Charities line up to condemn dearth of post-adoption support for children and families

Charities are urging the government to improve support for adopted children and their families to stop them being treated like “second-class citizens”.

Adoption UK, Coram and the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) have condemned the poor availability of post-adoption services for parents.

Lack of support in parenting skills, trauma therapy and mental health is leaving far too many placements at risk of breaking down, they warn.

“When parents have a problem they go to their local authority, but often find there isn’t any help for them,” said Adoption UK chief executive Jonathan Pearce. “Sadly, this is an indicator of a system that too often makes families feel like second-class citizens.”

He warned that support for children in areas such as schooling ends when they are adopted, even if emotional and behavioural problems remain.

The latest call comes after the government’s newly appointed adoption tsar, former Barnardo’s chief Martin Narey, recommended that work is undertaken with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services to ensure funding for post-adoption support remains, despite spending pressures.

Jeffrey Coleman, BAAF’s southern England director, said investment is crucial to promoting adoption. “Adopters need to be told there will be challenging issues ahead and given assurance that investment is there for support,” he said.

There is currently no national data collected on the extent of disruption once a child has been adopted. Coleman said estimates reveal that around a fifth of adoptions that start when a child is nine or older will experience disruption or breakdown. This proportion reduces to between five and 10 per cent for children between the ages of seven and eight.

Pearce said if detailed data was collected, it would make it easier to persuade commissioners of the need for support.

Jeanne Kaniuk, head of adoption services at Coram, said that because adopting families move around the country and the children are out of the care system, it would be difficult to compile accurate data about breakdowns. But she is keen to see more research and investment in mental health support.

“At the moment, child mental health services have to prioritise those with a diagnosed illness. This does not recognise the children who have been affected by neglect or abuse,” she said.

Dr Joanna North, head of Joanna North Associates, which offers therapeutic parenting post-adoption support to families, wants councils to recognise this area as a priority.

“People think that once a child is adopted it’s like some magic cure and all the effects of their trauma just go away,” she said. “They don’t and it can be devastating when a placement breaks down.”