I was really interested to read a report called ‘Beyond the Adoption Order: Challenges, Interventions and Adoption Disruption’.

It was a 12 year study carried out by Bristol University, commissioned by the department of education and it analysed data from more than 37,000 adoptions and interviewed all those involved in the process. It certainly exploded the mythology that at least 20% of adoptions break down – in fact the rate in England is 3.2% breakdown.

The findings were not totally without concern and contained considerable evidence to point those working in the field towards better practice. When looking at break down, even though there were far fewer than most people expected, those who were in crisis experienced mixed response from professionals and certainly variable help.

Julie Selwyn Head of the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at Bristol University said in PSW ‘we had not expected child to parent violence to feature so strongly in parent accounts of challenging behaviour, there is an urgent need for children’s services to develop support services for adopted teenagers and their parents and for mental health services for young people to be improved.’ However the report was very positive about social workers providing competent therapeutic interventions, although they weren’t too complimentary about those who just kept telling them they were doing a good job.

Quite a lot was made of the fact that agencies were reluctant to commission specialist help early on and other parts of children’s services such as emergency duty teams were criticised for inadequate understanding.

Given the new initiative to speed up the court processes and the whole adoption journey that to government has initiated, appointing Sir Martin Narey to head up the new Adoption Leadership Board, one would hope that a comprehensive study like this one would also reinforce the fact that although social workers working in the adoption field, in the main, do an excellent job there needs to be acknowledgement that a small percentage of adopted young people (especially teenagers) will need to be offered further support for linger periods and that, inevitably, will mean resource issues and communication issues between the helping agencies.

It seems that breakdown is not as widely manifest as expected, but where it happens the acute needs of young people and adoptive families are not being met as satisfactory as they could be.

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