Common Error No. 87


87. "People should not be allowed to adopt children unless they meet the highest possible standards of parenthood."

family.jpg The problem with this is that most parents probably don't meet the highest standards of parenthood; they are likely to be average or near average. Nobody wants to have children adopted by bad parents, but by insisting on the highest possible standards we severely restrict the number of possible homes they might go to.

Children adopted into almost any sort of family do far better in life than those raised in institutions. On measures of educational attainment, employment, crime, mental illness, the adopted ones do better. Despite this the state seems to prefer to keep them in institutions rather than let them be adopted by less than perfect families.

Arbitrary and bizarre standards are used to justify refusal. In recent years these have included not allowing a mixed race couple with children to adopt a mixed race child. The grounds given were that the family was so well-adjusted and happy that the child would gain no preparation for the racism it might encounter later. Another middle-aged couple were turned down because they had too many books in the house, and the officers thought the child would not therefore have a "normal" upbringing, presumably meaning that it might grow up too posh for its own good.

Despite a huge number of people wishing to adopt, there are also huge numbers of children awaiting adoption. Of course it is right that children should be protected from abuse, and that careful screening should eliminate anyone involved in paedophilia or violence. But the standards sought from prospective parents seem to go far beyond the protection of children, and seek conditions not met in many families with children of their own.

The situation is such that many of those wanting to adopt now go abroad to find children, while thousands of UK children remain in institutional care.