Stable Homes, Built on Love, the strategy published in February has much of value – a focus on early help for struggling families, investment in kinship and foster care, proposals to invest in the social care workforce and measures to free up social workers to spend time with families. These proposals are valuable and desperately needed.

Where the proposals fall short is adoption.

This was again reinforced last month by the publication of the government’s response to the consultation. Whilst claiming the voices of families and those with lived experience, including of adoption, have vital part to play in the government’s vision to transform children's social care; it excludes adoption from these reforms.

Birth family relationships

The government plans do reference the vital work already underway by the National Adoption Strategic Team to improve contact between adoptees and their birth families, but there is so much more to be done. Adoption UK is calling for government to mandate and fund Regional Adoption Agencies to ensure every adopted child has a written plan to guide relationships with birth family, led by a named specialist social worker.

Education, employment and training

Plans set out in the Care Review for the creation of greater opportunities for children in care and care leavers to achieve their potential through education, employment and training, for example through increased apprenticeships opportunities, are welcome. But the measures exclude adopted children. This feels like a missed opportunity to make radical improvements to the lives of adopted children and young people.

The evidence that change is needed is clear. Our research shows that three quarters of adopted young people say they need more support than their peers in school, and almost 80% of adopted children say they routinely feel confused and worried at school. Two thirds of those at secondary school report being teased or bullied because of being adopted, and on leaving school, adopted young people are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) compared to their peers.


Government proposals to decrease health disparities and increase life expectancy for children in care and care leavers are also welcome. According to NHS data, one in six children now have a probable mental health condition and care experienced children, including those who are adopted are more likely to have mental health needs than their peers due to early trauma, neglect, and abuse. They are also more likely to have complex and overlapping additional needs such as ADHD, autism and FASD.

Our Adoption Barometer report shows that over half of adopted young adults accessed or attempted to access mental health services last year, almost half were reported to have diagnosed social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH). The combination of this, coupled with a high likelihood of complex and overlapping additional needs such as ADHD, autism and FASD, can bring significant challenges for adopted children.

Excluding adopted people from this ambitious set of measures designed to radically improve the quality of life of care experienced children and adults, reinforces the misconception that once a child is adopted their early life trauma has been fixed. This is a mistake, and government must make the most of opportunities like this to do all it can to improve the outcomes for all vulnerable children.