This is an anonymised guest blog sent to ECLCM by an adoptive parent. The names have been changed to ensure privacy. Although our campaign is solely to achieve "Staying Put" rights for all care leavers, we are publishing it without prejudice to share this adoptive parent's concerns and permit debate
I'm writing to explain the bones of our case in the hope you might be able to glance over it and note where practice had gone wrong
We adopted our two older children when they were seven and five years old respectively. We were told they'd had some neglect and parents weren't very attentive. It turned out that this was far from true and both children had suffered severe and sustained repeated trauma due to violence, abandonment, feral living and sexual as well as emotional abuse. Worse, these are the youngest of 13 children. It's been a long 20 years of Social Services’ involvement.
Our eldest John was compliant and subdued, Molly acted out. Having between five and 10 rages a day and very much struggling with having any capacity to calm down. Normal parenting strategies had no effect. We joined ‘Adoption UK’ and learned quickly about trauma aware therapy and that we needed to develop therapeutic re-parenting.
We tried through a long and exhausting process to get any support. In the end resorting to complaints which yielded some help but by then Molly was 12 and it was all too little, too late. We had some life story work together, but she needed much more.
Her dissociation and violence were really extreme at that point. CAMHS diagnosed severe attachment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it became clear we were getting no help and neither was she. Living in a family was too hard for her and so CAMHS suggested a 52 week residential placement in a therapeutic community. She lasted two and a half years there
Molly wasn't able to engage long term and began to abscond. The unit were not allowed by OFSTED to lock their doors and so Molly started to abscond further afield. One week she absconded to London and the police didn't bother looking for her as she was a ‘looked after child’ and didn't matter. We kept on fighting for her to be supported and found and she reported in of her own volition, she explained she'd been sexually assaulted.
On her return to the unit she became increasingly in trouble with the police for theft, taking other young people off, setting fire to the buildings. The unit managed to diagnose her with ‘atypical autism’ and for a short while we felt supported and understood. However due to her increasingly destructive behaviour and lack of engagement they gave notice on her bed.
My husband and I researched and looked round at other units that would off some secure accommodation for her. The day before she was due to move social care said she was going into foster care and if we did not like it she would be sent home to us. That would mean they would remove the other children at home here.
So we had no choice, we wrote formally warning Social Services of our concerns that she'd never cope and please don't place her with other children. This was completely ignored. They placed her with a family in a large town locally. It was a disaster. Molly constantly ran away, no school attendance. She began self-harming. The police kept picking her up with a variety of phones in men's flats and they were clear Molly was being exploited.
One meeting the foster carers said unless something is done Molly will be raped or worse. Then Molly escalated again, threatened to kill the foster carer and menaced them with a lighter, wrecking the house.
Molly found herself in police custody in a cell at the station aged 15. It was grim, not least because that we weren't allowed to see her as the custody sergeant assumed we were abusive parents because she was in care.
All weekend I tried to get Social Services to agree to a secure placement and eventually on the Sunday we got that agreement. Monday morning she appeared in court and as she was no longer on remand. Social Services washed their hands of their commitment to place her in secure and instead placed her in a children's home.
Her new home let her go out with no supervision and again we protested. We were told we were ridiculous; that 15 year olds all go drinking up the park etc. Tearfully I explained about the risk to Molly of paedophiles and rape. I was told that it was a nice area etc. Within 2 weeks she was raped, and then was raped again three months later. Suddenly having support going out was a good idea after all. Dreadful!
Molly got into more and more trouble and ended up in court expecting a custodial sentence for burglary but instead she got a tag,
During the last six months we were allocated a good post adoption social worker who had her head screwed on. She helped us apply for the new adoption support fund which paid for my husband and I to have psychotherapy. It was only 10 sessions but it really has helped.
It took us nine years of asking to get the children’s files from the placing local authority. In the end we had to take it to the ombudsman before they capitulated. The files aren't complete but even so betrayed 20 years of Social Services’ chaos as the children were said to be the Housing Department’s problem, then the Health Authority’s problem, then the school’s problem, or the responsibility of the older children’s team and not the younger ones, or else the younger ones, not the older ones....
The children disclosed sexual abuse and were described as feral children in a derelict house. The older boys were drug running and the birth mum making her living through prostitution. At one time the home situation was so awful that they took the dogs away – but they left the children.
These children are ruined by lack of care. They experienced too much of what they don't need and not enough of what they do. I'm told that the ‘thresholds’ were high. To me, that seems to mean that child abuse is allowed in some rubbishy local authorities.
They then place these extremely traumatised children for adoption and wash their hands of them. If you dare to present to social services with any issues you are told clearly that this is your fault. They are ‘cured’ by adoption and all the rubbish behaviour they display subsequently is down to you. They are so punitive towards you that you are very reluctant to go near them again. If you then seek a diagnosis for your children's problems in order to achieve therapy or support, and go in with a good sound research backed argument, the social work team is intimidated by your knowledge. They will suggest that you are over protective making excuses and have some weird form of ‘Munchausen’s by Proxy’. They very much treat you as dysfunctional parents to a dysfunctional child, not as functional parents to dysfunctional children.
When Molly moved aged 12, Social Services were hellish. Despite her increasing violence & hurting our then two year old child, they insisted that she remain home but with the health visitor’s requirement that we be more vigilant. I have three children and cannot hold on always. I had to take our two year old with me when I went to the loo!
But it didn't stop Molly. Family was simply too hard for her. CAMHS backed us and Social Services were furious. To me, it seemed that they felt angry because we had achieved what they and their systems could not. We had needed help badly, but it was not being provided. We went to see our MP in the end as the local authority wouldn't support us. The MP set up a meeting and funding agreed by Health. It seems that Social Services have never forgiven us. I believe that they lost sight of Molly’s needs totally.
When Molly moved my husband and I fell apart. He developed anxiety and had time off work and I was in hospital lots of times with an immune condition. When asking for help we were told: 'You got what you wanted’. I sobbed and was told that this was attention seeking ....
The last six months have been particularly grim with Social Services who not only investigated us for false accusations, then retracted them without informing or discussing it with us as protocol demanded, but gave Molly’s birth family ‘red carpet treatment’ to disastrous effect. The constant denigration of us in front of a very vulnerable ‘messed up’ young girl has contributed massively to where we are.
Molly is 18 now and we've lost her to the land of vice from whence she came. As far as we are concerned much fault lies with social 'care' who do not seem to 'care' in the least.".