Public Policy Exchange
Future of Adoption in the UK: Redesigning the Adoption System to Improve Outcomes for Children and Families
Watch a clip of the event
It was a raining and overcast day as I walked into Park Plaza Hotel for what was going to be an amazing day of learning, sharing and catching up with new and old friends from the adoption world. I think it is imperative that we as a community in a rapidly changing environment that meet regularly to share best practice, information, ideas, fears and celebrations, as the pressure to produce lasting reform and positive change is upon us all.
Public Policy Exchange gathered an exciting mix of specialists to talk and at times it felt like every topic raised could be another days Symposium in itself. First up to speak was a man I met over 10 years ago and was the catalyst to becoming a speaker and advocate in the adoption field. John is an inspirational adoption genius with his incredible wealth of knowledge, candour and grace.
Dr John Simmonds OBE
Director of Policy, Research and Development, CoramBAAF
What I love about John is he explains extremely complex intellectual adoption conundrums brilliantly, leaving you fully informed and motivated. He spoke candidly about the history of UK adoption from 1960 onwards, incongruent practices and general inertia that was once rife in the adoption system. Society today is awakening to the psychology of the adoptee and parental issues, but in the early sixties John wad told as he adopted 2 children by social workers incredulously ‘don’t tell the child they are adopted. What has happened before is of no significance’. I shuddered! I remembered my own adoption and how many men and women I have met over the years who endured life-changing identity issues because their parents literally annihilated their past, leaving them emotionally bankrupt. We have come far but still much more research is needed to fully comprehend this emotional labyrinth. There is more research available about the full psychological impact of being placed in care, fostering and being adopted, this is exciting and a huge relief as it validates many an adoptee’s story.
John spoke about the removal of ‘Best Interest Panel’ and how that delicate final decision of considering the question of when is it appropriate to put a child into the care system is still a challenge, and how this panels abolition following some past internal reforms should maybe be re-instigated? Sometimes the past renders good things not just bad.
John then challenged us to consider the moral, ethical and legal equilibrium surrounding a child’s adoption. He reminded us how every single child’s needs are specific and need to be addressed so, there is no child’s shoe that fits all.
What really interested me the greatest is when John spoke of Lord Justice McFarlane’s article in 2016 and his insightful ‘ship’s analogy of unity of movement and alignment together’ when dealing with the welfare of the child. So much more could have been said, but time was also challenging with so many brilliant speakers and only 1 day to hear everyone.
Dr Anna Gupta
Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Royal Holloway, University of London
As well as chairing the day’s proceedings, Anna discussed the complexities and ethics surrounding social care and the system. She stressed the need for more research in this area and the current trend to cut funding and not utilise the rich resource of scientific and psychological study that Universities have to offer.
She discussed some of her past research projects decision-making in the family courts, child protection and family poverty, social work with Black and other minority ethnic communities and the application of the Capacity Approach to social work practice. I was pleased that she stressed the centrality of good life story work irrespective of challenging budget constraints or a lack of social workers efficiency or time.
We gathered more insight to the pressure of workloads, court time management and families needing to fully comprehend the enormity of the challenge that for some lies ahead. I found it interesting when she briefly touched of the quite simply herculean topic of sibling groups and the dilemma of keeping them together against the pressure of them being apart. As the delegates listened, the questions that came forth and issues that were raised are a day’s discussion in itself.
Then finally, Anna discussed the marketization of adoption and its dangerous narrative in society, the ‘child rescue’ and ‘happy ever after’ concept against the harsh reality of challenging long term issues that parents have in the past been ill-equipped for. Identity, the severance of the birth family, lost culture and trauma all compound to a huge strain on the family unit.
*Currently, Anna is undertaking a BASW funded enquiry into the role of social work in adoption with the focus on ethics and human rights with Prof. Brid Featherstone.
Barnados UK Head of Business Family Placement
As Brenda walked proudly to take the stand in a sparkling pair of black heels, I rejoiced that as I looked around the room I saw many strong, powerful, intellectual men and women come together in their various fields of excellence to help to make this marginalised area of society work. Brenda delivered a powerful presentation about the fears and challenges of the Regional Adoption Centers, as this is ‘work in progress’ takes shape.
She stated that this is a time where history is being written. We have the chance to reform, redesign and challenge the current adoption status quo as the Government is asking for change along with those who work in the system. She talked of the spectrum of care and how we should see the full movement of a child’s journey, and not purely isolate improvements in one specific area.
The journey from authority to agency touching on many other state systems along the way can affect the child greatly. She talked of the RAA (Regional Adoption Agency) implementation giving us the current stats and figures.
It was interesting to hear the concept and works of the Voluntary Adoption Agencies in terms of governance, procurement, design and delivery.
In this rapidly changing world it is important for us to know the facts and unite to build strong bridges of friendships and respect.
Interim Deputy Director and Adult’s Services, Medway Council
Ann brought a huge wealth of knowledge to the table as she started to describe the work of her organisation, and what they are doing and what they have learned. Ann challenged us about the complexity of the taboo subject of child-parent violence and how their pioneering work to train adopters to support other adopters is powerful to overcome this. She talked about how to isolate a specific problem and have the creativity to solve it was paramount if we are to see lasting reform, along with the sharing of best practice techniques to produce successful outcomes.
It is important to ‘Identify the gaps’ to execute productive post adoption support, and she shared about having the integrity and confidence to do things differently.
CEO Cornerstone Partnership
When Helen got up to speak, a woman that I have had the great pleasure to know over the past few years, I knew that even though it had been a long day and that the energy in the room was good, things were about to get even better! Helen apart from having great intellect and insightfulness, she has the aptitude to see the full spectrum of the adoption system into new territories joining political, technological and media platforms. This is important that we don’t leave the knowledge of reforms out of the public domain.
Adoption Arena as you know strives to link through culture into the adoption systems, I’ve worked with Cornerstone on various occasions, through my own comedy/adoption show and motivational talks. Helen’s presentation underlined the theme of the whole day, seeing reform and cut through the timeline of bureaucracy, negativity or confusion to produce change. Armed with a handful of slides, Helen flashed up on the screen images of piles of spices and herbs! Everyone was baffled but I knew a great piece of wisdom was about to be dropped – and it was…
Helen explored the fact that we all have to ‘do more for less’ in this current economic climate and the ingredients of the family unit can therefore become a tricky balance. She explained the challenge of social workers to ‘do the right thing’, but she summed up by saying that that a powerful ingredient to all of this mix was peer support and the power of mentoring. That word again, shared knowledge and time to assimilate the information gently like a good meal going down.
She talked of the importance of therapeutic parent training alongside mentors and early intervention to free up social workers.
*Find out more of what Helen said in her own article about her presentation
Social worker, Adoption Arena
Well our very own Judith Craig-Morency talked about the challenge of the social worker best practice code. She shared a little of her own amazing adoption story and fused it with her knowledge of being a social worker, this double insight was magnifying and compelling.
She discussed the current outcomes for young people and the issues of mental health
Outcomes for Children Young People: MENTAL HEALTH
“45% of looked after children aged 5-16 had emotional or behavioural difficulties serious enough to be defined as ‘mental disorder’”
“While only 10% of children in general population had these difficulties”
“Care Leavers are at high risk of experiencing mental health compared to other young people “ (Moriarty et. Al, 2016)
Then Judith looked at the solutions such as all children and young people who enter care should receive a level of therapeutic support to assist them with trauma related issues. As she went through the failings and the positive new possibilities it was hopeful, but Judith ended stressing that the only real lasting change irrespective all off the days reforms, is we as a nation have to listen to the voice of adoptees. Only our voice that has been muffled, misunderstood and in come cases mocked, this pure voice needs to resound to connect the spectrum and help produce a hopeful journey forward.
*Judith is writing her own blog of her presentation – should be out soon
I had a brilliant day! My only wish is that we continue the dialogue and seek to build bonds with each others organisations Nationally more regularly. We should continue to dare to think outside the box and all strive for lasting progressive. The new reforms and ideas may take some years to implement and many more years till we as a society reap the rewards of this work, but I believe like any good gardener that: in rebuilding building the orchard so to speak it will produce a harvest.
And the harvest? A better stronger society with truly better outcomes for those who begin life with the most challenging starts.
Thank you for reading this massive article!
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or contact us for any talks, seminars, corporate events and suchlike
Why not book any of the team for your event?
Joy Carter is available for:
Motivational adoption talks: Adopt Berkshire event, click here
1hr comedy adoption show #spotthedifferenceshow, click here of clip
Why not come and see the next show and talk yourself?
9th Feb: Nottingham Trent University, click here for free tickets and info
Judith Craig Morency – social worker, writer and speaker
Why not book Judith for a talk and screening of her adoption film
Adoption ID interview from This Morning, click here to view
**together we are better**