My name is Jake. I went to live with my mum when I was 7 after being taken away from my birth family and two years in foster care. My mum had to stop work to care for me – I was not easy to look after when I was younger, and I got very angry and I sometimes hurt other children. I had therapy but the Local Authority stopped paying for it when they took over responsibility for us as a family three years after the adoption went through. We were under CAMHS but the therapist there was not as good as the one I had seen. It wasn’t like real therapy. I got taken away from my mum because I wouldn’t go to school. They thought it was her fault, but I just couldn’t go – I wanted to, but my body wouldn’t let me. My mum took away my computer to try and make me go, and even called the police – so the local authority would know she was trying to make me go – but the court decided I wasn’t safe to live with my mum, and blamed the school refusal on her. I had to live in foster care during the court proceedings for five months. The woman I lived with was OK – a bit of a religious nut. I went to school as I did not want to be in the house there. Being away from my mum and our home compounded my depression and I tried to kill myself in her house.

I lived in a children’s home because the local authority got a Care Order and decided it wasn’t safe for me to live with my mum. The local authority and CAMHS therapist wanted me to go into foster care till I was 18, but luckily no foster carers would have me. I had said I would never go into foster care again anyway. I had my family now and would never live with another. In the children’s home I got home tutored and after two years I managed to go to a Pupil Referral Unit to finish my GCSEs. The staff were nice enough to me but it wasn’t home – I was easy to look after by now and knew how to control my anger. I saw that children in the kids home and PRU smashed things up and were rude to carers and teachers. I did not want to be like them. I wasn’t like them and wanted to make something of my life.

I wasn’t allowed to visit our home – we used to get take aways and sit outside it in mum’s car, so we weren’t breaking the contact rules. My mum moved house so we could live opposite my best friend – so if I came home we could go to school together. I was allowed to visit him, and his mum, or anyone else – but could not enter the family home. When the Local Authority decided to send me away to another children’s home to live more than 100 miles away my mum said I should see a solicitor. She went to court to try and get me back home and the Care Order discharged. I didn’t know what to say to the solicitor, who was the one the Cafcass Guardian had used in the care proceedings, and asked my mum- she said just tell them you want to go home – so this is what I did. The Cafcass Guardian came to see me and he persuaded me not to challenge the Care Order, as the best way to get home. I was having therapy from someone through the children’s home by now. It wasn’t helping – she just worked from a book. It cost £5k per week to live in the children’s home and have this therapy. The application failed when the therapist said she would stop therapy if the Care Order was discharged. My mum did not have legal help or advice. She did not want to fight the therapist when she had battled so hard to get me this therapy anyway. She said she did not want to take away anything that might have helped me get better. At least I was allowed to visit our home unsupervised twice a week – so some small progress was made.

I could not go to the six monthly LAC reviews where care planning was done for me – because of my anxiety issues. My mum tried to organise team meetings for me – as I am disabled and a CICA Tribunal has recognised that I suffer with a permanent mental illness as a result of my early life abuse – and my mum felt I should be treated as a ‘Child in Need’ – but the Local Authority do not recognise my disabilities, which are not physical. There was no EHC plan for me done. My mum said no progress could be made in these Team Around the Child meetings that she organised, supported by someone from POTATO (the Parents Of Traumatised Adopted Teenagers Organisation), who eventually became my advocate, although the Local Authority would not accept him, She could not get professionals to work together to help me come home. After the application failed the social worker stopped these meetings.  I was stuck in the children’s home until I was 18, when I would finally be able to go home and live with my mum. It felt like a prison. I tried to kill myself using an electrical lead to strangle myself – but couldn’t go through with it. I self-harmed almost continually. I hid bleach bottles in my children’s home bedroom – I felt I at least needed the right to take my own life when everything else was out of my control. I lost hope that I would be able to go home before I was 18. When the therapist suddenly stopped working with me for personal reasons, just before my GCSEs, my mum put in another application to discharge the Care Order. She told me that in court the Cafcass Guardian had said in his statement that I wanted to stay in the children’s home and could go home any time I wanted – this was clearly not true. She told me to write a letter to the Judge and give it to the children’s home to give to the court. I did this but they gave it to her instead – and the court would not believe I had not been pressurised to write this. But the Judge allowed me to have my own solicitor. My mum had one lined up for me.

The Local Authority offered me a lot of money for accommodation at university, or to live independently – provided I did not challenge the Care Order. If I challenged the Care Order, I would get nothing. My mum said it would send a powerful message to the court if I refused this money and said I preferred to go home. I wanted to go home more than anything else in the world. Finally, the court agreed to have the experts my mum and the man from the POTATO group proposed conduct the assessment. This assessment said I should go home immediately, and said my mum and I should have an award for bravery for the ordeal we had been put through – to rebuild lost trust.

There was no contested hearing provided we agreed to a Supervision Order. I was sent home and the Care Order was discharged that day. But the Local Authority still would not provide any support for us – we had to wait until an application was put through to the Adoption Support Fund for me to access therapy. The application took months and there was no interim funding from the Local Authority. My mum applied for the Supervision Order to be discharged and the funding from the Adoption Support Fund finally came through after this application was submitted, and after she submitted a formal complaint to the Adoption Support Fund. My mum says this complaint, which was about being misrepresented in the application assessment for the fund, has never been resolved. The Adoption Support Fund have provided the funding so that is the end of it -it does not matter that what was said about us caused offence, hurt and suffering. The DofE do not seem to care about this. The DofE are made aware of this case through Mott MacDonald, who administer the Adoption Support Fund – but no one takes positive action. No apologies have ever been given to my mum and I for what happened.

I know my mum has written many many letters to our MP too, but as far as we know, no action seems to have been taken

The Supervision Order was discharged by the court. This discharge was not contested by the Cafcass Guardian or the Local Authority.  This means that no Judgment was given – so no Judgment can be provided to enable learning from this case.

My mum is battling now to get me home tuition, as I cannot cope with school or work, with my anxiety issues – and to get the EHC Plan that should have been done years ago, when I was 12, and my mum first asked for it.

My mum and I believe that what happened was wrong. It was the wrong approach to take for an adopted child, to remove the child from home and family, blame the problems on the mum, and put aside my wishes and feelings for so long that I lost hope. To only support me if I stayed in care.

Please sign our petition to make this stop happening

Jake (not my real name obviously)

Unfortunately you cannot sign our petition YET

The petition that was submitted, supported by Jake, was rejected by the Petitions Committee on 6.4.18 – the basis of the rejection was the following:

“It’s not clear what the petition is asking the UK Government or Parliament to do.

Petitions need to call on the Government or Parliament to take a specific action. We understand that you’re concerned about children and parenting, but we’re not sure what specific action you’d like”.

The Petition was entitled ‘Protect the Parenting/Caring from a Distance Role with New Legislation’

The action requested was the following:

We call on government to take immediate action to safeguard vulnerable children – and protect the ‘parenting/caring from a distance’ role with new statutory guidance and legal frameworks that support us – when our children are ‘beyond parental control’ due to poor mental health or early life trauma

The action was deliberately left open for government to decide what action was needed because the problems that led to this scenario are deep and systemic. Thought and consideration are what is required to solve complex and systemic social problems – if only there were a ‘quick easy fix’ solution, or a simple law to be changed. We do feel that it is high time for legislative review however – with all the social change affecting children and young people – especially ours, who are so vulnerable: social media, grooming, drugs – and huge pressures now on young people – self harm amongst our young is at record levels and CAMHS struggle to cope with all the referrals – with long waiting lists in some areas. It is families that must bear the brunt of lack of services and support, and dialogue is long overdue, at a decision making level with those affected by the policy and legislation –  with non professionals – parents, adopters and unpaid carers.

Jake knows the petition is rejected because he supported it, and his mum and him have approved this article for our website, because they feel transparency of process is important. We will reword the petition to try to make it acceptable to the Petitions Committee, so it can be signed. 

What is very troubling indeed is that in the UK parents and carers, and mother’s like Jake’s mum are not able to be part of the decision making process about what works for our families or even contribute to professional understanding of what is needed.  See for example the new What Works for Children’s Centre – where the views and experiences of birth parents, adopters and special guardians have seemingly been overlooked/excluded and are not to be given consideration at all. It is not acceptable that social care professionals, organisations, and their institutions take over in this way and place so little value on those that parent and care for children. The DofE has also been a veritable Fort Knox for us to break into and never any room at the decision making table, and few chances of dialogue, it seems, for those the policy and legislation impacts upon.

Children need supportive parents, and they need families – especially when they grow older and transition to adult life, and the corporate parent is gone. Parenting a dysregulated anxious and possibly autistic child (high levels of autism and autistic traits are identified in domestically adopted children), is nothing like ‘normal’ parenting. How can we possibly help our children when the system is only  ‘child focused’ and not ‘family focused’, and professionals may lack understanding of our child’s difficulties and how they manifest – they may not even recognise them? We can’t is the answer.

The government needs to take action about this because the future of so many children, including our most vulnerable, is at stake. Parents, adopters and unpaid carers need to be part of the solution – not seen as part of the problem, or a potential adversary of their child.

It is all very well having an evidence base as Nesta is working towards with the SCIE, but it is the way this evidence base is shaped that is also important. Whose perspectives count and are actually able to shape the evidence base? Whose perspectives and ‘interventions’ will achieve funding?

The problem with adoption and special guardianship is that we are, in effect, the policy intervention. Yet rigorous policy evaluation in this sector is lacking – especially evaluations that take a public-health/economic perspective at a more macro level. Is the Adoption Support Fund saving money or does it mean greater amounts are spent elsewhere? – on health care for stressed parents and carers, or on far more costly social care when our children must re-enter care – as Jake did. It is not a great deal of money – £21 – million, for all the adopteed and special guardianship children of England, whose numbers will now increase as the special guardian children age – the Order was only introduced 14 years ago so the majority of these children are just approaching the challenging years of adolescence with infants and younger children coming through.

In terms of evidence – in the recent SCIE project on the mental health of children in care (including adopted and special guardianship children), the submissions from parents were notably lacking (guess what? No one is funding us to do research!), and the only rehabilitation submission, of the 82 submissions, was one that focussed on improving parental behaviour.

There seems to be a concerning lack of professional understanding and committment on the part of local authorities to work towards reunification and rehabilitation with family, and in maintaining positive relationships between parent/carer and child.  Developing knowledge in this area is something that SG&AT is working on and would we would be very interested to hear from professionals and organisations that would like to work together with us – please get in touch using the contact form below.

Whilst you are here we do need some financial assistance to cover costs and complete the analysis of our recent survey – see Special Guardians and Adopters Together Interim Report 6th March 2018 . We were overly ambitious in the scope of the survey, and there is so much more to do – we are stressed, time poor parents and carers. Please get in touch if you can help or are able to offer financial assistance – our crowdfunding link is here

If you would like to join SG&AT as an adopter or special guardian please complete a membership form by clicking here

If you would like to support our group, and are not a special guardian or adopter please contact us using this form