Adoption UK calls for radical changes to adoption support in first ever UK-wide assessment of adoption

Adoption UK today publishes The Adoption Barometer revealing that adopted children are twice as likely not to be in employment, education or training (NEET) as their peers, 16% of them have had contact with the criminal justice system and 39% 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% of families would encourage others to adopt, despite the fact that 70% say they face a continual struggle for support.

The report’s author, Becky Brooks, 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. All four nations score poorly in at least one area of policy, with no nation scoring ‘good’ in any area of policy. Policy relating to finding families for children scores best across the board, perhaps reflecting recent political emphasis on finding more adopters for children waiting in care. Policy relating to the education of adopted children scores worst. Adopters’ experiences in Wales scored best, with the other three nations at similar levels.

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 to help re-write their children’s futures. 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

Read the executive summary of The Barometer Report here: AUK Executive Summary-Web.pdf

Key findings from the report:

  • 79% of adoptive families would encourage others to adopt
  • 84% of prospective adopters say their social worker understood and supported them through the process of approvals & matching
  • 50% of prospective adopters found the process so difficult that they wondered if they could continue
  • 54% of new adopters experienced stress, anxiety or the symptoms of post-adoption depression during the early weeks
  • 56% of established adopters faced significant or extreme challenges
  • 65% of parents experienced violence or aggression from their child
  • 70% feel that it is a continual struggle to get the help and support their child needs
  • 45% feel that contact with birth family is not well-managed by their agency
  • 24%  experienced direct birth family contact outside of a formal agreement – often unsolicited, via social media
  • Nearly three-quarters of parents agreed that their 16-25 year-olds need significant ongoing support in order to live independently
  • 16-25 year-olds were twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) as their peers
  • 39% of 16-26 year-olds had been involved with mental health services
  • 44% of children had diagnosed social, emotional and mental health needs
  • Adopted children in England were 20 times more likely to be permanently excluded
  • 80% of home educating adoptive families would prefer their child to be in school