The following cases were collated for a meeting with the SCIE on 4.10.2017 from those already on our website, and from new inputs from Adopters Together parents. The issues and concerns raised by the cases were reflected on by a team of 5 parents, who tried to make suggestions about what was needed for adoptive families – with so many in crisis, and so many adopted children and young people potentially re entering care.
A school called an adoptive mother to ask for help to control her daughter. It subsequently emerged, in harrowing care proceedings taken out after the school made allegations against the mother, that the school had used physical restraint on her daughter on at least 7 occasions. The child was removed from home and family for six months until a worker from the school finally admitted, in court, that an allegation that the mother had hit her child, which was made by the school, was a mistake. No apologies have ever been given to the family, who are left traumatised by the separation. Taking children away from home and family can so easily destabilise and bring back earlier trauma. It was a drastic response from Social Care after the school had asked the mother for help.
A young adopted girl age 14 with learning difficulties, who had had no contact with social services or the police for over 5 years, contacted her birth mother through social media which led to an unplanned meeting. After the contact the girls behaviour changed and she became threatening and stabbed her adoptive mother. The adoptive mother, a single parent, sought help and support from her local Children’s Services but nothing was offered. When the adoptive mother asked for respite, instead of respite, the child was sent to live with her birth mother, who was a known commercial sex worker, in a one bedroom flat. No risk assessment was done and when, after 3 months, the child was seen to have bruising she was removed and found to have two STD’s and had been in trouble with the police. A Care Order was then made and the child lived in residential care and secure accommodation until the age of 16, and then with friends or in supported lodging until she was 19. She made several suicide attempts. Contact was restricted with the adoptive mother who would travel many miles to see her daughter only to be criticised and blamed for the girl’s difficulties. Her daughter was told that her (adoptive) mother could not manage her. It is this mother who continues to battle for support for her daughter five years later, with little success. The child has had no therapeutic support, and the Local Authority insist the girl’s trauma related problems are behavioural rather than mental/emotional. The Local Authority say the girl does not qualify for the ASF because she was in care, and will not submit an application – so she is still without the support she needs.
A boy who has recently received a CICA award in recognition of permanent mental health problems resulting from severe abuse at the hands of his birth parents, began displaying concerning trauma related behaviour with his adoptive mother, in his teens. The mother reported appropriately to agencies. The child was removed when the mother sought respite and refused Section 20, because her son’s diagnosis and needs (he is diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD and attachment disorder), were not, in her view, being factored into a needs assessment. Care proceedings, where allegations were made by Social Care that the mother, who has no history of mental illness, suffered with a personality disorder, concluded with her son coming home under a Section 31 Care Order under ‘placement with parents regulations’. Further reporting and help seeking for her child led to his removal, against both their wishes. On the basis of a clerical error, made by a CAMHS psychiatrist, later corrected, the child was treated as a ‘risk and a threat’. The mother was marginalised by agencies because of the Section 31 Care Order. When she finally secured therapy for her child, the company policy of the organisation providing it, was to exclude her from communication. This meant their misunderstandings of the facts of the case could not be corrected. The boy self harmed and tried to take his life several times in care, with his mother not being informed by Social Care. These suicide attempts were described (by CAMHS), as ‘serious self harm’, and her son’s cutting, was described as ‘superficial scratches’ (the boy said that reading about them described as this, as he was copied into letters, made him want to cut deeper). When his mother, a trained Samaritan, tried to warn professionals of her son’s suicidal thoughts and depression, the Local Authority did not take positive action said contact arrangements would be reviewed. The battle to get her son home, and for two Section 31 public law orders to be discharged, took 3.5 years and the mother could not access legal representation. A second application for discharge of a Section 31 Care order was successful, when the boy was not represented by his Cafcass guardian and had his own solicitor. Once reunified the family were abandoned by the authority who had not met statutory obligations in regards to Pathway Planning, and do not match fund with the ASF. ASF was provided on the basis of an assessment conducted by Social Care without the involvement, knowledge or consent of the family. The court assessment, which was disregarded by the ASF, described how the child was securely attached to his adoptive mother and recommended awards for the family’s ordeal, to rebuild lost trust. Recommendations were not followed through and it seemed to the mother that the best part of £1 million has been spent trying to remove an adopted child from home and family, against his wishes. No one can be held accountable for this violation of a child’s right to family life.
Adoptive parents wanted a Care Order so that their 15 year old son, who had gone missing on a number occasions, could go into secure accommodation and be kept safe. The authority had not wanted to spend money on secure accommodation and were instead willing to see the child become criminalised. Eventually, whilst under Section 20, he faced a three year custodial sentence. In this case it was the parents who sought the Care Order, and the Local Authority accepted that the child, who was targeted by violent drug gangs in residential care, was beyond their control. With agreement between parties reached in court about ‘lack of parental control’ no adjudication was required – so the negligence and failures of the local authority responsible will not be a matter of public record, or in the public domain.
A single adoptive mother parenting from a distance for 4.5 years (and unable to access the ASF), says “It doesn’t matter that my adopted daughter cannot live with my son (a birth son) and I (for CPV reasons in younger years). She is part of our family and always will be. Legally she is my daughter too. I will be the grandmother of her children, and my son will be their uncle. I never imagined that she would grow up so estranged from us even though we could not live together as a family. I believe parental love is important for children who have experienced trauma, abuse and neglect, and removing the child and marginalising a loving committed adoptive parent who must battle to help her daughter access therapeutic support that is so clearly needed, this does not seem likely to have positive outcomes. The human cost of such an approach is too great and I feel this is not being factored in when policy makers allocate budgets to adoption support and to the care of vulnerable children.
Post script. On 13.10.17, the mother, who is distraught, received a letter, after a harrowing LAC review where she was insulted and told off, saying all contact with her daughter is suspended, with no explanation. The MP has said she will write to the authority’s Strategic Director but she has written before with nothing changed or done.
Social Care began a S47 investigation of adoptive parents who had sought respite due to their son’s challenging behaviour. No respite was given. Their son returned to care under Section 20 4 months later, and both children were put on the CPR. “The Child Protection Investigation meant we received visits from Child Protection Social Workers at least every 10 days and sometimes more frequently. Our daughter was interviewed once a week. There were CP Core Meetings and CP Conferences, and visits by other ‘professionals’.
There were inaccurate assessments of us, presented at meetings and it felt everything went on behind closed doors. Facts were presented in a way that seemed distorted. It appeared that the aim of Children’s Services was to solely to apportion blame on us”
An exhausted single adoptive mother is trapped at home with her violent 13 year old son, who school refuses and receives no formal education. Originally his sister was placed for adoption together with him but was removed without warning after 5 weeks. Her son did not see his sister for 2.5 years. Her son is diagnosed with ADD, PTSD, anxiety and depression. This mother’s experience has been that accessing the Adoption Support Fund meant the doors of the paediatrician, CAMHS, adoption support workers, social services and her son’s school, have now all closed – and having the fund has made her feel isolated as a parent. Support is disjointed and communication between agencies has been very poor.
A case that made legal history was that of child K, now 20. Her loving adoptive parents were subjected to harrowing court proceedings after help seeking for her. The parents were discredited in court but succeeded, against all odds, in obtaining a Wardship Order, to hold the Local Authority to account after K was ‘raped’ in the Local Authority’s care. Further court proceedings resulted in a court order for £50k of therapy for their daughter, but this could not be expedited by her parents, despite the fact they retained parental control under Wardship. Whilst in Local Authority care their daughter was hospitalised for severe mental health problems, but they were not informed of this by the Local Authority. For 7 years the parents were cut off from their child, with no information given about her. Through social media they learned that their daughter has had a baby and after being reunified with her birth family by the Local Authority (the birth father served a 6 year prison sentence for sexually abusing his children), their daughter, who they are totally estranged from, lives in a city over 100 miles away, with no contact with her adoptive family. Her adoptive mother, who is part of the leadership team of a primary school, says “we love our daughter and would anything for our our grandchild – we are heartbroken”.
“What we are offered by Social Care doesn’t meet our needs but rejecting what is offered means that support is delayed. Our son’s needs increase and our ability to meet them decreases, due to lack of support. And so the cycle continues. We are left feeling more isolated and our needs less understood than they were before. Accessing the ASF is problematic as the social workers who assess seem to lack a core understanding of the impact on families of caring for children with developmental trauma. So they end up adding to the stress they are supposed to help alleviate. They seem to be incapable of being flexible, responsive or of making timely decisions. I have had to self fund support for 3 months whilst decisions are being made. I also feel that in regards to S20 this regulatory framework does not work for our families, or families with complex teenagers, as a way to access respite, and this needs to change”.
Both our adopted children experienced early trauma and neglect. Our daughter has few difficulties and is doing well but our son, adopted at 3, and now 14, has experienced mental health difficulties that are severe at times. Diagnosed with RAD and ADHD, and with autistic traits, he has been ‘managed’ out of 3 schools. School used prone restraint on several occasions when he was just 5, which led to him self harming and suffering with acute anxiety and OCD. At 10, statemented as SEN, he was excluded for a year with no education or support from the LA. I home educated him, with no alternative but to give up work and lose my business to do this. I have suffered a stress breakdown and had to go into hospital. For the past 2 years, with an educational psychologist, writing an EHCP plan, me developing a curriculum for him, and decisions made in co production with us, things have improved with regards to our son – but so much harm has been done and so much trauma was created by the system. This journey has not been easy, it has sent me to into hospital, caused enormous financial stress, impacted on everyone in the family including our daughter who has had to witness the devastation all of this has caused and put up with the time and attention her brother has needed.
A family with two adopted daughters started to see changes in behaviour with the eldest, aged 13 (at this time). She started to become secretive, came home smelling of cigarettes and alcohol, and then disappeared initially for hours, but later days, She would come home with presents and money. Concerns were raised by the parents to social services who offered very limited support. Problems escalated quite rapidly and the child became involved with drugs. The mother continued trying to work with social services, and the police, with the latter agency being more supportive. The girl was eventually found in a flat with four men, by the mother, who was suspicious of child sexual exploitation. Parents and police proposed secure accommodation for the girl, for her own protection. Social services refused and said that foster care had to be tried first. When placed in foster care it was discovered that there were 34 individual men across the city that she had been involved with, and one of them had attempted rape. After months of further episodes of drug taking and going missing, the girl went into secure accommodation, for 4 months. During her time in secure the parents felt treated as the cause of the problems and social services were not supportive of the family. The family had to make 14 formal complaints, which were upheld by the ombudsman. Problems accessing services and support have continued, with both girls, since this time.
“It is a parent’s duty to nurture, educate, and protect their offspring. We never thought we would need to protect our son from the negligence and harm perpetrated by children’s services. Mental health has been the biggest issue and has affected all aspects of his life. Much of the time he is seen by others as a normal child but behind that image he is concealing his feelings. He confronts fear with anger, and helplessness with action; substituting an empowering emotion for a helpless one. No one from CAMHS ever attended any of the countless meetings with professionals purporting to meet his needs. After a meltdown, when triaged by mental health professionals, they claimed there were no problems By then he had calmed. Eventually referred to mental health services, he was discharged for missing appointments, no allowance made for the overwhelming fear that prevented his attendance. He is unable to attend a GP appointment. This is how the most needy get no mental health support. He told me, “If you only knew how I feel. Every day when I get up I feel as though I am going to explode.” I never want to live one single day of my life feeling like my son does everyday of his.”