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Adoption and fostering - the government would like to hear your views

100 replies

KatieMumsnet · 01/11/2011 13:53

Following on from yesterday's webchat on adoption with Oona King and Jeffrey Coleman, we've been asked by No.10 to find out a bit more about your thoughts on adoption and fostering.

This isn't a formal consultation, but a 'national conversation' that will be used to gather views for the policy people at the Department for Education and is party of a wider programme of activities for the national Give a Child a Home campaign.

Please feel free to post your thoughts on any issue relating to adoption or fostering, but in particular we've been asked about the following questions:

  • What more might be done to help speed up the adoption process for babies in the care system?

  • How might potential adopters and foster carers be matched with children more quickly?

  • How could support for foster carers better reflect and support the valuable work they do?

  • How can we improve the quality of support provided in children's homes?

  • How might foster or adoption placements be made more stable? For example, use of respite care.

  • Leaving care can feel like a cliff edge for young people. What might a better package of support for care leavers look like?

    Many thanks

OP posts:
NationalElfService · 01/11/2011 15:35

From a past potential adopter - less irrelevent checks - why do you need to talk with my ex husband from my marriage 18years ago who I have had no contact with since??
Why do you need to check all the local councils I have lived in as an adult and if I have paid all my council tax up to date?
What bearing does this have on me NOW and my ability to care for a child? The government felt I was more than capable to work as a childminder so why do you think that I wouldn't be able to care for an adoptive child? I have had 2 children already who have been brought up well and are out there making a difference in society as I type!

eaglewings · 01/11/2011 15:43

I unofficially adopted a distant relative years ago when she was in care. We asked for respite care and received too little too late. Happily now she is an adult things are better for her

I hope the SS now have far more money and resources pumped into them as I was not supported enough due to lack of social workers etc.

A friend works in children's homes and it is obvious that they are still too big in some counties, rather than being smaller family units with a continuity of staff.

The matching of children to parents would be quicker it seems if many of the barriers are removed and childrens basic needs are put before creed, ethnic group and social class

onholidaywithbaby · 01/11/2011 16:36

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MamaMaiasaura · 01/11/2011 16:47

One concern I have with speeding up a process is that when a case is less straightforward and the child is adopted when it could have remained with it's parents, with perhaps some interim support, for example when mum has PND

LaurieFairyCake · 01/11/2011 17:55

We are foster carers and it took us two years to get approved and once our last placement goes to college in 5 years we would think about adopting if we didn't have to go through the whole process again.

It's very expensive for the council and has little benefit as our ongoing assessments are very rigorous.

CombineArvester · 01/11/2011 18:19

Get someone decent to look into this - a professional on the ground adoption worker from BAAF or Barnardos, not some suit from a profit making agency.

It is not necessarily a good idea for every child to speed things up in the adoption process - if a family is to be a child's forever family they do need to be very well matched. Unfortunately a significant number of adoptions 'fail'

Get views from children who have been adopted / failed to be adopted, not just adopters. Some of those who complain about the length of the process and how they were forced to go abroad, are those who wanted a very specific thing- one young baby with no problems or disabilities, and as we all know it is very rare to find a baby in care with no problems.

And here's the thing the government will never do: pour loads of money into adoption services and the family court system. Recruit and train more social workers.

The name and shame council thing is imo completely self defeating. Every council will have different types of child in care, will be using a different family court...frankly poor old Hackney or Ealing might have loads of kids that nobody wants and surrey might have one lovely 6 month old healthy relinquished child. Whose idea was this?

If, by a process of independent investigation council by council looking at a number of different factors, it turns out that their adoption process is not working, look at helping that council on an individual basis, perhaps (here's a thought) by giving independent (non profit motivated) assistance... or giving them more money?

Maryz · 01/11/2011 18:25

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lilka · 01/11/2011 19:06

I'm sorry but one of the main ways to improve some dire parts of the system would be - MONEY! What's the one thing they don't want to put into the system?...Got it in one

  • What more might be done to help speed up the adoption process for babies in the care system?

    I think all babies where possible should be placed with concurrent carers. Obviously there may be some cases where it is clear that baby will be home very soon in which case that wouldn't be appropriate but otherwise it is best by far for the child not to have lots of moves.
    There is one problem with that, which is that you may have some people who only want to adopt getting approved as concurrent carers as it's the only way to get a baby. Which could potentially lead to a minority of them attempting to sabotage any reunion process because they can't bear to let baby go again. I have seen this happen with some carers on the American board I'm on, so it's a valid concern, although not common
    By and large though, concurrent care is the best option for the child though

  • How might potential adopters and foster carers be matched with children more quickly?

    Certain parts of the homestudy process could be made better or sped up. Notable I think that in some cases the wait to get on a perp course and then to be allocated a social worker is rediculous. No one should have to wait 6 months + from the end of prep to the start of homestudy!! I think this is one place where the government could mandate to LA's a certain time frame - ie. After course finishes and you recieve final application you have x weeks to begin the homestudy

    HOWEVER, the actual homestudy itself should not be rushed. 2 years is rediculous, but 8-10 months is a resonable time frame It shouldn't be done in much less than that, because it's time you really need to reflect on things like what issues you could accept in a child, and you learn a lot about yourself in the process (or at least you should if it's handled correctly)

    The other thing that must not be rushed is matching certain children. I know we don't want kids to 'languish' in care, but frankly if the child (as my girls did) has complex emotional issues, you really need to take time to find the right family. Any lack of complete honesty and careful preparation could lead to disaster (just ask DD1, her first adoption disrupted because a placement was rushed with a completely unsuitable family who were not told the truth about her). Matching difficult children should not be done in a time frame!!

    Will skip next two if thats okay...

  • How might foster or adoption placements be made more stable? For example, use of respite care

    Right...(gets going)...POST ADOPTION SUPPORT!! It's WOEFUL in many cases! LA's should be REQUIRED by law to provide support not just to assess. More grants should be available to access costly therapy where needed! We need to pour money into support services NOT cut them fgs. Change the mentality of 'we can't afford this therapy/treatment centre now' into 'we'll pay far more later if the adoption disrupts, so lets pay for support now'

    HONESTY!! The childs whole file should be available to the parents before they commit finally to adopt! No more lying, this is how placements disrupt! It would be nice if I didn't hear story after story of 'known serious illness in biological family wasn't revealed to me' or '8 disrupted placements hidden from us' - in my case I got a complete fabrication of my DD1's first adoption disrupted - I was NOT prepared for some of her more extreme behaviors which were KNOWN about!. Full disclosure should be mandatory!

  • Leaving care can feel like a cliff edge for young people. What might a better package of support for care leavers look like?

    Definitely some work placements and apprenticeships set aside for care leavers, as well as a strong system of mentoring where possible?
Lilka · 01/11/2011 19:07

well....that was a bit on the long side

nailak · 01/11/2011 19:28

im not sure how relevant this is, but i would seriously consider fostering, if i had the room, so if there was some help with costs related to living in a house considered suitable for foster careers it would be helpful, particularly when recruiting careers within ethnic minority communities.

Also i feel my religious beliefs, may prevent me from adoption, and i dont really want to confront my past, it is in the past and i have worked hard to get away from it, and that is a reason why i wouldnt consider adoption,

also if religious beliefs which state that a child should keep the name of their father even if adopted, and other considerations, such as a child becomes mehram (which means after puberty they can interact freely and they cannot marry etc) if they are breastfed twice before the age of 2 my the same woman etc, and if these were taken in to consideration you may have more success recruiting in the ethnic minority communities.

snail1973 · 01/11/2011 19:38

I agree with previous posters in that I don't particularly think the time the homestudy takes should be shortened. I believe the target is for it to be done in 8 months (?) and that felt about right for us. I absolutely think that there are masses of unnecessary delays in people getting accepted onto prep groups and then delays in being allocated a social worker. But I assume that these delays are because LAs don't have the money/resources available to do them any sooner.

I do wonder however if this could be helped by making the homestudy process a bit less onerous for the SWs. Potential adopters are a very engaged group, who have already taken time to go to prep groups. I do wonder if more of the homestudy could be done in a central place with couples there at the same time but going into private rooms for interviews etc. This would cut down massively on the time SWs spend travelling to potential adopters homes.

I also support concurrent planning as a potential way of giving babies a much more stable start (and dealing with a lack of foster carers).

I don't know how we can reward foster carers better. Don't want to over incentivise financially as this shouldn't be the main reason people do it, but the good ones out there are absolutely amazing and deserve so much praise and reward. OBEs all round??

Kewcumber · 01/11/2011 19:44

lordy I hardly know where to start!

But please don't ask an adoption professional to investigate as you will likely get more of the same (sorry Combine!) unless a very carefully chosen one.

Most successful adoptive parents (ie ones with children already placed) in my experience tend to be very dispassionate about the process and not particualrly biased.

People who have been "forced" to abroad are unlikely to expect a child with "no problems" or at least not by the time they've done the preparation course which is brutal in its assessment of the potential problems. They are also unlikely to get a "baby" these days I normally advise people to get approval for a child up to the age of 3 and commonly childrne are around 2 which isn't so dissimilar to younger children adopted via the UK system.

Very few parents without existing children want a child over 2 because they don;t want to parent an older child as their ONLY experience of parenting.

In order to get more children of school age adopted you need to do more research into why parents would consider adopting a child of this age and target them, provide them with guaranteed support and attach budgets to a child (rather than a departmental bucket). I think there is a string argument for adopted children to stay as "looked after" children if thats the right terminology to ensure that support is more readily available.

The time issue is a red herring for parents - most of us have ploughed through endless processes to get our children and would do so again if necessary and we do accept that such procedures can be necessary for the protection of the child. However teh length of the process is crucial when it comes to a child - its a hard line to draw but at some stage (and probably earlier than now) childrne need to be made available for adoption and some brutal decisions need to be made about how capable individuals (on both sides of the adoption fence) are of paretning that specific child.

My own experience is not of cases where childrne have been taken away from a mother wth PND who with a bit more support might be capable of effectively parenting but of parents who seriously physically and emotionally harm their child and carry on to do that with any number of children subsequently.

I would liek to see a separation in the practical roles -the same person who is responsible for supporting the family makes the decision to remove the child. (I know technically the courts do it but in practice it starts with the scial workers assessment). I think too often either the sw is too investing in teh parent succeeding and becomes blind to the glaringly obvious that the parent will never step up to the mark, or the opposite and the child protection issues come fo the fore without enough support being given early on.

I would also like to see an increase in BME adopters (though I have no idea how), more willingness of social workers to think outside the race/religion/age box when matching and a greater emphasis on fostering to adopt at all ages not just newborns via concurrent planning.

Kewcumber · 01/11/2011 19:51

I would also like to see (pointless comment but it riles me!) social workers and BAAF openly acknowledge that refusing matches on racial grounds usually consigns BME childrne to foster care which is predominantly WHITE and often for so much time that they spend their life with a revolving number of white foster carers. How can a revolving door of ethnically unmatched foster carers be a better option then a permanent family of any colour. Whatever the identity issues.

working9while5 · 01/11/2011 19:51

I have limited knowledge of the processes as have never been in the position to want to adopt.

However, it is my understanding that as I live in a 2 bedroom house I would be unable to even apply.

I am a speech and language therapist, my husband is an engineer, our household income is c. 60K, we are a stable and healthy couple with one child and I think we are pretty good parents.

It seems shocking to me, having worked with children in the care system for many years and seen the very real impact that it can have on them that a potentially loving family with decent income etc could be denied outright because apparently what children really need is a bedroom of their own. Really? More than a family?

TethHearseEnd · 01/11/2011 19:51

How might foster or adoption placements be made more stable? For example, use of respite care.

I think the school admissions process needs a massive overhaul for children in care. I have watched potentially stable and long term foster placements break down due to the pressure of the child being out of school for long periods.

This problem is particularly bad when a child has a statement of SEN; the process of finding them a school place can take upwards of six months. That's six months of no education at all in many cases, which puts a horrendous strain on the most stable of placements, causing many to needlessly break down.

There should be nationwide legislation in place to prevent this happening.

Kewcumber · 01/11/2011 19:58

I think the bedroom thing needs to be an issue at the matching stage not at the approval stage.
Some children really will need a bedroom of their own - to give them some privacy and respite in a family that doesn;t feel like theirs and also for their home grown sibling to be able to escape any challenging behaviours. Other childrne (generally younger but not always) will manage perfectly well sharing a bedroom and will be sufficiently bonded by teh time any issues start being acted out that its less of a problme.

BeaOnSea · 01/11/2011 20:24

What more might be done to help speed up the adoption process for babies in the care system?

How might potential adopters and foster carers be matched with children more quickly?

Elements of the Adoption & Children Act need to be reviewed as the matching process has been significantly slowed down due to the fact that family finding cannot (legally) begin until the Placement Order is granted even when it is obvious to all professionals involved that adoption is in the child's best interests.

Delays in Court proceedings need to be factored in to any discussions about how long it is taking for adoptions to be processed.

CowWatcher · 01/11/2011 20:45

I am no expert but have friends going through the process. It seems that too much concern has been given to ethnicity matching the child and parents to the detriment of the care of the child. Clearly, there need to be thorough checks made on adoptive parents, but speed must surely be of the essence. It is my experience that stability, as far as humanly possible, during the first few years of a child's life, can be crucial to their development into a sane adult.

Lilka · 01/11/2011 21:03

Further ideas

  1. Adoption allowance either always mandatory, or mandatory in certain situations ie. when child is diagnosed with a disability, or in a sibling group, or aged 5+. Some childrens difficulties mean that going back to full time or even part time is impossible. Even now I cannot work full time, I work part time because I really need the money, but I had to give up work for several years after adopting both DD1 and DD1 as they needed a SAHM - without question, working was not an option. Adoption allowances would be such a big help but recently it seems new adopters are denied them because of funding cuts

2. I want adoption leave to be made equal to maternity leave by law

3. I think adoptive parents should get more support in general. Going back to my earlier point about support - more people need to be employed in LA's who really understand attachment and mental health problems. Not just in children, but also understand that the childrens behavior and emotions have a huge effect on the parent/s. I have needed to access counselling myself because of the effect my childrens issues have had on me. More recognition of this is vital

4. After further reflection, I think we need to change the way post adoption support money is funded. Maybe there could be a mandatory amount per child, depending on behavior and diagnosis and other factors, that is paid into an account just for the one child to pay for certain supports and therapy. Further money can be applied for if big problems surface which require more.
Or maybe the government should force the LA's to put aside thousands out of their budget just as a pot for post adoption counselling and therapy treatments and to pay for residential homes. Forbidden to use the money for anything else, assessments of childs needs done by a body independent of the LA would be best. Just throwing ideas around, any others??

As an addition, this is more down to the individual LA's than the government, I still don't really see real attention on older children. As many challenging issues as come with adopting older children, I would still like to see more older children adopted. Yet I don't see much focus on them. Both this and last adoption week, I recall no children older than 6 being profiled publicly? No real focus on them, adopters and adoptees on 'This Morning' etc either were adopted as babies or adopted young children themselves. I would like to see more focus on older children in future weeks. Especially this week has been hijacked by '60 babies'..stats, and kids 7/8+ are being largely ignored
Lilka · 01/11/2011 21:08

Mumsnet - As this is like an official thread at the top, do these comments get passed on to the DofE, or this is just a discussion between Mnetters?

wonderstuff · 01/11/2011 21:18

I haven't been through the process, but am an SEN teacher and have adoptive family members. A stable placement makes SUCH a massive difference. So many children seem to go through such a high number of placements and countless schools - there must be some way of limiting the number of placements a child experiences.

There seems to be a real shortage of social workers.

I myself would like to foster - I know what a difference it makes and have experience of parenting and working with teenagers - but I can't see it happening because we live in an area of high house prices and would need a 4 bedroomed house (we are currently in a 2 bed) I totally get that foster children need there own room - I believe that in the past foster parents were able to get council houses large enough to accommodate fostering - I think finding some way of helping people willing and able to foster to access housing big enough to allow them to would really help increase foster carers - especially in the south east.

I think that young people in care need to be matched with mentors while they are in their teens who will be around to help them out for as long as they need - certainly into their 20's if not 30's - I still go to my parents for advice and support - people leaving care must have a need for a trusted older person to turn to.

wonderstuff · 01/11/2011 21:24

Also I spoke to a teenager I taught recently who is in care and he felt very strongly that foster parents of older children must have had experience of parenting before being allowed to take on older children or teenagers - he was placed with a family who hadn't had much parenting experience and had a really hard time of it - the couple just weren't equipped to deal with his needs.

IsItMeOr · 01/11/2011 21:48
  • What more might be done to help speed up the adoption process for babies in the care system?
    Concurrent planning has to be the key.

  • How might potential adopters and foster carers be matched with children more quickly?
    Is there any evidence that it's even possible to speed up this process? A huge amount of effort and money was ploughed into the system alongside Tony Blair's adoption strategy and the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, and yet there was no real impact on the timescales. This does suggest that there are some rather intransigent issues here.

    There seems to have been a fall off in the number of foster carers adopting the children they're looking after. Do we know why that is?

  • How might foster or adoption placements be made more stable? For example, use of respite care.

    More money, for more support. It's amazing what foster and adoptive parents are taking on for society, and while I don't agree with lavish payments for that, I do believe that they should have ready access to good quality support services. I'm not convinced that the legal model of adoption whereby the state no longer has any responsibility to these families that they've created is a fair reflection of the reality.
hester · 01/11/2011 22:30

My head's aching so I'm just popping in to give a couple of thoughts. Will ponder on it overnight and return tomorrow. But for now:

  1. I really agree with Kew's point about 'the mother with PND who needs temporary support' being vanishingly rare. IME and those of the adopters I know, the birth parents are way beyond this. Undoubtedly, earlier intervention could have made a difference, but I mean way earlier - 20 years, not weeks or months. Reading the background reports that accompany our children is heartbreaking - some of the birth parents were doomed almost from birth themselves, they didn't stand a chance. And it is heartbreaking to hear of them continuing to produce children who then get taken away. I know the Govt has a programme of targeting intensive support to the most struggling families, but it will it be sustained over years, or become yet another short-term pilot that is abandoned in the normal busy cycle of political short-termism?

2. Variation in quality of social workers is a key issue, though difficult to talk about. I had two brilliant social workers - lovely, supportive, intelligent, full of common sense - and one that was dire beyond description. Regular posters here will have been bored by just a sample of the many ways in which she let us down. I honestly would not want her to look after my gerbil. This is not all about resources, though some undoubtedly is. I continue to be shocked at how different social workers interpret their role and how badly some of them exercise their power. There seems to be a bit of a culture of disrespect towards adopters within the system, and some bizarre and unfair judgements and actions being made that are impossible to challenge.

3. I don't think that having a loving home and having raised other children necessarily qualifies you to adopt. I think the home study process is essential and shouldn't be rushed. But I do think it's a very strange system that puts nearly all its resources into the approval and matching processes, and so little into helping families post-adoption. It has always struck me as very strange that the adverts encouraging people to consider adoption always seem to contain messages like, "You don't have to be a special person", "we're looking for ordinary families" etc, but as soon as you start the process you are bombarded with messages about how different it is to parent an adopted child, how you mustn't dare to expect normal family life, that you actually should be a very special person - basically somebody who can offer specialist therapeutic parenting for 20 years while expecting nothing back for themselves. Then, almost as soon as the child is with you, any support vanishes and you are on your own - because, after all, this is your child now and how dare you ask to be treated any differently.

Sorry, for a short post that was rather long-winded, wasn't it? Grin
4madboys · 01/11/2011 22:51

"How can we improve the quality of support provided in children's homes? "

well pay the staff more for a start and make sure they arent so overworked and stretched to breaking point, give the staff good support and then they can provide better care for the children.

most homes are small and homely now for whoever mentioned that, my dp works in one with 4 children, it is a house a regular detached house adnt he children live there and the staff sleep in etc, its a home from home environment essentially.

the problem is there are always shortages staff wise, its a stressful difficult job dealing with often violent children (in the home my partner works in) there is a high staff turnover as people start, find out how hard it is and leave asap, stress related illness is also high amongst staff.

the hours are long and the pay shoudl be better. my partner enjoys his job and works dam hard but they just get tarred with the SW are crap brush that seems so prevelant in the media :(

many of these children have passed through many foster homes before ending up int he childrens home and as such have suffered from that, no decent bonding from a young age, it really affects these children, so there needs to be more long term placements and the support systems to help foster parents.

also the education for many of these children needs to be sorted out, my dp is constantly battling with the lea when they cant get school places, or they have to travel miles and miles to get to school. some are educated in the home (due to behaviour issues) and the staff are expected to do this, my dp is NOT a teacher and yet he is ending up researching stuff and trying to teach these kids as they are being sadly failed by the pathetic 'online' lessons that they are e-mailed. these children deserve a fighting chance and by not getting a decent education you are setting them up to fail :(

the homes are ofsted checked and whilst this i good in principle they pick up on such pointless things, ie the inside of the kitchen cupboards should be cleaned thoroughly at least twice a week apparently...yes really they should pull everything out, all food, all pots and pans and utensils and scrub the cupboards out, and its the staff that are caring for the children that have to do all the housework, the cleaning the cooking,the laundry etc AS well as look after high need children and the ofsted team are moaning that cupboards arent scrubbed out regularly?!! lots of little htings like that.

there is sooo much paperwork that my partner has to fill out, some essential most mundane but it takes forever and he often stays on after his shift has finished to do it, no extra pay of course. there is so much more to do that just look after the children, they are of course the priorit but its made so much harder for the staff as there is so much extra to do adn so many boxes to tick etc. SUPPORT the staff and the children will do better having a more harmonious environment with less stress staff looking after them!

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