Adopters and special guardians feel that change is urgently required – to safeguard permanence; to provide more effective support to prevent our children needing to re enter care, and, if they do go back into care, to try to get them back home if possible or help us parent and support them in care, so we can help them to transition to adult life. We are families – and need to be thought about, as families – with a holistic approach that helps us to nurture our children.
We have identified many of the problems facing adoptive families in our consultation with the SCIE
Here we offer some suggestions and ideas for change. These are not yet thought about together with those who develop services and create legislation – and this is what must happen next. Please work with us – together – to support permanence; to create a better future for all our children – and to make help seeking safe for us.
- A Permanence Board should be created to scrutinise local authorities. This Board should operate with Crisis Prevention and Crisis Management approach – not a ‘Risk Management’ approach that sees us as a risk of harm to our children when we ask for help. This means when the family is under threat, immediate remedial action is taken to give the support that is needed by suitably qualified and trained professionals.
- Section 20 must be reviewed and replaced – possibly with a Respite Order. Our children should not have to re enter care so we can get a break from each other, when needed, to give space and allow us to recoup our strength. Benefits and allowances should not vanish if our children re enter care so we struggle to maintain a home for them to return to.
- We must strive to remove any stigma for re entering care – it could and should be seen as part of the adoption or special guardian journey in teenage years – with all the knowledge we have about the impact of early life trauma, abuse and neglect. Terminology such as ‘disruption’ and placement ‘breakdown’ must not be used – these are loaded words that undermine permanence, prevent work being done to support our relationship with our children, and confer a sense of failure.
- Reunification should always be the aim even if not achievable when a child re enters care. Having reunification as the focus for all involved will help achieve this. When there is no goal – one never reaches it – and it is not surprising that so many adoptions do ‘breakdown’ in the current system, with such a hostile environment for help seeking. However, where reunification is not safe, parents and special guardian’s must not be allowed to be discredited or seen as ‘part of the problem’, and every effort must be made to support the relationship with the children we have raised, and maintain family links in a positive supportive way.
- We urgently need changes to the threshold for Section 31 so that parents and children are not blamed or stigmatised if this Care or Supervision Order is required.
- We need specially trained Cafcass officers, Independent Reviewing Officers and adoption and special guardian expertise involved, supporting the whole family – when our cases go to court or our children must live apart. The adversarial approach taken in courts is undermining permanence and creating trauma for us when we made a lifelong commitment to our children. Adversarial and forensic do not equate with each other and any abuse or neglect on our part, in cases where this does sadly happen, are far more likely to be observed when parents and special guardians can feel safe to work with Local Authorities. Courts need to be forensic – not adversarial towards help seeking parents.
- Financial penalties should be imposed by the Permanence Board, and in Family Courts, when Local Authorities violate the Rights of Child or when Statutory Guidance is ignored. The proposed Hillsborough Bill holds much promise for us should it be passed. Adopters Together fully supports this public accountability Bill.