Adoption Service Statement of Purpose

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1 Sandwell Adoption Service Adoption Service Statement of Purpose January 2012 Author: Rachel Gillott Operations Manager Completed in January 2012

2 The Statement of Purpose sets out the aims and objectives of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) Adoption Service. The information contained in the Statement of Purpose is prescribed in Schedule I of the Adoption National Minimum Standards. The Statement of Purpose will be regularly reviewed and formally updated every twelve months as required by the National Minimum Standards. This document is informed by:- Local Authority Adoption Service (England) Regulations 2003 as Amended by the Local Authority Adoption Service (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 Care Standards Act 2000 National Minimum Standards 2011 for Local Authority Adoption Services in England and Wales and Addendum Adoption and Children Act 2002 The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 (as amended) Relevant Local Authority Circulars and Good Practice Guidance. 1. Values We believe that all children and young people have the right to be healthy, happy, and safe; to be loved, valued and respected; and to have high aspirations for their future. We would wish all children to have secure relationships with family, friends and carers, be eager, excited, curious and engaged in learning, have self confidence, be able to co-operate and communicate socially and have the best possible health and development. The Adoption Service is one of many services provided for children that help to achieve this vision. More information about children s services in SMBC can be found on the Council website. The adoption service is compliant with SMBC s Equal Opportunities Policy, which is available to all staff via the Council s Intranet service. A copy can be provided to any service user on request. 1

3 SMBC Adoption Services ensures that all adoption records are maintained in accordance with Statutory Regulations and the National Minimum Standards for Adoption. The adoption case records are kept for 100 years. All files are microfilmed and held in secure storage. Files that contain personal information for the child are held in lockable, fire and flood proof storage. All other records are retained in line with statutory guidance and the Councils Record Keeping and Data Protection Policies. SMBC s Adoption Service is child-centered and recognises the lifelong nature of adoption through the following services; Information, advice and counselling for parents who wish to choose adoption for their child. Care planning for children where their parents or extended family members are unable to care for them. Recruitment of sufficient adopters to enable a realistic choice of a family for children requiring adoption. Preparation, training, assessment and approval of adoptive applicants. Family finding for children. Matching and linking of children to families. Support for the introduction, and placement of children with adopters. Assessment of the support needs of those touched by adoption, specifically the adopted child, the adoptive parent and their family, birth parents, birth relatives and adopted adults. Provision of information about the range of services available to those touched by adoption. A counselling service for adopted adults who wish to have access to information about their birth family, and their adoption records. Intermediary Service for birth relatives who wish to seek information about their adopted child or relative. Applicants wishing to pursue Inter-country adoption are entitled to information, assessment and support in line with domestic prospective adopters. 2

4 Independent counselling is provided to birth parents and relatives where a plan for adoption is made for a looked after child. 2. Aims and Objectives SMBC s Adoption Service has the following aims and objectives: The central purpose of the adoption service is to provide secure and loving homes for SMBC children, who for any reason, cannot be brought up by their parents or other relatives, and to provide and develop services for all those affected by adoption, by consultation/participation/joint working with birth parents and families, adopted adults, adopters and their children. Objective A To maximise the contribution adoption can make in promoting permanent families for looked after children. To promote the long-term welfare of all children in SMBC who may need adoption, seeking best outcomes for them through excellent health and social care, education and therapeutic services. To promote a positive sense of identity by respecting their culture and heritage by providing relevant information and helping them to understand their history. Objective B To ensure that all the Adoption National Minimum Standards are met within the adoption service. Objective C To recruit, prepare, assess and approve prospective adopters (including foster carers wishing to adopt a child in their care) who have the potential to adopt children in SMBC or elsewhere who need to be adopted. To match children who need adoption carefully with families who are able to meet all their needs, till they grow up, having regard to their ethnic origin, religion and language but ensuring that any delay is balanced against their need for permanence. 3

5 Objective D To support adopters to help them provide a family for life. To provide support services to all adoptive families, including inter-country adoption which will enable the children s placements to last into adulthood and beyond. To prevent adoption placement breakdowns To respond sensitively to the short and long-term needs of parents and other birth relatives of children who may be or have been adopted. To provide information and advice on adoption issues to all those with an interest in the subject. To assist adopted adults seeking information about their history or wishing to trace birth family members. To assist people searching for or seeking information about a relative who has been adopted. To seek continuously to improve adoption services in the county within available resources. Objective E To provide an adoption service that is timely, fair and transparent to all who have an interest in the adoption service. To promote a service committed to equality and diversity to all those affected by adoption by having regard to the ethnicity, faith, sexuality or disability of applicants and children requiring adoption. Objective F To maintain a qualified, experienced and skilled staff to satisfy the objectives of the service. 3. Structure and Personnel 3.1 The Adoption Agency Decision Maker is Helen Smith, Service Director for Children and Families, Oldbury Council House, Oldbury. Helen meets the requirements for decision making and managing the service required by the adoption minimum standards, In her absence Barbara Peacock, Corporate Director of the People theme will act as the Decision Maker. 4

6 Barbara also meets the required minimum adoption standards 2011 for decision making. 3.2 The Responsible Manager is Rachel Gillott, Operations Manager for Family Placement. Rachel meets the requirements to manage the Adoption Service and the Adoption Support Service Adviser. Rachel has significant experience in fostering and adoption and the management of preventative, therapeutic services and residential units. She is registered with the GSCC. 3.3 In the event that the responsible manager is absent, Robina Khan Divisional Manager for Looked After Children will undertake these responsibilities. Robina is a Senior Manager with the required qualifications and experience to meet the adoption minimum standards. She is registered with the GSCC. The Fostering and Adoption Service is part of Sandwell s Children s Services. There are 6 Looked After Children s Teams, two Fostering Teams and an Adoption Team. The Fostering Support Team provides supervision and support to all Sandwell approved foster carers, including the connected carers (relatives and friends carers) who bridge children waiting for adoption. The Assessment and Recruitment Team deal with all aspects relating to the recruitment and assessment, training and approval of prospective adoptive parents. The Adoption Team is also responsible for family finding for specific children. The team also has primary responsibility for the provision of adoption support services. 3.4 The Adoption Team is structured in the following way: 1 Team Manager 1 Advanced Social work Practitioner 4 Senior Social Workers 3.5 Social Workers 1 Social Work Assistant +Administrative support All staff are registered with the GSCC and meet the requirements of the adoption minimum standards There are clear job descriptions and person specifications for all posts within the service. All social workers have access to post qualification training and award schemes. 5

7 3.5 The Adoption Panel. The Sandwell Adoption Panel is chaired by an Independent Chair. The panel is constituted in line with the 1983 and 1997 Adoption Agencies Regulations, Adoption Agencies Regulations Panel members are recruited, trained and appraised to meet the requirements of the National Minimum Standards The panel meets every month and an additional panel is convened bi- monthly. It is supported by a panel secretary, medical advisor, legal advisor and a panel advisor. The Sandwell Adoption Service holds an annual panel training event which updates Panel members on changes in legislation, practice and research. In addition the Panel has a separate business meetings to review their work. The Adoption Panel makes recommendations only; decisions are then made by the Agency Decision Maker for SMBC. 4. Recruitment, Preparation, Assessment and Support to Prospective Adopters 4.1 Publicising adoption services. The Adoption Service has a dedicated free phone number for recruitment, which is widely publicised throughout Sandwell and the neighbouring Boroughs. Initial enquirers are given information over the telephone and sent an information pack within five days. Adoption information is also available on the Sandwell Council website. The adoption service information leaflets also include details of other useful adoption organisations. Sandwell is part of the Black Country Consortium and joint funds the Adoption in the Black Country Project. This is a joint venture with Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley. The aim of this project is to recruit adopters who can adopt harder to place children. Sandwell Council is also a member of the West Midlands Consortium and Black Country. The aim of the consortium is to increase the choice of adoptive placements regionally by circulating details of children and approved adopters who have not been linked by their own agency. The consortium also strives to share resources, training and commissioning services to achieve consistent high standards. 4.2 The Adoption Service holds information meetings to which all enquirers are invited. These events provide an opportunity to talk to experienced adoption workers and adoptive parents. Attendees 6

8 will be informed that priority will be given to those who are able to meet the needs of the children currently requiring adoption. People wishing to proceed will receive an initial visit from an adoption worker where their personal circumstances will be discussed. If the application proceeds, further information is obtained to enable all the required checks and references to be undertaken. 4.3 Whilst satisfactory checks and references are being gained applicants are invited to attend a Preparation to Adopt Course to inform and prepare them for the additional needs of a child requiring adoption and the likely impact this may have on the child, themselves and their families. 4.4 Most applicants will proceed to a home study assessment following the Preparation to Adopt Course. The aim is to complete the assessment within six months of the formal application. We aim to reduce those timescales for foster carers wishing to adopt a child they have cared for to four months. 4.5 For Inter-country adopters, there is charge for their assessment and Adoption Panel time. The Adoption Service will also put these applicants in touch with specialist inter-country organisations. 4.6 All adoptive applications are considered by the Adoption Panel, which makes a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker about their approval. The Agency Decision Maker will make a decision within 7 working days of the Panel recommendation. Applicants are invited to attend panel when their suitability to adopt is considered. All prospective adopters are supported by a social worker throughout their assessment, approval, linking and during the placement of a child. Approved adopters are invited to attend panel when a suitable match with them is considered. 4.7 Prior to any placement of a child, both the adoptive family s and the child s support needs will be assessed. Support plans are agreed with the adopters as part of the placement report and plans are reviewed regularly up until the time an Adoption Order is made. 4.8 All newly approved adoptive parents are offered free membership of Adoption UK for a year. Adoption UK is commissioned to offer additional support, post placement training and a buddy scheme. Adoption UK also facilitates the local support group for adopters. All approved adopters in Sandwell receive an annual newsletter 7

9 which includes details of any training or workshops available locally. 4.9 Non-agency adoptions receive less priority. However, applicants are offered an initial visit by a social worker to further discuss their application and any other legal options available to them. The social worker completes the Schedule 2 report required for Court. 5. Children Requiring Adoption 5.1 Birth parents - SMBC acknowledges that most birth parents will find it difficult to accept that they can no longer parent their children and that adoption can represent the best outcome for their child. The Sandwell Adoption Service has commissioned Adoption Support in Birmingham to provide independent support to the birth families of children for whom adoption is the plan. A referral is made by the child s social worker at the earliest opportunity to ensure that birth families are able to gain this support. The child s social worker and adoption social worker have discreet but complementary roles in providing services to birth families. The Adoption Service and childcare workers will endeavour to work with birth parents to enable them to participate in effective planning for their children and ensure that birth parents views about adoption and contact are fully recorded. SMBC ensures that Birth parents are entitled to see what is written about them and have their views presented to the adoption panel. All birth parents will be encouraged to provide information, and contribute, to their child s Life Story Book and Letter for Later Life. Birth parents will be supported to consider future contact arrangements that are in their child s interest and to meet with the prospective adopters. 5.2 Work is undertaken with children by their social worker to ascertain their wishes and feelings about the plan for adoption and the kind of family they would like to live with. Every child will receive a written guide to adoption. They will contribute to and help to compile, if they are old enough, a Life Story book. A Later Life letter is prepared for very young children. Every effort is made to provide the child with the fullest possible family history and help maintain their heritage. The Later Life 8

10 letter includes information about the child s birth and early life, and provides up to date information about their journey and situation. Sandwell aims to provide adopted children with high quality Life Story work to assist the child in their journey towards adoption. 5.3 Every effort will be made to find a placement which meets the child s emotional and developmental needs, taking into consideration their ethnicity, religion, language, culture, gender and disability. This will be balanced with their need for a permanent placement. 5.4 Once a family has been identified, children are given appropriate information, depending on their age. The Placement Planning Meeting coordinates an age appropriate timetable for introduction. This is reviewed during introductions to assess progress and whether the timescale for the child s move needs to be adjusted in accordance with their needs. Children s views will be sought about a proposed placement in an age appropriate way. 5.5 When prospective adopters are identified who meet the needs of a particular child, a child s life appreciation day chaired will be organised to ensure that prospective adopters receive all the formal and informal information about the child from all those who have had some care of the child. Adoptive parents have the opportunity to meet with the medical adviser prior to the adoption panel, particularly where children have special needs. 5.6 Post placement, the social worker will continue to support the child in placement until the Adoption Order is made. The service will proactively work to support schools in order to raise the awareness of the needs of adopted children. Where more in depth work is identified the child and prospective adopters can be referred for post adoption support. This will be to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Adoption UK s buddy scheme can also help with services related to education, special needs and managing contact with birth families and to provide additional support to adoptive parents. 6. Support Services to Adopters and their Families 6.1 At the point of matching a support plan for the child is agreed. This highlights the future needs of the child and any financial implications. The adoption support plan will be agreed with the adoptive family before being presented to the Adoption Panel. 9

11 6.2 SMBC Adoption Service may pay introductory expenses, these are means tested. A settling in grant is available if siblings are adopted. Grants are only available where adopters are matched with a Sandwell child. SMBC will also meet the cost of legal expenses where the adoption is contested or particularly complex. 6.3 The adoption service recognises the importance of children and young people having safe contact with their birth families and other significant people. Such contact is entirely governed by the best interests of the children. Contact can vary from the annual exchange of written information to face-to-face contact with members of the birth family at intervals appropriate for the child. The Adoption Service operates a well established Letterbox contact arrangement for the exchange of information between adoptive families and birth families. Birth families and adopters are also supported in arrangements for face-to-face contact. 6.4 The SMBC Adoption Service supports the mutual benefits of at least one meeting between a child s birth parent and adoptive parents and other significant birth relatives. Support for each party to this meeting is provided. 6.5 Post placement contact arrangements continue to be reviewed at each adoptive placement review. Following the making of the Order, issues relating to contact arrangements can be reviewed following a request for an assessment for adoption support services. 6.7 The disruption rate for children placed by the Sandwell Adoption Service remains low. However, intensive support to a placement to prevent a breakdown will be available and support to all parties in the event of a breakdown. Support can also be accessed from other local and national organisations such as After Adoption in Manchester. Sandwell Council subscribes to BAAF and Adoption UK. Adoption UK operates a telephone advice service, which all approved adopters can access. 6.8 Any adopted child residing in Sandwell may request an assessment of their support needs including those who have been placed by another agency and for whom the three year post adoption period has elapsed. In these situations, an initial assessment will be carried out by a member of the referral and assessment team with support from the adoption team. The assessment will determine the circumstances and needs of the 10

12 child, the adopter/s and other family members and make recommendations regarding the level of support required. 7. Monitoring and Evaluation of the Service 7.1 The performance of SMBC s Adoption Service is measured to monitor how well we are doing, and this contributes to the evaluation of the Council s performance as a whole. Overall responsibility for Children s Services rests with the Lead Member for Children s Services, and the links between the service and the executive are important in ensuring effective service delivery. The Adoption Service is an important part of delivering the corporate strategy to provide security, care and stability for children at risk. The Children s Service Social Directorate Plan is reviewed annually and key performance targets are set. These are included in the Adoption Service and Adoption Team plans. Reports on the business activity of the Adoption Service are presented twice yearly to the Service Director and to the Corporate Parenting Board. There is an elected Councilor who is a regular member of the Adoption Panel. The Independent Panel Chair provides a quality assurance report detailing panel business on a six monthly basis. This is also presented to Senior Mangers and the Corporate Parenting Board. The Divisional Manager, LAC Resources is responsible, on behalf of the Directorate Management Team, to lead the inspections of the service and agree and monitor the action plan to meet any requirements and recommendations made by the Inspectors of the service. 7.2 At an operational level the following monitoring systems are in place: All approved adopters are formally reviewed annually by senior adoption social workers and advanced social work practitioners. The Independent Reviewing Officer reviews the progress of all children placed for adoption. Staff within the Adoption and Children s Services supervise and monitor the placement The adoption panel has an overall quality assurance role to uphold best practice. 11

13 There is a well established supervision policy, which is available to all members of staff on the Council s Intranet, and a performance management review system for all members of the service. The team manager has weekly business objects reports which monitors the work in progress against National Adoption Standards. 7.3 The Adoption Service aims to gain service users feedback during different stages of the adoption process. The Adoption Panel also monitor and gain feedback from all attendees. This information is analysed and reported in the annual adoption service report. Where necessary the information is used to improve the service. This monitoring includes: Adoptive applicants feedback on attendance at preparation courses. Feedback on attending adoption panel. Feedback on written information at time of placement. Birth Parents are asked to include their views when the plan for adoption is presented to the Adoption Panel. Feedback from children who have been placed via the placement feedbacks and the Looked After Children Review process. Children are counselled and their wishes and feelings ascertained during family finding process. 8. Complaints 8.1 Anyone affected by adoption may complain about the service they have received from SMBC. Details for this process can be gained by requesting a leaflet or accessing Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council website. 8.2 Complaints about the Adoption service also provide useful feedback and are used to improve future services. Complaints are dealt with under the Customer Services Complaints Procedure but specific complaints and compliments are monitored and managed by the Adoption Operations Manager in the following way: 12

14 Stage 1: Any complaint will initially be looked at by a member of staff, usually the Team Manager who will contact the service user to see if things can be resolved. Once investigations are complete, the Manager will then write to explain what they have found and what action they propose to take. If the service user is not happy that the problem has been resolved they can ask for their complaint to move to Stage 2: A formal investigation led by an Independent Complaints Officer. A leaflet is available with details of the procedure. If the person making the complaint is still dissatisfied they can ask for the complaint to be heard at Stage 3: A Review Panel. This panel will consist of three people, two who are independent of Children s Social Care and a third who is a Senior Manager from the department but who has not been involved in previous stages. The Corporate Director of Children s Services will send a letter to advise the person making the complaint of the outcome of this stage. 8.3 Where the Agency Decision Maker is minded not to recommend the approval of adopters, prospective adopters will have the opportunity to have their case reviewed by the Agency Decision Maker or refer their case to the Independent Review Mechanism. Only one of these options can be accessed. 8.4 The Independent Review Mechanism is managed by BAAF (British Association of Adoption Fostering). The Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) is a review process, conducted by a panel, which prospective adopters can access when they have been informed that their Adoption Service does not consider them suitable, and does not propose to approve them as adoptive parents (or has withdrawn their approval). More information on the IRM can be obtained from the IRM Contract Manager, Elaine Dibben, Dolphin House, 54 Coventry Road, Birmingham. B10 0RX. Telephone: Fax: The Statement of Purpose will be reviewed annually, and will next be updated in January 2013, or if there is a significant change in the service. This will be completed by Rachel Gillott, Registered Manager Family Placements service. The information contained in this Statement of Purpose can be made available in alternative formats: Large print, 13

15 Braille, audio tape or disk. We can also translate the information into other languages. Please contact Family Placement: Crystal House 1-7 Crystal Drive Smethwick B66 1QG By phone By SMBC is registered as an Adoption Agency. The address and telephone number of the Registration Authority, OFSTED, is: Royal Exchange Buildings St. Ann s Square Manchester M2 7LA Tel:

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