Tuesday, this week, saw an explosion across the media within Britain of items on the challenges of adoption, particularly the impact of child to parent violence.
The BBC’s joint investigation with Adoption UK culminated in a 40 minute File on 4 radio programme, Adoption: Families in Crisis, which was picked up on national and local stations, and TV programmes such as Victoria Derbyshire; interviewing families and organisations and further unpacking the crises in which many families find themselves.
Nearly 3000 families were surveyed for the report, and the findings are unsurprisingly in line with the report into adoption disruption by Professor Julie Selwyn from 2014. More than a quarter of families described themselves as in crisis, with serious challenges impacting on other members of the family, and at risk of breakdown or already disrupted; but almost two thirds reported aggression in the home and half had sustained serious violence, with injuries requiring hospital treatment and even sexual assault. Within the radio programme, interviews with families related extreme levels of violence and destruction from even young children of primary age, necessitating calling the police. While a high proportion also reported that they were glad they adopted, the meaning and interpretation of this figure has been contested by parents since the report has been published.
The programme goes on to explore the levels of information or help available from local authorities and the difficulties in accessing this, in the face of extreme levels of distress and mental ill health in the children affected. Child to parent violence has been hidden for a long time, and though it is now discussed more openly, there is catching up to do in the help available. While some pockets of excellence are developing, there was concern expressed at the patchiness of provision, as well as the lack of oversight and evidence base for some practices. With contributions from the organisation Family Futures, Professor Jonathan Green from the University of Manchester , Nigel Priestley from Ridley and Hall Solicitors, and Lord McFarlane the discussion concluded with a question as to whether it is time to reconsider the model of long-term care for children who have experienced such degrees of harm and trauma in their early lives.
Clearly child to parent violence has come out of the shadows, and is now a widely recognised phenomenon – within adoption at the very least. The commitment of families – the perseverance and love reported in the face of extreme levels of violence and abuse directed at parents, siblings and home, was overwhelming. The more important aspect of this programme for me lies though in two thoughts: in highlighting the shocking experience of CPV for parents, we must not then demonise the children, neglecting the needs of the child that have brought them to this point; and without proper support for child and family, we are “committing children to failure”.
A number of organisations have issued releases or responses to the report: Local Government network here, the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies here, the Centre of Adoption Support here, Beacon House here. You can see the results of the survey itself on the CVAA website. There is an extraordinarily moving response from an adopter in the Huffington Post here.
The link to the whole episode of Victoria Derbyshire, and interviews with a number of adopters, is here. You can see short clips below.