SPEAKING at a debate about adoption in the Adoption and Permanence in Scotland debate on November 22, 2016. Here is the video and words:
I will start on a happy note. Two close friends of mine who are in a same-sex marriage have just gone through the adoption process and hope to welcome their new arrival to their home in the next few months. Everyone who knows them is in no doubt that they will make fabulous parents and that their child will grow up in a household of love and safety. That indicates two things—first, that we have moved on vastly as a society from the days when it was thought that only the traditional nuclear family model would work as a framework for adoption or permanence, and secondly, that the single most important thing is that children are brought up in a safe, happy and loving home, with parents who nurture them and give them the tools to be well-rounded, decent adults.
Like everyone in the debate, I welcome the first-ever adoption week Scotland, which is taking place this week. The Scottish Government’s aim is for Scotland to be the best place in the world for children to grow up, regardless of their background or what circumstances they are born into. Make no mistake: the ideal place for children to grow up is at home with their natural parents, but as we all know for many children, and for many reasons, that is not always possible.
One of the saddest things that I experienced during my years as a children’s panel member was witnessing a mother with an addiction problem read out a letter of thanks to her toddler son’s foster mother who was sitting next to her. With tears streaming down her face, she spoke of her gratitude that someone had offered her little boy the chance of a better life—a life she knew that she could not give him. Everyone in the room could see that the child was thriving due to being nurtured in a family home. Accordingly, it is vital that there are effective, confident professionals who can support children into alternative care placements, whether that be through adoption or a permanence order.
As the minister outlined, more than 300 families have adopted children through Scotland’s adoption register, but it is sad that more than twice as many children are on the register needing a family as there are prospective adopters offering one. This month, Scotland’s adoption register has moved to an online system, which gives adopters and social workers direct involvement faster. That will reduce delays and find the best possible matches between children and families.
Deciding to adopt is a life-changing event and the decision is never taken lightly. The process can be long and sometimes stressful for prospective adopters, who are put through rigorous checks and stringent suitability tests. That is simply because we have to get it right for every child. The Scottish Government is constantly striving to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the adoption and permanence order process, including through the introduction of adopter-led matching this year, as has been mentioned.
We are providing hands-on, expert support to local authorities to help children achieve permanence through the permanence and care excellence programme. PACE brings together local authority agencies and professionals, the children’s hearings system and health services to improve and to speed up processes.
Scottish Adoption has this year been awarded top marks across the board by the Care Inspectorate. That is just one of the many valued agencies and voluntary groups that support people through the adoption process.
A fitting way to conclude would be to listen to the experience of one adoptive parent:
“With the support of Scottish Adoption we have been able to parent our child therapeutically, to help him develop from an anxious, frightened child, to a loving, caring, funny and charming young man.
He is still only very young, but thanks to the support we have received, we now realise that we, as parents, have what it takes to support him on his journey to greatness.
Adoption has been far more challenging than we ever could have realised when sitting in the room at that first information meeting, but by far, the best thing that we have ever done in our lives.”
That is proof—if it were ever needed—that the rewards outweigh any challenges and that loving and nurturing a child, whether biological or not, is beyond compare.
I am happy to support the motion and the Labour amendment.