We believe that service users can best be helped through co production – when there is an appreciation of needs, and problems – and when collective thought, with all those involved, can be applied to finding practical and potentially innovative solutions to complex, multilayered, social problems.
For co production to work there needs to be transparency of process and involvement. We are seeing this with the SCIE project on the mental health of children and young people, chaired by Professor Peter Fonagy and Dame Christine Lenehan, which we were delighted to be able to contribute to. Although our involvement was a late stage in the process – we only formed as a group in August 2017, as the project was nearing completion – we were able to put a team of 5 together, and think deeply about the needs and problems of adoptive children and families, reflecting on what we perceived as the most serious concerns. A series of cases was collated for the meeting and concerns raised by the cases were raised with the SCIE project coordinator.
A main issue for consideration, in our view, is adopted children who have re entered care – who are a small but significant group, with considerable vulnerabilities. There were no interventions aimed at this population identified in the 82 submissions, from the call for evidence. This is something we would like to work on – together with those that help our children and families. Parents in this situation are still actively involved, and try and support their child as best they can in what is known as the ‘parenting from a distance’ role. This is not an easy role to take on and currently legislation and services do not support us or our children well. Cafcass guardians speak of having to think about ‘the least worst option’ for our children. We can so easily find ourselves marginalised and excluded – written off as a ‘disruption’, or ‘adoption breakdown’, and made to feel, sometimes, again and again, as if we were a ‘failed care option’. If our children reject us, which sometimes, almost inevitably, happens, this is not dealt with in a sensitive manner, and we can be made to feel we deserve rejection and exclusion, as this is about the ‘wishes and feelings’ of the child or young person’. But the rejection of us does not come from their maltreatment by us. It comes from their grief, and from a belief that they have failed. Saying goodbye to us again and again is too hard – and it is better to cut ties that hurt. It comes from a desire to show they can succeed without us, that they don’t need us – or need anyone. Being pushed away by our children, and by the professionals involved, and made to feel a failure – this can be a very bleak stage of an adoption journey.
We highlighted a number of difficulties to SCIE, trying to get to the root of the issue. As a next step, to improve the situation for adopted children who re enter care, we very much hope to take things forwards and begin a co production process with Cafcass, and with Independent Reviewing Officers. We feel we need to speak with these key professionals about our problems, and work with them, to achieve positive change. We hope such a co production initiative, which should include our children, may also be funded by the Department of Health and Education and be supported by the SCIE.
Please send us an email if you are interested in joining our group, wish to offer support, or would like to work together with us – firstname.lastname@example.org