Does terminology matter? Does it matter that parents and special guardians with children who are amongst the very hardest to care for are made to feel a ‘failure’ and described with loaded terminology when we are going through the utter heartache and grief of a child re-entering care? We think it does. We ask for a bit of sensitivity and consideration to be shown.
- The term ‘disruption’ is legally incorrect in the UK where an Adoption Order, once made is permanent. Parental responsibility is in fact shared or retained by adoptive parents when a child re-enters care.
- The term disruption confers a degree of finality on the relationships between family members that can be misleading and deter work being done to re-unify – when this is what is wished for. The term ‘breakdown’ may not be factually accurate and the need for the child to re-enter care may have been exacerbated by the lack of timely or sufficient support or external factors – the child/young person being groomed or targeted by drug gangs for example. It may be that other family members and children need to be protected or just needed a respite break! It is worth remembering that if there is ‘no intention to reunify’ as an ultimate goal to work towards, on the part of the local authority, then our children cannot access the Adoption Support Fund, whether or not this is what they wish for. This is in itself a deeply problematic state of affairs where the ‘rights of the child’ – to family life – are not respected by our government.
- The term disruption and similar loaded words cause emotional distress and stigmatise those being described.
- These terms are not necessary – we have written many reports and articles without once needing to use them.
These loaded words are hitting us when we are down. As special guardians and adopters, the problems we must deal with, in the teenage years especially, are considerable. Family life can be very intense in about 30% of adoptions (according to the Selwyn Report, 2014), with less known about special guardians. The problems we deal with are not the ‘fault’ of our children, nor are they our ‘fault’, and we strive to do the best we can.
Losing a child to care is a hidden grief that society does not seem to be able to comprehend because it is not much discussed or thought about and often parents in this situation are stigmatised -especially if a Section 31 Care Order is given. We may lose much more than our child in this situation. There is a great deal of concern about the misuse of Section 20 Care Orders too – and the lack of effective scrutiny and support for the looked after child under these orders. So please just say ‘re-enter care’ instead of the ‘D’ word. Please use words that you imagine might give us strength, encouragement and support – for this is what we need when we are grieving. Please don’t write us off as a ‘failed care option’.