We feel there needs to be a far greater appreciation of the impact of trauma, abuse, neglect, changes in care, and loss, on a child or young person. This appreciation and understanding will, we hope, lead to much needed changes in legislation, policy and practice, and will improve the lives of all our children, whether they are under a Special Guardian Order, have been adopted, or have neurodiversity issues for other reasons such as autism or FASD, which may also be compounded by, or causally related to the impact of early life adversity and childhood loss.
Our ‘grass roots’ campaigns evolve and emerge from our own experiences, as adoptive and special guardian families, and from our reflections on these experiences.
Some of our children are on the edge of care, or may have re-entered care again. The issues and difficulties we must deal with as families therefore have much wider relevance, and we hope that others that care for vulnerable children, will be interested in our work, and offer their support.
- To be part of any change in terms of having dialogue that will lead to needs driven support and services
- Greater understanding of the impact of trauma and adoption issues from education, health and social care.
- Greater transparency in the system and true partnership working – a partnership of equals that recognises the pivotal importance of second families, and the role we play when a child cannot live with birth parents.
- Parity for all special guardians with adopters in terms of accessing services and support (including families where the child has re-entered care) – we would like to see a Permanence Board with representatives with ‘lived experience’ having an equal voice and being able to be heard.
- Parity for special guardianship children if they have not previously been looked after – the Lack of LAC campaign.
- Statutory regulation of financial support for special guardians and adopters.
- Recognition of the importance of the ‘parenting/caring from a distance role’ and proper support for this role. We would like to see a much stronger commitment to supporting our families, and a recognition that when our children re-enter care they are still part of our family. Dialogue about reunification and about building positive nurturing relationships with our children that allow the child, us and all family members to be safe, should always be achievable with the professionals and agencies who work to support our children and it should not be a case of replacing us with foster care/residential care and making us feel we have failed – describing the scenario as a ‘breakdown’ and writing the family off. Our children grow up and it is them and us who deal with the consequences of such divisive approaches when they transition to adulthood and children’s services are no longer involved. See our ‘Working Together’ report.
- Transition to adulthood. The Special Guardian Order to be permanent like an Adoption Order and not end at 18, when our children begin the difficult transition to adult life.
- Transition to adult life support to be reviewed and reformed in adoption and special guardianship. There are currently far too many holes for our children to fall through – especially if they re-enter care and we are prevented from supporting them (see point 6).
- An approach that ‘includes rather than excludes’ the child when behaviour is triggered in educational settings and the child/young person does not feel safe – sometimes not feeling safe enough to attend school at all. See our report on School Exclusion
- Help seeking for our children should be safe – this can be achieved through a crisis prevention/crisis support approach rather than the current approaches, which too often see us ‘viewed through a prism of risk – see BASW Enquiry’ instead of supported with empathy and the sort of specialist professional understanding that is needed. We are meant to be ‘part of the solution’ not viewed as part of the problem and any true partnership working is very difficult to achieve in the scenario when professionals and agencies come between parent/carer and child intending and trying to do good – but actually cause harm.
- Family centred support. We would like to see whole family support not division of parent and child (see point 11). A recognition that our stress and emotional health and that of our children are connected – even when our children re-enter care.
- Policy infrastructure and legislation that is designed for the needs of our children and families. This may mean legal reform in regards to Section 20, (which we know is being misused by many local authorities), instead of providing timely support. The threshold for Section 31 Care Orders is also problematic. We are supporting a petition to government about this issue – please consider signing it.
- Action instead of complaints procedures. Almost 40% (146/389) of respondents had cause to make a formal complaint in our Health and Wellbeing Survey see page 41 of Interim Report. This is too many complaints. The system does not seem to be working and there are complaints needed instead of positive action taken.
- Selwyn recommended that reunification is never ruled out in adoption but our members are finding they cannot talk about it at all, even when the child wishes to see it. This is plainly wrong.
- Improved recognition of trauma related neuro-disability and sensory processing difficulties, and including autism and FAS, and training for professionals and agencies about the impact these issues may have on family life.
- Adoption Support Fund and Match Funding, for all Special Guardian/Adopted Children throughout the UK, till the age of 24, if needed – we also feel that rigorous formal policy evaluation is needed of this fund, to see if it is sufficient and effective, and to identify potential gaps and problems.
- Assessment of a child’s and family’s needs at placement by a paediatrician and psychiatrist, with recommendations
- Use of language and terminology that is appropriately sensitive to the bereavement issues that are experienced when a child cannot live with their family. We would prefer to see the term ‘child re entering care’, instead of disruption or breakdown, which are too loaded and can prevent consideration to reunification being given as an ultimate goal, achievable or not – see .
- Better financial support to take into account changing circumstances and challenges of parenting/caring from a distance.
- Dialogue about reunification and models of support to be developed to bring about successful well supported reunification after care separations
- Continuity of care and expert help from an Independent Guardian to support our children and families wherever they live, taking a family centred approach.
We are very grateful for public donations to help us cover expenses and running costs. You can donate using our Just Giving Page
Please complete a contact form if you would like more information about our campaigns, or in joining our group as a special guardian or adopter