Peers call for long-term council support for adoptive parents

6 Mar 13
Local authorities should be legally required to provide continuing support to adoptive parents, peers said today.

By Richard Johnstone | 6 March 2013

Local authorities should be legally required to provide continuing support to adoptive parents, peers said today.

The Lords select committee on adoption legislation said many adopted children were vulnerable and often had a range of complex support needs following neglect and abuse. However, councils were under no obligation to provide support once adoptions were agreed.

Providing additional help would ensure placements were stable and would achieve the positive outcomes intended, the committee said.

Peers also urged the Department for Education to ensure its drive to speed up the adoption process was not at the expense of other options for children, such as kinship care.

Ministers should also do more to encourage councils to set up joint adoption services with neighbouring authorities and adoption agencies.

The committee’s report, Adoption: post-legislative scrutiny, examined the existing adoption laws and made a number of recommendations for change. This is the first time a Lords select committee has been established specifically to undertake such scrutiny. The main pieces of legislation affecting adoption are the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and the Children and Adoption Act 2006.

Committee chair Baroness Butler-Sloss said the committee welcomed the steps the government had taken to improve the adoption process, including the launch of the Action Plan for Adoption.

However, she added: ‘More needs to be done to ensure the best outcomes for all children in care.’ Post-adoption support was ‘the most pressing issue’ to ensure the best outcome for children.

‘Children adopted from care have a range of needs due to their early life experiences, often of abuse or neglect, which are not resolved simply by being adopted. We are concerned that the provision of post-adoption support is often variable and sometimes inadequate. Support services are critical in ensuring placement stability and in achieving the happy outcomes which adoption is designed to deliver.

‘We recommend a statutory duty on local authorities and other service commissioning bodies to ensure the provision of post-adoption support. Inevitably, there will be concerns about resourcing this support, but calculations of cost need to take into account the significant amount of money which local authorities save when a child is adopted from care.’

Responding to the report, a Department for Education spokeswoman said the government would announce details of an Adoption Passport in the next few weeks, which would outline the support adopters were entitled to.

‘We make no apologies for wanting children to be offered loving homes quickly,’ she said. ‘It currently takes almost two years to place a child – denying them routine, stability and the opportunity to bond with their parents. ‘We know adoption is not right for every child [and] driving up the skills of social workers will allow them to judge what is best for each child. We are taking forward an ambitious programme of work to improve fostering services and we will shortly announce our reforms to residential care.’

The Local Government Association insisted many adopters had a relationship with councils ‘long after they adopt.’

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, added: ‘For adoptive parents to receive the quality and level of support they need, it will be important that government matches any new statutory duty placed on local authorities with the extra money needed to provide it while making sure we still have the flexibility to tailor support to the particular needs of individual families.’


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