Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – November 2015

Welcome to our November issue of the Adoption Reform Update. In this issue, we inform you of the Prime Minister’s announcement on adoption, and we update you on regional adoption agency projects. We also note NICE’s guidelines published on children’s attachment, and provide you with an update on the adoption support fund, which also includes a case study. We hope that you find this month’s content helpful and informative.

Prime Minister’s Announcement on Adoption
As many of you will be aware, the Prime Minister announced a range of new measures on 2 November. The government wants to see double the number of children placed with their new adoptive families at the earliest possible point, halving the time they are waiting in care for the full process to be completed, and intends to change regulations around the assessment of potential special guardians. Ministers are also actively considering further changes to ensure that children can be adopted where this is in their best interests.

Further information about the announcement can be found at:

Regional Adoption Agencies
On Thursday 19 November, the department announced a further five regional adoption agency projects which we will be supporting this year. This brings the total to 19 projects, which cover over 120 local authorities across all English regions, and all involve at least one voluntary adoption agency. A list of the projects we are supporting can be found here.

The government will provide financial and practical support to these projects, helping their transition to become regional adoption agencies. All projects have been allocated a coach from our delivery partner, Deloitte and Mutual Ventures, and have attended a learning event at the department. We hope that some future learning events will be made available to the whole sector. More details will follow in due course.

If you have queries please email us on

NICE Guideline on Children’s Attachment
On 25 November 2015 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published their guidance: Children’s attachment: attachment in children and young people who are adopted from care, in care or at high risk of going into care.

This guideline covers the identification, assessment and treatment of attachment difficulties in children and young people up to age 18, who are adopted from care, in special guardianship, looked after by local authorities in foster homes (including kinship foster care), residential units and other accommodation, or on the edge of care. It aims to address the many emotional and psychological needs of children and young people in these situations, including those resulting from maltreatment.

This guideline included recommendations on:

  • principles of care;
  • supporting children and young people with attachment difficulties;
  • assessing attachment difficulties;
  • interventions for attachment difficulties in children and young people on the edge of care;
  • interventions for attachment difficulties in children and young people in the care system, subject to special guardianship orders and adopted from care;
  • interventions for attachment difficulties in children and young people in residential care.

It can be found at

Adoption Support Fund update
The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) has now received applications from all local authorities. It has helped over 2,500 families with £8m worth of specialised adoption support services.

There is, however, variation in the number of applications submitted by local authorities. If you have adopters who might need extra support, consider assessing them for ASF-funded therapy, or using the ASF to fund a specialist assessment and subsequent therapy. See the case study below of the impact therapeutic support can have on adopted children and their families.

ASF Case Study
Case study

This young man is 15 years old and was adopted when he was four. Birth mum was alcohol dependent and took drugs. She does not know who the birth father was. He witnessed domestic violence between birth mum and her partner. The child was placed with adoptive parents with two younger half-siblings.

The adoptive father contacted our team saying that if we did not go and collect the boy now, he would drop him at the police station at 6pm that evening. The parents were very clear that there were no family members who could care for him, and he would have had to go into foster care. The boy was stealing from his parents, going out a lot, not eating with the family. There were issues at school as he had taken a knife into school and threatened another child. He had also attacked another child.

The parents were not able to empathise with him or understand his behaviour. The parents also said that they did not have any attachment to him or them to him.

DDP with the parents and the child to try to improve the relationship and attachment. The parents also attended an Adoption UK parenting programme to help them parent the boy therapeutically and help them to be more empathic to him.

The family have remained together and at the local authority’s last meeting with the family, they were more empathic towards him and understood that his life would have been very different if they had not given him a stable home. They are no longer saying they want him out. Although he was excluded from school he is attending the PRU and is enjoying it and engaging. The parents are very clear that, without the therapeutic support, they would have placed the child back in foster care. They told me that they still find it hard that he wants to be so independent of them and would like him to be more a part of their family.

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

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 and Family Law Team
Department for Education 
November 2015