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Research is important to guide policy decisions, especially when it is peer led and exploring issues of direct relevance and concern to those whom services are supposed to help and assist.

We are perplexed and demoralised that our reports and our potentially important survey findings are not thought about with us – with government – when these findings suggest serious illness may be associated with the parental and caring role we take on.

Our survey on the health and wellbeing of adopters and special guardians identified that 10% of us suffer with PTSD as a result of our parental/caring role. We are not battlefield soldiers. We are parents and carers, caring for children from the care system who have lost the right to live with their birth parents. The survey also suggested links between school exclusion and with parental/caregiver illness including: Mental Stress Breakdown; Depression; Anxiety; PTSD, Cancer and High Blood Pressure. These findings were reported in our report on School Exclusions and discussed further in our Working Together report. We submitted our report to the School Exclusion Review – only to never hear anything back.

Other findings of concern from the Special Guardians and Adopters Together Interim Report 6th March 2018, which we met with the DfE about in March, hoping for help from government to complete the analysis of findings with academics and clinicians who are pre-eminent in their field, were that levels of heart attacks, auto-immune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and pain conditions seemed high and may be higher amongst adopters and special guardians than population norms. We received no help and were told recently (on November 21st),  we would not be spoken with again. This is a shut door we never expected.

In contrast to the heavy reliance on their own commissioned reports, which are used to guide the Adoption & Special Guardianship Leadership Board, informing decisions about our supportwe are struggling so hard to be heard at all. This is not how it should be.

Our research questions seem to be quite different to those asked by government.  We may also see a very different side to adoption and special guardianship in our peer support groups from policy makers and legislators and from the individuals who are commissioned to undertake work by the A&SGLB who are modernising adoption and special guardianship. If we are not heard, the policies foisted on us will cause harm and distress to so many families, instead of supporting us and our children.

In regards to the high numbers of adopted children that seem to be going back into care (when support can be such a battle to achieve for us), one adopter asks plaintively “How is this right, if your child had a broken leg, they would go to hospital to receive help then go home back to loving family. In our cases, they are for some reason, kept away from family because it’s in child best interests that’s just crazy. Who ever came to that decision?”

We have no idea who came to this decision, or the many others that are made about our support, but if those who are collectively responsible are causing us and our children suffering and serious illness, the very least they could do is talk with us about it.

The priorities of the DfE seem uncaring and exploitative if the agenda is always on adopter recruitment and speeding up the adopter approval and matching process. The last weeks have even seen government officials bemoaning of the fact IVF is improving rather than valuing special guardians who move heaven and earth to care for a child who is usually a member of the family, or would be parents who might choose adoption over IVF because they are altruistic and wish to parent children who would otherwise grow up without parents. Perhaps if the DfE and A&SGLB cared more about adopters and special guardians the rates of adoption might increase?

It is not us that cause harm by flagging up serious problems with the research we conduct, but our uncaring government – making it impossible for us to be heard to talk about our findings and be part of the dialogue about change.

If you have been helped, or affected negatively by government policies around adoption and special guardianship, as a stakeholder – a professional or service user, please tell us about this in the contact form below. You are more than welcome to join our group if you are a special guardian or adoptive parent. We are a group of parents and carers who come together, in a system that normally divides adopters from the children’s birth families, because we are passionate about the children we love and achieving the best outcomes for them.