Adoption can offer children who cannot be brought up by their birth families the chance to grow up in a loving and stable family unit and give them a childhood they would not otherwise have enjoyed. Adoption can also undoubtedly be challenging, both for adopted children and their adoptive parents.

A recent survey carried out by the BBC and Adoption UK highlights some of the issues faced by adopted families. According to the survey:

  • nearly half the adopters who took part described their adoption as ‘stable but challenging’
  • more than a quarter described more serious challenges affecting their families or even posing a risk of the adoption breaking down

Challenges for families

Adopters are incredibly committed to the children they adopt and fortunately adoption breakdowns are rare. The proportion of adoptions that do break down is not entirely clear but a large scale study over 12 years conducted by the University of Bristol in 2014 found that 3.2% of the children in the sample left their adoptive homes prematurely.

Most adopted children have been in the care system, after the Family Court has decided they cannot live with their families. These children will have suffered or been at risk of suffering significant harm, often through a combination of neglect, abuse, or exposure to domestic abuse or substance misuse by their parents. As a result, by the time children are placed with adopters many will have gone through and perhaps remember traumatic experiences with the potential to affect them throughout their childhoods. Of the 4,690 children adopted from the care system to the end of March 2016 only 5% were aged under one year old.

Support for adopters

What is clear from the survey and from our experience advising adopters is the importance of adopters receiving the clear information and support they and their children need, to help them deal with issues together. Whilst information and support is important at the time children are adopted, it can often be years afterwards, when children’s early childhood experiences begin to affect them in different and more challenging ways, that families are most in need of help.

There are many charitable and private organisations who provide excellent support and guidance to adopters, but adopters often need to turn to Local Authority social services departments for practical support around, for instance, managing challenging behaviour, or for help in accessing often scare children’s mental health services. In our experience, and as highlighted by the BBC and Adoption UK survey, adopters often find it difficult to get the support they need from Local Authorities in a timely manner, placing additional strain on families.

Legal advice

From many years of experience guiding families through the adoption process and helping adopters access the support they need, we know that the right legal advice and representation can be critical. We help families get the support they need from Local Authorities at the time they need it. We also have extensive experience acting for children in care proceedings and understand the issues they face.