'I was bullied for being adopted': Lack of help leaves record number of adoptive families in crisis

One man told ITV News how a lack of professional support after being adopted as a child made his life 'very difficult' at times, Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker reports

Martin Griffiths was one when he was adopted by a family in Wales.

While he has happy memories of his childhood, he recalls how his school years were marred by bullying and how teachers lacked the understanding or training to support him.

He said: "Other kids used to say to me, 'your real mum didn't want you.' Children can be really horrible, it's difficult to discuss adoption with people who don't understand, let alone when you are in Year 5 at school."

His two biological sisters were later adopted by the same family, but then tragedy struck when their adoptive father died while the siblings were still very young.

'It's difficult to discuss adoption with people who don't understand, and especially when you're in Year 5 in primary school,' Martin Griffiths told ITV News

Martin recalls the void of any professional support; his adoptive mother left to bring up the children alone, and one of his sisters struggling with complex mental health problems.

"Growing up, it was very difficult to deal with life at times," he said.

"One of my sisters had complex needs - she was labelled as 'the naughty child, the difficult one' at school.

"It was only later in life that she was diagnosed with ADHD, dyspraxia and autism."

More adoptive families are in crisis than ever before due to the cost-of-living, the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and stretched public services, according to a new survey by Adoption UK.

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The Adoption Barometer report - the most comprehensive stocktake of adoption in the UK - revealed:

  • The number of adoptive families in England facing severe challenges or at crisis point has increased from 30% to 38% in just one year.

  • The number of adoptive families who are optimistic about their future has fallen by 9% since last year, to an all-time low of 69%.

  • 60% of parents had experienced violence or aggression from their child.

  • Nearly a third (29%) of adopted young adults were not in education, employment or training - well above the national average of 12%.

The charity says that while adoption remains a vital intervention for children who cannot safely grow up with their birth family, support services for adoptees "must be reliable and accessible, especially at the toughest times, and must not disappear when people turn 18".

Adoption UK CEO Emily Frith said: "When record numbers of families say they're in crisis it's time to listen and to take urgent action.

"We must fix the disconnect with other services such as mental health and education."

In Lincolnshire, we heard from another family whose story is all too familiar.

Alison Woodhead, Director of Public Affairs at Adoption UK, told ITV News that a 're-set' in attitudes is needed to ensure 'lifelong support' is offered to adopted children and 'not just at the beginning'

Liv was adopted when she was three-years-old. Now a teenager, she's been bullied physically and verbally at school and struggles with her mental health describing feeling like she's "existing" instead of living.

The family is desperate for help, but felt let down by teachers and social workers.

"It's soul destroying, it doesn't have to be like this," Louise said.

"There's a lot of support initially, but as life goes on and children become adopted, that just drops away as if there's nothing."

Louise described how her daughter's early life was disrupted by different foster care placements and a lack of emotional support.

Problems then escalated in secondary school as severe bullying "was dealt with in a terrible way by the school".

"It has been heartbreaking and frustrating. It's been hard to get past the gate keepers of the school, and get to someone who would understand and listen," Louise said.

"We should train all staff at every level, in every school, in how to be more sensitive and trauma-informed with correct strategies.

"It should be in initial teacher training."

In the UK, more than 3,000 children are adopted every year.

Many have suffered neglect, trauma and abuse which can result in complex developmental and psychological difficulties.

Yet some parents felt abandoned, left unprepared and unsupported when trying to care for them.

The government told us it's invested £160 million so that every adoptive family can access support wherever they live.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "This includes funding centres of excellence to provide joined up assessments and packages of support for families, alongside health and education partners.

"Our adoption strategy is part of our ambitious plan to reform the children’s social care system to reduce bureaucracy and focus on more early support for families, reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage."

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