Entitled Beyond the Adoption Order: challenges, interventions and adoption disruption, the University of Bristol report is based on local authority records and interviews with close to 400 adoptive parents. It is thought to be the first report to ever look at the reasons for adoption failure.
Over a 12 year period, the rate of adoption breakdown was 3.4 per cent, according to the local authority data, but nine per cent according to the information from adoptive parents. The local authority data is likely to be an underestimation, the report claims.
Adoptions are a significant ten times more likely to break down while the children are teenagers when compared with children under the age of four. Eighty per cent of such breakdowns are due to violent behaviour, the report claims.
Other breakdowns had occurred following difficult behaviour by the child, including intimidation, threats and being blamed by the child for their difficulties. Poor post-adoption support was also a factor.
Children most at risk of adoption disruption and breakdown included those who had been older when they first entered the care system; those who had been waiting for adoption in the care system longer; and those who had already been moved to a number of different placements.
A quarter of adoptive parents said they had struggled to cope with children with “multiple and overlapping difficulties”.
The report explains:
“Many parents said they lived in fear. Child aggression and violence within the adoptive home raises important issues for post-adoption services and for children’s services more generally.”
Many parents did not know where to turn when the adoption ran into difficulties and struggled to access the limited support available. Sometimes the problems did not meet agency criteria and sometimes support agencies simply failed to act.
Hugh Thornbery is chief executive of Adoption UK. He said:
“Many adopted children have experienced abuse and neglect and it is vital that support is available for their entire childhood and beyond, not just in the early years of an adoption placement. We are encouraged that this research heralds the start of a new era in our knowledge about adoption and will allow us to focus our vital work supporting adoptive families.”
Photo by Horia Varlan under a Creative Commons licence