The Government recently released its strategy for implementing reforms to children’s social care, following 3 separate independent reviews. We Are Family contributed to one of these reviews – conducted by Josh MacAlister – and you can read more on our contribution here.
In our letter to the review we highlighted the crucial importance of including adoption, and the lived experiences of adopted children and their families, within the scope of the review in order to truly achieve the “whole-system approach” to which the review was committed. We were hopeful that such an approach would feature in the resulting strategy, but are very disappointed to find scant mention of adoption and the needs of adoptive families given the role they play within the lives of looked-after and previously looked-after children.
We understand that the Government’s intention is to continue to consider adoption strategy and practice separately, within the National Adoption Strategy (which is due for review this year) and would sincerely welcome consideration of all of the issues we outlined in our original letter to the review.
We would however welcome the opportunity to restate the fact that adopted children are necessarily care-experienced and, along with their families, are therefore able to provide valuable insights from lived experience into the long-term impacts of different care journeys, even when safety, stability and love are provided. The adoptive community that We are Family represents is all too aware that even with the most loving, stable and safe family home, the challenges that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) create can impact not only on the success of the adoption placement, but also the lifelong experiences of the care-experienced child.
The non-inclusion of adoption in the strategy may reflect the societal narrative we often observe which is that as soon as a child is adopted ‘they will be fine’. In fact, formerly looked-after children invariably come from the most vulnerable backgrounds and their adoptive families need ongoing support from the whole system. If the system washes its hands of children once adopted, and fails to provide adequate ongoing and therapeutic support, adoption breakdowns become more of a risk and negative adoption experiences impact the ability to recruit adopters to sustain the ‘solution’.
We would specifically like to comment on the following sections of the Children’s Social Care Implementation strategy which pertain to adoption experience:
- The first focus pillar in the strategy is around early support for families, reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage and we fully welcome this. However it is important that it is also recognised that adoptive families (which is the right place for many care-experienced children) are provided with and able to access the same ‘early support’ as all other family types, thereby reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage. We know from many of our members that much needed support is often difficult to access and sustain.
- Under pillar 3, we support the proposed improvement to the digital ways in which children can remain connected to birth families. Indeed, WAF already supports initiatives which aim to ‘unlock family networks’ and modernise contact arrangements e.g. Pause digitalisation campaign and the Adopt London ‘letter swap’ pilot.
We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to contribute to the review of the Adoption Strategy in due course and remain hopeful of a whole system approach evolving in the future.
We Are Family Chair of Trustees