Louise Tickle’s article about “Annie” (or Surviving Safeguarding as she is known on her blog) was published this weekend : ‘I saw his fluffy little head going out the door’: one woman’s fight to keep her baby – Annie’s son was removed from her just days after he was born, the third of her children to be taken into care. This is the story of her battle to get him back
You can read about the legal process that went before the publication of the article here : Press Reporting of Care Proceedings.
In the run up to publication there were some interesting email exchanges between members of The Transparency Project committee (which now includes Louise Tickle) about the use of the term “forced adoption”. We thought we’d share those with you.
[dealing with statistics on adoption which are broken down simply as “opposed” or “not opposed” and use of the term forced adoption] I would suggest that many who are recorded as “not opposing” the final order may simply have had their will to fight ground down during the course of the case, and may have been advised that the evidence against them was strong, but cannot properly be described as having agreed to their child being adopted. Parents who are too distressed or unwell to participate in proceedings may also be recorded as “not opposing”….I prefer “non-consensual adoption” not “forced adoption”.
In terms of the proper way of describing things, is “unopposed adoption” the acceptable version of “put up for adoption” or does the “putting up” relate not to the parent but to faceless bureaucrats, child snatchers et al? If so, what should one say?
‘Put up for adoption’ can mean two things. Either the parent giving up the child for adoption (relinquished), or the LA making the adoption decision (adoption is in the child’s best interests) and proceeding to try to match the child with adopters. To me, ‘put up’ sounds as though the LA is exhibiting the child in the market square, like selling slaves, or something.
Writers should never use the phrase ‘put up for adoption’. I don’t personally agree with the use of ‘forced adoption’ in the UK context. ‘Adoption without consent’ is technically the correct term.
I’m afraid I have gone with ‘forced’ in the article at a certain point. I thought very hard about this in advance of the Family Justice Council debate while I was preparing my speech, and think that ‘forced’ is accurate in terms of how it would feel to the parents. I did an exercise in my head, thinking for instance about slavery. We refer to ‘forced labour’ when people are made to work by an authority without payment. Or we say ‘slavery’. We do not say ‘non consensual working’ or “working without consent”. I know it is not entirely analogous, because the intention behind adoption is to serve the interests of a child, but journalistically, if a parent is forced by the state to lose their parental rights, then although it’s an emotive word, then I think it’s a perfectly accurate way to describe what’s happened to say the adoption has been forced. It is also accurate to say ‘contested’ or ‘non-consensual’ but it removes it from the human experience.
See what you mean about “forced”. It can be more emotive than necessary but I can see that in the context of how parents feel it can be more accurate than a more objective word. It’s a question of whether you are presenting their side of the case or offering a judgment or conclusion. The problem with a lot of coverage is that it takes an exaggerated view for the sake of it, to make the piece look more interesting or newsy.
I have actually had a complete turn around on forced adoption. It used to make my teeth itch but it does what it says on the tin. That is how the parents experience it. That is what it is. I think we should use words and phrases as commonly understood.
I think we should post this exchange as a blog post – do you all agree?