Adoption Services Statement of Purpose City of York Council September 2015

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1 Adoption Services Statement of Purpose City of York Council September 2015 Contents Aims and objectives of the service:... 2 Facilities and services... 3 Recruitment policy... 4 Eligibility criteria... 4 Assessment process... 6 The matching process... 8 Contact in adoption... 8 Support post adoption... 9 Registered provider, responsible individual and the manager... 9 Monitoring and evaluation of provision of service The social care complaints procedure Statement of purpose availability Registration authority... 12

2 Aims and objectives of the service: To ensure that: the needs, wishes, welfare and safety of children are at the centre of the adoption process. each child who needs to be adopted is matched as soon as possible with a family that will meet that child s needs for stability, warmth, security, safety and belonging into adulthood and beyond. sufficient adopters from diverse backgrounds are recruited and supported to achieve successful and lasting placements for children. the wishes of all children, for whom adoption is the plan and those who are placed for adoption or adopted, are listened to. This will be done by consulting them at each stage in an age appropriate way and feeding back the outcome of this consultation to inform individual plans. children are helped to develop a positive sense of themselves via Life Story work and are encouraged to develop social and leisure activities which enhance their sense of themselves and self-esteem. This will be done by assessing, preparing and training adopters and by providing opportunities for support groups and family events. children are encouraged and supported to enjoy and to reach their full potential in their education. This will be done by maintaining effective working relationships with education colleagues to increase their understanding of the needs of adopted children, and by preparing prospective adopters to work closely with schools and education support services. prospective adopters are involved in a comprehensive assessment, preparation and approval process and are given clear information about matching, introduction and placement of children. all people affected by adoption are able to have their needs assessed and services sought to assist them. access to information about their adoption is made available for adopted adults in a courteous and sympathetic manner. the service to birth parents recognises the lifelong implications of adoption and that birth parents are enabled to contribute to the maintenance of their child s heritage.

3 Facilities and services 1 There are over 50 children s social care staff working with children and many will be involved in planning for, and work with, children with plans for adoption. All social workers are qualified with the Diploma in Social Work, or equivalent and registered with the General Social Care Council. 2 The social work teams work with children and parents for whom adoption may be the best means of establishing a secure and permanent home for a child unable to live within their own family. These teams provide guidance, advice, support and assessment. They work with children and their families to create a life storybook for the child to keep important information about their birth parents and family as they grow up. 3 A children s guide is available for all children for whom adoption is the plan and it will be given to the child as soon as that decision has been taken. It includes a summary of what happens at each stage 4 Working alongside social workers are experienced family support workers who work directly with children and offer practical support, skills and advice to parents. These workers often hold NVQ III in Caring for Children and Young People or other professional qualifications. 5 The adoption team consists of five full time equivalent social worker posts, an advanced practitioner and a service manager. The team recruits, assesses and supports adoptive parents and works alongside children s social workers to plan placements of children requiring adoption. 6 The service manager is the adoption support service advisor for the agency. 7 The team provides a post box service to facilitate the exchange of correspondence between adoptive and birth families. They run support groups and training sessions for people who have adopted children. They are also the point of contact for people affected by adoption, who may wish to be assessed for post adoption support services 8 PAC-UK the largest independent Adoption Support Agency in the country, provides a direct advice and counseling service to all those living in York affected by adoption. This includes counselling for adopted adults who wish to access their birth records (following an application to the Registrar General for their original birth certificate). 9 The Yorkshire Adoption Agency a Voluntary Adoption Agency, with national recognition for its expertise in assessing, advising and supporting families who wish to adopt overseas, provides advice on intercountry adoption for York citizens via a service level agreement.

4 Recruitment policy 10 City of York Council covers a relatively small geographical area and therefore children looked after by the council are rarely placed with adopters approved by the council. The council is part of the Yorkshire Adoption Consortium, which consists of fifteen local authorities adoption agencies and four voluntary sector adoption agencies. The council aims to recruit suitable prospective adoptive families in York who are able to offer homes to children across the region needing adoption, and also, via the national adoption register, to children further afield. 11 The council will progress all expressions of interest in adoption promptly. In conjunction with other members of the Yorkshire Adoption Consortium, monthly general information sessions are run for all those interested in finding out more about adoption, prior to deciding which particular adoption agency they wish to progress their interest with. Eligibility criteria 12 City of York Council is keen to enable all children requiring adoption to have the opportunity of a placement with a suitable adoptive family. Enquiries about becoming an adopter are therefore welcome from all people, regardless of race, religion or sexuality; and whether single or married, employed or not. Black and ethnic minority adoptive families are under-represented nationally and locally, so we particularly welcome interest from such families. 13 Registration of interest can only be considered from people who are not already pursuing an application with another agency. 14 Those considering adoption need to be over 21 and able to offer a permanent, stable and caring home to a child who will have experienced an unsettled start to life. As the majority of the children placed with adopters approved by City Of York Council are placed by other local authorities, applicants need to be aware that local authorities may have differing practices in selecting families for children. 15 Individual circumstances, including age and health, will be taken into account in deciding whether someone has the potential to offer a good adoptive home to a child. Whilst open to enquiries from all, enquirers do not have an automatic right to be assessed as adopters, and priority has to be given to those most likely to best meet the needs of children waiting. 16 In the case of married/civil partnership and unmarried couples, though there is no set legal minimum requirement on the length of the marriage/relationship, the agency has to be confident of the permanence and stability of the relationship (In assessing the quality and stability of a relationship, the views of two personal referees who have known the applicants as a couple will be taken into account.).,

5 It is therefore unlikely that a registration of interest from couples who have been together for less than two years can be considered. 17 If a person is making a single application but is married or in a civil partnership, the court must be satisfied that the person s spouse or civil partner cannot be found; or the spouses/civil partners have separated, are living apart and the separation is likely to be permanent; or the person s spouse or civil partner is incapable of making an application for an adoption order by reason of physical or mental ill health. 18 There is a statutory prohibition to adoption if the prospective adopters or any member of their household, aged 18 or over, have been cautioned or convicted of specified offences, including sexual offences and offences against children. Details of the statutory prohibition will be made available on request. 19 Other convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence, how long ago it was committed and the applicant s reflections on this. 20 By law, the applicant (or at least one of them) must have their domicile in the British Isles and the applicant (or one of them) must have their habitual residence in the British Isles for not less than one year before the date of the adoption application. Domicile and Habitual Residence are complex legal terms and any applicants where it is unclear whether or not they can meet these requirements will need to obtain their own legal advice regarding this. It would be expected that where applicable, applicants have Indefinite Leave to remain in the UK. 21 Applicants may be in work or not. All applicants will need to consider the financial implications of increasing their family and will be required to provide information about any County Court judgments or voluntary bankruptcy agreements. 22 Applicants are required to have a full medical with their GP and to undergo any further tests/checks that may be required by the adoption panel s medical adviser. The medical adviser will advise on the applicants ability, from a physical and psychological health point of view, to meet the needs of a child throughout his or her childhood. 23 It is unlikely that a child under five, or a child vulnerable to chest complaints, would be placed in a household where one or both parents are smokers, due to the known impact of smoking on a child s health. Applicants who have been smokers would be expected to have given up at least 6 months before making their application. 24 Where applicable, enquirers should have completed any fertility tests and treatments. We advise that they leave a period of time, usually 6-12 months, from concluding tests and treatments before registering their interest. This is because it is important for applicants to have accepted their infertility and grieved before moving on to start the adoption process.

6 25 Enquirers who are considering whether to have a family by birth or by adoption will need to have clearly determined that adoption is the course that they wish to pursue, prior to making an application. 26 Registration of interest is welcome from those who reside within the City of York, or, if there is sufficient staff availability to pick up this interest, within reasonable travelling distance. 27 Applicants may own their own home or live in rented accommodation. They will have to demonstrate that they have a secure home environment in which to bring up a child and will need accommodation appropriate to the number and ages of the children they are seeking to adopt. 28 It is important that the applicant who is going to be the main carer has some experience of children in the age group of which they are interested. It is expected that the main carer for the child will be in a position to provide full time care for for at least the first six months of the placement and to be flexible in their plans to return to work, based on the best interests of the child. 29 Applicants should be able to demonstrate that they can make warm relationships and have accessible and established support networks of family and friends who will be in a position to provide support with parenting. Assessment process 30 An enquiry can be made via the Council s website, by phone or by letter. The duty adoption worker will then contact the enquirer to provide information and arrange for them to receive an invitation to a general information session on adoption. 31 Enquirers are invited to a monthly information session, run in conjunction with other adoption agencies in the region, which provides general information to help decide if adoption is right for them. Enquirers can then decide If they wish to continue their interest and, if so, which agency they wish to progress with. 32 If they decide that they are interested in going forward with City of York Council, an adoption social worker will arrange to visit them to discuss their circumstances, interest in adoption and to give information about adopting with York. A registration of interest form will be left with the enquirer for them to return if they decide, having reflected on the information provided, that they wish to start the process of being assessed for their suitability to adopt. 33 When the completed registration of interest form is received, a decision will be taken within five working days, as to whether this can be accepted or not. This decision will be based on information provided by the enquirer and discussion with the visiting adoption social worker. There may be circumstances in which it would not be appropriate to accept a registration of interest, including a

7 temporary lack of staffing capacity to take on more prospective adopters. If a registration of interest is declined, a written explanation of the reasons for this will be provided, along with information about other agencies that could be approached. 34 When an enquirer s registration of interest is accepted, stage 1 begins: this should take no longer than two months to complete. At the start of stage 1 the allocated adoption social worker and prospective adopter(s) will produce a written agreement (stage 1 plan) which will set out the responsibilities of both. Within stage 1, police and health checks will be undertaken along with other references. The prospective adopter(s) will need to provide the names of three referees, two of whom cannot be related to them. The adoption social worker will interview each referee and make a written report of these interviews. If the prospective adopter(s) has children at school, the school will be approached for a reference. If they work or volunteer (or have done so in the past) with children or vulnerable adults, the employer or organisation will be approached for a reference. If a prospective adopter has parented children with a previous partner, they and any adult children will need to be contacted; in some other instances it may be necessary to seek references from other ex-partners also. 35 The adoption social worker will also explore with the prospective adopter(s) the preparation most appropriate for them and agree what training will be undertaken and tasks completed in stage At the end of stage 1 the prospective adopter(s) will be informed of the decision regarding their suitability to proceed to the next stage, based on the information gathered in stage 1. If the decision is not to progress, a written explanation will be given explaining the reasons they will not be able to proceed to stage When the prospective adopter(s) have been told that they can progress to stage 2 they must, within six months, notify the adoption service that they wish to proceed. 38 Stage 2 is focussed on intensive training and assessment. An assessment plan will be completed with the prospective adopter(s) which will detail the assessment process, dates of meetings/visits and agreed training. Stage 2 should be completed within four months. 39 A comprehensive assessment is undertaken by an adoption social worker. This involves approximately eight meetings with the prospective adopter(s) to discuss their personal background, situation and strengths in relation to adopting a child. If they have children, the worker will need to interview the children to ascertain their wishes and feelings. 40 The assessing adoption social worker completes the prospective adopter s report, recommends whether or not the prospective adopter(s) is suitable to adopt a r child. The prospective adopter(s) will be provided with a copy of this report (minus references) and invited to send observations on the report within five working days.

8 41 The completed assessment is presented to City of York s adoption panel. The adoption panel consists of independent members, some with personal experience of adoption, alongside social workers and other professional workers. The adoption panel considers all recommendations about adoption. The independent chair of the panel is a former senior manager in children s social care. Prospective adopter(s) are encouraged to attend panel. 42 The panel recommends whether or not they would make suitable adopters and the recommendation is then considered by the agency decision maker. Panel also offers advice to the agency on such things as the characteristics of children that it believes the prospective adopter(s) would be best suited to parent. The agency decision maker then decides whether or not applicants are approved as adopters. This marks the end of Stage 2 of the approval process. 43 The prospective adopter(s) are informed of the outcome in writing. If they disagree with the decision, they have the right to request an independent review. The agency must provide a letter detailing the reasons for the decision. The prospective adopter(s) has 40 days to make representation to the agency or ask for the matter to be referred to the Independent Review Mechanism. The matching process 44 Details of approved adopters (with their permission) are placed on the national Adoption Register and on the Yorkshire Adoption Consortiums database. An adoption social worker is assigned to each family (usually the worker who completed their assessment) and guides them through the process of considering and being matched with a child, including attendance at the adoption panel of the local authority placing the child. 45 When a child is placed, the adoption social worker offers support and advice in adapting to the realities of life as an adoptive family. This support will continue up to the point that a child is legally adopted and beyond this if the family so wish. 46 The adoption social workers also work alongside child care social workers to identify suitable prospective adoptive families for York children needing adoption. The matches for these children are considered by York s adoption panel. The prospective adopters are invited to attend part of the panel meeting considering the match. Contact in adoption 47 Children placed for adoption retain indirect contact with their birth family by means of an agreed exchange of cards or letters sent via a postbox number

9 administered by the adoption team. A few children will continue to have direct, face to face contact with their birth families, which will be arranged via a social worker. Support post adoption 48 All adopters are invited to take part in support groups, attend training courses and annual social events. The support groups are informal and welcoming and are available for all adoptive families, not just those approved by York. Training courses cover topics such as parenting strategies, life story books and talking with children about adoption. There is a group of adopted children and young people, alongside social events where thy can meet other adopted young people. 49 There is a service level agreement with PAC-UK to provide independent support and advice to all those in York affected by adoption. 50 The adoption social workers offer advice and support to adoptive families across the City. For families needing more intensive support, an adoption support needs assessment is undertaken and where applicable services identified to meet these needs. If therapeutic services are identified as a need, an application is made to the national Adoption Support Fund. Registered provider, responsible individual and the manager 51 The registered provider of adoption services is the City of York Council, Children s Services, Education and Skills, West Offices, Station Rise, York YO1 6AG. 52 The responsible individual is Eoin Rush and the registered manager is Mary McKelvey, the adoption service manager, with responsibility for the running of the adoption service. She is based at West Offices, Station Rise, York YO1 6AG. 53 Children s social care is a service arm of Children s Services, Education and Skills. The assistant director, Eoin Rush, based at West Offices, is the adoption agency decision maker, as is Dot Evans, head of service. 54 The National Minimum Standards for adoption require that the people managing the service: possess the necessary knowledge and experience of child care and adoption law and practice have management skills and financial expertise to manage the work efficiently and effectively ensure that it is run on a sound financial basis and in a professional manner.

10 Eoin Rush, Dot Evans and Mary McKelvey have extensive experience and knowledge to fulfill each of the requirements outlined above. 55 The national minimum standards for adoption require that the manager has: a professional qualification relevant in child care a qualification at level 5 NVQ in management at least two years experience of working in a child care setting, within the past five years. Mary McKelvey has a professional qualification: a Masters Degree and Certificate of Qualification in Social Work; a Diploma in Management Studies and has extensive experience of children s social work. Monitoring and evaluation of provision of service 56 National minimum standards state that the Executive must receive half yearly reports on the management and outcomes of the adoption agency s work. There is an annual report to the Executive Member for Children s Services. 57 The adoption panel receives regular updates on the outcomes for children and prospective adopters considered at panel in the previous six and twelve months. 58 There is a meeting three times per annum between the agency decision maker and the independent chair of the adoption panel, involving other key advisors and senior managers from the agency. 59 The Adoption Agency is monitored by external inspections carried out by Ofsted. The last inspection was in January 2010 when Ofsted found that the overall quality rating was good, with an outstanding rating in the area of helping children make a positive contribution. The report is available from the Ofsted website or the registration address as below or direct from this service upon request. The social care complaints procedure 60 If people are unhappy they can talk to their social worker or service manager, who will try to resolve matters. If the matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily, it will be passed to the complaints team who will decide how to deal with the complaint and who will answer it. We will always try to solve the problem quickly and to the person s satisfaction. 61 People are also told that they can contact the complaints team themselves or through someone supporting them by letter, telephone (for children on a free phone number), or can make an appointment to see someone from the complaints team.

11 62 If someone is not happy after stage 1 or the complaint is serious, it will be investigated by a manager from another part of the service or someone outside the council, and if a child or young person is making the complaint, an independent person will also be appointed to oversee the investigation. This may also sometimes happen if an adult is making a complaint. 63 After the investigation a report and recommendations will be sent to the complainant and the assistant director of children s social care services, and the complainant will be invited for a meeting with the assistant director and complaints manager before they are provided with a final response. 64 If the person is still not happy after the stage 2 response, they can ask for a complaints review panel. However, if the council thinks it has already had the opportunity to fully investigate things, the complaints team may suggest that the person can contact the Local Government Ombudsman to ask them to investigate without the need for a stage 3 panel. 65 A stage 3 panel will have an independent chair person and two independent panel members who will listen to the complaint and decide whether the stage 2 investigation was done thoroughly and fairly and whether the recommendations were appropriate. They will then produce a report with their findings and any recommendations and these will be sent to the complainant and Director of Children s Services, Education and Skills. The Director will then send a final response. If the person is still unhappy it is then appropriate for them to contact the Local Government Ombudsman. 66 The children s guide has information about how people can find someone independent to support them to make a complaint, and the complaints team will also help people find someone to support them with this. 67 In addition to the social care complaints procedure, people wanting to adopt have an entitlement to consider their home study assessment report, which will be presented to the panel. They can write to the panel about any concerns within 10 days of receiving the report. They will be invited to attend a panel on the day of their assessment. 68 If the agency decision maker decides the person may not be suitable to adopt, the person has the right to be told the reasons for this and the recommendations of the panel. The agency decision maker will formally offer the applicants the options of making representation or asking for the matter to be referred to the Independent Review Mechanism, before a final decision is made. Statement of purpose availability 69 This statement of purpose can be made available in a format that is appropriate to the physical, sensory and learning impairments, communication difficulties and language of children, birth parents, adoptive parents and staff, if so requested.

12 City of York Council will make arrangements for those who are unable to understand the document to have it read, translated or explained to them. 70 The statement of purpose is placed on the council s web site and is revised annually. 71 The adoption agency s policies, procedures and any written guidance to staff reflect the statement of purpose. Registration authority 72 Ofsted inspects local authority adoption services and can be contacted at: Ofsted Piccadilly Gate Store Street Manchester M1 2WD Customers can make complaints directly to Ofsted. Anne Longfield, Children s Commissioner for England can be contacted directly by young people at: Office of the Children s Commissioner Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street London SW1P 3BT Freephone:

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