Thursday 23 August 2018

Stress Test: Adopter Assessments

After 48 hours of having a child repeat every word I said I felt I had a unique perspective on my own capacity to parent like never before.  Quite clearly I was unravelling and my standard approaches of saying smart things to outwit the child had been brushed off many many hours earlier. This brings me to the delicate issue of adopter assessment. Sitting in a comfortable room discussing hypothetical parenting challenges is one thing, 48 hours of psychological acrobatics with a dysregulated child is another.

Would I make the assessment of adopters more vigorous, yes.

If your embarking on the process of approval to be an adopter or half way through it may feel like I'm pulling up the drawbridge after I've safely got myself into the castle. Yup, what you gonna do? I've been though the assessment at least four times and have completed a fair few fostering and the odd adoption assessment as a social worker so I feel like I have a fairly good perspective on the issue.

When prospectives are reaching out for the much desired prize, children, then what are they going to say other than what they believe the assessor want to hear. Diversity? of course. Contact, no bother. Good under pressure? like a concrete Supernanny. Do applicants dance around issues and skip over doubts because that desire for the prize is so strong. Did I, honestly yes I did. Did I lie or did I portray the best me on a good day? Parenting vulnerable children finds the truth pretty quickly.

The model of assessing adopters has remained relatively static and for, what used to be, the bulk of adoption scenarios fit for purpose. But scroll through the bios of adopters on twitter, read some adoption blogs, attend a few support groups and listen to the voices of the struggling third and it's clear that adoption has not gone to plan. Read about adopter's mental ill health, prescription medication, relationship breakdown, career stagnation or disruption and a whole host of challenges and the assessment perhaps was not fit for purpose. The needs of many of the children are so profound and consuming that many adopters are stripped to the core of who they through they were and having to call on resources that may or may not be there. Family disruption and relationship breakdowns are more common than I'd like to believe. Of course the underlying causes are complex but the assessment process is designed to be two fold, gather information and import information.

There are bright spots of innovation with adopters assessed for specific children. Assessment needs to reflect the nature of the uncertain  but largely predictable challenges that many adopters face. In an ideal world we'd stress test adopters, foster to adopt and foster carers who adopt follow that route by design or accident. I wonder if there are any breakdown stats for them?

Vigorous is perhaps the wrong word to describe what I'd like to see. I would say we need to unpick adopter's experiences and expectations, hopes and dreams, attachment strategies and vulnerabilities, strengths and weakness. Of course you could argue that's what we do but do we? Perhaps I am just pulling up the drawbridge.

We need to grease the stairs of the application process, hard to get in and easy to get out.


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