Following a recent Channel 4 documentary about adoption and in particular ‘adoption activity days’, there has been a lot of media coverage about this highly controversial concept which brings prospective adopters and children together in order to try and help them find their ‘forever family’.
Children awaiting adoption, along with their foster carers and social workers attend the activity days where prospective adopters are encouraged to view, talk to and play with the children.
‘Finding Mum and Dad’ followed the story of Connor and Daniel aged 4 and 6 who, due to a difficult start in life, were living with foster carers awaiting adoption. Connor and Daniel were neglected by their birth family so much so that Daniel could not speak at three years old; both had significant nightmares and were developmentally delayed.
Adoption activity days are an American concept which have been successful for decades with statistics showing that they are twice as effective as other ways of family finding. In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s activity days were popular however, quickly went ‘out of fashion’. In December 2012, the Department of Education announced that adoption activity days would be part of the Government’s adoption reform agenda.
In the most part, the children who attend at the activity days are the ones who are considered hard to place and who, for one reason or another, have not been successfully placed with their forever family through various alternative and more traditional methods.
Critics fear that these already vulnerable children may face more rejection with some seeing these days as much like a cattle market for children. Despite their documented success, the question remains as to whether this is a solution to an adoption crisis with more than 4,000 children in the UK waiting to be adopted.
However, despite the criticism there is clear proof that these activity days are successful. Out of the 251 children who attended the pilot scheme activity days, 42 were subsequently adopted and British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) have at least 8 more dates set for Feb and March across the country.
Bournemouth Council held their first adoption activity day a few weeks ago and two out of the six children there now have a new adoptive family.
The outcome for Connor and Daniel however, may not be as bright. Both boys remained unplaced at the conclusion of the programme and it looks likely that they will remain in long term foster care rather than be adopted.
Whatever your opinion on adoption activity days, media coverage for adoption can only be a good thing. Debate is being sparked and there is news of many Local Authorities being committed to finding a solution to the adoption crisis one way or another, whether that be by endorsing the activity days or by finding other methods. For example, Durham County Council and Birmingham City Council are amongst a number of Local Authorities to launch a television advertising campaign to encourage more people to adopt. It was in the news last week that Bradford Metropolitan District Council is to receive £600,000 to improve their adoption services and Southwark Council has launched their adoption campaign ‘Find 40 Families’ which has already achieved a rise in adoption rates alongside a 150% increase in visits to the town hall’s adoption website.
However successful these methods are, the bottom line is that the children who go to the activity days are the ones who have been hard to place. Finding an adoptive family for these children is great but there needs to be a greater emphasis on the support needed in order to prevent these adoptions breaking down. Placements at greater risk of breakdown are older children and research indicates that these families will need skilled ongoing support in the future.
At the Adoption Legal Centre we have a specialist team who can help with all types of adoption matters including; adoption applications, support and breakdown. Click here to get in touch via our Contact form.