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Adoption breakdowns higher than estimated, report claims

Adoption breakdowns are higher than previously estimated, a study commissioned by the Department for Education has concluded.

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

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Winston Smith says:

    This has been known for years that the failure rate was much higher than admitted, and failures come when the children are teenagers..

    We have had to advise adoptive families who do not know where to turn.

    In several cases they have been blamed by the Social Services Dept. and the child taken back into Care.

    The problem is the dogmas around which this took place-“The Forever Family” and “Permanency” – thus the placements cannot fail.

    We were told for years there were no statistics being kept, then it was discovered the DoH statisticians had them.

    One problem not taken into account is that if the child is Attached to their original parents under Attachment Theory ( J.Bowlby) then Disrupted Attachment will take place as the result of the Forced Adoption and this will come out in their teenage years.

  2. President highlights tension on adoption between councils and the government - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] It costs  a lot of money to keep children in care, and such children effectively have to  grow up without parents. But even those lucky children who do find new families may from troubled backgrounds and be afflicted by behavioural and emotional issues that can prove a terrible burden to the most well-intentioned of adoptive parents. Adoption breakdowns are not unknown. […]

  3. Adoption breakdowns higher than estimated, report claims – Marilyn Stowe Blog | adviceandhelpforpeoplegoingthroughthefamilycourts says:

    […] Adoption breakdowns higher than estimated, report claims – Marilyn Stowe Blog. […]

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