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Black mum explains why we need more people of colour to adopt

Children from Black, Asian and mixed ethnicity communities wait longer to be placed for adoption.

This is partly due to a huge shortage of potential adopters from BAME backgrounds – Adoption UK found that less than 5% of adopters in England come from the BAME community.

One Black adoptive mum wants to encourage people from these communities to come forward and consider adoption, as while she understands that children should be offered a loving home first and foremost, she feels it is important for children to be placed with a family who looks like them and who understands their cultural heritage.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk for Adoption Month, Veronica*, who adopted her son in September 2017, explains: ‘Identity and belonging are culturally important. There can be challenges with being a minority ethnicity in the UK and the ability to support a child through these challenges is invaluable.

‘From small things like understanding how to care for hair to teaching about food and music – everyone should have the opportunity to embrace one’s culture.’ 

She and her partner decided to adopt after struggling with fertility issues, but it is something that had always been on the agenda.

She explains: ‘We had always discussed adopting alongside having a biological family. We both come from families and cultures where having additional non- biological family members is fairly normal. Following fertility challenges, we explored the route to adoption alongside fertility treatment.

‘Our process was quite simple – from start to end it was twelve months until we had our son join our family. We made an enquiry with the agency and attended an information evening, proceeded through the screening and checks, training, approval and then, finally, matching with our son. It’s thorough and emotional but completely worth it.’

As Black adoptive parents, they were sought after and throughout, they stressed the importance of an ethnic and cultural match, which was supported by the professionals they worked with.

Veronica and her husband adopted through Coram, an independent adoption agency working across Greater London and the surrounding areas.

Their son was only a baby when he came to them but over the last three years, they have worked to educate the now four-year-old son in issues around race, at an age-appropriate level.

She explains: ‘We have elected to teach him about his history, heritage, culture and instil pride in who he is and where he comes from. We use books and music primarily. We teach him about Nigeria and Jamaica.

‘We have spoken to him about racism and to let us know if anyone makes remarks about his skin colour – we always planned to do this when he started school.  

‘We teach him about Black leaders and role models to give him a holistic view of our culture and to counter any pigeon-holing that can be experienced through the school system. We want to ensure he feels capable of applying himself to any experience he wishes to pursue.’

BAME adoption statistics

National statistics reveal that black children are disproportionately represented in the care system.

Figures from the Department for Education show that of the 78,150 children looked after at the end of 2019, 8% were of Black or Black British ethnicity. 

Just 3.7% (60) of the 3,570 looked after children who were adopted in England during 2019, were Black or Black British.  

According to a study in 2012, in comparison with white British children (919 days from entry to care to legal order), adoptions for Asian children are quicker (835), those for children of mixed parentage slightly longer (996) but those for Black children substantially so at 1302 days. 

Veronica adds that there are lots of things adoptive parents who are matched with a child of a different race can do to help a child understand their background, but fundamentally, it is difficult to explain the complexities of racism without going through those yourself.

She says: ‘Black (and other ethnic groups) contributions and achievements in UK society are consistently undermined and not valued.  

‘The glossing over of slavery and the depiction that the black race was uncivilised until the Empire saved us by enslaving us and bringing us to the UK to build the country is is not one that I want my child adopting.

‘Growing up in a deprived south London area and going to a diverse school, my experience of racism was little to none, however I understand that the system is systemically racist and set to disadvantage particular social groups by not giving the same access to opportunities and resources.  

‘Racism and any other type of prejudice is wrong. As parents to a young Black boy we are concerned for his safety and any future interaction he has with the justice system.

‘Teaching him about these issues allow him to understand how society may perceive him. Education in this area allows him to make informed life decisions.  At this young age we want to prepare him for the future and equip him with the correct knowledge – not necessarily what is presented in mainstream media. Racism can be presented in many ways – often implicit.

‘Many have accepted it historically.  Our son may form part of a generation that are empowered to challenge the status quo.’

Veronica wants to see more of a push to encourage people from these groups to consider adoption so more children can be matched with parents of similar backgrounds who can help them navigate these issues.

The You Can Adopt campaign is currently focusing on getting more people from BAME to come forward as adopters.

Veronica adds: ‘We need to highlight the simplicity of the adoption process and entry requirements, have sound bites from successful families (such as this interview), remove the incorrect perceptions around adoption such as only wealthy couples with big houses can adopt and highlight the difference adoption can make to a child’s life.  

‘Black kids (boys in particular) wait in care the longest and are seen as less desirable.  I’d like to see something like can you raise the next Usain Bolt, Obama, Kelly Holmes, etc – we have some really solid role models out there and this can be used to seek adopters.’

*Veronica’s name has been changed to protect her and her son’s identity.

You can find out more about Coram on their website.

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]

  • Why we’re talking about adoption this month
  • How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
  • The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
  • How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
  • Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
  • How to tell your child they are adopted 

Visit our Adoption Month page for more.

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