Adopters and special guardians feel that change is urgently required in order to safeguard permanence and protect our children from becoming re-traumatised and destabilised when they must re-enter care due to the legacy of their past leaving its mark. The ‘parenting from a distance role’ needs to be recognised and should be better supported – we could be a tremendous resource with all our knowledge gained from years of parenting and care. Instead, we are finding we are often marginalised and excluded from decisions about our children that have life-changing consequences for them and their siblings, who may remain in our care. It is hard to see how this is in the child’s ‘best interests’.
As a group we wish to be solution focused and work with others – here we offer some suggestions and ideas for change. These are not yet thought about together with those who develop services and create legislation – as opportunities for us to do this do not exist – and this is what must happen next. Those with lived experience of parenting and caring for previously looked after children suffering from trauma, abuse and neglect, must be involved at a decision making level with developing strategies, policies and legislation that supports permanence. Only through working together, with the perspectives of all being considered, can beneficial change be achieved.
Our suggestions are:
- A Permanence Board could be created involving foster carers, special guardians and adopters – those with ‘lived experience’ of providing permanence at a decision making level.
- Section 20 and the problematic threshold of ‘Beyond Parental Control’ to be reviewed (see petition below).
- Selwyn et al (2014, recommended reunification never be ruled out – but we are finding it is rarely considered. Holistic family centred models for reunification, where parents and special guardians do not need to be ‘reformed’, must be developed and tested. The Independent Guardian will continue to support the child and family, if the child re-enters care (see below).
- Social workers are under great pressure, retention to the profession is extremely poor. This issue, combined with frequent organisational reshuffles mean there is virtually no continuity of social work care. We are are also finding cases can ‘drift’ and they are not being brought back to court when they need to be by IROs and Cafcass Guardians. We suggest that a new role is considered to support our children and families and to work together with adopters, special guardians, local authorities, schools, foster carers, and residential care homes: – the ‘Independent Guardian‘.
- There must be a reporting system for ‘never’ cases so that there can be learning from cases where harm is done. This will enable learning from cases where the LGO will not investigate when LA’s seemingly misappropriate the Family Courts to avoid scrutiny and shift the focus onto parental capacity. The remit of court is primarily on parental capacity, which is too narrow to consider whether there is injustice caused to children and families by systemic failings. Courts can only ‘persuade’ LAs to take a certain action and this is not enough, especially with the current legal inequities.
- The Adoption Support Fund. Change the name to the Adoption and Special Guardian Support Fund; make it accessible through the Independant Guardian and get rid of the postcode lottery of match funding; scrap the £5k cap -this fund should be based on need, and this cap is a false economy as it costs far more not to provide support to our children in the long run; promote the fund to special guardians.
We ask that you kindly consider signing and sharing our petition. We think it is important to think about legal reform with an open mind – not rule it out without any discussion with those that must live with its ramifications for the rest of their lives.