Thought for the Day - Professor Mona Siddiqui - 27/11/2012

When I was in secondary school I used to walk to school with one of my closest friends. It was a daily ritual. When I called for her, her mother would invite me in because she was always running slightly late, giving her daughter pocket money, snacks for school or lovingly combing her long hair and she always kissed her as they said good bye. One day it came out that my friend and her older brother were adopted. This was a big story for all of one day in our year though nobody knew what to make of it. She was such a happy girl and liked by everyone that it seemed to us eleven and twelve year olds almost sad that she had been adopted. As children we thought your real parents were only those who gave birth to you.

Over the decades I have come to realise how wrong we were - the sadness lies not the in adoption but in the lives of so many children who need a home and spend so much time in care simply waiting. The recent case of the three small children removed from their foster carers by Rotherham council because the couple were member of UKIP draws attention to a further complexity which will only grow. In an age of globalisation and colliding communities, cultures and ethnic languages in a state of fluidity, how will we define suitability and cultural needs? Language may be a big part of feeling that you belong to a society but the UK has several different cultures within its white population never mind amongst its ethnic minority communities. Can people really find a perfect cultural match especially when we hear that not enough ethnic minority families come forward to foster or adopt? Or should our search for suitability in fostering or adoption be focused simply on the security and love a caring family can provide. Raising a child may require all kinds of relationships but most people would agree that parental love always remains at the core.

The UK has come a long way in combatting and making illegal all kinds of discrimination because most of us know that teaching people to hate on grounds of colour, religion, sexuality is wrong. But people's prejudices are often only shaken when they face a personal situation. All of us are then forced to rethink our own attitudes. When the Qur’an says we have made you into nations and tribes so that you get to know one another, it is putting forward a challenge, demanding that we engage with the world in all its diversity despite our own prejudices. At a time when more and more children are living in some kind of broken home, the stability of a loving home life through fostering or adoption shouldn’t be dismissed but prized as the most precious thing adults can give to children.

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