A new National Adoption Strategy, backed by a £48 million investment, has been launched to improve adoption services in England, the government has announced.
The strategy will improve recruitment across the country and remove any unnecessary delays, through more training for front line staff, improving approval process and funding for targeted recruitment campaigns.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “There is no substitute for a loving, permanent family. A stable family unit is key to boosting life chances and there are so many adoptive parents across the country who have opened their homes and hearts to some of our most vulnerable children, often with very challenging backgrounds.
“We are committed to improving adoption services, as well as breaking down barriers so that parents from all walks of life can adopt and to ensure they are not deterred from adopting simply because of their background.
“We have taken steps to ensure these children and young people can be matched with the families that are right for them, but we know there is more to do and this strategy sets out our vision for radically improving systems so that we can be confident that every adoptive family in England is receiving the same high quality service no matter where they live,” he added.
The government has pledged to ‘level up’ opportunities for vulnerable children in care and, as part of this, a new framework of national standards will be introduced to end the ‘postcode lottery’ that too often means the quality of adoption services depend on where a child or adopter lives and ensure support can be delivered swiftly and effectively to improve outcomes for these children.
Recruitment will focus on matching prospective adopters, from any community, with children and young people and to ensuring adopters are not deterred from pursuing adoption because of their background.
While waiting times for adoption have improved, challenges remain. The average time between a child going into care and being placed with their new family, has been reduced from 22 months in 2012 to 15 months by 2020. However, there is still more to do, especially for children with special educational needs and disabilities, siblings, older children and those from ethnic minority groups.
The strategy highlights that adopters should not be deterred from pursuing an opportunity to adopt because of their social background, ethnicity, sexuality, or age, building on advice for councils published by the Department for Education last year, which encouraged councils to prioritise adopters’ ability to provide a stable, loving home for c child to grow up in.
Chair of the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board, Krish Kandiah, said: “Both as an adoptive Dad and as the Chair of the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board I am excited by the government’s new adoption strategy. I wholeheartedly support the emphasis on seeking families for children rather than children for families.
“There is a huge need for people from a wide variety of backgrounds to step up and be the parents that children in care need. Every child has the right to a family. Most will be able to stay with their birth family, or be raised by a kinship carer. But when neither is possible, adoption is a wonderful way to give children the love and security of a family. This new strategy gives us an opportunity as a nation to make sure every child, whatever their colour, age, abilities or gender, knows the love of a forever family,” he added.
Of the £48 million for 2021-22, £46 million will continue post adoption help for families through the Adoption Support Fund to provide family support sessions, cognitive therapy, and activities to help children recover from earlier traumas, helping them settle into their new families and homes.
An additional £1 million will also go to Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) leaders to improve recruitment and the adopter approval process alongside additional funding for early arrangements where a child is placed with foster carers who are also their prospective adopters when first removed from their birth family so bonding can begin straight away.
A newly appointed adoption strategic leader, Sarah Johal, will lead RAA’s in England, bringing her experience and expertise from leading one of the first RAAs set up, One Adoption West Yorkshire.
The new National Adoption Framework will mean services are delivered to the same high quality across England and that best practice becomes the norm across all areas of recruitment, matching and support.
Kinship carers also play a vital role in caring for vulnerable children and the government providing £1 million in new funding for 2020/21 to increase the number of local kinship carers support groups, increasing funding to the Family Rights Group kinship carers helpline and including children in kinship care arrangements in the priority groups which local authorities must include in their school admissions.
Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group, said: “Research demonstrates the benefits to children of being able to live with family and friends who know and love them, when they cannot live at home. But navigating the child welfare and family justice system can feel overwhelming for families. Getting accurate, independent legal advice can make the difference between whether a child is able to safely remain within their family network or not. It can impact upon the child and kinship carers’ entitlement to support and the child’s wellbeing.
“Last year the charity’s advice line last year received more calls than at any time in its history. We are delighted that the additional monies will enable Family Rights to advise 1300 more callers this year about their rights and options,” she added.