Many of us participated in the Adoption Barometer survey.
SG&AT welcomes this important stocktake from Adoption UK, who do so much to raise awareness of adoption issues. We are however concerned about the persistent use of the loaded terminology of disruption and breakdown in the survey and final report to describe families where adopters are parenting from a distance and trying to keep the family together during separations that are necessary but not wanted.
Government and adoption modernisers need to appreciate that adoption is for life and when our children cannot live with us – this is a heartbreaking situation. We want them to get all the help they need. We will be there long after children’s services have gone. These terms can totally change the outlook of professionals working with our children and families. They are indicative of a particular perspective.
Our most vulnerable troubled children and young people can so easily get trapped in care and the terminology of disruption and breakdown keeps them there and means little or no effort is made to support the child in the context of their family. If the care plan is not to re-unify its very hard to turn this around. Its not because we are overly sensitive that we ask for government to desist from describing an adopted or special guardianship child re-entering care as a disruption. Its because this language means we are effectively written off as families – which doesn’t really help our children.
We don’t see that it would be helpful to privilege different types of families, which potentially would be divisive and could lead to resentment of adopters – but we also don’t want to be stigmatised in terms of how we are viewed and treated, and prevented from seeing our children, because we are lumped in in terms of the legal frameworks with parents who are unsafe, harmful and neglectful – or replaced as parents, with foster carers. Foster carers get a lot more support than adopters do and most importantly they get respite. We have to make our children ‘looked after’ to get a break under Section 20 – and this can backfire when they may be destabilised by going back into care and there is no guidance and no suitable frameworks exist to bring them home. There are many more adopters and even more special guardians who are single parents/carers than in the 1980s when Section 20 was introduced – in order to better scrutinise foster care. Special guardianship was not even thought of then – but now there are almost as many Special Guardianship Orders as Adoption Orders – with more than half granted to a child’s former foster carers. As parents and carers we may need a break sometimes – and its not easy to find others who can look after our children. Adopters’ warnings that Section 20 legislation might not work for adopted children were not heeded. This is one recommendation of the Selwyn Report (2014), where nothing is done.
Perhaps the next stocktake could consider our respite needs and look at parenting/caring from a distance? This seems really important for modern adoption to work.