Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Adoption - wise advice from the Lords

The House of Lords Select Committee on Adoption Legislation has offered sound advice on the Government’s adoption reforms.

Chaired by the retired family court judge, Lady Butler-Sloss, the Committee warns Education Secretary Michael Gove that his reforms to speed-up adoption risk failure unless adequate resources are made available to local authorities, and child and adolescent mental health services, to provide post-adoption support.

For far too long there has been a failure to understand in government that many children who come into the care system have continuing needs resulting from their early experiences. Both separation and disruption, on the one hand, and experiences of poor care, neglect and abuse can result in problems extending into adolescence and beyond. Stability is one factor in recovery, but children and young people in stable situations may still continue to experience long-term consequences of abuse and neglect that often require specialist treatment and resources.

So Lady Butler-Sloss and her colleagues are right to point out that continuing support for families is essential to meet the complex needs of some adopted children. And the committee’s analysis should be a spur to government to review and increase the funding to provide these services adequately. Not doing so is not a cheap option. The costs of adoption breakdown are high, not to mention the long-term costs to society of children who grow-up with serious unaddressed emotional and behavioural problems.

This committee has also done important work in identifying shortfalls in knowledge about the adoption process. They point out that it is not known how many children re-enter the care system after adoption breakdown (although some guesstimates put this as high as 30%) and that there is no reliable data collection to monitor this.