Children’s social workers have been criticised for failing to prepare adoption reports properly and for being too idealistic about finding matches.
A government commissioned report published today stated that many permanence reports prepared by children’s social workers contained errors while a third did not accurately reflect children’s difficulties. Adoption panels returned the papers in 13% of cases.
Failing to give adoptive parents comprehensive information about a child’s difficulties contributed to placements breaking down.
Nearly three-quarters of the 149 children studied (71%) had experienced delays at some point in the adoption process with 30% waiting more than a year for a match and 12% going into long-term foster care instead. Delays were largely related to councils trying to find matches “in-house” instead of widening their search quickly to voluntary adoption agencies.
“There were significantly more poor in-house matches (33%) compared to inter-agency ones (18%). In addition significantly more poor quality matches were arranged by county authorities, suggesting that their greater use of in-house placements may sometimes have involved compromising on fully meeting children’s needs.”
However, the report said that in addition to failing to widen the search for families quickly, delays were also attributed to “a lack of realism” about finding suitable families.
“Children’s social workers often strove to find a notional ‘ideal’ family for children and were sometimes unwilling to alter the requirements (e.g. insistence on an adoptive couple or placing a large sibling group together) even when no family could be found,” the report stated.
However 87% of the placements were judged by the researchers to have been positive for children.
The authors suggested social workers should work more closely with adoption workers, while councils should put in place more formal processes for monitoring the matching process, including identifying funds for inter-agency fees at the outset.