e were very pleased to work with the government on its Give a Child a Home campaign, designed to increase the number of people coming forward to foster or adopt. But the
government’s single-minded focus on increasing adoption risks oversimplifying what are enormously complex decisions.
What about the needs of the vast majority of
children who come into care and neither need nor want to be adopted? It is very important to reduce delays and speed up the time it takes for children who cannot live with their parents to live with a family that can provide them with a long-term home. This is true for all looked-after children, and not just those who might be adopted. Currently only 4,000 of the 62,000 children
living in care away from home in England today are awaiting adoption. Meanwhile more than 27,000 children come into care every year, and it is vital that the right decisions are made for all of them. Cutting a child’s legal ties with their birth parents
and family, choosing a family that can adopt them, possibly separating them from their siblings, and moving them to live with this family are enormous decisions. While this process can be speeded up, it must not be at the expense of ensuring this is the right path for the child. Adoption is not the only way that children
find stability and success. Local authorities with low adoption rates may be providing stability for children in other ways, and have outcomes that are as good, or even better, for the children who remain in their care as for those in other authorities. The government’s plan to ‘name and shame’ authorities which seem to be doing badly is not the answer. What is needed is a focus on securing families
who can provide a child with a home for as long as they need this. We need less focus on legal status and more on meeting the particular needs of each and every child in care.
Robert Tapsfield is chief executive of the Fostering Network
12 SOCIALWORKMATTERS JAN12
Why relations ‘Permanency’ should mean more t
support the Prime Minister’s drive to improve adoption rates. Too many children who enter care under five years old grow up in the care system. Delays at all points blight the life chances of these children, often exacerbated by the Public Law Outline (PLO), which was introduced to speed things up. But there is a wider issue. Adoption is just one
way among several of providing children with lifelong supportive and positive adult relationships. Indeed, the care planning regulations put permanency planning at the heart of all social work practice, yet too much practice is still about finding a placement rather than thinking about permanency. The poor developmental outcomes for
children who drift through care without regard to their relationships are well known. Planning for permanency was always supposed to ensure that all children in care had positive adult relationships on which they could rely. Instead permanency planning has become synonymous with adoption and has shifted the emphasis from safeguarding relationships to finding a placement. I suspect one cause of this shift is that
“casework”, which recognised the importance of
Julie Selwyn is director of the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at the University of Bristol