Adopted children often need extra help and support to help them reach their full potential. Their early life experiences and trauma can lead to a wide range of issues. For some children, specialist support is what’s needed to help them manage these issues.
Our social worker drummed into us early on that it was vital we made sure there was an appropriate support package in place if our child required extra help. Knowing this and being able to put it into practice can be too very different things though. The families who completed the Q & A’s I’ve recently published about post adoption support, are probably typical of a lot of adopters. Christina and her husband knew their daughter had complex and challenging needs as a result of her early life experiences, but there was no support package in place prior to the adoption order being granted.
Ideally, social workers will help you work out the kind of help and support you need. But it can be really daunting asking for it soon after placement if issues come up that are new. I think it’s natural to think that we’ll be seen as not being able to cope if we ask for help. Any new parent would think that. But when you’ve become a parent via adoption, there’s a whole different level of expectation. We often feel like we’re under the microscope, with our every move being scrutinised. The reality often isn’t anywhere close to that, but that’s how it can feel.
So I do think there’s a tendency for adopters to think everything will be ok. That, coupled with not always knowing early on what the issues are, often means there isn’t a support package in place at placement. And then it starts to feel really hard to ask for help.
I can remember feeling really embarrassed asking more or less from the start with youngest, whether there’d be scope for financial help. We hadn’t planned to adopt again and had spent a lot of money on our house and garden. That meant we didn’t have any savings to fund me taking longer than my paid six months adoption leave. And it also meant we’d struggle with nursery fees. But I remembered what our social worker had said, and so I asked. We asked for nursery funding equivalent to the two year funding, until she qualified for it. The response was yes. Straight away.
My embarrassment quickly turned to frustration. Why hadn’t we been told that this type of support was available, rather than having to ask for it? And I think that’s the crux of the issue. Help and support often is available from the start. But we feel that we shouldn’t be asking, or we don’t know what it is we need.
So, what type of help and support is available? And when can it be accessed?
Ideally, any support package should have been identified by the social workers and you, before matching panel. If your child is already receiving therapy or a particular type of treatment, you should know about it from their report. If they have a known health issue that requires ongoing treatment, that’ll be in there too. In those circumstances, it’s perhaps easier to know what to ask for. How long will the treatment continue? Who will provide it and fund it? What happens when it stops? What is the longer term plan for treatment? If it’s specialist help and not NHS provided, who funds it?
That information can then be included in the matching report. And if it isn’t, you need to ask for it to go in. It’s then clear for everyone what’s expected and how it will happen. The funding for youngest’s nursery place was including in our matching report. I sent a copy of the report with our request for funding to start at the appropriate time, and it wasn’t an issue.
If it’s clear that extra support is needed once your child is home, make sure it’s in place before you apply for the adoption order. It’s easier to access support if your child is looked after (which they are until the adoption order is granted) as opposed to adopted, particularly if it’s something that can be provided in-house by the local authority. The temptation is to apply for the order as soon as you can. But if there are issues, that may not be the best option. Again, you want the support to be in writing with a clear plan as to what it is, how long it lasts for, how you access it again if needs be, and who funds it.
If the support that’s needed can’t be provided by the local authority, it may be appropriate for an application to be made to the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). Adoption UK have a lot of information about the fund on their website which you can access here.
In an ideal world, adopters would be told about all of the help and support that’s available, as soon as they’re linked to a child. But it doesn’t happen that way very often. The next best thing is knowing where to ask for help. And if the help isn’t forthcoming, to keep asking until it’s provided. If you’d like to share your experience of adoption support, whether it’s pre or post adoption order, please get in touch.