A fair number of adopters will be parenting children and young people who were sexually abused before coming into care. We are astonished by the radio silence about the trauma of child sex abuse by the Care Review that is currently underway. The Department of Education and the adoption charities also never seem to speak about child sex abuse. So we thought it was time to speak out about it.
Social workers may well have been trying to take the children into care for a long time before they are finally removed. Birth parents might be known sex offenders but it can be surprisingly hard to remove children, especially when their mothers are also involved with the abuse. Deals can be done by the police in these cases that mean the family court is the only court that the birth parents will see. The police may well not prosecute. This is because frightened traumatised children are not able to give evidence.
Once the child is removed they may not get therapy in foster care – not if the plan is to have them adopted. The council will probably wait until the child is adopted and settled.
One of the most difficult situations is when agencies – the police, CAMHS and the council – all close ranks against the parent(s) and decide the adopter should be replaced with foster care again, regardless of what the child wants – after a parent has reported trauma related problems. When this removal of the child against the child’s wishes becomes the ‘system goal’ it is an extremely hard situation for adoptive children and their adoptive parents. The rigorous assessments done before the parents were approved as adopters seem to be disregarded.
The child’s risk of harm to the parent can also be greatly exaggerated, as a way to control the child. This is the risk monster at its worst. Male child sex abuse victims who harbour sexual confusions are especially vulnerable. Little consideration may be given to the negative impact on their identity or how confusing it will be that they are viewed through the prism of risk of sexual harm when it was they who were raped as children.
The privately owned residential care homes where children live when foster carers can’t be found (foster carers are not keen to care for children who are assessed as a risk of sexual harm) can easily cost £5k per week. Once the child is 16, they can be sent into unregulated accommodation. Child sex abuse victims who were tragically sexually aware from a young age are being criminalised by the police – yet those who perpetrated horrific sexual crimes upon their children walk free.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse is drawing to a close now. It is disappointing that adopted and special guardianship children who were sexually abused within their birth families were given no consideration and are not within the remit of this review. The impact of child sex abuse can be lifelong. It needs to be spoken of, or children and families will not get the help they need.