On the 3rd April 2014 the University of Bristol published a report entitled Beyond the Adoption Order: Challenges, Interventions and Adoption Disruption. This report resulted from one of the most comprehensive studies to be carried out on adoption in England for years. The study looked into adoption break down and analysed national data on 37,335 adoptions over a 12 year period. The findings suggest that adoption break down is significantly lower than expected with only 3.2% of adopted children leaving there adoptive families prematurely. The reason for this, the report states, ‘became obvious when [they] met the families. The commitment and tenacity of adoptive parents was remarkable. Most parents, even those whose children had left, still saw themselves as the child’s parents and were supporting their children from a distance.’ [i]
The report went on to state that it was suggested that ‘perhaps a revolving door approach was needed for some adopted adolescents, whereby they could spend time away from their families without it being seen as a failure. Instead, most of the families… interviewed spoke of an ‘all or nothing’ social work approach that blamed and judged parents when relationships were just not working, and parents needed respite or young people wanted to leave.’ (Beyond the Adoption Order ). It became apparent to the researchers that parents whose relationship with their adoptive children had broken down were often left feeling ‘blamed, demoralised, and unsupported’ (Beyond the Adoption Order), with many of them losing all faith in the system. The report stated that adoptions that occurred during the teenage years were ten times more likely to breakdown. The research suggests that more support is offered in the early years of adoption which does not last the course. There are limited resources and support for adopted teenagers and their adoptive parents.
In addition to the data analysed 390 adoptive parents, looking after 689 adoptive children, returned surveys that asked for an assessment of their current relationship with their adoptive children. 66% of the surveys reported that the adoption was going well. A correlation was found between adoptive parents who were struggling to care for their adoptive children or those with adoptive children who left home prematurely and adoptees with a history of domestic violence, sexual abuse and neglect. Within 91% of adoptions that had broken down the adoptive child had witnessed domestic violence. Further, within 34% of adoption break downs the adoptive child had been a victim of sexual abuse. Mental health problems were prevalent with 97% of those children that had left home suffering from some form of mental health problem.
Professor Julie Selwyn stated that they ‘had not expected child to parent violence to feature so strongly in parental accounts of challenging behaviour. Young people were mainly violent to their mothers, but fathers, siblings, pets and in one case, grandparents had also been assaulted.’ She went on to say that ‘there is an urgent need for Children’s Services to develop support services for adopted teenagers and their parents and for mental health services for young people to be improved.’ (Beyond the Adoption Order) Upon leaving the adoptive home most of the children re-entered care and were extremely difficult to place. Many of them showed extreme and challenging behaviours such as self-harming, attacking others and committing serious criminal offences.
The report makes a number of recommendations to improve the current situation. Among these recommendations were the following:
- Require adoption agencies to demonstrate that adopted children know about and have access to support services, as well as their adoptive parents.
- Encourage development of interventions that focus on the child/parent relationship and whole family interventions.
- Support the evaluation of the effectiveness of the youth justice system’s interventions to address child to parent violence (CPV) for adoptive families in which there is CPV. Such 289 interventions include Non Violent Resistance (NVR) and Break4Change.
- Examine legislation and guidance to ensure that respite care can be provided without making the child ‘looked after’.
- Entitle young people leaving adoptive families to leaving care services, especially support for further education.
- Improve training, supervision and support needs for foster carers and family placement workers in relation to the carer’s and professional’s role and responsibilities for children who move from foster care to an adoptive family.
- Provide needs led rather than service led interventions. Too often, parents and children got what was available in house and not what was needed.
- Identify young children who are aggressive in foster care and intervene to address the aggression.
Areas for further research were also identified promoting an overhaul in the current support system in place for adopted children and their parents.
The full report can be read on the following website: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301889/Final_Report_-_3rd_April_2014v2.pdf
[i] Beyond the Adoption Order: Challenges, Interventions and Adoption Disruption, Julie Selwyn, Dinithi Wijedasa, and Sarah Meakings, University of Bristol School for Policy Studies Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies.
Photo by Arkansas ShutterBug via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.