Updated: Monday, 6th April 2020 @ 1:22pm

Adoption: The complex, 'heartbreaking' process that brings families together

Adoption: The complex, 'heartbreaking' process that brings families together

By Kathryn Cummings

“Our family’s no different to others with our ups and downs, but our love keeps us strong.”

These are the words of a single parent from Trafford who already had three grown up children of her own but chose to adopt two young children eight years ago.

Jill who fostered Anne and Daniel when they were aged three and four, couldn’t bear the thought of another family adopting them and saw how upset and worried they were.

Jill explained: “I loved them but didn’t know what to do. I asked them how they’d feel if they could stay and couldn’t believe how happy they were.

“I didn’t know if I’d be considered suitable. I’m a single parent and don’t have lots of money. But I knew we loved, trusted and understood each other.”

After talking to social workers, the year long assessment and preparation process began, this can usually take on average up to two and a half years.

“When mum talked about staying, we were thrilled. We’d bonded with all the family, I had dreaded leaving and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else,” said Anne.

Anne and Daniel both still correspond with their birth mum, something Jill encourages.

Anne added: “Daniel and I always had a strong connection with Jill. We’re so happy to have her as our mum. Our family’s no different to others, we’re all treated the same and this is where we belong.”

Jill’s eldest son Gary was thrilled when he heard Anne and Daniel were being adopted into the family.

He said: “I had already developed a strong bond with both of them, they are my brother and sister, I couldn’t bare seeing them go back into care. The adoption brought our family together, I couldn’t have been happier.”

Jill’s successful adoption story sadly does not reflect the whole of the country, figures released by The Department for Education reveal a general fall in the number of children being placed for adoption, delays that exist in the system, and a marked difference in the prospects for older children waiting in care.

Voluntary adoption agencies, which find new homes for some of the children that need care have been forced to increase their fees to try and stay afloat at a time when public donations have plummeted. The Manchester Adoption Society, which had been placing children since 1965, was forced to close down last year because of lack of funding.

According to figures on Adoption Matters North West, nationally 20% of adoptions break down, but through voluntary organisations such as themselves and Adoption UK that breakdowns drop to 6%. It is believed the volunteers work much more intensively with prospective families before and after the adoption compared with local authorities.

Ministers have warned local authorities that they will watching their performance much more closely since it issued new guidelines last month to increase the number of adoptions in the country.

A spokesperson from the adoption team at Trafford Council said: “It has been identified that there is a national shortfall of adopters who are willing to accept the placement of older children, and those with disabilities and challenging behaviours.

“As this is a recognised national issue, local authorities across the country, and certainly those in the north-west, are developing regional recruitment strategies which seek to target the recruitment of adopters for such children.”

It is estimated as many as a third of adoptions are in difficulties, and support from local services is underfunded and hard to access.

 “While Trafford, like every other local authority, is very mindful of the need to spend money wisely in the current economic climate, we are also aware that securing and supporting adoptive placements for children who need them is a priority and will in most cases be cost effective in the long term, as opposed to children remaining in foster care.

 “In Trafford we focus very much on children’s needs and I think that as an agency we are good at putting children at the centre of our practice and working to secure the best outcomes we can for them, including adoption if that is the identified plan.”

According to Adoption UK in order to increase further the chances of successful adoptions and avoid the children returning to care there should be extra support provided to adoptive families.

Adoptive parents deal directly with consequences of early harm or damage in children, and need to acquire knowledge and different parenting styles to help their children heal and deal with the consequences of what has happened to them.

Jonathan Pearce, Chief Executive of Adoption UK said: “What’s vital is that we drive up overall practices and standards to reduce the harm caused by delay to children waiting to be adopted, and increase the levels of support provided to parents to help them cope with the challenges of parenting children traumatised by their experiences of abuse and neglect.”

Mr Pearce believes central government cuts has had a big effect on adoption services, local authorities have had to scale back their work and what they will fund.

He said: “Local authorities have had to pass on their cuts to the voluntary sector, which means that many charities are struggling to survive and cannot therefore provide the support that is needed for families.”

Adoption is cheap compared with foster care, which can cost between £300 and £800 a week a child. The younger the child is when adopted the greater the chances of the placement working and thus the greater benefits for the society.

A recent Adoption UK survey found that one in three parents experienced significant difficulties in being accepted as prospective parents. Adoption UK has suggested that there should be a central recruitment agency for adopters which could help carry out initial assessments of prospective adopters and make referrals to relevant agencies.

A spokesman for Adoption UK said: “Local authorities should make more use of the voluntary sector to find families for children needing adoption. There should be significant investment in providing support and training for adoptive families.”

The complexities of adoption can be both heartening and heartbreaking, but there is a need more than ever now for adoption parents to come forward, with the new government guidelines to allow more trans-racial adoptions, there is hope for more successful outcomes for families like Jill’s.