The Right Honourable Boris Johnson
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
10 Downing St.
16th October 2019
Re: National Adoption Week
Dear Prime Minister,
I’m writing to you this National Adoption Week with only one political matter in mind and rest assured that it certainly isn’t Brexit!
For the past two and a half years (whilst UK politics has been dominated by the aforementioned) I’ve been working as a Family Support Worker in Adoption Support, helping to support the parents of some of our societies most vulnerable children. During my time in this role I have observed many flaws within the support mechanisms for Adoptive families and this National Adoption Week I would like to take the time to share them with you on behalf of all of the amazing adoptive families out there (some on whom I have had the pleasure of working with).
I’m sure you are aware that statistically Adopted and Fostered children struggle to reach the same level of attainment educationally as their peers and this is mainly due to their traumatic early life experiences. As a result of this a large portion of my time is spent supporting children (and their families) in the educational setting. Whilst doing so, It has come to my attention that a large proportion of schools (certainly within my area) are not trauma and attachment informed. I cannot stress enough how essential it is for professionals working with children and young people who have experienced trauma and disruptions in attachment to be trained and therefore surely this should form an integral part of teacher training and ongoing development?
In addition to this there is a growing epidemic in our country of children with diagnosed and undiagnosed FASD (Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder) relating to alcohol exposure in utero. Again despite this debilitating disability, which causes both physical impairment and behavioural difficulties being on the increase, I can tell you (from my time as a Local Authority Foster Carer) that the lack of insight with regards to this disability is as rife (amongst social work practitioners and school professionals) as the disability itself.
As a result of this lack of knowledge on countless occasions I have witnessed Adoptive parents being heavily scrutinised for the challenges their child presents as opposed to being provided with the support and understanding they very much need and deserve as a family. This ultimately leads to breakdowns in relationships between professionals and families and time and time again transpires in children (who may have already moved multiple times in care) having to move educational providers, be home schooled and in the most severe cases return to the care system.
I understand that the government recognised the challenges adopted children face in school by implementing Pupil Premium for Previously Looked After Children and this Support was very much welcomed within the profession of social work and by adoptive parents; however what the government sadly failed to recognise is the need for this money to be ring fenced in order to provide the specialist individual support that care experienced children require to make a difference. Instead this money has been given to cash starved schools without clear instruction as to how it should be spent. Needless to say as a result I receive calls daily from desperate parents (many of whom have had to give up their jobs) who are having to fund private tutors, Occupational therapists and dyslexia assessments out of their own back pockets due to schools refusing to help or claiming (with very little supporting evidence) that the money is being spent elsewhere.
Now I feel it’s important to pause here and shine a light of positivity as there are indeed a select few schools out there demonstrating awareness, dedication and commitment when it comes to supporting the children of our care system. Whilst I take the time to reflect on this, I am curious as to how they are being recognised as I can assure you that it is unlikely to be in their Ofsted report, perhaps if it were more schools would be inspired to follow suit!
Following on from the Pupil Premium and continuing with the theme of funding, I was very pleased to hear that the Government are extending the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) until 2021; and no doubt the providers of ‘specialist therapeutic services’ will be too. You see where there’s a pot of money there is always someone around ready to take it. One of the biggest providers in my area (I won’t name and shame) cleverly over inflated their prices the minute the fund was introduced.
What does this mean for Adoptive parents I hear you ask? Well what it meant for my family, when I tried to access it for one of my three adopted children is that the price came above the capped amount and therefore my application was declined. I suppose I shouldn’t grumble as we were offered alternative therapy (which he didn’t need) as a consolation prize! Needless to say it was my turn to decline as it’s nonsensical to squander Government money and access services that we do not require as a family.
Without causing too much speculation, I do wonder who is regulating the list of service providers for the ASF as it suddenly appears to me that everyone is a ‘therapist’ in something or other making me very sceptical as both a parent and a professional.
Lastly I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that accessing therapeutic support should not just be offered to the children and young people who have been fortunate enough to ‘leave’ the care system. I’d like to therefore remind you of the ones who ‘remain’. With this in mind I have to question, who is fighting for our Adopted children’s counterparts ‘the Fostered children’ and where is the much needed funding for their therapeutic services?
This week the Guardian published statistics stating that there are double the amount of children in care compared to the number of Adopter’s coming through, and given that it’s National Adoption Week I thought what better time to talk about Adoption than now. As a country we need to ensure that the right support is in place for our newly recruited Adopter’s and instil confidence in prospective Adopters considering putting themselves forward.
I understand that the Government has been distracted as of late, however I ask that in this very special week you please spare some thought for the forgotten children of our care system and their wonderful families. I also ask for you to take some time to deliberate whether it really should be all about the ones who ‘leave’ or if we should be sparing a thought for the ones who ‘remain’ too, I’m pretty convinced you will all be experts in this area by now!
Adopt a different view
CC The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP
Michelle Donelan MP