ADOPTION SERVICE STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

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1 London Borough of Waltham Forest Children and Families Services ADOPTION SERVICE STATEMENT OF PURPOSE Revised November 2013 (Draft to be ratified) 1

2 1. Introduction The Statement of Purpose is a requirement of the Local Authority Adoption Service (England) Regulations The Adoption Agency s policies, procedures and written guidelines accurately reflect the Purpose. All members of staff and adopters are supplied with a copy of the Statement. 2. Principle Aims and Objectives of Children and Families Services The London Borough of Waltham Forest is committed to providing excellent standards of care to Looked After Children, to maximising their life chances and to helping them enjoy stable and permanent relationships with significant adults. The Council expects that its Adoption Service will work in partnership with all colleagues involved in the planning and care of Looked After Children, including colleagues in Health and Education. Waltham Forest also collaborates with consortium members and makes Inter Agency arrangements with regard to Adoption work. Our objective is to fully develop the corporate parenting role and to realise our commitment to achieving positive outcomes for children in public care. Equality 1. Every effort must be made to place children within their own cultural, racial, linguistic and religious communities, wherever that is possible. Where this is not possible, plans must be put in place to keep the child s culture alive for them. 2. Children who are looked after by Waltham Forest must be given the opportunity to develop a positive identity and high self-esteem. Children will not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, culture, religion, language, age, gender, sexuality, disability or social class in terms of service provision. 3. Children with disabilities must be placed in an environment that recognises and caters for their disability, and at the same time promotes their social inclusion. 4. The disadvantages experienced by Looked After Children must be recognised and appropriate Care Plans created for them, which address their needs for example, education support, mental health provision and leisure opportunities. This is fully explored with adopters, addressed at the matching stage and reflected in Adoption Support Plans. 5. Waltham Forest is a widely diverse community. The differences in child rearing practices, family values and attitudes, across the different spectrums of racial, cultural, religious and social classes living in the borough, must be respected and understood. 2

3 3. Core Values The Child s Welfare 1. The welfare of the children will always be at the centre of planning. Participation of the Child 2. The child must be encouraged and supported to participate in decisions that affect their life, insofar as this is consistent with their age and understanding. Partnership with Parents and Family 3. Parents with parental responsibility and significant adults in the child s life must be assisted to properly participate in the planning and decision-making processes concerned with their child s future. They must be properly informed and consulted and their wishes ascertained and respected. Access to independent support is facilitated through the Adoption Support Team. NB: Whilst parents retain parental responsibility, the exercise of this and input of other family members may be limited as a result of court imposed limitations or decisions taken by the local authority in the exercise of its duties to those children for whom it has assumed legal responsibility. Such decisions must be based primarily on the welfare of the child and not the needs of the adults. Maintaining Contact with Birth Families 4. Insofar as it is consistent with their welfare, every effort must be made to ensure that the child maintains an appropriate level and type of contact with their birth family and community. Responsibilities Towards Looked After Children 5. Under the revised Children Act 2006 and Adoption and Children Act 2002, the local authority has a duty to provide services to Children In Need and where children cannot remain in their families, to provide accommodation. Where children cannot return to their family of origin permanent alternative care must be identified. In the first instance, every effort should be made to maintain the child in its own birth family and or community network. 6. Looked After Children should not be disadvantaged by that status and the local authority must act as a good parent by ensuring that the child has a high standard of care, opportunities and life chances. Children s Rights 7. Children must be made aware of their rights as Looked After Children and have information that allows them to make representations and complaints where necessary. 3

4 4. Adoption Service Objectives 1. To provide a comprehensive, high quality adoption service to Waltham Forest s residents this needs to be sensitive to the needs of all and recognises differences reflected in ethnic origin, culture, faith, gender, disability, economic position and sexual orientation. 2. To promote a secure, permanent family life and to consider adoption as an option for all children looked after by Waltham Forest Children and Families Services. 3. To provide information, advice and guidance to residents waiting to adopt. 4. To actively recruit families for children in Waltham Forest needing adoption. 5. To provide support to all those involved in adoption. This includes children and families who need support after an Adoption Order is made as well as adults affected by adoption, including birth family members. 6. To provide open services which encourage and enable consultation with our service users. 7. To be accessible and accountable for all our work and leading ambition on behalf of children. 5. Services for Children Process of Referral Work with Children Looked After by Waltham Forest s Children and Families Services is undertaken by Children in Care social workers. As far as is safe and practical, children are maintained within their family of origin. Where this is no longer possible, alternative carers need to be identified. The social workers identify children where adoption is the Care Plan and then refer the children to the Adoption Assessment Team. This should occur no later than the four month Looked After Review, unless the child is a relinquished baby whereby the referral is made much earlier. The team manager or advanced social work practitioner the Adoption Assessment Team convenes a Referral Family Finding Meeting. This looks at timescales for the child, including when the Child Permanence Report (CPR) will be presented to the agency decision maker, according to the dates set for the legal proceedings, and any advertising needed to recruit an adoptive family. The child s social worker must complete a referral form giving details of the child and their situation. In some cases, assessments of family members are still in the process of being completed. The child s social worker has to explore all potential family members, and deem them as unsuitable to provide long-term care for the child before considering adoption. 4

5 The Family Finding Meeting will consider all the parallel plans for the child at the initial meeting and subsequent reviews until a permanent outcome for the child has been achieved. This meeting enables us to identify children who are likely to need adoption, so that we can begin consideration of their needs and a possible match with adopters, either approved or adopters in process of approval. This information also assists the team in planning a recruitment strategy that best meets the needs of looked after children in the borough. Some of these children may not need adoption however; other permanency options might be more appropriate, such as special guardianship or long-term fostering. By establishing a contingency plan any unnecessary delay can be avoided. The Friends and Family and Special Guardianship Team are responsible for undertaking special guardianship assessments in relation to Looked After Children and children not previously known to the Local Authority. Matching Children and Families The Adoption Assessment Team undertakes all recruitment of adopters. Family Finding plans for children are agreed and monitored through referral and progress meetings. Advertisements for children have the name and telephone number of the adoption worker looking for a family for them. Waltham Forest is a member of the North East London Adoption Consortium. Lists of children and approved adopters are circulated monthly. The names of children and adopters are placed on the National Adoption Register. This is activated when we are sure we have no likely match becoming available. Following approval their details will be placed immediately on the National Adoption Register if there is no suitably identified match. We make use of Inter Agency arrangements, both to identify families for Waltham Forest children and to enable Waltham Forest approved adopters to be linked with children from other local authorities. Adopters are invited to attend the Adoption Panel when a match is being considered. 6. Adoption and Permanence Panel Waltham Forest s Adoption and Permanence Panel meets on the first Friday of each month. The Panel makes recommendations concerning the approval of adopters, the matching of adopters with children, and other permanency decisions for a child. It also considers information on any adoption placements which have disrupted. The agency will arrange extra panels to avoid any unnecessary delay in planning for children. Panel membership complies with the requirements of the Adoption Agencies and Independent Review of Determinations Regulations 2011 and an independent member chairs the panel. In addition to the independent chair, the Panel membership comprises of: 5

6 Two independent members who are adoptive parents, one of whom is the vice chair, the other has a background in mental health A medical adviser A representative of Waltham Forest Children and Families Services child social care team An independent member who was adopted as a child, who has a background in health An independent member with a background in education An independent member with a background in social work There is an Agency Adviser to the panel who feeds back to the senior leadership team issues raised by the panel concerning practice and procedures. Additionally the Divisional Director meets with the Independent Chair and Panel advisor twice a year. An up to date list of the Panel membership is available from Shabnam Pathan, Administrator: Annual training is provided for panel members, including joint training with the Adoption Team. Furthermore, two business meetings are held annually. The panel chair and members are formally appraised each year. 7. The Agency s Decision The Agency Decision Maker is the Divisional Director of the Children and Families Service and will meet with the panel chair to discuss any issues arising from panel recommendations, and to gain an overview of the panel s functioning. Since 1 September 2012, Child Permanency Reports (CPR) are presented directly to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM). The ADM seeks the advice from the agency adviser, the legal adviser and the medical adviser if appropriate. They may also meet with the CPR writer. There is a nominated Deputy Decision Maker, who is the Head of Service for Quality Assurance Services within the Children and Families Services. Waltham Forest has set target dates for the submission and distribution of the relevant paperwork that the ADM has to consider prior to making a decision if a child should be adopted. 8. Services for Adopters Duty Service An Adoption duty service is provided Monday Friday 9.00am 5.15pm. This is a telephone service. Social workers give general advice to the public and workers in the department about adoption and permanency. Duty provides the first response to general advertisements to recruit parents, and the follow up of enquiries. There is a general emergency duty service outside these hours. 6

7 Recruitment Advertising campaigns are conducted for both general recruitment and for specific children needing families. A recruitment strategy is agreed each year based on the needs of the department and lessons learnt from the past. The criteria for recruitment are kept under review depending on the needs of the children on referral. Systems are in place to respond promptly to enquiries and from April 2014 we will be benchmarking our practice standards against timescales. Initial appointments (usually home visits) are offered to all applicants meeting the criteria and Waltham Forest residents who request them. Social workers discuss the outcome of these appointments in the regular Adoption Team meetings and a decision is made whether to invite the applicant to make a Registration of Interest. Preparation and Training On acceptance of the Registration of Interest applicants participate in Stage 1 of the adoption process. During this period they have work books to complete over a two month period. Applicants are then invited to a preparation course, which uses the BAAF model, materials and workbooks. Following an evaluation of their attendance and participation at the end of the course and completion of Stage 1 a decision is made about continuing the assessment to Stage 2 of the adoption process. We run on average three to four preparation courses each year. We are working with our Adoption Consortium colleagues to share places on courses to provide a range of times for applicants to attend. This is a reciprocal, non-fee paying arrangement between Local Authority consortium members. It is a requirement of our panel that all first time adopters have completed a preparation course before they recommend their approval. Following Stage 1 the Local Authority provides a further training session for prospective adopters and member of their support network including relatives and friends. Further modules regarding particular aspects of adoption are also offered throughout the year. Assessment Adopters assessments are completed using the BAAF Form PAR (Prospective Adopters Reports) document. The new assessment process aims to be completed within six months from receipt of the formal application, and taken to panel for consideration for approval. 7

8 We encourage applicants to think about what they have to offer in terms of their personal experience, faith, culture, ethnic origin, knowledge and skills gained throughout their lives. If there are areas that need development, we work with them to explore ways of adding to their competencies. We have an open inclusive approach, evaluating applicants for what they have to offer. We require that applicants have sufficient time and space to meet the demands of adoption. All applicants are encouraged to think carefully about their support networks, including family and others who can support their individual circumstances. Applicants are given their report to read and comment on and asked to sign it. They are encouraged to add to it if they wish. They are invited to attend the Adoption Panel when the approval is being considered. All adopters have an allocated link worker in the Adoption Assessment Team. Once approved, this worker helps them consider children for a match and works jointly with the child s social worker when they are linked. At the point of linking, these two workers carry out a needs assessment to consider support to the placement immediately and in the future. A variety of issues must be considered: - medical and therapeutic needs, educational needs, identity issues, life story work and contact issues are always included. Foster Carers adopting Children Looked After Where there is a plan for the foster carers to adopt a child/children they are looking after the local authority will undertake an assessment within four months. The process for foster carers is using the Annex A document. They are required to attend a preparation course. 9. Adoption Support Services Identifying support needs to sustain lifelong placements is an integral part of the adoption service and assessment process. The adoption support team works closely with the adoption assessment team and is a stand-alone service. The team provides its own duty service each weekday morning. The post adoption support service offers a range of services to support adoptive families and their children including counselling, advice and information, workshops, support groups, an annual family day, a newsletter, financial support, links with CAMHS. Other services include: Adopters are given details of Adoption UK and encouraged to join local groups. Newly approved adopters from Waltham Forest are provided with a two- year subscription to Adoption UK. 8

9 Various resources are available to Children Looked After by Waltham Forest including the Agency Medical Adviser, the CFCS/CAMHS therapy services and Education. Approved adopters are supported during introductions and their support needs will be reviewed every six months until the making of the Adoption Order. Financial support is considered for each match, in line with the Borough s scheme. There is a mechanism for assessing financial support, which is organised jointly between the Adoption and Finance Team. All regular payments and financial support packages are reviewed annually through the Adoption Support Team, and the finance review panel. The child s social worker also visits between placement and the Adoption Order. Adopters who live in Waltham Forest can be provided with a service until a child is 18 years of age or continues in education beyond that time. Where a child is placed with adopters who live outside the borough, support by the placing local authority may continue for a period of 3 years after the Adoption Order is granted. After that time any further support is provided by the borough in which they reside. The adoption support team manages all post adoption contact arrangements, including face-to-face contact and letterbox agreements. An allocated support worker provides support to birth relatives and adopters to promote contact as a positive experience for the child. The team manager of the Adoption Support team is also the Adoption Support Services Adviser for Waltham Forest. Birth Families Independent counselling is provided to birth families whose child is to be placed for adoption or is already adopted. This service is available to both parents and other members of the extended family. Adopted Adults Waltham Forest provides an intermediary service for birth relatives and adopted adults. Some group work is organised through Voluntary Agencies, such as group work for birthmothers with mental health problems as well as for adopted adults. The local authority has service level agreements with the Post-Adoption Centre, Barnardo s and Adoption UK. These organisations can provide a range of support to anyone affected by adoption. 9

10 10. Other Services Inter Country Adopters Waltham Forest has a service level agreement with PACT (Parents and Children Together), which offers a specialist service, to undertake Inter Country Adoption assessments on behalf of the Local Authority. Any initial enquiry is made through the Adoption Service duty system. If appropriate, the enquirer is referred to PACT, which provides prospective adopters with advice concerning the preparation and assessment process, the requirements of their country of choice, and that of the Department of Education. If the applicants wish to proceed, PACT will complete the assessment on payment of the required fees, and take the application to their Adoption Panel for consideration. PACT will then forward the appropriate documentation to DfE. Non-Agency Adoptions The Adoption Service also provides a service to non-agency adopters, including step- parents and birth relatives who wish to adopt a child in their care. In these cases, formal notification to the agency must be made by the prospective adopter(s) of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order. Applicants must give their agreement to complete checks in line with all adopters. On receipt of the prospective adopter s application, the court will set timescales, and notify all parties involved. At this stage an adoption social worker will be allocated to complete the assessment, and report for the court. 11. Quality Assurance Monitoring and Evaluating the Service Family Finding plans for children are monitored through regular progress meetings following the referral meeting and at children s statutory reviews. The latter are chaired by Independent Reviewing Officers. Children and carers are provided with information as to how to make a complaint and this is clarified and reinforced at each review. Data and performance (including timescales) on children referred, children placed for adoption, disruptions and adoption orders, approvals of adopters are collated. All complaints are responded to by the team manager of the Adoption Assessment Team and monitored by the Head of Service to ensure learning. Annual reports, which include panel activity, are completed and presented to the Scrutiny Panel. A user evaluation form for social workers and applicants who attend Panel has been in place since January 2008 and are evaluated and used to support improvement in service delivery. 10

11 The Head of Services for Placements and Resources is responsible for reviewing adoption policy and practice in the department, and for ensuring the Divisional Director is provided with regular progress reports on the work of the adoption service. There are monthly portfolio meetings with the Lead Member for Children & Families by the Duty Chief Executive of Families and Divisional Director to ensure the Cabinet is kept informed on current issues, and provided with the relevant information in order to monitor the progress and quality of the service. 12. Organisational Structure Management of the Service Responsibility for the Adoption Service rests with the Head of Service for Placements and Resources, who reports to the Divisional Director for Children and Families Services. The Placement and Resources Service is based at: Juniper House 221 Hoe Street Walthamstow London E17 9PH Tel The Adoption Assessment Team consists of the team manager, an advanced social work practitioner, a senior practitioner and six qualified social workers. The Adoption Support Team consists of the team manager and four qualified social workers. Both teams are supported by the Business Support Unit of five administrators. Staff Details For a full breakdown of staff qualifications, please see Appendix A. 11

12 13. Complaints Making a Formal Complaint We always try to supply good quality services and endeavour to be customer focused, but we know that sometimes we can get things wrong. If people are unhappy with the service they have the right to complain and we will resolve to satisfactorily address their complaint in the following way: The complaints procedure has three stages 1. At Stage One, the staff or agency providing the service will deal with a complaint. We can sort out many complaints this way. 2. If the reply you have received does not bring satisfaction, this can go to Stage Two. A formal investigation by an investigation officer who does not work for us will commence. 3. If this still does not bring resolution, Stage Three can be started. We will refer your complaint and our reply to a review panel made up of two of our officers (not involved in the complaint) and an independent person who will chair the panel. All formal complaints should be sent to: The Complaints Manager Social Care Complaints Team Residents First Waltham Forest Town Hall Forest Road London E17 4JF Telephone The Local Government Ombudsman If complainants are not satisfied with the response they receive from the Council they may contact the Local Government Ombudsman by calling or via their website at The Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) Applicants to become adopters who are turned down for approval on the recommendation of the adoption panel and/or the decision of the agency decision maker are able to ask for their case to be reviewed by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). Details of this process with timescales will be made available to applicants during preparation and assessment. The IRM has the following timescales: 12

13 Applicants have 40 working days from panel decision to decide to contact the IRM. The adoption agency will be contacted to produce relevant documentation within 10 working days. The IRM will set up a panel within 3 months of the application. Contact details for the IRM are as follows: The Independent Review Mechanism Contract Manager Unit 4 Pavilion Business Park Wortley Leeds LS12 6AJ Tel: Ofsted Waltham Forest Adoption Service is inspected by the Office for Standards in Education, Children s Services and Skills (Ofsted). Concerns or query about the service can be raised by contacting Ofsted at: Ofsted Piccadilly Gate Store Street Manchester M1 2WD Tel: (Children s Services) Website:

14 Appendix A: Staff details and qualifications Position and address Head of Service: Placements and Resources, Senior Panel Administrator Team Manager, Adoption Assessment Advisor to Adoption and Permanence panel Social Worker, Adoption Assessment Senior Practitioner, Adoption Assessment Social Worker, Adoption Assessment Social Worker, Adoption Assessment Senior Practitioner, Adoption Assessment Social Worker, Adoption Assessment Team Manager, Post Adoption Support Social Worker, Post Adoption Support Social Worker, Post Adoption Support Social Worker, Adoption Assessment Social Worker, Post Adoption Support Social Worker, Post Adoption Support The team is committed to offering placements to student social workers Qualifications & HCPC Registration Number MA in Social Work CQSW N/A CQSW Post Grad Diploma in Applied Social Studies MA in Advanced Social Work Post Grad Dip in Applied Social Studies CQSW Cert in Management Studies Diploma in Social Work, University of Bucharest, Romania PQ (Consolidation Module) BA (hons) Politic and Social Administration CQSW, PQ Childcare, Prac Teacher award Dip Social Work B.Social Science SW University of Cape Town B. Social Science PG Clinical Social Work Diploma in Social Work DipSW/MA in Social Work PQ Award CQSW/Diploma in Applied Social Studies MSC in Integrative Psychotherapy BA (Hons) in Social Science/DipSW. Practice Teacher Award. Certificate in Counselling Diploma in Social Work Diploma in Social Work BA (Hons) History and Sociology MA/CQSQ Applied Social Studies Diploma in Counselling Diploma in Family Therapy BA(hons) Social Sciences CQSW & Diploma Social Work 14

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