Ofsted’s proposal to award oustanding ratings only to councils that place children for adoption within 12 months has been condemned by directors of children’s services who warn it could reduce adoption numbers.
In a statement, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) urged the watchdog to scrap the deadline – announced today – arguing it is unfair and could discourage councils from seeking to place children for adoption.
Finding families for some children will take longer than 12 months, directors said, adding that outstanding councils “should and do” continue to look for adopters, where necessary.
Under the new arrangements, these councils would not be rated outstanding, even if they are successful at finding families. This prevents good practice from being highlighted, directors said.
Matt Dunkley, ADCS president, said cases that will take longer than 12 months include children who would “benefit most from a stable and loving home”.
He said: “An outstanding service seeks to find families for all children seeking adoption, as quickly as possible but while trying to find the placement that will best meet their long-term needs, for example a family willing to take siblings together, or who can accommodate a disabled child.
“Inspectors do themselves a disservice by relying on a single indicator – the value of inspection is in being able to see beyond the data to understand the experiences of children and families who use services to provide a more detailed view of quality.”
He advised Ofsted to reconsider the target “and seek, with local government, more sensible ways of incentivisng and recognising good performance in adoption practice”.
Social workers have also criticised the 12-month deadline.
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said Ofsted should highlight good practice, “rather than [foster] a negative culture of competition”.
The target was announced by Ofsted today as part of a new framework to tackle delays in the system and ensure more robust inspections of adoption services.
Matt Dunkley will be providing a keynote address at our conference on 29th March in London, entitled ‘Adoption Reform: Establishing stable, secure and supportive family environments