Why is this needed?
Children need to understand what services are available to them and be able to influence their development.
MNS 1.6 The wishes, feelings and views of children are taken into account by the adoption agency and adoption support agency in monitoring and developing its service.
Children’s Guide to adoption support
NMS 18.6 The Children’s Guide to adoption support services is provided to the child by the adoption agency or Adoption support agency who is providing adoption support. The guide is appropriate to the child’s age and understanding and includes a summary of what the service sets out to do for children and is given to all children and/or their representatives. The Children’s Guide also contains information on how a child can find out their rights, how they can contact their Independent Reviewing Officer, the Children’s Rights Director, Ofsted, if they wish to raise a concern with inspectors, and how to secure access to an independent advocate.
Minnis and Walker (2012) have summarised work undertaken to obtain the views of adopted children. They comment: The impression from across a number of studies is that children and young people are desperate to be heard but that the process developed to ensure that they are is not working for many of them. (Selwyn et all (2014) breaks this trend, but the engagement with young people in this study focuses on adoption breakdown rather than adoption support.)
They also conclude that:
lack of the right information at the right time is a recurring theme throughout the review of literature. When children do not receive the information they need the emotional effect on them can be stark (p18).
This view is echoed by Thomas (2013) and Department for Education (2017). The Minnis and Walker study itself is heavily dependent for the views of adopted children on Morgan (2006). Findings relevant to adoption support in Morgan’s study also include:
Nearly three quarters of the children and young people had met up with other people who had been adopted, after their own adoption. Young people reported that it could be helpful to talk to others going through the same experiences, to bring a sense of belonging and particularly to talk about birth families.
However, “almost half the children who had not met up with others reported that they would not have wanted to: Because each case is different. If I began comparing myself, everything would become more complicated”.
That Adopted children highlighted how important getting information about their adoptive family is. Although most said that they had been told everything or most things they wanted to know, a quarter had been told very little at all. This issue is examined further in section 12.
Children and young people identified the top things they wanted to know about their past (p29)
They also provided advice to social workers on who to establish that children are happy in their new families (p26)
Communication to children – PACT has two guides to adoption support, one for younger and one for older children.
After Adoption developed a guide for young people seeking information about their adoption – see appendix five.
Within OAWY, a group called Adopteens is the main forum for consultation and engagement with young people (contracted service via PAC-UK). This is available across the Yorkshire and Humber region. Adopteens have a Youth Council, which liaises with teenage groups across the region with its own website and conducts targeted consultations, for example around contact, schools etc. Adopteens have created feedback in different formats, such as films and a timeline.
TAG (Teenage Adoption Group) is delivered by Together for Adoption which provides an opportunity for adopted teenagers to meet other young people who are adopted and build positive relationships. It also offers an opportunity for adoptive parents to meet together. Some of the activities in the group are underpinned by Theraplay. As well as group sessions there are activity days such as trips to theme parks and cinemas.
Body and soul, a voluntary organisation in London, co-ordinates groups for adopted children ranging in age from 5 to 19 years, alongside support to parents. Groups are delivered by a range of professionals and reported impacts include:
- 90% of parents have seen positive changes
- 89% children report that they feel more confident
- 85% of children say that they have learnt techniques which help them manage their emotions.
Family Futures has a Young People’s Forum which ran a very successful arts event and has developed an anti-bullying video scripted by young people. Two young people who have had treatment with their adoptive families at Family Futures sit on the Family Futures Adoption Panel.
Family Futures provide a range of guides for children and young people explaining their services.
The Adoptables, a network of adopted young people facilitated by Coram. The Adoptables also has its own YouTube channel with clips of young people talking about their experiences as adopted children, including their experience of school and produce an online magazine for adopted children.
Possible future developments
There is a clear need for research which reflects the views of adopted children about adoption support services per se. Adoption agencies are in the best place to capture these views. Whilst the practicalities and resources required to engage with children and young people should not be underestimated, the ubiquity of internet access and social media should mean that it is possible for agencies to work together to develop information, resources and feedback mechanisms for adopted children and young people on a wider scale than currently.
Most adoption support services do not seem to produce guides for their services tailored to the needs of children and young people as required NMS 18.6.