A TV Program I Won’t Be Watching

We like TV in this house. And when there’s an adoption, fostering or care system program on, I’m usually right there in front of it. Whatever aspect of adoption/fostering/care it’s about, whether I agree or disagree with the arguments placed across, and whether or not it reflects my children and I’s views and experiences. I like programs from all perspectives. I like interesting, challenging discussions as well as personal stories, and whether “Finding Mum and Dad”, “Fostering and Me” or “Long Lost Families” is on, you’ll find me on my comfortable spot on the sofa with a glass of wine next to me (and as often as not, some handy tissues).

But sadly, there’s one upcoming program which I won’t be watching. Exposure: Don’t Take My Child is on ITV on the 15th July, from 10.40PM to 11.40PM (info from ITV and Radio Times. If you want to watch it, there’s when to set your recorder). The press release for it is here and is worth reading – http://www.itv.com/presscentre/ep1week29/exposure-don%E2%80%99t-take-my-child#.U7r6BrHtKCY

My eldest daughter and her husband, who also normally make a note of upcoming adoption programs, will also be avoiding this. Avoid is perhaps not the best word. Boycott? No, I’m not boycotting the whole channel.

Abstaining in protest? Yes, that’s it. We’re abstaining from watching to express our displeasure at the decisions of the program producers.

Why? Not because of the subject matter. I can see some interesting things in their press release, some good discussion points, some things very worth saying. Of course I have no idea how the program will be presented, and they may just cut out some great discussion points or anything which illustrates the complexities involved in the system, in favour of click-bait style sensationalisation. I hope not but this seems to be the direction current affairs programs are going in nowadays. Nevertheless, to make my position more clear:

- I do believe that there are cases of poor decision making caused by incompetence, unwillingness to admit mistakes, overwork etc, within the care system. I am sure there are miscarriages of justice. I am sure we should be having a conversation about why these happen, and how to prevent them happening.
– I do believe that there aren’t enough resources and help for vulnerable families out there, especially with the government cutbacks. We should talk about the impact of this.
– I am interested in what several of the contributers have to say. I am interested in how the governments new adoption policy and 26 week time limit thing is linked to their general ideology on welfare etc. I am interested in how events like the Baby P case impact on the system and actions of professionals within it
– And quite obviously, as an adoptive parent, it is important to me that all adoptions granted are necessary for the childs welfare, and that it was not possible for the child to have been reunited with their birth family. This is what we all want, despite what some might have you believe. We’re not interested in adopting children whose birth parents can be supported to keep them. Therefore of course we adoptive parents have a keen interest in being sure the system is making these decisions correctly.

With that in mind, it’s unfortunate that we don’t feel able to watch this program. However the reason my daughter and I are unhappy is this:

“Multimillionaire Ian Josephs, now a resident of Monaco,tells Exposure about his work advising and personally funding the travel costs of expectant mothers to leave Britain because, he believes, they have nowhere else to turn”

We are very disappointed and somewhat depressed to see the program makers have chosen to include such a person as Ian Josephs in this program. We feel it is an irresponsible decision to take, on several levels, and it comes down to the fact that by allowing Ian Josephs airtime in such a program, the program are giving him and his advice an air of authority. The viewers, including parents who are or may become involved with social services, will naturally feel that his advice must be good, otherwise he wouldn’t be profiled like this on an ITV program. This is what we, the viewing public, expect from this kind of program. It is inevitable that following this program he will be approached by more parents. One would think this would give the program makers a sense of responsiblity about ensuring he is the kind of person parents should be approaching, before broadcasting.

To explain this, it is necessary to quote him (direct quotes in bolded italics). I absolutely fundamentally disagree with what he says, and so my quotes are obviously not an endorsement. They are accurate quotes as of today, the 8th July 2014, with screenshots if anyone wants them.

To start with, my daughter has been profoundly affected by what she suffered prior to being taken into care, which inlcuded being sexually abused. She and I object to and are digusted at Ian Josephs advising parents to “think very carefully” about reporting “a stranger who sexually assualts your young child” to the Police. Yes, that’s right. He cautions parents to be wary of reporting the rape or sexual assualt of their children to the Police (be the perpatrator a stranger, or the child’s father etc.), in case social services think their involvement is necessary. He feels that it is neccessary for the parent to have cast iron “proof” of sexual abuse if they wish to go to the Police. This is profoundly disturbing. It is especially inexplicable in my opinion, to promote this man and these views in the current climate. Neither of us are willing to watch this program if it includes people who promote this kind of action (or non-action), and makes out like these people are good people to take advice from. The impact of abuse not being reported when it should have, is far too close to home over here.

Some more of Ian’s advice, which also demonstrates an appalling lack of concern for a child’s welfare. “If you find your adopted child ‘s address or school MAKE FACE TO FACE contact immediately !Do NOT SEND EMAILS OR CARDS IN ADVANCE or make any phone calls that could warn the adoptive parents and send them to court for an injunction !” and “Once adoption proceedings have finished there is no more confidentiality ,so plaster your children’s names and photographs all over facebook and the rest of the internet together with names of the social workers and so called “experts” who have stolen your children !Make it hard for adopters and ss alike as that’s your best chance of eventually seeing your children again !” (well that’s the best way to jeapordise contact, which can be very helpful for a child) and of course “Make sure you hold them tight to stop interuptions when you tell the children that “wicked people have stolen them for money and that you will never stop fighting to get them back” ! Whisper this in their ears or calmly make the statement out loud in spite of horrified supervisors who may then try to shout you down !Even children as young as 3 will remember all their lives such a brutal but necessary message. Vital however it is, as it will eventually make a stable adoption impossible to sustain !”

Most can see why doing such a thing is a terrible idea for the child’s sake, very damaging to a child, and unlikely in the extreme to help the situation – except some vulnerable parents of course. Suddenly, this terrible advice, all about the parents and utterly thoughtless towards the childs needs, might seem appropriate.

And yet, as shocking as this advice is, it is the tip of iceberg. More worrisome than his post-adoption advice to my mind, is his advice to parents in the midst of care proceedings who would be able to parent their child. Whilst I can’t go over every single thing he has ever said, it is always mightily depressing to me, to hear a lawyer explain how reading this kind of advice (never co-operating at all with social services, for instance) has harmed their clients cases in court and worked against them getting their children back.

And so, we won’t be watching next Tuesday. Perhaps a 3 person “avoidance to express displeasure” is pointless. And yet, we can’t quite bring ourselves to watch the program makers do this. So when I don’t contribute much to the during and post-program disucssion on here, or Twitter, or Mumsnet, you’ll all understand why. I’m not asking anyone else to not watch either, let’s be clear. I think people should be aware of what I’ve said here, but I’m not asking people not to watch.

I have only this to say to the producers – you really need to think carefully about who you choose to give public exposure to, in such circumstances as these. You don’t want to share in some indirect responsiblity for harming a parents case in court, or harming a child, do you? I hope not. And yet you could, easily, by doing things like this. I would perhaps think about only selecting conrtibuters who act in a responsible fashion and care about children’s welfare in future. It doesn’t, as a member of the viewing public, seem like too much to ask of you.

………………………………………………………….

It’s probably also worth mentionning another reason I’m kind of glad I will be avoiding this. And it’s this – trolls and other assorted not-very-nice commentators. I understand people lashing out because they are angry with the system, I do. But I am so worn out by being subjected to abuse for no reason. On here, Twitter, Mumsnet, whatever. I am not interested in being told that MY children shouldn’t have been adopted (their adoptions have been a good thing for them, and that’s all there is to it), I am not interested in being personally insulted purely because I am an adoptive parent. I am not interested in people insinuating or outright claiming that my daughters haven’t been abused or suffered the mental health effects of their difficult early years. I find people who deny abuse and accuse innocent children and adults of lying, to be infuriating, and I’m not engaging in it. It’s sad that this kind of thing gets in the way of actual interesting discussions. It’s downright depressing actually, especially as the majority of us all want the same things, like adoption only where necessary for the childs welfare etc.

With this in mind, I’m glad I’ll be looking after myself and avoiding some nastiness this time around, and my God I’m glad my eldest daughter will be doing the same. She doesn’t deserve to be insulted or attacked for talking about her own story.

I’m also not going to publish or even finish reading ANY comments which have personal insults, or abuse denial or whatever, in them. My blog, my rules. Don’t even bother writing it.

3 thoughts on “A TV Program I Won’t Be Watching

  1. To be fair, I don’t understand how one can legitimately run a critiqué of a television broadcast without have actually watched it.
    I know several adoptive parents who, out of Love, have accepted children into loving families. I’ll not denigrate such warm hearted folks. I’m also aware of many children who have, necessarily, been taken into care to protect them from abusive – sometimes extremely abusive parents. This is right and proper.

    There is a darker side to this system, a sub-system in which many children are being taken from their parents for no valid reason whatseoever. This needs to be exposed and the culprits held to account.

    • I’m not critiquing the program itself – as you said I haven’t seen it, and I’ll trust other people’s reviews afterwards to tell me what it was like. I am however, criticising the decision to include Ian Josephs on the program, based on their press release which I’m assuming is accurate. I can comment on the people interviewed based on things they themselves have publically said. They can make a program on mistakes in the system without him very easily.

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