On Sunday evening The Guardian broke the chilling news story of the mother who bullied her daughter into inseminating herself with semen which she had bought over the internet. What this particular headline does not mention, but others do, is that the girl, who gave birth at the age of 16, had been adopted from overseas by her mother, along with two other younger and unrelated children. Occasionally a news story will emerge where the matter of adoption is mentioned despite being irrelevant, but that is not the case here. The adoption by the mother of the three children is central to the criminal act and the damage done (she was jailed for five years for this wrongdoing plus cruelty to a younger child).
It sounds stupid to say this, but it felt like a body blow to the brotherhood and sisterhood of adopters who parent damaged and vulnerable children. I like to think we are all in it for the greater good, learning to parent therapeutically as we must, and with great respect for our children’s origins. Simplistic, I know.
Adopters must be able to tap into vast amounts of empathy to do the very different type of parenting that they do. Empathy was vacant from this drama. This woman wanted another baby and would sell her soul and use her child like a breeding machine to get what she wanted. This blind, all-consuming madness is Shakespearian in both its nature and the tragedy it has delivered upon the innocent. What she did is barely recognisable as fact.
Having gone through the adoption approval process myself and become an adoptive parent I am astonished that she was ever approved to adopt. Easy for me to say perhaps, I don’t know her, didn’t interview her, but she doesn’t sound like a safe bet. She adopted the children from overseas. Whether that is easier to achieve, whether there are loopholes, I don’t know, but it feels like that may be part of the story. Overseas and domestic adoption are certainly separated bureaucratically in this country and I’m not sure why, although I suspect that an agenda to encourage adopters to look to the UK care system and not overseas may be part of it. A kind of first and second division of adoption perhaps, which doesn’t sound like it passes the ‘best interests of the child’ test to me.
After being able to adopt three children, the woman was able to isolate herself and them from anyone who may have been able to spot that things weren’t right. There are the usual stories of alarms being sounded and no one following these up with sufficient rigour. Evidently she talked a good talk (how often do we hear that one?).
Serious questions are posed by this case and there are uncomfortable truths to face too. Not everyone is capable of parenting vulnerable children, much as we would wish it otherwise. Children can slip under the radar if someone wants them to and be in significant risk of harm as a result. And in efforts to reduce the numbers of children awaiting adoption in the UK alongside poor funding of adoption support, are we overlooking some clear issues around overseas adoption?
At the heart of it are three vulnerable children, dislocated from their countries of birth, who found themselves not only parented by someone who was unfit to do so, but cut off from any form of reliable help and rescue. And now there is a vulnerable baby to be considered too. The damage wrought is deep and widespread and will echo down through the generations to come. We can only hope that all four of the children will find the support, nurture and therapy that they will need to make sense of what has happened to them.