Murray Ryburn’s ‘Between a rock and a hard place’, (11-17
January), an historical view of adoption and its links with poverty
and disadvantage, leads to his conclusion that adoption ‘will
remain a vital tool for the permanent transfer of children across
wealth, class and ethnic divides’.
His vision of the family life it will continue to enforce is not
accurate. Adopters are not always married, white, heterosexual and
He also fails to give a picture of the children who are today
being placed for adoption. They are likely to have suffered the
trauma of abuse, neglect and multiple caretakers. They are likely
to be among the most emotionally damaged children.
The adoption service has changed from a service of finding
healthy white babies for middle-class infertile couples to a
service which finds permanent families for children of all
Adoption is one of a range of options available when considering
the most suitable form of permanent substitute care for children
who cannot live with their families of origin and who sometimes
cannot maintain their own networks without abuse and its effects
The machinery of adoption ensures the adoption panel has to
decide adoption is in the child’s best interests and the adoption
court must look at the alternatives to adoption that have been
That there is a significant minority of children for whom it has
failed should lead to further inquiry. Other forms of permanent
placement are also fraught with difficulty (as historically, the
position of the long-term foster child showed us) and it may be the
lack of good post-placement and post-adoption support that has
contributed to the problems, rather than the nature of adoption
For too long adopters have been expected to manage the impact on
the family of a highly disturbed child without adequate financial
help, access to social work support and range of specialist
They are frequently treated as if, somehow, they have caused the
problems when they seek help. They are successfully managing the
implications of adoption with contact.
Adoption is not, and should not, be regarded as a cheap option.
There will always be some children for whom the security of a
permanent family to whom they legally belong will be the best hope
they have to begin learning about trusting adults and some measure
of healing of the damage they have experienced.
It would be wrong to deny both the damage and the opportunity
that adoption can afford them.
Family support practitioner
Parents for Children
London N1 3JP