Number of adopted children returned to care has doubled in five years

By Rosemary Bennett

July 10, 2009 /Timesonline

The number of adopted children who have been returned to care homes because their new parents cannot cope with them has doubled in the past five years.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the number has increased by a third in the past year alone as parents struggle with often challenging children who have suffered years of neglect or abuse in their natural families.

Going back into care after living with an adoptive family is a traumatic experience for children, and for the adoptive parents who have to accept their only chance of having a family has gone. It is also a huge cost to an already over-stretched system with the children likely to need expensive specialist care.

The increase in breakdowns comes despite a fall in the number of children being adopted. Only 4,637 children were adopted in 2007, the lowest number since 1999.

The data on breakdowns is in a survey of local authorities, conducted by More4 News and shared with The Times. More4 News will broadcast its special report tonight at 8pm.

Experts say the figures show that many children are being left to suffer at the hands of dysfunctional natural parents for too long before being taken into care by social workers. By the time they are adopted, many have severe emotional or behavioural problems.

Local authorities are not obliged to keep any data on adoption breakdowns and the vast majority of those contacted by More4 News had no figures or only partial records. However, according to the numbers kept by 92 out of 450 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, 57 children were returned to care in 2008-09 compared with 26 in 2004-05. If the pattern is repeated across the country, it means more than 250 children were returned to the care system last year.

The Adoption Act of 2002 was supposed to speed up adoption so that children do not have to languish in the care system for too long. However, the bigger problem may be that they are allowed to stay with their natural parents for too long before social workers remove them from their home.

Lord Laming, Britain’s foremost expert on child protection, highlighted this issue in the wake of the Baby P tragedy. He urged social workers to be far more realistic about parents’ ability to turn their lives around and to act more decisively when there are problems.

The figures are also a reflection of the changing face of adoption. Before the 1970s, most adopted children were babies born to single mothers, but today more than three quarters have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. The increase in alcohol and drug abuse among parents is also a growing factor in care proceedings, with parents often being given several chances to break their habit before children are removed.

According to data provided to More4 News by the local authorities, last year only four per cent of adopted children were babies, with the majority aged between one and four. A quarter were aged between five and nine.

Adoption UK, the charity which supports adoptive families, said not enough was being done to help parents to care for a challenging child.

Jonathan Pearce, of Adoption UK, said: “The figures starkly illustrate the difficulties and complexity of modern-day adoptions from care and also highlight the lack of support for adoptive families in their challenging task of being therapeutic parents for traumatised children.”

The charity says the system is still too preoccupied with the intense and lengthy approvals process for would-be adoptive parents, rather than preparing them in advance and helping them afterwards.

Case study
‘I had naively believed in love’

Initially, the adoption seemed to be going well. But Kate discovered that Alex, whom she had adopted when the child was four, had an attachment disorder and heard voices.

“She never left my side, ever,” Kate says. “She couldn’t watch television, she couldn’t play, she didn’t want to play with other children. There was nothing that she could do by herself.”

Alex’s behaviour deteriorated rapidly and she began to torture the family cat. She tried to kill her rabbit. Social services had warned Kate that her daughter’s background was “as bad as it gets”. Alex’s natural mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict.

“I naively believed that with enough love and enough attention and security we could make it all better for her,” Kate says. “But it became a nightmare caring for a child who isn’t attached to you.”

(All names have been changed))


Words from John Hemming's Blog

Written today, John Hemming, MP had this to say about the above article:

One thing that concerns me is the failure to recognise that it is the way that children are treated in care that gives rise to many of the problems they face in later life.

The DCSF Select Committee saw the system in Denmark which is so very different both in the way it treats families and is so much better in terms of outcomes.

However, although it is obvious from this that whatever may happen to children before the state gets involved the outcomes could be far better, this is not generally recognised.

The increase in the number of failed adoptions recognised in the attached artice in The Times and also on More 4 tonight is from an increase in inappropriate adoption decisions as well as more reactive attachment disorder from the treatment of babies in part by birth parents and in part by the care system.


I hang my head in shame...

When I read this:  "I naively believed that with enough love and enough attention and security we could make it all better for her,” Kate says. “But it became a nightmare caring for a child who isn’t attached to you.” I felt like someone had walked over my emotional grave.
WHEN will the "powers that be"  STOP placing children as they would a "Pound Pup?"  A LIFE is at risk... which in turn places the lives of the entire family at risk, every time there is a "match" made and an adoption finalized.
I'm caught in the middle, but with my whole heart I believe the child MUST come first!  The ORIGINAL family MUST be preserved FIRST, if at all possible. 
The "problems" a child has thrust upon them by the separation from the real family are profound...  and who is going to care about the losses of even a dysfunctional family when the main idea in adoption these days is NUMBERS being placed, as opposed to CHANGING the problem within the bio family? 
I HURT for this adoptive mother who went into the adoption thinking love would be enough!  MOST of us DO believe this with our whole hearts!  But having the right heart to accept another person's child as our own was NOT enough...  Our hearts were blind-sided by the inability to put ourselves in that child's place... we put ourselves and our needs before the reality of a human's response to loss.

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy


People want to blame natural parents for all the behavior problems a child in foster care has. But if a child is put in an abusive foster-care situation, or a badly run (spelled c-r-a-p-p-y) institution, how is that helping a child and how is that improving an already bad situation?

"Failed adoptions" or failing system, that can't be all blamed on natural parents. Plain and simple, adults keep failing children, especially those put in care .

Total Unfair to the Children

My word, I know raising a child that is not of your own blood is quite difficult at times, but you still love that child as they are your own flesh and blood.  PERIOD!  When we took our daughter in, we had many sleepless nights for about six months, but that is where the love comes in.  You don't give up, or give in.  You help the child.  You work with them.  They need you, not the opposite.  Children are hard, and when they are not your own, they may be harder.  Work with them in total love.  It is worth it.


Ruth's Father

six months...

There really is no set amount of time it takes to work through what can not be done...   and to think every adoption will work if you give it time is not reality.  Sometimes love has to let go...   Humans fail other humans all the time; but what it all comes back to is, there are some of us who think love will conquer all, when it won't.
I'm happy you accomplished so much in 6 months time.  But don't expect the same thing from everyone else. Sometimes letting go IS love.

From reading your "animal within" I take it you are a survivor of adoption and abuse; and have adopted... and maybe you are one who CAN stick in there because of what you suffered, not wanting it to happen to another child.  Maybe you went into this with both eyes opened, while some of us blinding went forward with the "love will conquer all" thought, and lost.
Anyway, I won't be entering your cage to even give you a chance to take me out with one blow...  I'll just quietly walk away, now that I understand where you are coming from.

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

Licking wounds

There was something very viscerally sweet and bloody important about this last response.... 

Daring to go where no man (woman, mother, father, family member) has DARED to go.... how many are really willing, able and READY to make this treacherous step?   I laugh at the absurdity of a reality so many of us know, in silent remembrance.

I go upon my rock, pace.... back and forth... wait for the sound of gun shots.  Do I stand, or do I pretend to sleep?

I can name each person who has walked away.  I know... and I remember...(don't you doubt that for a second).

So here lies/lays the essence behind each and every adoption... what DOES an AP know about the child granted them?  What truth has been told... what lies have been sold?  What story does each child have to tell?  How many are willing to sit and JUST LISTEN?

I respect wounds...

From a distance, I have learned to listen...  I respect every wounded child represented in this forum because in one way or another I have been a part of these types of wounds.  And, I'm scared shit-less of survivors of adoptions abuses.  I have smelled the pain that drips from the abused heart of an adopted child, who has survived to adulthood, and it's very humbling.
And I have sat and waited while that angry child/adult spends time simmering in the gall-residue that sometimes overwhelms and takes over... for a while.  I have learned to walk a ways away and wait.
I acknowledge there are those who walk completely away; but I'm not one of them.  I've learned my place; and I've learned when to keep a safe distance.  But Teddy is still here.  She learns too much to totally walk away.
I HAVE gone to the places where others REFUSE to go; by force and by willingness to learn.  I choose to stay.  And when a new voice is heard; there is always fear...  Please don't compare me to the other millions who are not willing to sit and listen; the ones who run and never look back.  Peer through the darkness and you'll see my outline against the shadows.  .

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

Pound Pup Legacy