Unless we address the issues behind CPV, “we are committing children to failure”

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.

2 Comments

Filed under news reports, radio and video

2 responses to “Unless we address the issues behind CPV, “we are committing children to failure”

  1. Hi Helen
    Adopters Together is a new peer led/supported campaigning group. We tried to contribute to the File on 4 programme, explaining that on many occasions previously our members were excluded from media coverage about adoption issues such as CPV because of court involvement. We offer representation and support to adopters who have suffered the ordeal of being taken to court as a potential cause of harm to their children, when it is they who are being assaulted and seeking help. Adoption UK do not get involved when adopters are taken to court, or when they go to court to try and get secure accommodation for their children, which is very costly and requires a S47 Care Order.

    We asked for the term disruption not to be used in the programme because we are still our child’s parents, and wish to be actively involved and supporting our children, if they must re enter care – and the term disruption is very problematic for us and our children. It confers a finality that can mean we are written off as a family and as parents – but when our children are 18, we are still there for them, whilst those whose job it is to help, disappear. We cannot access the ASF at all if this has happened. Adoption is permanent and the term disruption suggests it can be ended, and does end, when a child reenters care.

    If there was one criticism of the BBC coverage on 26.9.17, it was that the British public will not be aware, from any of the coverage of the challenges of the ‘parenting from a distance’ role, under the different legal frameworks, and how important it is for our children to know we are absolutely there for them come what may. Some adopters do ‘hand their children back to care’, as the BBC Breakfast programme suggested – but this is only a small proportion.

    We also raised concerns before the programme was aired about the survey and the last question about being ‘glad you adopted’, which we felt conflated parental love with the challenge of achieving support – we thought the survey should have been piloted and don’t really understand why, when we were speaking to the programme makers, before the survey was sent, that they weren’t asking us about our thoughts about it and the questions asked.

    Not withstanding all of this it was an excellent programme and very positive to have our problems being talked about. We are hoping the BBC will follow up with another File on 4 programme about the ‘parenting from a distance’ role. Modern adoption needs different solutions and we would like to be part of developing them – especially when our commitment was repaid by taking us to court, discrediting us, taking away our income (as carers of disabled children we often must give up our work are wholly reliant on the state), or our jobs – if we work with children, removing our children against theirs and our wishes, calling this an ‘adoption disruption’ – and believing that this is in the ‘best interests’ of the child. I don’t know any child whose best interests are served by discrediting and marginalising loving parents.

    Megan

  2. Thank you Megan for raising some very important points, and it is interesting too to hear about your group. I will certainly bear this in mind in my future work, and do look forward to a future programme developing this theme.

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