Rising number of parents adopt children who had a ‘tough start’

New research from Adoption UK questioned 3,500 people as to what motivated them to adopt. Although more than half of parents (58 per cent) adopted a child due to fertility issues, for 42 per cent of parents, infertility was not the primary factor.

The charity’s experts discovered that an increasing number of parents were motivated to adopt “a child who has had a tough start”. The data found that around three-quarters of all children adopted from care in the UK were removed from their birth parents due to abuse or neglect.

Director of public affairs at Adoption UK, Alison Woodhead, found that parents’ willingness to take on a child with a traumatic past is taken “far more seriously than their age, marital status or sexual preference”.

According to other statistics, nearly a quarter of parents (24 per cent) identified that “adoption was my first choice for starting a family”, while 17 per cent said their motivating factor was that they had a connection to adoption in their family.

While it a dated misconception that the only reason behind adoption is infertility, the stereotypical family unit of a ‘middle-age, middle-class, married couple’ has also been diversifying. Recent figures have found that single-parent adoptions reached a record high in the UK last year at 962; increasing from 904 in 2017 and 876 in 2012.

Ms Woodhead, who became a single-parent adopter back in 2011, concluded:

“When I adopted it was still not that common for or people to talk about a single adoption like it was a completely normal thing to do, and now it’s changed radically – there’s no barrier.”

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Adopted Families Face Serious Challenges

A recent survey of adoptive parents has revealed that many are experiencing serious challenges and disruption within their families.

Challenges and Disruption

The survey, which was carried out by charity Adoption UK together with BBC Radio Four’s File on Four programme, found that over 25% of parents reported either serious challenges, a risk of disruption to the adoption or that the adoption had already been disrupted. Around 50% described the adoption as ‘challenging but stable’, and a further 25% said it was ‘fulfilling and stable’.

“The survey results broadly mirror what we already knew – that many families are experiencing serious challenges,” commented Dr Sue Armstrong Brown, chief executive of Adoption UK. “In a utopian world all adoptive parents’ experiences would be ‘fulfilling and stable’ but we’re talking about some of the most vulnerable children in society.”

Child to Parent Violence

Child to parent violence is apparently a major issue for many adoptive parents. Adoption UK says this violence can often be attributed to traumatic incidents the adopted child experienced before being removed from birth parents and taken into care. Over 5,000 children are adopted each year, and the majority of these adoptions involve children in care.

“We’re talking about trauma-fuelled violence from children who will have witnessed the unthinkable in their early lives,” explained Dr Armstrong Brown. “Adoption is not a silver-bullet – these children’s problems don’t just disappear overnight.”

“Children who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect have experienced the world being an unsafe and dangerous place,” she added. “The child’s violent behaviour reveals extreme distress and a need to feel safe and protected. These children need a particular parenting techniques and access to therapy to overcome early childhood trauma, and they may reject any attempts at parental affection or management of their behaviour.”

On a more positive note however, the majority of adoptive parents said they were glad they had taken the decision to adopt.

“Despite the challenges, adopters are resilient and devoted to their children, and these results reinforce that adoption can work for the majority, with the right support,” said Dr Armstrong Brown. “Nine out of ten of the respondents said they were glad that they had adopted.”

Children Spending Less Time in Care

Adoption UK has also recently revealed a fall in the average length of time children are in care before they are adopted.

Children spent an average of 18 months in care in the quarter July – September 2016, which is a decrease of four months compared to the previous quarter. There has also apparently been a drop in the number of children waiting to be adopted, with 2,030 children with placement orders waiting for a family in September 2016, compared to 2,190 in June.

However, Adoption UK has expressed concern over the number of new potential adoptive parents, which appears to be in decline.

“This autumn the number of children needing an adoptive home may outnumber those coming forward to provide that home,” said Dr Armstrong Brown. “Clearly we need to do more to recruit potential adopters, as well as speed up approvals, whilst retaining the rigorous assessment that’s part of that process.”

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