3.9.4 Adoption Support Services

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Relevant Guidance: Guidance on Assessing the Support Needs of Adoptive Families (2008)

See also Adoption passport: a support guide for adopters

Adoption Statutory Guidance 2013

Adoption Support Fund (Mott MacDonald/DfE)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in February 2016 in Section 9.8, Remuneration for Former Foster Carers - adopters who have previously been foster carers may be paid remuneration for a transitional period. This must be agreed before the adoption order is made. The Adoption Passport has been updated above.

Contents

  1. What is Adoption Support?
  2. Examples of Adoption Support
  3. Why Offer Adoption Support?
  4. When to Consider Adoption Support
  5. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?
  6. Which Local Authority Should Provide the Services?
  7. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support
  8. The Adoption Support Plan
  9. Financial Support
  10. Transfer of Cases from Pre-adoption Pathway to Post-adoption Support Services


1. What is Adoption Support?

Adoption Support is the contemporary way of referring to post adoption work. It includes any support likely to be required for an adoptive placement to endure through to adulthood and is applicable to both existing and new situations. 

Local authorities must now make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. 

Assessments carried out by social workers for the provision of adoption support will attend to the needs of adopted children, birth families and members of adoptive families in relation to their entitlement to adoption support services.

Local authorities must act reasonably when deciding whether to provide support services following an assessment, and may arrange for the required services to be provided by appropriate voluntary organisations. 


2. Examples of Adoption Support

See also: The adoption passport: a support guide for adopters

Adoption Support includes:

  1. Financial support to adopters. This can include one of payments or on-going payments;
  2. Priority access to social housing;
  3. Priority admission for school places, including academies and free schools;
  4. Services to enable groups of adoptive children, adoptive parents and birth parents to discuss matters relating to adoption;
  5. Assistance, including mediation, with contact arrangements between adopted children and their birth parents or others with whom they share a significant relationship;
  6. Therapeutic services for adopted children;
  7. Assistance to adoptive parents and children to support the adoptive placement and enable it to continue, including respite care;
  8. A range of adoption support services, including access to counselling, information and advice for both adoptive parents and their children, who may have complex needs;
  9. Assistance to adoptive parents and children where a placement disrupts or is at risk of disruption;
  10. Assistance with cross boundary matters;
  11. Intermediary Services;
  12. Possible referrals to the Adoption Support Fund on behalf of adoptive families;

Financial Support will be subject to the approval of the Designated Manager (Adoption Support).


3. Why Offer Adoption Support?

  1. To ensure that more people are able to adopt 'Looked After children' and that the placement remains stable and meets the needs of the child;
  2. To afford children, birth families and adoptive families the help they require to overcome the difficulties that can arise during the adoption process;
  3. To ensure that local and national targets are achieved in relation to numbers of looked after children who are adopted.


4. When to Consider Adoption Support

Adoption Support must be considered at the earliest opportunity where permanence is being planned.

Practitioners should consider the need for adoption support at the following stages of care planning:

  1. When preparing the case for presentation to the Adoption Panel as to whether child should be placed for adoption.
    See Placement for Adoption;
  2. When considering the suitability of prospective adoptive parents.
    See Assessment and Approval of Agency Adoptive Parents;
  3. When considering the matching of prospective adopters with a child for whom adoption is the plan;
  4. At a child’s reviews following the adoptive placement.
    See Reviews of Adoptive Placements;
  5. When requested by an adoptive parent, an adoptive child or a child of an adoptive parent;
  6. When requested by birth parents/birth relatives including siblings, significant others or any other people affected by the adoption.

The assessment of need is only required to consider those adoption support services to which the person making the request is entitled.

An assessment in respect of supporting contact arrangements only should be provided at the request of:

  1. A birth parent or birth relative of the adoptive child;
  2. A person with whom the adoptive child has an important relationship.

The adoption does not need to have been arranged by the local authority or an adoption agency in order to qualify for an assessment for adoption support. It is only where the adoption is by a step-parent that there is no requirement to carry out an assessment

Section 10, Transfer of Cases from Pre-adoption Pathway to Post-adoption Support Services sets out which practitioners in Walsall will be responsible for carrying out the assessment for adoption support.


5. Which Local Authority Should Carry Out the Assessment?

The table below sets out which local authority has responsibility for carrying out the assessment of adoption support, and in what circumstances.

Circumstance Responsibility for Assessment
Our child being looked after and in respect of whom an adoption plan is considered. Walsall MBC.
Our child, placed with or adopted by family living in area. Walsall MBC.
Our child, adopted by family living out of area. Walsall MBC has responsibility for 3 years after the Adoption Order is made and then the local authority where the adopters reside will have the responsibility.
In all other cases (i.e. non agency placements except step parent adoption). The local authority where the requester lives must assess.


6. Which Local Authority Should Provide Support?

The local authority responsible for carrying out the assessment of need should provide support to meet the identified needs. 

The only exception to this is where ongoing financial support and/or supporting contact arrangements have been agreed by the Placing Agency before the Adoption Order was made, in which case the responsibility to provide such support will remain with the placing agency.


7. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support

Section 10, Transfer of Cases from Pre-adoption Pathway to Post-adoption Support Services sets out which practitioners will be responsible for carrying out the assessment for adoption support. (An assessment will not be required where counselling, information or advice is the only support requested or required).

The practitioners involved should conduct assessments by following the guidance set out in the Assessment Framework. Single Assessment Records should be used.

Where the assessment is of the child’s or adoptive families need for support, all the developmental needs of the child should be covered, including health, education and emotional needs, and contact issues.

The assessing social worker will usually need to interview the person being assessed - where this is a child, the adoptive parents will also need to be interviewed depending on the case and the age, understanding and wishes of the child.

The needs of the family need to be discussed with them and what is currently available clarified.

A written report of the assessment should be produced and a copy given to the person being assessed. Where the assessment identifies a possible need for financial support, the proposal must be presented to the Designated Manager (Adoption Support) for approval before it can be included in the written report (see Section 8, The Adoption Support Plan).

The report should be sent to the person assessed with notice of the outcome of the assessment, which should state:

  1. The person’s assessed needs for support;
  2. Whether the local authority proposes to provide adoption support services and if so, what the proposed services are;
  3. Where the assessment relates to the need for financial support, how this has been determined and calculated and the conditions to be attached, (see Section 8, The Adoption Support Plan).

Where the person assessed is a child, and it is not appropriate to send the notice to the child, notice should be sent to the adoptive parent or the most appropriate adult. 

Where services are proposed, a draft Adoption Support Plan should usually be attached to the notice and those assessed should be allowed time to consider and make representations on the proposal (see Section 8, The Adoption Support Plan). 

 Where the service proposed is one-off, the notice of the outcome of the assessment will be sufficient to outline what is proposed and a draft plan will not be required.

The assessment and Adoption Support Plan will need to be completed after consultation with the appropriate Health Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), CAMHS or education departments where any special arrangements may need to be made. Where the child is placed in the area of another local authority, the agencies in that authority’s area will need to be consulted as to what services may be available for adopters and adopted children.


8. The Adoption Support Plan

An Adoption Support Plan (Form WSS 993) will set out clearly:

  1. The objectives of the plan and the key services to be provided;
  2. The timescales for achieving the plan;
  3. Those responsible for implementing the plan and the respective roles of others; what should be provided, when and by whom;
  4. The criteria that will be used to evaluate the success of the plan;
  5. The procedures that will be put in place to review the services to be provided and the plan.

In preparing the plan, the agency should carry out consultation with the appropriate persons, including, where the child is placed in the area of another local authority, the relevant agencies in that authority’s area.

The Adoption Support Plan should include the proposed financial support (see Section 9, Financial Support) and have been agreed by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support).

Once a proposed Adoption Support Plan has the necessary managerial approval, a copy should be sent to the recipients and to any party involved in the delivery of the plan and the reviewing officer. 

The recipients of the proposed support will have 10 working days to consider the proposals and make representations to the local authority about the proposed plan. Any representations made should be considered by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support), who should inform the recipients of the outcome of the consideration.

Where the Adoption Support Plan has been drawn up for a proposed agency adoptive placement, the Plan will then be submitted to the Adoption Panel with the Adoption Placement Report when the placement is being considered. See Placement for Adoption Procedure. After Adoption Panel, the Panel Coordinator will open an Adoption Support File for any child matched.

In all cases, a copy of the final Adoption Support Plan should go to all those involved in implementing it, and to the recipients of services (or appropriate adult).

An Adoption Support Plan which relates to an agency adoptive placement should be reviewed at the Reviews of the adoptive placement- see Adoption Reviews or at any time if there is a significant change of circumstances, within four weeks of the notification of the change. After the Adoption Order has been made, the team will review the Plan annually and more often if a change in the person’s circumstances is brought to the notice of the local authority.

In relation to any other Adoption Support Plan, the Plan must be reviewed annually or more frequently if a change of circumstances is brought to the attention of the agency. This is likely to be carried out by adoption support social workers - see Section 10, Transfer of Cases from Pre-adoption Pathway to Post-adoption Support Services.

The format and content of any Review will depend on the circumstances of the case. It may refer to only one element of the Plan or be relatively minor in which case an exchange of correspondence may be sufficient. However, where the change of circumstances is substantial, such as a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it may be appropriate to conduct a new assessment of needs involving other parties.

If as a result of a review whether before or after an Adoption Order has been made, it is proposed to vary or terminate the support, the proposed change must be approved by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support). Once so approved, the person concerned must be notified of the proposal and given the same information as in the notice of the outcome of the first assessment, together with a copy of the revised plan in draft. He or she must then be given 10 working days to make representations on the proposals. 

Having taken account of any such representations, the Designated Manager (Adoption Support) will make the final decision. In the case of financial support, the decision should also consider whether it is appropriate to seek to recover all or any of the financial support already paid. 

Notice of the decision must then be sent to the person concerned with reasons and, where appropriate, a copy of the revised plan.

Where there is an urgent need for support, the support can be provided before a Plan is drawn up but the above procedure should then be followed as soon as possible. 

An Adoption Support Plan (Form WSS 993) will set out clearly:

  1. The objectives of the plan and the key services to be provided;
  2. The timescales for achieving the plan;
  3. Those responsible for implementing the plan and the respective roles of others; what should be provided, when and by whom
  4. The criteria that will be used to evaluate the success of the plan;
  5. The procedures that will be put in place to review the services to be provided and the plan.

In preparing the plan, the agency should carry out consultation with the appropriate persons, including, where the child is placed in the area of another local authority, the relevant agencies in that authority’s area.

The Adoption Support Plan should include the proposed financial support (seeSection 9, Financial Support) and have been agreed by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support).

Once a proposed Adoption Support Plan has the necessary managerial approval, a copy should be sent to the recipients and to any party involved in the delivery of the plan and the reviewing officer. 

The recipients of the proposed support will have to consider the proposals and make representations to the local authority about the proposed plan. Any representations made should be considered by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support), who should inform the recipients of the outcome of the consideration.

The Adoption Support Plan will then be submitted to the Adoption Panel when a matching recommendation is being considered. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

After Adoption Panel, the Panel Coordinator will open an Adoption Support File for any child matched.

A copy of the final plan should go to all those involved in implementing it, and to the recipients of services (or appropriate adult).

The Adoption Support Plan should be reviewed at the Reviews of the Adoptive Placement- see Reviews of Adoptive Placements – or, at any time if there is a significant change of circumstances, within four weeks of the notification of the change. 

After the Adoption Order has been made, the Plan should be reviewed if a change in the person’s circumstances is brought to the notice of the local authority.

The format and content of any Review will depend on the circumstances of the case. It may refer to only one element of the Plan or be relatively minor in which case an exchange of correspondence may be sufficient. However, where the change of circumstances is substantial, such as a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it may be appropriate to conduct a new assessment of needs involving other parties. 


9. Financial Support

9.1 Introduction

The scheme for financial support to adopters provides for the following:

  1. Greater use of lump sums;
  2. Decisions to pay can be made at any point;
  3. Additional flexibility for foster carers who adopt children already placed with them;
  4. Payments to non agency adopters (except step parent adopters), if appropriate;
  5. Existing allowances to continue;
  6. Eligibility criteria to be established (as set out below).

Financial support is intended to supplement existing means of support available to adoptive parents and the child or children being adopted. Adopters must be given advice of entitlements to employee’s rights to leave and pay, benefits, tax credits and allowances, and these should be taken into account when considering amounts of financial support.

9.2 Criteria

The circumstances in which provision of financial support may be paid are as follows:

  1. Where it is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents can look after a child;
  2. Where the child needs special care which requires a greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continuing consequences of neglect - and the child’s condition is serious and long-term;
  3. Where it is necessary for the local authority to make any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the adoption by reason of the age or ethnic origin of the child or the desirability of the child being placed with siblings or a child with whom he/she has previously shared a home;
  4. Where such support is to meet the recurring costs of travel for visits for the child to members of the birth family/significant others;
  5. Where the local authority considers it appropriate to contribute towards expenditure on legal costs, including Court fees (in cases where the adoption is supported by the local authority), or expenses associated with the child’s introduction to adoptive parents or expenditure on accommodating the child (e.g. adaptations to the home, furniture, clothing or transport).

9.3 Types of Payment 

Payment to adoptive parents may be made in the following ways:

  • Regular payments (basic adoption allowance) - which will be based upon the developmental age of the child and calculated as agreed from time to time by the authority;
  • Lump sum payments (settling in costs, special needs and adaptations), which will cover items or adaptations that are required as a consequence of assessment of each child’s individuals needs;
  • Payment may be in instalments and will end at a time specified by the authority;
  • Payments in special circumstances (for a child with additional needs or when foster carers adopt a child for whom they are already caring or where adopters incur legal expenses in contested cases.) Payment may be in instalments and may end at a time specified by the authority.

Financial support cannot generally include the “reward” element which may be payable to foster carers. However, payments may be paid above the usual level where it is regarded as necessary to ease the transition from foster care to adoption. 

Generally such additional payments can be paid for a period of two years although in exceptional circumstances, where the circumstances set out in 9.2 above are satisfied, additional payments may be paid for a longer period.

9.4 Assessment for Financial Support

Adoptive parents may be entitled to all or part of the above payments and this will be determined by the assessment. Section 10, Transfer of Cases from Pre-adoption Pathway to Post-adoption Support Services sets out which practitioners will be responsible for carrying out the assessment for adoption support.

As part of this assessment, the adopters should be asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form and the completed form should be forwarded to the Finance Department. The Designated Manager (Adoption Support) will decide the level of support to be paid having regard to this assessment.

The Adoption Support Plan (see section 8 above) will include the proposed financial support agreed by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support)

In relation to proposed financial support for a new placement, the Adoption Support Plan will be submitted to the Adoption Panel when a matching recommendation is being considered. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

9.5 Notification

The administrative staff in the Finance Department will send the adopters written notification of the decision to provide financial support and any changes in support. This includes the amount and terms of the support and information about annual reviews.

9.6 Terms and Conditions

If it is decided that financial support should be given to adoptive parents, payment may be subject to conditions and a date specified by which the condition is to be met.

For example, the authority may specify that equipment for which financial support has been given to meet identified need of a child be installed by a certain date and that all receipts for said equipment be made available for inspection.

Prior to making financial support available to prospective or adoptive parents, they will be required to inform the adoption service:

  1. Of changes to their home address;
  2. If the child (for any reason) no longer lives with them;
  3. If there are any changes to their financial situation.

Where information is given orally, adoptive parents must confirm this in writing within 7 days.

9.7 Annual review of support 

Adoptive parents must complete and supply the authority with a statement of their circumstances that will be reviewed annually.

This statement asks adoptive parents to specify the following:

  1. Their financial circumstances;
  2. The financial needs and resources of the child or children;
  3. Their home address and whether or not the child or children live at home with them;
  4. If there has been any changes to their own or the child/children’s circumstances.

Any proposed variation or termination of the financial support must have the approval of the Designated Manager (Adoption Support) and be notified to the person(s) concerned in accordance with the procedure set out in Section 8, The Adoption Support Plan above.

Should adoptive parents fail to supply an annual statement, the authority must send a written reminder and give 28 days to comply. If they fail to comply, the authority may suspend payment of the financial support provided.

9.8 Remuneration for Former Foster Parents

Where the adopter previously fostered the child they are adopting, and they received remuneration in the financial support paid to them as the child’s foster parent, the local authority may continue to pay remuneration for a transitional period of two years from the date of the adoption order. This can continue for longer than two years if the local authority considers the case to be exceptional. The decision to include remuneration must have been taken before the making of the adoption order.

9.9 Ending of financial support

Financial support will end in the following circumstances:

  • When a child reaches age 18, unless he/she continues in full time education or training when support may continue until the end of the course of education or training being undertaken;
  • Where a child ceases full-time education or training and commences employment;
  • Where a child qualifies for income support or job seekers allowance in his/her own right;
  • Where circumstances have changed significantly and the criteria are no longer met;
  • If a child leaves the adoptive home and this is regarded as a permanent departure. Temporary absences do not apply, e.g. boarding school, hospital, and respite care;
  • The child dies.


10. Transfer of Cases from Pre-adoption Pathway to Post-adoption Support Services

10.1 Adoptive placements with Walsall approved families

Responsibility for the delivery and review of the Adoption Support Plan will be with the Adoption Team until the making of an Adoption Order,  This may initially be provided and supported by the assessing social worker and may later transfer to social workers responsible for the provision of adoption support.The child’s social worker will retain case management responsibility up until the making of an Adoption Order or until all of the identified actions assigned to him or her in the Adoption Support Plan have been completed, whichever is the later.

10.2 Inter Agency Placements

In relation to inter agency placements, the same arrangements apply except that adoption support social workers will take over the coordination of the Adoption Support Plan at the time the child is placed.

10.3 Adoptive placements by other agencies with Walsall approved families

Where another agency considers placing a child with a Walsall approved family, the Adoption Team Manager has the responsibility for negotiating any commitments made on behalf of Walsall within the Adoption Support Plan. The Adoption Team retains responsibility for any support agreed to be delivered by Walsall until the Adoption Order is made.

It must be remembered that the placing local authority retains responsibility for the adoption support services (including financial support) for up to three years after the Adoption Order is made or, in the case of financial support agreed before the Adoption Order, on an ongoing basis.

When it has been more than three years since the Adoption Order was made, Walsall Adoption Team will take over responsibility for the assessment and provision of adoption support services.

When responsibility for adoption support services for an eligible person transfers from an outside local authority, the Adoption Team will not accept an existing Adoption Support Plan unless it has been involved in the assessment for and preparation of that Adoption Support Plan.

Where there has been no prior consultation and agreement on the Adoption Support Plan with this agency, the Adoption Team will conduct a further assessment, which will be informed by any previous, recent assessment of need.

10.4 Children and families not currently in receipt of services from Walsall

Pathways to access adoption support assessment and services have been devised to adhere to the Walsall’s Early Help procedures and are consistent with the Step Up/Step Down Guidance.

Our aims are to:

  • Provide a consistent inter-agency approach to working with those eligible to adoption support assessments;
  • Avoid duplication or unnecessary intrusion into family life;
  • Ensure that the child’s welfare and safety remain paramount. 

For children, adults and families not previously known or who are no longer in receipt of a service from Walsall, there are two routes for accessing an adoption support service from the Adoption Team.

Enquiries and Referrals to the Family Placement Service

Social Workers from the Adoption Team will take referrals from those eligible for an adoption support assessment from Walsall (see Section 5, Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment? above) or from a social care agency making the referral on their behalf.

The Social Worker will complete the appropriate Referral Form and carry out checks to determine if the child, family or adult is known to Walsall or to any other local authority.

The Duty Officer will make an immediate assessment of the service required. The outcomes may be one of the following:

  • That the enquirer should be given advice and/or signposted to the most appropriate services (e.g. Adoption Support, Adoption UK, Office of Population and Census, universal services for health, education and leisure provision, etc), and then recommend No Further Action;
  • That the enquirer is provided with more detailed advice on adoption support issues;
  • That the enquirer is referred  for an adoption support assessment or immediate service is required/requested.

All referrals for adoption support assessment or services must be passed directly to the Adoption Manager prior to being passed to administrative officers for inputting in to the electronic information system. 

The Team Manager (or practice manager) will make a decision on the nature and timescale for response, will allocate the referral and then pass to administrative officers for the referral to be inputted in to the electronic information system.

In some situations, a service from the Children's Service Teams will also be needed and the request will be forwarded to MASH for action where it will be forwarded to the respective Team Managers, (i.e. Initial Response, Safeguarding Family Support and the Permanence Support Team Manager) who will agree a joint working approach. In these cases, where the Family Placement Service has taken the referral, it will be inputted and then faxed to MASH.

Enquiries and Referrals to the MASH

Some enquiries or referrals for adoption support services might be made via MASH. Where the enquiry or referral relates solely to adoption support services, the MASH Duty Officer must decide whether it is more appropriate to signpost the enquirer to the adoption team.

In some cases, for example where there are concerns about Significant Harm, the enquirer or referral will necessitate a joint response from either the MASH and the Adoption Team.

Enquiries and Referrals to Adult Services or Mental Health Services

These will usually be in situations where adoption is a feature, and the Thresholds and Early Help Assessment indicate the child's level of vulnerability to be at Level 3, (e.g. children experiencing Significant Harm or where there is a likelihood of significant harm.)

Some children who have adoption support services needs may also have other special needs requiring a service from the Children's Service Teams.

These will most usually be children where the Early Help Assessment indicates their level of vulnerability to be at Level 2, (e.g. children whose health or development is being impaired or there is a high risk of impairment requiring a Multi Agency support plan).

In such situations the MASH Manager, and the Adoption Team Manager will consider the referral. A joint decision will then be made on whether a joint assessment is needed. Where joint assessments are undertaken, the Children's Service Team will take the lead on determining the conduct of the assessment.

Enquiries and Referrals from External Adoption Agencies and Local Authorities

In many instances children will be placed for adoption with families outside of their local authority area. Where this occurs, the placing local authority ceases to be responsible for adoption support services assessment and provision to those families three years after the Adoption Order is made see table in Section 5, Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?

In situations in which there is an existing and current Adoption Support Plan (less than 6 months since initially being made or since previous review), the Adoption Team Manager will directly accept a referral from an external local authority or adoption agency.

The adoption support workers will arrange a joint planning or transfer meeting with the referring local authority. Where possible and appropriate, a joint visit to the child and/or family will be arranged.

The adoption support workers will ensure that the referral is passed to MASH to input into the electronic information system.

In situations where there is no Adoption Support Plan or where the Adoption Support Plan is more than 6 months old, the Adoption Team will take a referral where the presenting situation and/or request for adoption support falls within the Early Help Assessment and Thresholds Guidance Levels 0, 1 or 2 of vulnerability.

End