I’ve been waiting for the last two weeks for my personal letter of thanks from Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson.
I first heard about his thank you letter on Facebook and Twitter during National Adoption Week. There’d been a big announcement: “Adoptive parents across the country have received a personal letter of thanks from the Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson”. He was supposed to be thanking me and other adopters for our love and commitment in caring for some of the country’s most vulnerable children. But neither I nor any of the adopters I know have received his letter.
It’s only this evening though that I’ve realised that the personal letter that I’ve been waiting for isn’t in fact an ACTUAL letter, but a PRETEND one that the Government has only posted online, and that you’d only read if, like me, you’d heard about it on social media.
You can read it here if you’re interested. Forgive me though if I am a little cynical, and think that the intention was never to write to us personally. The Minister simply wanted to be seen to be saying the right thing during National Adoption Week.
The people at the Adoption Social (an online gathering of adoptive parents and adoptees, most of whom are based in the UK) have suggested we share our responses to his letter. To be honest though, I don’t think that this PRETEND personal letter is worthy of a personal response.
Edward Timpson boasted in his PRETEND letter about a 63% increase in the number of adoptions over the last three years. The number and proportion of children adopted aged five to nine had indeed declined between 1999 and 2009, from 1,672 to 1,138 children. But, as Sir Martin Narey, Ministerial Advisor on Adoption, has since said: “After two years of significant progress in finding more adoptive homes for the thousands of children waiting – transforming their lives along the way – we have seen a sudden and significant fall-off in the number of children being put forward for adoption”. Nothing is as clear cut as the Government claims.
Edward Timpson also sets out in his PRETEND personal letter that he and the Government are there to provide us with support “every single step of the way”. This especially interests me. Now, I have tried to get support in the past when things have been tough. My son came to me aged nearly seven with what I thought was a cast iron guarantee of support from SLAM, the Child and Adolescent Adoption and Fostering unit at the Maudsley in South London, in the event that we needed it, and to be funded by my son’s Local Authority. However, when push came to shove, the funding wasn’t in fact there, and it took many very challenging months for it to be agreed. The LA fabricated reasons for seeking support in their referral letter to SLAM. I found it incomprehensible not just that the LA lied, suggesting that there was something wrong with me rather than that my son was traumatised, but that it was made so difficult for me to access support when I was struggling, and especially when I was saving them the £25,000 + per year it costs to foster a child.
In the end we got the support we needed from SLAM and it was excellent. Many, many adopters though have never received the support they need and have been left feeling misunderstood and blamed for the often very severe effects of trauma. I have also watched friends’ adoptions struggle and sometimes break down, and there wasn’t anything like the level of support for them either that they needed, before, during or afterwards.
So I welcome the Government’s commitment, as expressed in Edward Timpson’s PRETEND personal letter, to providing much more specialist support for adoptive parents and adopted children.
This though is worth very little unless the Government also commits to ensuring that professionals involved in education and social work itself are also properly informed about the traumatising effects of abuse, neglect and abandonment, and receive training in working with, rather than against, adoptive families.
So…. No personal letter from Edward Timpson to me, and no personal letter back from me to him either I’m afraid. But show me the plan, the evidence that there is properly joined up thinking, that all adopted children will come with a cast iron guarantee of therapeutic and/or other appropriate support, that there is training for teachers and social workers as well as support for adoptive parents, and I will be writing a fulsome letter of personal thanks to the Children and Families Minister. No, really.