National Adoption Week (10-16 November 2008) is traditionally a time when the case for adopting is promoted, and new adopters recruited. But the issue is surrounded by controversy on a number of fronts. Many would-be adoptive parents are effectively barred from adopting now that concerns about passive smoking and other lifestyle issues are taken into consideration by adoption agencies. And while liberalising reforms have facilitated single and gay adoption, 'race' remains a vexed issue, and black children are not 'matched' with white carers.
Why is adopting children so mired in pitfalls, regulations and controversy when 'natural' parenting needs no such sanction, and many children remain in care while social work bureaucrats wrangle? When social workers have to remove a child from its home, they do so in the name of 'the welfare of the child'. Is this principle now being invoked unreasonably to make moralistic character judgements about adults keen to love and care for 'unwanted' children?
Facing such restrictions, many would-be adopters look to the international stage. But those who do so can face further demonisation, with shrill accusations of baby snatching and exploiting the world’s poorest parents, and calls for tighter regulation of cross-border adoptions too. Are campaigners in the West guilty of misrepresenting informal adoption arrangements made in desperate circumstances as malevolent 'child trafficking'? Is there a humanitarian case for 'serial adopting' by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Madonna? Do they really help needy children from stricken parts of the world, or do the adoption antics of conspicuously compassionate celebrities show exactly why we should be careful about treating children as mere commodities for needy adults?- Institute of Ideas
Emily Buchanan has worked for over 20 years at the BBC, beginning as a radio producer in political programmes.
In 1994 for BBC 2's 'Assignment programme', she made a film about female infanticide in India, Let Her Die, which won the 'Golden Nymph' at the Monte Carlo Television Festival. She also had two award nominations; by Amnesty International for her documentary The Disposables about the killing of the under-class in Colombia, and by the One World Broadcasting Trust for a film about the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, a special bank which lends mainly to women. Also, for 'Assignment' she made The Baby Trade, about corruption in international adoptions in Paraguay.
In 1995 she became the BBC's Developing World Correspondent. For the Nine O'Clock News, she travelled extensively around South America, Africa and Asia highlighting issues of international debt, disease and poverty - one of her more harrowing trips was going to the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in Zaire.
Emily Buchanan then became the BBC's Religious Affairs correspondent.
In 2001 she won the Radio Documentary Award at the One World Broadcasting Trust for a Radio 4 programme Seeds of Hate about the impact of war-time rape on Muslim women in Bosnia.
For 5 years she presented the Radio 4 series about global radio stations, 'A World in Your Ear', as well as 'Reporter's Notes', the series where foreign correspondents talk about their lives and the music that accompanied them on their travels. She is now a World Affairs Correspondent based in London, and has presented the political debate programme 'Head to Head' on News 24, and 'Have Your Say' on BBC World.
In 2005 Emily wrote From China with Love - The Long Road to Motherhood about adopting two girls from China, and she presented 'China Girl' a Radio 4 series about adoption from China broadcast in July 2007.
Dave Clements is a freelance writer on social policy and related issues, and a founding member of the Future Cities Project. He lives in East London and continues to work in local government. He has written for publications including Guardian Unlimited, The Architects' Journal, spiked-online and Community Care Magazine, is a member of the Battle of Ideas organizing committee and regularly debates on public platforms. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book The Future of Community, to be published in October 2008.
Fiona Fox has a degree in journalism and 20 years of experience in working in media relations for high profile national organisations. Her career includes stints working for the Equal Opportunities Committee, National Council for One Parent Families, and CAFOD (a leading aid agency). Despite having no background in science, Fiona managed to persuade a distinguished panel of eminent scientists to take a risk and appoint her to become the founding Director of the Science Media Centre which opened in April 2002. The main remit of the Centre is to help restore public trust in science by persuading more scientists to engage more effectively with the big controversial science stories that hit the headlines.
The Centre has grown from strength to strength - with a database of over 2000 scientists which is used by all sections of the national news media. The Science Media Centre has earned huge praise and respect from those who use its services and was the subject of a glowing Editorial in Nature magazine which paid tribute to the 'robust leadership' of its Director.
John Harris FMedSci, is Director of The Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation and Lord Alliance Professor of Bioethics, School of Law, University of Manchester. He is joint Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Medical Ethics and has been a member of The United Kingdom Human Genetics Commission since its foundation in 1999 and is a Member of the Medical Ethics Committee of the British Medical Association.
David has senior management experience in children's services in the voluntary sector, local government and central government. He joined the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) as Chief Executive in early 2006 from the London Borough of Haringey where he was Deputy Director of Children's Services. Previously David had directed the child protection, adoption and children's trusts divisions in the Department of Health and then the looked after children division in the Department for Education and Skills. David has worked on a wide range of recent child care legislation including the Care Standards Act 2000, and the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and key national initiatives for children including Quality Protects, Choice Protects, Every Child Matters and Care Matters.
David was a member of the Care Matters Working Group on the Future of the Care Population and is currently an Adviser to the LGA on children's services.
David began his career as a solicitor in private practice and then worked for several years in NHS management.
Theresa has been a qualified social worker for 40 yrs. She has worked mainly in Child Protection and family Placement work- Fostering and Adoption. She has also worked in a Voluntary Organisation providing Advocacy Services for children in care. Theresa has managed projects for the (then) DfES to provide Advocacy services for children with special educational needs in residential schools.
Theresa has an M.Phil for original research into the relationship between children in care and their families (Lancaster 1994) In her present job she mainly concentrates on finding adoptive families for children between the ages of 5-10, i.e. older children.
John Harris, Director of The Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at The University of Manchester, suggests that not only should standards for prospective adoptive parents be loosened, they should be removed entirely. He argues that in a society that values the "democratic presumption" of innocent until proven guilty, nothing short of documented abuse should preclude someone from being a parent.
Harris believes we should "apply the same criteria to all parents," biological and adoptive, by licensing them.