Post-adoption support should be a legal right, says House of Lords

Lords committee warns focus on adoption must not undermine work with birth families or other permanent options for children

Better adoption support would help prevent breakdowns, says ADCS
Better adoption support would help prevent breakdowns, says ADCS

Every local authority in England should have a legal duty to fund quality post-adoption support for adoptive families, the Lords committee on adoption legislation has concluded.

Acknowledging that many adopted children have experienced early abuse and trauma, and consequently have complex needs, the committee concluded parents deserve to know their right to post-adoption support is enshrined in law.

The recommendation follows repeated calls for better support from charities and adoptive parents. They have raised concerns that many adoptive families still face a postcode lottery when it comes to accessing consistent, high quality support.

Questions remain over resources

“We are concerned the provision of post-adoption support is often variable and sometimes inadequate,” said committee chair Baroness Butler-Sloss. “We recommend a statutory duty on local authorities and other service commissioning bodies to ensure the provision of post-adoption support.

“Inevitably there will be concerns about resourcing this support, but calculations of cost need to take into account the significant amount of money which local authorities save when a child is adopted from care.”

Adoptive parent Sally Donovan, who adopted two children from care, applauded the move. “Local authorities should be mandated to support adoptive families and it is a disgrace that they are not already. Adopters parent some of the most damaged children in our society and currently many do this with very little or no professional support or understanding,” she said.

Debbie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, agreed access to post-adoption support could help prevent adoption disruption, but questioned where the money would come from. ”Placing a statutory duty on local authorities, without providing adequate resourcing, will not improve the support available to families,” she said.

Lords call for more data on adoption breakdowns

The committee’s report, published today, also echoed concerns that the government’s focus on adoption will eclipse other permanent options for children, and the “significant” lack of data on the number of adoptions that break down nationally.

“The current monitoring of adoption outcomes is sadly lacking; we do not know how many adoptions break down or why. This lack of information cannot continue. The government must ensure robust monitoring and data collection is in place, to inform our understanding of what is going wrong, and how [this] be avoided,” Baroness Butler-Sloss said.

The drive to increase adoption numbers should not come at the expense of other orders, such as special guardianship or kinship care, which may be more suitable for certain children, the committee said. Similarly, efforts to support birth families to keep their children should not be undermined by the desire to boost adoption rates.

Recommendations for adoption reform

The committee made a number of recommendations for improving adoption practice. These include encouraging more councils to form joint adoption services with agencies and neighbouring authorities; ensuring each school has a teacher responsible for the well-being of adopted children and employing independent reviewing officers outside local authorities.

Social work training and supervision should also be improved, the committee recommended, so practitioners understand the “importance of robust and early decision-making about children’s futures, especially for very young children”.

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