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Adoption trauma a forgotten issue

TEACHERS should develop an up to date knowledge and awareness of how issues of adoption could affect their pupils, social workers were told this week.

Barbara Houston, Scottish director of British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, told the annual conference of the Association of Directors of Social Work: "Teachers appear to have very little awareness of the concept of adoption where there are difficulties or where things are not going well.

"There is this sense that these parents have been picked to look after these children - so why is it not working well?" According to figures published by the Scottish Executive last month the average age of children who are adopted is now seven. Out of a total of 443 children who were adopted in 1997, 222 were aged between five and 11 and 68 were aged between 12 and 17 years.

"Adoption has changed enormously over the past 30 years. Very few babies are now offered for adoption. The majority of adptees are in fact school-aged children," Ms Houston said.

"Children put up for adoption will have been in some form of care - foster or residential. They may have had early traumatic experiences or suffered some difficulties in their emotional and physical development - and they may well have faced uncertainties about where they are going to live or who is to care for them."

Primary teachers needed to be sensitive to "the messages they put out on occasions such as Mother's Day - or when they are discussing the family tree. One in three families are reconstituted yet children who do not come from a standard family can end up feeling stigmatised and demoralised."

Social workers also needed to be made more aware about educational issues, Ms Houston said. "We need to be speaking a common language. Social workers need to know about the structure of school life - its examination systems - and its stress points for the children."

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