Schools are failing to meet the needs of adopted children because of growing funding constraints and inadequate teacher training, research has found.
The survey by the charity Adoption UK reveals that adopted children often struggle to cope in schools, with significantly higher rates of exclusion – including internal, fixed-term and permanent – than their peers.
Beyond school, those aged 16-25 are twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training (Neet) than other young people, and nearly two in five of the same age group (39%) have been involved with mental health services.
Described as one of the most comprehensive studies into the realities of modern-day adoption in the UK, the survey provides a revealing snapshot of the experiences of those who adopt and the outcomes of the children they have adopted in a single year.
Although almost eight out 10 parents (79%) are optimistic and would encourage others to adopt, seven out of 10 adoptive parents (70%) say it is a “continual struggle” to get the help and support their child needs, and more than half (56%) of established families say they face “significant or extreme challenges” in parenting their children.
Based on a survey of 3,500 adoptive families, with 4,000 adopted children and young people between them, the study documents their experiences from the adoption process and the early days of a child’s placement, right through education and into young adulthood.
While progress has been made, particularly in the early stages of adoption, the parents’ responses document the challenge of parenting older adoptees. More than six out of 10 (65%) say they have experienced violence or aggression from their child and three-quarters of parents say their 16-25-year-olds will need significant ongoing support in order to live independently.
The report finds that many parents are positive about the way their children’s schools and teachers are working with them. “But that must be considered alongside the fact that almost a quarter of respondents had been told by their child’s education setting that they were not able to meet their child’s needs because of funding constraints.”
The Adoption UK survey confirmed previous findings that adopted children are 20 times more likely to be permanently excluded. Almost three in 10 (29%) in the survey had experienced internal exclusion – 10% indicated that this happened on a weekly basis.
A quarter of adopted children refused to go to school or truanted during 2018, and 30% were bullied because of their adopted status. Of those parents home-educating, 80% were not doing so out of choice and would prefer their child were at school.
“While the majority of education settings seem willing to listen to adoptive parents and work with them to support their children, lack of training and lack of funding will hinder progress being made,” the report said. “Schools and teachers need to be properly resourced in order to ensure that children who have not had an equal start in life are given an equal chance in life.”
The study also looks at contact with birth families and the growing challenge of informal contacts being made through social media.
Just under a quarter (24%) of families of teenagers in the survey had experienced direct contact with their child’s birth family outside a formal agreement, and in 35% of cases, the contact was initiated by a birth family member seeking out the adopted young person.