Specific Issues - Adoption Support Services Clause 4

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at on 21 November 2001.

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We welcome the fact that local authorities will have a duty to carry out certain assessments of the need for adoption support services for particular people. However, we are concerned that within Clause 4 local authorities, having assessed a child's needs, can then decide whether or not to provide the services that they have identified are needed. They clearly will be under no obligation to provide the services. Any prospective adopter would rightly be concerned that they could be agreeing to adopt a child with very complex needs, and no assurance that the identified support will be forthcoming.

The legislation is not clear about which local authority is to undertake the assessment, and, which authority is to provide the agreed services. Is it to be the responsible local authority that has placed the child, or the authority in whose area the adopter lives that undertakes the assessment and then provides the service? Given that with the introduction of a national adoption register children are likely to move far away from their original local authority, the issue of who assesses, and who provides will need to be very clear. It will also be very important to ensure that the funding for the service follows the child, wherever he/she is placed.

It is our view, that as with foster care, a written agreement should be drawn up at the time of placement of a child for adoption, specifying the support required, and what will be provided. No child should be placed for adoption without an assessment of their needs, and for many children, access to therapeutic services will be required. There will however be children whose real needs in relation to their developing personalities will only become clear some years after adoption. For instance, children who have been subjected to a number of moves during infancy, (sometimes within their own families), often portray as very submissive children during their early years. However, the degree of disturbance that these moves might have caused can affect their behaviour as they get older, and it is then that they will need an assessment and services to help them understand what has happened to them. At that time it would clearly be the area where they live that should take responsibility for undertaking an assessment and providing services, but without some priority being given for adopted children, their needs could remain unmet.