Pitching IVF against adoption is a failure: the Cafcass report

On the 2nd November, the Daily Telegraph ran a report by Antony Douglas of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) that claims that ‘The ever-improving success of IVF has led to fewer children being adopted.’

Douglas claims "IVF used to be around 7% successful and now it's around 30%. So as a choice, adoption is competing with lots of other ways of having children."

Now I don’t know about you but the figures I read from the HFEA state that in 2012 IVF was 76% failure rate. Maths was never my strong point but taking into account the figures from Douglas, we should all be getting pregnant through IVF by now.

The part of this report that astounds me is that someone who is in such a high profile position didn’t think to consult with one of the many support services for IVF patients. It rides roughly over the thoughts and feeling of those who want to be parents.

It adds fuel to the fire of the avenging keyboard warriors who pop up constantly on social media (yet never speak with IVF survivors face to face as cowards often don’t) who link adoption to IVF with ease and no research or experience. Claiming that we should all ‘just adopt’. The only part of the Douglas report I agree with is that adoption should be made easier. He says ‘Every child deserves a family to live and grow up in, but adoption still takes twice as long as it should, which puts people off’. This is compounded by the guidance that states the applicant needs to be over IVF or their fertility treatment to apply because that’s an impossible task and at best, the recovery to acceptance of not being a natural mum is long one. Something Douglas skips over and one I have to mention as it’s a critical mental health area in which support is lacking.

For many patients of IVF, myself included, the journey is long. I began tests for infertility in my mid-twenties and because of OHSS, I ended up with many embryos to use. This elongates the journey and it doesn’t end so fast as I began to take 6 IVF cycles using my frozen embryos, compounded by the cost of cycles because there was no funding on the NHS. By the time I reached the end some fifteen years later, I was emotional frail and apparently, off the record according to the social worker, my husband was too old to adopt. The enormity of doubt and lack of self-confidence meant that adoption was too fraught with danger.

A fertile couple going through adoption will already know they can have children. A couple who have been through IVF, or told they can’t have children, have no backup plan. Adoption is the solution they pin all their dreams on. But I know from friends who have tried and failed or succeeded, it’s fraught with pain. It takes a very brave person to go from IVF to adoption. I personally felt that I had bared myself physically to many medical strangers on my journey. I had thrown myself on mental health support services to find them so lacking, that it was impossible to consider myself the right person to pick up the mistakes of a system designed to seemingly fail at the judgment of a social worker who may never been through IVF. This is unfair to those children, and their future guardians as much as it is to those who make choices to move onwards without children.

And that’s the key. Dr. Krish Kandiah, founding director of adoption and fostering charity Home for Good has said today that: “Conflating infertility and adoption is not helpful and the claims that IVF success has caused a collapse in adoption is so simplistic it paints an untrue picture.

“Adoption is for all those who want to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children, not just those suffering from infertility.”

Thank goodness for Dr. Kandiah. I hope more people read that. In my mind, having tried every route I could, I know that my infertility does not mean that adoption is the next path to take. For some this route might be suitable for them, but only as they may be for fertile parents. But it’s a hugely personal and private decision to make.

I cannot imagine how awful it must be to give up the parenting of a child. I don’t have the experience to do that. In my mind surely there should be more support given to these parents and the bodies that help them, to prevent children going into care in the first place rather than placing the blame on a treatment and pitching one against the other?

The damage though is done. This report from Douglas made the BBC news and I fear for me and others in the same position who have spent years saying to pronatalists that 'just adopt' doesn't exist and asking vocal, fertile parents why they didn’t adopt. I desperately hope that Dr. Kandiah’s response is widely published and that my tribe find the strength to reply, If only it was so simple but once again, a report is published with absolutely no regard to those who are trying to come to terms with not being a parent for that too is a choice. One that More to Life and Fertility Network UK are trying to promote, in this (ironically) Fertility Week.

Edited 23.50 on 4/11/18

Further links

BBC report
Dr Krish Kandiah

Independent IE on grief and failed IVF