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Adoptive mum's turmoil as daughter returns to care over false allegation

The horror of being wrongfully charged with assaulting your own daughter is difficult for most people to imagine. But what if it was your own adopted child who had invented the false allegation against you?

Adoptive mother Helen* felt “abandoned and disbelieved” by her local authority in Scotland as a nightmare scenario enveloped her family.

Helen decided to share her experience in a bid to encourage as many people as possible to support our Fair Deal campaign for adoptive families in Scotland. We hope that Helen’s moving story will encourage you to sign our petition, if you haven’t already, and promote it to family, friends and colleagues.

Helen said: “Lewis, Iona and Isobel were adopted by us in 2007 when they were aged eight, six and five. Prior to being taken into foster care the children had experienced the triple whammy of poor genetics, in utero neglect and then a traumatic early life. Lewis was the primary carer for the younger two, they were neglected and witnessed some extreme domestic violence. 

I gave up work to care full time for the children. Life was hard when they first arrived but we gradually made some progress by parenting therapeutically.  We had to deal with a wide range of issues including food issues, incontinence, violence and aggression, defiant and controlling behaviours, personal hygiene issues, intense sibling rivalry, lying and stealing.

Lewis tried to get us to hit him. He went to bed one night after a particularly challenging day, saying: ‘I can’t believe you’ve not hit me yet!’

Things took a major turn for the worse in 2012 when Lewis, then 13, sought information about his birth family which seriously unsettled him. He was very abusive towards us, changed his friendship group and made all the choices you don’t want your 13 year-old son to make. He started saying he wanted to return to his birth family. We told Lewis we loved him and that he was with us forever, but he insisted he wanted to go - and take his siblings with him. That’s when things got really unpleasant. Lewis set out to prove we were abusive parents so all three would be removed from us. Lewis tried to get us to hit him. He went to bed one night after a particularly challenging day, saying: ‘I can’t believe you’ve not hit me yet!’

We asked for Lewis to be accommodated but were refused. By the end of 2012 we were on our knees. Both my husband Iain and I had been to the GP with stress and he had been signed off work.

 I slapped him once, on the cheek

Then, at the end of another challenging day, I had an argument with Lewis and I slapped him once, on the cheek. Lewis told his friends who contacted the police. All three kids were interviewed by the police and Lewis was removed to foster care. I admitted the slap. I was charged with petty assault and a child protection case conference was called. The charge was dropped two months later and the case conference did not register the children. 

In 2015, Isobel, who was then aged 13, began to struggle. She became increasingly defiant and aggressive, especially towards myself and frequently said we were abusive and threatened to report us to her social worker. Alongside this, Lewis was back in touch and he asked to return home but I refused as I thought the impact on the younger two would be adverse. I did reassure Lewis that we were still his parents and loved him and would be there for him.

Then, a few months later we said 'no' to a request from Isobel, who became angry and started to hit me, so I pushed her away so I could leave the room. She started screaming that I’d hit her and stormed off. We just left her to calm down. But she called Lewis, who informed social services that I’d ‘hit her’. Isobel was removed to foster care later that evening. Again, she and Iona were interviewed by the police and a case conference called. The case conference did not register the children. However, I was arrested and charged by the police – the only corroboration being that I had a previous history as I’d admitted the previous slap. A few months later I received a court citation stating that I’d been charged not only with the recent offence but also the charge from 2012 as well. 

...all three children would have had to give evidence against one other.

After a lengthy wait the charges were eventually dropped. Had they not been dropped I would have had to plead guilty to the initial charge as I’d admitted it and be faced with a criminal record as a Schedule 1 offender. This would have had huge implications – I would not have been able to return to work and Iona could also have been removed from us. If I’d denied the latter charge, the case would have had to go to trial and all three children would have had to give evidence against one other. It really would have been a no-win situation.

Isobel is now in her seventh foster care placement and veering from demanding to come home, to hating us completely. She’s still trying to control from a distance. We’ve had no contact with Lewis recently but Iona is doing well and my husband and I are now rebuilding our lives.

We wonder how things would have turned out had we received the help we needed when we asked for it. I tried to access help from social services for two years but calls were never returned. And yet as soon as my son contacted them to say he wanted to return to his birth family they were all over us and were immediately in ‘blame the parent mode’.

nothing we said was believed or taken on board

What makes it worse is that contacting social services is a last resort - at that point you need help and support, not a system you have to fight to get anything...and that blames you... Once the allegations were made, we were viewed very negatively and nothing we said was believed or taken on board. 

I find parenting traumatised adopted children hard, but trying to work with the ‘system’ is actually even harder....and in Scotland there is no Adoption Support Fund or Pupil Premium Plus.

Beyond the Adoption Order, a report by Prof Julie Selwyn found that 37% of adopted children (whose adoptive parents took part in the study) had made an allegation of abuse against an adult. More than a quarter (27%) of the adopters who were interviewed revealed that they had been threatened with, or subjected to, a child protection investigation.

* All of the names have been changed and the image is posed by a model. 

To support our campaign for a fair deal for adoptive families in Scotland please sign our petition.  

If you would like to share your story please contact our Comms Team at press@adoptionuk.org.uk or on 01295 752240.

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