SG&AT welcomes the debate in the House of Lords on the Adoption Support Fund obtained by the noble Lord Russell of Liverpool.

It was with great interest that we learned about this debate on Twitter after submitting our 65 page report to the APPG on Adoption and Permanence last May, hoping to have an opportunity for dialogue about our findings -and the questions that came out of our research for us.

Accessing and Receiving Support. A Research Report. 30.5.19

Unfortunately, for reasons we would really like to better understand, this dialogue about our contribution to the APPG was not possible. This was despite the fact that our lived experience evaluation gave equal consideration to adopters and also special guardians – where there is such a dearth of research understanding – and (as far as we know) no comparative studies about accessing the ASF apart from ours.

We are certainly very grateful for Baroness Massey of Darwen’s appreciation that family menbers, particularly grandparents, may face great challenges, not least the bureaucracy and form filling that is involved in taking on the special guardianship role.

We are struggling to raise traumatised infants born addicted to drugs and children who are dealing with lifelong neurological conditions such as FASD.

We point our that as yet, many special guardians do not receive any support at all – when they are not eligible for the ASF, if they prevented the child from entering care.

Government has not addressed this issue.

We understand from personal communication with Ms Maskell that the APPG on adoption and permanence is now defunct.

We feel so let down. Yes the ASF has helped some of us, if we can access it, but there is still such a long way to go.

  • Many of us in SG&AT are parenting ‘from a distance’ (described as a breakdown or disruption) when the help we so desperately needed was not forthcoming, sufficient or timely – or when families have been ‘safeguarded’ instead of helped – with the whole family left traumatised by their dealings with services.
  • The legal frameworks surrounding adoption and permanence don’t seem to work. Single parents or guardians are having to put children back into care just to access a respite break. Going back into care undermines the sense of permanence and stability we have spent years trying to create for the child.
  • There is no guidance for social care or health professionals who support us about reunification if our children;s trauma is proving too hard to contain. They don’t seem to know how to do this when parents and guardians are not a risk of harm to the child.
  • It can feel as if we are not real families – social workers tell us they will take all our children if one child is harming other family members (or us) and we have to make the desperate choice to put the child back into care (for what alternative do we have whe this is the only way to access respite?).
  • The support infrastructure is just not there and we are having to give up work to care for and educate our children when their schools can’t cope.
  • The ASF is just part of the jigsaw of support and it is a long way off the multiagency approach that is needed to help our children heal.
  • Our children and young adults are far too traumatised to meet with parliamentarians or take part in surveys – they rely on us to be heard. So when we are not heard – then neither are they.

We believe that as experts by lived experience we have a vital role to play in permanence reform and in developing services that meet the evolving needs of children and families in 21st Century Britain.

The main question for us going forwards is:

How can we, as experts by experience, feed into the reform process to develop helpful policies and models of good practice?

We note that Lord Russell has suggested the Department looks to set up an ASF Advisory Board. We sincerely hope that we might play a role in such a board and the Department might be more welcoming to our group.

From our side, we would warmly welcome the adoptive parents who contributed to the House of Lords debate (the Lord Bishop of Worcester & Lord Triesman) to join our ranks if they wish to do so. We reach out to them and say – yes we are weary and angry -and yes we feel our children are being let down We are sorry that perhaps, from our perspective, it is not quite the right time for pats on the back to government – but please don’t let this put you off joining with our group.

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