Adoption and IVF – claims and counter claims

One of the most common pieces of “helpful” advice you’ll hear if you are open about experiencing fertility problems is that you should consider adoption instead, “Why don’t you just adopt instead?” people will ask. They nearly always use the “just”, as if it’s some instant route to parenthood which you are wilfully ignoring. This often comes tinged with the suggestion that there is an inherent selfishness in wanting to have your own child rather than someone else’s – if you are going to need IVF to do it. You don’t hear the same people suggesting that those who can conceive without any problems and who have thee or four or five children of their own were selfish and should have considered adoption instead, but that’s another matter…

On Friday, Anthony Douglas, the chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), added fuel to the fire by suggesting that the growing success of IVF is responsible for the drop in potential adoptive parents, claiming that now few people will consider adoption as an option. Apparently In 1970s, there were 12,000 children were adopted in Britain every year but in 2017 there were just 4,350 adoptions. At the same time, there is a growing number of children in care.

It always strikes me as odd that when it comes to discussion about infertility and adoption, people seem to see adoption as some kind of solution for fertility problems. In fact, adoption should be about finding the best possible family for a vulnerable child rather than offering some kind of quick fix solution for a couple with fertility problems. Adoptive parents need to have a resilience and dedication to adoption that makes them very special people. Having a fertility problem doesn’t automatically give you those qualities. In response to Anthony Douglas’s suggestions, the head of one adoption charity said it seemed to be a “misunderstanding of the very essence of adoption”.

In 1978, we were in a very different place, and not just because IVF wasn’t around. For a start, there were far more newborn babies without siblings who needed adoptive families. Now it is very rare to be able to adopt a newborn, and in 2012 there were only 76 babies adopted so very few parents will be caring for an adopted child from the start of his or her life. More than three quarters of children waiting to be adopted are over 2, and they have often experienced many difficulties and challenges in their lives. More than 60% are in sibling groups so parents would not be adopting one child but two or more. Around a third of the children needing adoptive parents are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The other huge issue around adoption is the lack of support which many adoptive parents report, and they often feel they are unprepared for the challenges adoption can bring. A survey by the charity Adoption UK last year found that more than a quarter of families reported being “in crisis” and two thirds of respondents said their child had displayed aggressive behaviour towards them. At the time, the chief executive of Adoption UK, Dr Sue Armstrong Brown, said “We’re talking about trauma-fuelled violence from children who will have witnessed the unthinkable in their early lives. Adoption is not a silver-bullet – these children’s problems don’t just disappear overnight. Children who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect have experienced the world being an unsafe and dangerous place. The child’s violent behaviour reveals extreme distress and a need to feel safe and protected. These children need particular parenting techniques and access to therapy to overcome early childhood trauma, and they may reject any attempts at parental affection or management of their behaviour.”

There may be some people with fertility problems who are excellent adoptive parents, but anyone with any experience of adoption will know all too well that pairing up traumatised young people with adults scarred by infertility is not a one-size-fits-all solution to either problem.

Online advice session for people considering adoption

Cmhc-LqWYAAWk88Fertility Network UK organise regular online chats via Skype about specific topics, and the next one on Monday 28th November at 7pm will consider adoption. The guest speaker is Pippa Bow, Lead Social Work Adviser at First 4 Adoption. Pippa’s talk will focus on the adoption process – the main criteria to become an adopter, what adoption agencies look for in prospective parents, the children who need families and their age range, timescales and the process for being approved as an adopter. Pippa’s talk will last for about half an hour followed by a question and answer session afterwards.

First4Adoption is the national information service for anyone interested in adopting a child in England. Even if you are not planning to opt for adoption, many couples have the thought in the back of their minds. This talk is your chance to find out more and to pick the brains of an adoption expert. If you would like to join the session, you just need to let Hannah know – hannah@fertilitynetworkuk.org

Adoption

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Adoption_2-1We had a really interesting evening at the Central London fertility group last night with a great speaker, Pippa from First 4 Adoption. I’d been unsure about suggesting adoption as a topic as I know how fed up anyone trying to conceive gets with being asked why they don’t “just adopt”, but when I mooted the idea I got a really positive response.

We had a good turn out and the group had lots of questions for Pippa after her talk. She explained the basics about finding an adoption agency and registering, and discussed the children who are in need of adoptive families and how they are matched with parents. She was so warm and positive, and I think we all learnt a lot during the course of the evening.

If you are thinking of adoption as an option, or as a Plan B, C or even D, then you should check out the First 4 Adoption website which is full of useful advice and information.

Want to know more about adopting after fertility problems?

If you’re interested in finding out more about adopting after fertility problems and live in or near London, you may want to come along to the next meeting of the Central London fertility group in Vauxhall on February 4th. We’ll be joined by a speaker from First 4 Adoption who will be giving a short talk about adoption and will then be around to answer any questions you may have. We will have time for our regular catch up and chat too.

This is open to everyone and is completely free – if you’d like more details, email katebrian@infertilitynetworkuk.com

The group is run, funded and organised by the charity Infertility Network UK.

Adoption – myths and facts

I was delighted to be asked to join First 4 Adoption for a webchat on fertility and adoption last night to mark National Fertility Awareness Week, and learnt a lot about adoption over the hour that we were online. Some common myths were dispelled about who can adopt and you can find details of all of these on the First 4 Adoption website. 

You do need to wait six months after finishing fertility treatment before starting the adoption process, but that’s time that First 4 Adoption say can be well spent researching agencies and finding out more about adoption services. If you use that space to make sure you know exactly which agency or local authority you think best suits you and getting ready to go, the adoption assessment process can often now be completed in six months, and most people are matched with a child within a year of being approved – so, it can all happen far more quickly than you may have imagined.

Of course, adoption isn’t an option for everyone – and we all know how annoying it can be when people start asking if you’ve thought about adoption before you’ve even started your first IVF cycle – but for those who are interested, it’s worth knowing the facts and busting the myths, and First 4 Adoption is a very good place to start.

Want to know more about adoption?

first-4-adoption-logoFor anyone who has thought about adoption as a possible option, there’s a live web chat on Wednesday 29 October organised by First 4 Adoption along with Infertility Network UK as part of National Fertility Awareness Week.

It’s an opportunity to chat through any questions you may have about fertility and adoption, and the chat will be hosted by Gemma Gordon-Johnson and Pippa Bow from First 4 Adoption. I will be joining them on behalf of Infertility Network UK.

To find out more, and to register visit http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/

Information for anyone considering adoption

At a recent conference for fertility counsellors, there was a great talk from a representative from an organisation called First 4 Adoption. If adoption is something you are thinking about, they are an excellent first port of call. They offer information and advice about all aspects of adoption and have an information line which you can call for help from trained advisers. They can help you to find an adoption agency and tell you all about the adoption process and what you might expect. They can also give information on fostering. They sound a brilliant organisation – the only downside is that they only cover England – however, if you are based in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you can also get advice from BAAF.

Adoption myths

Apparently, we tend to have all kinds of misunderstandings about who can and can’t adopt – and people who could make brilliant adoptive parents are sometimes put off simply because they aren’t aware of the facts. I went to the Alternative Parenting Show at the weekend, and spoke to people from a number of different adoption agencies who were all very keen to de-mystify the process – and explain that all kinds of people can make good adoptive parents.

We tend to assume that there must be an age limit – but apparently there often isn’t any official cut off point when it comes to age  as it very much depends on the person and the child. You don’t have to be with a partner – and again, one of the agencies I spoke to said that single people were often particularly good adoptive parents because they were able to be more focused on the child. You don’t have to be heterosexual, and many gay and lesbian couples are successful adoptive parents.  Finally, you don’t have to live in the same area as the adoption agency – and it can actually be a good thing to live some distance away so that the child would be moving into a new area.

All the agencies I spoke to stressed that they had lots of children looking for new homes – but very few babies. It is certainly something worth considering if you think you might be able to offer a home and new family in this way – but of course, it’s not for everyone.  For more information about adoption, visit www.baaf.org.uk

Improvements to adoption process

We’re often told by less than sympathetic commentators that anyone with a fertility problem should just adopt rather than attempt treatment – but as those who have been through the adoption process will agree, it’s not the simple solution that many believe.  Adoption can be slow and frustrating for children who need families and for prospective parents, but today the government has announced plans aimed at improving the system. The plans intend to speed up the process, giving prospective parents more encouragement and allowing them to find out more about the children who need families.

The number of children needing adoptive families has risen hugely in recent years, but at any given time thousands of those who have been approved for adoption are stuck in the care system waiting for new families.

The changes to the system will allow those who’ve been approved as adoptive parents to look at the register of children waiting for families, and will give them the right to take time off work during the adoption process itself. The government has stressed that the system of checking out prospective parents before they are approved will remain robust and thorough. There will also be more support for adoptive parents as at present many of those who enquire about adopting don’t continue as they are put off by the long and at times frustrating process.

This can only be good news for anyone who has thought about adopting a child, and it will be interesting to see what difference these changes make once they are implemented.