Nobody’s child

By Grace Boyle

National Adoption Week

It’s National Adoption week – a campaign seeking to raise awareness and spread the message that every child in the UK needs the support and love of a family.

Every year around 4,000 children need adopting. Often they’re victims of abuse or neglect; removed, for their own safety, from their birth parents.

However, there are claims that the adoption system is breaking down and that one in five of all adoptions are failing.

Adoption can be a slow process and delays in this process can have devastating effects. The older the children get the harder it is for many to be placed as prospective adoptive parents are mainly looking for babies or infants. Also, the longer these children are left in the system the more damaged they might be.

Families who find themselves with children who have serious emotional issues often feel they have been let down,  and are on the verge of breaking down due to a lack of support and specialist care.

Keith Johnston was adopted as a child, is now an ordained Baptist minister and preaches regularly in Dalkeith, near Edinburgh.

For him, the realisation that he had been adopted made him angry and he turned against all forms of authority. He stabbed a teenage friend through the heart before finding God in his prison cell.

“But once in my prison cell it dawned on me what I had done and it cut me to the core. I was bowled over with anguish and grief.” He said.

It was while in Jail, Mr Johnston said, ” speakers from the Christian Prison Ministries spoke right to my heart”. Following his release, he studied divinity and trained as a minister.

Twenty years down the line he is trying to give something back to society in memory of his dead friend.

Mr Johnstone continues, “I’m trying to bring a sense of good to society and I’m trying to do as much as I can in memory of Steven, the lad that I killed.”

Yet adoption can be the best outcome for many children. Otherwise they may find themselves continually moved around the care system, something that happens to 1000 children every year. Figures show that one third of these children will get no GCSEs; they are three times more likely to be unemployed and twice as likely to end up with a criminal record.

Social services have been accused of preventing transracial adoptions, stopping many children from ethnic minority backgrounds finding a “forever” family.

Many potential adoptive parents are driven to go abroad, exasperated with the waiting game. Some have travelled as far as Mexico and Guatemala to find a child. But even this option can take up to 4 years and reports have shown that 90% of applicants simply drop out. The cost of adopting a child abroad can be up to £60,000 by the end of the process.

Most adopted children are curious about their origins, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t love their adoptive parents.

Since 1975 adopted people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have had the right to see their original birth certificate when they reach the age of 18 (in Scotland the age is 16).

Some people are satisfied with the fuller knowledge and understanding gained in this way, while others want to try to trace their birth parents or other family members.

Tam Baillie Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People said “they will be issuing new guidance shortly to make sure that the existing law as it stands is absolutely clear and is followed – so the primary consideration is finding a suitable, safe and loving family placement for children.”

Meanwhile, The results of a review of the Family Courts system will  be announced in the autumn of 2011.

For more information:

British Adoption and Fostering

Be My Parents

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