Select Committee on Select Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Parents for Children (PfC)


  1.1  PfC warmly welcomes the introduction of this Bill.

  1.2  PfC welcomes the Government's intention to improve post-adoption support. However, we are disturbed that there is no explicit duty on the face of the Bill for local authorities to provide financial support, nor to meet assessed needs. PfC believes this must be contained in the final legislation.

  1.3  PfC welcomes the replacement of "freeing for adoption" with Placement Orders. There is a need for further consultation on the detail of these provisions: specifically, that parental responsibility should not be transferred to an individual or an agency without the involvement of a court.

  1.4  PfC welcomes the introduction of "special guardianship" orders.

  1.5  PfC regrets that there appears to be no provision in the Bill to enable registered and approved voluntary adoption agencies to approve foster carers.


  2.1  Founded in 1976, Parents for Children was the first adoption agency in the UK established to find families specifically for the hardest to place children. These children were often labelled as "unplaceable" because of complex family backgrounds, degrees of mental, physical and emotional disability and because their own local authority departments had frequently failed to secure substitute family care for them. From the outset, Parents for Children has recognised that if such difficult placements were to succeed the provision of a post placement and post adoption support service would be crucial.

  2.2  Parents for Children broke new ground in placing children who would have been hospitalised previously—blind, deaf, immobile, and with total absence of language. These children had been placed in the USA but not in Britain.

  2.3  In more recent years, the agency has focused on placing today's children of exceptional need, the older, emotionally-disturbed children, many of them boys over the age of seven.

  2.4  There were, and remain, clearly-defined processes within PfC that set it apart from other adoption agencies, voluntary or statutory. Rather than recruiting families and then seeking to match with a child, PfC initially works with specific children referred, identifying their needs and then moves on to recruit and prepare families for that child.

  2.5  Because of its history and experience in working with the "hardest-to-place children", PfC is exceptionally knowledgeable about the complex issues which surround the adoption of children who have been neglected and abused physically and sexually. These are the children who now and in the future will form the highest proportion of children who wait for adopters.

  2.6  It is not possible for us to comment on all the detailed provisions of the Bill. We concentrate on a few of the provisions where we think our knowledge in the field gives us status as an "expert witness".


  3.1  The current regulations with regard to adoption allowances specify that these are to be calculated according to the needs of the child. Despite this, many local authorities means-test the allowances according to the income and property assets of a family. We are aware of many cases where families who would adopt a child with special needs are penalised and offered a minimal adoption allowance (11p per week was offered to one of our families). Other families who adopted many years ago have had their allowances arbitrarily reduced. As a consequence, families considering children with special needs are choosing to foster rather than adopt. It is important that there be consistency in the adoption allowance provision. It is important that foster carers who would prefer to adopt but who fear losing their fostering allowances be able to get adoption allowances which, broadly, match fostering allowances.


  4.1  We welcome the recognition in the Bill that families who adopt will need support.

  4.2  We are aware, as an agency, of how important post-placement and post-adoption support services are. We have concerns that under the present system a child with multiple needs may be or have been the responsibility of Local Authority A, but may be placed with a family in Local Authority B. It has been our experience that Local Authority B may actively resist the placement of a child in their area because they feel unable, financially, to meet the costs of providing support services for a child with multiple disabilities. It is our view that the responsibility for support must be clearly laid out in the regulations.

  4.3  We are aware that the cost to the placing or post-adoption support agency of providing support is largely unknown or much underestimated. In 1997, a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation enabled us to begin the lengthy process of calculating the cost of provision of post-placement and post-adoption support. We now know that the cost of effective support over a 10-year period is substantial, particularly for children who have been neglected or abused. Our calculations show that the costs for social work time alone run into several thousands of pounds. For example, four days of social work time per year for 10 years costs in the region of £12,840.

  4.4  Provision of respite care is essential for some families who care for severely disabled or traumatised children. We hope the regulations will provide for this. We hope too that there will be financial provision for families to purchase respite help.


  5.1  PfC very much welcomes the provision in Clause 96, which provides a valuable option for permanence for children for whom adoption is not appropriate. We have in recent years found that it is more realistic to find families who will foster, permanently, a disturbed older child or a child with severe disabilities, rather than adoptive families.

  5.2  We hope that new regulations will redress the anomaly whereby it is possible for an approved, registered voluntary adoption agency to approve adopters for life, but is not able to approve foster carers who may look after a child for only a few days. At present it is only the Local Authorities who can approve foster carers. This gives rise to much unnecessary delay and confusion and risks losing valuable potential families.


  6.1  PfC welcomes the establishment of the National Adoption Register (sections 96-100). This will widen the opportunity for a hard-to-place child to be placed with a family.

  6.2  The "inter-agency fee", which covers some of the costs incurred by the adopters' agency, is held by some local authorities to prevent them from "purchasing" a family from another agency. A central fund, attached to the Register, may be a means of facilitating payment to the agency which has assessed the family.

  6.3  PfC believes, however, that the costs of recruiting and assessing families for complex children are much higher than is commonly supposed, and that the "inter-agency fee" must be set at a realistic level. Voluntary agencies are an important adoption resource. Research done by BAAF and the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) shows that it is the voluntaries who are working with many of the hardest-to-place children. However, the voluntaries have to subsidise their adoption work heavily by means of fund-raising for grants and donations. Inter-agency fees which are unrealistic may result in some agencies withdrawing from adoption work.


  7.1  Parents for Children welcomes the Adoption and Children Bill. The creation of a special Select Committee to examine the detail is also to be welcomed. We hope that the Committee and the Government will note our concerns about the need for sensible provision to be made in the legislative framework.

May 2001

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