Education and Adoption Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Independent Adoption Panel Chairs (EAB 30)

Independent Panel Chairs’ Response to the paper on Regionalisation of Adoption Agencies (June 2015)

SUMMARY

Inevitably any re-organisation of this magnitude will divert very precious resources of time and energy, as well as money, from the continuing task of finding placements for all children with a plan for Adoption. The proposals embody fundamental structural change .We can see the benefits of aspects of Regionalisation, particularly in the provision of Adoption support services and the administration of Panels. We remain concerned that the timescale for consultation appears to be too short for the suggested fundamental changes and concerned about such radical change without the benefit of any evaluation or impact assessment.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Colleagues

We are writing to you on behalf of a group of Independent Adoption panel chairs who chair Adoption, and Adoption and Permanence panels in a significant range of agencies. Our adoption agencies are in both the local authority and the voluntary sectors and are geographically spread across London; the South East; the South West and the East of England. As people who have managed and practiced in adoption over many years, as well as being involved in related research, we have considerable experience of adoption services and the wider range of Children’ Services.

We hope, therefore, that our views will merit consideration. We would like to make the following observations;-

1. We share the legitimate concerns expressed about delay in adoption and over recent years we have been willing partners in helping to implement many initiatives that were designed to increase adopter recruitment and hence child placement. However, we are very concerned about aspects of the Bill and this consultation paper which seek to dismantle an infrastructure that has been developed and modified over many years before a proper evaluation has been undertaken of a radical and alternative model of operation and its consequences and impact.

2. As a result of recent initiatives most agencies have been successful in recruiting more adopters, however, this has led to an unprecedented surplus of adopters who are hoping to adopt very young children with few presenting problems.

3. The impact of recent decisions by the Judiciary, as well as an increased placement rate for these young children who present few apparent challenges, have left many of these approved adopters frustrated by their inability to achieve an adoptive placement. Sadly, many of the children with more complex backgrounds remain unplaced and continue to wait, despite active efforts to identify possible placements.

4. We are convinced of the significance and value of robust adoption support services that could support prospective adopters and give them the confidence to commit to these more ‘complex’ children. In fact, co-ordinated and dedicated adoptions support services could help balance this mismatch of adopters and children by giving some of these ‘waiting’ prospective adopters the confidence to make such a commitment. We have seen evidence of this willingness to broaden horizons in the success of Adoption Activity Days.

5. We recognise the potential benefits and efficiencies of Regional Adoption Support Services that can deliver a high quality service to children and adopters locally .An example of this might be a dedicated CAMHS service with expertise in supporting Adoption placements.

6. We have seen the benefits of diverse agencies working together in consortia and our collective experience is that more interagency matches are being made and that Local Authorities are certainly not waiting for ‘perfect matches’. We note that no mention is made of the Adoption Register for England, which is supported by the Department, and has successfully achieved adoption placements across agencies for many years.

7. In our view it would be helpful to have time to evaluate the impact of the new and welcome funding proposed for interagency fees that was recently announced in the budget. It also seems necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of other new initiatives, such as the recently established or rejuvenated consortia arrangements, before wholesale reorganisation is embarked upon. Additionally there has not yet been time to evaluate the impact of the new Regional Adoption Boards .

8. We recognise that there is potential for efficiencies in the Regional administration of adoption panels, however, we also recognise the importance of maintaining independent local panels that can meet quickly and be responsive to local needs. Panels promote consistency and quality through their advice to agencies. They are made up of people with personal and professional experience of adoption .This group would like to see the independent scrutiny of adoption applications and matches continuing and feel this is in the best interests of children and adopters.

9. Adoption is first and foremost a service to children .Children come from local communities and the knowledge of these children lies within the agencies that have worked with their families prior to the plan for Adoption. By creating independent adoption agencies no longer connected with local communities, there is a danger of these services losing the understanding and the history of these children

10. .We also wonder what the response of Prospective adopters would be to Regional adoption agencies and whether there are plans to consult these stake holders as to their view of these proposed changes .We do know ,anecdotally, that most adopters choose local agencies where they feel a ‘personal’ connection following their initial enquiry.

Inevitably any re-organisation of this magnitude will divert very precious resources of time and energy, as well as money, from the continuing task of finding placements for all children with a plan for Adoption. The proposals embody fundamental structural change .We can see the benefits of aspects of Regionalisation, particularly in the provision of Adoption support services and the administration of Panels. We remain concerned that the timescale for consultation appears to be too short for the suggested fundamental changes and concerned about such radical change without the benefit of any evaluation or impact assessment.

We commend our observations to you and hope that you will give them proper

July 2015

Prepared 15th July 2015