14 March 2012 - PAC welcomes the government's objective of speeding up the placement of children, but calls for rigour in the preparation process and stresses the need for high quality adoption support services.

PAC has 25 years' experience of providing high quality adoption support.

We welcome today’s publication of the Department for Education’s An Action Plan for Adoption: Tackling Delay which aims to overhaul the system for prospective adopters, as in many instances children have had to wait too long for an adoptive placement.

In order to achieve the government’s objective of speeding up adoption placements it is vital that rigour is integral to the preparation process. Without rigour the speeding up is likely to increase the potential for placement disruption. It is PAC’s belief that the complex needs of the children who will potentially be adopted will necessitate an increase in the expertise of professionals making decisions and this will not rest solely with social workers but also lawyers and judges.

Given that the children who are potentially to be adopted are likely to be “older” and to have experienced early life trauma due to neglect and/or abuse in the birth home, and thus struggle with attachment, behavioural and emotional issues, our view is that:

  1. The first, pre-qualification stage of assessment concentrating on initial training and preparation will help potential adopters make an informed decision as to whether to progress to a full assessment.
  2. It is essential that the government’s Expert Working Group consider including in the four month assessment period those measures which will help identify the potential adopters’ ability to meet the wide ranging needs of the child to potentially be placed with them.
  3. This assessment could include the use of tried and proven standardised psychological assessment methods including the Adult Attachment Style Interview.
  4. The needs of the child should also be assessed with proven standardised psychological assessment methods.
  5. On placement the introduction of a parenting programme to enhance the understanding and skills of the new parents should be mandatory.

For the government’s action plan to make a significant difference to the successful placement of children with complex needs the availability and practice of adoption support services will need to be addressed. It is PAC’s hope that this will be given similar ministerial backing over the coming months.

Peter Sandiford

Chief Executive Officer, PAC