What issues can children and young people who have been adopted face?
When properly supported, adoption offers positive outcomes for children from the care system, including providing them with a permanent family. However, all children who are adopted will have experienced some form of loss or trauma through being separated from their birth families. Many adopted children will have experienced further trauma through their early experiences of abuse or neglect within the birth family. All will have spent time in the care system.
For many children, this trauma may lead to emotional, behavioural, education or development difficulties, which may also affect their ability to form secure attachments with their new parents, develop healthy relationships and navigate day-to-day life.
Well cared for children will grow up feeling comfortable, safe, valued and loved. To use the analogy of a wall made of "development-need" bricks, their walls will be well-built and strong.
But adopted children's early needs have often gone unmet and many will have grown up feeling unsafe, uncared for and alone. Their walls will be incomplete and fragile. Many will require ongoing support to overcome their early life experiences.
The issues that adopted children and young people face are massively complex. They may be the effects of being born to substance misusing parents, the impact of domestic abuse and/or neglect and as they get older, questions around identity, contact with the birth family and learning more about their history and reasons for being removed from their birth family.
At a day-to-day level, many adopted children face difficulties in school such as concentration, sitting still, forming positive friendships and social skills.
What is the best way to help and support young people who have been adopted in their day-to-day life?
There needs to be a better understanding among professionals working with children of the effects of early trauma and neglect on childhood development and more awareness around attachment issues and executive functioning disorders. It is difficult for adopted children to achieve their potential if there is little understanding of the impact of their early life experiences.
We need to foster joint-working practices and a multi-disciplinary approach to supporting children across the education, health, social care and legal systems.
Professionals working with adopted children need to listen to and acknowledge the role adoptive parents play in helping to build brighter futures for their children.
They also need to know what organisations and resources exist to help adopted children and young people, both for the child and for those working with them. There are a host of training courses, workshops and conferences to help professionals better understand the needs of adopted children.
Where can young people go for help?
Depending on the age of the child, there are organisations out there to support adopted children and their families. As a charity providing support to those parenting children who cannot live with their birth parents, we would suggest those working with younger adopted children encourage adoptive parents to contact Adoption UK.
For older children who may want to seek support themselves, there are services offered by After Adoption (TALKadoption), Post Adoption Centre, YoungMinds, Youth Access and Get Connected. Families can also contact their statutory or voluntary adoption agency to seek help.
Claire Friday, support manager, Adoption UK
- Recognise that the issues that adopted children and young people face are massively complex.
- Understand that adopted children's early needs have often gone unmet and many will have grown up feeling unsafe, uncared for and alone - their "walls" will be incomplete and fragile.
- It is difficult for adopted children to achieve their potential if there is little understanding of the impact of their early life experiences.
- Foster joint-working practices and a multi-disciplinary approach.
- Listen to and acknowledge the role adoptive parents play in helping to build brighter futures for their children.