Poll finds most adoptive and foster parents face violence from traumatised children

Many parents looking after youngsters that have experienced trauma in their lives have faced violence from a child in their care, according to a poll.

For many mothers and fathers, caring for these youngsters has had a negative impact on their mental health, the survey, commissioned by the Centre of Excellence in Child Trauma (CoECT), suggests.

Centre founder Sarah Naish (pictured) said the findings were “shocking, but sadly not surprising”, adding that it should not be considered normal or common for a child who has suffered trauma to “lash out” at their carers.

The poll questioned more than 1,000 people in the fostering and adoption sector, the majority of who were parents who have fostered, adopted or cared for children who have experienced trauma.

It found that 79% said they have suffered violence from a child in their care, while 85% agreed that caring for a child who has experienced trauma has negatively impacted on their mental health.

Just one in 10 (10%) thought that teachers, therapists and social workers understand the impact of child trauma and the fact these children need to be parented differently.

Ms Naish, who is the parent of five adopted siblings, said: “The results of the survey were shocking to read, but sadly not surprising considering the stories we hear on a daily basis.

“When children from trauma lash out and attack their foster parents and adopters, people need to understand that this isn’t a behaviour that should be considered ‘common’ or ‘normal’.

“Local authorities, social services and schools are failing to recognise the most basic causes of child to parent violence or even to acknowledge it as a significant problem.”

She called for councils to take a “holistic view” and to step up support for parents.

A woman who asked to be known as Emily said she faced violence from her daughter and experienced difficulty getting the right support for the youngster.

She said: “When the violence at home really escalated, my husband and I requested restraint training to keep ourselves and our daughter safe, only to become the subject of an investigation and told that if we restrained our daughter we would face allegations of abuse.”

She added: “The strain of the situation eventually contributed to the breakdown of my marriage.

“My own mental health suffered and I was medicated with antidepressants for years, and the after-effects and ongoing struggle to ensure that my daughter has the best care possible and is properly protected mean that I have a struggle with depression, exhaustion and anxiety to this day.”

A report published by Adoption UK last month found that 65% of adoptive parents said they have experienced violence or aggression from their child.

The charity’s chief executive, Dr Sue Armstrong Brown, said: “We’re talking about trauma-fuelled violence from children who will have witnessed the unthinkable in their early lives. Adoption is not a silver-bullet – these children’s problems don’t just disappear overnight.

“Children who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect have experienced the world being an unsafe and dangerous place.

“The child’s violent behaviour reveals extreme distress and a need to feel safe and protected.

“These children need a particular parenting techniques and access to therapy to overcome early childhood trauma, and they may reject any attempts at parental affection or management of their behaviour.”

Adoption UK’s report did find that 79% of families said they would encourage others to adopt.

The charity also said that the Adoption Support Fund is offering millions of pounds of therapeutic, post-adoption support to children and their families.

The fund is only for families in England and Adoption UK is calling for it to be extended to the rest of the UK.

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Councils try to do all they can to support parents and carers who adopt, foster and care for children, and we recognise the amazing job they do to help children thrive.

“However councils are also looking after a record number of children and young people, while being forced to overspend by almost £800 million on their children’s social care budgets in the last year alone just to keep children safe.

“This has led to councils being forced to cut vital early intervention services to support families and to help children with low level mental health issues avoid more serious problems in later life.

“If we are to improve provision of these services that can give children and parents or carers the support they need, then it is vital the Government adequately funds these in the upcoming Spending Round.”

Official figures show that as of March 31 last year, there were 75,420 looked-after children (under the care of authorities), up 4% on the previous year. The majority of these youngsters were in foster placements.

For the same year (2017/18) there were 3,820 adoptions, down 13% on the previous year.

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