There have been many articles about adoption recently. The most recent one in today’s Times has broken my back and forced me to write something. I have recently felt overcome by an avalanche of negativity towards adoptees and care-experienced people. Part of this has occurred for personal reasons and part of this is because of the media. However, it is exhausting when the only coverage is either patronising or demonising. It is not as exhausting as actually being in care or being an adoptee, but it is exhausting nonetheless.
I should start by saying that speaking of recent coverage, I am not saying that there is not a very real problem with families suffering acute distress and not having the support they deserve. I’m not saying that that isn’t true. Rather, I am talking about something different.
I am talking about what it is like when your face is only reflected back at you in articles which say you’re violent. I am talking about what it is like when all those who went before you are presented to you on a platter of damning statistics. I am talking about what it is like when you overhear colleagues making sweeping generalisations about people like you – except that they don’t realise it, because they have no idea of who you are. I am talking about what it is like when you turn on Radio 4 on your way to work only to feel as stigmatised as you did whenever you moved school in care. I am talking about what it is like when, as an adoptee or care-experienced person, most things that you read about yourself either patronise you or demonise you.
I am talking about what it is like when you daren’t “come out”, because you know what all these people think about people like you.
And it is unrelenting. From today’s Times, regarding family placements: “some families have bad news written right the way through them”. Well, maybe that is true and maybe it is not. But how do you know whether a family member has bad news written through them like a piece of rotten rock? How do you know unless you assess them? Unless, of course, this ability to know whether an entire family is rotten through-and-through (and few people are rotten by the way) is because you just “know”? Perhaps because of blood or genetic inheritance? Or care-experience? Or poverty?
I have no doubt where people with such opinions would place me: a care-experienced adoptee from a family with multiple generations of social services involvement. That’s the rotten pile for sure. The badness runs through me like a wretched piece of rotten rock.
I was rotten in care, rotten as an adoptee, and will be rotten should I ever need to be a kinship carer. Rotten, rotten, rotten.
Maybe if I was an adopter I could distance myself a little bit more – different genes and all that – but as the person who actually has the bad blood and the bad experiences, I clearly can’t distance myself from anything. Rotten, rotten, rotten.
I clearly have bad news written through me. I didn’t always. Once – bless my little cotton socks – I was a poor little child in care being advertised in an adoption magazine. As we are told in The Times today, I was waiting, and every month I waited my happiness drained away. Forget for a moment that I never once waited, but lived in a suitable, lovely and loving foster home whilst all the legal and ethical necessities were sorted: I was waiting and longing. I was a wretched little thing. Wretched, wretched, rotten, rotten.
But you know what? Forget that. My message to The Times and the world is: no, it was not like that; and no, I am not like that.