Achieving for Child Adoption Support Guarantee London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

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1 Achieving for Child Adoption Support Guarantee London Borough of Richmond upon Thames 1. Background For those children who cannot return to their birth families we strive to provide safe, secure and loving and permanent substitute families. The adoption team recruits and assess prospective adopters who can meet the needs of those children for whom adoption is the plan. However, we do recognise that throughout the adoption process and post placement, adoptive parents, children and young people and birth families can be faced with a range of challenges. It is therefore incumbent upon us to consider what supports can be offered to help an adoptive placement to succeed. Achieving for Children is a social enterprise company created by Kingston and Richmond Councils to provide their children's services. The Adoption team for Achieving for Children covers both Richmond and Kingston boroughs. The Adoption Support Services Advisor (ASSA) for Richmond is Jan Cotterell. Richmond is also part of the Southwest London Adoption Consortium (SWLAC)# Aligned with this work there have been considerations on the local provision of Adoption Support across the Southwest London Adoption Consortium.. The key elements of the current Adoption Support Services within AfC services to Kingston and Richmond are. All Borough s complete an Assessment of Adoption Support Need Adult Work offered often up to approx. 6 sessions Access to birth records Adoptive re-unions supported Intermediary service/post re-union offered Birth parents group (for the consortium and takes place once per month Youth Group Outing arranged three times per year. Adopters are ed about the outings and attendance is approximately 7 on each outing Adoption specialist Therapist provides advice every other month. There are usually 2 or more appointments every month within Kingston & Richmond. Supporting education working with Educational Psychologist 10 week parenting course for adoptive parents closed group and group will consist of up to 10 currently there are 6 (other groups are not closed groups) 1

2 Theraplay is available for new adopters this is a one off visit due to the volume of work on the team this is to aid attachment Other services are contracted out to providers Supervision of contact South East Post Adoption network meetings are twice per year and have focused on Letter Box Contact and contact. Adoption training three times per year takes place in the evening and on a variety of topics. These events are usually attended by more than 80 people (depends on the size of the venue) and they are whole day events. Service Level Agreement with the Inter-country Adoption Centre Training with the consortium workshops evening and day events. Preparing records for other agencies (This is very likely be on the increase). SLACS provide counselling service for birth parents. Drop In Once per month for adopter s of under 5 s. This is run by Richmond however it is open to all of the consortium. Richmond offer sessions of theraplay and enhanced parenting programme. This takes place in the adopter s home for 90 minutes, once per week for 10 weeks. Group for foster carers who have adopted and foster carers who have permanent placements ( 7 in the group). Richmond send s to adopters to advise and update of events and services. Richmond have agreed monies to provide individual packages of therapeutic support. Lifestory work with children from other LA s. Individual support Core Offer Adoption support Adoption is a major event that has lifelong implications for all parties. Anyone whose life has been affected by adoption may need help and support to adjust to the changes which it can bring. Richmond Adoption service follow National Regulations to advise and support adoptive families through the process of adoption and beyond. There is an automatic entitlement to an assessment for support services, and we look at what we can do to help an adoptive placement to succeed. The below information is an invaluable tool for finding resources and ideas to help you along the way as your child journeys through life into adulthood. Who can ask for adoption support and where can it be obtained? Adoptive families can ask the borough their child or children came from to assess their need for adoption support services for up to three years after the adoption order was made. They will then help you to contact the local authority where you live for further support. If your adoption was arranged through a voluntary adoption agency, it is likely they will advise you how best to access services, and from whom. If you are an adoptive family where the adoption order was made at least three years ago, the 2

3 local authority where you live will assess your needs for adoption support services. Adopted children under the age of 18 can also ask for an assessment, for example if they want to talk to someone who is independent about contact arrangements or any other aspect of adoption. Birth children in adoptive families can also request an assessment for certain services, for example counselling, advice and information. If you adopted from overseas, there are also some services for which you are entitled to be assessed. People who adopt a child who is related to them are also entitled to assessment for counselling, advice and information. If you would like to find out more about adoption support services and are unsure how to start, please contact the Richmond Adoption Team of the Local Authority in which you live and they will be pleased to advise you. Assessment and services To assess the need for support services, an Adoption Support social worker will request details of your circumstances and your child's needs. For example, if there are extra expenses because your adopted child has a disability, you may get help with these costs. Here are other examples of services that may be offered following an assessment: Counselling, advice and information Adoptive parents can be given counselling, advice and information by the adoption support services at any time. Adopted children are also entitled to therapeutic services to assist them with their understanding of adoption and becoming part of a new family. Contact arrangements Contact arrangements between a child and their birth family are usually agreed before an adoption order is granted, with the frequency and type of contact set out in a signed agreement. They can be reviewed in the light of a child's needs over time, in which case the original agreement would be updated. The different types of contact are: Letterbox contact: This is sometimes called 'indirect contact'. Adopted children and their birth families can maintain contact through the exchange of written information like birthday cards and newsletters, and sometimes photographs. This is a confidential service managed individually by each borough's adoption and permanence team within the consortium. Direct contact: This is face-to-face contact between the adoptive family and the child's birth 3

4 family. Richmond Adoption social workers help in preparing everyone for contact, and assist with practical arrangements such as providing a suitable place to meet, supervision of contact (if required), and sometimes help with expenses. Adoption Support social workers can also offer a mediation service if there are disagreements about contact or if changes in contact need to be discussed. Support groups Events are held that provide an opportunity for you to meet other adoptive families and staff. We would also suggest that you meet others by joining the local group of Adoption UK who have a programme of events for adoptive families, and British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) have a support group for black adopters. Training and workshops Richmond is part of the Southwest London Adoption Consortium are planning an annual programme of training based on topics adoptive families have requested, for example 'contact', exploring and explaining adoption and life story work. In addition adoption support social workers can advise on training provided by other agencies such as the Post Adoption Centre to which all boroughs in the consortium belong. Parents who have adopted through a borough in the consortium should receive mailings throughout the year to let them know about workshops, seminars, groups and other events that might be of interest to them. If you would like to receive this information, this can be arranged through your Adoption Team. Financial support Entitlement to financial support to help with any extra costs of looking after the child, depend on the adoptive parents' financial resources. Payments may be in the form of a lump sum or ongoing regular payments, which are subject to annual review. Financial support is not an automatic entitlement. Social workers also help adoptive families to find out about payments they may be eligible to receive through the benefit system, such as Disabled Living Allowance and tax credits. Contact the adoption support service for more information. Life story work We have access to a highly experienced and nationally recognised professional in the area of Life Story work to help adopters who are doing life story work with their adopted child. It includes a step-by-step guide on how to make a life story book and also provides you with a number of templates and examples The Adoption Support Group The SWLAC group is inviting new members to help us form a group that can create a supportive network for those being assessed or waiting for placement, and those who have already adopted. Please contact us if you are interested in coming along for a chat to one of our coffee mornings or evenings, which are planned to be held termly. We will hold a key meeting every term with a 4

5 specific theme and we issue three newsletters per year. Events for all the family are held and prospective adopters are equally welcome at family get-togethers - it is a great opportunity to talk to other parents. We hold an annual picnic and regular events such as swimming, walks in the park or our everpopular trip to the ice rink, when we have the rink all to ourselves for one and a half hours! Their group represents a diverse range of adoptive parents and families. Whether you are considering adoption, in the process of assessment, awaiting a placement or established as an adoptive family, we will support and encourage you. Current Literature For your child Children adopted from care have priority access to schools, which means that your child should be able to attend whichever school you think best meets their needs ( From September 2014, they will also be entitled to free early education from the age of two (tinyurl.com/first4early). If your child needs extra support, you can ask your local authority to assess their needs for adoption support services and if you think your child may have special educational needs you can ask your local authority to assess these needs too. For an adopter Many adopters are entitled to adoption leave and pay when their child is placed with them ( The law is changing to make this entitlement more similar to maternity and paternity leave pay, and it will include the right to take time off when you are meeting your child, before they move in with you. Adopters may have priority for council housing ( If you are living in council housing and claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit while waiting for a child to move in you can also apply for funding (Discretionary Housing Payments) so that you are not penalised financially while you have an empty spare room. You are also entitled to a summary of your child s health from his or her local authority s medical adviser before he or she is placed with you, and to a life-story book to help your child understand his or her early life. Adoption Support Services Local authorities provide and fund a range of support services for children adopted from care. These support services can include: counselling, information and advice 5

6 help with behavioural, attachment and other problems money e.g. to help with special care needs, or for former foster parents help with contact between an adopted child and his or her birth family meetings and events to enable groups of adopters and adoptive children to get together training to help adopters to meet the needs of their adoptive child short breaks for an adopted child with another carer help where an adoption breaks down. Access to these services depends on your circumstances but you can ask for an assessment at any time, no matter how long after the adoption. Support Services Advice Your local authority will have an Adoption Support Services Adviser to help you access adoption support and other specialist services, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The NHS commissions health services to meet the needs of adopted children, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will produce new guidance so that your GP will understand the problems you may face. The Adoption Support Services Adviser s details should be available on the local authority s website. Every adopter is entitled to an assessment of their adoption support needs, but local authorities do not have to provide support in response to an assessment. Which services you are able to access will depend on your circumstances. Future changes to the law will mean that local authorities must tell adopters about adoption support services and their right to an assessment, and will give those who receive support a choice about how that support is provided, either by a local authority or through a personal budget to purchase services from a voluntary adoption agency or adoption support agency. If you want advice on adoption support you can also contact one of the many adoption support organisations, such as Adoption UK ( or the British Association for Adoption and Fostering ( or read the e learning materials soon to be on the First4Adoption web-site which will explore the effect of children s experiences on their development and the services available to help them. Which local authority? The local authority that places the child with you is responsible for assessing your adoption support needs for three years after the adoption. After three years it becomes the responsibility of the local authority where you live (if different). Talk to someone You can talk to a social worker to discuss any concerns that you may have. Just contact us. 6

7 Meet people We hold a series of sessions to help adoptive parents meet each other and offer mutual support: Support meetings with training (held daytimes and evenings) Drop-in group, pre-school children are welcome to attend (held regularly) Adoption Advice Surgery - run by the Adoption Support Social Workers and an educational psychologist (held every two months) Supporting Education drop-in session - run by the Adoption Support Social Workers and an adoption therapist (held termly) Summer family fun day - adoptive families from Richmond and neighbouring boroughs, get to know each other and offer mutual support Keep in touch We send regular updates to our adoptive parents. Contact between birth families and adoptive parents We can give advice on contact arrangements between your adopted child and his or her birth family. If you have adopted a child from within the SWLAC we can also help with some direct contact and organise indirect contact through our information exchange service. Talk to someone Every adopted child in can talk to an adoption social worker. Please contact us to arrange a time to talk. Alternatively you can call the adoption helpline run by the charity, After Adoption. Calls are free and confidential and you can speak to people who know all about adoption. Meet other adopted children Our groups give adopted children the chance to meet each other and share experiences. There are two groups: children s group for 4-10 year olds - meets three times a year youth group for children in secondary school and older - meets three times a year Please contact us if you are interested in joining one of the groups. Meet other adopted adults If you are over 18 years old, you may like to attend our group for adopted adults contact us to find out more. Access your adoption and birth records Once you are 18 you can apply to the General Register Office for your birth certificate. You can then write to the court where your adoption order was made, to find out which adoption agency arranged your adoption. We can then approach the adoption agency for you or you may contact them yourself. The GOV.UK website provides information on accessing adoption records and contacting the General Register Office for your birth certificate. You can also contact us if you have any questions. 7

8 Contact The British Association for Adoption and Fostering has developed the Adoption Search Reunion website which provides help and advice to adopted children, birth parents and adoptive parents. It also provides information for those who do not want to be contacted and explains how to place a 'veto' with the agency that placed you for adoption. Contact a birth relative We provide a limited intermediary service to adopted adults who would like to make contact with a birth relative. We can also offer you advice and support. One of our adoption support social workers can write the first letter to your birth relative on your behalf. We will help you prepare for the response and deal with possible outcomes. Meet your birth relative If you and your birth relative both say that you would like to make contact, we can help you to prepare for getting in touch. We suggest that you exchange letters first and then swap photographs, allowing you to get to know each other gradually before meeting up. We offer post-reunion support to Richmond residents. Support for birth parents and relatives Visit the Natural Parents Network website Counselling When we arrange an adoption we offer counselling to the birth relatives of the adopted child. We also offer counselling to birth relatives living in the borough (even if the adoption was not arranged by us). A birth relative is a: parent grandparent brother or half brother sister or half sister uncle or aunt (by blood or by marriage) We can advise on specialist counselling for others who are affected by the adoption. Support group for birth parents We hold a support group every month which gives birth parents the opportunity to meet each other in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. You may also find the Natural Parents Network s website helpful. This is a self-help organisation for birth parents and relatives who have lost children to adoption. It is acknowledged that Adoption is a major event and the people whose lives have been affected by adoption may need advice, help and support at various times in their lives. 8

9 Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Sutton Councils are all adoption agencies and, under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, has a responsibility to provide support to all parties to adoption: adoptive families, birth families and adopted adults. An advisor is based in each Adoption Team and can provide information and advice on the adoption process and available services. Services for adopted adults The Adoption Team is aware of the life-long impact of adoption and can offer support and an opportunity to look at the individual issues for adopted people. Many adopted people decide, at some point in their lives, to find out more about the circumstances that led to their adoption and to seek information about their birth families. Adopted adults have the right to access their adoption records, which hold information about their past. Like other adoption agencies, it is our responsibility to keep adoption records for 100 years. Sometimes adopted people decide to try to trace and contact members of their birth family, or they may decide that they do not want to have any contact with their birth family and wish to place a veto on any contact from their birth family. If you were adopted through us or currently live in the Borough through which you adopted, the Adoption Team can provide services and advice for you and assist you through the process of accessing your adoption records and can act as an intermediary. Available support services for adopted adults Counselling, advice and information. Access to adoption agency records. Support groups for adopted people. Access to a tracing service. Intermediary service to contact birth relatives. Pre- and post-reunion counselling. Assistance if you do not wish to have contact with your birth family. Services for adoptive families Adopting a child can be rewarding and sometimes challenging! Many adoptive families find that at some point their family could benefit from outside advice and support, from people who understand that adopted children and their parents have particular issues to cope with during childhood and beyond. Adoption support services are available to help at these times. If you adopted a child through us and it is less than three years since the adoption order was made, your home Council will be the lead agency to provide you with support, wherever you live. After three years it is the responsibility of the authority where you live to provide support to your family. If you live in the borough and it is over three years since your child s adoption order was made, we are responsible for providing support, whatever agency placed your child. 9

10 If you adopted from overseas and live in the borough we can give you support. If you are an adopted child under the age of 18 years, you can contact us for support. If you are a step-parent family and have adopted your partner s child, we can give you support. The Adoption Team will carry out an adoption support assessment at your request. It will explore your particular situation, circumstances and needs and determine what resources are available locally to help you. From this assessment we will make a plan. All local authorities must act reasonably in deciding whether to provide adoption support services following an assessment. If you would like an assessment please contact us. Available support services for adoptive families Counselling, advice and information on the telephone or face to face. Support with any contact arrangements with the child s birth family, either direct or indirect arrangements via a letterbox service. We also offer a mediation service if there are disagreements about the contact or if changes need to be agreed. Support groups offering training and workshops. Financial support may be available, based on assessment of need and on the adoptive parents financial resources. Therapeutic services for children. Annual family fun day. Annual newsletter. If you would like to be put on the mailing list to receive information about events which may be of interest, please contact us. Services for birth families As an adoption agency we have a duty to an adopted child s birth family. We are committed to supporting birth relatives throughout the process of their child being adopted and afterwards. Birth families who are affected by adoption often find it helpful to talk to someone about their experiences of losing a child to adoption. If there are contact arrangements with their adopted child, they may need help and support to maintain this contact. The Adoption Team will understand these issues and can help. Birth parents, birth relatives and anyone else who has had a close relationship with the adopted child can ask for an assessment of their adoption support needs. The Adoption Team will look at what kind of support is needed and what can be done to help. Support available for birth families Counselling, advice and information via the Adoption Team and / or independent agencies. If your child is currently being adopted through us, independent counselling is available. 10

11 Support with contact arrangements, whether direct or indirect (via a letterbox service). We also offer a mediation service if arrangements need to be changed or if there is a disagreement about contact. Support groups: the Adoption Team can provide information about support groups for birth relatives. Assessments for adoption support: assessments are carried out by the Adoption Team at the request of a birth relative. Please contact us by letter, phone or . For residents the Adoption Team also offers an intermediary service to support the relatives of adopted adults with whom they would like to make contact, and access to a tracing service. Assistance if you do not wish to be traced or contacted by an adopted relative. 11

12 Appendix A Offer for Adoption Support Enquirers Point of Enquiry Register of Interest Prospective Adopters Registered Interest Point of Approval Approved Adopters Post Approval Point of Placement Adopters Point of Placement- Post Adoption Other Forward Adoption Information Pack confirming process and suggested reading Confirm acceptance of registration of interest within five working days One-off visit to discuss Theraplay to aid discussion on attachment Annual assessment of support received and needs Adult work 1:1 up to six sessions- independent adoption counselling. Ensure detailed information is provided within 10 working days Invite to one of the monthly held adoption information events Ensure available information on: Training and Preparation The Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) Panel process for Approval Matching and Placing a child Contact with birth families Adoption support services Why children become Looked At least monthly contact throughout Stage One Process (0-2 months) and at least twice a month on the Assessment Process (Stage Two 2-6 months) Provide information on Preparation Training Events Ensure available information on: Training and Preparation The Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) Going to the Panel for Approval Matching and Placing a child Contact with birth families Adoption support services Why children become Looked After Children who have been adopted Access to Parenting Programmes Provide information on Training Events Ensure available information on: Training and Preparation The Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) Matching and Placing a child Contact with birth families Adoption support services Why children become Looked After Children who have been adopted Children around the UK waiting for adoptive families Adoptive advice Drop In Service (run by Adoption Support) Provide information on Training Events Ensure available information on: Training and Preparation The Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) Matching and Placing a child Contact with birth families Adoption support services Why children become Looked After Adoptive Reunions supported Will complete an Assessment of Need if requested Intermediary service/ post reunion offered Birth parents group (monthly) Youth Group- Outing arranged three times per year. Adoption Specialist Therapist can provide one off session open to all adoptive families. 10 week parenting course for adoptive parents. Theraplay is available this is a one off visit to aid attachment. Supervision of contact. Adoption training three times per 12

13 Appendix A After Children who have been adopted Children around the UK waiting for adoptive families Children around the UK waiting for adoptive families Children who have been adopted Children around the UK waiting for adoptive families Annual Summer Fun Day Access to Children s Groups (ages 4-10) 3 times per year If you adopted a child through us and it is less than three years since the adoption order was made, we will be the lead agency to assess your support needs, wherever you live. After three years it is the responsibility of the authority where you live to provide assess your support needs. If you live in the borough and it is over three years since your child s adoption order was made, we are responsible for assessing your support needs, whatever agency placed your child. year- takes place in the evening and on a variety of topics and there are whole day events. Birth Family Contact Life Story Work Support Group for Birth Parents Support for Adopted Adults including: Counselling, advice and information. Access to adoption agency records. Support group for adopters who have children aged 0 10 years and have attended parenting group. Support groups for adopted people via consortium. Adoption Support Group (termly) If you adopted from overseas and live in the borough we can Access to a tracing service. Intermediary service to contact 13

14 Appendix A give you support. If you are an adopted child under the age of 18 years, you can contact us for support. If you are a step-parent family and have adopted your partner s child, we can give you support. birth relatives. Pre- and Post-reunion counselling. Assistance if you do not wish to contact your birth family. 14

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