Adopt a new approach, says LGA

20 Apr 00
The government must introduce legislation to help improve adoption services and deliver a joined-up approach, the Local Government Association said this week.

21 April 2000

In an attempt to put its own house in order, LGA officials have joined forces with adoption professionals to speed up the introduction of innovative practices in social services departments around the country.

At a meeting on April 18, the LGA, the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Social Services Inspectorate set out a plan of action to eliminate unnecessary and highly criticised adoption delays, and to encourage best practice.

LGA policy officer Dorothy Blatcher said that the adoption process had changed beyond recognition and it was time the law recognised the changes.

She said: 'We are working with legislation which was formulated in the 1970s when most children who were adopted were babies and got a completely fresh start in life. That is no longer the case, and we mostly have older children who often maintain contact with their families.'

Legislation that highlighted the need for post-adoption support and took into account the whole experience of the child would be 'a big step forward', Blatcher said.

The LGA initiative follows a stream of critical reports and surveys which found varying levels of performance, with some councils having adoption rates at 10% and others at less than 1%.

Only last week, health minister John Hutton said the system was in need of urgent reform after a report from the Social Services Inspectorate revealed that up to 2,400 children are lingering in care while 1,297 families are waiting to adopt.

However, the LGA cautioned against speeding up the adoption process too quickly. Blatcher said findings from the 1980s, when similar tactics were used, showed increased breakdowns after unsuitable placements.

She advocated a child-centred approach. 'It is really important to have the right structures in place, from the council to the courts. You can have all the guidance in the world but if the legislation is not up to scratch then it is hard to make it work.'


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