A Knight’s Tale (50: Adoption)

In the summer of 1967, soon after taking up my post in Kingston Children’s Department as an Assistant Child Care Officer I found myself, for one reason or another, the only fieldworker in the agency.

My senior told me that with no experience, I had earned my post by selection from more than 100 other applicants. Although there had never been a time in my life when there was not a child, for example a younger sibling, for me to learn from, and I was now a single parent, I was surprised to be thought qualified.

A good and experienced Child Care Officer, Morlais Thomas, had provided me with the only training in adoption assessment that I was to receive. I had asked him to tell me what areas I should be examining. It is no fabrication for me to state that he wrote a series of headings on the back of an envelope. They were in fact very comprehensive and stood me in good stead as I set about my task.

Throughout my professional career I will refrain from providing any identifying detail of clients, but offer enough to indicate the nature of the work, early examples of which include matching, vetting, placement, and removal.

I was inundated by responses to an advertisement I placed in a local newspaper that was taken up and circulated nationally by a newshound of the paper. One elderly woman who must have had some knowledge of wartime evacuation offered to meet children at her local railway station if they bore notices of their names. After lengthy narrowing of the scope someone who already knew the subject took up the placement. One child who had languished in a children’s home for many years was eventually provided with missing history and successfully placed; but not before I had felt obliged to remove him from the first prospective adoptees.

In those days the local authority had the role of guardian ad litem as appointed by the court to look after a child who was the subject of adoption, and was required to present a report on this. On one occasion I was offered a bribe to support an application which I opposed.

Over the years subsequent legislation has provided for advances to backs of envelopes, and qualifications for the task. I was to become a consultant for various agencies and to chair two adoption and one fostering panels – systems which were to take decades to evolve. More will follow on these in due course.


  1. For several years in the eighties I was a foster carer and saw how the process worked and the challenges facing the social workers. I shall follow this period of your life with very great interest, Derrick.

  2. I have both family and friends who were adopted as babies. It is interesting how they have come to terms with this over the years. What a difficult area of human nature to be involved in!

    1. It was a bit of a surprise – I hadn’t even told my very nice insurance company boss, because I thought this was just exploratory πŸ™‚ Thanks very much, Laurie

  3. But did you accept the bribe? πŸ™‚ What a difficult job.
    i was thinking that Chaucer should have had The Castle’s Tale. Knights, castles, you know.

  4. This is a subject very close to my heart, Derrick. It is fascinating that 22 years after the end of the war there were still children misplaced by it. How did that happen?
    I am fully aware of the history and current function of the US Department of Children and Families, but ignorant of the British system, of course. It is quite instructive to learn from an insider’s experience.

  5. I am sure you gave your utmost and did a wonderful job. I am not sure that hiring and training has advanced that much here when it comes to child services, and sadly there is no oversight of those on the frontline. So glad that you were a part of making your service work better for the children involved.

  6. Thank you for doing that work and for making a positive difference! It’s so interesting to read about! I look forward to the more to follow posts.
    I have 2 relatives that were adopted as infants. Their stories are fascinating.
    (((HUGS))) πŸ™‚

  7. You held a very important job, Derrick, one that involved lives. I am not surprised you were chosen for this position, and without question, I know you were one of the very best.

  8. Having spent all my life dealing with children I can not imagine the stress that being involved full time with the adoption world would be. I wouldn’t have envied you Derrick.

  9. Oh, my Derrick. I cannot imagine the decisions you would have had to made in that position. And, I am guessing, quite a bit of worry and hard thoughts about those decisions both before and after. I’m sure you were perfect for the job – even with only an envelope to guide you.

    My youngest daughter has just begun a new position counseling prisoners who will soon be released – trying to get them ready for life out of prison. She’s impressed because the first 2 weeks are pure training – including CPR. So things have progressed from your day, surely.

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