Many adoptive parents struggle to parent children from challenging backgrounds with little support from the authorities. A new report paints a stark picture of adoptions in Wales.
Beyond the Adoption Order in Wales: Discord, and disruption in adoptive families was produced by the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at the University of Bristol. They studied ten adoptive parents experiencing some type of adoption disruption (when an adoption ends) and ten parents who were finding parenting difficult.
Children over four years old who came from a family background that included domestic violence, abuse or neglect presented the biggest challenge to adoptive parents, as did teenagers who had had a difficult time in the foster system.
A pattern of domestic violence was also a key finding of the report, with mothers especially being subjected to a range of violent behaviours, although fathers and siblings were also at risk in some cases. Evidence of children self harming or attempting to run away was also apparent from the study sample.
Parents spoke of little support being available from public authorities, with a high turnover of social workers in Wales exacerbating the feeling that they were expected to “go it alone”. Many parents felt ashamed if they were unable to cope with their adoptive children.
Professor Julie Selwyn, Director of the Hadley Centre pointed to the new National Adoption Service (NAS) which was created last year to improve adoption services in Wales. She says that there is an “urgent need for investment in support services.” And that they need to “build an adoption service for the 21st Century.”
The Bristol study builds on a 2014 report on English adoptions, Beyond the Adoption Order: challenges, intervention s and disruption. Analysis of 37, 335 adoptions over a one year period found 3.2 per cent of children left their adoptive parents prematurely. Again, this behaviour manifested largely with teenagers. This report commented that the figure was lower than expected, but still painted a disturbing picture of the issues facing adoptive families. It concluded that successful adoptions were often down to the stubbornness and dedication of parents, in the face of little official support.
The new Bristol study arrives in the wake of recent government calls for a speedier adoption process for children in care.
Image by Geraint Rowland via Flickr