"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.
- Request an assessment of your need from your Local Authority's Post Adoption Service or placing authority if within three years of adoption.
- 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.
- They'll access the monies
- 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.