Government plans to reduce red-tape to ensure councils ‘always pursue adoption when it is in the child’s best interests’
Education secretary Nicky Morgan has unveiled a new strategy to transform the life chances of those children who spend up to 18 months in care waiting to be adopted.
The four year strategy sets out for the first time how it will deliver a system where “all children are matched with adoptive parents without delay, free from the shackles of council red tape”.
At the heart of the government’s plan is a commitment to change the law at the earliest possible opportunity to make it explicit that councils and courts must always pursue adoption when it’s in a child’s best interest - rather than with a series of short-term carers who can’t provide the support they need over the long term.
In addition, every single child adopted from care will have a designated teacher and ‘virtual school head’ at school who will provide tailored support to help children overcome trauma. The government will also provide £14 million investment for innovative local schemes that result in more children ending up in loving homes, such as Coram Cambridgeshire, which puts babies under two with foster parents who are also willing to adopt them, minimising delays.
Former director of social services Andrew Christie has been appointed as the new Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board to drive the strategy forwards. Christie, who has more than 40 years’ experience on the front line in children’s social care, will work hand in hand with ministers over the coming months to make this plan a reality.
Nicky Morgan said: “We cannot stand by while children spend months in care waiting for their new family, when loving parents are available. We cannot preside over a situation where adopted children are less likely to do well at school than their classmates. And we mustn’t fail to take action against stifling red tape that stops councils from matching children with the families that are right for them.
“This radical new vision will make sure decisions rightly prioritise children’s long-term stability and happiness, so that children are placed with their new family as quickly as possible - helping them fulfil their potential and get the very best start in life,” she added.
As part of the strategy, the government is pledging to:
- end delay for vulnerable children in care by providing larger local pools of approved adopters by making sure every single council is part of a regional adoption agency by 2020, backed by £14 million
- transform support on offer for adoptive families by becoming the first country in the world to provide vital therapeutic services to all adopted young people up to the age of 21 - as well as the selfless family and friends who care for them - backed by a new commitment totalling over £49 million
- making sure social workers have the skills to make the right decisions for adoptive families by clearly setting out how social workers must prioritise adoption where it is in the best interest of the child
- shine a light on poor performance, and hold councils and adoption agencies to account by introducing scorecards which will be used to hold regional agencies to account for long delays between a child entering care and moving in with their new family
- encouraging local innovation in the way children and adopters are matched by investing £14 million in a new practice and innovation fund, supporting councils and regional adoption agencies to develop new ways of working
Andrew Christie, who has been the Director of Children’s Services for the London Triborough area (Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) since 2011, said: “Having spent 4 decades working with some of the most vulnerable children in our society, I know how important it is to provide them with the support and stability they need to help them realise their full potential and guide them into adulthood.
“Today is an important milestone in our work to improve vulnerable children’s lives. This is the first time the government has set out its vision so clearly, and I’m delighted to be taking on this role, helping to realise these ambitions, ensuring that all children get a loving home without delay,” he concluded.