Chapter 7: Post-Adoption Support |
The case for post-adoption support
207. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 introduced
an entitlement for adoptive parents and their children to request
and receive an assessment of their adoption support needs.
However, there is no requirement for those needs, once assessed,
to be met. Provision of support is at the discretion of local
authorities and thus varies considerably. The evidence we have
received almost universally calls for an entitlement to support
to be introduced.
208. As outlined in paragraphs 16 and 20, the
nature of adoption has changed over recent decades. Most children
are now adopted from care and often have complex needs due to
their early life experiences. The impact of such experiences will
vary depending upon the age of the child, the length of exposure
to maltreatment and the severity of abuse. The effects may be
compounded by experiences in the care system, where delay and
frequent placement moves can leave children bewildered and mistrusting
209. The formation of consistent relationships
with their new adoptive parents, allowing them to form new attachments,
was described by mental health practitioners as "the ultimate
aim" of adoption for these children."
Adoption alone, however, did not address these problems. Lynn
Charlton, Chief Executive of After Adoption explained that children's
complex histories and associated needs did not "get wiped
out with the making of an adoption order."
210. Adoptive parents could struggle to deal
with challenging behaviour, which might not become apparent until
some time after the adoption had taken place. Difficulties often
emerged at times of transition in a child's life, such as moving
from one school to another or entering adolescence. There is evidence
that some adoptive parents were reluctant to seek help when problems
first emerged because they were afraid of being judged or perceived
as failing. 
211. The availability of support was considered
critical for sustaining adoption placements and this was especially
the case for disabled children, older children and children with
complex behavioural needs.
Failing to provide the necessary post-adoption support services
risked a family breakdown and the possible return to care of an
already damaged child.
212. Concerns over the cost of providing post-adoption
support needed to be balanced against the wider cost of a failed
adoption, including the cost of accommodating a child into adulthood.
The Department for Education indicated that a child who had experienced
a breakdown may have additional support needs and the cost of
accommodating a child post-breakdown might therefore be far greater
than for a child with no experience of breakdown.
213. There is evidence that children who grow
up in care are more likely to join the population that is not
in education, employment or training, therefore presenting an
additional future burden to the state in terms of benefits, and
possibly health and criminal justice services.
Adoption provides lifetime gains in enhanced employability and
a reduced burden of state support in both childhood and adulthood.
214. A good case can, therefore, be made for
investing to save with post-adoption support. We agree with Tim
Loughton MP, that "adoption support services are greatly
underestimated and it is a false economy not properly to invest
The "ultimate cost" is when an adoption fails.
215. Children adopted from care have a range
of needs due to their early life experiences which are not resolved
simply by being adopted. As a result adoptive parents face challenges
that many other families do not. Adoptive parents perform a vital
social function in caring for very vulnerable and often damaged
children, and thereby save the state money.
216. The failure of adoptive placements can
be extremely expensive for local authorities in the short and
long term, as well as causing significant harm to the children
concerned. Well-targeted support services have the potential to
ensure placement stability and to avoid these costs.
217. We believe that adoptive parents should
receive greater and more consistent and continuing support. Calculations
of cost need to take into account the contribution which support
services make to preventing adoption breakdown and the associated
costs. To support this, we recommend the Government commission
an independent cost-benefit analysis setting out the cost of breakdown
against the cost of providing support.
218. Post-adoption support was also considered
critical to attracting more adopters to come forward: "where
there is a guarantee of adoption support available this significantly
increases the enquiries from prospective adoptive parents."
Many witnesses cited the lack of support as a reason for prospective
adopters dropping out during the process.
We welcome the Government's proposal to make information about
post-adoption support available through the National Gateway,
which may help to address this issue.
219. In addition to enhancing placement security
the provision of post-adoption support has been shown to increase
the number of adopters coming forward. We believe that the availability
of such support would greatly assist with meeting the Government's
objective of increasing significantly the number of prospective
The needs of adopted children
220. It is difficult to establish with any certainty
the level of support generally required by adopted children: there
is no central data collection of the levels of need assessed by
local authorities, or indeed of the services offered. We asked
the Department for Education for assistance but no such figures
221. The evidence we have received from specialist
post-adoption support agencies demonstrated that not all children
will have the same needs, and that their needs will change over
time. There was
widespread support for the notion that adopted children should
have priority access to Children and Adolescent Mental Health
Services (CAMHS). It is, however, worth noting that both After
Adoption and PAC reported incidents of adoptive parents experiencing
attitudes from CAMHS practitioners which were not considered "adoption-sensitive."
222. The Government promised, in January 2013,
to improve access to services by commissioning new NICE guidelines
on attachment, raising awareness amongst health professionals
of the behavioural issues that some adopted children face, and
encouraging commissioners of services, including CAMHS, to recognise
and address the needs of adopted children. We welcome these proposed
223. Education was a key area for support identified
by the adoptive parents that we spoke to.
In many cases parents had battled for school places for their
children, becoming frustrated with bureaucracy and a general failure
to understand the special needs of adopted children. In one case
a child had been out of school for a significant period of time
due to being adopted from a different local authority area. We
understand that under the new School Admissions Code adopted children
now have priority access to schools, just as children in care
do. This is to
224. The adopted children whom we met also referred
to a need for more support with regard to their schooling. Many
had been subjected to bullying on the grounds of being adopted:
"People say 'your parents didn't want you and that's why
Many felt that teachers did not take this seriously, or understand
the issues likely to be faced by an adopted child. There were
disturbing anecdotes of adopted children being criticised by their
teacher for being unable to complete the task that had been set
for them: creating a family tree. Many of the children felt that
teachers and pupils needed to be educated about adoption and its
225. We welcome the new School Admissions
Code which gives adopted children, along with children in care,
priority access to school places from September 2013. In order
to safeguard further the wellbeing of adopted children we recommend
that the Government extends the current duty on schools under
the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, to appoint a designated
teacher to promote the educational achievement of looked-after
children, to include adopted children, with a specific remit to
educate teachers and children about adoption and its effects.
THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS
226. We noted the Government's proposal for post-adoption
support, published on 24 December 2012, as part of which an Adoption
Passport will be made available. This will outline current legal
entitlements, such as the right to have needs assessed; priority
access to schools from 2013; and free early years education for
two year olds from 2014.
227. We welcome the promised introduction
of professional learning material on issues faced by adopted children,
and we urge the Government to extend this to all staff working
in schools in order to raise awareness amongst teachers and children.
228. There is also a commitment to provide prospective
adopters with new learning materials on therapeutic parenting
skills and the common issues faced by adopted children. In light
of the particular needs of children adopted from care, highlighted
in paragraphs 208-210, this may not be adequate for some families
who may require more focused and specialised support.
229. The Children and Families Bill, published
on 5 February 2013, includes a clause giving adoptive parents
(and those who have been adopted) the opportunity to receive a
personal budget to meet their support needs. The clause does not
create a duty on local authorities to provide post-adoption support;
the section applies only where "a local authority in England
decide to provide any adoption support services to a person."
We welcome any opportunity for adopters to play a greater role
in selecting and securing the services that they believe are required
for their child. We do not, however, believe that this measure
alone will meet the support needs that we consistently heard about
230. As detailed in paragraph 207, the Adoption
and Children Act 2002 introduced a duty upon local authorities
to assess the need for post-adoption support, but did not introduce
a duty to provide services to meet those needs once assessed.
This was consistently identified as a shortcoming of the Act;
many witnesses suggested that a statutory duty to provide post-adoption
support services was also required.
231. We were told that such a duty could not
apply solely to local authorities; the LGA argued that "the
question of post-adoption support should not be restricted to
only local government, but [should] also give consideration to
the role of other public services such as Child and Adolescent
Mental Health Services and schools."
We agree that the provision and financing of post-adoption support
should not be seen as a matter solely for local authorities.
232. Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Solihull
Metropolitan Borough Council, highlighted the partnership work
of Children's Trust Boards,
underpinned by a statutory 'duty to cooperate' contained in section
10 of the Children Act 2004. Mr Rogers suggested that local
authorities and clinical commissioning groups should be subject
to a similar 'duty to cooperate' in the provision of post-adoption
233. We welcome the Government's proposals
for post-adoption support, but we regret that they fall short
of a statutory duty to provide the support needs as assessed.
There should be a statutory duty on local authorities and other
service commissioning bodies to cooperate to ensure the provision
of post-adoption support; this should include appropriate access
to health, education, and Children and Adolescent Mental Health
Services, and other services as necessary. These entitlements
should form part of the Adoption Passport.
Support for children subject
to Special Guardianship Orders and kinship care placements
234. Adoption is not right for all children in
the care system; we have already discussed the variety of permanence
options available and the importance of choosing the right route
to permanence for individual children. Children in Special Guardianships
and kinship care are also likely to have complex needs due to
their early life experiences.
235. Special guardians and kinship carers receive
little of the training and preparation that is given to prospective
adopters; they also receive few of the benefits and financial
support arrangements that foster carers receive. Several of our
witnesses expressed concern that such carers were struggling to
meet the needs of the children in their care.
Many kinship carers have to give up work in order to care for
children because, unlike adopters, they are not entitled to paid
leave when a child comes to live with them.
The profile of kinship carers and special guardians is older (they
are often grandparents)
and poorer than the average adopter.
In addition, they often have to manage complex contact arrangements,
where the birth parent seeking contact may be their own child;
a study of special guardians found that 60% were seeking assistance
with contact arrangements.
A survey by the Kinship Care Alliance found that 68% of respondents
who sought help from their local authority did not receive the
services they required.
The Family Rights Group summed it up as follows:
"The least able, the most vulnerable and
the least articulate are the least likely to be the ones to get
the help they need."
236. Children being cared for by special guardians
and kinship carers are as vulnerable as those who are adopted
from care. Special guardians and kinship carers are performing
a valuable social service, just as adopters do, but often with
fewer resources at their disposal, and less preparation and support.
The service which they provide saves the state money. The failure
of such placements would be extremely expensive in the short and
237. Children in special guardianship and
kinship placements deserve the same support which we recommend
for adopted children. We therefore recommend that our proposed
statutory duty on local authorities and other service commissioning
bodies to cooperate to ensure the provision of post-adoption support
should be extended to include formerly looked-after children in
other permanent placements, such as special guardianship or kinship
Post-adoption support for birth
238. Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002
the categories of persons entitled to an assessment of their support
needs includes the birth parents of any adopted child. As with
adopted children and their adoptive families there is no need
to provide the services once the needs have been assessed, and
provision is therefore patchy.
239. We were told that many birth parents will
experience the removal of a child as bereavement. Most birth families
needed emotional support to enable them to process what had happened
to them. The absence
of such support could have a "profound impact on how they
might seek to mitigate that pain...so that it is very difficult
for them to then function as citizens in our society."
240. Without the possibility of dealing with
feelings of anger and loss, and a proper understanding of how
their lives needed to change to be able safely to parent subsequent
children, there was a dangerous pattern that emerged:
"What do people do when they are grieving?
They put a substitute there and they have the next child and the
next child. That is our experience: there is a cycle of having
children; even though, deep down, they must know they are going
to lose that child, there is still the inevitability of having
one after the other."
241. The importance of independent provision
of support to birth parents was stressed in the evidence. Some
local authorities contracted the work out to an adoption services
agency, and this was considered beneficial: many birth parents
found it traumatic to visit the social services department of
their local authorityit may be where they last had contact
with their child prior to the adoption.
And no matter how good the provision of support, when it was delivered
in the context of the local authority, parents continued to feel
that it was part of the process that had led to their child's
removal and they continued to feel judged.
242. There is evidence of the positive impact
which counselling can have on the future behaviour of parents
who have had children removed. PAC reported on a project working
with birth mothers in prison; all of the women on leaving prison
had either decided not to have another child, and 12 months later
had not, or they had had subsequent children but had been able
to change their lives sufficiently to be able to keep them.
243. The role of early intervention to address
parental problems, which we considered in paragraphs 61-71, is
relevant here. Early intervention programmes aim to prevent the
removal of children, where it is safe so to do. Support for birth
families after removal is at the other end of the spectrum, where
such efforts have failed. But the purpose is the sameto
break the cycle which leads to more children being born into families
that are not able safely to parent them.
Where early intervention has not been effective and the removal
of a child has been in that child's best interests, there is very
good reason to engage with the birth family to prevent subsequent
children from suffering the same fate.
244. Many parents who have had children removed
go on to have subsequent children, who then also become involved
with the care system. This adds to the burden placed upon social
services and the state. Providing support services to birth families
whose children have been removed should be seen as an essential
step in breaking the cycle which leads to more children being
born into families that are not able safely to parent them.
245. We believe that resources invested in
birth family support in the short-term will produce savings for
the state in the longer term. We therefore recommend that the
Government should establish a pilot scheme to provide post-adoption
support to birth families across a number of local authority areas
to establish the benefits and costs of such provision.
Innovative funding mechanisms
246. In light of our recommendations concerning
post-adoption support, we have considered innovative funding mechanisms,
such as social impact bonds or community budgets, as possible
vehicles to finance some of the necessary services.
247. A social impact bond is a type of contract
in which public sector commissioners pay for an improvement in
social outcomes (such as reducing the number of children taken
into care, for example). Private investment is used to pay for
an intervention, which is delivered by a practitioner with a proven
track record. Financial returns are made by the public sector
to the investor on the basis of improved social outcomes. Social
impact bonds come in a variety of formsthey may be higher
yielding to compensate for higher risks or tying up capital long-term,
or they may be lower yielding to reflect lower risks; they may
even have tax-relief built in for the investor.
248. A community budget, on the other hand, allows
different local public service agencieslocal authorities,
police, health services, employment and benefit services and othersto
work together in a local area, pooling funding and being released
from some central government oversight. The intention is to address
the needs of particular local service userssuch as troubled
families with a range of issues addressed by public servicesin
a more coordinated way. It is believed that such an approach could
help to improve overall outcomes whilst also reducing the duplication
of activity that currently takes place across different local
249. Central to both approaches is a solid evidence
base to justify investment. It would be necessary to understand
the support services required, the cost of providing those services
and to balance those against the cost of adoption breakdown. A
crucial figure would be the rate of adoption breakdown, since
that would be the means for measuring improvements. As we have
discussed in paragraph 201, these figures are not available.
250. While it is difficult to build a robust
case for developing innovative financing for post-adoption support
without such data, there is an easier case to be made for using
service providers with a proven track record for finding adoptive
placements. A new social impact bond, entitled 'It's all about
me' has just been launched,
offering a service for finding adoptive families for children
who are generally considered harder to place.
This work was acknowledged by the Government in Further Action
251. Under the "It's all about me"
scheme, local authorities can choose to approach a voluntary adoption
agency from a provider list, including well known agencies with
a track record of successfully meeting the needs of harder-to-place
children. The service offered includes recruitment, training and
support for the families and children involved. The support package
is comprehensive, dealing with both practical aspects, such as
advocacy on behalf of the families, as well as therapeutic interventions
for the child and on-going training and support for the parents
in dealing with the issues that arise with harder-to-place children.
252. Local authorities pay a premium for the
service compared to the inter-agency fee, but not when compared
to the costs of continued foster care, especially as the cost
of care for those children who would be considered for the scheme
is likely to be at the higher end of the spectrum. The social
impact bond is a debt instrument offering a 4% fixed yield, paid
quarterly, with capital repaid by year ten.
253. We believe the recently launched social
impact bond for enhanced family finding is an innovative approach
to finding homes for the most difficult to place children. It
correctly balances the additional cost of the scheme against the
cost of keeping children in local authority care until they are
18. We invite the Government to follow the progress of this social
impact bond with a view to establishing what lessons can be learnt
and applied more widely.
227 Adoption and Children Act 2002, section 4 Back
Oral evidence from Adoption Matters Northwest, After Adoption,
BAAF, Intercountry Adoption Centre, Tim Loughton MP, PAC; written
evidence from BASW, Nagalro Back
National Adoption and Fostering Service, South London and Maudsley
Q 451 Back
Q 129 Back
Barnardo's, written evidence. Parenting courses, which were recommended
by both After Adoption and PAC, were also shown to have a positive
impact on stability of placement. Back
Q 587 Back
The Department cited research which estimated the annual cost
of a stable foster placement as £23k; whereas an unstable
year in care, with various placements and periods in residential
care, would cost £56k per annum; see Appendix 5. Back
Jim Clifford, written evidence Back
A 2011 study estimated the socio-economic gain secured by permanence
in adoption at £800,000 per child adopted (Clifford, J.,
PACT Domestic Adoption and Fostering: SROI Evaluation, PACT
and Baker Tilly, 2011). Back
Q 587 Back
After Adoption, written evidence Back
Q 107 Back
Q 127,Q 148 Back
Q 129; After Adoption, written evidence Back
A summary note of the discussion with adoptive parents from 4
December 2012 can be found at www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/adoption-legislation-committee/publications/
School Admissions Code, Department for Education, February 2012.
This is statutory guidance covering school admission arrangements
in the school year 2013/14. Back
Summary note of discussion with adoptive parents, op.cit. Back
Children and Families Bill, clause 4 section 4A(1)(a) Back
Oral evidence from Adoption Matters Northwest, After Adoption,
BAAF, Intercountry Adoption Centre, Tim Loughton MP, PAC; written
evidence from BASW, Nagalro Back
Local Government Association, written evidence Back
Q 515 Back
QQ 513-515 Back
Written evidence from Alex Verdan QC, Kinship Care Alliance Back
Q 688 Back
Q 730 Back
Tri-borough Partnership, written evidence Back
Q 730 Back
Q 688 Back
Q 690 Back
Written evidence from Helen Oakwater, PAC Back
Q 444 Back
Q 125 Back
Q 124 Back
Q 444 Back
Q 120 Back
Q 713 Back
This is the result of a collaboration between the Consortium of
Voluntary Adoption Agencies and Baker Tilly, an accountancy and
business consultancy firm, with input from the Association of
Directors of Children's Services. Back
Jim Clifford, written evidence Back
Further Action on Adoption, op. cit., paragraph