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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Supreme Court to Hear Divorce Appeal

A woman who was told by the family court that she could not obtain a divorce because her marriage had not irretrievably broken down has been given permission to appeal the decision to the UK’s Supreme Court.

Grounds for Divorce

Tini and Hugh Owens married in 1978 and separated in February 2015. Mrs Owens then filed for divorce in May 2015.

In order to obtain a divorce, Mrs Owen needed to be able to prove that her marriage had broken down for one of five possible reasons:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • They have lived apart for more than two years and both parties agree to the divorce
  • They have lived apart for at least five years, even if her husband disagrees.

Unreasonable Behaviour

Because Mr Owens didn’t agree that the marriage had irretrievably broken down and announced his intention to defend the divorce, the only way Mrs Owens could obtain a divorce without having to wait five years would be to prove unreasonable behaviour on the part of her husband.

In her divorce petition she alleged her husband behaved unreasonably in a number of ways, including prioritising his work over home life, withholding attention and affection and acting in an unpleasant and disparaging way towards her.

However, her husband argued that the examples given of his behaviour did not satisfy the requirements of s 1(2)(b of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973) that he “has behaved in such a way that [she] cannot reasonably be expected to live with [him].” The judge agreed with his arguments and dismissed the petition.

Mrs Owens appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal, which reluctantly upheld the original decision.

In giving the decision one of the judges, Lady Justice Hallett, said:

“However, try as I might, I cannot find a legitimate basis for challenging the judge’s conclusions. He applied the law correctly and on the evidence before him, he was entitled to reach the conclusions that he did and provided good reasons for them.”

“I very much regret that our decision will leave the wife in a very unhappy situation. I urge the husband to reconsider his position. On any view, the marriage is over. I can only hope that he will relent and consent to a divorce on the grounds the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of two years, rather than force his wife to wait until five years have elapsed.”

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Appeal

Mrs Owens then sought permission to take her appeal to the Supreme Court, which has now been granted.

Family law organisation Resolution has welcomed the decision to allow the appeal.

“Mrs Owens’ case highlights why divorce law in the UK needs to change,” explained Nigel Shepherd, National Chair of Resolution. “We need to reduce conflict and support separating couples to resolve matters amicably, rather than forcing them to play a blame game where one or both of them thinks the marriage is over. The simple fact is that this case should not have been necessary, and only by implementing a no-fault divorce system can we ensure such a situation doesn’t happen again.”

“Support for no-fault divorce is growing, from family law professionals, the public and politicians,” he added. “Whether it’s before or after the case is heard by the Supreme Court, the Government needs to take urgent action to bring our outdated divorce laws up to date and ensure that Mrs Owens’ experience is not repeated.”

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For expert legal advice on divorce and separation, or other areas of family law, then contact our specialist family lawyers today.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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