Last week news reports revealed that children who have made a serious attempt on their life are not meeting thresholds for mental health services. This bleak reality is not news to many children and young people with care experience and their families – adoptive parents, kinship carers and foster parents.

The research carried out by The House Magazine and shared with The Guardian exposed some stark figures - one in four children are suffering with mental health difficulties, 250,000 are being denied access to services and in two trusts in England the waiting time for a first CAMHS appointment is over 200 weeks. One cannot help but conclude that 200 weeks isn’t a waiting time, it’s no service at all.

If this wasn’t grim enough, at Adoption UK we hear from adoptive families that where they live, the threshold is set even higher: at two serious suicide attempts. And they tell us that the word ‘serious’ excludes many situations which should reasonably be defined as such, and which given slightly different variables would have resulted in the death of a child. This is, apparently, the way services are forced to prioritise when resources fall so pitifully short of what is required. The language and the normalisation of this is chilling.

In recent years there have been attempts to increase access to children’s mental health services. But there is a mountain to climb to ensure support is available when it is needed. And still the demand for support continues to rise – especially in the aftermath of the covid pandemic. For there to be any sustained and meaningful improvements, more focus is needed on tackling the root causes of mental health problems. That means providing the right support for children who have experienced early childhood trauma (including adopted children) - support for families and in school. There should also be an equality of outrage. That the number of times a child has attempted suicide is even mentioned in the context of access to a mental health service should be met with the same outrage as long waiting times in A&E.

The scale of this crisis should mean this issue remains at the top of the news and political agendas for more than a few days at a time.

Radical and sustained improvements are needed now.

 By Emily Frith, CEO, Adoption UK