Report reveals adoption breakdown rate in Wales

Published: 03.06.15

The most comprehensive study ever to be carried out into adoption in Wales has found that the rate of breakdown is lower than anticipated, but it also reveals adoptive parents looking after teenagers do not receive enough support.
Report reveals adoption breakdown rate in Wales

Researchers from the University of Bristol analysed national data on adoptions in Wales over an 11-year period to show that 2.6 per cent of children – almost three in 100 - move out of their adoptive home prematurely, known as a ‘disruption’. This is slightly less than the adoption disruption rate in England (3%).  

The report found that adoptions breakdown for a variety of reasons including lack of resources and support for families after they adopt a child. Adoptions were also more likely to breakdown if a child was placed once they were over the age of four. Most adoptions breakdown during the teenage years with teenagers 10 times more at risk of disruption compared with children under the age of four. This is an important finding as services have focused on providing support in the early years of the placement. It also found that there are very few services for adopted young people and those parenting adopted teenagers in Wales despite the average age for an adoption disruption being 13 to 14.

Adoption UK welcomes the publication of this report as some of the adopters experiences documented reflects the type of calls we receives through our helpline in Wales.

Ann Bell, Welsh Development Manager for Adoption UK said:  “It is important to remember that it isn’t adoption which causes the difficulties these children and their families have experienced - it is their early experiences in their birth families that have left a legacy which stays with them, in some cases until adulthood. 

“Generally speaking adoption is a very positive experience for children but there are some important lessons we need to learn from this research.  Firstly, we need a significant investment in therapeutic services for children and young people in Wales to help them to recover from the abuse and neglect they experienced as infants. Secondly, we need to listen to the experiences of adoptive families and make sure that they are at heart of the reforms which the National Adoption Service IS now taking forward.”

In Wales, 17 of the 20 families interviewed by the researchers as part of the report said they were experiencing child-to-parent violence. It was mainly sons to mothers (38) but was also girls (24). Weapons were used in some instances, especially knives.

During the last year (2013/14) 345 were children were adopted out of care in Wales (care population 5,756). About three-quarters of the children entered care because of abuse and/or neglect.

Hugh Thornbery, Chief Executive Officer of Adoption UK said: “We are heartened by the setting up of the National Adoption Service in Wales (2014) and its commitment to drive forward improvements for children who are to be adopted in Wales.  It is essential that we see the service move to a position in Wales where all new adoptive families receive the support they need in the very early stages when children first move in and that this support can continue for those families who need it as the children move into adolescence.  Professor Selwyn’s report clearly demonstrates, with powerful examples, unmet need for additional therapeutic support for families, post-adoption and into the teenage years.”

Mr Thornbery added: “We would like to see all the governments of the UK invest in adoption support services so that adopted children, wherever they live, are offered the same level of support to recover from their early experiences and thrive within their adoptive families.”

Author of the report, Professor Julie Selwyn, Head of the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at the University of Bristol explained that the overall figure for adoption disruption at 3% is lower than expected.  She is clear in her report that this is a testament to the incredible determination of the families who are carrying on parenting in challenging circumstances.  She believes that this is the group where better support services need to be put in place.


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