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Demystifying adoption – what is permanence?

Photo credit the Mirror newspaper group of young boy looking for a forever family, a permanent family home

Credit: photo from the Mirror Group and

The photo and words say it all ‘Help Alfie find a forever family’.

This week our spotlight is on adoption because it is National Adoption Week.  And yet every week of the year, agencies and social workers strive to achieve forever families for many children in need of a permanent home.

It feels timelier that ever to be talking about creating forever families for children.  The National Adoption Week campaign work this week aims to ensure we all hold the most authentic, realistic picture possible of how adoption works for all involved. It’s great to see the positive response to the campaign in the media and yet we are keenly aware that even more progress can still be made.

Please join our conversation and share your adoption success stories to raise the profile of how adoption may change a young person’s life forever.

As a result of our work to deliver leading social care training solutions, we wanted to share a helpful explanation of what permanence, or a forever family, means. We want to contribute to the National Adoption Week campaign by demystifying adoption. Permanence is at the heart of successful adoption.

What is permanence?

It can be described as having a family for life. The overarching principle of permanence planning for children and young people is that stability and security is achieved in a way that ensures their safety and well being, that preserves the child/young persons’ identity, and that is inclusive and meets the majority of their needs throughout childhood and early adulthood.

Permanence is important as it allows children to build a secure base from which a sense of security, belonging and identity can grow.  There is a clear connection between a strong sense of personal security in life with a more positive sense of identity. Belonging to two families can raise many areas of confusion and difficulty for children at different developmental stages.

Imagine growing up without knowing who both your parents were and where you were born, losing touch with siblings and having limited possessions and memorabilia of your early life. Without this knowledge life can be disconcerting: an uncertain basis for the foundations of growing up.  Looked after children may have had several moves in their lives, may have been cared for by a range of people and may have lost some of their memorabilia along the way. Children living away from their families of origin need assistance in understanding why, and need help in developing a sense of security and stability within the family they are now living. Foster carers can often provide this level of security and stability and there are several ways this can be achieved.

Permanence pathways can include permanent fostering, adoption, Special guardianship and kinship care but which is best?

Is there a right solution? Each child is different and the key to stability and permanence is identifying the right placement for each child.

So what should you consider?

The practice of foster carers adopting the children for whom they care is not unusual, in fact evidence would suggest that approximately 10% of adoptions within England and Wales fall into this category. However, it remains a difficult area of practice and raises many concerns and anxieties for social workers and foster carers alike.

There are many different views to take into account when considering permanency in any form, the views of the children, birth family, foster family, finances and home environment are all factors that must be given careful consideration.

One of the big issues for many children and young people who are looked after, is that they feel a deep sense of loyalty to their family of origin. This can cause many difficulties for permanent carers who may struggle to understand these connections, particularly where the child has been neglected or abused in some way.

Adoptive families and permanent carers need to be able to accept that the child has ‘dual identity’ and that this must be acknowledged. An honest and transparent approach is recommended. This is why life story books, memory boxes, and lots of conversations are essential in any permanent placement.

We have recently developed a course which looks at these options in more detail and explains the differences between each pathway.  It is useful tool for anyone considering offering a child permanency and details the factors to be considered.  Please do get in touch if you would like more information.

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