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Narey's report: Finally a blueprint for common sense

(15 Posts)
Masalamama Tue 05-Jul-11 09:20:16

Just reading The Times and Martin's Narey's report into adoption in the UK. My eyes are welling up reading about it. I really hope his call for common sense will be heeded by the Government, and lots of children will be given a fair chance at happiness. This really ought to be the next big MN cause! Thoughts?

NanaNina Tue 05-Jul-11 12:53:12

Martin Narey has been talking sense for a long time about children needing to be removed earlier from unsafe parents. Have you got a link for this latest one?

chloegrace Tue 05-Jul-11 18:12:25

The report is in the times today guys. I only know this as he's my uncle and have just seen it on facebook. good luck and happy reading :-)

hester Tue 05-Jul-11 21:37:14

The Times has done a special report today, NN. Narey has just been appointed adoption czar. I didn't agree with everything he said, but I did like most of it. His recommendations include:

1. A shift in culture so that social services, family courts etc should make the child's interests absolutely paramount
2. Pregnancy advisory services should present adoption as a valid option to a woman with an unwanted pregnancy (I find this naive)
3. Adoption shoudl not be delayed by drawn-out assessment of family and friends carers
4. Shorten court processes to speed up adoption
5. Publish league tables of local authorities to name and shame those who are taking too long to process adoptions
6. Use of social impact bonds to adoption support for older and challenging children
7. Ensure no retreat on post-adoption support
8 Ensure the new guidance on ethnic matching is implemented
9. Give greater prominence to adoption on social work training
10. Look at how the contribution of unqualified staff can be better utilised
11. Ensure that the role of the social worker as the unequivocal protector of the interests of the child as opposed to that of friend of the family is communicated to the social work profession

NanaNina Tue 05-Jul-11 23:51:58

Thanks Hester - I don't read the Times - I'm a Guardian reader. Don't quite understand his No 1. - it has always been the case that SSDs, family courts etc keep the best interests of the child as paramount. It shouldn't need a "shift in culture" - it's not culture - it is enshrined in all legislation concerning child protection.

Like you don't agree with his No.2
No 3. Don't agree with this and again it is a legal requirement that a child be placed in his/her extended family if at all possible. I think the operative words are "should not be delayed by drawn out assessments of family and friends" - it is a requirement of the court that if any family member has put themselves forward to care for a child, then the LA have a duty to assess that person. The problem is SSDs are so incredibly under resourced that they simply do not have the time (and often I'm afraid the skills) to carry out these assessments. These assessments can be very tricky (I have done numerous ones, though not all for adoption - Special Guardianship Orders are generally more appropriate for family members)

No 4 - not sure what is meant by "shorten court processes to speed up adoption" - it is absolutely the case that there are lengthy delays in final hearings coming before the courts. I read recently that there is a shortage of judges in the family proceedings courts. There was legislation a couple of years ago (Public Law Outline) which was meant to speed up matters coming before the courts in adoption. Don't know much about it as I had retired by then. I don't think hearings should be rushed though, or evidence not carefully tested because this is a child's life that is being decided upon.

No 5 - Is ludicrous - not worthy of Martin Narey. Child protection and a child's future if they are not to be re-united with their birth parents is a complex and time consuming matter (yes far too time consuming) I agree because time is of the essence in establishing stability and permanence for a child in a loving home. But to talk of "naming and shaming" is ridiculous - you might be able to do this if you are talking of canning baked beans but in child protection there are numerous variances that will affect the timing of matters coming before the court.

No 6 don't know what this means
No 7 agreed
No 8 agreed
No 9 agreed

No 10 - not sure what this really means - sounds a bit suspect to me
No 11 - I don't know what he is getting at here. Any social worker who carries out an assessment on family or friends and does not keep the best interests of the child at the heart of everything and this is demonstrated in the report to the court, would be given short shrift by the judge. Indeed such a report should not be signed off by senior managers, long before it ever gets to court.

I think one of the problems is that Martin Narey as chief exec of Barnardoes (think he might have retired?) may not have the experience of working in a statutory organisation like SSD. The voluntary sector do not have any statutory responsibilities and therefore can pick and choose what work they will do. They do run some very good projects etc but when you don't have statutory responsibility for child protection, you have the luxury that LA SSDs do not have,

I get so mad at those NSPCC ads on TV - if a referral is made to NSPCC all that they do is pass it over to social services to deal with - end of matter for them. Yes they run some good projects and courses for parents etc but anyone seeing those ads would have no idea that NSPCC are not the ones who are out knocking on doors on the 10th floor of a tower block to respond to a referral of child abuse, and then beginning assessments etc etc and getting the matter before the court which creates an enormous amount of work. All this when social workers are spending 70% of their time in front of computer screens (thanks to Lord bloody Laming) following the Victoria Climbie Special Case Review.

I'd better shut up - I've probably said enough!!

shockers Wed 06-Jul-11 00:30:10

I understand no.1... the child's interests are often overlooked because the needs of birth families (including extended members who have shown no interest until the point of being contacted and offered a fostering allowance) are put before the needs of the child.

Children who are adopted early have a much better chance of bonding.

Children who are available for adoption and have bonded well with foster carers who want to adopt should. in my opinion, be matched to that foster carer/s... that would be in the interest of the child. The bond has already happened and to nurture it is in the child's best interest.

I know personally of children who have had needless emotional distress and upheaval caused by uprooting them from families who love and want them. to place them with extended birth families who haven't even fought for them... they've been sought out by SS. I've also known children who've been delayed being placed with adoptive families because of lengthy assessments of disinterested and inept, to the point of dangerous, birth parents.

Lilka Wed 06-Jul-11 07:11:22

1. Children already are at the forefront of the decision making aren't they?
2. Really dislike. Adoption should be the last resort, not the first one. Maybe Narey wants something like the American way, but I pray that day will never ever come
3. Don't really agree, extended family are the best idea if the parents fail
4. YES!! It seems to me this is the biggest problem. If we could speed up court backlogs then we would have a better system. And yet, that depends on the paperwork being complete, and its my impression that some LA's are not the best at doing paperwork. That doesn't mean rushing anything, just when it is decided upon, not waiting months and months
5. I HATE league tables. They don't work for schools IMO, they won't work for LA's either
6. No idea what he's on about!
7,8,9. All yes
10. Not sure what that means
11. That is the role of the sw anyway

I'm going to have a little rant. I am FED UP with each successive adoption announcement being that local authorities must increase adoptions. I bet these new league tables will 'shame' those LA's who only have a couple of children in their area who need to be adopted! The whole goal of care is to get the child home, if an LA manages to reunite nearly every child back into a safe home, then they've done their job! They shouldn't be critisized for that, but Narey would critisize them because they don't have any children available for adoption?? GRRRR.... angry

And also, if they try and force an adoption increase, I think you will wind up with a situation where some not very good LA's start playing down childrens difficulties to get them adopted, and smudging some information about them when they write the CPR's and meet with the PAP's. It's happened before probably still happens and won't get better if Narey starts all this ratings rubbish. Matching is a delicate process, it can't be rushed

hester Wed 06-Jul-11 08:00:09

I think his main concern is that though in theory social services put the child's needs first, in practice they 'balance' that (over-balance it, in his view) with a commitment to keeping families together when possible. He feels that social workers should be sharper, quicker, cleaner at identifying those families who with help can sort themselves out, and those who really can't and the children should be adopted as soon as possible. I think he's right but I would have liked to see more analysis of the causes of this (not just 'these social workers and their silly ideas') and solutions that go beyond telling social workers not to be silly. (To be fair this was written up in a newspaper; there may be much better analysis behind the scenes).

2 is ridiculous and made me doubt the rigour of his analysis throughout. There is of course an ethical imperative to support women in exploring all the possible options with unwanted pregnancy, and adoption is a valid and often valuable solution. But if the goal is to reduce the number of children taken into care, then this is a complete non-starter. Giving your child up for adoption is a far harder and more emotionally damaging experience than having an abortion - it takes self-knowledge, forward thinking, self-control, understanding of the long-term implications etc, just the qualities most likely to be absent in a woman who can't cope with parenting. Young girls who opt for having their child adopted (often fuelled by sentimental fantasies and peers who are hostile to abortion) are highly likely to decide to keep the baby, and then not be able to cope. In other words, promoting this option is likely to lead to more children taken into care, not fewer.

I agree that children should be kept within the family where possible - I think Narey is arguing that there needs a sense of proportion and of urgency, so social workers shouldn't spend several months exhaustively interviewing several relatives where there is no real prospect of them being suitable (he cites the assessment of someone who is homeless, for example). Again, hard to know how much of an issue this is with the lack of cited evidence.

I don't really know much about social impact bonds - I think it's an exercise in routinely identifying costs and benefits of different support package options - the idea being to make explicit the value of continuing support for troubled children.

Lilka, I think Narey's point is that he thinks 'the whole goal of care is to get the child home' is wrong. He thinks the care system and adoption as an option are viewed negatively and that this results in children living in limbo, in very unsatisfactory circumstances, for months and years until adoption is no longer an option.

NN, I agree completely with you on the NSPCC. I'm sure they do some good work, but I think the results they achieve, given the resources they have, is overall less than impressive. They gain from the common assumption that they are some kind of emergency service, a compassionate objective alternative to social services. Many people in the voluntary sector are agog at how they've managed to keep this gig going for so long. I don't actively wish them ill, of course not, but I certainly don't give them money either.

TimsterC Wed 06-Jul-11 08:51:40

This all seems a bit strange to me. My adoption agency have put the children first in EVERYTHING they have done, including our assessment and training. Every last little thing has been demonstrably child focussed. I have nothing but praise for my adoption agency.
Whilst saying this I do think that they could do a better job if they had the right resources. They are understaffed and things take longer because of that. Its frustrating from our side of the fence, but it must be hellish to inside and seeing stuff just laying around because there is no one in post to do the job.

hester Wed 06-Jul-11 08:59:19

I suppose the problems are before the adoption agency gets involved, Timster.

One thing I do agree with the report on is that where adoption is going to happen it should be quicker, and there should be more use of concurrent planning. Last year only 70 children were adopted under the age of 1. One of those children is my dd, and there's no good reason why she shouldn't have joined us from birth, rather than having 9 months in foster care first.

hifi Wed 06-Jul-11 09:16:41

1.this doesnt follow in the case of concurrent planning, the birth parent seems to be focused on more than the child.

Maryz Wed 06-Jul-11 09:45:56

Timster, from the point of view of adoptive parents, yes the agency will of course put the children first. But when children are first referred to care, there is often a big effort put into keeping the family together (no harm in most cases). Your children are (I think) 4 and 6, is that right? Where have they been for the last 4/6 years? How much earlier could the decision have been made to place them with you? Hopefully they have been with loving foster carers, in which case they will hopefully have been loved and looked after, but if they have been moved from pillar to post back and forth from birth family to care and back again a few times, it is very tough on them. And if they have been with the same foster carers for 4/6 years, moving on will also be difficult for them.

The theory of making early decisions and placing children for adoption early is a good theory - obviously a child placed at birth with a permanent family will do better (though not always - my son is an example of early placement still leaving scars). But in practice it isn't that simple.

I think again in theory many of the points make sense - shortening the court cases, assessing and making decisions about family quickly (not dismissing family adoption, but maybe having a time limit by which people have to come forward, if there isn't one already), that type of thing. I think league tables - or indeed any sort of numbers pressure on local authorities won't work, it can't hmm.

I agree though about continuing support for older adoptees - local authorities might be much more honest about any problems children may have if adoptive parents have a right to demand support for their children at any time, rather than just for a short while after placement.

I suspect the "evil social workers taking children from innocent parents" will object vociferously to almost all these suggestions hmm.

hester Wed 06-Jul-11 10:42:05

The report does cite our friend JH. They're not the best of mates, him and Narey.

Kewcumber Wed 06-Jul-11 13:48:06

Interesting but I think one of the problems and NanaNina is a good example of it is that how social workers appraoch this matter is so varied and depends not only on th eindiviaul social worker but also the attitude within the dept (presumably coming from the manager?).

Take transracial adoption (obviously my bugbear grin) in theory there was previously no bar to transracial adoption but it was still exceptionally rare in this country. I don't know many parents of transracially adopted childrne who think it is ideal but surely we're way past ideal at the point of an adoption? Many social workers (and bizarrely more comonaly in london) still rely on very old studies into how transracial adoptees felt about it when placed in the 60's and 70's but don;t take into account:

A) that the common alternative is foster care (often with white foster carers) often until the child become unadoptable. I don;t think any of the adults in the studies were presented with a "which would you have preferred" scenario?!
b) The changing nature of british society - DS is in a mixed race and mixed nationality class and we're hardly in an international melting pot kind of area!
C) Again - what on earth are the alternatives.

I'd like to see way more effort put into recruiting BME adopters and a much more pragmatic approach across the board to matching. However I hate everyone jumping on the ethnic bandwagon - transracial adoption is not easy and shouldn't be seen as any kind of long term panacea however if even the few hundred people who adopt fom other countries (not all transracially to be fair) can in the short term be considered more realistically by SS then it will go some way to evening out the quantity of BME children waiting in the system.

League tables/name and shame appraoch is stupid.

However I would like to see cases being reassigned because to boroughs with a better track record of matching (and succesful placements) if say a child isn;t matchied within 6 months.

NanaNina Thu 07-Jul-11 21:01:07

A very interesting thread. Hester you raised a wry smile at your comment that JH and Martin Narey are not the best of mates. Expect to see JH at any time on the thread and if so I will exercise every ounce of self control that I have, not to respond to the wretched man.

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