The London Borough of Harrow has handed over day-to-day management of its adoption services to an outside agency, in a ground-breaking deal that could be replicated across the UK.
Voluntary adoption agency Coram Family will take over the recruitment of adoptive families for children and help with permanent placements, providing advice, consultancy and chairing the planning process.
The charity, which places more than 70 children a year in London, East Anglia and the East Midlands, has signed a three-year deal with the council worth £350,000 a year but hopes to extend it further.
Harrow needs to place about 10 children a year to meet government targets but placed just seven children in 2005-6 and has found placements for only three in 2006-7.
Jeanne Kaniuk, head of Coram’s adoption and permanent families service, said it had a large pool of adoptive families to draw on. She added that the charity hoped to “streamline” Harrow’s permanency planning service, to reduce the amount of time children spent in the care system before being adopted.
The council’s portfolio holder for children’s services, Janet Mote, said it had struggled with the recruitment of qualified staff. She said Coram had a strong track record and its non-faith based status was also a plus in its favour.
Association of Directors of Social Services adoption lead Andrew Christie welcomed the deal saying specialist agencies could find it easier to maintain the required expertise. He added: “I suspect we will see more of these kinds of arrangements.”
Christie added that it may be an arrangement that he would consider for his own borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
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