26 September 2017

Asked how they would characterise their adoption, more than a quarter of parents said there were either serious challenges impacting the wider family, or that their adoption was at risk of disruption, or that it had already disrupted.  Almost a half were finding it ‘challenging but stable’, just over a quarter ‘fulfilling and stable’.

Dr Sue Armstrong Brown, chief executive of Adoption UK said: “The survey results broadly mirror what we already knew – that many families are experiencing serious challenges. In a utopian world all adoptive parents’ experiences would be ‘fulfilling and stable’ but we’re talking about some of the most vulnerable children in society.”

The majority of adoptive parents who responded to a joint survey carried out by the BBC and Adoption UK say they are living with serious and continuing violence from their children.

The survey was carried out by BBC Radio Four’s File on Four programme and Adoption UK, the charity that speaks for adopters. The results of the survey and feedback from adoptive parents will provide the content for File on Four's investigation into modern-day adoption.  Child to parent violence in adoption is increasingly recognised as being the result of trauma suffered as a result of neglect and abuse experienced by adoptees with their birth families before going into care. 

Almost two thirds of respondents said their child had displayed aggressive behaviour towards them.  Detailed comments made by almost two thousand parents, revealed that much of this was serious and sustained.  The majority of all adopters responding to the survey reported incidents of significant violence: from punching, kicking and biting, to threats with knives to sexual assaults and attacks requiring hospital treatment.

Incidents included:

“Frequently violent due to inherent high anxiety. He is now bigger than me and with huge regret we have to call the police.  If he were my husband, I would get a divorce but you can’t divorce your child. I cannot give up on him because we are the only stable thing in his life.  We live with child on parent domestic violence.”

The vast majority of the 5,000 plus children adopted in the UK every year are adopted from care. 

Dr Sue Armstrong Brown said: “We’re talking about trauma-fuelled violence from children who will have witnessed the unthinkable in their early lives. Adoption is not a silver-bullet – these children’s problems don’t just disappear overnight.

“Children who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect have experienced the world being an unsafe and dangerous place. The child's violent behaviour reveals extreme distress and a need to feel safe and protected. These children need a particular parenting techniques and access to therapy to overcome early childhood trauma, and they may reject any attempts at parental affection or management of their behaviour.

Adopters were also asked about the information they were given pre-adoption.

Around a third believed they did not receive ’full and correct’ information about their children during the adoption process.

When asked whether they were glad they adopted, the overwhelming majority of respondents to the survey said yes.

Dr Armstrong Brown added: “Despite the challenges, adopters are resilient and devoted to their children, and these results reinforce that adoption can work for the majority, with the right support. Nine out of ten of the respondents said they were glad that they had adopted”

File on 4 Adoption: Families in Crisis, is broadcast at 8pm on Tuesday 26th September 2017, Radio Four

You can view a full breakdown of the results here