As a group, SG&AT tries to provide a platform for special guardians and adopters to be heard who need anonymity and who wish to see positive change in permanence – a fairer more equitable system.
SG&AT was started in August 2017 by two adoptive mothers who were trying to parent traumatised adopted teenagers from a distance. Their children had gone back into care when the help they needed was not forthcoming. These mothers found that they and their children were being let down at every stage – even after reunification, which was almost impossible to achieve when it was not the ‘care plan’ for the child. The children had become trapped in care. Reunification would in any case be problematic with no commitment to support the family and poor understanding about the mothers’ capacity as parents, as well as their children’s needs and difficulties. These misunderstandings were virtually impossible to rectify under the S31 Care Order for reasons that do not receive much consideration by policymakers. On top of this, many agencies that work with children in care are not Ofsted registered to work with adoptive children. Their policy may even be to ‘not communicate’ with parents who share parental responsibility for the child.
Good communication and multiagency working are essential to help a traumatised child heal.
Stigmatised with blame and made to feel a failure these mothers looked back on their adoption journeys determined to not have this happen to others in future.
Since no organisations or charities were willing to talk about the problems they had experienced (except the peer support Group POTATO – Parents Of Traumatised Adopted Teenagers Organisation) or fight for them and their children, they decided to start their own group to campaign for change.
SG&AT is not a support group for parents and guardians to offload – it is a place where we come together to think about what needs to change and support each other in campaigning to achieve it.
In November 2017, when they had, as Adopter’s Together, managed to achieve a consultation for the SCIE project on the mental health of children in care, some special guardians wanted to join the group. The mothers could see that as bad as it was for them, things were even worse for special guardians. They decided that it was important to work together to try to achieve change in permanence. These were the same children – who may end up being adopted, or raised by special guardians.
Most importantly however, working with special guardians offered adopters the opportunity to work with biological families in a system that normally divides us and where narratives of bad parents who abuse and neglect their babies and children predominate. Research shows this may sadly be the case for a majority of children under permanence orders but the truth seems to be a little more complex when a percentage of children have never come to harm at all and are taken into care because of a perceived ‘risk of future emotional harm’.
Being given little consideration by agencies who should have been supporting them, and marginalised by professionals who made life-changing decisions about their children (they sometimes never even met), gave the two adoptive mothers much empathy with stigmatised birth parents whose children go into care.
It seemed to be such an unjust system – where children who have suffered immense loss and are then raised by adoptive parents and guardians who take on parental responsibility, do not get the support that is needed when they live with their permanence families, or when their permanence families cannot contain their trauma.
As adopters and special guardians struggling to access support and understanding, we know the cycle of abuse and neglect is not being broken. Extremely vulnerable people, who are often care experienced themselves or struggle with poor mental health, are not getting the support they need – and neither are capable parents and guardians who are given parental responsibility for these children.
The problems we deal with are so complex and we so much need to find more ways to come together – with parliamentarians, influencers and policy advisors, charities, researchers, professionals in health education and scocial care – and trauma experts.
With so many caring people, we hope to find better ways of minimising the trauma experienced by children and their families – and help them to heal.
We strongly feel however, that better supportive structures are needed to bring people together who need to talk – to optimise success.
It is such a difficult and complex task. Our way to engage in dialogue is through conducting lived experience research – asking questions that we feel need to be asked about problems that are not always given the consideration they deserve.
All Special Guardians, and Adopters are more than welcome to join our group and we welcome any opportunity to work with professionals and organisations to promote understanding.
If you are interested in one of our articles please go to the ‘Our Voices, Our Stories’ page on the menu, where you will find all the articles we have published listed.
We are fully supporting the Lack of LAC campaign. It is so wrong that people who move heaven and earth to take on a child to prevent them going into care cannot get the same support as an adopter or special guardian whose child went into care – even for one night.
Please click this link here to go to the ‘lack of LAC’ Petition
We also support this petition about Special Guardianship Allowance
We support this petition to grant legal aid to all children who have suffered human rights abuses in care
Our children are our future, and loving families are the key to theirs, so we hope that all those working with children will wish to listen to us and work together with us.
If you are an Adopter, or Special Guardian, and would like to join our campaigning group, please click HERE to complete a membership form.
We are very grateful for public donations to help us cover expenses and running costs. You can donate using our Just Giving Page
If you are not an adopter or special guardian, and are interested in supporting us or working with us please complete this contact form