Law will be changed to increase adoptions, government announces

Education secretary Nicky Morgan unveils measures to prioritise permanence and therapeutic care in placement decisions for vulnerable children

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Photo: REX Shuttershock (posed by model)

The law will be fundamentally changed to prioritise permanence and therapeutic care in placement decisions as part of the government’s drive to increase the number of adoptions, education secretary Nicky Morgan has announced.

The government has said it will quickly change legislation to make sure councils and courts prioritise placements on the basis of whether they will provide care up to the child’s 18th birthday, and provide the quality of care the child will need to recover from abuse and neglect.

The government said the change would mean that courts and councils always pursue adoption when it’s in a child’s interests. Morgan said it would “make sure decisions rightly prioritise children’s long-term stability”.

More money for the adoption support fund

The legal change is part of a suite of measures announced by the government to support adoption, which also includes extending the adoption support fund (ASF) for the next four years to provide therapeutic support to families both before and after the order.

The government will spend £200m over this parliament to support adoption. As well as the ASF, money will be spent on ensuring social workers have the right knowledge and skills to make robust decisions, support the creation of new regional adoption agencies, strengthen voluntary adoption agencies and speed up the adoptions of harder to place children.

Morgan said: “Every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability – and this simply isn’t good enough. We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve.”

The change to the law has been influenced by a fall of about 50% in the number of decisions for adoptions made by courts and councils over the past two years, an effect of the Re B-S judgment, which was perceived to have raised the bar in terms of what a court required to approve an adoption.

Today’s announcement follow David Cameron’s commitment in November 2015 to speed up adoptions.

Encouraging

Hugh Thornbery, chief executive of Adoption UK, welcomed the news, and said a vital part of permanency planning was ensuring all of a child’s needs were considered.

“We encourage the government to give due consideration to the need for there to be the best possible assessments of children’s needs to assist the robust decision-making they have described,” Thornbery said.

On long-term funding for the ASF, Thornbery said: “The progress of the ASF since its national roll out in May last year is really encouraging but we’re concerned that some adopters are still struggling to secure an assessment. We hope to see a marked increase in support services to meet demand as a consequence of the establishment of regional agencies.”

He added: “We must also understand and respond to the significant pressures that overstretched children’s services departments are under with increased referrals and diminishing resources.”

Andy Elvin, chief executive of TACT Fostering and Adoption, called for the education secretary to apologise for an “egregious slur on foster carers”.

“The constant implied and direct criticism of foster care by the Prime Minister, Morgan and their acolytes is inaccurate, not supported by evidence, insulting to foster carers and counter productive,” Elvin said.

He added: “For government ministers to constantly decry foster care as some sort of substandard waiting room for adoption is both inaccurate and deeply unintelligent.”

 

9 Responses to Law will be changed to increase adoptions, government announces

  1. Liz January 14, 2016 at 11:29 am #

    The push for more adoptions is concerning to say the least. As an adoptee myself I understand the profound difficulties adoption can raise and I think that decisions made by people who have little or no understanding is wrong and harmful. Instead, why is the government not pouring money into preventative work with families??? As a social worker I only recommended adoption for 1 child and there was absolutely no other option. Adoption should ALWAYS be the very last option for a child. I would challenge that those with no personal experience of this have no understanding the impact this has upon a human being. We are human in every sense and as such have an unbreakable bond to our birth families, and as an adoptee who spent no time with my birth family I know this is the case. It makes me frustrated that those at the top making these decisions have no experience of adoption. Good foster care placements that can offer long term care are very positive for children and allow them in most cases to continue to have contact with their birth families. I am concerned also that the law now allows adoptive placements to break down and children to be returned to local authority care. How can this possibly be right? As a parent I have the responsibility to love my children unconditionally and is this not how adoption should work also? There is something devastating in the fact that children have to suffer an adoption breakdown, I cannot understand where the thinking behind this law change has come from. It is also very concerning that there is not enough funding or resources to allow voluntary agencies to carry out the assessments they would want to in respect of prospective adopters. And there is definitely no funding to allow intense work to be carried out with mother’s who have already had children removed from their care. We cannot just continue to ‘write people off’, something has to change. As a child protection social worker my caseload was over 48 cases and some of my team had over 60! Management were informing at meetings that workers only had 20-23 at the most! No wonder that mistakes are made and outcomes for children not achieved. I worked extensively with my families to help them to understand what they needed to change and work towards that, it was at my own personal cost as I then had to work at home long hours to keep on top of the written work that was required. Management were not interested in the therapeutic work I undertook, only in the written work and ‘getting things onto the system in a timely manner’. I recognise that written work is vital but would challenge that the real reason I went into social work was to support families to enact change to make children safer and achieve their full potentials. I did not go into social work to become what can only be described as a glorified report writer! And hearing senior managers say that they know this family and also were responsible for placing them in care tells me one thing……….nothing has changed. So before we place more and more children into adoption lets explore the option of working with families at the intervention stage to try and avoid the disaster that is waiting to happen. There needs to be a complete overhaul of child protection within local authorities, this work is not about statistics and writing things up in a timely manner, it is surely about people’s lives! I resigned last year from this position because it is no longer about people in my opinion but now about meeting targets. When I stop caring about families, about the struggles they face, about the lack of resources, about the lack of funding, that’s the time I should never work with families again…..in my humble opinion. Most families can change with support and education if we can take time to work with them. Not all. But most. This is for me the reason I went into social work and the reason I came out of it was because management do not hold this view.

  2. J O B January 14, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    Yet again fostering families who look after young people up to and beyond eighteen are being ignored and those that provide short term care because the child’s plan may be for a return home or for adoption are put down by this government who have no understanding of the needs of LAC or what it is like to be a foster carer. instead of demeaning foster carers the government should be putting in measures that would not only encourage more adopters but also more foster carers to provide homes for what are sometimes societies most difficult to manager children.

  3. Steve Vaudrey January 14, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    I too am dismayed with the implication that fostering placements or residential units are some sort of shabby and useless limbo. Both can make a really useful contribution to the outcomes for children who are later placed for adoption, especially for kids with troubled backgrounds.

    A lot of work needs to be done with some kids before even contemplating a placement with adopters who, however well motivated, lack the expertise of well trained and supported fostering families or res. unit staff. Rushing some kids into adoption without some pre placement work can set adopter and children up to fail

    • Popeye January 15, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

      I think youve got the wrong end of the stick, my reading of the proposed changes is to reduce the number of inappropriate SGOs and increase the volume of Placement Orders. I dont think anyone is suggesting that short term and long term fostering are not a vital and much needed (if sometime underappreciated)components of the care system.

  4. Patricia Riley January 15, 2016 at 1:18 am #

    I found myself Eight years ago with three young vulnerable Grandchildren to look after, the eldest was three and the youngest was five months old, I had to give up my job in order to look after my Grandchildren as I could not and would not see them go into foster care,or worst still be put up for adoption and so my journey as a Kinship carer began. There more than two hundred thousand children living with over one hundred thousand kinship carers under various Orders ,I myself have a special guardianship order or Sgo for all three of my Grandchildren, it has been a hard task as I am in my late sixties and suffer with ill health. We as Kinship carers would ask the government to look at the wider family to take on the welfare of these children and to give us the support and recognition afforded to foster carers, finance training and support, a lot of the children kinship carers take on have special needs, ADHD , withdrawal from drugs, alcohol etcetera. every kinship carer will tell you they have to struggle to get help for these children why should this be? Just before the election Some of us Kinship carers handed in a petition at number 10 Downing street. As usually we had the bulk standard letters from some parties that they would look into it, but as usual nothing is done. How come Scotland can pass a law giving kinship carers parity with foster carers but are government and minister’s do not. We Kinship carers need answers in Great Britain . I do hope this does not fall on deaf ears yet again, yours hopefully Patricia Riley

  5. Viv Jolly January 15, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    It really concerns me that the government always seems to talk about adoption and not about kinship carers who have children under sgo. The government seems intent on discrimiating against children who are under sgo. I would like the government to answer why a child under sgo cannot recieve the same help and support as an adopred chid. A traumatised child is a traumatised child no matter who is caring for him or her. STOP DISCRIMINATION!!!!

  6. Ann Cotton January 15, 2016 at 10:14 am #

    I agree with all the above comments and would like to add My concern for the future of the children who have not been considered for adoption in the last few years due to the courts ruling, and would like to know what the government propose to do for these children who are now older,
    which I know makes them harder to place in adoption placements

  7. Clare R January 16, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    So misguided the way this Government continues to depict fostering as children “waiting for a home with love and stability”. Individual children have different needs and anyone who knows anything knows adoption is hardly the solution to everything. There are some wonderful successes in fostering and it is horrendous the way that fostering and other options for children are demeaned simply because this Government has an adoption agenda.

  8. Derek January 20, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    Ready the article both fills me with hope and dread, the rush to place children for adoption can not be right and every avenue needs to be explored to keep children within their birth family if this is viable. As an adopter of 3 ‘Hard to place’ children I understand the challenges faced by adopters but also have experienced some very good foster carers who appear to be short changed. It is difficult for me to understand that adoptions break down as an adopter I love my children unconditionally and while things have not been plain sailing I now have a beautiful family and a beautiful grandchild.