Call for better communication to support adopted children with SEND

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A new report by the Council for Disabled Children has called for improved communication with families to support adopted children with additional needs.


The champions will help councils prepare for the SEND reforms, designed to help families with disabled children

The report, Realistic Positivity, which has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), highlights the challenges faced by families and professionals in identifying and responding to the additional needs of young children placed for adoption.

The research includes interviews with six parents of eight adopted children with a range of additional needs, and 13 health, social care and education professionals.

The interviews suggest that interpreting young children’s symptoms and behaviours can be complicated by gaps in what is known about them and their family health histories.

The research considered:

  • why the needs of care-experienced children may be difficult to identify or understand in the early years
  • how prospective adopters are informed about children’s health and development before placement, and how they seek help if concerns arise after placement
  • the ways professionals and services respond to concerns about the needs of young adopted children
  • ideas to improve support for families in these circumstances.

The Council for Disabled Children has called on adoption agencies to ensure clear and open communication with prospective adopters about children.

While parents interviewed in the report said they felt their child’s needs were downplayed during the matching process, professionals emphasised the uncertainty in what may be known and knowable about a child.

The interviews highlighted the importance of responsive and well-informed social work teams, therapeutic providers, health services, early years settings, schools and voluntary agencies, but also called for better co-ordinated multi-agency responses centred on the needs of children and families.

The Council for Disabled Children stressed that the challenges facing adoptive families come against a backdrop of pressure on the budgets of local authorities and other service providers.

Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, said, ‘Adoption can be a child’s first chance of a stable and supportive family life, so there is a lot at stake in making sure that adoptive parents get the help they need to make it work.

'But professionals often find it extremely difficult to assess a young adopted child’s needs, and whether additional needs are linked to traumatic early experiences or other health conditions. There is a lot that services can do to ensure families get the right support at the right time, and much of it involves better co-operation and communication.’

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