Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – Winter 2017

Welcome

Welcome to our Winter quarterly edition of the Adoption Reform Update. On this occasion, we cover news and updates about Special Guardianship, Intercountry adoption issues, the Adoption Leadership Board, and the Queen’s Honours. We trust you will find this edition informative.

If there are particular topics you would like to see covered please let us know (contact details in our ‘Keeping you in touch’ section at the end of this update).

Special guardianship guidance updated January 2017
The statutory guidance for local authorities on the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 (as amended by the Special Guardianship (Amendment) Regulations 2016) has been updated to reflect that, since April 2016, the Adoption Support Fund has been extended to cover therapeutic support for children living in England who were previously in care before the making of a special guardianship order. The guidance also includes a link to advice (produced by Family Rights Group) on helping eligible special guardians to access the Adoption Support Fund.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/special-guardianship-guidance

Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) data published
The ALB quarterly data has now been published for Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 2015/16 and Quarter1 2016/17. This data provides local level information on the adoption process and can be accessed via the links below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/adoption-leadership-board-quarterly-data-reports-2016-to-2017

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/adoption-leadership-board-quarterly-data-reports-2015-to-2016

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/adoption-system-performance

Key headlines from the Q1 2016/17 data includes:

  • The number of new decisions has continued to fall from 1,850 in Q2 2013/14 to 1,080 in Q1 2016/17 - a decrease of 42%.
  • New placement orders have fallen from 1,630 in Q2 2013/14 to 890 in Q1 1 2016/17 - a decrease of 45%.
  • There were 2,000 children with a placement order not yet placed with an adoptive family as at 30 June 2016 - this is a 10% decrease from 31 March 2016.
  • Child timeliness has improved. The average time between a child entering care and moving in with their adopted family in 2015/16 was 18 months, the same as in 2014/15. Latest quarterly data suggests that there has been an improvement to 17 months during Q1 2016/17.
  • Adopter timeliness is declining. In Q2 2013/14, 50% of approvals made by local authorities were made within six months of registration, while in Q1 2016/17 this had decreased to 31%. However, this was an improvement on the 25% low in Q4 2014/15.
  • Children adopted from care decreased in 2015-16 (4,690 adoptions) compared with 2014/15, which saw the highest number of adoptions from care since the current data collection began in 1992, with 5,360 children adopted from care.

Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) update - a message from Andrew Christie:
The ALB has decided it needs to strengthen its links with the Regional Adoption Boards (RABs) building on the work of the ‘sponsors’ (each RAB has a ‘sponsor’ who is an ALB member). Prior to each meeting of the ALB, we convene a conference call with the RAB Chairs, seeking their advice and input to the items on the agenda. In addition, a representative of the RAB Chairs’ group has been invited to attend the ALB from now on.

Stephanie Bishop, Chair of the East of England RAB, was the first Regional Chair to attend the ALB. It was very helpful having the regional perspective represented in the Board discussions, and I look forward to the Regional Chairs becoming regular attendees.

In January, I chaired my third ALB meeting, during which we discussed:

  • The story behind the data. The ALB has been working on a data narrative, presented at January’s meeting. I hope that this will help us to understand better what the ALB data return is telling us. We will publish that narrative shortly. DfE put questions to Board members and to the RAB Chairs about how the DfE adoption scorecards can improve, and will consult the ALB and RABs on proposals for new scorecards later this year.
  • The benefits of Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs). As some RAAs are close to launching, the benefits and challenges of implementing the new system are rightly becoming subject to scrutiny, and the Board is committed to addressing these. The development of RAAs is one of the biggest system changes in adoption that we have seen in recent years. I have attended several RAB meetings in recent months, and have been impressed with the support coming from the Regional Boards in the development of RAAs. I am keen to attend RAB meetings.
  • The Interagency Fee. CVAA, ADCS and LGA have met and issued a joint statement on the fee. The Board endorsed their emphasis on the importance of a level playing field. There are plans for these conversations to continue as regionalisation develops.
  • The Adoption Support Fund (ASF). The future of the ASF was discussed and the necessity of a Fair Access Limit understood. The additional £2,500 for special assessments will benefit the children who need it most. As DfE has now announced plans for the ASF’s immediate future, the Board is considering options for the long-term future of the adoption support system, including support for adopted adults and birth parents.
  • The ALB agenda. Over the next two meetings, the Board will be looking at adopted children’s health and education as well as considering the findings from recent ‘permanence visits’ by DfE to a number of local authorities in order to understand variability in permanence outcomes for children. These visits have been conducted with the support of RABs, for which I am very grateful.

In January, I visited the National Adoption Service in Cardiff to hear about the regionalisation programme in Wales. Data from Welsh agencies suggests a dramatic improvement in timeliness for children in the adoption system over recent years, but they face challenges in placing more complex children and providing access to high quality adoption support services.

I am very grateful for the commitment that so many people show to improving adoption services and improving the life chances of some of the most vulnerable children in the country.

Intercountry adoption and resident status requirements
In January 2017, the DfE published updated guidance on the resident status requirements needed by prospective adopters who wish to adopt a child by way of an intercountry adoption. This is to ensure that they will be able to obtain the necessary clearance for that child to enter and reside in the UK. The guidance can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/584576/Intercountry_adoption_and_resident_status_requirements.pdf

Please be aware that entry clearance requirements vary depending upon the circumstances of each case. Prospective adopters will need to obtain their own independent legal advice to establish the requirements that apply to their individual circumstances.

Important information for prospective adopters about British passport applications for children adopted from overseas
When making post-adoption plans to apply for a British passport for a child adopted from overseas, adoptive parents need to be aware of the Home Office’s policy pertaining to the change of names on official documents (e.g. passports).

The full guidance on the “Use and Change of Names” policy can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/change-of-name-guidance

The guidance makes it clear that official documents such as passports will only be issued in the name that a person uses for all official purposes. Whilst the UK government does not object to a person holding dual nationality, it does wish to see names aligned on official documents - this is for security and public protection purposes as it prevents potential fraudulent and criminal use of passports with two different identities.

Therefore, if adoptive parents wish to apply for a British passport for a child adopted from overseas, they will need to ensure that the child’s name is aligned with other official documents, including non-British documents (e.g. their foreign passport).

Honours List 2018
We would like to encourage adoption services to consider whether they know individuals that might deserve recognition through the honours system for their commitment to adoption and contribution to communities. We would like to see nominations from all parts of our diverse workforce.

The British honours system is one of the oldest in the world and has evolved over 650 years to the system we use today. Honours are awarded to people from all walks of life. Those that are awarded honours are exceptional people who have made a significant difference, have demonstrated exemplary or selfless service, earned the respect of their peers or improved the lives of those less able to help themselves.

For more information about the honours system and how to make a nomination, please visit https://www.gov.uk/honours

Congratulations to Andrew Christie, director of children’s services for the Tri-borough (Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster) and chair of the National Adoption Leadership Board, who was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to children in the New Year Honours 2017 list, published on 30 December 2016.

Keeping you in touch
We are sending this update to those we have contact details for and look to you to disseminate this bulletin more widely among your colleagues and members.

If you do not wish to receive this update please reply to this email and we will ensure your details are removed before any further updates are circulated. If any of your colleagues would like to be added to our circulation list, they should send their name, email address, job title and contact details to adoption.REFORM@education.gov.uk

If you have any suggestions as to how we might make these updates more useful to you – or items you would like to see – please let us know by contacting the email address above.

Adoption Reform Team
Department for Education
Winter 2017

 

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