An adoptive father who has supported many who parent from a distance, including in court proceedings as a McKenzie Friend, speaks about the importance of maintaining relationships when children cannot live within the family.
Our children can find it difficult to trust, and we are often the only experience they have of any sense of permanence, of people they can rely on to be there for them when life gets too tough to handle.
Sadly for some adoptive and special guardianship families the early life trauma of children can become too hard to contain within the family home. Living together may not be possible. Hard choices are forced upon those who took on parental responsibility. This often coincides with a child’s puberty onset when hormones start raging and self regulating is just not possible. It may be earlier – or it may be as the child gets older and is targeted by those who seek to exploit. Many factors come into play at this time when a child is trying to make sense of who they are and what has happened to them. The child is beyond parental control – many teenagers are. Also beyond control per se.
Sometimes it is the child who makes the choice – its a way to keep control and avoid painful feelings of rejection by being the first to make the choice to go – or being the one saying no, this is my choice to leave.
Under Section 20 or Section 31 care orders the corporate parent will provide food, shelter, education perhaps, but there will always be one element missing – the love, commitment, sense of belonging and stability of a family home. Maintaining our relationship with our children is so important in these circumstances – but we are finding that it is something that is not always encouraged and supported by the authorities. Relationships may be damaged by the actions and attitudes of the corporate parent. After all, if those with a duty of care had fulfilled their claim to provide necessary support, in many circumstances no return to care would be necessary.
The lack of support to relationships has long term financial consequences for services and society. A short term outlook can be harmful and may cause irreparable damage to children and families.
Those with a duty of care need to better support us and to prioritise maintaining a relationship between our children and us when they cannot live safely in the family home for no fault of theirs or ours.