I find myself wondering today, in light of the fact that a waste of DNA like prison-bound Mick Philpott is biologically capable of fathering 17 children – and evil enough, aided by his accomplices, to hatch a money-making plan that took the lives of six of them – whether it is now time to reappraise the adoption regulations. These strange little bits of judicial nonsense currently deny – quite arbitrarily – the chance to adopt for various categories of people who are unable to have their own children. I’m talking here about the people who are adjudged to be unable to bring up prospective adoptees in the “right” cultural environment, people deemed too old or too compromised in official eyes by relatively mild mental health conditions, even people reckoned to be suffering emotionally from their inability to conceive naturally – and so on.
There seems to be an awful lot of good parenting skills out there being needlessly wasted, while all the time utterly unsuitable people are producing positive litters of children without the first clue of how to bring them up, look after them or contribute in any positive way to their well-being and social/emotional development. All of this, just because of the accident of being physically capable of reproduction. We simply can’t afford to waste good parenting skills – they’re all too rare and precious, as even the most cursory glance around us will reveal.
What is the cost of this evident anomaly down the line, in terms of the kind of society members – quite apart from the tragedy of children who don’t survive – that such a crazily-weighted lottery is producing? And meanwhile, let’s not forget, good people with much to give of both love and the example they’d set in bringing up children, are left on the sidelines, wringing their hands as a whole generation of clueless “parents” brings up a succeeding generation in their own repugnant image.
I can honestly foresee a time when parenting will be by licence only; not that I would advocate this as “A Good Thing”. It would smell uncomfortably like social engineering to me, and I’d want to know a great deal about the machinery involved in any such process. But can we really carry on as we are? Talk to any teacher, and you’ll hear a tale of despair when the conversation turns to the contribution of many parents to their children’s disciplinary standards, and to their education as a whole. Teachers appear currently to be struggling to accomplish the virtually impossible: turn out well-rounded, educated individuals who are fit to take a place in society, with hardly any support or input from the people most intimately connected to those children concerned. That’s not just a big ask, it’s a massively unfair burden on professionals who can influence only a portion of each day their students experience, for a relatively small slice of that child’s life.
I have a friend who is a teacher; from everything I know of her she’s a very good teacher. I know she despairs of the role that some parents play in the development of some of her students, and I can quite see why. How hard is it for her to take, then, when her cousin and his wife are turned down as adoptive parents because – among other bafflingly specious reasons – “We don’t think you’ll get over not being able to have your own.” Doesn’t that rather rule out anybody who can’t have their own kids? Who actually “gets over” a blow like that? And can we speculate on why people who can have their own kids would want or need to adopt? It all seems extremely illogical, and it’s a perpetuation by default of the damage being done, every day, every week, every month and year by the people who – as a matter of biological happenstance – end up with the job of raising the next generation.
Maybe, ultimately, we’ll be able to put right a few of society’s ills, and perhaps more attention and resources devoted to the education and support of people contemplating parenthood will assist that process. I really think it would help, and let’s praise to the skies the first government that sees this as a priority and does something about it. If you think it through clearly, you could hardly imagine a better investment, a safer investment, than money devoted to training and support with a view to producing better parents. The savings arising out of the consequent reduction in crime, mental health issues, anti-social behaviour and the disintegration of communities would be incalculable. Good parents are the ideal people for the job of parenting – goes without saying, or it should do. God speed that happy day when this is recognised and acted upon.
But meanwhile, let’s not waste the resources freely available to us now in the shape of a massive pool of potentially excellent parents – who currently see their urgent desire to love and care for children they’d bring up in an exemplary fashion being frustrated. Thwarted by officialdom with its petty rules and guidelines, and its limitless miles of red tape. There’s far too much subjective judgement going on in this whole process, too many petty prejudices being reinforced by intransigent regulations and ill-advised, ill-informed officials.
My friend’s cousin and his wife now happily have their own child – but it’s another, unknown child – unwittingly losing out on a wonderfully loving home – who has suffered by the bizarre decision they were faced with when they applied to adopt. There was even some suggestion that the woman’s Polish nationality figured in the “rationale” employed by the decision-maker. That’s absolutely scandalous when we’re talking about a stable, affluent couple who were looking at adoption rather than IVF because of their view that there were so many unloved kids already out there.
Ask yourself, honestly: what better motive than that could any pair of prospective parents have? Let’s embrace what people like this have to offer, and maybe help save future kids from future Philpotts. The biggest lesson of this tragic case is that the complex and difficult adoption dilemma is an issue that we absolutely can’t afford to ignore any longer.