Directorate of Children, Education and Early Help Services. Adoption Service. Statement of Purpose 2015/16

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1 Directorate of Children, Education and Early Help Services Adoption Service Statement of Purpose 2015/16 Updated February 2015

2 Context Reading Borough Council, through the power delegated to the Director of Education, Adults and Children s Services, undertakes to provide a comprehensive adoption service. It operates within the legislative requirements of: The Adoption and Children Act 2002 The Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 Statutory Guidance on Adoption The Children Act 1989 (and accompanying regulations and guidance) Children and Families Act 2014 The Human Rights Act 1998 The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child The Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999 (and accompanying regulations and guidance) The Care Standards Act 2000 and accompanying Adoption National Minimum Standards 2011 and 2013 The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Regulations 2003 National Care Standards Commission (Fees and Frequency of Inspection (Adoption Agencies) Regulations 2003 England National Care Standards Commission (Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 The Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 The 1976 Adoption Act Section 14 Family Procedure (Adoption) Rules 2005 Working together to safeguard children (and associated child protection guidance) The framework for the assessment of children in need and their families Other relevant legislation and regulations and guidance Updated February

3 The Aims and Objectives of the Agency 1. The Adoption Service is part of a range of Local Authority services, which seek to promote the upbringing of children by their families in accordance with the spirit and provision of the Children Act When this is not possible the Adoption Agency undertakes to find a permanent substitute family in which the child is given the opportunity of a secure and stable environment, taking into account the child s specific needs and circumstances. 2. The priorities of the Adoption Agency are: To identify the children in the care of Reading Borough Council who would benefit from adoption and to achieve the placement of these children with appropriate prospective adoptive families within timescales appropriate to the needs of each child. To prepare and assess prospective adoptive applicants applying to the Agency who are likely to meet the placement needs of the children waiting for families locally, throughout the consortium and nationally. All enquires are considered, the agency particularly welcomes applicants who appear to have the potential to meet the parenting needs of: Children who are likely to display significant emotional or behavioural difficulties. Children from minority ethnic groups. Children who are significantly developmentally delayed and who may require educational support and specialist services. Children who have an identified physical or learning disability. Children whose background histories include having a parent diagnosed as having significant mental health difficulties. Single children aged 5 years and over. Sibling groups of two or more children where the eldest child is aged 4 years or over. Children who have identified health or medical problems and who are likely to need a significant level of ongoing health/medical care. 3. All applicants will be expected to be able to accept the placement of children with complex backgrounds and children for whom there is incomplete background and/or health information. Updated February

4 4. The Agency is committed to providing placement and adoption support services to all Reading Borough Council approved adopters who offer a placement to a child(ren) either from Reading or through an interagency agreement. 5. The Agency is committed to providing adoption support services for all those whose lives have been affected by adoption, recognising the lifelong implications of adoption for adopters, adopted children, birth relatives and adult adoptees. For details please see the Agency s Adoption Policy. 6. The Agency is also committed to providing a counselling and support service to: Birth parents seeking to relinquish their unborn child Any person directly affected by adoption who requires counselling or support. Adopted persons requiring access to birth records. Persons requiring information as to the use of the Adoption Contact Register, in particular adopted persons, birth parents and other relatives. Adults seeking to establish contact with birth family members separated via adoption and requesting an intermediary service. 7. The Agency is committed to fulfilling its duty under The Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999, to provide, or arrange to provide, an Intercountry Adoption Service. The Agency, by arrangement with Parents and Children Together Adoption Agency (Reading), delegates to that Agency the work of providing counselling and services to applicants wishing to adopt from abroad. This agreement is under an ongoing review process. 8. The Agency is committed to maintaining effective systems for recording, managing and keeping safe, information about children placed for adoption and adopters and information received from people affected by adoption. Updated February

5 The Name and Address of the Registered Provider and other Relevant Parties Registered Provider Reading Borough Council Adoption Agency: Directorate of Children, Education and Early Help Services Floor 2, Civic Offices, Bridge St, Reading, Berkshire RG1 2LU Agency Decision Maker Interim Head of Children s Services: Vicki Lawson and Service Manager (Family Placements): Jean Ash Directorate of Children, Education and Early Help Services Floor 2, Civic Offices, Bridge St, Reading, Berkshire RG1 2LU Adoption Support Adviser Adoption Team Manager: Dawn Gardner 2-4 Darwin Close Reading, Berkshire RG1 9NT Responsible Individual Service Manager (Family Placements): Jean Ash Registered Manager The day to day running of the team is the responsibility of the AdoptionTeam Manager, Dawn Gardner, appointed 14 th November Updated February

6 The Link to the Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service 1. In 1998 The Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service was set up and funded by a joint arrangement between the six Berkshire Unitary Authorities. Based at York House in Windsor, the service currently comprises a Manager, an Adoption Consultant, an Administrator, a Project Worker and a Records Officer (1 day per week based at Darwin Close, Reading). 2. The original contract of quality standards set out for the Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service was as follows: To manage, recruit and train adoption Panel Members. To manage and to provide professional and administrative services to two adoption panels for east and west Berkshire. To manage the Berkshire letterbox service between adoptive families and birth families. To provide specialist training on adoption issues for staff in the six unitary authorities. To provide specialist advice and assistance on complex adoption matters to staff in the six unitary authorities. Provide specialist counselling for adults seeking access to birth records; Administer the closed children s looked after files and adoption records; Provide a social work service to the closed children s records and adoption records. 3. These original areas of responsibility have been maintained and several have been added in the light of The Adoption & Children Act The Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service has co-ordinated the response of the six unitary authorities to the various consultation documents issued by the Department for Education in the last year about the development of adoption services. 5. In addition the Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service: - Manages the Berkshire Adoption Exchange bi-annual events that bring together social workers and approved prospective adopters from across the region in an effort to achieve the matching of children with approved adopters. Facilitates Life Appreciation meetings for children being placed by the Berkshire Unitary Authorities. Supervises direct contact arrangements that are set up for children placed with adoptive families (pre and post order); Updated February

7 Organises an annual Adopters Conference; Has a Birth Parent Project (aim - to offer both an integrated independent approach alongside consistent support and information to significant birth family members when adoption has been formally identified as the plan for a child. Updated February

8 Registration Local Authorities are not required to formally register. Ofsted has been notified of the nominated manager of the service. Qualifications and Experience of the Manager Name: Dawn Gardner Date Appointed: 14 th November 2011 Qualifications: CQSW(1988), Executive Diploma in Management (2008); The number, relevant qualifications and experience of the staff working for the purposes of the Agency Adoption work is undertaken by the Adoption Team who all hold a professional social work qualification (CQSW or Dip.SW). They are all registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council. They have a range of experience in Family Placement Work and Children s Social Work. Total staffing: Team Manager Dawn Gardner (full time; permanent) Assistant Team Manager Lorna Rowland (full time; permanent) Higher Specialist, Family Finder Julie Knapper (25 hrs; permanent) 2.6 Post Adoption Social Workers Sam Ayisi (full time; permanent); Lin Rogers (full time; permanent); Vacant post (25 hrs; permanent) 5 Adoption Social Workers: ; Jayne Kulan (full time; permanent, Higher Specialist); Hannah Gervais (full time; permanent); Prisca Senkebe (full time; permanent) and Natara McGarry(full time; permanent) Reading Borough Council is committed to supporting appropriately experienced staff to achieve Post Qualifying accredited training. Two workers within the team have achieved this to date. Updated February

9 The Organisational Structure of the Agency Service Manager Jean Ash Team Manager Dawn Gardner Assistant Team Manager Lorna Rowland Post Adoption Social Worker Samuel Ayisi Social Worker Jayne Kulan Social Worker Julie Knapper Social Worker Prisca Senkebe Vacant Post adoption Social Worker Social Worker Natara McGarry Social Worker Hannah Gervais Post Adoption Social Worker Lin Rogers (p.t) Social Worker Lin Rogers (p.t) Updated February

10 Systems in place to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and quality of service provision, and to ensure that the National Minimum Standards are met The Agency is committed to seeking feedback from service users in order to inform future service provision, and systems are in place to obtain the views of children (of an appropriate age and understanding), and adults, at key points in the adoption process, and including users of the Post Adoption Service. Feedback from Children Children and Young people have access to Independent visitors and Advocates. Work is currently underway with the Children in Care Council and Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service regarding effective methodology to obtain feedback Feedback from Prospective Applicants and Adoptive Parents Adoptive parents are consulted on their views following their attendance of the Preparation Group, and at Adoption Panel. As of February 2014 all adopters will receive feedback questionnaires one month after their adoption order has been granted. This is supplemented with annual questionnaires so as to gather feedback regarding post adoption support. Feedback from Birth Parents The Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service have a designated staff member who undertakes this role on behalf of the six Berkshire Unitary Authorities. It is hoped that removing the role from staff who have any level of involvement in placing the child(ren) will assist birth parents in feeling able to use the service. Feedback is elicited through this service. Where birth parents are able to engage with the Authority at the stage that plans are being made to place their child(ren) for adoption, their thoughts and wishes are proactively sought through the review process, and by the child s social worker, both in terms of the adoption plan and in terms of the type of family they would wish their child(ren) to be placed with. Updated February

11 Except where birth parents sever all links with the Agency, contact is maintained with birth parents until the adoption of their child(ren) is legally concluded. The Adoption Service is monitored as follows: Monthly feedback from the Adoption Panel regarding the quality of assessments and work being presented; Reading Borough Council s Directorate Management Team and the Corporate Parenting Panel (which meets quarterly) scrutinise the performance of the Adoption Service as part of their overview of the quality of care offered to the Local Authority s Looked After Children. Monthly reports to senior managers regarding quantitative data Quarterly reports which collate all service user feedback and qualitative performance data for the Quality and Performance Board chaired by the Head of Children s Services Updated February

12 Recruiting, preparing, assessing, approving and supporting prospective adopters The monthly performance meeting tracks work with prospective adopters to ensure progress alongside statutory timescales from initial enquiry through to the two stage assessment process. Recruitment of Adopters The Agency s recruitment of adopters is part of a joint planning and recruitment programme, together with Fostering, short breaks placements and Supported Lodgings. Recruitment activity is planned with a view to increasing placement choice and stability for children requiring permanence via adoption. Reading also co-operates with countywide initiatives and maintains a level of public awareness of the wider national need for adopters. Targeted recruitment activity is now required as standard practice to increase the level of enquiries/applications from those who are willing to adopt children who are 4 years old plus, sibling groups and babies/children with special needs. Recruitment practice is being re-visited this year within the context of membership of both the Adoption South Central and Berkshire consortia. All enquiries from prospective adopters are welcomed without prejudice and responded to promptly. An Information Pack is sent out at the point of enquiry, and the Fostering Recruitment and Assessment team will arrange an appointment at a mutually convenient time, within ten working days of receiving a request from the prospective applicants. A social worker from the Adoption team undertakes the visit. Clear information is given about the needs of children, the recruitment, preparation, assessment, approval and the subsequent matching and placing process. The Agency s Information Pack and publicity are periodically reviewed to meet any changes in legislation and to comply with good practice. Preparation of Applicants In stage 1 of the adoption process the applicants are given information for guided self- learning. The material used is designed to provide prospective applicants with information about the adoption process and about the potential issues involved in bringing up adopted children. Updated February

13 Health and statutory checks as well as personal references are taken up on all prospective adoptive applicants in line with the requirements of the Adoption National Minimum Standards. All prospective adoptive applicants are required to attend an adopters preparation group. The purpose of the group is to provide prospective applicants with the information that they need about adoption in general and the profile and needs of children requiring placement, in order to enable them to make an informed decision as to whether or not to proceed to stage two of the process. It also prepares applicants for the home study process and the adoption task. Monthly preparation groups are available under a joint arrangement with two Berkshire Local Authority Adoption Agencies; Adopt Berkshire (a merged Adoption Team for four Berkshire Local Authorities) and Slough Borough Council. All prospective applicants are given the opportunity to meet with existing adopters both during and after the preparation groups. Assessment of Applicants The Agency endeavours to ensure that applicants are taken to panel for approval within four months of the start of the stage two process. The Agency seeks to offer an assessment and approval process that is comprehensive, thorough and fair. Consideration will be given to all the areas of the applicants lives, detailed within the BAAF Prospective Adopters Report. The assessment is usually carried out by a social worker in the Adoption Team, or by an Independent Social Worker who is in the pool of experienced, qualified consultants who are regularly used by the Agency, and supervised by the Team Manager. Where the assessment is carried out by an Independent Worker and it is not felt necessary for that worker to remain involved with the adopter(s) a permanent social worker in the Adoption Team will become the linked worker. Applicants are considered in terms of their capacity to look after children in a safe and responsible way that meets their health and developmental needs physical, emotional, intellectual and social. Prospective adopters are kept informed of progress throughout. The Agency seeks to balance the need to give applicants time to consider and adjust to new information and ideas and in some cases to demonstrate a capacity to change, whilst avoiding unnecessary delays. Enquiries from foster carers about adopting a child in their care will be given priority. Foster carers who register their interest to adopt children in their Updated February

14 care will be fast tracked and only need to do stage two of the adoption process. All prospective adopters receive a copy of their assessment report at least five working days before the Adoption Panel that will consider their approval and have the opportunity to comment on this report. At the current time the Agency delegates the preparation and assessment of Intercountry Adoption applicants to a local voluntary adoption agency. Please see Section above. The Agency is currently reviewing the contract in place with this Agency to ensure that the work undertaken with enquirers and applicants is in line with the requirements of the Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999 and the Intercountry Adoption Agency (Hague Convention) Regulation 2003 Approval Processes All prospective adoptive applicants seeking approval will have their application presented to the Agency s Adoption Panel for consideration. The Agency shares a joint Adoption Panel with Wokingham District Council, and West Berkshire Council (in accordance with Regulation 5(6) of the 1997 Regulations). The composition of the Panel is in line with Regulations. Panel is held monthly. Additional Panels are arranged if needed. The overall functioning of the Adoption Panel is managed by the Professional Adviser (Senior Adoption Consultant, Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service). Panel members and the Adoption Agency s decision-maker are supplied with copies of the reports to be considered by the Panel on each agenda item, in the week prior to the Panel meeting. The worker linked with the applicants, or in her/his absence, her/his Adoption Assistant Team Manager will be present when an application is considered to answer the Panel s questions and assist them in reaching a decision. Applicants are given the opportunity and encouraged to represent themselves at Panel. The recommendation of the Panel is conveyed verbally to the applicants on the day of Panel and to the Adoption Agency Decision Maker by the Berkshire Adoption Advisory Service within 24 hours. The Agency Decision Maker reaches the final decision in relation to any application within seven days of receiving the Panel minutes. Updated February

15 The Team Manager ensures letters confirming the Agency s decision are sent to the adoptive applicants within 5 working days of the Agency Decision Maker confirming his/her decision. Approval relates only to the placement of children from within the UK and does not cover placement of children from abroad. All approved adopters are firstly considered for the placement of a child via the Berkshire Local Authorities Adoption Consortium and the Adoption South Central Consortium (ASC). However, if a suitable placement is not identified within the first three months of applicants approval, approved adopters will, subject to their agreement, be made available for consideration by other placing Agencies via the National Adoption Register. Adoption Link is now also used to underpin these processes and improve placement efficiency. Approved applicants whose range of approval suggests that they are unlikely to be matched to a child via the two consortia within the first three months of their approval will be referred to the Register at an early stage (subject to the agreement of the other member Agencies) and access widened within Adoption Link. Approved applicants who do not have children placed with them will be reviewed on annual basis. The review of approval will be conducted by a member of the team, other than the linked worker, or the worker who carried out the original assessment. Where a decision is reached whereby either the applicants or the worker undertaking the review considers that it is not appropriate or deemed suitable for the approval to continue this will be referred back to the panel who recommended the original approval. Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) In the event of an application being deferred or turned down, prospective adopters are informed of their right to make representation or complaint. Where the Agency Decision Maker proposes not to approve the prospective adopters as suitable to adopt a child, they have a right to apply for the determination to be reviewed by the Independent Review Panel. They should do so in writing within 28 days from the date of their formal notification letter. The Agency has an identified post (Team manager, Adoption) responsible for liaising with the Independent Review Mechanism s Review Panel s Administrator in respect of any application to Panel. Updated February

16 The Agency will provide any information required by the IRM to the Panel s Administrator in a timely manner. The Agency will send one or more representatives to any Review Panel meeting and ensure that those attending are in a position to appropriately assist the Panel. The Agency will meet the costs incurred by the IRM in undertaking the Review. Support to Prospective Adopters Approved adopters will be given clear written information about the matching, introduction and placement process. All approved and waiting adopters will have a named, linked social worker who will provide regular support throughout the post approval and waiting period and assist applicants in considering the specific placement needs and issues relevant to children awaiting placement and to objectively evaluate whether it is appropriate to pursue possible matches. A training/support group is run periodically for waiting adopters. Where information on a child(ren) is complex or requires specialist knowledge to evaluate the implications of it, the Agency will seek to ensure that the prospective adopters have access to people who can help them to clarify and explore the implications of the information and thus to make an informed decision for themselves as to whether to proceed. Where there are significant medical issues, a meeting with the Agency s Medical Adviser will be arranged. The Agency will assess the risks there may be to the adoptive family in pursuing any identified match, alert the prospective adopters to any risks and give advice on these. The Agency will advise and support adoptive parents in preparing children within their household or wider network for the impending placement and adoption. Where adopters do not directly reflect the ethnicity or heritage of the child to be placed, the Agency will provide advice, training and support aimed at enabling the prospective adopters to foster the child s racial and ethnic identity in a way that is likely to lead to a positive self-image, knowledge about and connection to their origins. Consultation with and input from the Cultural Advisor will be initiated as required. The Agency will seek to help adopters, to understand the need for, and to develop, strategies to help the child address racism or other forms of discrimination. Updated February

17 The Agency will ensure that adoptive parents are informed prior to a placement about support services that are available within the area, should they or the child require specialist support after the Adoption Order has been made and how they might access these services. The Agency will ensure that prospective adopters are aware of what (if any) allowances may be payable in respect of the child and the process by which the payment of this allowance will be reviewed. The Agency will also ensure that adopters are aware of any welfare benefits to which they or the child might be entitled and how they might claim them. Following the placement of a child, all prospective adopters approved by the Agency will continue to receive support from an identified social worker within the Adoption Team, until such time as the final order is made. All adopters within Reading Borough Council area will also have access to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) team should they require specific advice/support in relation to the child s emotional and/or behavioural development. It is the expectation of the Agency that all children placed with Reading Borough Council approved adopters will have a named social worker who will be responsible for supervising the child s welfare and supporting her/him within the placement. The Agency will encourage adopters to formally sign up to any plan for direct or indirect contact with birth family members that was agreed at the time of placement and will support them in facilitating these arrangements Support will be made available to the adoptive parents to help them to establish an open acknowledgement of the child s adoptive situation within the family. The Agency will provide advice and support to the prospective adopters on progressing the application to adopt to the appropriate court at the appropriate time. The Agency will negotiate whether the Court Application Fee is to be met by the applicants or the placing agency. The legal costs of a contested adoption will be met without adopters having to first apply to Legal Services Commission for funding. In certain circumstances help may be given with the legal costs of uncontested cases. The Agency recognises that timely and effective support will help to avoid placement breakdowns. However, the complexity of children s needs, the impact of any neglect or maltreatment and the interaction with the adoptive parents patterns and ways of managing these difficulties, may threaten the placement whatever services have been made available. Updated February

18 Should a placement experience difficulties, whatever the level of severity the Agency will seek to ensure that: The child s welfare remains the first consideration. Separate support is available to the prospective adopters and the child. The review process in respect of the placement acknowledges the difficulties within the placement and identifies/agrees interventions and supports focused on achieving a positive outcome for the child. The possibility of placement breakdown is acknowledged and a contingency plan put in place. Adoption Support Services Where adoptive parents living in the Reading Borough Council area contact the Agency seeking information/advice/support due to difficulties with an adoptive placement, they will be offered an interview by the Post Adoption Worker or other appropriate worker from the Adoption Service and an assessment of their needs will be completed with them using the specific format of assessment designed for Post Adoption services. The Agency will wherever possible seek to provide information and a service, either in-house, a community resource or a service purchased externally in order to achieve a positive outcome and prevent the breakdown of the placement. Where the difficulties in a placement are such that the adoption breaks down, the Agency will seek to enable the adoptive parents to remain positively involved in the planning for their child. Any adoptive parents contacting the Agency seeking help at any stage following the granting of an adoption order, will be made aware of the menu of support services, both locally and nationally and how they might access these. The Complaints Procedure Updated February

19 1. All prospective adopters working with the agency and all birth parents of children for whom the Agency is planning adoption are provided with written information about how to complain, including contact details for the Complaints Officer. 2. All young people, for whom there is an adoption plan and who are of an appropriate age and understanding are likewise informed of the Complaints Procedures and how they can make a complaint should they wish to do so. 3. Other service users are also provided with details of the complaints process. 4. The Team Manager monitors all complaints received in respect of any aspect of the work undertaken by the team. Updated February

20 Details of the Registration Authority OFSTED, Piccadilly Gate, Store St, Manchester M1 2WD Tel: Website: Updated February

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