A full colour picture of my adopted son, then aged 5, featured under this headline on the front page of the Sun newspaper during the UK’s National Adoption week in November 2004. Inside, his sad face filled the centre spread, where Sharon Hendry, the paper’s Woman Editor, described him as a “lively chatty boy, full of energy”. The following day, he stared out again from the pages of the Guardian newspaper, where the rights and wrongs of this sort of full-on approach were debated, this time under the headline ‘The power of a picture: Putting photos of children up for adoption on the front page of the Sun may be a step too far”.
Neither of these articles led directly to J’s adoption by me. In fact, I didn’t become aware of them until several months later, and well into the approval process. I was reminded of them at the weekend when I received details of this year’s national adoption campaign which started today.
The Sun article had two immediate effects. Firstly, it almost led to a complete breakdown of relations between J’s birth mother and the local authority, who hadn’t consulted with her. It was a shock for her to see her son’s face staring out at her from the front page, and she was understandably upset and angry. Secondly, J, despite the best efforts of his foster carers, learned about the feature, and the extra attention this brought him from school mates and their families wasn’t helpful.
What I think the articles did ensure was that J’s interests were prioritised, perhaps for the first time, by the local authority during this period. When the campaign wasn’t immediately successful, it may have made them more receptive to my social worker’s approach a few months later. J does not seem to have suffered any ill effects from his notoriety… In fact he takes some pride in telling people that he’s been the subject of not one but two national newspaper articles, and is more than happy for me to write about it today.
National Adoption week has an important function in raising the profile of adoption in Britain. As BAAF says, across the UK 4,000 children are waiting to find an adoptive family, but for 1 in 4 it is likely to remain only a dream. For every year a child waits their chances of being adopted reduce by 20%.
For this reason, I am pleased to call myself an Adoption Champion this week. You can find more information about the campaign at www.nationaladoptionweek.org.uk.