in 2013. It is important that the Welsh Government, adoption agencies and those involved in social services encourage people of all different backgrounds to come forward in order to find children a stable, permanent home where they will have a voice and a sense of belonging.
This can be achieved through effective media campaigns, where current adopters from different backgrounds can share their positive experience of adoption. In addition, stakeholders working together to establish high-profile recruitment campaigns will help encourage people from a range of backgrounds to come forward.
In Wales, it is our duty to provide the best possible welfare for our children and young people. Only by working together can we ensure children in care are given the best possible future in a loving family environment; something every child deserves.