Standards could suffer in rush to meet targets

National adoption standards could have a perverse impact by
encouraging local authorities to hit targets regardless of whether
timescales are appropriate for individual children.

The warning came from Liz Railton, Cambridgeshire Council’s
social services director, just weeks before the standards are
expected to be published alongside a draft code of practice.

Speaking at a conference in London last week on the implications
of the Adoption and Children Bill, Railton said: “I have concerns
about some standards – decisions could be rushed. Are some of the
standards a bit too rigid to deal with the complexities we are
talking about?”

Timescales and targets have to support the needs of the child
rather than the needs of the Department of Health to have data, she
added. And she questioned whether it was realistic to expect local
authorities to attain standards with a shortage of skilled staff,
money and adopters.

However, standards will support the development of better
tracking systems, she said. “We need to know which children we have
in the system, who needs permanency plans and where they are.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive of British Agencies for
Adoption and Fostering, outlined several contentious issues in the
Adoption and Children Bill, which is expected to have its first
reading before parliament’s summer recess.

While 40 per cent of children are born outside marriage,
unmarried couples are still barred from adopting jointly.

“We have to recognise the trend that children are born outside
marriage and not use adoption to demonstrate family values,” said

Although the bill stipulates that local authorities must assess
for post adoption support, they can then decide whether to offer it
or not, a situation that is “completely inadequate,” said Helen
Wilkins, an adoptive parent, and trainer and volunteer co-ordinator
for Adoption UK.

The DoH framework for assessing children in need and their
families is inadequate and inappropriate for assessing adopted
children, said Wilkins. “Social workers are untrained and unskilled
for in depth assessments of these children.”

Assessments should be multi-disciplinary and carried out by
experts who are trained specifically for the task, she said.

They should assess the damage done by early trauma and plan a
repair strategy. They should be carried out before placement and
reviewed regularly.

“We [adoptive parents] may be mad but we are not stupid, and we
will not come back for another child unless we have the support for
the first. You need adoptive parents, so you need to be good to us
because we do an amazing job.”

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