Sally Donovan and Hugh Thornbery on BBC Breakfast - 30 May 2015

On the eve of the Adoption Support Fund going live across England, Sally Donovan, blogger, author and adoptive parent,  and Hugh Thornbery, Adoption UK's Chief Executive were guests on BBC Breakfast.

Sally was asked about her adoption. She adopted two children several years ago when they were quite young and they are now in their teens. She described how there is often an expectation when children are adopted at a young age that “they won’t remember what happened to them in their early lives, they’ll recover and everything will be fine”, that adoption is the cure for it all, a happy ending.

A screen grab of Sally Donovan and Hugh Thornbery on BBC BreakfastSally pointed out that adoptive parents know it’s not as simple as that. The trauma that children suffer in their early lives is carried with the children and that makes parenting these children much harder than average parenting.

When asked what challenges she faced, Sally talked about a range of “baffling behaviours” that don’t respond well to the sort of parenting that everyone else can deliver. You have to understand where the behaviours are coming from before you can connect with what your child is trying to tell you. Adopted children may struggle to tell parents how anxious they are feeling, how hard they find it to trust people, how they worry they are going to be abandoned all the time.

Sally was asked if she’d been given any guidance or warning of what to expect during her adoption experience. She replied that she got little bits, here and there, but that really they had little idea of what they would be faced with.

Hugh was asked how much the fund was needed and how much could be directly channelled to deliver the correct support.

Hugh replied that the fund was desperately needed. He mentioned the research that Adoption UK conducted in 2012. Only 28% of our members were getting the support they required. He commented on how powerfully Sally and Amanda’s stories demonstrated how support is needed and that while adopters do a marvellous job, their children are very damaged before they come into the care system.

In the Adoption Support Fund pilot areas, which have been running since June last year, the new investment from Government, means that money can very quickly be accessed for adopters to purchase the services they need. The fund has spent £1.75m on 250 families.

When asked whether the £19m would be enough to support the 5,000 families who adopted in England up to March 2014, Hugh commented that time would tell. He made the point that it was more money than was available before, and that not all families will require this. The research suggests that around 1/3 of families are experiencing serious challenges, 1/3 will have episodes of difficulties and 1/3 will be fine.

Hugh emphasised that the really important thing is to make the best of the money that is available because if it’s not taken up and used well in the course of the next year, that could undermine the case for future funding. He hoped that any future Government would see the benefit and invest in it.

Sally was then asked if she was concerned about the amount of money and was she worried that families would be turned away at times of crisis.

Sally replied that the important message was that families shouldn’t just be turning for help when there’s a crisis. There has to be an expectation that families will need support and that it’s not a sign of failure. She feels that the money will make a big difference, but added that it’s not just about money. It’s about professionals understanding the effects of trauma and knowing how to support families effectively. She did then add that there was a need for money to be guaranteed well into the future. She said she was feeling positive about the year’s worth of money available but added that adoptive parents need a commitment to that money well into the future.