At a time when national statistics reveal that black and mixed-heritage children are disproportionately represented in the care system and that they wait longer to be adopted, this year’s National Adoption Week campaign is focusing on the need to find potential parents who can provide a loving and secure home for these children.
While black and mixed ethnic groups make up 5.5% of the general population, 17% of the children waiting for adoption are from black and mixed ethnic groups**. Black children are also less likely to go on to be adopted and wait longer to find their adoptive families.
All children waiting for adoption are likely to experience delay and instability but BME children also have to confront the issue of identity – their ethnicity, their culture and maybe their language. This can impact on their personal relationships, their education and their future as a parent themselves.
PACT is looking for more adopters from all walks of life and is particularly keen to hear from people of Black Caribbean, African or mixed heritage to enable children to be matched with adopters who they can identify with culturally, visually and emotionally.
Meet three couples who adopted through the adoption charity Parents And Children Together (PACT) which assesses and approves adoptive parents in London and the south east.
Sarah* and Omar* are a mixed race couple with a birth child. Their first daughter, Aliya*, was born a year into their relationship and 15 years later they adopted their second child, Samir*, when he was 15 months old.
When they had trouble conceiving, it was discovered that Sarah suffered from second child infertility. They tried some different fertility treatments but none were successful. Sarah found the whole thing physically and emotionally draining. When the last treatment failed, she felt hopeless.
She said: “Aliya was only 12 at the time and I remember her being so matter of fact about it. She said: ‘Don’t worry mum, there is always adoption to look at’, and that is where our journey really began.”
They spoke about adoption as a family and decided they wanted to adopt a dual heritage baby.
After Samir came to live with them, Aliya mentioned to a relative that she loved finally having someone in the family who looked like her.
Sarah said: “This comment has stayed with us. We had never thought of her feeling so different but when we thought about it, all her family members were either white or black. It was lovely for her to feel that she had someone else the same as her and I think this has made her bond with her little brother that much stronger.”
Jonny* and Michael* are an interracial, same sex couple who adopted two brothers aged 20 months and 10 months old.
Jonny said: ‘It was always important for me that the children I adopted saw themselves reflected in us, their parents. The fact that the boys’ father and my father are from the same tribe in Nigeria created an instant connection. It means we can honour their heritage and promote it authentically, which ultimately enhances their sense of identity.’
Ruth, of Trinidadian descent, and her husband, who is white British, adopted their daughter when she was 14 months old. Ruth and her husband decided to adopt after an unsuccessful IVF journey.
Ruth said: “We got to a point where we couldn’t do it anymore. It really took its toll on our health and finances.”
After several rounds of unsuccessful treatment, they decided to adopt. Ruth said: “For us it was important to adopt a child that matched our own racial heritage based on the fact that we want to be able to identify, relate and empathise with them.
“We also believe it will be easier and more comfortable for our daughter as she gets older and learns more about her history. There were a lot of mixed race children in the system, so for us it was the right thing to do.
“The first moment she called me mummy, I knew it was going to plan. I was her mum and this was our family. It’s the best thing we ever done, our family is complete.”
PACT welcomes enquiries about adoption from people from all backgrounds and of all ethnicities. For more information, to download a guide to adoption, or attend an online information event see www.pactcharity.org or call 0300 456 4800.
*Names have been changed to protect identity