Dear Mr Loughton,
My husband and I adopted our 3 daughters in 2010 and I wanted to share my thoughts/experience of post adoption support.
When we began our adoption journey we knew little of why we would want support groups or financial support let alone the effects of trauma, what an attachment disorder looked like or how to get help for any of these things. Our 3 girls ALL have attachment issues and some other difficulties, none of which came to light until after placement. Do you know what living with an attachment disordered child is really like? All of the support that my girls have received has been because I have fought hard and pushed harder to get them the help they needed. Why was it so hard? Why did I have to trawl my way through the health system just to find out what support was available to us never mind the fight afterwards to then access it. Why is it that most of the information I’ve gathered about what help is available for our family and where to go to get it, came from on an online adoption forum with other adoptive parents who have faced similar battles. This struggle has left me downtrodden, exhausted and with my own gp recommending antidepressant medication and referring ME for counselling. Why has this happened?
After many hours of trying to find someone to listen to my concerns about my girls, endless appointments and assessments and a huge waiting list, All 3 of my girls now have CAMHS referral’s, my fight was easy compared to some. I feel that all looked after and adopted children should have the right to support and access to this support needs to be made easier. I also feel that all adoptive parents should have the right to access therapy/counselling and this also needs to be readily available.
Becoming a family is/was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives, instead of using my energy to get help and support I should have been able to just enjoy my family.
Did it really need to be like this?
Firstly, our adoption support plan was decided by the placing authority prior to placement of our daughters. We agreed to a support plan, for children we’d never met and had little understanding of. I’m personally aware of families that have been denied funding for therapy for their traumatised children, because provision was not made in the first instance. It is impossible to predict the future needs of a family. Post adoption support packages offered by local authorities should reflect this and be flexible enough to meet the unknown future needs. There also seems to be a post code lottery. Financial support should be consistent across the country and based on the children’s needs, not which authority they were placed by and how much their budget will allow.
Secondly support groups are few and far between and take a huge amount of energy and perseverance to find, this is energy that an adoptive parent needing support, just doesn’t have. During the early stages of our girls placement I did not feel that I needed support. It wasn’t until the adoption order had been granted and social worker support was withdrawn, that I really felt ‘alone’ and that I needed support for myself. I’ve discovered that many local authorities do not offer support groups and the most readily available support groups are provided by a well know adoption charity to its paid members. This membership fee could prevent access to some low income families. My own experience of these charity led support groups is that they do not take place regular enough to be able to offer the adoptive parent any valuable support, largely due to funding and volunteer support I suspect, but a few hours every other month just isn’t enough. They do offer good sources of information and reference but there is too little opportunity to make friendships with other adopters, which is really what is needed.
Finally, the process for transferring medical records for an adopted child needs to be addressed. My eldest daughters records are in cyber space somewhere. I’ve spent many hours on the phone and written many letters in an attempt to find them. We know nothing of her medical history aside from her immunisation records, we don’t even know how much she weighed at birth. We are not the first family to experience this and I doubt we will be the last. This process needs to be reformed.
In an attempt to reach out to other adopters I started to write a blog (https://thefamilyof5.wordpress.com/), which I find very therapeutic. Since I started writing I’ve discovered so many UK based adoption related blogs with parents facing all manner of struggles with little or no support. You should read some of these blogs. Our story is one of the good ones, there are many stories out there of the system failing to support families. If you want to encourage more adoption’s to take place in the uk, then you also need to take steps to support these families for many many years afterwards, because that is when they really need it most.
I look forward to reading your response Mr Loughton.
*some personal references have been changed/removed