Ryan is a man on a mission – to get more black and minority ethnic families to adopt children. “My message to them is: get involved. It’s really worth it,” he says. “It can be extremely challenging but you can’t do much better than giving children a happy home and family life.”
Not all children have a family who are able to care for them in the long term. The number of adoptions in England is rising which is good news. But sadly black children, especially boys over the age of three, are still waiting a year longer than other children to be adopted.
And every year they stay in care makes it less likely that a child will find the stability of a permanent family. One reason for the delay is a shortage of adopters coming forward from the black community. This is an issue our community should be able to solve. But what can we do?
Let’s start with busting the myths about who can adopt. You don’t need to be married, own your own home or be in full time employment to be eligible to adopt a child. Single people are welcomed, as well as couples, gay or straight. Although adopters tend to be over 25, the minimum age is 21, and there is no upper age limit. Having children of your own doesn’t prevent you from adopting. Not owning your home or not being in full time employment will not prevent you from adopting either.
But what is it really like?
Ryan, who is African Caribbean, and his wife, Suzanne, adopted two boys of dual heritage, who came to live with them and their two daughters. Ryan described the moment he first met his adopted son: “The first meeting was long anticipated. As we got to his foster house, we opened the door. He stopped playing, looked up at me and ran and jumped into my arms. His big eyes and big smile greeted me and that broke the ice in an amazing way. That was really moving. Everyone was in tears.”
Suzanne said: “There’s something exciting about having children who are not genetically yours because they have things in them that birth children don’t have. Our older son is really musical, which neither of us are, and our youngest is so athletic, he is the fastest child, it’s like poetry in motion to see him run.”
Ryan and Suzanne are both passionate about adopting, and equally enthusiastic about the welcome they got from their adoption agency, Coram. “On our first visit to Coram, they were just so friendly and welcoming.” Says Ryan. More than a third of Coram’s adopting families come from a black or minority ethnic background, which means they can find vulnerable children safe, new families, knowing that their sense of identity will be valued and nurtured.
Children in care need families from the community to come forward, and not let the myths put us off. “Being adoptive parents is both enriching and challenging” says Ryan. Suzanne adds: “You don’t need lots of money or qualifications to be a good parent. I think the main thing you need is an open mind, a willingness to learn and an ability to love the children that you care for.
Adoption in the black community
• In England, black children wait a year longer to be adopted than children from white or Asian backgrounds*.
• As children grow older, it gets less and less likely that they will be adopted.
• Black boys over the age of three in particular wait longer than other children for an adoptive family.
• There is an urgent need for adopters who can help black children to feel safe, loved and to take pride in their ethnic, cultural and religious heritages.