Adoption and social work on television

Apr 23, 2014 by

The television company True Vision that made Channel 4’s ‘15,000 Kids and Counting’ told me this morning that following the three one hour programmes they made on adoption – that took them 2 years – a huge increase of people contacted the governments First 4 Adoption portal. In fact after the second programme there was such an interest that the sheer volume of enquiries crashed the system!

Part of the reason that the programmes took so long to make was, as I would have expected, the great degree of sensitivity involved in all parties to this process.

They asked many local authorities if they would co-operate, but the majority sticking to the official position of refusing to have dealings with the media as it might identify children in this very delicate process.

Three local authorities ended up working with the television company and identified over 140 potential cases for use – but only 7 ended up being broadcast. It’s quite interesting as well that although senior management were enthusiastic, front line staff in the beginning were less so. I expect it was partly to have their professional practice exposed on camera that they were nervous about, as well as a large degree of sensitivity from a long list of people who had an interest in the programme. These included of course, birth parents, foster carers, prospective adopters, social workers and local authority managers. It was just new to all of them and suspicions ran high.

It couldn’t be ever seen that professionals were colluding with a television company to use a child’s life as entertainment. However the result has shown that a mature and sensitive narrative can be demonstrated as public service broadcasting and not stray into the distasteful world of exploitation.

Many imagined myths were shattered according to the film makers, such as who may adopt and what the average age of children who are adopted are. Also the social workers involved in the series came out with great credibility – for me this was one of the most important results of the series. Opening the door a little wider to let people see what front line social workers do is something that readers of this blog will recognise as a continuing theme of mine. There more that is understood, the more understanding there will be of the tasks the social workers are charged to perform and giving them a chance, as this did, to demonstrate their professionalism can only do the wider social work community good.

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