Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – June 2014
Welcome to our June update. In this issue we inform you of the new regulations on adoption and care planning, two-year-old funding entitlement, advice issued for school staff on mental health and behaviour, and learning resources to support permanence. We also provide you with updates on the adoption register, activity days and BAAF training. We hope that you will find this issue informative and helpful.
We have published four sets of Regulations following the Government’s response to the consultation Adoption: Getting It Right, Making It Work. These Regulations come into force on 25 July 2014. We aim to publish the statutory guidance on adoption and early permanence on 10 July.
These Regulations amend the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.
Local authorities are under a duty to place a child in the most appropriate placement available. From 25 July 2014, local authorities will be under a duty to consider placing the child with local authority foster carers who are also approved prospective adopters:
- when they are considering adoption for a child or has decided that the child ought to be placed for adoption but is not authorised to so place the child, and
- where they have determined that a family, friend or connected person placement is not suitable.
These placements are made in accordance with section 22C(9A) of the Children Act 1989 (section 22C(9A) placements) and are fostering placements which are expected to lead to adoption by those foster carers. The Regulations set out what action must be taken. These include the:
- provision of counselling to the birth parents and an explanation of the legal implications of the child being placed in a section 22C(9A) placement;
- identification of a prospective adopter who is suitable to care for a named child;
- appointment by the Director of Children’s Services of a nominated officer, and
- approval of the placement decision by the nominated officer before the placement decision is put into effect.
There are some additional consideration around section 20 cases (voluntarily accommodated children) set out in the statutory guidance.
Amendments to the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 are intended to remove delay from the child’s journey by requiring adoption agencies to start family finding early, and, where it is considering adoption for siblings, to assess whether the siblings should be placed together or separately, taking into consideration the interests of each child.
The Regulations amend the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 to make clear that, when considering whether contact between a child in care and their birth family (and certain others) is consistent with safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare, the local authority must have regard to the child’s care plan.
All local authorities must appoint at least one person (often known as a Virtual School Head) to promote the educational achievement of looked after children.
Local authorities must inform prospective adopters and adoptive parents of their adoption support entitlements and other prescribed information. This includes information on the right to receive the child’s permanence report, and information about the availability of assessments for adoption support services, priority school admissions, statutory adoption pay and statutory adoption leave and the complaints procedures. The Regulations set out what information must be provided, to whom the information must be provided and the circumstances in which the information need not be provided.
The Adoption and Children Act Register has now been put onto a statutory footing and these Regulations make provision for the establishment and maintenance of the Register. Adoption agencies must continue to provide the Register with information about prospective adopters, and information about children when they are not actively exploring a potential match with a named prospective adopter. These Regulations sets out what information must be provided.
The Adoption and Children Act Register (Search and Inspection) (Pilot) Regulations 2014
These Regulations allow the DfE to pilot adopter led matching. Approved prospective adopters will be able to search and inspect the Register to identify children for whom they might be appropriate adopters/carers. The final decision whether the adopter is suitable to adopt the particular child will remain the responsibility of the adoption agency. The objective of the pilot is to test whether allowing adopters access to children’s information on the Register will improve the performance of the matching service being delivered by the Register.
The Regulations are currently before Parliament. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the pilots will begin early September 2014 and will last for nine months. The adoption agencies involved in the pilot are listed in the Schedule.
Two-year-old free entitlement
From September 2014, two-year-old children adopted from local authority care or who left care under a Special Guardianship (SG) Order or Child Arrangements (CA) Order (formally known as a Residence Order*), will be entitled to 570 hours a year of Government funded early education over no fewer than 38 weeks of the year (which equates to 15 hours per week). The Government is extending the entitlement to free early education to these children in recognition of the difficult start in life they have endured and the real benefit early exposure to high quality early education can have in improving their life chances. There is strong evidence to show that good quality early education at the age of two supports children’s development.
The Department would welcome your help in raising awareness of the entitlement. Parents of eligible children who would like to take up the offer of a free place should be encouraged to contact their local authority’s Family Information Service for information about eligibility and the process for securing a place. Information can also be found on the Government’s website GOV.UK at https://www.gov.uk/free-early-education
*From 22 April 2014, residence orders and contact orders are replaced by Child Arrangements Orders (s8 Children Act 1989). Child arrangements orders are orders making arrangements about the person with whom a child lives or has contact. Only Child Arrangement Orders relating to a child’s living arrangements immediately after they leave local authority care (looked after children) are relevant for the purpose of the two-year-old free entitlement.
Mental health and behaviour
On 16 June the Department issued advice for school staff on mental health and behaviour. This new advice links to existing advice on behaviour and discipline, which indicates that schools should consider whether continuing disruptive behaviour arises from unmet mental health needs. It gives schools information and practical advice to help them to do this. You can read the press notice and advice here:
The advice will help schools identify and support pupils with an unmet mental health condition. It will give teachers the confidence to:
- differentiate between poor behaviour linked to potential mental health problems and poor behaviour which cannot be explained in this way;
- identify those with less severe problems at an early stage and build their resilience through the schools pastoral system, using external agencies where necessary; and,
- identify those with more severe mental health needs and make timely referrals to statutory and/or voluntary agencies, including CAMHS.
Update from Research in Practice on Social Worker Learning Resource
Local authorities and voluntary organisations can access a suite of learning resources covering 16 key topics designed to build knowledge and skills to support permanence in fostering and adoption. The materials, which were funded by DfE, are intended for use by children’s social workers, fostering/adoption social workers, supervising social workers, independent reviewing officers, social work managers, foster carers, prospective adopters and adoptive parents.
The resources are suitable for introductory and intermediate skills levels and include: key messages from research, interactive exercises case studies, and online video and webinar content. They provide quality content for continuing professional development through a mixture of self-directed learning, team based activities, and facilitated workshops.
‘I feel very confident about taking forward these resources within my agency and do feel there is a range of material to appeal to people from different professions and backgrounds’ (workshop participant Newcastle).
The resources and supporting trainer guides can be accessed at: http://fosteringandadoption.rip.org.uk/
Adoption Register Update
The Register’s next exchange day will be held on 9July in Leeds. Please contact the Register with details of the adopters who wish to attend. Dates for events for the rest of the year can be found on the Register’s website here: http://www.adoptionregister.org.uk/adopters/exchange-days
The Register currently has almost 800 prospective adopters on the Register which is the highest number for three years. In the first two months of the year, 88 children have been matched with families through Register links.
If you have adopters or children to refer to the Register or want to attend an Exchange Day, please contact email@example.com or 0345 2229015.
Adoption Activity Days
Adoption Activity Days continue to grow in popularity as an effective way to find adoptive placements for some of the children who we know will wait a long time for a new family. Last year, 139 children were matched following these events. Adoption activity days are scheduled to take place up to the end of May 2015. Dates of events from June through to July 2014 are:
- 14 June – Dorset (Fully subscribed)
- 21 June – West Midlands
- 28 June – Lancashire
- 5 July – South Yorkshire
- 12 July – Buckinghamshire
- 19 July – Liverpool
If you are interested in attending any of these events or would like to know more please contact Rebecca Parkes, Adoption Activity Day Administrator on 0121 753 7791 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
BAAF Training Update
DfE has contracted with BAAF to run free seminars to support the adoption reform programme. A limited number of places are available at each of these sessions to all registered adoption agencies and adoption support agencies in England.
The third tranche of training began in April and will run until June 2014 and is focussed on Effective and Evidence Based Report Writing.
• To consider current legal framework and relevant Judgements underpinning child care reports to the Court and in adoption cases
• To consider analysis and evidence required in effective report writing
• To identify and explore key issues in the assessment of children and young people that will support timely permanence planning
• To consider the role and function of the CPR in effective linking and matching of children in adoption
Seminars will also provide information reflecting changes on ethnicity and contact.
It is suggested that to make best use of these sessions local authorities use their 2 free places to send a Childcare Managers and Supervisors, Independent Reviewing Officers and Training Officers, who can disseminate materials to children's social workers.
Seminar Three Dates below:
Monday 23rd June 2014 – BAAF Head Office, London – FULLY BOOKED
Tuesday 24th June 2014 – BAAF Newcastle Office – 5 places left
The fourth tranche of training ‘Offering an Effective Adoption Support Service’ will start in September 2014, and the seminar flyer will be out in July 2014.
Keeping you in touch
We are sending this update to those we have contact details for and look to you to disseminate this bulletin more widely among your colleagues and members.
If you do not wish to receive this update please reply to this email and we will ensure your details are removed before any further updates are circulated. If any of your colleagues would like to be added to our circulation list, they should send their name, email address, job title and contact details to adoption.REFORM@education.gsi.gov.uk.
If you have any suggestions as to how we might make these updates more useful to you – or items you would like to see – please let us know by contacting the email address above.
Adoption Reform Team
Department for Education