SG&AT welcomes the debate in the House of Lords on the Adoption Support Fund obtained by the noble Lord Russell of Liverpool.
It was with great interest that we learned about this debate on Twitter after submitting our 65 page report to the APPG on Adoption and Permanence last May, hoping to have an opportunity for dialogue about our findings -and the questions that came out of our research.
Unfortunately, for reasons we would really like to better understand, this dialogue about our contribution to the APPG was not possible. This was despite the fact that our lived experience evaluation also included special guardians – where there is such a dearth of research understanding – and (as far as we know) no comparative studies about accessing the ASF apart from ours.
We are certainly very grateful for Baroness Massey of Darwen’s appreciation that family menbers, particularly grandparents, may face great challenges, not least the bureaucracy and form filling that is involved in taking on the special guardianship role.
We are, as special guardians, struggling to raise traumatised infants born addicted to drugs and children who are dealing with lifelong neurological conditions such as FASD. We point our that as yet, many special guardians do not receive any additional support at all – when we are not eligible for the ASF, if we have prevented children from entering care.
Government has not addressed this issue.
We understand from personal communication with Ms Maskell that the APPG on adoption and permanence is now defunct.
We feel very disappointed about this. Yes, the ASF has certainly helped some of us, if we can access it, but many of us cannot. There are also many systemic issues that are not being considered:
- The support infrastructure is just not there (especially for special guardians) and we are having to reduce hours or give up work altogether to care for and educate our children when their schools can’t cope.
- The ASF is just part of the jigsaw of support and it is a long way off the multiagency approach that is needed to help our children heal.. Too often there are fractured teams with no one wanting to fund support for us
- Many of us in SG&AT are parenting ‘from a distance’ when the help we so desperately needed was not forthcoming, sufficient or timely – or when families have been ‘safeguarded’ instead of helped – with the whole family left traumatised by their dealings with services.
- The legal frameworks surrounding adoption and permanence don’t seem to work for us. Single parents or guardians are having to put children back into care just to access a respite break. Going back into care undermines the sense of permanence and stability we have spent years trying to create for our children.
- There is no guidance for social care or health professionals about reunification if our children’s trauma proved too hard to contain.
We believe that as experts by lived experience we have a vital role to play in permanence reform and in developing services that meet the evolving needs of children and families in 21st Century Britain.
We reach out to those who develop policy and we say: