Find Me A Family Review: The Parent Trap
FIND ME A FAMILY, Monday 11th May, Channel 4, 9.00pm Alert Me
Many believe that we in the Western world have it easy. For those of us who are loved and cared for by our families this is true, but what about the countless young people who have been let down by the current adoption system? These outcasts have a champion in the form of David Akinsanya: a man with his own, harsh personal experiences of the adoption system who has invited potential adoptees to take part in a revolutionary new project.
In this documentary Channel 4 take an honest look at an “average” family and their pre-conceived notions on adoption.
It is a “warts and all” style film that exposes this particular family – Richard, Cathy and their nine year old daughter Rachel – to the realities of adopting those who can truly benefit, but rarely do – children in sibling groups or those who have been victims of sexual abuse.
My initial thoughts on Cathy and Richard were far from positive. Cathy clearly doted on their only daughter and had brought her up to be spoilt, selfish and rude; not to mention the fact that the couple reminded me of bigoted “Janice and Ray” from The Catherine Tate Show, except instead of scathing reports on exotic food and it’s price, the pair were critiquing a potential adoptee for looking “not quite right”.
Yet, Akinsaya’s determination is unswerving; through immersing Cathy, Richard and Rachel in practical exercises and temporary adoption trips, they begin to realise that the barriers they initially wrapped around themselves could be flexible.
After their initial dismissal of children with physical disabilities, the family are matched with a three year old girl who is being tested for Downs syndrome. Richard’s internal struggle is apparent as he breaks down in tears with the realisation that he was put off by the child’s appearance. Richard’s fears stemmed from his anxiety about leaving Rachel with a child that was dependent on her for life. David introduces the family to a seventeen year old girl with Down’s syndrome who is no different from any other teenager trying to be independent, and aim to nourish her ambitions and aspirations – like getting a job and learning to drive. Cathy and Richard seem to initially reject the prospect of those with disabilities but as with most taboo issues, the couple’s lack of knowledge has compromised their opinion. When they are shown that many disabled children can go on to lead healthy independent lives, they are more open to the possibility of adopting a child with Down’s syndrome.
The show also gives a unique insight into the high-pressured adoption panel system. With over 20% of adoptions failing, Richard and Cathy do not get an easy ride. Cathy’s fiery nature and Rachel’s stroppy jealousy becomes a point of discussion in the interview process, but we gradually see just how much Richard and Cathy want to extend their family. I intially had my doubts as to what kind of parents these judgemental Sun-reader types would make, but by the documentary’s close, I feel a lot more confident. I only hope Cathy and Richard’s experiences go on to inspire others to adopt the “unwanted” children in society.