My original post about Adoption Reform

Adoption Reform: An opportunity to innovate.

The new Regional Adoption Agencies (RAA) are being set up to increase the numbers of potential adopters and adoptions, Currently 180 agencies are involved in the recruitment and matching adopters with children, duplicating roles and thereby increasing costs. The system is inefficient meaning that children are left in care longer than needs be after the placement order is arranged. More time in limbo increases the complexity of the adoptees, making them harder to place, and this has financial implications, as intensive therapeutic interventions may be required to keep the placement going. Good therapy is not cheap.

The aim is to; “ speed up matching and markedly improve the life chances of neglected and damaged children; improve adopter recruitment and support: and reduce costs,” (1 ). The RAA’s will combine a number of Local Authorities and consortia, encouraging collaboration and maximising economies of scale.

The Government wants the 14 new RAA’s to address the current trend for a reduction in the numbers of adoptions in future years. Cost cutting here is also a driver because foster care is expensive, at approximately £700 per child, per week (2). A child who is not placed will cost the Local Authority somewhere in the region of £400,000. Adoption is cheaper, financially at least, as once the adoption order is finalised the adoptive parents carry the financial burden.

The RAA’s are supposedly going to seek new models of delivery, encourage ‘excellent practice’ as well as to increase the scale of adoptions (3). Currently the Local Authorities buy services as they need them. This actually discourages innovation because contracts for the independent sector are hard to come by and long term commitment absent, this makes the recruitment and retention of talented staff hard to achieve. However, although there is a recognition that the support market be developed, the RAA’s are expected to retain all of the responsibilities surrounding adoption unless there is a good reason for this to be otherwise.This appears to close the door for external providers and thus any true innovation, this will also keep costs high as Social Services are not ‘cheap’.

Post adoption support is mentioned in the changes, but perhaps their significance is not fully understood. As it stands, post adoption support is hard to find. Some Local Authority websites are hard to navigate and responses can at times feel unhelpful. Accessing the Post Adoption Fund is a gargantuan task in itself, with built in delays starting with getting a Social Worker to complete an assessment. They then decide if the family need help and if so, the help they can receive.

One family started this process over 18months ago. Their child has been scanned, assessed, analysed over and over again. No therapy can be offered until a ‘diagnosis’ is found. Meanwhile, the child is still struggling and the parents are on their knees. This story is not unique.

Hopefully the new RAA’s will be positive for all involved in adoption. But there are some pitfalls and opportunities evident that need to be navigated.

1.Social Services are in charge of driving the change, whilst having a vested interest in safeguarding the status quo. Being innovative is not a natural way for bureaucratic organisations to operate. They are hamstrung by the target driven culture and the need to manage ever decreasing budgets. There is a danger of the system that currently exists being replicated, but on a larger scale. The difficult decisions will be shelved. The funding will remain where it has always rested and support will not meet the needs of the family or the child.

2. The aim is to increase the numbers of adoptions, incorporating many harder to place children, aiming to drive down costs. The larger issue will be post adoption support, this service will need to become more sleek and responsive as the numbers of hard to place adoptees are set to rise. The pressure on adopters will increase. Placements are just the beginning of a very long road that can take years to travel. Adopters in these circumstances deserve meaningful support throughout this sometimes rocky journey..

3. Currently this support is offered in a ‘one size fits all’ approach, provide by expensive staff in generic models, such as parenting courses. Growth here needs to meet the increased demand for this support, and in this area, innovation is a very real opportunity. More individual approaches are a real possibility now, if things are honestly reviewed. Adopters often need immediate low level support in a way that helps them, a phone call, a visit, consistency that is not necessarily time limited but is driven by the challenges as they present themselves.

4. There needs to be recognition of the fact that no one professional can solve the sometimes difficult issues adoption can present. The adopters need to be resilient, resourceful. They need specific, tailored help to become: parents, carers, Speech & Language specialists, educationalists, psychologists and advocates. They have to learn about behavioural management, challenging behaviour, loss, abandonment, trauma. They need help to become an expert, a ‘therapist’.

5. Adopters need to acquire a Zen like calmness when facing anger that is often the behaviour seen in a child with an attachment disorder. To meet anger with anger at times like this, fans the flames. The help needed is often low key, a non-judgemental listener, who has the time to come and be with them when they require it the most. An adoption ‘Buddy’ to travel alongside them.

Adoption is rewarding but can devastate families. Adopters are resilient. Generally, they adopt for the right reasons. They want a family, a child to love. There is no financial reward for this act of kindness and generosity of spirit. But sadly, love is not always enough. That is when they need to be held, figuratively, to enable them to cope when others would give up.

To have a successful placement means that the child can actualise their potential. Support after adoption is an investment in their future, therapy begins at home. Adopters need to be shown the way, to be told that they are coping well in difficult circumstances. I hope that innovation will look outside the pool of qualified Social Workers, and radically alter the landscape of adoption, but it must first address the current limitations and failings openly and honestly.

This adoption reform is a massive opportunity to improve the lives of 1000s of children in care and to give adopters the opportunity to have a family with correct, meaningful support. It is an opportunity to enrich lives. This should not be wasted, it is time to embrace innovation.

References

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/437128/Regionalising_adoption.pdf
2 Selwyn, J.; Wijedasa, D.; Meakings, S. (2004) Beyond the Adoption Order: challenges, interventions and adoption disruptions https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301889/Final_Report_- _3rd_April_2014v2.pdf
3 Selwyn, J.; Wijedasa, D.; Meakings, S. (2004) Beyond the Adoption Order: challenges, interventions and adoption disruptions https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301889/Final_Report_- _3rd_April_2014v2.pdf

10 Top Tips for coping with ADHD as an adult.

Exercise daily; exercise helps to decrease excess energy and helps with concentration and improves the ability to focus. It helps ease depression and anxiety.

Accept that you have ADHD but still need to find ways of managing it – society is not always very forgiving!

Find a peer group that accepts you.

Find time to relax and learn to breathe

Create a list of things to do, prioritise or get help prioritising. Restrict self to work down the list in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed

Set time limits for jobs that you undertake, if sense of time is unreliable, use a timer to assist

Break down or have your tasks broken down into small steps. Too much information can be too much

Use technology to organise your day. Set reminders

Learn about ADHD, understanding it can help you accept it and use certain traits to your advantage

Learn to meditate – anyone can do this , it just takes practice. White noise has also been found to be relaxing. Find something that suits you!

Resources on the Internet

Adoption Support Fund UK
www.adoptionsupportfund.co.uk

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – NHS.UK
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – NHS.UK
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/

SEND Code of Practice- British Dyslexia Association
www.bdadyslexia.org.uk

SEND Code of Practice: a summary | The Key for School Leaders
https://schoolleaders.thekeysupport.com › … › Managing SEN provision

Contact Information for other Organisations

Adoption Matters
www.adoptionmatters.org/

Attachment Aware Schools
attachmentawareschools.com

Coram
www.coram.org.uk/

IPSEA ( Independent Parental Special Education Support)
www.ipsea.org.uk/

PAC-UK:
www.pac-uk.org/

The Attachment & Trauma Network – ATN
https://www.attachmenttraumanetwork.org/

The Bowlby centre

Psychotherapy training centre

The National Autistic Society | – NAS
www.autism.org.uk/

Young Minds
https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/conditions/adhd

I really must take care of myself….

I have always been told, in a somewhat patronising manner, that I need to take care of myself. I am a parent of a young man who is now 15 who we adopted at the age of 2 1/2. Everyone believes that this is young and therefore how traumatised can a child be?

The reality is very different, to the extent that I wrote a book about him! I wrote ‘Loving Eric, a personal a story about Adoption, Attachment, Autism & ADHD.’ to help others learn from our world, educate professionals and help other parents feel less alone. I wrote it because things had improved for our son but recent weeks have proven once again, that with a child this complex the road ahead is always bumpy.

Attachment and Autism can present in similar ways. Where one ends and the other begins for our son, I may never truly know. Essentially, for young people such as these, change is bad, it is scary. Since starting into the educational system,the pattern for us has been that by the summer term of every year, Eric has just about adjusted to the change in school years. He is normally more mellow, able to engage and learn. Hope is born. Summer holidays are normally calm (ish), but a few weeks before the September return to school the anxiety begins to build.

This year I was lulled into a false sense of security, the normal obstacles of a new term were navigated well, until they weren’t! The last few weeks have been like groundhog day. Constant emails back and forth to school, constant skirmishes with other students, all too frequently ending up with Eric coming off worse on many levels, including being hit. This leads onto fear of going to school and thus a spike in anxiety. The anxiety triggers the ‘autistic’ thinking, trapping Eric in a loop of repetitive behaviour, that sadly results in exactly the same outcome, that of feeling isolated, lonely and eradicating his already low self esteem.

A lovely girl I know well described this ‘autistic thinking’ as being in a concrete room, with no way out, no door, and the walls are just getting closer together, squashing her in their rigidity. This analogy has helped me understand how impossible it feels for the trapped individual. We, the ones not in the concrete box must therefore help them to find their own way out, we must drill through the concrete to build them a door, shore up the walls to prevent them from bearing down on them.

Constructing a door for Eric means that I have to try and enter his world. Why is he spiralling? Why does he feel unsafe? How can we put things in place to make him feel that he can escape the confines that his complexity has created for him? This involves negotiation with school, exploring the behaviours, being curious, because the behaviours are his means of communication.

Recently I have witnessed adults without additional needs, facing major change at work and they equally have not coped well. They are wanting to leave, walk away, refuse to do as they are asked by those in charge. They protest, they moan, they kick against their world. Perhaps my son is not acting that differently to them in many respects, but lacks their subtlety when he tells us how he feels. The main difference being that they are adults and can be self determining. They can seek new jobs. Eric must stay in full tim education until he is 18, he cannot change his situational reality. The only thing he can change is his outlook, develop new coping strategies, become less ‘Eric’. Easily said, dauntingly hard to manage.

However, that being said, for me the parent, and many others like me, it is an exhausting, relentless process. I am the target of the anger most of the time but I am also the key. The spiral down tires me out, makes feel a sense of panic about his future, I catastrophise and fail to see that this too shall pass. Things will improve but not without intervention.

So, getting back to my initial comment, I must now take care of myself in order that I can take care of my son and my family. I need to reflect on what makes me feel good about myself and be more creative. I need to relax my shoulders because they are currently residing up near to my ears….now, any ideas anyone ??

 

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