As a Guardian/Observer reading ex social worker it pains me to even type this, let alone say it out aloud….but, could Mr Gove have a point?
This is an area of personal interest to me as someone who was adopted in the 1960’s and who is of mixed race, although not obviously so. My birth mother is Anglo Indian but I am ‘white’ in appearance. The Observer discusses recent research published by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, which examined the experiences of children who had been adopted in the 1960‘s from Hong Kong. The report suggests racial and cultural differences can have a significantly negative impact on children from ethnic minorities when adopted by white families. Many of the feelings the adoptees reported I too have felt, especially feelings of not belonging and difference within their adoptive families and wider communities. I too experienced such feelings even though we were an all ‘white’ family. This suggests, to me, that whilst ethnicity is an important factor, it is not the only factor that needs to be borne in mine when selecting potential adoptive parents and matching them to adoptees, hence the need for a rigorous screening process undertaken professionally.
For me it boils down to an adoptive parents ability to demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance of difference, whatever those ‘differences’ might be.
However, there is a bigger picture here that needs to be addressed because being ‘different’ is not the problem, being accepted is the problem. It is the way others react to such differences that causes problems. The way some in wider society perceive, and treat, individuals from minority ethnic groups is the problem because
“ We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us” (George Eliot)
If the world of the child tells them there is something wrong with them, they are apt to believe there is something wrong with them!
So do the Tories have a point? This report is written about children adopted in the 1960’s when our cultural values and ‘norms’ were very different, and of course much has changed in respect of discrimination and ethnicity, although not thanks to Tory governments in my opinion. However, this is not really about the colour of adoptive parents skin is it. It is about the values of society, about societies inability to accept ‘difference’ , whether that might be due to ethnicity, sexuality or a multitude of other things that might not conform to the ‘norm’, and of course the ‘norm’ is reinforced by policy and legislation handed down by government.
Maybe the Tory government should focus on ridding society of it’s intolerance to difference first, before blaming social workers. Whilst not a perfect profession Mr Gove, maybe it is because social workers are already aware of the reports findings that the adoption process for children from ethnic minority groups is slower.
There is much more to this issue to be considered, maybe Mr Gove needs to listen more closely to those working in the system on a day to day basis, rather than base his reform of adoption services on his personal experience. It is good to have a personal perspective, but please do not let this get in the way of getting reform right.
Phew back on safe Guardian/Observer reading ex social worker ground now, thank goodness. If you would like to read about my experience of adoption and the search for my birth mother please click here for a free short ibook.