Quicker adoption could jeopardise children’s safety, government told

The former head of social services at Brighton and Hove Council
has warned the government that setting time limits for assessing
adoption applications could jeopardise child safety.

Allan Bowman, who stepped down last month as strategic director
for social care and health in Brighton and Hove, said rigid
timescales to speed up the adoption process “could be very
unhelpful and increase the risk [of mistakes being made]”.

The government is undertaking a fundamental review of adopter
assessment and is looking at whether a series of standards set out
in its white paper on how prospective adopters should be dealt with
can be achieved. It proposes there be a maximum of eight months
from an expression of interest to an adoption panel decision.
Currently, it can take two years.

Bowman, speaking at a Baaf Adoption and Fostering seminar on the
future of adoption assessments, oversaw implementation of the Part
8 Review recommendations following the death of a four-year-old boy
at the hands of his adoptive parents in Brighton in December

The review found a catalogue of basic errors by social workers
in verifying information provided by the prospective adopters. The
author of the review, Alyson Leslie, told the seminar that couples
had to provide more information for a mortgage application than
when going through the adoption process.

She recommended a more investigative and questioning approach to
adopter assessment and Bowman said Brighton and Hove had made a
number of changes in light of this. However, he said this approach
did run the risk of lengthening the process and discouraging
prospective adopters from coming forward.

Bowman called for the government to introduce measures to speed
up information gathering by social workers and to set up a
standards framework covering the type of information that adoption
agencies need to provide for assessments.

Of the government’s plans to speed up adoption assessments,
Bowman said: “This is achievable if the government facilitates
information gathering quickly. If it’s clear you need to provide X,
Y and Z by way of verification, then people will do that.”

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