Ofsted should be inspecting the quality of social care support provided to families who have adopted a child, according to an adoption expert.
Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of the charity Adoption UK, said there was currently “no focus” on inspecting post-adoption support services to ensure adoptive families received the help they need to “build stable, permanent and loving homes” for children.
He said this was a “significant gap” in the regulator’s inspection framework.
“Good quality support can, more than anything else, transform outcomes for children. Without that support, parents can really struggle to help often very troubled and damaged children adjust to their new family and home,” he said.
“There’s little point in placing children for adoption, unless we value and support their new parents. Well-targeted inspections can help ensure that support is provided for adoptive families,” he added.
His comments follow changes to the way Ofsted inspects adoption and fostering services, proposed this week by the watchdog. They are subject to consultation.
The proposals include a greater focus on inspecting the difference that services are actually making to children; reduced notification periods for inspections and a more proportionate approach which could see outstanding-rated services inspected less.
Social workers will also need to provide inspectors with evidence that adoption has been considered for each child early on in the care planning process.
Pearce said the new proposals would help to ensure that adoption is “not just seen as a last resort”, but he said the charity was “surprised at what is not included in these proposals”, such as inspecting post-adoption support and better engaging with adoptive families.
“The engagement of adoptive parents is vital. These are the key people who make adoptions work. Their views on what makes a good adoption service are essential to improving adoption,” he added.
He also called for adopted children to have the same status as looked-after children in school and for Ofsted to inspect the educational needs of adopted children.
A spokesperson for Ofsted said the regulator welcomed Adoption UK’s “early contribution to our consultation”, adding that the national minimum standards for adoption “do include some elements of post-adoption support, and it is our intention that these should be covered by inspection”.
Ofsted’s consultation runs until 31 August. Pending consultation, the changes will be implemented in April 2012.
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Inform subscribers: Reference Manual: Placement of children for adoption