Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Challenges faced by adoptive parents

We recently had an addition to our family with the birth of Alice, my first child.  The last eight weeks have been a wonderful but all consuming experience as we take on the commitment of parenthood.

Over the last few months I have also come across a couple of cases locally regarding the challenges faced by adoptive parents and the children they take under their wing.  For those children who have a difficult start in life, an adoptive home can be a real lifeline.  They benefit from a loving home environment of their own and can achieve great things.  Those who take on the great responsibility to become adoptive parents deserve special recognition for the love and support that they offer.  We should acknowledge the work done by adoptive families here in Cornwall, and by organisations such as Adoption UK.
Work has been done in recent years to try to remove some of the barriers that can be placed in the way of would be adoptive parents.  However, there are also concerns around the nature of post adoption support for some families.  Some of the children who have a difficult start in life also have particular challenges to overcome.  Some will have been scarred by chaotic home environments in early life.  Some will have been affected in the womb by drug or alcohol addiction that can have later impacts on mental health.  We need to make sure that we make it easier for adoptive parents who take on these responsibilities to have the support they need.
Some can feel that the system spends too much time and effort assessing children which can become a barrier to accessing support rather than the gateway to support that it should be.  Parents complain that they are often referred for generic solutions like "play therapy" when it is clear to them that different interventions are required.  At the other end of the spectrum, simple things like a small amount of respite care to help families with children who develop challenging behaviours can be surprisingly elusive and families feel that they end up being "sign posted" to someone else for more assessment.
Money is made available to Local Authorities to provide some support for individual children who are adopted but I think there is a case for reviewing how decisions about such funds are made.  In other areas of social care, we have introduced the concept of personal budgets where the individual has much more say over how the budget allocated for their care is spent.  I think we can learn from that when it comes to directing support around adopted children.  Adoptive parents are often best placed to understand what help or interventions a child needs and what wider support the family needs.  So perhaps we should spend a little less money on relentless assessments to ascertain eligibility and instead allow at least some of the budget to be spent at the discretion of the adoptive parents?  

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