Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Coram (CF 132)

1. Clause 1 – Fostering for Adoption

Coram supports the principle of Foster to Adopt in aiming to minimise disruption for babies, and children, and as a supplement to the existing evidenced (C4EO validated) practice of concurrent planning. The context is where the risk to the child is fully demonstrated and – based on history – where the chance of parental change is very unlikely in the timescale of the child.

Coram calls for clarification in guidance of the importance of dual assessment of adopters as foster carers to facilitate early placement options for children whilst recognising that legislation must take consideration of all options, not privileging any one in advance.

Coram also reaffirms the importance of effective support to either temporarily approved or dually assessed foster carers in managing contact, and in appreciating the fostering role and the potential that it may be decided to be in the best interests of the child to return to the parent or kinship carers.

Guidance will be needed to reinforce and support best practice approaches, and including the use of pre-birth assessments, effective family group conferences and pre-proceedings work in permanence planning to enable early identification of any potential kinship carers.

Through its centre for early permanence, Coram will continue to offer to local authorities its national subscription scheme to advance the programme efficacy and assurance of concurrent planning and will be pleased to contribute to the development of guidance.

2. Clause 2 - Due consideration of child’s race, culture, language and religion when making adoption decisions

Whilst fully supporting the principle, Coram’s view is that there must be no undue delay caused by any factor or process, Coram advances that there is benefit to the explicit inclusion of a child’s race, culture, language and religion as part of the adoption welfare checklist to be taken into account in the decision making process. We support the Kinship Care Alliance in their suggestion that it is also not sufficient to assume that a child’s race, culture, language and religion will be considered as part of their ‘background characteristics’ in s.1 (4) ACA 2002 and its inclusion in the list provides the appropriate balance and weighting.

3. Clause 3 – power to remove recruitment from local authority agencies

Coram welcomes the commitment to support improvement in performance by all agencies to achieve the best outcomes for children and to reduce variation across the country. Coram has provided evidence on the achievements of its ground-breaking partnerships (now with four local authorities) as part of the cross-sectoral approach to implementation of the adoption reforms. It is noted that removal of any barriers to local authorities in advancing progressive development is in the interest of children and public benefit.

4. Clause 7 – Contact

Contact with birth parents/siblings /grandparents must be arranged on an individual basis to meet children’s needs.

Coram advances that promoting the welfare of the child is a paramount consideration in both the frequency and arrangements for contact. Coram calls for detailed guidance to build on the learning from neurological science and both UK and Australian research which shows that whilst contact should protect any positive relationships/attachments which are important to a child, it needs to be reflective of the child’s needs, and be sensitive to the child’s vulnerability in its delivery, especially for infants. This includes establishing a routine in placement to facilitate a sense of security, and time for unhurried playful interaction between the main carer (i.e. the foster carer) and the baby. If the baby has high frequency contact, the recovery time between contact sessions can be significantly limited. Any ruling or requirement must surely aim to minimise this stress on young children.

Building on its practice standards and experience as the authoring organisation of ‘A Guide to Best Practice in Supervised Child Contact’ (Slade, 2004), Coram will be pleased to contribute to the development of such guidance as appropriate.


April 2013

Prepared 26th April 2013