The Coram Concurrent Planning project: Outcomes for children into the Adolescent Years
In the UK most adopted children come into care via the courts because of abuse or neglect. Coram’s concurrent planning scheme provides permanence for vulnerable children under age 2 years in court proceedings. To avoid placement moves and separations, the children are placed with dually approved adopter/ foster carers. The children may return to the care of parents/extended family at the end of proceedings. If not they will be adopted by their foster carers. Assessments of the parental ability to change within the child’s timescale are undertaken as well as assessment of any extended family members willing to offer permanence. The Outcome Study undertaken on children placed between 1999 and 2011 indicated a range of outcomes.
Findings: 57 children placed, records reviewed; 28 families interviewed; 21 SDQs administered; 27 KPS Surveys administered
Children’s characteristics: Most children placed under 6 months; 22% had low birth weight. 74% of mothers had severe substance abuse/ many children suffered drug withdrawal at birth; 33% of mothers experienced DV in pregnancy; 50% of mothers and 25% of fathers had a mental health diagnosis; 88% of mothers had older children mostly in care. Many children experienced multiple adverse background factors. Because of the small sample size and cocktail of adverse factors experienced by most children it was not possible to identify which factors were more toxic or protective.
3 of the 57 children had returned to care of parent/ extended family. All the children placed were still with the family where they had been placed following the court proceedings, demonstrating placement stability. Study considered outcomes holistically: family relationships, physical/mental health/ school/ peer relationships.
Outcomes: All the parents demonstrated high levels of commitment to their children and there were no disruptions.
Group 1: These children had flourished within the family, social networks and school. No support services required.
Group 2: These children needed standard support services e.g. within the classroom.
Group three: These children had moderate to high support needs , including autism/Asperger’s /other difficulties requiring special schooling and mental health services.
Follow up study, 2017: In depth telephone interviews with parents and one adoptee. Analysis to be completed by end March 2018. Early indications are that adolescence has proved challenging; likely contributory factors will be considered.
Implications: Previous expectation: if children removed from adverse conditions at young age to stable alternative family care, the child would grow up without major difficulties. This study appears to confirm the vital importance of neurological development of babies in utero, and impact of early adversity post birth with wide implications for planning for children. Importance of early intervention and follow up support services demonstrated.