Babies are not the only children worth adopting
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Despite what Nadine Dorries MP says, adoption is far from ‘fading out’
By Max Pemberton
April 25, 2011 / telegraph.co.uk
'Stephan is a caring, popular and imaginative eight-year-old. He is a keen footballer and would love to learn to play his drumkit. He sometimes needs support to express his emotions. His brother, David, is a lively and affectionate six-year-old. He loves construction toys and is on the ‘gifted and talented’ list at school. They have a close bond and are meeting their developmental milestones.”
This reads like an advertisement, because that’s precisely what it is. Stephan and his brother are waiting to be adopted. The local authority, legally responsible for their care, is so desperate to find them a good family, it has taken to advertising for would-be adoptive parents on the internet. Each year, 4,000 children are put up for adoption in England and 3,000 are successfully adopted, of whom three-quarters are aged between one and four. But a chronic shortfall of adoptive parents means that 1,000 children each year are not placed.
Despite this, Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire who sits on the Health Select Committee, recently made a bizarre claim that “adoption is just fading out”.
She suggested that women who have unplanned pregnancies are being placed on a “conveyor belt” towards abortion, thus denying childless couples the opportunity to adopt. The implication was that women who have unwanted pregnancies can be turned into baby-making machines for the infertile.
I was horrified to read her claims and I’m surprised at Ms Dorries, not least because she is a former nurse and must have seen, as I have, children in care who need the love and stability that adoption can bring.
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In fact, the figure for England is much lower, at just 70 babies.
But this has nothing to do with rates of abortion, and there is not a shred of evidence to support Ms Dorries’s assertion. A far bigger factor, as the British Association of Adoption and Fostering pointed out when I spoke to them, is the change in social attitudes towards single mothers and improved financial support for them from the state, which means more young women are keeping their babies. In addition, barbaric practices in which babies were wrenched from their mother’s arms and put up for adoption have been abolished. The decision to remove a child from his or her biological mother is now made by the courts only after careful deliberation. This takes time, so that many babies are toddlers by the time the decision is finalised.
I can’t help but wonder if Dorries is making use of this highly emotive issue in order to pursue another agenda. In the past she has, unsuccessfully, campaigned to lower the legal time limit for abortion from 24 to 21 weeks. Now she has embarked on an attempt to change the role of advisory clinics in counselling pregnant women. At present, those who are unsure if they want to continue with their pregnancy are referred for counselling to clinics where terminations are also carried out. Ms Dorries believes that there is a conflict of interest.
Again, there is no evidence to support this claim. But what has really angered me is that Ms Dorries undermines hard work put in by adoption agencies to encourage people to come forward as adoptive parents, and to challenge the notion that only babies are desirable to adopt.
Ms Dorries’s viewpoint also presents children as mere commodities. Adoption does not exist to fulfil the need of an adult to become a parent. The sole consideration should be the welfare of the child. Adopting a child is an incredible act of grace and love. If people are only willing to adopt a cute, bouncy baby, then their motivation should be carefully reviewed.
I agree that women should be supported when confronted with difficult decisions about pregnancy. Better counselling and greater access to it are vital. But the issues surrounding adoption and termination should not be conflated. It helps no one, least of all children waiting to be adopted, such as Stephan and David.