Rhondda Cynon Taff Adoption Agency. Statement of Purpose

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1 Rhondda Cynon Taff Adoption Agency Statement of Purpose

2 Adoption Service Statement of Purpose Contents 1. Mission Statement 2. Aims & Objectives 3. Principles and standards of care 4. Services Provided 5. Procedures and processes a. Recruitment b. Assessment and approval c. Adoption panel d. Training e. Adoption Support Services f. Complaints and Representations 6. Monitoring and Evaluation 7. Management and Staffing Structure 8. Contact details 2

3 1. Mission Statement The primary purpose of the Children s Services Division is to ensure the provision of effective social services to safeguard and support young people in need as defined by the Children Act 1989; to provide high quality care and permanent family homes for children who are unable to live with their birth families and to develop, deliver and commission high quality services. Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council is committed to ensuring the provision of a comprehensive adoption service. The adoption agency is guided by and complies with the following legislation and guidance: Children Act 1989 Adoption & Children Act 2002 National Minimum Standards for Local Authority Adoption Services for Wales Care Standards Act 2000 The Adoption Support Services (Local Authorities) (Wales ) Regulations 2005 The Adoption Agencies (Wales) Regulations 2005 The Local Authority Adoption Service ( Wales) Regulations 2007 The vision for Children s Services is set out in RCT s Single Plan, namely that Children and Young People in Rhondda Cynon Taff will be healthy, well educated, confident and creative individuals contributing to and living safely within their communities. As such the vision directly reflects the 7 core aims for children and young people set out in the Welsh Government s Rights to Action that all children and young people : 1. have a flying start in life 2. have a comprehensive range of education and learning opportunities 3. enjoy the best possible health, freedom from abuse, victimisation and exploitation 4. have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities 5. are listened to, treated with respect, and have their race and cultural identity recognised 6. have a safe home and community which supports physical and emotional well-being 7. are not disadvantaged by poverty 3

4 2. Aims and Objectives The adoption agency supports and contributes to the Divisional Directorate s mission by aiming to provide an effective, efficiently managed and high quality range of adoption services within available resources and budgets to meet the needs of children who have a plan for adoption or who are to be adopted within their family of origin. The agency aims to ensure the best possible outcomes for children and their families and seeks to provide services to all those affected by adoption in line with regulation and guidance. To meet the statutory requirements of the Adoption and Children Act To meet the National Minimum Standards for Adoption Services and work towards continuing improvement of services for adopted children and their families. To have in place a recruitment strategy which ensures that a range of adoptive placements are available either locally or through external agencies to meet the assessed needs of all children where the permanent plan is for adoption. To ensure that people wishing to be considered as adoptive parents are welcomed without prejudice regardless of ethnic origin, age, disability, background, marital or employment status and are considered on their individual merits. To ensure that anyone seeking to use adoption services, including prospective adopters, birth families and those wishing to adopt from abroad are treated with respect and courtesy and their enquiry is dealt with in a timely and efficient manner. To develop adoption support services in line with the Adoption Support Regulations. A range of support services would include practical, financial and therapeutic/advisory support in partnership with other agencies. To promote, in accordance with RCT s Permanency Policy, that when a child s permanent future cannot be secured within its family of origin and it is in the child s best interests, that he or she will be provided with the opportunity of stability and legal security within an adoptive family. To engage in child centred matching, introduction and placement processes. To listen to children and take into account their wishes and feelings when making decisions on their behalf. 4

5 3. Principles and Standards of Care Children and young people represent the future generation. For this reason, the provision of services to children in need is an investment. It is important that such services are delivered in ways which respect the status of children as emergent citizens with rights and duties of their own. This approach underpins Children s Services in Rhondda Cynon Taff; it is endorsed by the principles contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the Children Act 1989 and in the Citizen s Charter. SAFEGUARDING PERSONAL INFORMATION Data Protection The Community and Children s Services Group provides guidance to all staff on the keeping, storage and handling of personal information for both electronic and manually recorded data. Confidentiality The Community and Children s Services Group operates a confidentiality code of conduct applicable to all staff, including adopters, prospective adopters, Adoption Panel members and professionals in other agencies working to effect the placement of children and who have access to personal information held within the group. Records are held in accordance with Adoption Agency Regulations for a period of 100 years. A specific facility for archive records is available within the RCT. Recording Policy The Community and Children s Services Group has a recording policy which sets out detailed guidance on the purpose and requirements for record keeping. MAXIMISING POSITIVE OUTCOMES Partnership Working The adoption agency works in partnership with prospective adopters, adopters, children, young people, their families of origin and childcare professionals across the County Borough including teachers and health practitioners. It also works in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies that are involved in the delivery of adoption and wider children s services. The adoption agency is an active member of the South Wales Adoption Agencies Consortium. This is comprised of nine local authorities and two voluntary agencies in South Wales where children may be referred for adoptive placements and available adopters referred for children. 5

6 Education The Community and Children s Services Group promotes educational opportunities for looked after and adopted children with the aim of improving their educational achievements and life chances. Pre adoption support is offered by specialist professionals working with looked after children and although post adoption these services become more limited it is an aim of the service to expand this area of support. Health The Community and Children s Services Group is committed to ensuring that the health needs of looked after children and adopted children are identified and met. Adopters play an important role in ensuring that children placed with them continue to receive appropriate healthcare including statutory medicals, access to specialist care including CAMHS services, dental and optical checks. Pre adoption medical support is offered by the appointed Medical Adviser to the agency from the Health Board. Promoting Independence In recruiting adoptive families, the adoption agency aims to ensure that young people are provided with the best opportunity to grow into healthy adults with the ability to sustain positive relationships, learn to take care of themselves and contribute positively to society. Adopters are encouraged to help young people develop a sense of identity with knowledge about their origins and, where it is judged to be in the young person s best interests, to ensure that agreed contact arrangements with their families of origin are supported and facilitated. SAFETY AND SECURITY Safe Care The adoption service aims to provide adoptive placements for children which protect them from abuse, neglect, exploitation and deprivation. Careful screening of all prospective adopters is an essential part of the approval process and during the assessment the adoption social worker will take up checks including Criminal Records Bureau and a minimum of three personal references and work related information from employers. The agency will reserve the right to take up other checks felt necessary to verify information given from the applicants or other sources. All prospective adopters assessment reports will focus on the applicants own life experiences, strengths, values and vulnerabilities and how these might impact on their ability to deal with the challenges of adoptive parenting. The adoption agency will work closely with the local Child Protection Unit where allegations of abuse are made and the safety and welfare of the child is 6

7 the paramount consideration. The All Wales Child Protection Procedures will be followed in dealing with allegations of abuse against adopters and their families. Managing Behaviour Training on behaviour management is included in the preparation process and there are opportunities for adopters to discuss with professionals experienced in adoption or with specialist knowledge how to manage certain behaviours once children have been placed. The adoption agency has a clear view regarding corporal punishment, which is not permitted in any form along with deprivation of food and clothing. Appropriate sanctions should reflect the child s age, understanding and previous experiences. Bullying The adoption agency is opposed to bullying of all forms. It is the right of a child to live and learn in an environment where they feel safe and are free from humiliation, oppression and abuse.prospective adoptive parents and adopters are expected to promote an anti bullying and anti discriminatory clulture in their homes and to set positive role modelling behaviour and attitude. IDENTITY Valuing Diversity The adoption agency aims to provide placements to children that will promote equality and recognise the value of social diversity. The Department s recruitment strategy outlines the need to recruit a range of adopters from a variety of backgrounds who can address the needs of children arising from race, culture, ethnic origin, language, disability, gender and sexuality. The adoption agency aims to place children wherever possible with adopters of a matching racial and cultural heritage. Where this cannot be achieved, a plan will be formulated to ensure that the children s needs in relation to culture and religious identity are met through the provision of appropriate support services. Contact The adoption agency is committed to ensuring that children in adoptive placements maintain indirect and sometimes direct contact with family members in accordance to their individual adoption support plan. Adopters will be supported and advised in the maintenance of such arrangements. Listening to Children The adoption agency welcomes feedback from adopted young people and encourages adopters to assist their adopted children to participate in any consultation opportunities. A Children s Guide to the adoption service has been produced for children in accordance with regulation. 7

8 4. Services Provided The following services are available through the adoption service: The service will be accessible during office hours Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm. Outside of these hours support is available via RCT s Emergency Duty Team. Information and guidance is provided to all parties involved in the adoption process. Advice and guidance is provided to enquirers with an interest in becoming adopters both domestic and inter-country. Preparation and training of prospective adopters. Individual assessments of prospective adopters Family finding and a managed matching process for the placement of children. Adoption support functions including the support of adoption placements. Provision of court reports in adoption proceedings. Counselling of birth parents wishing to relinquish a child for adoption and for non relinquishing parents where the plan is for the child to be adopted. Assessment of support needs for those adoptive families who have adopted through the agency and for those who are no longer eligible to receive this from their placing agency. Facilitating a direct and indirect contact service for children and their birth families. Training for children and families, social work staff and other professionals on adoption and permanence issues. Acting as intermediary for adults wishing to trace their birth families or adopted relatives Acting as advisers for those adults wishing to access their birth records Contributing to policies, procedures and practice guidance in relation to children looked after, fostering and adoption. Commissioning of adoption placements and adoption related services including support services and financial support to adopters as appropriate. 5. Procedures and Processes a) Recruitment of adopters Applications are welcome from individuals and families from all parts of RCT and outside and all cultural, religious and ethnical backgrounds, regardless of marital status, employment, gender, sexuality or disability. A written eligibility criteria is provided to all interested prospective adopters as agreed within the membership of the South Wales Adoption Consortium. Adoption applicants must be over 21years old and in reasonable health to provide care for a child. 8

9 A criminal record is not necessarily a barrier to applying to adopt but anyone who has been convicted of an offence against a child and certain other specified offences in regulation prohibit approval as an adopter. The purpose of the initial recruitment processes are to provide information about adoption and the competencies required to become an adopter and the support available in order that members of the public are enabled to make informed decisions about whether to apply to adopt. It is also an opportunity for unsuitable applicants to be screened or counselled out. Enquirers who indicate an interest are offered an opportunity to attend an information session and are visited at home by a Social Worker from the adoption team. The purpose of the visit is to: Provide information about adoption and to assist enquirers to decide if adoption is appropriate for them. Provide preliminary information about the reasons for wanting to adopt, the qualities needed and the support and training that is available in carrying out the role. Explain the application, assessment and approval process. Identify issues which may impact upon suitability to adopt. b) Assessment and Approval of Adopters Assessment and approval of adopters is carried out in accordance with the National Minimum Standards for Adoption Services and Adoption Agencies (Wales) Regulations A training course for prospective adopters is provided six times a year in conjunction with neighbouring authorities.the course is held over three days and is facilitated by an independent trainer.attendance on the course is compulsory before the assessment process can begin. Prospective adopters are required to undergo a series of checks to determine their suitability to adopt. These include a medical with the applicant s own GP and a Criminal Records Bureau check to ascertain if any serious offences would rule out taking the application further. Less serious offences are discussed and are balanced against the skills and qualities being offered. A full range of safeguarding checks are routinely carried out on all applicants to adopt. Identifying checks e.g. passport, driving licence, birth certificate, utility bills. Documentation to support any name changes. Confirmation of National Insurance Number. Enhanced CRB disclosure on each applicant and all members of the household aged 16. Marriage and divorce certificates where relevant. 9

10 Written and Social Worker verified references from 3 personal referees who have known the applicants for at least three years and can comment on their relationship with children and other adults.references from the local authority where the applicant has lived since the age of 18 and CSSIW. Employer reference from the current or most recent employer and any employer where the applicant has worked with children. Medical examination by the applicant s GP which are screened by the agency Medical Adviser. Relative references as appropriate Any other source that the Social Worker feels necessary to support or verify information required for their report Assessments of all prospective adopters are carried out by experienced and appropriately qualified social workers using BAAF Prospective Adopter Form (PAR). A session is held by the team to explain to applicants the areas covered by the assessment following the conclusion of the training. During the assessment all members of the household, including birth children are interviewed and their views obtained. Adult children who no longer live in the home are interviewed wherever practical and feedback sought about their experiences of being parented by the applicants. Ex partners are also interviewed unless there is an explicit reason not to do so with the agreement of the Adoption Team Manager. Where necessary the Social Worker will seek additional information from schools, other professionals, previous employers or extended family members who have knowledge of the applicant/s and/or their parenting abilities. A health and safety checklist is completed covering all aspects of health and safety within the home including the risks posed by pets. Subject to the requirements of legislation and guidance on the disclosure of records, the PAR assessment report is shared with the applicant/s who have up to 14 days to make suggestions or amendments to the report. Information given in confidence by referees is not disclosed although referees are encouraged to share this with applicants where this will assist the assessment and decision making process. Applicants are entitled and encouraged to make their own written contributions to the PAR. c) The Adoption Panel All completed assessments are presented to the RCT Adoption Panel for recommendation regarding the applicant/s suitability to adopt. The Panel is made up of people who have either personal knowledge of adoption or have a professional expertise in this area. Someone independent of Rhondda Cynon Taff Children s Services chairs the Panel and many of the Panel members are also required to be independent of the local authority. The role of the Panel is to consider each application and to make a recommendation as to whether or not the applicant is suitable to adopt. The 10

11 Panel may also advise on how many children and what ages would best fit with their abilities/preferences. The Panel also considers and makes recommendations about whether a child s needs will be best met by an adoptive placement and which adoptive family is best able to meet each child s needs. Applicants are invited to attend Panel in person and can meet Panel members and make their own representation in relation to the recommendation. The final decision regarding approval is made within 7 days of Panel by the Assistant Director of Children s Services who is the Agency Decision Maker. Written confirmation of the agency decision is then sent to all applicants and the child s birth parents where a child has been matched. Applicants who are not considered suitable to adopt have a right of representation to the agency for the decision to be reconsidered if they feel they have been unfairly represented, or to an independent body through the Independent Review of Determinations (IRD). The Independent Review of Determinations is operated by the Welsh Government and allows access to an independent Panel, which will make a recommendation back to the agency for consideration. This is not an appeals process and the agency can decide not to uphold the IRD Panel s recommendation. d) Training The adoption agency is committed to providing high quality training for adopters both to prepare them for adopting and to assist and support them in the task of caring for their adopted children. All adopters are required to attend preparation training as part of the preparation, assessment and approval process. All adopters have the right to ask for additional training and this is an area for development. This is intended to build on the knowledge gained during the preparation groups and to enable adopters to develop their skills as they gain practical knowledge of parenting. Training can be offered as part of after adoption support. Individual adopters are invited to attend relevant training events to expand their knowledge and develop skills. e) Adoption Support Services The Adoption Support Services Advisor (ASSA) for Rhondda Cynon Taff is the Adoption Team Manager. Adoption support services are provided for: Children and their adopters who may require advice, support or counselling. Support to parents, children and relatives from the point adoption is identified as the plan for the child. Birth parents and family members seeking information about the adopted child. 11

12 Adopted adults seeking access to their birth records or assistance in tracing family members Requests for adoption support will be subject to an assessment to determine the appropriate response and service required. An assessment of all parties will be undertaken by the childcare social worker when the plan for a child is identified as adoption and a support plan will be drawn up. This support plan is presented to the Adoption Panel and the Agency Decision Maker when matching a child with approved adopters. The plan is then implemented by a range of people and by access to a range of support services. The adoption support plan is subject to review and should form part of discussion at adoption reviews held until the point of Adoption Order where upon it should be formally revisited and adjusted as necessary in line with Adoption Support Regulations. Adoption support services may be provided directly from the Adoption Team, other specialists within the local authority, or commissioned from external agencies depending on the assessed needs identified. The Adoption Team Social Worker has a key role in the support, of adopters. They are also responsible for ensuring a plan for post placement and post adoption support is drawn up and implemented. The Social Worker in conjunction with the Team Manager acts as the link with the Directorate to raise awareness of the responsibilities of the adoption service with colleagues. They also have a role in assessing families who adopt children known to them or from overseas and in delivering services such as counselling to those others affected by adoption, whether they are adopted persons or relatives. Social workers for children in need of adoptive placements have an important role to play. They provide essential information about the child, the family background and it is important part of their role to represent the wishes and feelings of the child especially where the child is very young and unable to do this himself/herself. Together with the adoption agency the child s Social Worker will attempt to match the right adoptive family for each child, to help establish the child within that family and ensure support needs have been identified and are being met. Prior to the Adoption Order being granted the child s Social Worker will carry out statutory visits to the child and will assist the adopters in making their application to court for an Adoption Order within an agreed timescale. The adoption team facilitates a monthly toddler group for adoptive families and a twice yearly fun days. An adoption support group for approved adopters has recently been established in conjunction with neighbouring authorities and it is envisaged that this will run four times a year. 12

13 Education of looked after children (Ymbarel) RCT provides support to foster carers through the provision of advice, individual tuition and support to children in school. If identified as an ongoing support need this service can be continued via the Educational Psychologist in liaison with either RCT adopters or the Psychology services in the area the child will be placed. Identification of needs should be included within the child s support plan... Health Co-ordination and Advice (Ymbarel) Information, advice and support regarding health issues for looked after children is available to Social Workers and foster carers by the Looked After Nurse Specialists and Primary Mental Health Nurse Specialist. Support may be extended to adoptive parents prior to the Adoption Order being granted. The adoption agency Medical Advisor seeks to ensure all health information is made available to adoptive families and acts as support/adviser as requested. Emergency Duty Team The Community and Children s Services Group operates an out of hours Emergency Duty Social Work Team. This service is available to prospective adopters in a crisis situation where immediate intervention is necessary to ensure safety. Financial support Financial support can be available in a variety of circumstances but will be subject to assessment of need and annual review. It will be an expectation that all other avenues of financial assistance, e.g. the benefits system, have been explored and that the needs of the child are the primary focus of assessment. There is a policy determining the criteria for assessment and agreement of financial support. Financial assistance for essential equipment to help with caring for children may be available as a one off payment at the time of making an adoption placement. f) Complaints and Representations The Community and Children s Services Group welcomes complaints, comments and suggestions to improve services from service users. The complaints procedure recognises the vulnerability of complainants and the need to resolve complaints at the most informal level possible. Adopters, prospective adopters, birth families or others receiving a service are clearly entitled to use the complaints procedure if they feel they cannot resolve the difficulty with the individuals concerned or their managers. On receipt of a complaint the Representations and Complaints Unit send an acknowledgement to the complainant within 3 working days. The Manager of the adoption service will provide a written response to the complainant within 10 working days. If the complaint is not resolved at this stage, it can be considered on a formal basis. The complainant has to respond within 20 days of receipt of the letter from the Adoption Manager. A copy of the leaflet How to comment or complain about our services is available to all service users on request and is also available via the RCT website. 13

14 A record of complaints and outcomes is kept by the Complaints Officer for the local authority and information used to improve the quality of service delivery. 6. Monitoring and Evaluation of the Adoption Service The National Minimum Standards for Adoption require that this Statement of Purpose is reviewed at least annually. As part of the strategic planning for the service annual reviews will be carried out to ensure the quality of service delivery. The service is also required to produce a Review of Quality of Service Report on an annual basis to review the effectiveness of the service. This report has been made available to the Care & Social Services Inspectorate Wales which is responsible for regulating and inspecting the service. It is available on request to service users, representatives of service users and staff. Monitoring of the adoption service is undertaken through regular supervision of staff and clear lines of accountability. The Service Manager in line with RCT policy requirements supervises the Adoption Team Manager. The Adoption Team Manager, Service Manager and Head of Service meet on a bi-monthly basis to review service performance. The following systems are in place to audit the effectiveness of the adoption service: Business Planning The service is monitored via Business Planning structure for the Children s Services Division. Statistical information on all aspects of the service is collected and analysed and contributes to service planning. An annual Plan is produced which evaluates the work of the team during the year against key objectives and outlines future development. Supervision - All staff employed in the adoption service receive regular individual supervision accordance with RCT s Supervision Policy. Team meetings and Practice Development Meetings are held regularly. Adoption Panel-The Adoption Panel has an important quality assurance role and provides feedback to the agency about the quality of work presented. Panel members are appraised and reviewed annually. Service User Feedback- Any person involved with the adoption agency is encouraged to provide feedback to the Adoption Team Manager. A questionnaire system to gather the views of prospective and approved adopters is under development. This will inform future reviews of the quality of the service. Trends from complaints and representations are also an important part of monitoring and evaluation of the service. 14

15 7. Management and Organisational Structure Overall management responsibility for the service lies with the Service Manager Placement Services, who has a strategic role in the development of the service alongside the Adoption Team Manager. The Adoption Team Manager has day to day operational responsibility for the management of the service and supervision of the Adoption team. Service Director Children and Families (Agency Decision Maker) Head of Looked After Services Children s Service Manager Placement Services Adoption Team Manager Senior Practitioner Senior Practitioner Social Workers x 4 (full time) Social Workers x 2 (part time) All Social Workers in the team are professionally qualified, experienced practitioners registered with the Care Council for Wales. They all have post qualifying experience in child and family work and adoption. 8. Name & address of the manager of the service Angela Harris Team Manager (ASSA) Adoption Service Rhondda-Cynon-Taff CBC Ty Pennant Catherine Street Pontypridd CF37 2TB Tel:

16 The manager holds a CQSW and Diploma in Social Work and has over thirty years experience in social care including management of an adoption service. 9. Address & telephone number of CSSIW Rhondda Cynon Taff Adoption Service is regulated by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW). Contact details for CSSIW are: South East Wales Welsh Government Rhydycar Business Park Merthyr Tydfil CF48 1UZ Tel: Fax: Amended January

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