Please click on this link to see an interim report of our survey on the stress, health and wellbeing of Special Guardians and Adopters.
At the end of the report we make some suggestions for improvements that we hope might be given consideration.
An ethics statement for the survey research project can be viewed here
Data analysis is not yet complete and we still have a great volume of qualitative data to consider. We lack time or capacity to do this without support and are very under resourced. We are hoping that we may achieve support from government to complete the analysis with key research partners who can help us take this project forwards.
We welcome any donations, no matter how small, towards our survey costs and associated expenses, which are not yet covered.
Please click here to make a donation. We need your help.
OUR PEER-LED SURVEY HAS IDENTIFIED HIGH LEVELS OF STRESS FOR PARENTS AND SPECIAL GUARDIANS STEMMING FROM THEIR CARING ROLE AND FROM DEALING WITH SERVICES WHO ARE FELT TO LACK UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR PROBLEMS.
Just over 400 adopters and special guardians parenting and caring for nearly 700 children and young adults took part in the survey which identified a serious lack of trust and confidence in services as well as more than 50% of parents and carers diagnosed with stress or anxiety, and 10% suffering with PTSD now or in the past, as a result of their caring role.
64% of respondents reported having a bad experience with a social worker, 40% with an education professional or SENCO, and more than 30% with a children’s mental health professional working for CAMHS. All these professionals also had problems building trust with children according to almost half the survey respondents.
Fear of judgement and about their parenting had deterred half the Special Guardians and a third of Adopters from seeking help from their GP if they experienced mental health problems resulting from their caring role.
The most common problems these parents and carers dealt with were ‘anger and rage meltdowns’ (73%) whilst Child to Parent violence was experienced by 57% of respondents and school refusal and school anxieties by 53% of respondents.
Nearly 40% of respondents had to give up work to care for their children, many more had reduced their hours, with nearly 40% of children qualifying for disability living allowance or an application pending and nearly 50% having special educational needs – education/health and care plans or a plan pending. The majority of parents and carers home schooling their child did so because no provision was available
Support was poor with 62% of respondents getting no respite at all and 50% unable to access counselling to help them better cope when they needed it. Whilst half the Survey’s adopters had accessed the Adoption Support Fund only 5% of Special Guardians had accessed this Fund and 10% reported they did not know about it. The Fund is poorly promoted to Special Guardians with little clarity about what happens when a Special Guardian order ends at 18. Only 10% of respondents considered the Fund, to be sufficient. Transparency about match funding by local authorities was poor. Comments suggested serious delays accessing it in some cases and a concerning level of apprehension about liaising with children’s services.
Dr Sylvia Schroer, the chair of Special Guardian’s and Adopter’s Together, and main Survey author said “Special Guardians and Adopters strive to do their best despite a lack of understanding and support, and despite having to face tremendous challenges and emotional burden. Our survey has revealed a concerning lack of trust in services and fear of help seeking. It is fundamentally wrong that parents and carers should be frightened to seek help from their GP when they feel unwell, for fear their capacity to care for their children may then be called into question and judged – especially when so many, 10% in our survey, currently suffer from, or have in the past experienced PTSD as a result of their caring or parental role. We have more analysis to do on the data we have collected but are desperately under resourced. We hope the government will now step in and help us taking swift positive action in the light of our Survey findings and in the light of the recent suicide of a young adopted man in Powys living in foster care who took his own life just before he was 18, because he feared transitioning to adulthood. His parents could not help him get the support he needed and were viewed as challenging – struggling to build a positive relationship with services – this sort of scenario is so common when a child re-enters care and there are no models to help our children come home – so very few do –our survey suggests they get destabilised when they go back into care, and they are amongst the most vulnerable children in the care system with the losses they have suffered. Personally speaking I feel very frightened about privatisation of services after the recent report on Foster Care, which has recommended getting rid of the Independent Reviewing Officer to save money for front line services – we have made some suggestions on the basis of our Survey findings that we hope will be listened to – and we do think it is time to do modern adoption a bit differently, and support Special Guardians much more than they have been supported”.
We thank all those that took part in our survey and invite you to join our campaigning group. Our group will try to support you to have your voice heard and for your experiences to be used to help others. Please click here to complete a membership form.