“Adoption is no longer fit for purpose”. Someone has to say it.

Adoption is no longer fit for purpose”. Those are the sentiments expressed recently by many adopters and a few enlighten professionals. I’m independent, so I can voice it publicly. Many others can not.

The capping of the Adoption Support Fund at £5000 was the tipping point.

Its introduction was much heralded and deeply appreciated in the adoption community. It provided money to facilitate the often lengthy therapeutic work that all adoptive families need and was promised before their children arrived. However its implementation has been fraught and the recent imposition of a cap is intolerable.

In the past few weeks I have spoken to experienced adopters whose:

  • Son (20) received a six year prison term
  • Daughter (14) has been admitted to A&E twice this week with overdoses
  • Son (15) has been terrorising the family for over two years with threats and violence, frequently absconding from home and school
  • Daughter (7) has violent rages for hours

I could easily add another 20 examples

A common factor was a refusal or inability from the local authority to provide robust effective interventions despite numerous requests. (They can’t give what they don’t have). Sorry Social Services but a bit of sympathy and offer of parenting classes just won’t do.

Meanwhile prospective adopters are told that ongoing support will be available. In their ignorance, they believe the promises. They expect normal children with a few difficulties. What walks through their front door are the most damaged children in our society. Courts intervene with adoption when “nothing else will do” (Sir James Mumby, The President Family Division).

Adopters have better things to do (like therapeutic reparenting) than plead with ill equipped professionals for help. Frequently these children are completely out of control because earlier requests were dismissed due to budget constraints. Hence only a series of full blown crises often involving police (criminal activity, child on parent violence) hospitals (for the child or their victims), drugs, alcohol, self harming, school refusal etc force interventions. That just won’t do.

Individually people are doing their absolute best: but systemically adoption is broken; primarily because it disregards the legacy of trauma.

Hence my assertion that adoption, in its current form, is no longer fit for purpose. We are setting up adopters to fail. Maltreated children have a legacy of trauma which, unresolved, leads to a lifetime of fear fuelled rage. Currently adoption support rarely offers trauma informed, ongoing, deep, therapeutic interventions throughout a child’s life. Sorry but shoehorning them into existing (ill fitting) services or a few CAMHS sessions just won’t do.

I believe in the concept and principles of adoption. When implemented skilfully it can transform the life trajectory of a child and bring joy to the adults. However a lack of funding and poor comprehension of the lifelong issues, result in adopters being unpaid foster carers, without the benefit of social work support. The overall cost (emotional, physical, psychological, financial) to the adults is now too great and not outweighed by the benefits to the child. However; short term, adoption is the cheapest option.

The ASF was capped because demand was twice the forecast level, demonstrating the desperate need. Believe me, I’m an adopter of 25 years who self funded most of our therapy. You don’t do that lightly. No parent will abuse the ASF. You plead because you are exhausted, hopeless, fearful, angry and desperate.

Adults who decide to offer a permanent home to the most damaged children, saving society millions, deserve uncapped robust support from our government. Nothing else will do.