Adoption Policy Review Group: phase one report
ADOPTION POLICY REVIEW GROUP -REPORT PHASE I
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
- The welfare of the child, taking account of all factors, must determine how permanence should best be achieved for the 'looked after' child.
- A plan for permanence should be made as soon as a child is 'looked after' away from home.
- Where Care Plans consider or address permanence, discussions should be held with all children on a basis appropriate to their level of understanding and their views heard and properly taken into account.
- Authorities should consider parallel and concurrent planning where appropriate.
- Proposals for services to secure permanence for 'looked after' children should be set out in local authorities' Children's Services Plans. These should show the links to other related services.
- The Scottish Executive should draw up national standards for adoption. Standards should set out clear timescales and arrangements for consulting stakeholders including children.
- Local authorities should have one panel to consider all decisions about permanence away from home, including adoption. The panel should decide whether adoption has been appropriately considered.
- Permanence panel members should be provided with and undertake ongoing training.
- There should be clear rules and guidance about how panels operate and the role of the agency decision-maker.
- The Scottish Executive should draw up a national assessment framework for children and families.
- An information system should be developed. This may allow systematic collection, collation and sharing between authorities, the Executive and courts of information about Scottish children 'looked after' away from home. An individual identifier for children would help track their progress.
- Urgent consideration needs to be given to resourcing effectively recruitment and retention of frontline social work staff and their managers in children and families teams.
- Both pre and post qualification social work education should take account of adoption. Preparations for the new Scottish Social Services Council and 3-year Diploma in Social Work should take account of these demands.
- A system should be developed for systematically sharing accurate and reliable information on the numbers and needs of children awaiting adoption nationally. (see also Chapter 4). A consortium or existing national organisation could deliver this service and the others recommended here.
- A national recruitment strategy should be devised, based on the profile of children requiring adoption, to target potential families.
- Ongoing general campaigns are needed to increase public awareness about adoption.
- There should be clear, standard, basic information about adoption for answering enquiries. Agencies should manage enquiries effectively and quickly. An 0800 information line should be established.
- Agencies should assess potential adopters who are willing to consider a child reflecting the profile of children typically awaiting adoption in Scotland. A child need not be identified before assessment begins.
- It is reasonable for agencies to charge to recover the cost of assessing potential adopters. Financial resources should be managed within authorities in a way that enables these charges to be met.
- Pre-assessment criteria and the materials and issues to be covered during assessment should be standardised.
- Agencies should develop independent appeals procedures to cater for applicants assessed by them as unsuitable to adopt.
- Comprehensive, multi-agency post-adoption support services need to be promoted actively.
- Expertise in the area of adoption is a vital consideration but the availability of such expertise around the country is variable. Adoption professionals working in the area of post-adoption support should be fully trained and accredited.
- The Scottish Executive should consider drawing up national standards for post-adoption services for children, birth families and adoptive parents
- Adoption support services should be explicitly available to all parties. Proposals for services should be set out in local authorities' Children's Services Plans, as part of their adoption services. This duty should be emphasised to authorities and publicised.
- The agency placing the child and the parties involved should draw up a post-adoption support agreement detailing what services are available or will be offered to meet the identified needs of all parties.
- Some local authorities have developed service level agreements with voluntary agencies to extend the range of services for all parties. All local authorities should consider the benefits of partnerships between local authorities and voluntary agencies to deliver post -adoption support services.
- Additional resources should be allocated to current services offering confidential advice to young people including those under 16 years of age, to ensure that adoptees are aware of services and that those providing them have adequate knowledge and skills.
- It is proposed that an Adoption Support Network for Scotland be established. This could be delivered through a consortium of all Scottish adoption agencies including the 32 local authorities.
- The benefits of local consortia in matching children and families should be extended. A Scotland-wide consortium should be established and should seek to match children awaiting placement and adopters.
- Scotland should join the National Adoption Register. In the six months before the UK Register seeks to identify a match, local and the Scottish wide consortium should seek to match children with local families.
- There should be input to the UK Register's processes by a social worker with a knowledge of Scottish legal and administrative systems.
- A Scotland-wide inter-agency charging agreement to pay inter-agency fees should be developed.