So something else people often say to me is something along the lines of “so you think those children who would otherwise be adopted should be left to rot in the foster care system?” and then a tirade about how I better be single handedly overhauling the foster care system if I want adoptable children to grow up in it rather than being adopted. This just really brings home to me how much adoption is about commodity, is about adoptable children,is about the adoptive parents needs rather than about the support and nurture of disadvantaged children.

The foster care system sucks beyond belief, I know that, I spent four years in it, my sister grew up in it, I worked within it for three years. But what people are actually saying to me when they rant about how bad the system would be for adoptable children to grow up in is that non adoptable children don’t matter, that children who are too old, or too emotionally disturbed, or of the “wrong” ethnicity or have whatever else “special needs” are disposable, that we don’t need to overhaul the foster care system for them, it’s only the adoptable children we need to worry about.

In the UK the number of children adopted from the foster system is static at about 4% every year . Which means that 96 % of children in foster care don’t get adopted, are we not supposed to be working to make the system better for them or do we just let them rot?

The foster care system is one of the places where the poisoned underbelly of patriarchal racist capitalism exposes itself. Dorothy Roberts on the Pro choice public education web site explains

We should extend our struggle for reproductive justice to challenge the foster care system because it violates thousands of women’s right to parent their children. Most of the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. child welfare system go to removing children from their homes and maintaining them in foster care. Foster care is a political institution reflecting social inequities, including race, class, and gender hierarchies, and serving powerful ideologies and interests. The U.S. child welfare system is and always has been designed to regulate poor families. Most cases of child maltreatment involve parental neglect, which is usually difficult to disentangle from the conditions of poverty. Nationwide, there are twice as many neglected children in foster care as children who are physically abused. The child welfare system hides the systemic reasons for poor families’ hardships by attributing them to parental deficits and pathologies that require therapeutic remedies rather than social change.

Foster care is also marked by shocking racial disparities… The racial disparity in the child welfare system also reflects a political choice to address the startling rates of child poverty in communities of color by punishing parents instead of tackling poverty’s societal roots.

While this is about the American foster care system it describes the UK system as well. The racial disparities in the UK system are not so large but they are still there. According to community care.co.uk

Children from ethnic minority backgrounds are over-represented in foster care: 17% of looked after children are from ethnic minority backgrounds compared with only 13% of the general population. The largest groups of looked-after ethnic minority children have one or both parents with an African Caribbean or African heritage. There are much smaller numbers of children with Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani backgrounds…

A 2004 study found that 70-80 per cent of children who are looked after will have left care within two years, but that children from some ethnic minority groups: African Caribbean, Pakistani, those with one white and one African Caribbean parent, and those in the “any other black” group, were more likely than other groups to stay in care for over four years.(1) The same study followed up the cases of 297 ethnic minority children placed in the 1980s. Fifteen years later, it found that one third had been placed as permanent foster children. An important finding was that children with both parents from a ethnic minority background were more likely to be permanently fostered than adopted.

so it seems to me that all those people who claim that adoption is about the child’s needs should damn well be working to overhaul the foster care system too, firstly by working out why so many kids end up in foster care and putting preventions and supports in place to stop that happening and then for those kids who do end up in care, who really need to be there we need to make sure that it is a safe nurturing supportive place for them whether they are deemed “adoptable” or not. Just because white middle class people do not view a child as consumable, doesn’t mean they are not important.

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