Adoption rates are decreasing: but why should we care and what can be done about it?

By Martha Hughes

Adoption can be a sensitive topic for some; but it’s one that is in desperate need of discussion with adoption rates falling over the past few years. In the UK, there has been a 12% drop in the number of adoptions from 2015-2016, a disappointing decrease for the Government which had been promising to speed up the adoption process in hopes of encouraging more people to consider the option.

Any compassionate human being can understand the importance of a stable and loving home being provided for a vulnerable child to grow up in. Adoption is an extremely significant subject in my household as my mum was adopted as a baby. She was given a comfortable, safe home to grow up in with opportunities and encouragement to pursue education. Without my grandparents choosing to adopt my mother, I may not be enjoying the same luxuries of family, safety, love, and education, and for this I feel extremely grateful and lucky. This is probably why I feel that the drop in adoption rates is something which should not pass by unnoticed. Provided with a loving family, an adopted child (such as my mother) could grow up with the potential to become a valued, contributing member of society.

When times are hard financially, we can tend to slip into the attitude of ‘we can’t afford to help others’. This is something that we are all guilty of, but it is a dangerous precedent to set when it comes to opening our homes, and lives, to children in need. There is no simple solution for this, but it may be beneficial to consider that keeping just one child in care costs from £100,000 to £200,000 of taxpayers’ money each year. Bearing in mind that this is quite a substantial cost, it begs the question, would this money not be better used towards incentivising and supporting those considering adoption?

This brings us to the issue of paperwork. Understandably, there is a need for strict adoption rules and regulations to protect children, but it does appear that the lengthy process and extensive paperwork does put off more candidates for adoption than it should. More guidance should be provided to those going through the process, with easy-to-access support on hand for potential questions regarding paperwork (perhaps a 24/7 government-funded support line for during and after the whole procedure). This would alleviate some of the pressure on candidates, potentially putting fewer people off the idea of adoption.

Another issue that I find problematic is that while single women may consider adoption as an option for potential parenthood, single men often feel that this is not an option for them due to fear of judgement or lack of skill-set. Introducing an incentive to change this may be tricky as this would also require a shift in attitude in society to men being fully accepted as competent primary, or sole, caregivers. Removing this stigma could be extremely beneficial for children waiting to find a permanent home. If there could be more media exposure of successful adoption stories involving single men, this could work towards that goal.

Adoption isn’t a suitable option for everyone, but it is an issue that affects us all as a society. It is quite often easy to forget that there are so many children waiting to find a home, but if we can simply re-ignite the discussion and movement surrounding adoption, maybe our attitudes can change and funding can smooth out the process for both children and parents alike.

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