More staff and funding needed to meet adoption targets

Achieving government adoption targets will require more
frontline staff and extra funding, delegates at a national
conference were told, writes Jonathan

“There isn’t long to get (the staff),” said Felicity
Collier, British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering chief
executive. “We need action from the government and we need it

She welcomed the department of health’s commitment to a
national recruitment campaign for social workers, but cast doubt on
its success, especially given the imminent start of the Climbie

According to BAAF’s figures, the government’s target
to increase the number of adoptions by 40 per cent – ideally
50 per cent – by 2005 translates into 4,050 adoptions for the
financial year ending 31 March 2005 – based on a 50 per cent
increase from the 2,700 adoptions which took place last year.

To meet the target 4,050 children would need to be matched with
prospective adopters during 2003 to allow for the 15 months on
average that the courts take to grant an adoption order. As about
13 per cent of children approved for adoption do not find
successfully matches, a higher number of children would need to be
approved for adoption during the preceding year – about 4,650
during 2002, according to BAAF.

“That’s quite a task actually when you look at the current
figures,” added Collier.

On the adoptive family side, BAAF estimates a minimum of 3,250
adoptive families would need to be available during 2003 to meet
the targets, on the basis that about one-third of families adopt
more than one child.

Collier admitted there were some “potential unknowns” which
affected BAAF’s calculations, including the impact of the
recently launched adoption register on finding suitable families
and possibly speeding up the process.

But she remained concerned that the targets could skew adoption
work from pursuing appropriate rehabilitative measures to return
children to their birth families, as well as leading older or
damaged children, and those with special needs, to be sidelined by
councils trying to achieve targets.

Rob Hutchinson, chairperson of the Association of Directors of
Social Services children and families committee, agreed with
Collier’s comments.

“I think we on our side of the house should concentrate on
improving the service,” he said. “The targets are important but
they must not be regarded as an end in themselves.”

He also cast doubt on achieving the targets, as well as some of
the “particularly difficult” timescales contained in the national
adoption standards launched in August.

“We need to sharpen up our decision-making, as well as
monitoring policies and strategies. That’s got to happen at a
directorate level,” he added.





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