‘Why weren’t we told?’

In May last year my wife and I, parents of two adopted children,
attended a conference on attachment disorder at University College
Worcester. In the closing address Worcester Council’s head of
children’s services stated how in the 1970s social workers knew of
the theory and its prediction that attachment problems led to
breakdowns in adoption. For us this acknowledgement was a

In the late 1980s we had adopted, through the former Hereford and
Worcester Council, two half-brothers who had been abused. Social
workers never informed us the boys had been categorised as
disturbed. Instead they stressed that “love would be enough”. The
implication being that if we loved them all their future problems
would be overcome. No social worker ever discussed attachment
disorder and the prediction that it could lead to severe
behavioural problems in later teenage years, despite the evidence
available to these professionals. An independent investigator’s
report into the adoption questioned why two disturbed children were
placed with inexperienced parents, who had not been made aware of
the severe problems that lay ahead.

A nuclear explosion hit our family when our oldest boy was 17.
Alcohol and drugs abuse led to violence at home. On two occasions
we had our house broken into while we were away and over
£3,000 worth of damage was done. At that point we were still
not aware of attachment disorder. Our family life was shattered
when, in response to his older brother’s behaviour, our 15-year-old
son also took to drugs and drink. Violence and verbal abuse became
the norm in our house. Doors were kicked in and, in a fit of anger,
a brick was hurled through our front window. Our sons took to a
life of crime, committing car theft and even burglary.

Blaming ourselves for what was going wrong our marriage was put
under a great strain and I was forced to take six months off work
with stress. Despite many planning meetings with social workers and
youth offending team staff the theory of attachment disorder was
never raised. Rather, our parenting skills were seen as the
solution. We were seen as too controlling because we questioned our
youngest son after he had been missing for three days. We were
regarded as too negative for suggesting that his lack of work would
lead to him failing his GCSEs. In fact both of our sons failed to
reach their full potential at school. One was kicked out of his
sixth form college and the army and both have spent time in

The turning point for us came when we visited the West Midlands
Post Adoption Agency and put in touch with a support group of
adoptive parents, Wasgap. Although neither of our sons have ever
been tested for attachment disorder, given that both display
symptoms it was no wonder they exploded in teenage life. The
burning issue for us now is to find out why we weren’t informed
about attachment disorder. We are going to put our complaint before
the local government ombudsmen.

Andrew Hale is an academic and an adoptive parent.

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