In 2003 Adoption UK conducted a series of workshops on adoption support for the Department of Skills and Education. The feedback from the social workers attending these workshops was published in Adoption Today in April 2004. We thought it was worthwhile to revisit what social workers reported 14 years ago.
The combined feedback of social workers was that when contact was made with adoptive families there needed to be active listening; fast response; validation; empathy, and hope given.
In terms of assessments these should be carried out by workers who had a sufficient knowledge base. There first needed to be a focus on what was needed to keep the family together and also what support was required to bring about medium and longer term stability. Assessments should increase confidence, seek to decrease any sense of isolation and restore feelings of hopefulness.
- The families own assessment of their needs should be prioritised recognising the needs of different family members with conflicting needs.
- Parents should not be undermined and be given the confidence to ‘tell it how it really is’.
- There needed to be a comprehensive review of the background of children and what work had been done already with them.
- A multi-agency approach was required
- Medical and organic causes and reasons for difficulties should be considered
In regards to CAMHS there were concerns about:
- The variability of response and provision – often reliant on whether an individual working in the service had a particular area of interest relevant to adoption
- Lengthy follow up to referral
- Eligibility criteria precluding children whose behaviours needed to be extreme
- No fast track mechanism of prioritising access
- Whether the service was adoption appropriate – adoptive families being considered ‘dysfunctional’
One of the challenges for social workers was to acknowledged that many agencies working with children and families carry an underlying assumption that ‘parents are a significant cause of their children’s difficulties’ and the barriers this can create for adoptive parents who are living with the ‘imported pathology’ of their children.
It is clear that the desire to help us was and remains strong. but despite these positive intentions the fact remains that in 2018 more adopted children seem to be at risk of re-entering care than ever before, and so many adopters report being ‘failed’. When our children do re-enter care we can find we are ‘written off’ as a failed care option when we could and should be a resource for professionals and agencies whose knowledge of our children may be limited and partial. Legislation is not protecting the rights of our children to family life, or our rights – and many of us are suffering ill health and breakdowns as a result of being viewed and treated as if we are parents that lack capacity – when in reality we are parents with too much to cope with, where too much is asked and expected.
We feel that beneficial change is not happening at the speed it should be and there are systemic issues that need to be tackled, which also impact greatly on special guardians. This is why we have joined forces with them. We are impatient for change because it is our children who suffer.
We believe that only when those with lived experience can come together in dialogue with those with other perspectives and with policy makers at a decision making level can we begin to find the creative solutions that are needed – together. In this way we might collectively strive to ensure we do not have generation after generation of adopted and special guardianship children unable to get the support they need from those who try their best to help.
We ask that you kindly consider signing and sharing our petition. We think it is important to think about what change is needed, including potential legal reform, with an open mind – not rule it out without any discussion with those that must live with its ramifications for the rest of their lives.