The Challenge of Violent Adopted Children and Adoption Breakdown and Care Courts

HomeAdoption Legal CentreThe Challenge of Violent Adopted Children and Adoption Breakdown and Care Courts

The challenges facing adoptive parents have been highlighted by a Report on the Today Programme on Radio 4 on Friday 20th March and by the comments of a judge in Brighton on an adoption breakdown case.

The Today programme reported on a West Yorkshire case where the adopters who had previously been experienced foster Carers found themselves so overwhelmed by the challenging behaviour of their adopted first child that they had to ask for the child to be taken back into care by the Local Authority.

The mother movingly told the programme that she and her husband had simply not been told enough about their adopted daughters background.

Describing some of the behaviour by their daughter, the mother gave these examples to Nigel Priestley, the Solicitor who represented the adoptive parents in the Care Proceedings:

“In November 2013 her behaviour was getting really bad and the only sanctions we could use to some effect was not letting her go to Air Cadets unless certain conditions were met, on one particular occasion when she had been stopped from going as I was  e-mailing air cadets to let them know C would not be there she came at me from behind pushing me on my left shoulder so hard that the swivel chair I was sat on, on the laminate floor careered into the desk and gave me a whiplash. C thought this was amusing and laughed saying I deserved it.

The police interviewed her for a statement about the two counts of domestic violence against me, she showed no remorse to them, and when asked why she had done it replied, cos I wouldn’t let her go to air cadets and cos she hates it here and wants to be dead, this was practically the same answer for the second incident, asked if she would do it again she said might do.

She would shout, swear punch and kick me in front of T and would swear at T telling her it was all her F&*^ing fault and when T would naturally cry she would then call her a F%^&ing cry-baby, of course we would remove T as quickly as possible from the situation, not always easy as this was quite often in the car”.

Commenting Nigel Priestley said, “Between Thursday 19th March and Monday 23rd March I have had 3 care case hearings  involving adoption breakdown in Leeds, Brighton and Northampton. In each case a significant feature has been violence inflicted on the adoptive parent by their child. All the cases highlight failings by local authorities that either didn’t tell the adopters enough before placement or tried to blame them for the adoption breakdown

“I was a member of the Department for Education committee on Adoption Breakdown which lead to the landmark report of Prof Julie Selwyn from University of Bristol in April 2014.

In  the Report prepared by Prof. Selwyn – Beyond the Adoption Order: Adoption Disruption and Families in Crisis, one of the conclusions that was reached was that she was surprised by the “level of child to parent violence”.

In the Executive Summary it states “we had not expected child aggression and violence to feature so strongly in parental accounts of challenging behaviour”.  They went on “Child aggression and violence in the adoptive home raises important issues for post adoption services and for children’s services generally.  In criminal justice and social work research, interest is growing in child to parent violence with published articles appearing mainly in the last 10 years.  There is no single definition of child to parent violence, as it describes a wide variety of physical and psychological behaviours designed to control, coerce and dominate the parent and family members”.  It goes on “while children were young, the violence and aggression could be contained but once young children became bigger and stronger, the behaviour became much more challenging”.

In the Brighton case which ended on 21st March an adoptive father found his children removed in part following an inappropriate restraint to stop his son’s assault on him.

The Judge gave a short judgement. She spoke of “one of the saddest cases I’ve read” and  “the sacrifices people make to take on such difficult children. It was a case of “very genuine complexity’. “I can’t commend him highly enough for his extraordinarily brave decision.”

Commenting Nigel Priestley said that ”  the LA had no insight into the emotional realities of the case; there was no understanding of the damage the children had suffered before placement the depression that the Father had suffered, and the very  challenging behaviour of the children.

His barrister described the father as “one of the most extraordinary care clients I had ever had – top 0.2% IQ; the only parent I’ve ever heard of who says he just wants the best for his children – even if that means no contact to him and no return to him”

In the third case the Local Authority want a 3 day hearing starting on Monday to lay the blame for the breakdown of an adoptive placement in the Midlands on the parents. This is another case where violence was a feature of the children’s behaviour eg “S hit and kicked both of her parents, threw water over D and threatened D with a wooden solitaire board”.

In  2015, BAAF are holding a conference “Disruption in Family Placement, Children as Victims and Children as Perpetrators of Violence.  What explains and what helps”.

This is evidence that adoptive parents are facing significant behavioural challenges. Prof. Selwyn’s report states “The mechanisms by which these factors “cause aggression” remains unclear”.

“Local Authorities want to play the blame game – when most adoptive parents are simply crying out for skilled help.”

For further information please contact the Adoption Legal Centre on 0843 8866386 or alternatively complete our online contact form.