I’m sure that I’ve said it before but one of the main focus of my adult life has been twofold.
A - avoid bringing shame on the good family name and
B – try not to say out loud the stupid things I’m thinking.
So sat in the DfE’s Expert Advisory Group meeting brings those two rules into painfully sharp focus.
Following a discussion at the previous meeting Sally Donovan, Jenny Jones and I was given the opportunity to share adoptive parent’s experiences of accessing the Adoption Support Fund. Even though the fund is still in its infancy there are many positive experiences and we did out best to reflect them. The three amateurs, that us, in the room have spent some time seeking the views and experiences of adoptive families in relation to this. A significant number of adopters have come to us and shared their challenges and difficulties. Clear themes have come through:
- Social Workers having no, limited or incorrect information in relation to the scope and process of the ASF.
- Families waiting unacceptable lengths of time for assessment or even contact with Social Workers.
- Where there have been acrimonious or difficult relationships between families and Adoption Services they remain a barrier to accessing the ASF.
- Families that adopted through Voluntary Adoption Agencies struggling to access services through their Local Authority.
- Adoptees with very complex needs or large sibling groups that have multiple needs.
- Adopters being told that they need to have the assessment of need completed by CAMHS, in some cases were there is no provision or where relationships are challenging.
These were the major themes but unfortunately we three adopters have heard enough stories to be able to illustrate out our presentation with some very moving stories.
So what? I have a flare for cynicism that I like to paint as realism but I can confess to only have found the professionals that I have met at and through the DfE to be motivated by the desire to support adopters. There is a genuine drive to see the ASF used in the most productive manner and accessed by as many families as possible. Of course in the midst of all that there are agendas, personalities and disagreements over models, methods and who’s turn it is to make coffee and get biscuits. You know the sort of thing.
So this group of professionals and us amateurs had a very productive discussion around the nature of the challenges faced by adopters which they universally accepted. In some respects we are trying to change cultures and practice within Local Authorities that the DfE has limited control over on a case by case level. Pressure can be, and has been, brought to bear but that’s like us fixing a puncture whilst riding the bike, not easy. The discussion was fruitful and led to discussion around the opportunity that the formation of the regional adoption agencies may afford. This structural change may be an opportunity to change culture within adoption teams to add routes of redress for adopters and adoptees that are not currently there. The emphasis within those agencies can be shifted towards supporting adoption placements and the development of skills in workforces to do this There was a tangible change in tone from the previous meeting with a real interest and willingness to discuss the challenges and consider how to overcome them.
Lots of issues fed into this discussion; process of assessment and how this can be standardised; the role of Voluntary Adoption Agencies in carrying out the Assessment of Needs amongst other things. It felt positive and productive.
Of course the burning question of if the Fund will be extended has to be addressed and the crux of the issue is that it’s out of the DfE’s control. The outcome of the spending review will be announced in November and we’ll know the plans for the rest of this parliament. My gut feeling is to be optimistic but that’s what it is a gut feeling so there’s no evidence I’m hiding to back that up.
So that’s that, reporting back on meetings can be a challenge with things that can and can’t be said so more was discussed but you’ll understand my discretion.
As always comment or DM me if you’ve a question, thoughts or just want to tell me I’m wrong.