Monday 19 March 2018

Adoption Leadership Board: The Changing Face of Adoption & Special Guardianship

The Adoption Leadership Board have commissioned a project to:

'understand and predict the future needs of children who are adopted or in special guardianship arrangements and their families, in order to plan a future system that effectively meets their support needs.' 

Today I was invited, along with lots of others, to a workshop to consider and discuss the initial findings of the report. I'm not going to try to give you a blow by blow account of the day but perhaps the key points from my perspective. Of course others in the room may have come away with different points to discuss. In fact my main thoughts are still in formation so I'm not going to bother you with them until I can make my own sense of them.

Those present included Special Guardians and kinship carers as well as a range professionals and adopters from different locations. It was humbling to meet with non adopters that face all of the challenges that we adopters do with less support or status. We came together to consider permanency and the future needs.

John Simmonds OBE gave a fantastic, and sobering, whistle stop tour through the history of adoption from The Adoption of Children Act in 1926 . We need to know where we've come from to inform where we're going and he did this fantastically highlighting lessons learned and not learned from the last 100 years especially.  We then had Prof. Beth Neil give a brief history and overview of contact with birth family. This was sobering as she noted that direct contact is occurring less now than when she first studied it 20 years ago in spite of the acknowledged potential benefits for many children.

That lead us to discuss specific areas of support and future policy. The idea that many families want an open door to support built on trust and relationship rather than having to revive closed cases with no corporate knowledge of families and routes to support that run a gauntlet of call to the front desk that may lead you into an unwanted or unnecessary child protection cul de sac. We debated how this would be described. A 'watchful waiting' or 'keeping in mind' by post adoption teams, language matters and I can see flaws in these two descriptions. The conversations then moved to other key issues that had been highlighted in the consultations.

Contact, what support and preparation will be be needed to facilitate contact between significant and meaningful family members for adopters and SGs? It remains a tricky issue and it was acknowledged that the needs and wishes of children and adults shift through the life course. Without doubt there remains lots of questions in relation to this not least the need to convince front line practitioners.

Lastly, the support networks around adults and children was considered, how to facilitate them and support their growth.

It was a good day and an opportunity to hear some different voices. Of course access to influence the report is limited and though some have had access to the different consultation events run by Hugh Thornbery CBE, who's heading the project,  many didn't so if you've thoughts you can email here

What will the outcome of the report be? It's easy to fall into a well worn cynicism in relation to reports and good ideas. In reality anyone who knows anything of this world knows there's a significant need and limited resources. That's where my mind was left at the end but I'm sure that I'll work that up into something. I'm naturally an optimist so generally I'm encouraged.

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