Why is this needed?
Learning gleaned from adoption support services provides an opportunity to evaluate and develop the wider adoption and looked after system.
A successful adoption service is dependent on the wider looked after system working to promote the emotional well-being and identity development of children. This includes undertaking life story work, pre-placement preparation, support of foster carers during transition, quality Child Permanence Reports etc. These are areas of work in which children’s social workers usually take the lead role. Undertaken well, they may reduce or even eliminate the need for later therapeutic support.
25.7 The agency takes action to address any issues of concern that they identify or which is raised with them.
26.4 The registered provider monitors the management and outcome of the services in order to be satisfied that the agency is effective and is achieving good outcomes for children and/or service users and that the agency is complying with the conditions of registration.
Adopters are often keen to see learning from their own experience being used to improve services to adoptive families in the future.
Adoption Counts has focused on the issue of improving relationships and possible contact between birth family members and adopters (see section 12). This has involved a training and information programme both for the RAA and key stakeholders in the partnering LAs.
Adoption Counts has used its Multi-Agency Resource Panel (see section 4) to review its most complex cases. By reviewing case histories and the current family situation, it has been possible to chart the development of the case and the provision of services and support as far back as the assessment of the adopters, matching decisions, initial sign of placement stress etc. This information can then be fed back to recruitment, assessment and family finding functions in the agency.
Examples of issues identified include:
Siblings placed together who shared a ‘trauma bond’ and whose adopters were not adequately supported, resulting in huge placement stress and potential breakdown
A number of adopters whose support networks were overlooked or overestimated during their assessment and who were then left vulnerable and isolated when the placement became stressful
A failure to identify early indicators of possible disruption in a placement (See Selwyn et al 2014 p285) and to provide support soon enough, rather than taking a ‘wait and see’ approach
Other issues have been identified from recent research findings, such as those outlined in section 12 on post adoption contact. The challenge has then been to identify the people, systems and processes which need to be appraised of new research and influencing them towards change
Possible future developments
No agency in the survey was able to supply a Theory of Change setting out how change processes would be managed across the RAA and participating local authorities. This will become more critical as RAAs seek to improve practice and processes across their regions.
As outlined in the introduction, there is real value in being able to share learning from adoption support services in order to influence the development of other aspects of children’s social care, particularly care planning. This learning should make for better adoptive placements and result in less stress and disruption to adoptive families. Additionally, lessons learnt from multi-disciplinary working will be applicable to many other areas of children’s services.