You would think that adoption agencies in a country like England would be tightly managed, hugely discreet businesses with an unrivalled level of professionalism. They are, after all, responsible for the lives of thousands of vulnerable young children, but it transpires that they are really nothing more than brokers peddling the souls of distressed children.
In April 2012 we exposed a fostering agency which was trying to attract potential foster carers on Twitter by boasting about the amount of money they offered to these prospective ‘parents’ to look after often very vulnerable young children. To make matters worse, they refused to identify who was responsible for the tweets and their content – and they withheld the names of the people working in their organisation, both on social media and on their own website. And shortly after we publicly outed their bad practice, they shut down their account, re-opened it and changed the content of their tweets, so that they mirrored exactly those of their sister agency’s. When we asked them what their affiliation was to this agency, they refused to reply. Their parting sentiment? A thank you for raising their exposure.
And it seems that despite all the controversy inside the sector, the lack of professionalism and incompetence continues to sit side by side with incremental change.
The fostering agencies above are independent organisations not directly run by government, so it could be fair to suggest that government is not directly responsible for the shoddy approach to fostering and adoption in agencies like these, but what happens when our government itself becomes a broker for the souls of babies and young children?
National Adoption Week takes place on 3-9 November this year and as part of its drive to get people adopting, David Cameron’s team have done something extraordinary. They have set up a Pinterest board for all things adoption, including myriad faces of little people. There are only 35 pins on the board, but they have a following of around 2,800 people.
Pinterest works a little like a pin board – you can ‘pin’ any number of photos or links to your board and people can comment, follow and even share your photos with others, as many times and in as many places as they wish. The board is completely public, and can be viewed and added to, by the world. Including paedophiles.
The board itself claims to be run by David Cameron, our Prime Minister (well, his aids anyway), and belongs to a Mother Board which sits alongside The Cats of Downing Street and Downing Street Art. If this is indeed an official Prime Ministerial Pinterest board as the main board suggests, it is truly vulgar and ill conceived.
Whatever happened to the notion that children who are part of the family justice system should be protected from being identified? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it’s all over in a split second for a child who is being placed for adoption. And it doesn’t stop there.
There are countless agencies ‘advertising’ children online and through magazines. Just Google the phrase “Children advertised for adoption” and thousands of entries come up. Some are articles by the national media on the practice of advertising children in local magazines, with their faces emblazoned on the pages themselves. Some entries link to organisations like Be My Parent, which even go so far as to have a “Today’s Child” theme, where they select one little person, with his or her photograph for all to see, and a bio about them. But if you want to see the bio, you have to register with the site first and then pay a fee. There’s also a search engine on the site, filled to the brim with photos of children, which you can access without having to give any personal details about yourself first. So in reality, the registration process doesn’t come off as a security measure at all, just a measure of how serious you are about buying a child. And this adoption service, which also has a photo filled magazine, is provided by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering.
But there’s more. This morning, much to our disbelief, an adoption agency posted on our blog. This is what they wrote under our post about Panorama’s programme, “I Want My baby Back”:
Adopting Agency: We are registered and legitimate adoption agency. we spring up young babies for adoptions, we are online 24hrs all day or night to help single mothers and parent to adopt new babies, both white or African babies. this child adoption ranges from 1 month old babies to 8years. try our corporations today and you will have us as the best adoption agency world wide. adopt babies from us today and feel the bitterness of having much more kids from us.; Warms regards; email us for a baby adoption today at: [content withheld]
Clearly, this is not a UK agency, and the strange turn of phrase (see the second last sentence above) makes it obvious that this is not a legitimate operation, but what is concerning is that poor practice in this field is pervasive and extends beyond our own country’s boundaries. It is a global issue, and the United Kingdom is not exempt from sub standard adoption practice. Or from the potential exploitation of children.
Because this isn’t just about treating kids as a commodity – it is about exploiting children in general. If our agencies aren’t tightly controlled and run by serious people, who change the culture of the agencies so that they are more child welfare focused, we will continue to be part of a cycle which sees children being trafficked. The scandals emanating from adoption agencies all over the world, including the UK, are a stark reminder that our adoption agencies, and care homes, need to be so much better than they are.
If our laws are designed to protect our children, what good are they if there is not a uniform response to them across every sector inside it? How can banning the details of children and their cases whilst at court be a truly effective measure when moments later, fresh from the system, they are publicly outed by adoption agencies trying to find homes for these children?
The family justice system is a big place, manned by many organisations and people, but none of it is of any use to anyone, as long as our most vulnerable children are subjected to double standards and poor practice.
And for God’s sake David, take down your ridiculous Pinterest board.
A big thank you to Dana for sharing the board with us and for the link to Be My Parent.