Coram responds to the issues raised in Lord Justice McFarlane's lecture on adoption

Published: Friday 17th March 2017

Coram’s Managing Director of Adoption Services, Jeanne Kaniuk OBE, sent an edited version of this letter to the Guardian this week in response to some of the issues highlighted by Sir Andrew McFarlane in his Family Justice Board Memorial Lecture which took place on 9 March.

"Adoption provides a child with an opportunity to grow up in a stable and loving family where the adults will strive to provide nurturing and reparative care"

"As an adoption professional I can only concur with the Right Honourable Judge’s comment that adoption is not about ‘sunny uplands’. Children are only removed from their parents under court order and made available for adoption without parental consent in circumstances where it has been demonstrated as far as possible that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm and that despite attempts to provide support the parents cannot provide safe and nurturing care within the child’s timescales – and also that there are not members of the wider family able and willing to provide a permanent home.  

If a child is not able to grow up in the family to which it is born, that is a story which will imply long term sadness and loss for the child and his /her parents and also a long term need for reparative care.

However that does not mean that adoption does not provide the circumstances for growth and reparation for some of the most vulnerable children, many of whom are born addicted to drugs, and whose parents have long term drug or alcohol addiction, or mental health problems which are not readily treatable, or be living in relationships which are abusive and where children may be abused themselves.  

These children may be born with neurological impairment because of substance abuse in utero, they may never have developed basic trust in adults because of the neglectful care received, they may suffer from the long term effects of trauma. These children deserve the most devoted and secure family environment in which to recover and build the capacity to form trusting relationships which is essential for their future ability to function in society– this quality of reparative and reliable care is what adoption is designed to provide.    

Research demonstrates that adoption placements though often facing complex challenges in meeting the needs of the children, provide the highest rates of stability over time. Adopters are carefully selected, prepared and assessed with a view to establishing the adopters’ capacity to persevere through difficulties, and to understand that the child brings complex emotional issues which will need to be addressed over a long period. 

Adoption is not a quick fix. It provides a child with an opportunity to grow up in a stable and loving family where the adults will strive to provide nurturing and reparative care despite the difficulties these children may face at different developmental stages, and into early adulthood.   This support includes helping the child to understand his/her history and family background.

It is indeed unfortunate that members of the judiciary are rarely in a position to follow up on cases where children have been adopted – and indeed on the outcome for children from similar circumstances who may not have been afforded that opportunity. We all learn from experience, and it is the social work profession which has the responsibility of supporting adoptive families as well as those where children have returned to their families. It is not possible to generalise from individual cases, but research does indicate that for the very deprived group of children who are considered for adoption, best outcomes are in general found amongst those adopted."

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Find out more about Coram Adoption

Read Sir Andrew McFarlane's full lecture