a) Adoption/permanency support - i) Provision of support

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

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One of the laudable aims of this Bill is to bring adoption/permanency support into the front line. Adoptions that fail do so because families feel unable to cope and support has been all but impossible to find and fund. If the rate of success is to be improved—and it is difficult to see why there would be much point in upping adoption figures unless adoptions are going to succeed—then there must be help available.

Clause 4 and Clause 110 however provide only for a duty on LAs to assess need: there is no duty to provide support—even if a need has been established.

It seems to us that families are the foremost experts on whether and when they need it; they recognise when they are in crisis and unable to deal with the child. The danger of not providing support at the time of request is that the placement/adoption may break down irretrievably, to the great damage of all concerned and probably great expense to the state in the longer term.

There are of course degrees of adoption support: some, possibly the major part, will be reasonably easily resolved within a short time, necessitating in the main experienced counselling. Other families will need longer term, more profound assistance with an input from other areas such as health and education—as is made clear in the Bill.

If families have to go to their LA for assessment they are very likely to find themselves involved in a very long process: waiting for assessment, the assessment, waiting for a decision, waiting again while the LA decide to act on their decision and so on. This could take months, by which time the adoption may well have broken down.

Given that assessors will have to possess the same finely-honed skills (which are in short supply) as those offering the support itself, surely they would be put to better use in providing it rather than assessing? If there is a need to assess the family or child for other services, such as education or health, then the support social worker could do it—or arrange for it—to be done simultaneously.

Other questions that arise:

—What if the LA says yes, you need support but we have no staff to do it?

—What if the LA says no? The family still feel they do; the problem remains.

—Will any family who feels in need of support have to submit to assessment by their LA first, or can they find help for themselves, privately?

—Who pays for assessment/support: the placing LA or the receiving LA?

We suggest that there should be a right to adoption support, not simply to assessment. This right to adoption support should also, specifically, include families adopting from abroad.