ONE LIFE: ADOPTION HELL
BBC 1, 15 June
STAR RATING: 4/5
Adoption Hell followed a couple trying to sue social services after
years watching their adoptive sons, Andy and Jason, drink
themselves into violence and criminality, writes Clea
The Hales felt they had been poorly prepared and matched. But they
also admitted that they had fallen in love with the boys as young
children and had been a happy family for years.
Andrew Hale describes the boys’ difficulties as resulting from
attachment disorder, and says social workers should have predicted
trouble and stopped them adopting the boys. But the film
illustrates the family dynamics well enough to question this
determinist view. Was the boys’ delinquency inevitable because of
their abusive early childhoods, did the parents contribute by
failing to be firm, or are the boys themselves responsible for
It became clear how little the boys knew about their history. Their
fantasies and memories of being unloved and rejected still seemed
to dominate their lives.
Watching Andy read out a letter from his birth mother was so
poignant I found myself reaching out to the TV, yet neither
adoptive parent hugged their son.
It seemed as if the birth mother was still there, preventing the
adopters from fully loving or disciplining the boys.
The importance of life story books and contact, to demystify the
birth family, is the take-home message for social workers from this
compassionate and absorbing film.
Clea Barry is an adoption social worker