Get Adoption UK’s view on some key issues in the adoption field.
Here are Adoption UK's positions on several key issues in the adoption field
It is often preferable for the heritage of children and their adopters to be closely matched. However, it is more important that children are placed on timescales that meets their needs (so as avoid further harm or damage via delay), rather than on adult timescales that may be excessively concerned about finding the ideal racial/ethnic match.
Where it is not possible to find a good racial/ethnic match, then adoptive parents will need good quality support services to ensure that their children’s heritage is fully reflected as part of the development of their future identity.
Consideration should be given as to whether the child will be part of a community in which at least some people reflect their heritage; how the local community will help the child develop his other identity; what the child will need to know about his or her heritage and what contact will be available with the birth family.
Current law lays down minimum entitlements to adoption leave and pay but these are less than those for maternity leave and pay. Adoptive parents are discriminated against in three key respects:
Adoption UK is calling for legislation to be amended to give parity between maternity and adoption pay and leave ending the discrimination of those caring for some of the country’s most traumatised children.
Increasingly, the security, confidentiality and stability of adoptive families who have adopted children are being undermined by birth families’ use of the internet. Many families who have had their children removed and adopted use the internet, and sites such as Facebook, as a vehicle to trace the children.
Adopted children can be drawn into internet communication with their birth families, often inappropriately and dangerously, without protection, support or filters on the veracity of the information they are receiving; and without a full understanding of the implications of re-opening direct contact at a crucial stage of the development of their own identity.
Adoption UK receives countless accounts of the harm and damage caused to adoptive families via this unregulated contact, including potential and actual disruptions and family breakdown.
Many prospective adopters are turned away without a proper assessment of their potential as adoptive parents. This can be due to the way that local authorities prioritise their recruitment which is often subject to value judgements on what constitutes a “good family” – typically a couple with a degree of affluence. Adoption UK has found that out of those prospective adopters who do make it through the application process too many are subjected to long wait times and bad practice.
Adoption UK is calling for the recruitment of adopters to be a national priority that is implemented nationally rather than locally. Adoption should be promoted positively, and adoptions fully, properly and adequately supported.
The very nature of modern-day adoption means the issue of contact between adopted children and their birth families is extremely complex. Today, the majority of children adopted from the UK care system have been removed from their birth families due to abuse and neglect. The need for practical and emotional support in this area is vital. Research has shown that contact between adopted children and their birth family can be beneficial but it is also recognised that any form of contact needs careful planning and support.
For children who have been removed from their birth families, maintaining some form of contact with them can have major benefits, helping them to develop a healthy sense of identity, understand where they came from and come to terms with their pasts. Contact can be with birth parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters or other members of the family. When a child is adopted the agency and the adopters agree a contact plan, designed specifically for the child, outlining who they have contact with, how often and in what form.
It should also be noted that contact may not always beneficial to the child; it may, in fact, re-traumatise the child.
Adoption UK believes that the current provision of support services to adopted children and their families is inadequate. Adoptive parents take on some of society’s most vulnerable children. They need continuing training and support on child development and how this is affected by the trauma of abuse and neglect, attachment issues and how to be therapeutic parents to abused and neglected children. They also need joined-up, adoption-aware services across not just the social care sector, but also in educational and mental health.
Adoption UK welcomed the publication of the Government’s Adoption Action Plan in March 2012 and its focus on improving the adoption system for children in care and their future adoptive families. However, we feel the Action Plan could be strengthened is in relation to the development of adoption support services as the aim of recruiting more adopters and placing more children for adoption will not be realised unless support is put in place to help ensure the success of adoptive placements.
Adopted children can have periods of distress and difficulty at different stages of their school career due to early trauma they may have experienced.
Currently adopted children do not receive the same type of entitlements or support as “looked after” children within schools, e.g., in relation to access to educational support – even though adopted children come from the same population as fostered children. The School Admissions Code was changed in England in December 2011 to give children adopted from the care system the same priority in the school admissions as looked after children.
Adoption UK is campaigning for the same legislation change in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In addition, adopted children should have the same status as looked after children in relation to their educational need, including entitlements to additional support, across the UK. Adoption UK also believes that educational professionals should be trained in the issues of trauma and attachment.
Intercountry adoption is a complex area of law, governed by international conventions and domestic and international law. Someone from the UK who is interested in adopting from overseas has to be prepared, assessed and approved as an adopter in this country, as well as meeting the adoption law requirements of the country from which they want to adopt.
People choose to adopt from overseas for many reasons. They may have a link or previous involvement with, or interest in, a particular country, such as being born there, or lived or worked there, or have family from there, and so on. For some, there may also be the belief that adopting from overseas may be easier, that they will be able to avoid being placed with older, more traumatised children from the UK care system, and/or that they will have more chance of being able to adopt a baby - which is often the starting point for many people when they first think about adoption, as many adopters come from a background of infertility. It is true that overseas adopters will have a better chance of adopting a baby by going overseas, but this does not mean that their adoption will necessarily be easier.
Intercountry adoption is an involved and costly process. Furthermore, children adopted from overseas will share many of the issues of children placed domestically. Both will have had to deal with the traumatising effect of separation from their birth parents, and any associated trauma they may have experienced, which could be due to early abuse/neglect, further changes of carers, all of which will be down to individual circumstances. For overseas adopted children, there may also be questions around the harm caused by being institutionalised in a care home or orphanage.
More fundamentally, however, children adopted from overseas, and their new parents, will have further challenges to face in that the children will not only have been removed from their birth family, but also from their race, language, culture and nationality. Those are huge issues for a child coming to a new country and a new family, and adoptive families need to be supported with dealing with them.
The child is the most important thing when considering who can and can’t adopt. In most cases, the child has spent most of their life in the care system, so first they have been taken from their family for a reason, then they’ve spent years moving from one foster home to another.
In every case, the priority for the local authority and adoption agency is making sure that the child’s adopted family is able to provide them with the stability their lives have been lacking. So the two most important things that adoption agencies look for are health and longevity. These children have dealt with more than enough loss and bereavement in their lives already. Now they need someone who will always be there for them, as much as we can assess that, of course. The parents must have the maximum chances of being around for as long as the child needs them.