In October 2017, we sent out a survey to 3,205 adoptive parents. We received an impressive 524 returned surveys by 15 November 2017. In addition, 298 parents took the time to feed into the comment box, and many wrote movingly and comprehensively about the issues facing adoptive families.
We were struck by the note of anguish which could be heard in many parents’ accounts, as they described the challenges of accessing help from their local authorities. Many felt that once the adoption orders were made, meaningful support dried up, leaving them to navigate the difficult waters of parenting children with extra needs which were not always visible to the naked eye.
Parents spoke about the cost to them in terms of failed marriages, loss of earnings and the gradual loss of once-staunch support networks; but they also spoke of their absolute commitment to their children, whose difficult behaviour was often borne of the worst starts to life imaginable.
Another subject that came up again and again was the need for greater understanding from schools. The work that is being done by our Education Service in terms of the Education Project clearly reflects the need for schools to employ a more specialised, sympathetic approach to children who have suffered early life relational (and other) trauma, so that they have every opportunity to access and make full use of their education. The work of our Education Service has been enormously appreciated by schools and parents alike, but our efforts need to continue in order to reach the critical mass which will help schools all over the country to address the issues that arise from early trauma in an effective way.
The overall conclusion we can draw from parents’ feedback is that the support PAC-UK (and other adoption support providers) has great value for adoptive families and it is often the only lifeline that is keeping placements together. However, families have said that they face challenges in accessing the help on offer, citing a lack of support from local authorities, a lack of awareness around what they are entitled to (in terms of funding from the ASF) and the practical challenge of getting to and from the courses on offer, when they are too far away to attend or they can’t find childcare to allow them to take part.
The feedback from this survey has allowed us to consider additional services we could be providing to help adoptive families, but we want this to be the start of a conversation, not the end of one, so we invite anyone who reads the report to share ideas about new services PAC-UK could offer.
Please feel welcome to contact Catherine Marcus with any thoughts or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key takeaways from survey findings:
98% of adoptive parents responding from all over the country said they need more specialist support.
For families wishing to access therapeutic family support, 90% said it would be to address challenging behaviours, 82% said it would be to address Life Story and Identity and 81% said it would be to improve family life /relationships.
For adoptive families who said they would attend groups, 82% would attend a group that addressed violent or aggressive behaviour; 70% would attend a group that addressed trust and closeness; and 22% would attend a group that addressed sexualised behaviour.
75% of adoptive parents would attend a parenting course designed specifically for them.
Over 50% of adoptive parents would sign up to receiving telephone support from other experienced adopters for advice on how to access services, dealing with challenging situations and an empathetic ear.
More than half 50% of parents said they would benefit from occasional respite care for their children.
What do parents really want in terms of ‘specific issue’ support:
- 39% want more support in how to parent sibling groups
- 27% want more support in how to parent older children / young adults
- 27% want more support how to parent children who are on / possibly on the Autistic Spectrum
- 24% want more support in how to parent children who have / possibly have Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
- 18% want more support in how to parent children who are using drugs and alcohol
- 17% want more support in how to deal with disruption and adoption breakdown
Direct comments from parents:
Almost a quarter of the comments (23.56%) from adoptive parents directly mentioned the need for greater (factual and sympathetic) understanding by schools of the issues their children were facing, as a result of being adopted and having experienced developmental trauma. The far greater risk of school exclusion and incidence of behavioural difficulties amongst adopted children was cited as a little-understood phenomenon, as school were not able or willing to understand the issues adopted children were grappling with, very much including attachment issues and sensory processing difficulties.
This survey was developed and analysed by Catherine Marcus (Child and Family Service Practice Manager) and Franca Brenninkmeyer (Head of Child & Family Service). PAC-UK's Child and Family Service provides specialist therapeutic support for children and families brought together by adoption or other forms of permanent placement.