Statement of Purpose, Policy, Principles. and. Aims. Dorset County Council. Adoption Services

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1 Page 1 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service Statement of Purpose, Policy, Principles and Aims Dorset County Council Adoption Services March

2 Page 2 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service Updated: March 2013 CONTENTS Page number 1. Introduction 3 2. Aims and objectives of the Adoption Service 3 3. The Organisation and Management of the Adoption Service 5 4. Recruitment, preparation, assessment, approval and support 5 of adopters 5. The Adoption Panel 7 6. Adoption Support and related services 8 7. Special Guardianship 9 8. Monitoring and Evaluation of the Adoption Service 9 9. The Complaints Procedure 10 Appendix 1 Useful addresses 11 Appendix 2 Dorset Agency Adoption Panel 12 Appendix 3 Staffing of the Adoption Service 13 2

3 Page 3 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service 1.0 Introduction 1.1 Dorset County Council Children's Services Directorate is an approved Adoption Agency by virtue of Part 2 of the Care Standards Act This Statement of Purpose is prepared in accordance with the Local Authority Adoption Service (England) Regulations 2003 (Regulation 2) and the Adoption: National Minimum Standards 2011 (Standard 18). 1.2 The work of the Adoption Agency is carried out by Dorset County Council s Adoption Team, which is a part of the Family Placement Service. The Adoption Team provides a service to the following persons: children in care children who are in need of adoption children who have been placed for adoption children who have been adopted persons who wish to be considered as adoptive parents adoptive parents who have had children placed with them adoptive families adopted adults and their relatives those who wish to pursue a non agency adoption, including step parents. birth parents and others affected by adoption who are eligible to request an assessment of their needs for adoption support. 1.3 Work in respect of Inter-Country adoptions (enquiries, applications and assessments) is undertaken by a separate adoption agency, Parents and Children Together (PACT). Dorset operates a Service Level Agreement with PACT for the provision of this service. See Appendix 1 for contact details. 2.0 Aims and objectives of the Adoption Service 2.1 The underpinning objective of Dorset County Council Children's Services Directorate is to promote the wellbeing and development of each child who enters the adoption service throughout his/her childhood by striving to achieve the best possible outcomes. 2.2 Children will be listened to, their needs placed at the centre of any decision making about them, and the focus will at all times be on achieving good outcomes for each child as an individual throughout their childhood. 2.3 All parties including adoptees, birth families, prospective adopters and other interested parties will have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the adoption process, and to work in partnership with the relevant professionals. 2.4 All children in care will have the opportunity to live with their birth families if this can be safely achieved within a realistic timetable. For those children who cannot return to live with their birth families, the best alternative plan for permanence will be identified. When this plan includes adoption, the plan will be progressed with the minimum of delay at each stage of the process. 3

4 Page 4 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service 2.5 A sufficient number of adoptive placements will be recruited to provide for the range of needs of children waiting to be adopted. Prospective adopters will be actively recruited from diverse backgrounds, and will not be excluded from consideration on the basis of race/ethnicity, culture, disability, faith/religion, gender, age or sexual orientation. The focus of the assessment will be on the prospective adopter s ability to enable a child to achieve good outcomes. 2.6 Where children s needs cannot be met amongst the adopters already approved by Dorset, the resources of the South West Adoption Consortium, the National Adoption Register, and appropriate sources of publicity such as specialist magazines will be utilised. Wherever appropriate, Dorset will work in partnership with other local adoption agencies using creative initiatives to maximise opportunities to match children with suitable adopters. 2.7 When choosing adopters, every effort will be made to identify a good match with the assessed needs of the child, taking into account amongst other things the child s race/ethnic origin, culture, faith/religion and language. However the need to find a good match will be balanced against the need to avoid delay in achieving permanence, and it will be necessary to widen the search to families who are able to respect children s cultural heritage and promote their needs in other ways, if an ideal match is not immediately available. 2.8 Siblings being adopted will be placed together whenever possible, unless there is evidence that it would not be in their best interests. 2.9 Children who are adopted will be provided with information about their birth family and life story material which they can access as they grow up Contact between adopted children and their birth family, either direct or indirect, will be supported unless there is evidence that it will not be in their interests Children placed for adoption will be given Dorset s Children s Guide to Adoption, subject to their age and understanding A range of adoption support services will be provided to meet the needs of adopted children, their adoptive family, and their birth family, from the point of matching children with adopters through the adoption process, and as necessary throughout their childhood. The need for adoption support will be reviewed annually or on request. The focus will remain on achieving good outcomes for each child/young person Adoption Services will be provided by suitably qualified and experienced staff, who will themselves be supported through appropriate training and resources. 4

5 Page 5 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service 3.0 The Organisation and Management of the Adoption Service 3.1 Decision making, and arrangements for the management of the service, including the appointment of the Manager of the Adoption Service (the Team Manager of the Adoption Team) under Regulation 5 of the Local Authority Adoption Service Regulations 2003, are delegated through the Director for Children's Services to the Head of Children and Families. 3.2 The Team Manager of the Adoption Team reports to the Service Manager (Resources) who in turn reports to the Head of Children and Families. For further information about the staffing of the Adoption Team, please see Appendix There is an Adoption and Permanence Strategy Group that meets quarterly to discuss the conduct of the service, to seek ways in which the service could be improved and to co-ordinate the provision of the service. This group includes the Head of Children and Families, the Service Managers, the Team Manager of the Adoption Team, Team Managers of child care teams, the Chair of the Adoption Panel and the relevant Policy Managers. This group is currently under review, and ways to achieve more timely and effective service development are being explored. 3.4 The Agency reports to the Children s Services Overview Committee twice a year on the work of the Agency, and includes anonymised details of the children adopted and awaiting adoption in the previous 6 months. 3.5 The Team Manager of the Adoption Team provides progress monitoring on individual cases and trends in the service to the Adoption Panel at least 6 monthly. 3.6 Dorset County Council is a member of the South West Adoption Consortium, a group of Adoption Agencies from the statutory and voluntary sector in the South West, that meet regularly to exchange resources, and develop good practice. 3.7 The Adoption Team trains jointly with the Adoption Panel on an annual basis. 4.0 Recruitment, preparation, assessment, approval and support of adopters. 4.1 Recruitment of adopters is prioritised and targeted in order to maintain a sufficient number of approved prospective adopters from a variety of backgrounds. In general recruitment reflects the need to place children aged under 3 years whose future development is uncertain, children aged over 3 years, sibling groups, children from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, and children who are disabled. 4.2 No one aspect of the applicants circumstances will be taken as a deciding factor (apart from circumstances where acceptance as adopters is prohibited by law). This includes age, gender, marital status, health, smoking, weight and sexual orientation. Some of the key questions when considering the suitability of applicants are: whether an applicant has the necessary qualities to become a successful parent through adoption; whether they are likely to have the health and vigour to meet the many and varied demands of children as they grow up, and be there for them into their adulthood; and if the 5

6 Page 6 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service applicants are a couple, how well established, stable, and fulfilling their relationship is. The focus will always be on the applicant s ability to enable a child to achieve good outcomes. 4.3 The Adoption Service aims to recruit, assess, and support adoptive parents who are able to provide an environment where children will be valued, respected, emotionally supported, protected from harm and offered good standards of nutrition, physical care, health care, and hygiene. They must be committed to: supporting children to achieve their educational potential; enabling children to maintain contact with members of their family where appropriate; and promoting the child s cultural, ethnic and religious identity. 4.4 In respect of the recruitment of prospective adoptive parents, Dorset County Council has a website that provides information and contact details for the Adoption Team. A variety of media outlets are employed to invite expressions of interest in becoming adoptive parents. 4.5 Persons expressing an interest in adoption are sent a detailed Information Pack and invited to an information evening following initial telephone interview. If they wish formally to apply they are offered an initial assessment visit, and thereafter a full assessment if appropriate. 4.6 The assessment process for adoptive parents follows the requirements of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005, and The Adoption National Minimum Standards The full assessment will include: training and preparation course. completion of assessment form (Prospective Adopters Report) CRB checks on members of the household aged 16 years and over CRB checks on regular visitors to the household, if they may be involved in providing a significant degree of care of the child. checks of Children's Services Directorate and local agency records full medical assessments with the applicants' GP, with a review by the Agency medical adviser three personal references in writing, followed up with at least 2 personal interviews employers reference contact with ex partners, and children from previous relationships the completion of a full employment record, and personal history social work interviews, both individual and together where a couple is applying social work interviews with other members of the household, including any children already living there presentation at Dorset Agency Adoption Panel for a recommendation final decision on approval by the Agency Decision Maker. 4.7 The assessment will be completed as soon as is practicable, and will usually be presented to the Adoption Panel for consideration within 8 months of receipt of the formal application to be assessed. In response to the Government s stated intention that assessments should be completed more quickly in the future, assessments are being completed in less than 8 months where this is possible. 6

7 Page 7 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service 4.8 The Agency Decision Maker considers the application for approval, taking account of the recommendations of the Adoption Panel. In the event that the Decision Maker is minded not to approve adopters, or to withdraw approval from approved adopters, they will be notified in writing, and can make formal representations to the Agency, or refer the matter to the Independent Review Mechanism (see Appendix 1 for contact details), within 40 days of the notification. If representations are made to the Agency, it will be re-considered by the Adoption Panel and by the Agency Decision Maker. If the matter is referred to the Independent Review Mechanism, it will be considered by a Panel independent of Dorset County Council, and again by the Agency Decision Maker. 5.0 The Adoption Panel 5.1 Dorset Adoption Panel is established in accordance with the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and The Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 as amended by The Adoption Agencies and Independent Review of Determinations (Amendment) Regulations 2011, and The Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012, and The Adoption Statutory Guidance The terms of reference are set out in the Council s Constitution. 5.2 The role of the Adoption Panel is to: recommend whether prospective applicants are suitable to adopt, recommend whether a child should be placed for adoption with particular approved adopters, consider the adoption support needs, including financial support, of children, applicants, and placements, and offer the Agency suitable advice, consider those cases where the adoption placement has disrupted, consider any recommendation not to continue approval as prospective adopters following review of the prospective adopters, monitor the progress of children and adopters in the adoption process and offer advice to the agency as appropriate provide quality assurance feedback to the agency six monthly in respect of the quality of reports being presented to the Panel, and any other relevant aspect of the service. 5.3 The Chair of the Panel is responsible for ensuring that recommendations are consistent with statutory requirements, national standards, research evidence, and Dorset County Council policy. 5.4 Reports prepared in respect of applicants to adopt, and matching of children with adopters are all considered in advance by Adoption Panel members. Applicants and prospective adopters are invited to attend the Adoption Panel when their approval and matching are being considered. When the adoption involves a child from a minority ethnic or religious background, advice will be sought from the Diversity Officer in respect of the implications for their matching with adopters. 5.5 The Panel is chaired by a person who is independent of the Children's Services Directorate who has substantial experience of adoption work. The Central List of Panel members currently includes one elected member, three 7

8 Page 8 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service officers of the Children's Services Directorate (social work members), two medical advisers, and four additional independent persons. See Appendix 2 for further details of membership of the Adoption Panel. 5.6 The Agency Decision Maker makes the decision on behalf of the Agency in respect of adopters and matching, having considered the recommendations of the Adoption Panel. 6.0 Adoption Support and related services 6.1 Adoption support is provided in accordance with the Adoption Support Services Regulations The identified Adoption Support Services Adviser for Dorset County Council is the Adoption Team Manager. 6.2 Adoption support services are provided from the point that a child is matched with adopters, and continue to be available if required through to the adopted child s 18 th birthday and beyond in certain circumstances. Services may be offered to the child, the adoptive parents, birth parents and siblings of an adopted child, children of the adoptive parents, and other significant relatives. 6.3 A range of services may be provided, including: Counselling, advice, and information Membership of Adoption UK for 3 years from placement Financial support, either as a single or a recurring payment Support groups for children and adoptive or birth parents Assistance with contact between the child and their birth family, including letter box contact Therapeutic services for adopted children Training for adoptive parents to enable them to meet an adopted child s special needs Short breaks and other relevant services to support an adoption placement, particularly when there is the risk of disruption A framework for discussing and learning from disruptions 6.4 An assessment of adoption support needs leading to an adoption support plan will be carried out prior to the matching of a child with adoptive parents. The support plan will be agreed with the prospective adopters, and will include arrangements for promoting the child s health, education, and contact with birth family, and any arrangements for financial support. 6.5 The adoption support plan will be reviewed annually or more frequently if necessary. A new assessment of adoption support needs will be undertaken on request. 6.6 A counselling and support service will be provided to adopted adults who wish to access their birth records or adoption records. 6.7 A support service may be made available to birth relatives and other interested parties who wish to access adoption records, in certain circumstances. 8

9 Page 9 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service 7.0 Special Guardianship 7.1 The Adoption and Children Act 2002 introduced Special Guardianship Orders. These Orders provide an alternative form of permanence for children for whom adoption is not appropriate. The holder of a Special Guardianship Order has Parental Responsibility for the child, and a degree of legal protection in respect of intervention by parents or others with an interest. 7.2 The Adoption Team provides information and advice in respect of Special Guardianship to prospective applicants and professionals, and undertakes all assessments of the suitability of applicants at the request of the Court. 7.3 The Adoption Team provides support services to Special Guardians and other relevant persons including the child and their parents. 8.0 Monitoring and Evaluation of the Adoption Service 8.1 The performance of the Adoption Service is continuously monitored and evaluated through supervision and line management processes within Children s Services. An Adoption Score Card is published by the DfE annually, which provides comparative data for each Local Authority on a range of performance measures, including the timeliness of intervention for children who are adopted. 8.2 Reports on developments within the adoption service, and the progress of children within the adoption process are provided for the scrutiny of the Children s Services Overview Committee at 6 monthly intervals. 8.3 The Adoption Panel receives the reports prepared by social workers in respect of prospective adoptive parents, and in respect of the matching between children and their adopters, and provides a quality assurance function through 6 monthly reports to the agency. The Adoption Panel also provides feedback on the appropriateness and effectiveness of policy and procedure in respect of the adoption service. 8.4 Independent reviewing officers conduct reviews of all children within the adoption process providing independent evaluation of the plans for each child. 8.5 User feedback is collected and evaluated in respect of the experience of adoptive parents during the process of assessment, approval, and placement. 8.6 The adoption service is the subject of inspection by Ofsted at approximately 3 yearly intervals. See Appendix 1 for contact details. 9

10 Page 10 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service 9.0 The Complaints Procedure 9.1 The Complaints and Representations procedure complies with the Children Act 1989 requirements. All prospective adopters and all children who are looked after receive a copy of the Complaints and Representations procedure, and the leaflets are also available on request. The Children's Services Directorate is committed to approaching the investigation of complaints with a genuine wish to resolve matters and a belief that there will always be something that can be learnt when things do not go according to plan. Should this happen, there is a three stage complaints procedure which provides opportunities to put things right and improve the service for the future. 9.2 When a service user is unhappy with some aspect of the service they have received, staff will endeavour to resolve the matter informally and quickly if possible. 9.3 if the matter cannot be resolved informally, a complaint will be registered under stage 1 of the procedure. The complainant will be supported to put their complaint in writing, assisted by a friend if desired. Children will be offered the services of an advocate. The relevant local manager will investigate and respond, if possible within 10 working days. The response to the complaint will be monitored and evaluated by the Children s Complaints Officer. 9.4 If the complainant remains unhappy with some aspect of the response, the complaint will progress to stage 2, and the Children s Complaints Officer will appoint an independent person to conduct a thorough investigation. A report will be produced for the Head of Children and Families, who will write to the complainant with the outcome of the complaint, if possible within 28 days of the original complaint. 9.5 If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the stage 2 investigation, the final stage of the complaints process is an independent review panel, appointed by the Complaints Officer. The complainant has 28 days in which to make this request, and the panel then meets if possible within 28 days of the request. The panel does not conduct a new investigation, but examines all of the material compiled during the complaint, together with any representations from the complainant, and can ask questions of the complainant and the Directorate. The panel recommendations are passed to the Director for Children s Services, who will provide the Directorate s final response to the complaint within 28 days. 9.6 The Local Government Ombudsman will independently examine the complaint if the complaints process has been exhausted, and there is sufficient justification. See Appendix 1 for contact details. 10

11 Page 11 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service Appendix 1 USEFUL ADDRESSES Dorset County Council Adoption Service Parents and Children Together (PACT): Dorset Children s Services Complaints Officer: The Adoption and Kinship Team Dorset Children's Services Directorate Woodside Monkton Park Winterborne Monkton Dorchester DT2 9PS Telephone: Website: Freepost (SCE6005) Reading Berkshire RG1 4ZR Tel: Web site: Dorset County Council County Hall Dorchester DT1 1XJ Tel: Local Government Ombudsman: PO Box 4771 Coventry CV4 0EH Tel Independent Review Mechanism: Unit 4, Pavilion Business Park, Royds Hall Road, Wortley, LEEDS LS12 6AJ Telephone: Tel: Ofsted: Royal Exchange Buildings St Ann s Square Manchester M2 7LA Tel : E Mail: 11

12 Page 12 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service Appendix 2 DORSET AGENCY ADOPTION PANEL Central List of Members (as at March 2012) Mrs Mary Davidson Chair Independent member Mr Iain Hunter Vice-Chair Independent member, Adopted Person Ms Jan Wolverson 2 nd Vice Chair Team Manager, Dorset County Council Ms Elaine Fowle Social Worker, Dorset County Council Ms Nicola David Team Manager, Dorset County Council Dr Sarah Morris Agency Medical Adviser Dr Philp Wylie Agency Medical Advisor Clr Michael Bevan Elected Member, Dorset County Council Mrs Jennifer Thompson Independent member, Adoptive Parent Ms Jackie Woon Dr Cathryn Franks Panel Agency Adviser, non voting member: Independent member, Adopted Person Independent member, Clinical Psychologist Mr Jim Chamberlain Policy Manager (Fostering and Adoption), Dorset County Council Panel Legal Adviser, non voting member: Mr Dan Menaldino Principal Solicitor, Dorset County Council Panel Agency Decision Makers: Mr Stuart Riddle Ms Sandra Conroy Acting Head of Children and Families, Dorset County Council Service Manager, Dorset County Council Panel Administrator: Ms Anita Perry Contact Tel:

13 Page 13 - Statement of Purpose for the Adoption Service Appendix 3 STAFFING OF DORSET COUNTY COUNCIL ADOPTION SERVICE Service Manager (Resources) (Acting) Ms Penny Lodwick Adoption and Kinship Team Manager (registered manager) Ms Jennifer Warr BA (Hons) MsC DipSW 1995, University of Oxford, is the manager appointed to manage the Adoption Service, in accordance with Regulation 5 of the Local Authority Adoption Service Regulations She joined Dorset as a child care social worker in 2000, and joined the Adoption Team initially as a social worker in She was appointed Assistant Team Manager in 2010, and Team Manager in Assistant Team Managers Sara Warren Debbie Scriven Adoption Social Workers Tessa Burrows Jill Cain June Darnell Stella Gillies Sulwen Taylor Penny Thomas Tricia Veli Laura Wood Marian Vallely Karen Edwards Sue Campbell Tracy Goode Craig Barrett (social work assistant) All social work staff working in the Adoption Team are suitably qualified and experienced. 13

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