Different families – Different needs
Most people, it seems, are unaware of the issues I face as a Special Guardian and many are not even aware of what a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is. This includes professionals involved in the making of SGO’s who presume current services already know how to deal with any issues that arise once an SGO is granted.
My needs are different to other families because my family is different to other families.
My family consists of my SGO children who have been traumatised by neglect and abuse, and my birth children who are much affected by the trauma my SGO children bring into the family, which has a huge impact on family life. My own children act out behaviours picked up from my SGO children and, with all the love in the world, the level of support all my children need (both birth and SGO), cannot be fully provided by me alone.
Now here’s my problem, if I approach children’s services for help I would likely be put on a child in need plan, which potentially means they could decide that I cannot cope and remove the children, including my birth children. Whilst at times of trouble this sounds heavenly, in reality, this would be the worst possible outcome from the decision I made to raise my SGO children.
There is plenty of evidence that prenatal/early infantile trauma can predict behavioural problems in childhood and adolescence, and each branch of therapy sings their own praises about how effective they are at dealing with it, but a child needs to have extreme behaviour to be able to access therapy and the wider family is often forgotten.
Who will help my children to cope with the secondary trauma SGO children often bring?
Who will help me with the demands of five young children, when two of them have very complex needs, and demand so much from me? – leaving less for the other children in the family.
I have worked with families on the edge of care as a professionals, and with the best will in the world, some of those families had no intention of change. The fallout from this, for me, was I began to lose focus and gave up trying, knowing full well that history would repeat, and the children would most likely fail in life (I’m not proud of this, just stating what happened). Quite likely, countertransference played a part in this, and lack of adequate supervision was also a major problem with my work. I felt so defeated in terms of being able to give the level of support that individual children and families really needed, because of time constraints, or lack of funding.
I understand how easy it is to become downtrodden when working with families that require ongoing support, appearing to make little effort on their part, and feel this may be an issue for many professionals in children’s services. I have seen it with social workers who initially come into practice full of ideas and keen to help, but are rapidly beaten down by the system and lose touch with family reality due to lack of resources, support, and an overload of cases. For this reason, there needs to be a distinction made between families that ask for support and families that are pressurised to take support. The potential outcomes for each are, in my opinion, distinctly different, but services seem to lump all families into one pot, in which blame and shame is at a higher priority than focusing on individual difference and specific support needed.
My family is different, our needs are different to others, and this must be considered when providing help and support services. I love my different family and, regardless of how manic our family life may seem to outsiders, we are strong, and we need to be supported in such a way that we stay together and become even stronger.
Special Guardians and Adopters Together believe that the current policy guidance and legal frameworks, which were put in place in the 1980s, long before Special Guardianship came into existence, need revision and updating. Legal frameworks, do not meet the needs of families like mine, when we ask for help. For example, to access respite I would have to return my children to care, albeit under a voluntary Section 20 Care Order – but with no models or knowledge of rehabilitation for families like mine, I cannot see how the support required for children to come home safely might be given – if the break needed were longer than a couple of weeks. Going back into care could retraumatise and destabilise them and undermine the work I have done to give them a sense of permanence within our family. It carries great risk. Section 31 is worse, and would probably mean permanent separation leaving no way forwards for us as a family at all. How could it, were I considered to be a ‘risk of serious harm’ to the children I sought help for?
How can you help?
SG&AT believe we really do need a different type of support to the parents, from whom the children who are now a part of our family, were removed from in the first place. We also believe that the sort of changes we strive to achieve will lead to a kinder, more family centred, more holistic approach to children’s care – which can benefit birth parents and boost morale of those working with us. We are keen to receive support, and not resistant to change.
Please sign our petition, which calls for urgent action to update legislation and guidance to the Children Act 1989.
Petition to Government
Changes to Children Act 1989
Urgent action is required to give more rights & protection to parents/carers & also vulnerable children in care
Sections 20 & 31 of Children Act are currently unworkable, resulting in a care crisis. We call on government to take urgent action to make changes to legislation & guidance to protect the parenting/caring role from a distance by:
A more humane ethical family centred approach where birth & adoptive parents & special guardians can be seen as part of the solution & not part of the problem, in striving to do their best caring for their children.
Safeguarding vulnerable children with new legislation & legal frameworks that also supports parents/carers when children are ‘beyond parental control’ which may be related to poor mental health, disabilities, early life trauma, abuse or neglect.