Adoption services will need to place children for adoption within 12 months in order to be rated outstanding by Ofsted, the watchdog announced today.
The move is part of new inspection arrangements which come into force in April and are designed to tackle current delays in adoption.
They are set to make it much harder for local authority adoption services to achieve good or outstanding ratings.
From April, inspections will focus on how quickly services place children with adopters after adoption has been identified as the most appropriate placement.
Delays in the recruitment and assessment of adopters will be considered, as will the vetting process, how long this takes and the support given to adopters.
Inspectors will also look at whether adoption has been examined as an option for all looked-after children and will want to see evidence that it has been considered early in the planning process.
“Everything we are publishing today is about raising our expectations for our children. Under these frameworks, it will be much harder to get a ‘good’ or an ‘outstanding’ judgement from inspectors,” said Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector John Goldup.
“Our scrutiny of delays in the adoption process will help focus and bring forward a smooth and quicker adoption process. The earlier children are identified for adoption and placed with a family the better the chances that adoption will be successful,” he added.
But Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said: “We want to see Ofsted highlighting good practice, so that it can be shared between local authorities, rather than fostering a negative culture of competition.”
“Inspections should also be factoring in adoption breakdown, rather than rushing to adhere to inappropriate adoption deadlines,” she added.
Ofsted’s inspection changes reflect the government’s agenda to increase the number of adoptions among looked-after children.
Last week education secretary Michael Gove said he will back social workers who take children in care and confirmed the government will launch an adoption action plan next month to speed up adoptions and ensure children are removed earlier from unfit parents.
Goldup recently admitted Ofsted has made mistakes in previous inspections of adoption services, saying people were right to question why so many services have been rated good or outstanding.
Ofsted also launched a new inspection framework for fostering services today, and revisions to its children’s homes inspection framework, introduced last year.
The new fostering framework will look at how well children are matched with foster carers and the help provided to support successful placements.
For children’s homes to be judged outstanding, providers will now need to demonstrate sustained success in achieving exceptional outcomes for the most challenging young people. Inspectors will still be expected to spend most of their time talking directly to children and families and observing social workers’ practice.
- Community Care is hosting a conference on adoption: Adoption Reform: Establishing stable, secure and supportive family environments, March 29, London. Alison Bailey, Ofsted lead on adoption and fostering, will be speaking about outcomes in adoption and understanding the new Ofsted framework.
Children’s homes voice fears over new Ofsted criteria