Special guardianship order assessments to be strengthened

Assessment process for special guardianship is to become more thorough, while the Prime Minister pledges more improvements to adoption

Photo: Monkey Business Images/REX Shuttershock (posed by models)

Assessments for special guardianship orders are to become more thorough, the government has announced.

Regulations for the assessment of special guardians, which have been criticised for being too short and potentially inadequate when compared to the assessment for foster carers and adopters, will be changed so that councils have to undertake more thorough checks before going forward with a placement.

The government recently undertook a review of special guardianship orders amid concerns about how they were being used. There has been a 170% rise in special guardianship placements in the past five years. In 2010, 1,290 children left care for a special guardianship order, 3,520 did likewise in 2015.

The changes would put more of an emphasis on placing children with relatives the child has a strong bond with, rather than distant, unsuitable relations.

Speeding up adoptions

David Cameron also announced new measures today to try to double the number of children placed with an adoptive family sooner, without having to wait for the full process to be completed.

Councils will have to reveal how many children they place with adoptive families before the full process is complete, he announced, and the government believes this will encourage earlier placement for a child in their adoptive family.

Around 10% of adopted children are placed with families early, and the government has challenged councils to double it.

The government is also “actively considering changes to adoption law”, and ministers will look at proposals “so that where adoption is the right thing for children, social workers and courts pursue this”.

Placement orders fall

The announcement came on the day that Adoption Leadership Board statistics showed that the number of placement orders fell again from April to June this year. The number of Agency Decision Maker decisions made for adoption also fell. The number of placement orders for adoption being made have halved since 2013.

Councils will be forced to have plans to merge their adoption services regional adoption agencies by 2017 under new legislative powers from the government, it was also announced, and the whole adoption system will be run by regional agencies by 2020. Since the move to regional adoption agencies was announced earlier this year, 140 councils have applied to merge and streamline their services, the government said.

David Cameron said: “It is a tragedy that there are still too many children waiting to be placed with a loving family – we have made real progress but it remains a problem.”

He added: “I want to make sure that we do everything we can so children are placed in a loving home as soon as possible, giving them the best chance for a happy and fulfilled life.”

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3 Responses to Special guardianship order assessments to be strengthened

  1. Kif November 2, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    This is all well and good but the problems lie with so much focus on children returning to their birth families! There needs to be a focus on the delays following the placement of children with adoptive families where birth families can continue to oppose the making of an Adoption Order. This is significantly delaying adoption, causing massive anxieties for adoptive families and making birth families think that their children are returning to their care. Also, what adoptive parents will want to go through such an intensive period of assessment for a child to join their family, to then risk losing a child back to their birth families?

  2. BuddhaPest November 5, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    The government’s promotion of the foster-to-adopt policy, where children are to be plced with adopters who are approved to foster them before the court process has concluded, is designed to do what Kif describes – the original concurrent planning project aimed to take the stress of repeated moves away from the babies/children being placed and place the stress of uncertainty onto the adoptive parents. They were supposed to be heled to manage this uncertainty by receiving intensive support.

    However, the solution to this problem is not to make the life-changing decision that a child should be permanently separated from his/her parents quicker and easier. This is such a momentous decision that parents and family should be given the chance to show that they can raise the child safely. The vast majority of SGOs work out well for children, and they are less well supported than adopters (no adoption support fund, no entitlement to adoption leave, patchy local authority support services, family complexities to manage).

    Adoption as we know it in this country, involving a complete legal dissolving of a child’s relationship with their parents, is actually a rarity in the world – only America operates the same system. Because even if you can break family ties legally, it is impossible to legislate to do so emotionally, and this absolute break does leave many adopted children and birth parents with a lifelong gap in their sense of who they are. Children who go to a special guardian from their extended family are less likely to experience this.

  3. Kenneth Gough November 6, 2015 at 3:13 am #

    There is an inequality within the care system that is adversely affecting a great number of families and indirectly the children they care for… http://leanonus.co/blog/fostering/