and do something else…….
The views expressed below are personal, coming out of an adoptive mother’s experiences, when help seeking for a securely attached adopted child during the early years of adolescence was not safe.
- The need and desire to nurture a child, and to help children who are damaged and hurt – and whose trust is broken, this is natural and intrinsic. Lets take responsibility, as a society, for these children and lets normalise adoption rather than promote it as different or heroic – but only for children where being taken out of their families is truly the last resort. A child needs one person on their side. Lets properly support single parents and carers – rather than design a system for couples, and make it necessary for adopted and family cared for children to become looked after again, returning to care, if a single parent or carer needs a break. This provokes immense anxiety for a child and totally undermines their sense of permanence and security. Nothing happened or changed when the Selwyn Report recommended this problem needed to be addressed – back in 2014. Its still there with nothing done. Lets also help single birth mothers much much more -to keep their children with them.
- Lets recognise that adopted children come from the grief and loss of other mother’s and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. Promotion of adoption reminds others of immense losses. The loss of a child is the greatest loss of all in one’s life. It has become a punishment in a way that it never should be in a system where adoption is closed, where legislation has not kept up with technologies – where children can connect with their birth families in an instant if they wish at a vulnerable age, and where legal inequities in the justice system greatly disadvantage parents and families – especially mothers. The system that is intended to help children has become too cruel and draconian towards parents. Children need parents and parental love/family love – this is not an optional extra – especially for a traumatised child. The state does not provide this love. The state undermines a child’s sense of security and safety in the world when this basic human need to be loved and cherished is taken away from a child or young person with their removal. Lets create a more open adoption where the grief of losing a child to adoption is properly understood. This can only come about when all sides of the adoption triangle can meet and talk to each other – and this will require trauma informed design.
- Adoption used to be seen as something positive, but now its too much a narrative of bad families and good families. Families who deserves help and families who don’t – when some are given special privileges – a specially named Adoption Support Fund that is just for us (unless our children go back into care), and for some special guardians. Adoption is sometimes a necessity, and it can have very positive outcomes – but we cannot afford to be blind to the collateral damage it can cause because it is such a huge loss, and if it is not well supported, there will be harm done..The government does perhaps seem a bit out of touch with the fact adopters have become targets for hatred, resentment and unconscious societal/institutional guilt – and no one is protecting adopters when corporate negligence and failings result in family crisis or tragedy, or social harm due to a child’s vulnerabilities- and the case ends up in court – with LAs (and sometimes parents), trying to prove parental incapacity to keep a child safe, but not living within the family – because this just isn’t possible at this juncture. This situation is so hard on the child and family. No one wants this. But the thresholds of risk of future significant harm and beyond parental control shift the focus onto parents/carers, rather than organisations with a duty of care, who may well have failed the child or family in our complex cases – that the legal system is ill equipped to deal with. When courts can only persuade and there is a desperate shortage of foster carers, the NHS is struggling to cope, and a housing crisis – the care of a vulnerable child or young person ends up as the least worst option rather than the best option being supported properly. Lets support all who raise traumatised children or young people with a workforce that seeks to help – rather than ticks boxes, monitors, scrutinises, assesses and seems to look for parental faults far more than strengths.
- The promotion of adoption does not sit well with the total lack of commitment towards adopters and special guardianship carers that is shown when our children must go back into care – for no fault of theirs or ours – but because of what they carry inside. The fact that the parenting/caring from a distance role is not recognised or valued – with no frameworks for reunification or statutory guidance for supporting relationships and connection in this situation, is indicative of a failure of commitment on the part of the state and a lack of understanding the impact of early life trauma and neglect on family life. This is especially the case with the trauma of child sex abuse, which is very hard to contain in a family. These children need families, love and connection as much as any child or young person, and should not have to grow up in institutons because of a risk averse system where there is poor professional knowledge and training – even, sadly, amongst psychiatrists and specialist agencies who are given the responsibility for making decisions about the child – but have an inadequate understanding of adoption issues. Asking for help when the trauma of sexual abuse emerges in puberty should not lead to the child being removed permanently and isolated from their adoptive family – as if the match was a mistake and the wrong parents were chosen. Lets work towards reunification as an ultimate goal much more, in all cases where this is wanted by parents/carers and children, and stop the isolation of children from families and communities when they come into care. Lets not allow children who wish to go back home to become trapped in care unable to talk about reunfication, and what needs to happen to bring this about. Hope deprivation is not something that helps heal trauma – it just creates more.
- If we are going to have adoption then please lets make it safe, Lets keep judgment and blame out of it and support families properly where our children are on the edge of care with a crisis prevention/crisis management approach – not assessments by professionals who barely know the child and family and who are not able to recognise that their own presence might itself be a trauma trigger when earlier removal’s were likely to have caused a child extreme separation distress and trauma.
- Lets not promote adoption and instead create a system infrastructure where the views of all can be heard and there is not such a strong disconnect between those who govern and safeguard children – and those being helped, who rely on services because their parental or caring role is such a massive undertaking.
These views come from a particular perspective after a family was almost destroyed by the very people who should have helped. They are intended to provoke thought and not to cause offence.
If you are an adopter, special guardian or kinship carer we would love to hear about your views and experiences of accessing and receiving support. Please CLICK HERE to complete our short survey -and we will make sure government hears your views in a report about the support that is received, and what you think needs to improve and change.