An article in the Guardian about prospective adopters overlooking sibling groups has upset SG&AT members. You can read the article HERE

There are good reasons why adoption is supposed to be a last resort. It is so drastic. Furthermore, far too many adoptive families (and special guardianship families) do not receive the support they need – especially to take on sibling groups where children will each have complex needs and trauma bonds. Trauma bonds are when the relationships and dynamics between sisters and brothers are formed in response to the trauma, abuse and neglect they experienced. Trauma that is imported from the child’s past can be extremely hard to contain within in a family. But familial love is also a child’s birth right. Love and belonging are what children need – especially traumatised children.

Adoption of siblings should be about what is best for children. Children who have complex needs. In the adopter assessment process the adopter(s) are rigorously assessed and the decision to take on one or more children is carefully considered with professionals with knowledge of adoption. Adopters who have reflected on what they can offer are not ‘overlooking’ siblings, they may simply have come to realise, as part of the assessment process, that it is just going to be too challenging for them to take on siblings, much as they do not want to separate children from brothers and sisters.

Furthermore, without professional help and a great deal of support, it is not going to be in the best interests of these children to be adopted as a group. Regional Adoption Agencies should know better – and so should government! They are making this about adopters and not taking responsibility for systemic failure.

Modern adoption is not fit for purpose. Without policy and legislation to support our families, our children will only end up re-entering care. High numbers of children and young people are already re-entering care and leaving the family home prematurely for no fault of theirs or their adoptive parents. According to the latest Adoption UK Barometer, it is estimated that several thousand children and their families are suffering untold heartbreak each year when a child re-enters care, which is most often the only way to keep family members safe from the traumatised child. This is a staggering figure when less than 4k adoption orders are made each year. The decision to put a family member into the care system is a dreadful choice for any parent or guardian.

The Department of Education does publish figures on the number of children re-entering care from adoption, special guardianship and under child arrangements orders – but the figures are wildly inaccurate and unreliable when data on the legal status of children entering care is missing for 4k children! Yet the DfE knows exactly how many adoption orders are made, which shows what the priority of government is. Government seems to be obsessed with recruiting more adopters instead of thinking about whether adoptive families are getting the help they need to raise children safely.

When a child re-enters care, this is not the end of the family. Unfortunately however, once a child re-enters care, adoptive parents and guardians are treated in exactly the same way as the parents from whom the children were ‘rescued’. This makes it extremely difficult to advocate for our children and partnership working with agencies can be impossible to achieve. Harrowing, traumatising court proceedings, where we are scapegoated, blamed and subjected to false allegations by local authorities, may become part of an adoption journey that our government is not talking about. It’s a complete mess but they are choosing to turn a blind eye. Systemic failure is being ignored. Instead, our government and government funded charities are heavily marketing and promoting adoption to the public. Their mission is to increase adoptions. They have funded a nationwide adopter recruitment campaign called You Can Adopt, which aims to raise awareness of adoption and bust myths around who is eligible to adopt.

The You Can Adopt home page begins with the headline “Almost half of all children who need adopting are brothers and sisters in family groups”. Sadly the Guardian has been taken in by this emotive publicly funded promotional campaign and not looked beyond the false narrative being created.

It is in no child’s ‘best interests’ to paint a rosy picture of adoption and provide inadequate support to people who raise traumatised children. As the President of the Family Division states in this report on Special Guardianship (page 7) it is not ‘systems’ that break – it is people. Children and families are breaking in adoption and special guardianship and its time for our government to listen and understand why. Take responsibility for sorting out the systemic failure before the blame is shifted onto prospective adopters- who will give careful consideration, as part of the assessment process – to the taking on of parental responsibility for brothers and sisters together, and sibling groups.

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