The past six weeks have taught us more about adoption support than the previous year. It’s been a deeply uncomfortable experiment into what happens to adoptive families when social, medical and academic infrastructure is disrupted, family routines are upended, pressure on relationships goes up and respite goes down.

This is what we’ve learned.


Things escalate quickly

Families have been simultaneously exposed to additional pressures and cut off from their support. Access to therapists and school SEND resources is reduced, patchy or absent. No less important is the loss of informal support networks, such as contact with the wider family or access to regulating activities.

Family resilience is under strain. We are seeing a steep increase in reports of challenging behaviour, child-to-parent violence, anxiety, and self-harming.

It’s abundantly clear that large numbers of families parenting traumatised children are moving from stable to unstable. Unless the escalation can be halted, another tragic consequence of the pandemic will be the breakdown of some adoptive families.


Virtual support can help fill the gap

Adopters have turned to the internet to find support. We’re encountering an insatiable hunger for parenting and self-care support as parents try to provide a regulating family environment in the face of the chaos outside.

We’re learning fast what virtual support works best for our communities. Expert-led teaching events on topics such as Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), creative therapies and attachment and trauma are in high demand, as are topic-based discussion groups for sections of the community such as prospective adopters derailed by Covid, parents of teens, or single adopters.

The array of expert partners offering to come forward and help the adoptive community through is simply breathtaking and we’re able to make the majority of these activities free to members or offered as universal support to all adopters.

We’re using remote peer support to step into the vacuum created by the sudden cessation of face-to-face clinical and educational support. Partnering trained and experienced adopters with parents under pressure can make all the difference.


More community and peer support means less crisis support later

With resources and processes disrupted by the pandemic, some adoption agencies are moving to commission online and remote support for their families. Everything we know about adoption tells us that the earlier this support is provided, the fewer families will reach crisis point.

Early support provision will reduce the collateral damage of the pandemic, both in the human misery of dysfunctional family life and by sparing scarce adoption agency resources for the families which need the most help.

England remains the only UK nation to have released emergency Covid funding for adopters, enabling agencies to access central funding for community, membership and 1-1 peer support for the first time. But everywhere across the UK, adopters are facing similar pressures and the support opportunity is the same.

In the maelstrom of the Covid response, if agency and government leads can ensure that the depleted professional infrastructure is reinforced now with remote community and 1-1 peer support, we will see fewer families facing crisis – and an adoptive community better able to cope with the transition to whatever new normality emerges.


Fill the support gap to stabilise the adoption sector

It’s clear that the road out of lockdown will be a long one.

Difficulties ahead include a huge shortfall in prospective adopters, rising numbers of children in care, navigating a return to school, and ongoing pressure on health and social services as we learn to live with Covid.

Stabilising the adoption sector now is critical. The support gap must be filled – and Adoption UK is ready to help.

Further information:

For professionals click here
For adopters click here