Wednesday 9 January 2019

Empathy and some thoughts on the Adopter Reference Group

So, up again I went to the Adopter Reference Group to look at and reflect on the issues that the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board consider and discuss some of the current issues that our community are negotiating at the moment. 

The discussion fell back into schools and again I find myself slightly out of step on that subject. For us to see the culture and practice shift that we want for our children in education we need to present an irresistible argument to education professionals, policy makers and politicians. With 26,000 schools in the UK and 55,000 adoptees under 18 years old in a pool of 11,000,000 children adoptees represent a very small cohort

Even in the group of children with SEN, 1,276,000 we are aren’t even at 5% and of course not every adopted child needs additional support in education.  The needs of adopted children may pull on the heartstrings of educationalists for all the cultural and emotive reasons we know but they don’t scratch the surface of the actual need in schools. The argument to change school culture and practice, to raise awareness in the workforce of trauma, loss and separation and to support the needs of vulnerable children becomes irresistible when adoptees are seen amongst the many more children that are living through and with the impacts of early adversity. 

1 in 5 children will experience domestic violence
1 in 20 children will experience sexual abuse
1 in 10 children will experience neglect
1 in 14 children will experience physical abuse
1 in 29 children will experience the death of a parent 
Foster care, kinship care, special guardians, private fostering etc.

Those are features in many adoptees narrative, however they are not exclusively theirs and in reality many more children experience high levels of challenge but adoption is not their story. 
I could go on………..

The case for empathy, compassion and a culture/policy/paradigm shift is clear when adoptees are seen in that community of children. Of course, within that community specific needs and nuances are represented with our children having some. However, the baseline shift that we’re looking for would change everything for those children and it’s likely for all children positively.

Here’s the rub, we need to form alliances and to do that do we need to shout a little less about adoption? Tricky, is it a word that opens doors and gets the ears of professionals? It is in my experience but do we need to help open the door for many that don’t have that luxury. 

So, that was what I was thinking and I did reflect a little of that as we chatted about education. I may have got a little passionate. Hey ho.

Then we went onto consider the work that is being looked at in relation to modernising permanency. It’s a broad subject matter and with several strands as support and contact are considered in relation to children’s identity as well as workforce development. 

I’ve lots of thoughts on that issue and it’s a fundamental issue for services at this time of RAA induced flux and remains a hot topic when broached with adopters and families. I’m going to keep my powder dry on that one. 

I apologise as this feels like a sketchy reflection of the discussion and more an essay on my thoughts on the topics raised. 

That said, continuity of NHS numbers were discussed, an issue that is significant for children with many children with complex health needs who need continuity of treatment and care. In a world of social media children being tracked down through this seems increasingly unlikely in my view. So that’s back on the table.  

The case for the continuation of the ASF beyond March 2020 is being pulled together, the Treasury will, rightly, want to see evidence of it’s benefit to children and families and that is being pursued. 

The issues of adopted children, quite obviously, remain central to the focus and efforts of adoptive parents and the dedicated staff of the DfE and the Adoption and Special Guardian Leadership Board continue to focus on those children. It remains a privilege to speak as a member of the adoption community and though the wheels of change move slow they do move but we need to keep oiling and pushing.

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