Many in our group, mostly adopters, are parenting children from a distance or have done so in the past. This situation does happen in special guardianship but seems less common – as we see it in the social media forums where we discuss the problems we have in modern adoption and special guardianship. Special guardianship is a much more recent development, the children are generally younger than adopted children and the most common age for care re-entry is early years of adolescence, so this may be a factor. A special guardianship child going back into care is no less traumatic however and we welcome special guardians on our task force.
Coming together as adopters and special guardians as a group we learn a lot about each other that we didn’t know. One of the things special guardians have come to appreciate is that adopters don’t simply ‘hand the child back to care’. We ask for help and when it is not given we have little choice but to put the child in care, often to protect other children or ourselves. This is an absolutely heart wrenching decision. We are often advised to go for a Care Order by solicitors. They are not the ones that will have to parent the child under this order, and we imagine if they were they would not give this advice. It is sometimes needed because the child requires secure accomodation but it certainly does not seem to improve the lives of our children and usually makes ours a misery. Blame can be heaped upon us in harrowing court proceedings by LAs and the Cafcass Guardians and members of the judiciary that are allocated to the case may lack knowledge and understanding – they may show little consideration for our families and view us as a failed care option for the child – or this is how it feels sometimes. To all intents and purposes the adoption is null and void under a S 31 care Order and parental responsibility will be shared in ways that shame and blame the adopters. Instead of considering us a a family we find the terminology speaks of impermanence – we are described as a ‘placement’. The order also has serious ramifications for employment – many of us work with children – and for the employment prospects of any member of our household. No one living in the house can work with children either.
There appears to be something of a ‘blind spot’ about the problems we face, and a readiness to write our families off as ‘failures’, or ‘breakdowns’ or ‘disruptions’ by the DfE in the most recent report they have commissioned – a term that we feel should never be used once an Adoption or Special Guargianship Order is made. Its use after the AO/SGO seems to undermine permanence. This report gives cause for grave concern.