Thursday 16 April 2015

ASF: Start your engines.

For the last 13 years adoptive families have been saddled with this cruel legislative joke.* We have the right to have the needs of our children and families assessed in relation to adoption support by our local authorities but they have no duty to meet those needs.

"Yes,  Mr C we think you need Non Violent Resistance training to therapeutically support you with your aggressive child. Oh no, Mr C we're not going to give you it."

That sort of silly conversation.

So, the much lauded Adoption Support Fund (ASF) draws closer to it's national launch on the 1st May with the £19.3 million put aside to support the therapeutic needs of adoptive children. If you're like me my mind implodes with if and buts before I've reached the end of that sentence.  Is this a sticking plaster over the aforementioned legislative gaping wound? Ifs and buts, too many for me to list.

Then with weeks to go to the launch date the announcement of 'training' for Social Workers in regard to the ASF. It all seems a bit last minute. So, it seemed to make sense to see if I could blag my way onto the training and see what was going on. So I did.

Firstly it was a bit odd to sit with managers, Agency Decision Makers, Post Adoption Support Workers (PASW). All my region's movers and shakers some of whom had assessed me at various stages of my adoptions and their careers.

The main gist of the training was in relation to the procedure for applying for the fund. The pot of money is there to be used and in all honesty I couldn't think of a simpler system for applying from a Local Authorities (LA) perspective. Submit the online application, confirmed authorisation by a designated person in the authority and the answer will come within 5 working days and the monies by the end of the month. As bureaucratically streamlined as possible. The training is to be supplemented by phone support, visits from allocated advisors and webinars. You'd have to work hard to not understand or mess it up.
In fairness this is not beginning of the training that the LAs have had and was more a top up prior to launch.

The fund managers and the other trainers were clear that the money is to be used and used as creatively as possible within the remit of therapeutic support for children. What does that mean? Well, that's where the training got interesting, support can be identified, by SWs or Panels, and funds accessed prior to an Adoption Order. It can then be used after the order is in place, potentially supporting the placement of difficult to parent children. Groups of parents can be trained to therapeutically parent their children (filial therapy). Sibling groups can receive therapy even if some of them are over 18, young people with SEN can be funded for therapy up to the age of 25. Transport and accommodation for you to the therapist or for the therapist to you. The list went on and the creativity demonstrated by one of the pilot authorities was genuinely exciting.

So, that was good.

And the not so good?

Adopter engagement only constituted a small portion of the training. If adopters don't ask for it we won't get it. I know adopters that are on the fringe, they don't read blogs, magazines, go to events they are just living. I know adoptive families that are in need but remain off the radar.

Just as significantly adopter collaboration was not mentioned, addressed or highlighted. Like most adoptive parents I'm no expert in the benefits of specific therapies or what therapy would be most appropriate for my child. But I'm pretty sure I want to be in on the conversation.

I have concerns about the process of assessment, prior to application to the fund, maybe not a problem generated by the ASF but it will certainly highlight weakness in local provision. To my eyes this will be the bottleneck. The pilot schemes varied widely in number of applications and this concerns me what if you live in an authority that drag their heals. What if your relationship with your Local Authority is poor or acrimonious, then they are the last people you want back in your home.
Questions about the quality, quantity and location of provision.

There are as many questions as their are adopters.**  Specific questions that need to be asked and answered.
The timing of the General Election has limited getting some answers including long term funding plans. However, the fund is available now and we should access it now. Take what we can while we can.

In short:
  1. Request an assessment of your need from your Local Authority's Post Adoption Service or placing authority if within three years of adoption.
  2. If you are assessed as meeting the requirement for therapeutic support or intervention then work with your SW to identify what you want and need.
  3. They'll access the monies
  4. You'll get the support.
Yes, that's an oversimplification but in essence that's it.

My hope fuels my fear. My hope is that every adoptive family that needs therapeutic support calls their Social Worker as soon as they can and requests their assessment. My fear is that social work teams are not ready or do not have the capacity and structure to manage number of assessments.

So, where are we left? do we step back and wait and see? or do we make the call request an assessment and push?

Even if this lasts for 12 months I say push. At the least the next generation of adopters will have a raised expectation of support for their children and together we may precipitate a permanent change in legislation.

*The Adoption and Children Act 2002
**If you have questions contact your LA's PASW, Hugh Thornbury Adoption Uk's CEO on Twitter @TalkAdoptSupp or  me.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have been reading a lot about the importance of applying now, so spurred on, I have just made the call and asked for an assessment. The initial response is "it's all quite new we are not sure who does this". My placing authority, I am told, does not have a post adoption support team as all pre and post adoption work is managed by a core tam. But I am assured the manager has been on a ASF course. There seems uncertainty about the process for accessing the ASF, but my phone contact advised that she "thinks someone would come out and visit us to do an assessment.... (she assumes) using the post-adoption support assessment... and then they would agree what ever we need (really!!)... and we could identify who provides it..." It all sounds a bit too good to be true. The sticking point will be that my request is going back to our current social worker who so far as been unable to agree any support for us at all. We are still in an adoptive placement, a few months off the adoption order and battling over any sort of post adoption support. But I understand from the AUK site that Local authorities will be able to submit applications for funding before an Adoption Order, so adopters can receive a continuous package of support from the time of placement. I reminded the adviser of this, as she became hesitant once she knew we are pre-adoption order. But the call has been made (thanks for the push to do this!) and I'll let you know how we get on.

    1. You're right, your position pre order is no barrier to assessment and application. The funds can be released to the LA prior to the order and then you're all ready to start from the outset.
      As with anything new there's been a graduated take up in many LAs so the sooner people start the better.
      Thank you for commenting and I hope you get quality therapeutic support.

  2. I'm pleased to say that our social worker is already completing our assessment and we are meeting next week to go through it. I have asked for the specific support I felt we needed and we have worked together to explain why we feel this is the right support. I would also be urging people to make that call NOW if they need support. Thanks for sharing on #WASO

    1. Good news, sounds like you're ahead of the game.
      Thanks for commenting.

  3. You are right that one of the challenges with all of this is the assessment process. My concern is that you have Social Workers, who on the whole have no or very little psychological, mental health or therapeutic training, being asked to accurately assess the often complex therapeutic needs of children and young people. How is this appropriate? Equally, parents may have an idea of what they want based on things they have heard or read, but without an assessment by appropriately trainined professionals, there is a risk that, even if you are able to access some support, who is ensuring it is the right support, at the right time, by a professional with the right knowledge, skills and experience for your child's specific issue.

    As Clinical Psychologists, we are trained in the importance of thorough psychological assessment and formulation prior to commencing any therapeutic intervention. Yet these two vital steps have been missed with the ASF process. My worry is that the full potential of this fantastic cash injection for therapeutic support will not be realised because of the risk of wrong treatment, wrong time, wrong emphasis, etc as the needs have not been assessed thoroughly.

    1. I agree with you, misuse or inappropriate therapy can be harmful to say the least. The ASF can fund more than therapy for example complex assessments of need as well as for therapeutic training for parents.
      As an adoptive parent I feel strongly that we should collaborate with professionals and make informed decision about what will best suit our children and family's needs. SW's are tasked with assessing need but we need to be wise and cautious in the therapy that we access. I am optimistic for the fund but am cautious. If we don't access the fund will it be deemed a failure.
      There are lots of questions but I'd rather that than no money and no questions.
      Thank you for commenting and raising some very pertinent points.

  4. Thanks for this. I'm finding myself in a bit of a quandary currently as, in my opinion, despite some interesting moments, me and OB are getting along ok, probably don't need much, if any, support right now, and so would likely not get any if we asked for an assessment. However, this situation may change in the future. And how long will this money last? It's a great start, but it seems to me that it will eventually get used up. I fear that, if the point comes where OB does need intervention of some sort, we'll have missed the boat and the money will be gone. But I definitely don't want to be in the business of pushing hard now and potentially using money that a family who is really in crisis desperately need to be spent on them. But on the other hand, might gentle intervention now save a crisis later? If only we could see into the future!

    1. The money is allocated for 2015/16 and it is hoped/planned that a similar amount will be allocated each year. How this happens and where it comes and if it will happen is still unknown. If OB meets the threshold for therapy then under the terms of the fund he is entitled to it. As you say a stitch in time saves nine. If in 10 years he meets the threshold again then in theory he can access the fund again.
      As we say up this way 'shy bairns get nowt'