Protect the rights of vulnerable previously looked after children and families
We are asking you to sign our petition because we believe that adoption and special guardianship can provide the love, belonging and family that are every child’s birthright – but that many of our children do not have. We do our very best for our children, and we would like to see legal reform that is adapted to the social changes that have occurred over the last 30 years, and take on board the knowledge gained about the impact of trauma and early life adversity – to better support modern adoption, special guardianship, kinship care and benefit all families where children struggle with social emotional and behavioural problems. These problems have such a tremendous impact on family life – and as a result of this, our children may have to live apart from our families – especially during the teenage years. The rights of children and families must be protected in this scenario, to enable the knowledge gained from years of caring and parenting a child to be used as a resource – and not discarded. Our vulnerable children need us when they re-enter care, even though they may reject us, perhaps because they are retraumatised by earlier separations from family, and they are so overwhelmed by having to go back into care and the upheaval this brings to their lives. With no models for reunification in existence this separation can end up becoming permanent. No one wants this to happen when they adopt or become a special guardian but with services pared to the bone this increases the risk of this tragic outcome, and inevitably our children and us are the ones who pay the highest price.
Many people do not realise that unless an Adoption Order is not yet made when the child is ‘placed for adoption’, our children remain our children when they re-enter care, and they remain part of our family for life. The same is true of special guardianship where many are kinship carers, often grandparents. We retain parental responsibility under Section 20 and share it under Section 31, until our children reach 18 – when we are still there – but childrens’ services cease to be involved. Our children often have a multitude of complex needs and they will need our support as they transition to adult life. In some cases, for the safety of family members and children, there needs to be a total separation and protection of information about where the child or family lives – but if it is the case of a child suffering from reactive attachment disorder, autism or FASD related emotional problems, this seems draconian to say the least, especially for the child. Relationships between family members should be supported – but sadly they often are not and there can be a very superfical appreciation of family dynamics in this scenario when professionals come at it with a narrowly focused ‘Rescue the Child’ approach that is not required, limited knowledge about the impact of a child’s mental health doagnosis, and sometimes little sensitivity shown to a child’s feelings of vulnerability and rejection, and the reasons they may push family away. Taking disabled vulnerable children away from families with no way home, and no willingness to support and work towards this, is clearly ethically unsound.
Here are 10 good reasons to sign our petition, which brings about dialogue in regards to change and improvement of the 1989 Act:
- So that no parent or special guardian who is under great duress because of the challenges of their parenting/caring role is frightened to seek medical help for a mental health concern, for fear their parenting capacity will be judged. See Table 34 in our Special Guardians and Adopters Together Interim Report 6th March 2018
- So that help seeking results in help – not in parents being investigated as part of the problem – new models need to be developed that enable and support us as parents and carers instead of shaming our best efforts as inadequate and viewing us through a ‘prism of risk’. See this article
- So that young people don’t get trapped in care, against their wishes with no models for reunification in existence and no willingness or commitment shown by those with a duty of care to work towards it – see this article
- So that young people don’t go from one foster care placement to the next, eventually rejecting parents, family and their own faith/religion, which has not been supported in the foster care placements. See this article
- So that anxiety related school refusal is not considered an issue of ‘parental capacity’, especially with a child who may well have been removed from their birth family and taken from school. See this article
- So that loving mothers striving to do their best for their children are treated with kindness, instead of condemnation, blame and suspicion. See this article
- So that positive action is the result of help seeking and trying to work with children’s services – not formal complaints – 146 formal complaints were made by the 389 respondents of our survey. See our Interim Report on Adoptive Parent/ Carer stress
- So that special guardian’s get the help they need and are not abandoned after the Special Guardian Order is made – see this article
- So that autistic children, and children with FASD, who may need to go into care can be supported at a distance by loving birth parents, adoptive parents, special guardians and kinship carers, who understand what their child’s needs are through years of parenting. See this article on FASD. See also this article on autism
- So that families where children are violent to parents because of previous traumas can achieve whole family support and not be permanently ripped apart by the State under the ‘Best interests of the Child’ principle. See this article
Changes to Children Act 1989
Urgent action is required to give more rights & protection to parents/carers & also vulnerable children in care
Sections 20 & 31 of Children Act are currently unworkable, resulting in a care crisis. We call on government to take urgent action to make changes to legislation & guidance to protect the parenting/caring role from a distance by:
A more humane ethical family centred approach where birth & adoptive parents & special guardians can be seen as part of the solution & not part of the problem, in striving to do their best caring for their children.
Safeguarding vulnerable children with new legislation & legal frameworks that also supports parents/carers when children are ‘beyond parental control’ which may be related to poor mental health, disabilities, early life trauma, abuse or neglect.