On Wednesday 9th April 2014 the Department for Education launches a groundbreaking report on Adoption. The University of Bristol was commissioned to report on Adoption Breakdown. The Report’s title is now “Beyond Adoption: challenges, intervention and adoption disruption.”
(See also University of Bristol website : Report reveals adoption breakdown rate and the experiences of adoptive families in crisis )
Commenting on the Report and the events surrounding its launch, Nigel Priestley, who was a member of the DfE Advisory Group on Adoption Breakdown, commented:
The Report confirms that adoption can work – but for many adopters, better support is needed.
“This is groundbreaking research. It identifies:
- when adoptive placements do break down, the consequences are severe.
- The difficulties and stresses that lead to disruption are often known and experienced by the family over many years.
- The long term consequences of early abuse and neglect can have a profound impact on the young person and their adoptive family. This is compounded where support is patchy, poorly coordinated and ineffective.
- There needs to be an urgent investigation to establish a more robust framework for multi-agency coordination and cooperation building on the current developments in improving adoption support. This must include local authorities, health, education and the voluntary sector. These have resourcing implications.
- The urgency in ensuring that adopters and children are not left alone when they encounter the kinds of difficulties so clearly identified
- The importance of prospective adopters receiving full information on the child being placed with them
- The Report contains graphic interviews with adopters who have faced significant challenges as they have tried to parent the children whom they have adopted.
Mr Priestley went on, “The stories told by both the adopters and the children who have been adopted, ring true in my own experience. I have represented many adopters who have faced colossal challenges with the children they have adopted .They include Chief Executives of major local authorities, church ministers, a member of a Fostering and Adoption Team, a Consultant Paediatrician, and a former Deputy Head Teacher. All were committed parents.
They all thought they were realistic about adoption but found they were facing insurmountable problems. For example one had to sleep on the landing to stop one child he and his wife had adopted from going into his sister’s bedroom for sex. Both children were aged under 8 years old. Many of the children had a significant attachment disorder.
Adopters need to be told the truth about the children placed with them. It is critical that as the Report recommends there is coordinated and properly resourced support for adopters.”
Response of Department for Education – don’t engage with the Press!
The Report was due to launched on 20th March 2014 at a BAAF Conference.
Nigel Priestley said “I have been pressing the DfE for a launch date. I understand that at the BAAF conference the DfE imposed strict conditions on the presentation from University of Bristol.
Pressed further about a launch date, the DfE have now sent out the following email to members of the Advisory Group: “I thought you would find it helpful to know that the Adoption Disruption Report is scheduled for publication next Wednesday 9th April.
We would be grateful if you could avoid engagement with the press about this report. If members of the press do contact you please can you inform Anna Rutter in our Press Office?”
“I am puzzled by what appears to be almost a Stalinist approach to news management simply because DfE appears to think that its findings do not fit the Governments own agenda.
Some of its conclusions help the Government’s strong support for adoption. The report confirms:
- Disruptions in adoption placements, where the child returns to care after being legally adopted, have been subject to significant speculation over many years. The rate is much lower than expected
- The research supports the widely held view that adoptive placements provide children with stable, secure loving homes when they cannot live with their birth parents. The U.K has established a system for ensuring children severely at risk can be placed into adoptive homes when local authorities and the courts agree. This research identifies that this continues to be the right policy.
The DfE appears to be concerned about how the Report’s conclusions are received. The Children and Families Act which strongly promotes adoption has received Royal assent.
The Report has come at a difficult time for the Government:
- Adoption is under scrutiny in the courts. The Court of Appeal’s decision in Re B-S (Children)  EWCA Civ. 813 emphasises that the severance of family ties inherent in an adoption without parental consent is an extremely draconian step and one that requires the highest level of evidence. This decision has had a significant impact on Courts throughout the country
- CAMHS is not fit for purpose In the light of concerns that have been expressed by the Chief Medical Officer and others about both the extent to which children and adolescents are affected by mental health problems and difficulties with gaining access to appropriate treatment, the Health Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into children’s and adolescent mental health and CAMHS. Support from CAMHS is vital for many adoptive families.
- Government cuts have had a significant impact on early intervention Family Support workers who would be the first line of support for beleaguered families.
Nigel Priestley is Senior Partner at Ridley and Hall Solicitors and an advisor with the Adoption Legal Centre www.adoptionlegalcentre.co.uk .
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