Why parents need backing not undermining

Six weeks ago my 16-year-old son was “deaccommodated” by a
social services department in north London.

On several occasions he had behaved violently towards other
residents at the children’s home. He had been offered other
residential placements for young people with drug problems, but had
turned them down. On being offered bed and breakfast accommodation
he chose to go missing.

We argued against the decision, and asked social workers not for
the first time to seek a secure order for him. We were told that it
was against the department’s policy to seek secure orders for
over-16-year-olds, and that the only way he could get help was via
“the criminal route”. He has already had three spells at Feltham
young offenders institution, returning tougher and with an even
more indifferent attitude each time.

He came to live with us when he was three years old. We adopted
him two years later. We adopted a baby girl a few months later and
were proud of his attachment to her and his identity with us. He
was, until the onset of adolescence, a very affectionate son. We
were not aware of the fact that one in five adoptions of children
over the age of two break down, and we had never heard of
“attachment disorder”.

We fought to get help for him at school both for his behavioural
problems and dyslexia. We also sought help from social services, to
no avail. He was excluded from school just after his 14th birthday
and shortly after was charged with violent disorder and assault.
These two events sent his already escalating delinquency into
overdrive and our home life became impossible. He started to go
missing for days at a time.

He was remanded into local authority care two years ago. Here,
he continued to commit offences, developed a drug habit, failed to
comply with various court supervision orders and was rejected from
home after home. We argued that he needed psychiatric help and that
he was not responsible for his own actions. There is not space here
to justify our reasons for believing that his present behaviour is
completely out of character and out of his own control – but we
know how he used to be.

We believe that if social workers had the courage to impose the
boundaries he so badly needed when he first went into care, he
might have understood that the rules of social behaviour are more
or less the same whoever you live with. Instead, his assertion that
he could do what he liked was reinforced time and time again, even
by the court.

Now, he is on remand and living at home as no other
accommodation was available. He has not changed his behaviour. Our
experience of social services and the youth justice system has been
poor. The policy seems to be “tell them their rights and give them
all the rope they need.”

The author is an adoptive mother who wishes to remain

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