Making Sure Adoption is an Option ADOPTION AGENCY ANNUAL REPORT 2013/2014

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1 Appendix 1 Making Sure Adoption is an Option ADOPTION AGENCY ANNUAL REPORT 2013/2014 1

2 Index Introduction 1 Headline Data 2 Children s Outcomes 3 Performance & Adoption Scorecard 4 SSDA903 Data Collection for Children Looked After 5 Recruitment 6 Adoption Support Activity 7 Other adoption enquiries and Approvals 8 Budgets 9 Appendix 3 Adoption Panel Report Appendix 2 Monitoring the Quality of the Adoption Agency under NMS 25 Appendix 4 Adoption Statement of Purpose 2

3 1. Introduction A Whole System Approach This report is provided in line with the adoption agency statutory duty to provide a report about the children who are in the care of the local authority and who are waiting to be placed with new families. Appendix 3 is the report that combined with appendix 2 meets the requirement of the national minimum standards for adoption (25). Solihull s policy is to always seek to achieve permanence for all looked after children. Achieving permanence for looked after children in Solihull in a key driver for all areas of children s services. Permanence depends on securing the right placement for the right child at the right time. One of the key functions of the local authority is to ensure that each looked after child has a plan for permanence by the time of the second review, as set out in the statutory guidance to the 2002 Act. This is progressed through care planning through to Adoption if required. In the past twelve months there have been further significant policy changes in adoption. Policy and service improvement is to be welcomed and supported as a driver to deliver good permanent outcomes for our looked after and adopted children. 3

4 DIAGRAM (1) WHOLE SYSTEM APPROACH TO TIMELINESS OF ADOPTION Family Justice System (influencing the system) Government Policy (influencing the system) Child in Need ADOPTION Child to the attention of CWS Initial Enquiry Adoption Preventative work Visit by adoption social worker Child accommodated Adoption training & S1 System Placing Together Child matched to adopters Introduction plan The Adoption Agency alone cannot achieve the outcomes of the government s Adoption Action Plan. Diagram 1 (above) shows that the Adoption Agency can support the speeding up of the child s journey through sufficient and timely recruitment of prospective adopters, and recruiting and approving adopters who can meet the needs of Solihull children who are awaiting an adoption placement. To help achieve timeliness and to tailor recruitment the adoption team social workers hold monthly surgeries within the children in need teams providing advice, information and support in order to promote early referral to the adoption team and develop understanding of the needs of children likely to be referred to adoption. The child s journey and early identification of children for whom the plan is adoption is managed and supported by the Children in Need teams and in most cases supported by the Family Justice System. All parts of the system join up for the matching, placing and granting of the adoption order. Finally, all professionals have a responsibility to ensure that delay is minimised in every part of the process and maximise the number of children placed. Working together, good communication and a strong leadership drive for adoption are key elements to Solihull s approach. These drivers are the 4

5 way forward to support adoption as a permanent outcome for Solihull MBC children for whom adoption is the most appropriate plan. 2. Headline Data The number of children placed has remained static at 14 in the years 2012/13 and 2013/14. The number of Adoption Orders granted has remained static at 13 in the years 2012/13 and 2013/14. Children for whom adoption was identified as a plan has increased from 15 children in 2011/12, 20 children in 2012/13 to 23 children in 2013/14 There has been an increase in the number of children with a plan for adoption as of the 31 March, rising from 32 in 2012/13 to 35 in 2013/ Children s Outcomes The projection earlier in the year had been that there would be an increase in children placed. However, due to protracted court proceedings (2 children) and the personal circumstances of adopters causing delay in placing (2 children). Placements were identified for these 4 children, which would have made a total of 18 placements made in 2013/14. There has been an increase in adoption orders from 2011/12 when there were 7 to 13 in 2012/13 and again 13 in 2013/14. However, three families (4 children) did not feel ready to proceed to an application for differing reasons. These children placed are older children. There has been a year on year increase in the number of children with a plan for adoption over the past three years. In 2011/12 there were 26 children, in 2012/13 there were 32 children (7 with a dual plan), and in 2013/14 there were 35 children (1 with a dual plan). 4. Children who had a plan for adoption as of 31 March 2014 Number Male Female Disability Under 5yrs + 5yrs 2012/ / Adoption Orders have been granted 7 Adoption applications are before the Court 6 children are placed for adoption 1 child placed for long term fostering 6 children the matter is still before the Court 2 children the Court has not agreed placement orders 6 children Family Finding is continuing 5

6 5. Children for whom adoption was identified as their plan. Number Male Female Disability Under 5yrs + 5yrs 11/ / / There were 23 children identified for a plan for adoption in this year, an increase on the previous two years. Within this cohort of children 10 are male and 13 are female. Out of the 20 children with a plan for adoption in 2012/13, all were presented to Agency Decision Maker within 2 months of the Statutory Review recommending the plan. This is good performance and promotes timely placements. 6. SMBC Children Placed for Adoption. The number of children who are placed for adoption as of 31 March 2014 Number Male Female Disability Under 5yrs + 5yrs 2011/ / / The Adoption Team arranged for 20 children to be placed for adoption in 2013/ of the 20 children were Solihull children. The remaining 6 were children placed from other local authorities. There no disruptions of an adoptive placement in 2013/ SMBC Children waiting for a match as at 31 March Number Male Female Disability Under 5yrs + 5yrs 2012/ / There were 18 children awaiting a match on the 31 st March Of these children 6 are female and 12 are male. 5 are over 5 years and 13 are under 5 years. 5 of the 18 children are now (July 2014) placed for adoption; 4 cases the matter remains before the Court; 2 cases where the court has not granted Placement Orders; I case the child is placed for long term fostering; 6

7 6 cases where family finding continues. 8. SMBC Children for whom Adoption Orders made. Number Male Female Disability Under 5yrs + 5yrs 2011/ / / These were 6 single placements; two sibling group of two children and one sibling group of 3 children. 9. Children where plan for adoption was changed to fostering plan. Number Male Female Disability Under 5yrs + 5yrs 2011/ / / There were 2 children where the court did not grant placement orders and two older children whereby the family finding for adoption was not successful. 10 Performance measures the Adoption Scorecard, and the DfE annual return SSDA903. The performance of each local authority is evaluated through two routes; the Adoption Scorecard, and the DfE annual return SSDA903. The adoption scorecard measures performance in timeliness over the most recent years. It is reported nationally. Children and timeliness Average time a child enters care (days) and moving in with their adoptive family Average time from Placement Order to Matching Solihull 575 (3 rd ) 144 (3 rd ) 55 7 th Warrington th Stockport rd Trafford nd Cheshire West 538 (2 nd ) 111 (2 nd ) 77 1 st and Chester Central 600 x 50 8 th % of Children who wait less that 20 months between entering care and moving in with their adoptive family 7

8 Bedfordshire Cheshire East th Essex th Hertfordshire th Warwickshire 535 (1 st ) 87 (1 st ) 58 6 th Bury th Out of 33 adoption orders granted over this 3 year period there have been 17 cases outside of timescales. However, this has been due to age, protracted court proceedings and complex health needs and this has impacted on the figures in Solihull MBC. This cohort included children moving at different times and allowing child/ren to settle before moving others. 6 children aged 5+ where family finding took longer, a number of larger sibling groups and health uncertainty that needed to be clarified before placement. 11. Percentage of children who leave care who are adopted. The scorecard 3 year average of adoptions from children leaving care was 5% for Solihull MBC in January 2014, despite an in year performance of 10.5%. The very high proportion of UASC in the LAC population has an impact on these figures, and they, include UASC in the denominator group, and so the percentage is affected by the numbers of UASC leaving care for whom adoption would not be appropriate. This figure has increased from 7.8% last year to 10.5% for the year ending 31/03//2014. There were 13 adoptions of looked after children in 2012/13 and the same number in 2013/14. If the UASC young people leaving care are excluded then the value of this indicator rises to 12.6%. The All England Average for 2012/13 was 14%. The national average has increased by 2% in the last year and if this trajectory continues it will be 14-16% by Although the numbers of children adopted are increasing in Solihull, it may be a challenge to meet the national average by 2016 due to the increase in the national average figure rising each year; however, this is something that we aim to achieve. Section 14 sets out Solihull s plan to achieve the 2016 timescales. 12. The average time between a local authority receiving court authority to place a child and the local authority deciding on a match to an adoptive family. This has improved from 154 days in 2012/13 to 101 days in 2013/14. The All England 3 year average for 2010/13 was 210 days. This evidences good performance in family finding and recruitment of adopters to meet the needs of children waiting for adoption. 13. The percentage of children who wait less than 20 months between entering care and moving in with their adoptive family. 8

9 The above measure includes all children with a plan for adoption and those children with a dual plan. The complexity of this measure is that family finding for older children and those children who are harder to place does take longer and this will have an impact on timeliness within this measure. Our performance indicator has fallen slightly from 56.8% last year to 54.2% in 2013/14. The figure of 54.2% represents 26 children of 48 children who were adopted or continued to have a plan for adoption at 31 March. (The 26 includes 11 children placed in less than 20 months and 15 children who have been in care less than 20 months and are not yet placed.) The All England 3 year average for 2009 was 55%. Analysis of this indicator as of 31/3/2014 is as follows: All of the 11 children placed within timescales were under 5 years and the average timescale for this cohort was 12 months. 16 children were placed after more than 20 months: 11 of these children are between 5-10 years old; 2 adopted by foster carers; 1 child there needed to be clarity in respect of a genetic condition before placement; 1 protracted court proceedings; 1 child where the family finding process needed to pursue a number of families nationally and this affected the timescales. Of the 15 children who have been in care for less than 20 months: 8 children are placed or about to be placed; 2 children the court has not granted Placement Orders therefore the plan is no longer adoption and they will not be included in the figures next year; 1 child is matched however, court proceedings are preventing placement; 1 child a placement is identified, however, court proceedings are preventing a placement; 1 child the matter is before the court 1 child has significant disabilities and a dual plan is in place; 6 had waited more than 20 months and had not been placed: 1 court proceedings are continuing; 1 placed for long term fostering; 1 dual plan family finding continues; 3 adoption plan, family finding continues. It can be seen from the figures above that three quarters of the children that were placed outside of the 20 month timescales are the harder to place children who are aged 5 years plus. 9

10 As of the 31 March 2014 the 6 children who had waited more than 20 months and still not placed were aged 5 years plus. An anomaly in this measure is that for those older children who are likely to have a dual plan, if adoption is not achieved and they are placed for long term fostering, they are then removed from this measure the following year. Having the ambition to place children who may be harder to place does thus impact negatively on our figures. When considering outcomes for Solihull children our aim is to ensure that adoption is considered as an opportunity for all children where there is the chance that this may be achieved no matter how small that chance is. Our evidence to date is that adoptive families have been found for older children, larger siblings groups and children with disabilities and therefore this is not something that the adoption agency plans to change. Our plans to improve performance will focus around the recruitment and assessment of adopters for those children who are over 5 years old. A further area for improvement is around the court system and timescales and how as a local authority we work closely with the judiciary. There is now a 26 week court timescale for proceedings and it is hoped that this will have a positive impact on timescales for many children Government targets for Adoption and Solihull plan to meet these o The child s journey from entering care to moving in with their adoptive family is currently set at 21 months reducing to 14 months in 2016 o The average time it takes for a local authority to match a child to an adoptive family once the court has formally decided that adoption is the best option is currently 7 months reducing to 4 months in Child s Journey from 21 months to 14 months There are a number of factors in the whole system that will need to be taken into account in order to meet this timescale and work in the next 12 months will focus on the following: Early identification and assessments of children; Consider the use of family group conferencing; Tracking systems to ensure that there is no delay in the system; Improved court timescales; Increasing the pool of adopters; Twin tracking system for children and adopters (early referral to adoption); Fostering for adoption considered for every child in line with the care planning regulations. 10

11 Matching from 7 months to 4 months In order to meet the 4 month timescale there is a continuing need to increase the pool of adopters. The challenge for all agencies is that the numbers of children waiting for adoption outweigh the number of adopters available. Solihull works closely with Warwickshire and Coventry sharing intelligence in respect of the children and adopters waiting in order to support the speeding up the process. Children are referred to the national adoption register when no local match is being considered and at the latest after 3 months from Placement Order or being provided with court authority to feature the child/ren. We need a good pool of adopters to match from, and so need to assess and approve more adopters. Using the Adoption Grant, an additional temporary post for a full time social worker has been agreed and the new worker starts on the 1 September Increasing adopter numbers locally provides the opportunity of a seamless service without competing organisational structures, ensuring that children and adopters are identified very early on in the process. Using this model means that as soon as the Placement Order is granted there is more chance of successfully placing children within weeks and therefore more likely to achieve the 4 month timescales for family finding. The new two-stage process has enabled the system to speed up and the aim is to increase the number of approved adopters from 17 in 2013/14 to 24 in 2014/ SSDA903 Data Collection for Children Looked After The purpose of the SSDA903 is to provide the Government with the necessary information to evaluate the outcome of policy initiatives and to monitor objectives on looked after children, both during their time in care and on reaching adulthood. The data collected is used in the provision of information for research and statistical information in response to parliamentary questions. The indicators relevant to this report are as follows: Former National Indicator 63 - percentage of looked after children under 16 who have been looked after for 2.5 years who have been in the same placement for at least 2 years or are placed for adoption. This has increased from 67.0% last year to 78.8% for year ending 31/03/2014 which is better than the 2012/13 All England average of 67%. This reflects improved stability for our children in care. The percentage of looked after children who ceased to be looked after because of a special guardianship order. In 2013/14 14 children, representing 11% of children leaving care, became the subject of a special guardianship order. This is a significant improvement on previous years. The All England average for 2012/13 was 10%. This represents an increase in 11

12 children for whom permanence is achieved, in this case through the making of a Special Guardianship Order. 16. Adopter Recruitment In 2014/15 our ambition is to increase the number of adopters approved. We have increased the number of approvals from 13 in 2012/13 to 17 in 2013/14. However, our aim is to increase the recruitment of adopters and approve 24 families in 2014/15. Domestic Adoption 2011/ / /14 Domestic Adoption Initial Visits Accepted Applications Approved As Suitable to Adopt In 2013/14 there were fewer enquiries, 67 compared to 2012/13 where there were 97. However, from the 67 enquiries 52 accessed information and out of this there were 26 initial visits showing a 50% conversion. 15 initial visits converted to an assessment which is a 58% conversion. 3 families for whom we made initial visits went to other agencies because of waiting for information evenings or preparation groups in SMBC. The national average from enquiry to conversion is approximately 10% and Solihull MBC achieved 13% in 2012/13 and 25% in 2015/15. In light of this experience, and our analysis of initial enquiries and the emerging competitive market the adoption agency changed the enquiry process. The adoption agency changed from running preparation training for adopter twice a year to currently running them bi-monthly. The adoption agency has implemented information evenings once a month. The improvement to service delivery has increased demand on the capacity within the team. We will be increasing our marketing and recruitment activity for adoption in 2014/15. This will include newspaper advertising and advertising on buses for adoption and fostering. This aim is to increase the number of enquiries and maintain the high conversion rate in 2014/ Adoption Support. The provision of adoption support services is a crucial element of the statutory framework. This is based upon the recognition that adoptive children and their families are likely to have a range of additional needs. Increasing the pool of adopters for children is our aim, however, this must be balanced alongside the need to provide good adoption support. 12

13 In 2013/14 the adoption support services had a specialist adoption psychologist linked to the team 4 days a week. This service provided adopted children and their families access to therapeutic support. There are a number of families who have accessed this support and who without it may not have been able to continue living together as a family. The evidence of good adoption support in Solihull is highlighted by the very low disruption rate (1 in 6 years and that child did go on to be adopted again). The psychologist has since moved to another post. There is currently a psychologist in post for 1 day a week up until January The service is now looking at ways of continuing to provide good adoption support in line with the government agenda and the adoption support pilot. Solihull MBC are one of 10 local authorities nationally who have been identified as part of a pilot for the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). Through the prototype phase new ideas and approaches to delivering adoption support will be tested. The process involves identifying and providing therapeutic support to adoptive children and their families. The pilot group has the opportunity to apply to the adoption support fund ( 2m) to access and provide therapeutic services for adopted children and their families. This provides Solihull with the opportunity to ensure that there is therapeutic support in place when the adoption support fund is rolled out nationally early in A proposal is being developed to deliver adoption support across the sub-region. The fund is intended to give families better access to vital support services. A further 19.3m will be provided to roll out the fund nationally in Adoption Support Activity Number of families in receipt of post adoption support packages (not one off advice) for support that was provided on any date between 1 April 2013 and 31 March Post-adoption support funded and provided by SMBC. Post adoption support funded by SMBC and provided through another agency (After Adoption). Number of families (adopted adults birth record counselling & access to records) in receipt of other adoption support packages. Requests for post adoption support assessments of need which resulted in the provision of services. Letterbox Service families (multiple exchanges) 19. Other Adopters Enquiries and Approvals 2011/ / /14 Inter-country

14 Enquiries Inter-country Approvals Non-Agency Adoption Enquiries Non-Agency Adoption Approvals There were 2 children placed with adopters one from China and one from India. There are two families approved for inter country adoption, one family is matched and one family is waiting. 20. Budgets Financial Information A new policy on allowances for special guardianship, residence and adoption orders was implemented with immediate effect for new cases from 10 December Annual reviews of financial support for adopters are undertaken by the Allowance Review Panel and decisions are made by the Head of Service. During , the Agency expended 310, on adoption allowances. This represents financial support to 33 children living in 18 families. This is a significant amount; however it can be seen as providing good and cost effective route to achieving good outcomes. The cost to the local authority of accommodation in care would be significantly higher. During , the Agency received which is a significant increase on 2012/13 where the income was 77, This income is generated by selling approved families to other local authorities. In there was one child placed where there was a need for on going financial support. During , there was no expenditure on inter-agency fees i.e. Solihull placed all solihull children with Solihull approved carers. 21. Adoption Reform Grant The adoption reform grant was in 2013/14 used to provide a temporary additional member of staff in the adoption team. A temporary additional member of staff was placed in the connected person team so that the assessments could be completed in a timely way to avoid any delay in the system for children who may come through to adoption. Work was undertaken with Coventry and Warwickshire to share intelligence in respect of adopters and children coming through the system and supporting speedy placements. This has resulted in a Solihull child being placed. A further development of this work has been the implementation of family finding 14

15 events across the 3 authorities. This has resulted in a number of enquiries and further event is planned for the end of ` A review of options for delivering adoption services was undertaken in with support from Business Change Team to see how the service could be developed and processes made speedier across Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull. Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire held the first adoption activity day. This has been a very successful event and a number of matches were made for children across the three authorities. Solihull identified a family for two out of the three children who attended the event. Looking forward, the adoption reform grant 2014/15 is being used for an additional full time social worker to the adoption team, and implementing a new evidence based support programme for adopters called Safebase. Safebase is delivered by a voluntary organisation, After Adoption. The cost of the programme is match funded by the Timpson national charity. The programme provides 2 x per year attachment based courses for adopters with a support group that adopters have access to after they have been on the course. The aim is to have the programme in place for early Summary It has been a busy and challenging year in adoption. There have been no adoption disruptions and children and families have been well supported in their adoptive placements. Delivering the therapeutic service has been difficult with the adoption psychologist moving post; however, there is currently a psychologist in post one day a week up until January The adoption support pilot provides Solihull with the opportunity to develop a range of therapeutic support services and this is something that will be focused on during 2014/15. The Adoption and Permanence Panel has a good central list that enables the panel to remain quorate. The panel is chaired by a person who is highly experienced in all aspects of children s social work and specifically in adoption. The good management of the panel by the professional advisor has enabled the smooth running of the panel and Agency Decision Maker process, evidenced by no operational delay for children or adopters at any time during the year. The decision was made to reduce panel from twice monthly in April An analysis of whether this has any impact on timescales for approving adopters or matching children with adoptive families will be reviewed at the 6 month point (September 2014). (Adoption & Permanence Panel Chair s Report - Appendix 2). The adoption agency has worked closely with Coventry and Warwickshire which has resulted in successful family finding events and a successful adoption activity day. There are four adoption workshops programmed for 2014/15 that will offer support to adoptive families across the three authorities. 15

16 This work will continue in 2014/15 with analysis and evaluation of support services across the three authorities Solihull has seen an improvement in performance in the percentage of children who leave care and are adopted; the timeliness of receiving court authority to place and children moving in with their adoptive families. However, there has been a slight decrease in timescale performance of the child s journey from entering care and moving in with their adoptive family. The analysis in reported on in section 13 and plans for improvement in section 14. Although there have been improvements there is a way to go for us to meet the 2016 reduction in timescales, but plans are in place to help achieve this. Adopter enquiries reduced in 2013/14 on the previous year, however, the conversion from enquiries to recruitment to approval has increased from 12% to 25%. We have in place an advertising recruitment plan in order to create more enquiries with the aim of increasing the conversion rate again in 2014/15. The coming year provides us with the opportunity to continue to work as a whole system and ensure that there are no delays in achieving permanence for any of our looked after children. Our challenge and ambition is to work together to increase the number of children placed for adoption and placed in a timely way to meet the 2016 targets. 23. Targets for Aim to increase the number of children who leave care and adopted from 10.5% to 12%. Aim to increase the timescale for children being placed for adoption and adopted from 54.2% to 58% Aim to increase the number of adopter approvals to 24 in 2014/15. Improve adoption support services and access to therapeutic services. Work collaboratively with the sub-region and region to increase the number of placements for children by utilising the approved adopters within the region more effectively. Work with the sub-region to consider how areas of adoption support can be more effective across the three authorities. Implement Safebase partnership with After Adoption. Evaluate impact in the reduction of the Adoption & Permanence Panel meetings on timescales. 16

17 Theresa Kane Adoption Agency Manager

18 Appendix 2 Adoption Panel Report Adoption Annual Report In last year s annual report I highlighted the many changes facing the adoption process as a result of national guidance legislation being introduced. This pace of change has not lessened this year with some new guidance now becoming embedded in practice whilst there is an awareness of future change being introduced in the near future. The Adoption Panel has kept up to date with these changes through training events and the issue of guidance to members. This year saw the valuable opportunity for the independent chair and vice chairs of Adoption Panels to meet with similar colleagues of Adoption Panels across the West Midlands. Solihull has been well represented at these meetings which enable best practice across Panels in the West Midlands to be shared as well as discussion on changes within the adoption process and how different approaches are taking place to successfully introduce change. These meetings also provide access to training for independent chairs and will continue to be a feature in future years. The Adoption and Performance Panel in Solihull has met on a regular basis during Some scheduled meetings were cancelled due to the lack of sufficient business items for the agenda. A decision was therefore taken to only schedule Panel meetings on a monthly basis. At the moment this is at an early stage of change and its impact is being monitored. Only having a monthly meeting does mean that social workers and managers need to plan work for completion more tightly as without this it could lead to delays within meeting timescales and an adverse impact on the Adoption Scorecard. Panel membership through the central list has been strengthened this year to cover members who have resigned mainly as a result of them moving to new jobs or roles and thus being unable to give the time commitment to Panels work. Panel membership consists of a good blend of expertise and knowledge backed up with considerable experience and an unstinting commitment to complete a professional job to a high quality standard. Panel is well supported with professional guidance on adoption practice, health aspects and legal matters. The administration of Panels work continues to benefit from high quality input. However the professional advisor to Panel is retiring and her contribution to panel business will be a hard act to follow. A new professional advisor has been appointed who will commence her duties in September Chris Hallett : Independent Chair Solihull Adoption and Performance Panel 18

19 Adopters feedback: We found this process very positive and organised. It was great being able to meet all the professionals so quickly which helped us to make our final decision easily about K. Julia has been more than supportive as have the rest of the Solihull team. Everyone has been great and really helpful, thank you. My attendance at panel was in respect of a disruption report that was being presented. The panel gave me every opportunity to respond to their questions/queries about the process and allowed discussion around all of our shared learning. I was in panel for approx 1.5hrs. However, I felt that this was appropriate and gave weight to the impact that adoption disruption has on a child. Thank you for all the calm and welcoming support. 19

20 APPENDIX 3 Monitoring the quality of the adoption agency under NMS 25 How do you ensure that adoptive placements that will meet children s needs are provided? All of solihull children were placed with Solihull approved adopters in the year 2013/14. Fostering for adoption is considered for all children in line with the Care Planning Regulations, Volume 2. The agency ensures that the children s wishes and feelings are age appropriately explored so that they can understand what is happening to them and to ensure that they are well prepared for their adoptive placements. Adopters are provided with full information about the children. They are provided with the opportunity to meet with the medical adviser; psychologist/psychotherapist; a mental health nurse; foster carers and any other professional that is able to provide further information prior to the child going to live with them. How well do children progress in their learning, health and social development? Solihull adoption agency have strong links with the service director for learning and achievement in Solihull, via the Corporate Parenting Virtual Board, school admissions and EDULAC which enables the team to have a good dialogue with educational professionals to support children s educational progression. Children are supported in their progress by their adoptive parents, social worker, at the time of placement and adoption support social workers if requested after the adoption order has been granted. We have developed an information guide for all schools Helping the Adopted Child in School which has been circulated. The adoption agency has provided training to head teachers and Senco s about attachment and the adopted child in school. Children s health needs are met through the prompt provision of health resources, including their psychological wellbeing and thorough health assessments. A variety of social events are provided each year to promote opportunities for adopted children and young people to meet. A young person s group has been set up and this group are part way through developing a DVD about adoption from an adopted persons perspective and this will be used for future training of adopters. 20

21 How do you ensure that the adoption agency contributes to promoting good outcomes for children and young people? Children are placed in a timely manner. The preparation of children takes into account moving a child into an adoptive placement at a time that is right for both the child and the family. All of the children in appendix 1, (13) who were under 5 years old were placed within the 20 month timescale. In Solihull ensuring that adoption is considered as an option for children is the aim. It can be seen by the figures in appendix 1 (13) that adoptive placements are considered for older and harder to place children and that ¾ of those children who were placed outside of the 20 month timescale were in this category. Although the timescale for placing these children is outside of that which is expected, it is realistic to say that it will always in the main take longer to place this cohort of children. However, the outcome is that these children will have the opportunity to grow up an adoptive family which we know from research is a good outcome. Each adoption social worker links with each of the children in need teams on a monthly basis. As part of this process children s plans are discussed and advice and guidance is provided from experienced adoption social workers. There is an early warning referral process to identify children in the system and enables the agency to track and monitor the children. This also supports the recruitment of adopters to meet the needs of the children with a plan for adoption who may have a plan for adoption in the future. Contact in adoption is child centred. The link worker system provides social workers with the opportunity to think through and develop realistic contact plans at an early stage in the process. Direct contact is supported and indirect contact is regularly reviewed to ensure that contact continues to meet the needs of children and their adoptive families. Birth parents are offered support and guidance around contact. The Adoption and Permanence Panel progress monitor on a 3 monthly basis. The Panel will challenge delay and this will be fed up to senior managers. There is also a quarterly panel meeting where any themes arising can be discussed with the Head of Service Safeguarding is a key component of the preparation and training of perspective adopters. All checks and references are undertaken. Adoption social workers are trained in the Attachment Style Interview and can use this tool to evidence further the adult attachment styles and levels of support networks. There is training on internet safety (a DVD has been produced) which is compulsory for all new prospective adopters, highlighting the dangers of unplanned contact and how to minimise risk. Children are provided with similar training to explore the angers and risks of social networking for them. What do children and young people say about your service and how do they contribute to its development? 21

22 Two of Solihull adopted young people attend an annual information evening and talked to adopters about their experience of adoption. One young person completed a DVD for their GCSE talking about adoption and this is used as part of our recruitment information sharing. A young person group are currently working on developing a film about adoption and this will be used for future recruitment and training events. We feel it is important that we take away some of the untruths about adoption. We get the opportunity to share our story from our point of view to help adopters to understand what it is like for us. A young person is a member of the adoption support events committee (which is made up of adoptive parents) in order to ensure that the planning of events reflects the needs of young people. How does the recruitment, assessment and training and supervision of adopters promote positive outcomes for children and young people? In 2013/14 there were fewer enquiries, 67 compared to 2012/13 where there were 90. However, from the 67 enquiries 52 accessed information and out of this there were 26 initial visits showing a 50% conversion. As a result of the initial visits 15 converted to initial visit which is a 58% conversion. 3 initial visits went to other agencies because of waiting for information evenings or preparation groups in SMBC. As a result of the analysis of initial enquiries and the emerging competitive market the adoption agency changed the enquiry process. The adoption agency changed from running preparation training for adopter twice a year to currently running them bi-monthly. The adoption agency has implemented information evenings once a month. The improvement to service delivery has increased demand on the capacity within the team. There was minimal advertising in 2012/12 for adoption and there is a planned recruitment programme for 2014/15 which includes newspaper advertising and advertising on buses for adoption and fostering. This aim is to increase the number of enquiries and maintain the high conversion rate in 2014/15. A risk factor is that the adoption agency is already at capacity and the agency will need to signpost to other agencies. We have implemented the use of the Enhancing Adoptive Parenting programme in adoption, pre and post adoption order. We offer a small personalised service, the prospective adopters have the opportunity to meet all of the adoption/adoption support workers and managers as part of their preparation training. We aim in the majority of cases to allocate a worker for the 22

23 assessment and right through to the adoption order. Regular visits by the family s link worker are undertaken and these visits are tailored to meet the needs of the individual family s needs. If the allocated social worker is not available and the prospective adopter needs to speak to one of the team urgently they have the benefit of knowing each of the team individually. How do you involve adopters in matching and linking and subsequent planning? Families are provided with a post approval pack which has information about matching and the linking process. This pack includes a referral form to the National Register. Families are provided with the opportunity to meet all professionals involved with the child prior to the placement. They are also provided with all the written information about the child. AdoptWestMids consortium holds annual family finding events and families attend and are supported by their link worker. Individual adoption support packages are tailored to meet the needs of the child and the family. Solihull MBC, Coventry and Warwickshire local authorities hold twice yearly family finding events that adopters attend. Solihull MBC, Coventry and Warwickshire have held an adoption activity day. This provides adopters with the opportunity of seeing the types of children who need adoption and places them at the centre of the matching process. How do you involve adopters in the development of your agency? We have adopters who have formed their own committee as part of the adoption support service. This committee liaises with professionals and other adopters about what the needs of adoptive children and their families. They are a core part of the organisation of the social events held and organise their own social activities with the help and support of adoption support social workers. Adopters attend information evenings and speak to members of the public about their experience of adopting through Solihull MBC. Adopters attend the preparation groups and sit as a panel answering questions about adoption for new applicants. Feedback is requested from adopters about their experience of: Recruitment Training 23

24 Assessment Panel Contact Post Adoption Support Social Events. The above feedback has informed service delivery in the following way: Telephone enquirers said that they would prefer to attend a general information evening rather than a social worker visit in the early stages of thinking about adoption. The adoption agency now run monthly information evenings. Adopters said that they would have preferred to attend preparation groups as a single group of adopters and not have joint training with foster carers (see section xx). The professional adviser continues to visit families prior to them attending panel. Adopters find this process helps them to feel less anxious on the day. What do adopters say about your agency? An adoptive parent s feedback about the use of the Enhancing Adoptive Parenting Programme that they undertook; It helped us to appreciate how our children feel in different situations now and in the past. What difference has the programme made to you as parents? More patient, more confident, more relaxed with children as parenting more effectively. Would you recommend this programme to other adoptive families? Yes. I would recommend that the social worker delivering the course knows the family well so that it can be delivered using relevant examples, this worked really well for us. Adoption support Looked After Adopted Team Children s Health (LAATCH). Support is what has kept this family together. Excellent Service. Adoption Preparation Groups 24

25 A course was developed and run jointly with fostering in 2013/14. This was made up of a number of days with adopters and foster carers together and then some individual groups for adopters and foster carers separately. Joint course feedback: We did not think it was helpful to be with foster carers. We found the joint training with prospective foster carers hard at times. It was the difference between foster carers doing the training is that for them it is a job versus us wanting to change out life. The joint training with foster carers had felt different; they had a different role with a child and were making different life choices. For adopters it felt personal, it was not about a job that you could stop if it didn t suit you. The two groups came from different perspectives. It was nice to know a foster carer would have loved a child they had cared for but it was not the same feeling that adopters have. We would have preferred to be in a group just with adopters as we felt when we did come together, we could relax more and felt more comfortable and able to share more as we are all in it together. We felt a bit insecure doing the joint training. As a result of the feedback the adoption agency has reverted to running adoption preparation groups separate to the skills to foster course. Feedback from adopters course: Amazing course really well done. Feel more positive now Well thought out amount of days worked well. Brilliant lots of info what we wanted and thought provoking. Good to meet the members of the team and the adopters panel everyone was brilliant well planned and content was good. How do you involve staff in the development of your agency? There are regular team meetings and monthly practice meetings. In this forum social workers share their practice experience, learning is developed and new ideas are shared and put into practice. More experienced workers provide consultation to team members in respect of communicating and talking with children Annual joint training with the Adoption and Permanence Panel Members. Regular supervision is provided and staff learning and development is a key component to each supervision. 25

26 There is a link worker from the workforce development team linked to the adoption team. Specific specialist training needs are identified through this link. The agency are members and receive regular research information via Research in Practice. AdoptWestMids consortium and the Midland Family Placement Group (BAAF) provide annual training for adoption social workers which is well attended and learning is brought back into the team to develop the service. What plans for Improvement and development are currently in place? Aim to increase the number of children who leave care and adopted from 10.5% to 12%. Aim to increase the timescale for children being placed for adoption and adopted from 54.2% to 58% Aim to increase the number of adopter approvals to 24 in 2014/15. Improve adoption support services and access to therapeutic services Work collaboratively with the sub-region and region to increase the number of placements for children by utilising the approved adopters within the region more effectively. Work with the sub-region to consider how areas of adoption support can be more effective across the authorities. Implement Safebase partnership with After Adoption; Evaluate if there is any impact in the reduction of the Adoption & Permanence Panel meetings on timescales. 26

27 APPENDIX 4 STATEMENT OF PURPOSE SOLIHULL METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL PEOPLE DIRECTORATE ADOPTION AGENCY OF SOLIHULL METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL 1 INTRODUCTION The Statement of Purpose sets out the core aims and objectives of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council s Adoption Service. The Statement of Purpose fulfils the requirement for Adoption Agencies to compile a statement detailing how the service will meet outcomes for children, the range of services provided, the governing principles and who manages and provides services. The statement of purpose if for: Children and young people Birth relatives Prospective and approved adoptive families Social workers working within Solihull MBC and in other local authorities Councillors Adoption Panel members Regulation through Department for Education (Ofsted) Members of the public The statement of purpose is reviewed annually; is endorsed by Solihull MBC s children s services senior management team; and formally approved by the Executive Lead Member 2 MISSION STATEMENT Solihull MBC s Adoption Service is committed to providing permanency through timely and quality adoption for the children and young people in Solihull who need to be adopted. The Service is committed to ensuring that children and young people will be adopted by families who have been assessed and approved as suitable to providing a secure, warm, safe and supportive environment in which they can develop in all aspects of their lives. 27

28 3 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF SOLIHULL ADOPTION AGENCY The Adoption Agency of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council aims to provide a service for all its customers that is welcoming, user friendly and non-discriminatory. Provide a range of safe, secure and enduring adoption placements to meet the assessed needs of children needing permanent placements in order to promote and safeguard their welfare. Ensure that adoptive placements promote stability and positive outcomes for children by working in partnership with adopted children and young people, adoptive parents, birth families and other professionals in the adoption and adoption support process. Meet the timescales set out in the Children Act 1989, Statutory Adoption Guidance revised in February 2011 and July 2014 and the Adoption Minimum Standards. The Statement of Purpose fulfils the requirement of Standard 18 of the Adoption National Minimum Standards 2014, Regulation 2 of the Local Authority Adoption Services (England) Regulations 2003, Adoption Support Agencies (England) and Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and the Adoption and Children Act The Adoption Service will provide a high quality and comprehensive range of adoption and adoption support services that meet the needs of children and young people needing to be adopted, prospective adopters, adoptive families, birth families, adopted adults and the general public. The core objectives are to: Provide permanency for children and young people through recruiting, assessing and providing a suitable and diverse range of families to meet the needs of children and young people who need to be adopted. Recruit a sufficient pool of prospective adopters to offer placement choice to meet the assessed needs of the children and young people needing adoptive families currently and to meet future needs. Support families post-linking to ensure placements succeed, ensuring that every child being placed for adoption has an Adoption Support Plan in place and ensure that any parties to adoption are provided with an assessment for adoption support services, if requested. Develop a range of adoption support services, including practical, financial and therapeutic services, in partnership with other relevant agencies, to ensure placements succeed. Employ staff with appropriate and sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to deliver the adoption service. 28

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