Enhancing Adoptive Parenting
The link is to a summary of the research on adoptive parenting performed by Alan Rushton and Elizabeth Monck.
It is also possible to order the more detailed research book from BAAF amongst other routes. During the quiet period of Christmas I have read the book.
The book itself looks at the question as to whether a specific form of advice for adoptive parents is of any substantial benefit. What is, however, important about the book is not just that question, but other aspects.
Social Care is an area which has very few randomised trials. What that means is you cannot really be certain as to whether the approaches taken in individual cases are one which one would expect to reliably produce positive results.
It is reasonably well known that adopting a child from care is more difficult than adopting a child from birth. Often the parents feel abandoned by the system and a very large proportion of adoptions from care break down at some stage with the child returning to care.
There has been a debate in Social work about the use of Randomised Control Trials. My personal view is in accordance with the authors who say on Page 20 "It is unethical to offer or impose a service that is ineffectual, and is wasteful of scarce resources to do so without seeking alternative approaches. An ethical approach requires that any intervention if properly and independently evaluated."
The report's main conclusions were that although the parenting advice made the parents happier the "advice did not prove more effective in reducing the children's psychosocial problems within the timescale of [the] evaluation" (p6)
However, hidden within the book on page 72 is an important conclusion. The study looked particularly at children who had behavioural problems based on an SDQ questionnaire and then looked at the records of the treatment of the children prior to them coming into the care system. On P72 it concludes:"These data suggest that the experiences associated with coming into care and while in the care system may be more influential that experiences before coming into care in determining children's behaviour in the first few months [21 months] of an adoptive placement. However, it is important to note that the question of the children's resilience was not investigated; it is a complex issue and perhaps not surprisingly was not systematically commented on in the case notes. It may well be that the lack of significant differences between high and low-scoring children in their pre-care circumstances is in part affected by differential resilience. However, to set against that, it does appear that the subsequenct in-care experiences have an effect on the SDQ score shortly after placement. It would be necessary therefore to posit that high resilience to pre-care expereiences did not carry over into effective resilience to events during the children's time in care."
One area I have been concerned about beyond that of miscarriages of justice is that it appears to me that substantial damage is done to many (but not all) children by the way that the care system operates. Note in this that I am concerned about the systematic aspects. There is good care and you can have excellent foster carers constrained by the way the system responds in individual cases.
I have raised hackles by stating that some damage is done in the care system. We now have, however, two sources of good research about the comparative impact of damage done during children's time in care and that which occurs prior to being taken into care.
The other research is that of Mike Rutter which indicated that in terms of the Romanian orphanages the bad treatment (the lack of love) of the babies had more long lasting effects from age 6 months to 18 months in comparison to the first half year.
When you put this together with the statistics for the 6,000 children taken into care in 2006 (April 2005-March 2006) 1,710 were taken into care by 6 months, 1,000 from 7-24 months and 3,250 from 2+. (All figures for England source DCSF)
What these two pieces of reliable research point to is that for a material number of children it is likely that their problems when it comes to the disruption of an adoptive placement are caused by their experiences in care.
This has to be placed against the marginal justifications used for taking some babies into care. Many cases are based upon the mother needing therapy. Some are because the mother is a victim of domestic violence. I have even seen one based in part upon the mother breast feeding a new born on demand rather than having a routine for feeding. The evidence is that a proportion of these children will end up having serious behavioural problems and that the cause of that will be primarily their treatment in care rather than their care prior to being taken into care.
I spoke recently to the ministers responsible for this mess. They said that it should be about the children. I agree with them that it should be about the children. It is quite clear what is being done is systematically damaging to many children.