August 2021

We Are Family’s Key Messages and Recommendations for the Care Review

The Care Review was set up by the Government to take a fresh look at the children’s social care system and identify some of the biggest challenges and areas for improvement.  

We welcome the Care Review and publication of an initial ‘Case for Change’ report. It is good to see that adopted children are included within the scope and we would like to extend our thanks to the adoptive parents who have contributed to the review. 

Key messages for the Care Review

  • The experiences of many adopters, including our members, tell us that the social care system urgently needs to change. The report rightly outlines some of the challenges that adoptive parents face although we believe it could go further to acknowledge that adoptive parents are also “parenting in conditions of adversity”.
  • Given the complex needs of children adopted from the care system, adoptive parents face a unique set of challenges. However post-adoption services are not always accessible, and the level of support is often lower than what was available when the child was in foster care. A two-year evaluation of the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) showed that whilst it contributes to positive outcomes, more must be done to sustainably support adoptive families and kinship carers into the longer term. 
  • To add to these difficulties, as the report identifies, severing relationships can set children on a “worse trajectory”. Inevitably, the loss of birth family relationships compounds the trauma that many adopted children have experienced; additionally, the current system of letterbox contact is outmoded and in need of reform. The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory has outlined a number of recommendations to explore the role of digital communication in bringing together adoptive parents, adoptees and their birth families. We look forward to hearing more about the plans to address the current gap in support around contact and attachment difficulties. 

Recommendations 

  • We applaud the intent to effect transformative change to help all families involved with and supported by the care system. We would like to see some of the recommendations extended to adoptive families, given that contemporary adoption increasingly involves parenting under adverse conditions to help children who have experienced significant and complex trauma. 
  • Many of the suggestions for change could be adapted for adoptive families, ensuring children who leave the care system through adoption can benefit from continuity of support, for example:
    • Building communities of support (Chapter 2). Peer support can be enormously helpful for adoptive families (evidence of our impact) yet the scope of the ASF only extends to adopted children, not their parents. In order to do more to help adoptive families, we recommend committing consistent funding nationwide for peer-to-peer support communities for adopters.
    • Schools: The challenges that adopted children face at school can be a key stressor for adoptive parents, which could be improved by better understanding of contemporary adoption and the resulting educational needs (Gore Langton, 2017).
    • Providing tailored family help for adoptive families (Chapter 2). The detrimental impact of abuse and neglect does not stop once a child begins life with their adoptive family. The Adoption Support Fund has made a positive difference but more can be done to expand the scope and secure longer-term funding. 
  • Improved preparation for adoptive parents: Building on recommendations from the recently announced ‘Adoption Strategy: Achieving excellence everywhere’, we would also call for improvements to the preparation and training of prospective adopters, to ensure consistent approaches to adopter training nationally, improved provision of information to adopters about the children they are adopting and improved coordination between recruiting authorities, placing authorities and authorities where the adoptive family is resident.

We would be happy to discuss these suggestions and look forward to continued engagement with the Care Review team as they develop recommendations for change. 

Yours sincerely

Mark Hoult-Allen

Chair, We Are Family

  1. https://childrenssocialcare.independent-review.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/case-for-change.pdf
  2. p10 of Case for Change
  3. Thomas, 2013
  4. Palacios et al., 2019
  5. King et al.
  6. https://www.nuffieldfjo.org.uk/our-work/contact
  7. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1006232/_Adoption_strategy_.pdf

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