More adoption support needed

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Adoption UK is calling for radical changes to adoption support in first ever UK-wide assessment of adoption.

The agency has published The Adoption Barometer revealing that adopted children are twice as likely not to be in employment, education or training (NEET) as their peers, 16 per cent of them have had contact with the criminal justice system and 39 per cent have needed help from mental health services.

Three quarters of adopted children have suffered significant violence, abuse or neglect in their birth families, with a lasting impact that extends into early adulthood and affects life chances, placing huge emotional and often financial strain on adoptive families. There are at least 55,000 adoptive families in the UK.

The Adoption Barometer reveals that while advances have been made in recruitment and preparation of adopters, government policies are still not addressing the heart of the challenges faced by adoptive families, and especially families with older children.

Adoption UK surveyed around 3,500 families across the UK, asking them to reflect on their experiences during 2018. The charity also assessed national policy relating to adoptive families at each stage of their adoption journey.

The report reveals that 79 per cent of families would encourage others to adopt, despite the fact that 70 per cent say they face a continual struggle for support.

Becky Brooks, report author, said: “These are strong and optimistic families, improving the life chances of some of the UK’s most complex and vulnerable children.

“But for too many families, getting support to help their children overcome their tough start in life is like fighting a losing battle.”

English and Welsh policies score best, though all nations have much further to go in creating an adoption sector that is fit for purpose.

Policy relating to finding families for children scores best across the board yet that of the education of adopted children scores worst.

Other key themes to emerge from The Adoption Barometer include: high levels of child-to-parent violence, ill-planned and badly-supported contact arrangements with birth families; high rates of health problems including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and mental ill health; and large numbers of families resorting to home education because the formal school system is letting their children down.

Adoption UK is calling for a radical new deal for adoptive families, which provides the support they need.

This includes detailed therapeutic assessments for every child before they arrive in their new family, with accompanying fully-costed support plans, to be maintained and updated into early adulthood.