A recent communication from one of the Regionalisation Adoption Agencies to adopters, in a newsletter about a DfE consultation process (see below), has raised a number of concerns for a few of our members. We feel worried by it.
It is hard to see how prospective adopters can make informed decisions about whether they can potentially meet a child’s needs without accurate information. Negative view are expressed by the DfE that the provision of fuller information to prospective adopters in the Adoption Register, (which adopters do not currently have full access to), may be associated with ‘risk’. This seems extremely troubling and we seek an explanation from the DfE for the statement: to understand whether there are any concerns or risks associated with providing more information to prospective adopters.
Clicking on the link provided – there is actually nothing about risk mentioned in the introduction to the survey consultation – the DfE seem to be trying to optimise recruitment by making more information available to adopters that is already available to others.
For a meaningful consultation with adopters, if our views are indeed of interest – since this communication came second hand and was not from the DfE, we suggest a different consultation methodology that allows for proper reflection and discussion between stakeholders.
We also suggest that adoptees are perhaps the most important stakeholders in a National Register providing information about them but it is not clear whether children and young people are to be consulted, or how – or if they ever were consulted in the first instance about this Register. Please can the DfE clarify?
The amount of effort and thought that goes into recruiting adopters, in contrast to the challenges posed to becoming a special guardian for some of our members, which can often mean a child can remain in the family – is also troubling. Adopters must take it on trust that every effort was made to keep the child within their family. Policies should not be divisive and we do not wish for the recruitment of adopters to be privileged over the work done to support families and kinship carers willing to provide permanency.
As a group representing the interests of both adopters and special guardians we would like support given to us to be equitable and fair. We do not think it fair that special guardianship children are unable to access the Adoption Support Fund if they were not previously looked after and hope the DfE will swiftly rectify this injustice. The route to becoming an adopted or special guardianship child should not make a difference to funding for the child. The turbulence surrounding a child whose early life experience means being raised by a special guardian should not be overlooked.
In respect of the new Adoption Support Fund guidance (10/7/2018), we also think it unfair, and rather ill advised that adopted and special guardianship children who re-enter care, because they have proved the hardest to care for, continue to be unable to access the Adoption Support Fund if there is no ‘intention to reunify’ on the part of the local authority. It seems especially important, in the light of the recommendation of the Selwyn Report (2014), that ‘reunification is never ruled out’, to encourage local authorities to maintain positive family relationships in this difficult scenario of a child or young person being unable to live at home and to provide them with the means and knowledge to do this, whilst keeping all family members safe. It is often at this juncture that relationships between the local authority and parents/special guardians have broken down and repair work is needed to rebuild lost trust – if the hard work of adopters and special guardians has not been valued or appreciated by those with a duty of care. Family and community are the buffer for a child’s early life adversity and it seems vitally important that these children and young people who cannot live with their families due to early life adversity, and their families – including siblings at home, can have access to the Adoption Support Fund. These extremely vulnerable children should a) be able to access appropriate assessment that is sensitive to adoption or special guardianship issues, and b) have access to specialist therapies that take into account the fact the child or young person is raised in an adoptive family or raised under a Special Guardian Order.
The effort made, and the attention given, to adopter recruitment seems to far outweigh the consideration given when children and families hit trouble later on in their adoption or special guardianship journey. By the time a young person is transitioning to adult life, which is when support is often desperately needed, we are finding it is much more difficult to access the right support, and struggle to meet the criteria for local authority match funding under the new guidance. We would like to see the criteria, in the new DfE guidance of 10/7/2018, to be amended to better reflect the needs of children and families the policy guidance is intended to serve.
Dear RAAs and RAA projects,
The Department has recently published a targeted consultation on the Adoption Register Regulations. The consultation seeks views from users of the Adoption Register, as well as sector organisations, on whether DfE should amend Regulations in order to increase the amount of information an approved prospective adopter is able to view about a child on the Adoption Register.
The DfE have already received some feedback on this and the suggestion is that adopters would like to see more information on the Register as this will enable prospective adopters to make a more informed decision on whether a match is suitable. The Department would like to consult more widely on this to gather views on whether this would be a positive move and to understand whether there are any concerns or risks associated with providing more information to prospective adopters.
The consultation is open until 27 July, and if you would like to contribute your views, you can do so using the following link: https://consult.education.gov.uk/adoption-and-family-law/b5650ae0. Please share this link with anyone else you think may be interested in contributing to the consultation.