I have to say that it takes quite a bit to get me hot under the collar and as a rule I don’t allow myself to get drawn into media hype when I feel that by doing so it is just giving more publicity to someone or something that shouldn’t be getting it. Having said that I rarely allow myself to get worked up by media hype, I now find myself, along with several other adopters, feeling that we need to address the comments Fraser McAlpine has made in an article he wrote for The Guardian on Monday.
I have to say I am appalled by his narrow-minded judgements and obvious lack of understanding of how much awareness, knowledge and acceptance current and prospective adopters have when it comes to our children’s need to maintain their identity.
He says that he is an adoption panel member and so I can only assume he has seen and given his opinion on a fair share of prospective adopters and their suitability to adopt. All I can say from reading this article is “I am glad he was never on our panel because we would not have seen eye to eye and just because he has sat on this panel does not give him the right to make such prejudicial remarks about adopters and assume he knows how their minds work!”
When my sons came to live with us they were 8 and 3 and were in care for approximately 18 months. They came with a past and we never (and certainly never wanted to) tried to rush them to fit snuggly into our family, nor were we tempted to paint over their ‘old patterns’ or smooth over or hammer out their sharp corners. We understood from the very beginning how important it was for our boys (especially our eldest) to know that we accepted their past as well as wanting them to be part of their futures. Their sense of identity is very important to us and is accepted and respected throughout our extended families and friends.
If anything our eldest when he first started his new school was the one who expressed a strong desire to be known from the beginning by our surname rather than his birth surname. At the time it was questioned whether he was trying to rub out his past, but very quickly it became apparent this wasn’t the case because he was very open with his new schoolmates about us being his new family and that we were adopting him. It was then acknowledged that this was his way of ‘claiming us’, but he still loved his birth family (and still does to this day). There has never been any question with him that the name his birth parents gave him is the name he will always keep, yes he plans to add an additional middle name once the final adoption order is granted, but he will always be Beeswax and it suits him. On the flip side our youngest, Buzzbee is desperate to change his first name. He doesn’t want to lose the name he was given entirely but would love to make it a middle name and replace his forename with a new (rather unique) name. Like his big brother he has no intention of rubbing out his past, he sees replacing his name with a new name as a way of claiming his ‘new beginning’. We have discouraged him from “demoting” his current name as we feel in the future he may regret this decision, but there is part of me that questions whether this was the right thing to do (yes, I know social services believe it was right, but are we denying his wish for their benefit rather than his?)
As for this debate over children’s names and class implications of some names. WHY is he giving that ridiculous woman even more publicity than she is already getting? Ironically both of my boys have fairly neutral names, whereas I have personal experience of a ‘stuck up mother’ (supposedly middle-classed) who wouldn’t let her son invite Beeswax for play dates or parties because he was adopted, despite having named her son with the surname of a certain football player!
Where I cannot deny from a personal perspective, the matching part of the adoption process was very painful and emotional and did at times feel like we were ‘catalogue shopping’ for children, we never made snap judgements about children/sibling groups based on their picture and profile information (in fact we were often told off by our SW for torturing ourselves with reading every detail of every profile in ‘children who wait’, ‘be my parent’ or our LA’s own profile newsletter, regardless of our suitability). How can he think it is ok to effectively portray prospective adopters (and current ones in fact) as being that shallow? Our decision to adopt was the one of the biggest decisions we have had to make and for him to belittle this in such an insensitive manner is unforgivable.
As a panel member I would have expected Fraser to understand the hoops prospective adopters are made to jump through before their social workers will consider taking them to approval panel, let alone consider matching them with a child.
Personally our journey from our initial enquiry until we finally made it to panel was long, arduous and at times down right humiliating and degrading. We spent several months convincing professionals that our desire to have a family far outweighed any desire to have a baby and that we were not entering into the world of adoption with ‘rose tinted glasses’ (which for us has been our saving grace). There is no such thing as a perfect family or perfect parents in my mind and so I had very little aspirations of what my future children would bring to our family.
As for the idea that a child’s name would have put us off enquiring about them or that we would rather be childless than have a child with a name we could not accept. Give me a break! Does he honestly believe that adopter’s first priority when trying to become a family is the child’s name? Again how shallow do you think we are?
I could probably go on writing about what I think about Fraser McAlpine’s article until the cows come home but why should I waste my emotional energy on him?
I live with 2 very traumatised boys who have turned our world upside down and inside out. It is emotionally and physically draining. I live with a constant feeling of social isolation because my children’s behaviours are deemed to be ‘socially unacceptable’. I have been punched, kicked, bitten, spat and sworn at more times than I care to think about in a week. We have had allegations made about us because our children survive the only way they know how – by keeping adults at bay and at being each other’s throats.
Can I suggest rather than judging prospective adopters by their covers you actually do your research next time, Fraser! Rather than taking for facts from statements written in ‘The Daily Mail’, why don’t you visit The Adoption Social blogging site or better still talk to the people who are there on the ground day in and day out. Many adopters, including myself, are wonderful parents to our very ‘hurt’ children and are doing the best they can in sometimes very difficult situations and in the face of unsolicited criticisms and prejudices.
We don’t ask for medals or OBEs, and nor would I want one. These are our children and we want what is best for them and their futures. Maybe my sons will grow up and become nuclear physicists or professional footballers, and maybe they will grow up and decide that they want to work in the local supermarket. It wouldn’t matter to me as long as they were happy and safe!