Please click on the link below to read the full report of our Connections Survey:
Summary of Report
Special Guardians and Adopters Together is a peer led campaigning group. We come together in system that can be so divisive of adopters and birth families because we yearn for change and a better way. We started our group and we come together because we recognise that until we can properly appreciate the perspectives of others, including our perspective – as parents and carers of some of the UK’s most vulnerable children, the transformational change that we all long to see will continue to elude.
The BASW enquiry into the role of the social worker in adoption has bravely highlighted some serious ethical problems with adoption in the UK. As adopters and special guardians raising children who have lost the right to live with their birth parents and possibly, quite often, also lost the right to grow up with their brothers and sisters, we see the impact of removing a child – and it is us who must deal with the consequences of this removal. We make a life-long commitment to parent and care for some of the most vulnerable children in the UK. We do this in a system that is ‘child focused’ rather than family centred, where we do not seem to have much of a voice and can often struggle to be heard at all. The infrastructure does not support this. We are essentially, as was recognised in the Care Crisis Review ‘done to’ by others, whether they be health or social care professionals, academics, practitioners of the law, legislators and policy makers, or the many different organisations who represent our interests. From our perspective, this can be a system that disempowers parents and carers.
The report puts forward our perspective – the perspective of the parents and carers who raise the children who have been removed.
Much too often it seems, from our perspective, we are seeing our children having to re-enter care when support is not there for us.
In this report we considered the impact of removing a child, or the child re-entering care, on the child, the child’s birth parents, the child’s wider birth family, and the child’s adoptive and special guardianship parents, carers and family members.
We conducted a survey in August 2018, having been invited to present at the Transparency Project conference in September. This report considers the findings of the survey and builds on the knowledge gained from previous surveys and reports we have undertaken during 2018, which are all published on our website.
Special Guardians and Adopters Together Interim Report: March 2018
Building Trust with Special Guardian and Adopted Children: April 2018
School Exclusions Report: May 2018
EHC Plans for Special Guardianship and Adopted Children. An Enquiry: June 2018
Working Together to Help Our Children: June 2018
Our survey has raised some important concerns about the legacy of grief, which compounds the trauma of abuse and neglect. Findings are summarised below:
- 171 respondents took part in our survey parenting and caring for 290 adopted, special guardianship and kinship care children. 78 are adopters, 89 are special guardians and 18 are kinship carers.
- 93% of adopters, 94% of special guardians and 80% of kinship carers are ‘White British’ or ‘White European’. The corresponding percentage figures for the children are 85%, 89% and 64%.
- 90% of respondents are female. More special guardians (30%) and kinship carers (40%) are single carers than adopters (16%).
- Adopters are more affluent than special guardians and kinship carers. Most kinship carers had a household income of £20k or less.
- Adopters parented older children. More special guardians had children placed before the age of one. Most children were placed between the ages of 1 to 3 years
- Kinship carers and special guardians looked after more children in total in the family, but adopters looked after more adopted children/children from the care system. More adopted children were separated from siblings than other respondent groups.
- Reasons for children needing to become looked after were broadly similar for the three respondent groups. Neglect was the most common reason followed by risk of future emotional harm. Thirteen respondents reported that ‘risk of future emotional harm’ was the sole reason for the child’s removal.
- The impact of separation from birth parents and siblings was inseparable from the trauma of abuse and neglect. Although respondents’ thought being removed at a younger age was better, and consistent care, even children cared for by special guardians almost from birth were affected. The impact of trauma was unpredictable and might play out differently in siblings. Children missed their birth parents and siblings and carried grief they struggled to deal with.
- A considerable number of special guardians and kinship carers had to deal with a degree of conflict when birth parents did not accept their caring role with a similar number finding their role was accepted.
- 20% of special guardians and kinship carers reported being put under ‘extreme pressure’ to take on the children.
- Approximately a quarter of adopters and special guardians reported that information provided by children’s services did not enable them to care safely for the child. This number was lower for kinship carers but with small numbers of kinship carers taking part and responding to this question this figure may not be reliable.
- Many respondents were not totally clear from a legal perspective what is meant by emotional harm and this term had not been explained to most respondents.
- There was a degree of uncertainty about the meaning of emotional harm across all respondent groups. It was an ambiguous term that was interpreted in different ways. It was considered potentially problematic as the sole reason for removal of the child when the impact of removal and of separation and loss was so great.
- More adopted children had re-entered care than with other respondent groups. Adopters were concerned about emotional harm in the care of the corporate parent after a child had gone back into care.
- The children’s birth parents suffered with high levels of mental illnesses, with depression and anxiety being the most common disorder. They were often care experienced and abuse survivors themselves. Most adopters did not know if support was provided after the child had been removed. Support was provided in some cases through charities or the LA. Special guardians would have liked to see birth parents receiving better support before children were removed whilst others considered removal to have been necessary and beneficial.
- Drug and alcohol abuse were common in birth parents and respondents reported this worsened after the child’s removal in less than 10% of cases.
- Birth mothers suffered more than birth fathers after removal of a child in terms of health and wellbeing being affected.
- Most respondents across all three groups had received no training in social media. Less than 10% of adopters had received training in social media that was considered helpful.
- Adopters experiences of positive support dropped after the Adoption Order was made.
- Less than 10% of adopters and special guardians considered that their overall support had been ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
- Adopters had much higher rates of children going back into care in this survey sample.
- Partnership working after a child had gone back into care was hard to achieve and none had achieved it under a Section 31 Care Order. Relationships were fraught and difficult. Respondents felt blamed and victimised by agencies.
- Adopters described poor outcomes for children who are cared for by the corporate parent and they felt these children are emotionally harmed.
Although respondents were self-selecting and may have been motivated to take part because of the challenges and difficulties faced, the experiences of our respondents accurately reflect the concerns expressed by parents and carers in the numerous closed social media groups to which we belong. We use these groups to ‘offload’ and try to support each other, as our lives are often hugely stressful in ways that are rarely appreciated.
We have no recommendations or suggestions. We put forward many suggestions in previous reports. If they have been given any consideration at all, it is not with us. Any input we have been able to make is very minimal. Now, after so much data has been gathered and much hard work done, we must come together and talk about the changes we feel are needed. We must first create safe ‘platforms of engagement’ to do this where there can be dialogue and discussion, whilst respecting the need for anonymity and privacy of children and families.
We must find more ways to come together and talk – so we can all be part of the transformational change that needs to happen.
Request for Support from SG&AT
This last year has seen a great deal of hard work done by our group to collect data through surveys, which we hope will be of interest and value to policymakers and legislators modernising adoption and special guardianship. We are entirely reliant on public support. We therefore ask whether you might consider helping us. Please, if you can, make a contribution to cover our running costs and expenses, and assist us to take our work forwards in any way you can.
If you are an adopter, a birth parent, a foster carer, a kinship carer, an academic, a health or social care professional, a legal professional, or involved with service and policy development please work with us and please think about how we can come together – with us. Help and advice from all quarters are gratefully received.
We warmly welcome all special guardians and adopters to join our campaigning group – you will find links to a membership application form on the website.
Here is a link to our Just Giving page for donations.