No one would put a child back into care who they have raised and love without very good reason. As the Selwyn report described, we find we have no choice but to put our children back into care just to get a respite break. We simply can’t go on if support is not there for us, not after we have ended up in a crisis situation that could not be contained. ‘Too little too late’ has serious ramifications for our families as our Accessing and Recieving Support Survey has shown:
Violence to siblings was a significant factor. In one case a child was jailed for sexual abuse of a sibling. Adopters described violent assaults on siblings and were frustrated by the length of time that it took to provide support. Another theme was loss of health, relationships, marriages, jobs and homes lost or put at risk. Adopters were anxious and worried about the future and felt guilty about adopting children when this had reduced the support entitlement – with an adopter receiving less support than a special guardian due to it being a private adoption and therefore unable to access services/support. A lack of support caused developmental delay, precluded access to support in other areas, prevented children from accessing education, resulted in school exclusions, and necessitated the child being home schooled. A lack of support or delays to provision meant family members and a child’s future were put at risk……The lack of support had put children and families under great strain with far reaching consequences: (Accessing and Receiving Support Survey, consequences of not receiving support -pages 40-43)
Whilst the ASF (Adoption Support Fund) is certainly helping some families it is no good whatsoever if you can’t get hold of it because you are not eligible for it (as with children who re-enter care, kinship carers and children under a Child Arrangements Order, or special guardianship children who were not previously looked after), or if there are barriers and delays to it’s provision. Numerous barriers to accessing support were described by our survey respondents who described beaurocratic processes as problematic. If the ASF could be accessed then achieving an assessment on the ASF was also easier than accessing the support the assessment recommended. The need for reassessment to access the ASF (when the funding was not enough to cover a year’s therapy), was also a problem. Social care professionals reframed the lack of provision due to inadequate funding as being a necessary therapy break rather than acknowledge this was not what the child or family actually needed.
An assessment can also delay support and often what is needed in a crisis isn’t waiting for an assessment to be done – but immediate help.
Once a child ends up back in care – there are no guidances or frameworks for professionals to follow to get them back home – except the NCPCC framework for reunification. This framework begins by painting a worrying picture of children returning home to further abuse and neglect on the basis of research that is simply not relevant to our families. This framework will arguably do more harm than good if it is applied to families where there was no abuse or neglect within the family home – and the difficulties were down to the legacy of the child’s past or a child’s poor mental health or neurodevelopmental conditions like reactive attachment disorder, complex developmental trauma, post traumatic stress disorder, FASD or even autism, which has a high prevalence rate in domestically adopted children. But there is nothing else to use. It was so disappointing that the Family Rights Group’s Care Crisis Review only signposted this reunification framework and we are demoralised to find that it is being used in local authorities, and applied to families where the problems were not down to abuse and neglect within the family home at all. It is no wonder that parents and guardians report being treated as abusers. This is exactly how they are treated.
We do not want to get into narratives of good and bad parents but painting us as all being bad/abusive or neglectful when thinking of how to get children home doesn’t help our children to stay connected with us, or help working relationships with professionals.
We wanted help for our children, not being given no choice but to put them back into care where it is virtually impossible for us to expedite the support our children need, and we are viewed as part of the problem for the child or young person.
Adopters, special guardians and kinship carers have offered their ideas and thoughts for improvement – which can be seen in our Accessing and Receiving Support Survey and will be discussed in another article.
Ultimately what is needed is dialogue and discussion about support provision and an infrastructure that supports this – and better supports those with lived experience of raising children to be heard and part of the process of change