My son Sam is cheerful and chatty but finds any change so difficult that he'd rather his toes poked out of his school shoes than wear a new pair. His friend Jake adores cycling and acting but thinks of himself as bad, deliberately breaking school rules to try to get the punishment he feels he deserves. In another family, Eddie's a bright boy who loves making models but his mum can't leave the room without him following her. He's 15. His sister Lucy's a real outdoor girl but at 13 has only just stopped wetting her bed at night. Sam, Jake, Eddie and Lucy are very different but they have one thing in common. They are all adopted.As the article points out, adoptive parenting is not the same as ordinary parenting: "Adoptive parents and kinship carers are ordinary people, but parenting a traumatised child is not like ordinary parenting. . . . Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of Adoption UK, says: 'Adopters need to learn how to parent their children therapeutically, and they need support and training to do this.'"
The government has published plans to speed up the process of adoption and get more children adopted from care. The education secretary, Michael Gove, says what children need most is "stability, certainty, security, love". As an adoptive parent I welcome the focus on adoption and agree that adopted children do need a loving and secure family in which to thrive, as do all children, but those like Lucy, Eddie, Jake and Sam need more than that. The drive for speedier adoptions worries me because it implies that adoption solves everything for a child. Sadly, life is not that simple.
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Martin Narey, former head of the children's charity Barnardo's, produced a report on adoption last July and was appointed ministerial adviser on adoption. His report mentioned adoption support only briefly, and said that offering it to all parents was "unnecessary" and "self-indulgent". As an adopter I was dismayed to think that someone at the heart of the government's adoption policy did not seem to understand the vital role of adoption support.
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As an adopter I want the government to widen the focus of its adoption drive and take responsibility for ongoing and adequate support for all children who cannot live with their birth parents. With good support, the drive to improve these vulnerable children's life chances could succeed. Without it, the government is failing the very children it claims to be trying to help.
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