Consultation on adoption and fostering welcomed by sector
New arrangements for approval of carers should speed up adoption and fostering process
The British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) and Fostering Network have welcomed the Government's newly published consultation on proposed changes to adoption and fostering.
The consultation was announced by the new Children's and Families Minister, Edward Timpson. He said that he expected that adopting and fostering would become a faster and more efficient process thanks to the proposed arrangements for approving carers.
The measures aim to allow foster carers to make everyday decisions about the children they look after and cut unnecessary bureaucracy in the approval process to encourage more people to come forward to foster. They also set out to reduce the time it takes to adopt and make the whole process more user-friendly.
The Government says that by sweeping away bureaucracy those who want to adopt and foster will not have to:
- call social workers every time a child in foster care goes for a haircut, has a sleepover at a friend's house or goes on a school trip
- undergo a criminal records check if they are previous adopters or foster carers who have already been approved and who want to adopt through the fast track process, unless agencies want to undertake one
- wait longer than necessary to foster or adopt because agencies cannot share records.
Instead the Government intends to introduce measures to encourage councils to do more to enable children in care to be placed more quickly with adoptive or foster families who can meet their needs. These include:
- bringing in a new two-stage approval process for adopters, as well as a new fast track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters who wish to adopt
- taking forward 'fostering for adoption' – by enabling adopters to be approved rapidly as temporary foster carers. The Government says that his will mean that more children can be placed with their potential permanent carers on a fostering basis while the council seeks a placement order from the courts
- requiring councils to refer looked after children for whom adoption is the plan to the Adoption Register within three months so that they are matched with adopters as soon as possible
- requiring all adoption agencies to refer prospective adopters to the Adoption Register no later than three months after approval
- making it a legal requirement that councils ensure that the child details on the Adoption Register are kept up to date
- removing the requirement to interview personal referees when a person has been an approved foster carer in the last year and a reference is available from their last fostering service.
The two-stage adopter approval assessment process means eligibility checks and initial preparation and training will be completed within the first two months. This will be followed by four months more intensive training and an assessment of their capacity to care for children needing adoption. In addition, the Government is also seeking views on reducing the size of adoption and fostering panels.
After the consultation the changes are set to take effect next year.
The Government has also announced £8 million funding this year to help adoption services. This will be used to develop the necessary skills, tools, and working arrangements to deliver the programme of adoption reform, of which these measures form a significant part.
David Holmes, Chief Executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said:
"BAAF welcomes this consultation exercise which focuses on getting the right balance between safeguards and speed, between necessary checks and unnecessary bureaucracy. We will draw upon the vast experience across our membership in responding to this important consultation exercise."
Robert Tapsfield, Chief Executive of the Fostering Network, said:
"More than three-quarters of the children in care in England live with foster carers, and so ensuring that the system is working well for these children and the families that look after them is essential.
There is a real need to make sure that foster carers are empowered to take day-to-day decisions regarding the children they foster – currently too many fostered children find themselves missing out on everyday childhood experiences. And we know that improvements must be made to the process of assessing and approving foster carers.
The Fostering Network welcomes the proposals and encourages all those who share a desire to improve the current system to respond to the consultation and help the Government make changes that will improve the lives of children in foster care."
The consultation document can be accessed here.