Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The League of Extraordinary Authorities...

Anyone with an interest in adoption will have seen and heard the Government's announcements about the reforms of the adoption system. Local Authority league tables for adoption were released a few days ago. 

Obviously I had a sneaky peak at the stats for our LA and saw how many children were waiting to be adopted. I then wondered how I should digest this information.  Yes, there are "x" amount of children in our LA approved for adoption but what does that table tell me about these children? Does it tell me how many sibling groups there are? How old those children are? What their needs are? No. It just gives me a number. What help is that in reality for would-be adopters coming into the adoption system? You could look at a high number and you might think that your LA is failing. What you don't know is how many hard to place children might be included in those figures.  You can say anything with numbers and statistics. The real information is in the detail, which isn't given in these numbers.  If I'm honest I think prospective adopters need to be asking their agencies or Local Authorities more informed questions about this information. How under-staffed are they at the current time (or how many vacancies for social workers are there currently?) What is their expected time to process your application? What sort of adopters are they looking to recruit? What sort of children are they looking to place?

 In an article in The Telegraph on 16th January 2013 Andrew Webb, Vice President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said: “It is a crude measure and whilst we understand the rationale for this map, it is not a proportionate analysis and cannot be used to judge “good” or “bad” authorities.

 BASW’s Acting Chief Executive Bridget Robb, in a statement issued on the BASW website, said  “So yes, it is welcome to help signpost potential adopters to services that could help them to eventually take a child into their lives, but talk of 'hotspots', areas where children are spending the longest time 'waiting for new homes' is yet another example of this government's simplistic approach to an incredibly complex subject.”

 I'm tempted to agree with these statements. If I'm honest I have concerns that this roadmap might leave prospective adopters feeling confused, lost and needing directions.  
 Well one port of call (so to speak) in the confusion is the new helpline that has been launched to help support and advise prospective adopters (see statement by Adoption UK).  The hotline, which is funded by the Department for Education and operated by Coram; Adoption UK and Coram Children's Legal Centre, is called First4Adoption.  Hugh Thornbery, Adoption UK Chief Executive, said: “This service aims to be a comprehensive, supportive resource to anyone who is thinking of adopting. Our advisors, all of whom are adoptive parents, will be on hand to answer questions relating to the adoption process.  “We encourage anyone who has an interest in adoption and who wants to find out more about becoming an adoptive parent to get in touch by calling 0300 222 0022.” 

 At the moment the website isn't fully functional and it is planned to launch this in the Spring of this year (2013).  I hope that this helpline will be successful but I do question why it was needed when you already have the BAAF and Adoption UK offering information and advice on their telephone lines.  Maybe one centralised line is the answer (although I hope this isn't a gimmick) and that funding is fully committed by the government for the foreseeable future.

 Also related to the current reforms of the adoption system are plans to offer more support to adopters once they are approved in the form of Adoption Activity Days.  These days are being piloted by the BAAF and offer children and prospective adopters a chance to meet and make connections.  I don't feel that I have enough background information to comment properly on this activity.  Success stories are documented, and this is wonderful for the families it creates, but I do have a concern about the impact on the children who remain unchosen as a result of these days and hope that children are carefully selected to participate in order to ensure that children do not feel further rejected.  Also included in the reforms are plans to bring adoption leave in line with that of current maternity and paternity legislation; giving adoptive parents the right to take paid time off work during introductions with their child/ren; a trial of personal budgets (which I need to hear more about before I can comment on); the extension of free early education for two year-olds to adopted children from 2014 and giving them priority school access from 2013.  More details can be found on the Department for Education's website.

I am delighted to see Adoption at the forefront of government reforms but my ongoing concern still remains unresolved - just how much funding is being put into these initiatives to support the Local Authorities and other agencies involved in adoption?  With the current cuts to public funding councils are making cuts to staff, not recruiting.  I can see the impact of this on my own Local Authority and it doesn't take a genius to question what the impact on Social Workers to all the added pressure will be without additional staff to support these reforms.  How many more Social Workers will be needing sick leave because of stress?  This isn't just effecting adoption but all areas of social care.  I don't want to be a cynic. It's actually not my nature to be that way but I've been around the adoption (and social care) block for far too long to assimilate all these reforms without mentioning the obvious word.........FUNDING!

What are your thoughts and experiences? Do share them with me.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if the reforms will just be a cost-cutting exercise. Less to pay to fosterers and less to pay for adoption services.

    Outsourced adoption services could end up as a box-ticking process to keep up with quotas like the Atos Healthcare disability assessments.