A raw account from all perspectives

Jo North watches a Channel 4 documentary, Finding Me a Family.

A party where you choose a child to live in your family? Doesn’t sound right, does it. But this programme explains why it is. A Channel 4 documentary in two parts tells us how this is a chance for prospective adopters to meet a child to call their own and for the child to have a ‘forever family’.

Last year over 100 hard-to-place children were adopted through these parties. The programme explains why some children are harder to place – usually bigger groups of siblings pose a challenge, as people just cannot take on a big family and cope. The family group at the party – Demi 6, Clayton 4, Finlay 2 and Freddie 9 months – were going to be ‘hard to place’ despite being an appealing little bunch of characters.  

It is also a reality that it is hard to find new homes for children from minority backgrounds. There are a low number of black adoptive families; a white family can of course adopt black children as long as they can support their unique cultural identities. Statistically, more boys than girls are in care, and boys over the age of five are less likely to be adopted. So we were posed a problem… would we find a family for angel-faced Lewis, aged six, who had been split from his younger brothers and sisters so as to give more chance for him to find a family? 

It’s never easy to take a child away from a birth parent, and it’s a process that takes many months while the children are temporarily housed in foster placements. The law says that the welfare of the child must be paramount. Children are taken into Local Authority care due to neglect, deprivation or abuse in their primary families. Often drugs, alcohol and violence will lead to a pattern of neglect which means that the children are not thriving despite the fact that their parents love them.  

All children deserve to be brought up in a loving and permanent adoptive family. The foster carers go to the parties to explain their foster children and their needs to the prospective adopters. Children aged as young as nine months and up to seven years go to these parties with the older children knowing that they might meet a family. If they are not found one, the children are re-assured that there is no family good enough for them yet. Yes, this was heartbreaking from every perspective, but it is the real hard face of reality of adoption today.  

This was a well-cut documentary where we had multiple perspectives of the experience – social worker, foster carer and child as well as prospective adopters. Adopters who were moved to tears were asked to leave the room so as not to upset the children; whose predominant emotion was excitement, that they might find a family. 

During the party – jungle themed, with everyone dressing up or with a painted face, including a magician, prospective parents are encouraged to meet as many of the children as possible.  But some of the children are shy. Four-year-old Kye and little brother Mickey are at their second activity day party. Previously nobody had come along to play with them. This might be where the idea falls down.  Not all children are easily sociable, or cope with groups at parties, especially if they have had a difficult start in life. I thought I was toughened to all this, as I work in the field of adoption support, but I was crying by the end. What got me was builder Chris, already a father of six, playing with Kye to make him feel special at least for a few moments. 

We ended on a fairytale for one child. Chris and Sharron felt they had bonded with Lewis and they put his name down, with the result that some months later he moved in with them. He couldn’t wait to call them mummy and daddy. They were clearly delighted. But Lewis might have been the only winner that day. Kai and his brother Mickey are still looking, along with most of the other children at the party.

This is a frank, raw and accurate account of adoption today from all perspectives, and I look forward to Episode 2. 

- Jo North runs an Ofsted Registered Adoption Support Agency rated by Ofsted as Outstanding. Read more about her work.     

- Watch the programme now.

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