By Paula Davies
ATOTAL of 20,412 children were adopted in 1964—about 2,500 more than the year before. The 1965 figures are not yet available, but it is almost certain that the numbers increased.
The work of the 75 adoption societies in England, Scotland and Wales is naturally on the increase too. Since the 1963 Children and Young Persons' Act which gave them powers to conduct or support research into child care, the Home Office and local authorities are taking a greater interest in the problem.
As a result of a grant from the Home Office, the National Bureau for Co. operation in Child Care has just produced a study on all the adoption literature available in Western Europe and the United States. Such a mass of references has never been drawn together before. The bureau is also conducting a National Adoption Survey as part of the National Child Development Study started in 1958.
Despite all this feverish activity and the quantities of information now being made
available, adoption is a subject that people tend to feel rather than think about. Some of them evidently confuse fostering with adoption and make sweeping statements that emanate from the heart rather than the head.
Published in lime to hells redress the balance is a book that deserves a wide readership. Almost certainly required reading for adoptive parents, it is called "Parents, Children and Adoption". Sub-titled "A llandbook for Adoption Workers" it is so clear and concise in its writing, so sane and sensihle in its approach to all the problems that it must become a classic in the adoption field.
Jane Rowe, herself a child care officer, has no sentimental illusions. "1 believe", she writes, "that adoption is very frequently the best solution to the twin problems of parentless children and involuntarily childless couples. But this does not mean that it can ever put right a situation which started wrong.
"In some ways adoption inevitably starts at second best. It may go on to be a deeply enriching and entirety
satisfying relationship, bringing great joy to all concerned. This is the aim of adoption services; to minimise the hurt, enhance the happiness but not to deny the difference or pretend that pain and problems do not exist."
One of the ways of minimising the problems of adoption would be to place more emphasis on the likely difficulties before placing the child. "I believe", she writes, "that the current legal and administrative arrangements which tend to concentrate social work after placement of the child need radical revision."
Such a revision would probably lead to even longer waits in the already long process towards adoption. But anxious prospective parents ought to realise that it is better to endure a longer wait than to endure the pain and difficulties over an entirely unsuitable child. "The temptation to play God by giving a couple a child is almost overwhelming" said the secretary of the Standing Conference of Adoption Societies. The chairman of the Standing Conference is Canon Harvey of the Crusade of Rescue. Although only a part of this big organisation with its 14 child care officers, the adoption section now deals with about 400 adoptions-a year, against 50 ten years ago. According to Canon Ilarvey, however, the public's idea of adoption Societies is seldom clear or logical.
"There is something about adoption that makes people think crookedly", he told me. "It seems to arouse all sorts of emotions which have little to do with the reality." For the reality he suggests that people should read Jane Rowe. • Adoptive parents themselves know what the reality is, but without being one it is impossible to know how they really feel One woman 1 know has two adopted children and one born to her after Ii years of marriage.
On the surface at least she takes a matter-of-fact view: "People say what a great step this is but one day you are confronted with the fact that you arc 'going to pick up a
baby on Friday and there it is. The three-month trial period is a hit of a strain but apart from that we found little to bother us.
"The only thing I would say is that it is more sensible to adopt a child through a registered adoption society. One is unlikely to have to go through this awful business of the mother taking her baby hack. The child care officer warns you if there is any real likelihood or that, and also ensures, as far as possible, that the mother has genuinely made up her mind about adoption."
"I can honestly say," she added, "that I don't feel any differently towards my own child. Having adopted two before she was horn we had a ready-made family anyway. They are all our children, whether adopted or not—and this is what really matters."