Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Adopt an opinion....

Over the past week I've found myself having several intense discussions over the whys and wherefores; wrongs and rights of adoption and fostering. More specifically over the issue of gay adoption and fostering.

I know I put myself out there. I write this blog and I'm often stupid enough to admit to writing it when people ask me how I spend my time now I'm a stay at home mum. I can't help it. I have met some amazing people and had some fantastic conversations as a result of being so open. I accept that my views may not always be the same as other people's and I love a good debate. One thing I don't love though is prejudice and unfounded narrowmindedness.

It's fair to say that there are a lot of strong opinions around adoption and fostering. People often like to share those opinions inappropriately. Some people have questions. I'm fine about that (not always the inappropriately timed questions in front of my daughter though). I do my best to answer any questions.

I'm nervous about writing this blog post if I'm honest. I am not a voice for the gay community nor am I trying to be but I would consider myself an advocate for adoption.  I do want to share my experiences though because I think viewpoints should be challenged wherever possible.

So what happened?

Well, the first time was when I found myself in the middle of some button pushing views at my local garage. It was sparked by the front page of the newspaper that was in the garage and the story about the foster carers whose foster children were removed because they are members of UKIP.

We discussed the decision to remove the children and the seemingly generalised view taken by the council related to racism. It seems to me that you need to ascertain the interpretation of the politics by the individual before deciding whether they are racist or not. I am not entirely convinced that the other person shared this view.  This then led on to how inappropriate the other participant in our conversation found gay couples being allowed to adopt and the potentially confusing message about families this might give the child/ren. This conversation then led on to the extremely ill-advised and quite unbelievable statement made by Winston McKenzie to The Metro:

"To say to a child, 'I am having you adopted by two men who kiss regularly but don’t worry about it' – that is abuse. It is a violation of a child’s human rights because that child has no opportunity to grow up under normal circumstances. A caring loving home is a heterosexual or single family. I don't believe [a gay couple] is healthy for a child."

I'm not even going to repeat the other conversation I had, so much was it an ill educated viewpoint.  I can't even bring myself to write what the person said or write it in a way that isn't overly inflammatory.

Ok this isn't me but I couldn't resist!
So in response to both conversations I did what I do everytime my buttons are pushed, I turned into The Educator! I found the nearest metaphorical phonebox and put on my cape; donned my metaphorical pants over my jeans; pushed my glasses up my nose; took a deep breath and waded in to save the world from another.... errrr.....ummm....(am desperately trying to think of the right word but don't want to be mean).... person in need of education and a few less homophobic thoughts. I should admit that I've adopted this role twice in the past week....The Educator that is....not the person needing a few less homophobic thoughts.

On both occasions I pointed out that there are many different types of family in the world.  In addition to the "traditional" family setup of a mum and dad there are single parents; aunts, uncles, friends, grandparents and other relatives bringing up children. Gay adopters are just another type of family within a huge variety of families in my opinion. From the reading I've done I've not found any studies that prove that gay parents create gay adults. As I pointed out to our friend above, and the person not mentioned, I think the majority of gay people actually originate from within heterosexual families.  As I pointed out this might bring the nature/nurture debate into the discussion!

Tim Chivers in The Telegraph wrote a really interesting and well referenced article about this very subject.  Here's a quote but I recommend reading all the article and the links:

"There has been some research into all this. A review of the literature carried out in 2002 by the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology looked at 23 studies, examining a total of 615 children of same-sex parents and 387 controls. They looked at "emotional functioning, sexual preference, stigmatization, gender role behavior, behavioral adjustment, gender identity, and cognitive functioning" – exactly the sort of criteria we discussed above. They found that "Children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers did not systematically differ from other children on any of the outcomes"; more specifically, the studies "indicate that children raised by lesbian women do not experience adverse outcomes compared with other children", and the same appears to be true for gay men, although more research was needed given how small their sample was. "

For my part, I tried to explain that children are matched with adopters that are considered able to meet the needs of the individual child. It may well be better for a child to be placed in an all female or male household if they've experienced certain types of abuse for example. A loving home with capable parent(s) is what any child needs. Children who have had traumatic experiences need parents who have the strength to go beyond typical parenting. Adoption these days in the UK isn't about having a healthy, baby straight from birth. Children who are in the care system waiting for parents need parents who can understand their feelings and experiences; their anger and confusion. They need parents who can support them within all that.  Adoption services seek people who have had life experiences so that they can relate to their child and the experiences they may have had.

Anyone who can bring all that to the table should be greated with open arms and not with any form of prejudice in my humble opinion.......
 


 

6 comments:

  1. I was speaking to a friend of mine regarding the foster children who were removed because the foster carers were part of the UKIP and (unknown to me until he told me and presumably either purposefully missed from the media or accidentally missed) he told me that this couple were not being stopped from fostering in general (which is what the papers appeared to be reporting) but that the two children they had which were removed were of Eastern European origin and so it was THAT particular "conflict of interests" which was the reason those particular children were removed. It would be like putting a Jewish child into a foster family who were part of a club/society saying "we hate Jews". Based on what he told me was actually the case then the removal of those particular children made more sense to me.

    WRT gay adopters there was an article in our local free newspaper where people were writing in with their opinions. One person felt that the child would have no female/male role model (depending on what type of gay partnership it was adopted into)but someone wrote in who HAD been adopted by a lesbian couple and he had now grown up and said that he STILL had male role models as he was exposed to plenty of males in his immediate adopted family ie brothers and fathers and Uncles etc of the lesbian couple.

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    1. Hiya Greta. I think I'm still bothered that this couple can't foster children from Eastern European origin because they are members of UKIP without assessing what their political views on immigration and their personal views on people from those particular ethnic origins are. I think I'm concerned that a blanket decision was made without apparently assessing the couple's individual views. This may have happened but the reports indicate that this wasn't the case.

      WRT gay adopters this is great to read. I think many people don't think beyond the parental home and maybe realise that we have role models in our lives from a variety of different places. Just because someone is gay doesn't mean that they don't have family or friends of the opposite sex that may offer alternative views and support. It seems so obvious when you write it down doesn't it?

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  2. Is there ever a wrong time to give a child in need a good home?

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  3. Hi Gem

    Fantastic post - loving the metaphorical pants over the jeans!

    Narrow mindedness along with insesitive and judgemental comments often indicate in a fear of the unknown from people. Therefore they often need some metaphorical panty lady to give them some cold hard facts to see how ridiculous some of their comments are.

    I have recently been told that young people who havent been through IVF or any other form or fertility treatment shouldnt be allowed to adopt as they will always see the child as a consolation prize... Mad??? yes i was but more upset than anthing else!!!

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    1. Hi Nic. I think fear probably surrounds most of the strong opinions on this issue. I used to do a lot of work with teenagers around homophobia - particularly young men and I used to encourage them to look at how they feel personally about this issue and what they are afraid of. We used to talk about what to do if someone asked you out of either sex and how you would approach that. It often surprised them that you can handle both situations in exactly the same way and it wasn't a threat to their sexuality if someone of their sex was attracted to them.

      That's terrible about the IVF/adoption issue. I know young people who want to adopt because they now us or other family members who are adopted and see how much it can change someone's life. To turn them down because they have chosen adoption as a first option is quite an insult I think. Maybe they are worried that the need for a birth child might come into play and how this might effect an adopted child?

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