Adoption shouldn’t be the Last Port of Call


I remember the day I was adopted.

My Mum had bought me a skirt for this Big Occasion and I was – frankly – disgusted at the idea that I was wasting a perfectly good bonus day off school wearing such a hideous ensemble.

We went to court, and a judge asked me if I wanted to change my first name at the same time as I was changing my surname. And I was disgusted all over again that my Mum had never told me this was an option.

To be fair, this was probably quite a wise decision since if I’d realised that I got to choose an entirely new name, this blog would probably be written now by someone called Steve, who possibly would have spent a lot of time regretting her childhood choices.

When I was 10, I spent a lot of time wishing I was a) a boy and b) one of the Famous Five.

The next day I went back to school and realised my new surname rhymed with “Little”. And I was the shortest kid in my class.

Also, I’d been adopted into a family where this sort of photographic monstrosity was par for the course *shudders*


In case you’re wondering, this is not my Happy Face. There might have been tears involved in getting me into that dress.

Despite all of these traumas, I count my lucky stars that I was adopted.

For kids born today, adoption is an opportunity that might not come their way. Because the powers that be say that adoption should be a very last resort – something that’s considered only when every other option has been exhausted.

Honestly? I think that’s just stupid.

The reality is, some people aren’t up to the job of parenting, for all sorts of reasons. And some kids are better off being placed with families other than their birth families.

I was born to a very young Mum who’d got pregnant, married and separated within the space of 18 months. There were signs of mental health issues, that only increased over the years. There were multiple homes, multiple kids, multiple relationships.

Being adopted meant I was raised by a loving, pretty stable family with the time and resources to care for me, to nurture me, and support me until I became an adult – and quite some way beyond (thanks, Mum!). In every possible way, my life is better because I was adopted.

The experts say that there are alternatives for kids in care – like care orders, where children are cared for in long-term, temporary placements without the parents’ rights being terminated.

As someone who spent a good number of years in foster care, I think that’s a terrible idea. Uncertainty is a horrible thing to deal with as a child. I still remember the blind terror of being taken out by family friends and being convinced that I’d been handed over to new foster parents, and wouldn’t get to go home at the end of the day. Being adopted meant knowing that no matter what, I was always going to get to go home. That matters when you’re a kid.

I wondered if I’d feel differently about adoption when I had Flea but actually, I think it just makes me more grateful. Because I understand a little more, maybe, how hard it must be to give a child away for a chance they’ll have a good life. And I understand what an amazing gift it is to be able to love and raise a child you didn’t give birth to.

I thank my lucky stars that I have two mothers who did their best for me, in different ways. It’s just a shame that more kids won’t get the chance to feel the same.

32 thoughts on “Adoption shouldn’t be the Last Port of Call”

  1. I too was adopted, my story was a bit different though… I was taken home from hospital by my adoptive parents at 4 days old. No foster homes, no uncertainty. .. I couldn’t have asked for a better adoption. The powers that be need to GET A GRIP and start thinking about the children not budgets or parental rights etc!! Great post!!

  2. I’ve thought a lot about us becoming a foster family. I even went so far as to contact our local council and was sent information about becoming a foster parent. The thing is I’m scared by the stories and the red tape and the things I hear. So in the end I’ve chickened out but I can’t help but wonder how many other folks are out there like me- wanting to get involved but too scared to take the step.

  3. I don’t have first hand experience of what you went through but I still agree. I gave birth naturally but after all the women in my family got pregnant the first month they tried (and a few times without trying) the 8-9 months it took me was a surprise. We talked and I realised my first thought was to adopt. I think it is sad that people have an obsession with a child being genetically “theirs” sometimes to the exception of their physical and mental health. I can understand it but I can’t.

    One of my cousins was adopted and although like every childhood he had his ups and downs, he has a loving family and has had fantastic opportunities in life. He met up with his birth mother and sadly didn’t accept things in the same way as you have but it was a similar story.

    It must be a hard decision to give a child away but it’s never one taken lightly I’m sure and knowing there are great families like yours to help is fantastic.

    I don’t have the time nor energy to adopt now but I’m trying to help with a mentoring scheme for young girls. I’m sad that fostering isn’t as good an option as I thought it could be. It was something I was considering for the future.

    1. I haven’t seen my birth mother since I was very young, so that’s never something I’ve explored, or particularly wanted to. I think fostering works very well – my Mum fostered a lot of children over the years and I think it has an important role to play. I guess for me, what I struggled with was it happening over the long term – all told, I was in foster care for eight years, and I always felt the lack of permanence – in that respect, adoption is better because kids know they’re a permanent fixture (although i have seen adoptions reversed, so I guess I’m not 100% right)

  4. I genuinely cannot get my head around the “wisdom” that less certainty and more upheaval would ever be a good thing for children who’ve potentially had a traumatic start to life and who already feel pushed from pillar to post. I come from a single parent family with a father who only really showed up at Christmas and birthdays (if I was lucky) and one of my strongest childhood memories is sitting on my nans windowsill, looking up the road and wondering if my dad (who was already an hour late) would turn up this time. I had it a LOT better than a lot of kids but this constantly burgeoning sense of rejection has pretty much bogged me down for my entire adult life.

    Great post, Sally.

    1. I remember reading somewhere that while adoption is all about being chosen, before that it’s about NOT being chosen, and I certainly think that’s probably true for every adopted child – I suspect we all grow up with the feeling that we weren’t quite enough for our birth parents to want to keep. But when I think about kids being shuttled from foster home to care home to foster home … and perhaps ending up being adopted when they’re older and the real damage has been done – you’re right, there’s no wisdom there at all.

  5. This post realy made me think. All except adoption that I know personally was because the parents couldn’t have biological children. I know your post is about the authorities making adoptin a last resort, but for families too – it’s often after all other routes of IVF, etc have been tried. This is the one family I know who adopted twice not because they couldn’t have children, but because they wanted to adopt. (I cry every time I watch it).

  6. Sally, this is really interesting to read, thank you. I’m an adoptive and a birth Mum and it’s good to hear about your experience of adoption. My son rarely talks about his birth family, although we are very open about it all, and I often wonder how he’ll feel about his adoption when he grows up.

    1. I grew up in a similar situation – my parents were very honest with me about my background (although given my age, I was adopted at 10, so it would have been impossible any other way!). For me, though, I think it meant I was very comfortable early on with the idea of being adopted, and I had (and continue to have) very little interest in exploring my birth relations – I have a real family, and I know how lucky I am to have them. My only niggle is perhaps I wish I’d been sent with a medical history for the family, as the older I get the more I’m asked about it and I have no idea – but it doesn’t bother me enough to seek it out!

  7. My brother was adopted, I think my sister and I were the lucky ones.

    Anyway, I hate that Adoption is thought to be the last step, it should be equal first.

    Ps, have to say how adorable you look in that picture and also how much like you that you look!

  8. Thank you so much for this. As a foster carer and, now, an adopter too, I have long believed adoption to be a more secure form of permanence for a child than any other if staying with birth family is not an option. It is always a tragedy when a child cannot be raised with their birth family, but in some cases I think we add tragedy upon tragedy by the long-term options that are chosen. You are right. Uncertainty is a terrible thing for a child.

    1. Absolutely – I think adoption is a fantastic gift, when handled carefully, and you’re right it’s a tragedy when kids are denied that because of ideology. Where’s the common sense ?

  9. Who is thinking about the needs of the children here? Every children is precious, every single one of them and where would you draw the line? Children need more than love, they need shoes, food and someone to read to them at night. I can not imagine what will become of a society that does not consider the needs of its children paramount.

  10. Great post, and yes, the children should be put first and adoption not just a last step. We didn’t have any adoptions as such in our family but my nan had eight children and there was a lot of child swapping that went on. My nan brought up two grandchildren as her own, and my mum brought up one of my cousins as her own. It was what was best for the child at the time without the child leaving the family. Of course it was only possible because the family was so large.

    1. Yes, I think that sort of arrangement used to be a lot more common. I think the challenge today is that families are often smaller, grandparents are often older because kids are born later in life, and often if the parents aren’t capable of raising a child, the grandparents are less than an ideal option!

  11. Made me cry too. I can’t believe they are making adoption a final resort when there are so many kids out there needing a stable home environment and so many families willing to give them that. No child should be kept in care homes long term with no home to call their own. Something definitely needs to change with that. I love that photo of you when you were little, too cute X

    1. You’re so righ Jess – there are so many loving, warm families that are desperate to adopt and so many kids desperately in need of a loving home – I simply don’t view that as a last resort!

  12. Excellent post, I couldn’t agree more. I have no experience of adoption within our family but I am personally friends with a number of families who foster and adopt. I have always said that I would be open to adoption, security for children I such an important thing, the child should always come first.

    1. Security can be so under-rated. For me, knowing I had a permanent home and that it wasn’t going to change again was such a big moment in my childhood.

  13. I come from a foster family, my parents fosters 13 boys and 4 boys over the space of nearly 10 years, many of these children were siblings, and it often made for a chaotic household but I can not imagine my childhood without these people in it.

    Most children that came to my house to live came from the most horrific backgrounds and over the years it used to make me so very sad that Social Services used to send these children back to their biological families in most cases as they really do everything they can to ensure a family is reunited … the children in 99.9% of cases did not want to be returned but they were taken ‘home’ kicking and screaming

    I have often looked at my childhood and wondered if i could be as strong as my Mum was to take in a child, love it and then hand it back but I know I am not.

    I am so pleased you have had such a strong parent in your life that could support you and love you as you deserved! 🙂

    1. Yes, completely. One of my brothers was adopted too, and his background was just awful – had he come into the care system 20 years later it makes me so sad to think he probably would have been kept in an abusive family because of policy. Ugh.

  14. This is a great post, very moving. I agree wholeheartedly that adoption shouldn’t be thought of as a last resort.

    Often, it provides the security and stability that children from troubled backgrounds need. A friend of mine has adopted three children, and each of those are much better off in their new home than with their birth mothers, who were not fit to care for them, especially as two of the three have some challenging heath issues. I always admire her for taking in, and loving the children – and fighting to adopt the eldest one who was a foster child before that, and was being hurt and confused by the situation.

    At the end of the day, they are keeping families “together” that would be better off apart, by saying that adoption is the last resort. It should be what is best for the children that is priority, and I cannot believe that staying with a troubled birth parent is necessarily “better” than a stable, loving, home environment through adoption, just because that parent happened to give birth to them.

    1. Thanks Zoe – I agree with you that some families simply do better apart – and that if there’s a choice to be made, the interests of the child need to be prioritised over the family. But I suspect the law and the government don’t entirely agree!

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