Taken from the above link:
Adoption has changed. Fifty years ago it was a way to provide a home for a baby born out of wedlock: in 1968 there were 25,000 adoptions, nearly all of “illegitimate” children. Adoption today is different. The improved availability of contraception, the legalisation of abortion, and the change in societal attitudes to single mothers have combined to reduce significantly the number of babies given up for adoption. In 2011-12 there were only 70 babies out of a total of 3,450 children adopted. Children available for adoption today are mainly those in care. Many of them have experienced abuse or neglect before being removed from their birth families, and may have suffered the disruption of moving between temporary placements.
A great deal is known now about the importance for children of early relationships. The effects of emotional abuse and neglect are cumulative, pervasive and far-reaching, and are particularly severe in very young children. That damage is often compounded by the instability of frequent moves in care. But with the right care and support a maltreated child can recover. Most important, it is permanence, and thereby the ability to form secure attachments, that provides the best means to recovery. Adoption is one important – but not the only – route to achieving it.
The government is determined to improve adoption services to ensure that more children are adopted and more quickly. There is much that could be improved about the adoption process, not least the almost endemic delay which means that on average a child will wait over two and a half years from entering care to being adopted. It is a cruel fact of life that with each year that a child remains in care, the likelihood of being adopted shrinks further. In adoption, speed really does matter.
While greater urgency is undoubtedly needed within adoption services this will not, on its own, ensure the stability that children in care desperately need. The government has acknowledged that adoption is more challenging and more complicated than in the past – certainly more so than when Michael Gove was adopted. Where the government has, sadly, failed to grasp the nettle is in providing post-adoption support, to parents and children, to allow them to make a lasting, life-long, success of their new families.
It is vital that this support is provided. Because of their early life experiences, adopted children have a range of complex behavioural and emotional needs, which are not wiped out simply as a result of being adopted. Often these needs do not become apparent until adolescence, many years after an adoption has taken place. Adoptive parents face challenges that other families do not, and they deserve support to help them care for their children.
At present local authorities are required by law to provide an assessment of the support needs of adopted children and their parents; but they are not required to provide the support once those needs have been assessed. This is a nonsense. Parents adopting children from care have the capacity to transform children’s lives, but they may need help in dealing with the extra challenges they face. Access to counselling, parenting courses and less formal support such as parent networks, drop-in sessions and kids’ clubs can help to secure placement stability as well as, crucially, encouraging more adopters to come forward.
The children and families bill before the House of Commons includes a clause that would allow local authorities to give adopters a “personal budget”, with which to buy the services they believe their children require. This provision, however, would be optional; the bill does not, unfortunately, create a new duty to provide support. This has the potential to worsen the current postcode lottery that applies to post-adoption support. On Wednesday the Lords committee on adoption legislation, which I have been chaireding for the last nine months, argues for a new duty on local authorities and other commissioning bodies to ensure this provision.
In these times of economic austerity it is hard to argue for more services at the taxpayer’s expense. But adoption saves the state a lot of money: children in care cost an average of £25,000 a year; many children with disabilities or special needs cost far more. That cost is removed from the public purse when a child is adopted. The cost of providing support to adoptive families needs to be balanced therefore against the cost of continuing to maintain children in local authority care.
Sadly, some adoptions break down and those children re-enter the care system. We do not know how many adopted children this affects – estimates range from 3% to 30% – but it’s unacceptable that there is no robust data collection to support it.
We on the committee believe adoption should be for life. Providing essential post-adoption support is the best way of ensuring that it is.