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5.3.6 Adoption Support

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

The Adoption Passport: A Support Guide for Adopters

Adoption Support Fund (Mott MacDonald/DfE)

Adoption Statutory Guidance 2013

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in April 2019 in line with the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and revised statutory guidance. These changes relate to ongoing education support for children and young people with the status of 'previously Looked After Children'.

A previously looked-after child is one who is no longer looked after in England and Wales because subject of an Adoption, Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order which includes arrangements relating to with whom the child is to live, or when the child is to live with any person, or has been adopted from 'state care' outside England and Wales).


Contents

  1. Adoption Support
  2. Duty to Provide Information
  3. Examples of Adoption Support
  4. Assessment of Need
  5. Local Authority Responsibilities
  6. Assessment Process 
  7. The Adoption Support Plan
  8. Financial Support


1. Adoption Support

Adoption Support 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 make arrangements, as part of their adoption responsibilities, for the provision of a range of adoption support services.

In Cambridgeshire, adoption support services are provided in behalf of the County Council (CCC) by Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption (CCA).


2. Duty to Provide Information

There is a statutory duty to provide information on adoption support services to:

  • Anyone contacting CCC/CCA to request information about adopting a child;
  • Anyone informing CCC/CCA that they wish to adopt a child (other than a step-parent adoption);
  • Any parent of an adopted child within Cambridgeshire who requests information;
  • Any parent of an adopted child living in Cambridgeshire of whom the authority becomes aware.

Information must be provided about:

  • The full range of adoption support services available in the Cambridgeshire. This includes, but is not limited to, therapeutic services, any assistance in relation to contact arrangements and financial support;
  • The right to request an assessment for adoption support services (at any time);
  • The address and telephone number of the Adoption Support Services Adviser:
    CCA Adoption Support Team Manager,
    Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption,
    Lincoln House The Paddocks Business Centre,
    Cherry Hinton Road,
    Cambridge,
    CB1 8DH;
    0300 123 1093 or 01223 275300;
    www.coramcambridgeshireadoption.org.uk;
  • Which local authority, if not CCC/CCA is responsible for assessing a person's support needs;
  • Contact details for first4adoption and local information sources on adoption;
  • Priority school admissions (where relevant). Details can be found at School Admission of Children Adopted from Local Authority Care, GOV.UK website;
  • Priority council housing and Discretionary Housing Payments;
  • The entitlement to early education from the age of 2 years (since September 2014);
  • How to make a complaint, both under the local authority complaints procedure and to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman;
  • Any other relevant services provided by CCC/CCA.

The following will be included in information provided by Cambridgeshire Coram Adoption (CCA) to potential and prospective adopters:

  • Where to find information about adoption pay and leave. Details can be found at Adoption Pay and Leave (GOV.UK website);
  • Their right to receive a copy of the child's permanence report, including a summary of the medical adviser's report on the health of the child, before the child is placed with them for adoption;
  • The child's entitlement to a life story book. This will include who provides the life story book, usual contents s and its purpose.

If someone requests information about a specific service, they will be offered the other information listed as well.

If the local authority refuses a person's request for information, it should give reasons for the refusal and signpost the person to a website or alternative source of the required information.


3. Examples of Adoption Support

See also The Adoption Passport: A Support Guide for Adopters.

Adoption support may, but will not always, include:

  1. Financial support to adopters. This can include paid adoption leave at similar rates to maternity and paternity leave;
  2. Priority access to social housing, and access to additional support to cover a spare room whilst adopters wait for their child to arrive in their new home;
  3. Priority admission for school places, including academies and free schools;
  4. The role of the designated teacher in offering support to previously looked after children and to their new school. See Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure;
  5. Services to enable groups of adoptive children, adoptive parents and birth parents to discuss matters relating to adoption;
  6. Assistance, including mediation, with contact arrangements between adopted children and their birth parents or others with whom they share a significant relationship;
  7. Therapeutic services for adopted children;
  8. Assistance to adoptive parents and children to support the adoptive placement and enable it to continue;
  9. Assistance to adoptive parents and children where a placement disrupts or is at risk of disruption;
  10. 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;
  11. Assistance with cross boundary matters;
  12. Intermediary Services - see Intermediary Services Procedure.

Support provided under 5) to 9) above may include cash assistance, for example to pay for a babysitter, although this would not be regarded as financial support.


4. Assessment of Need

4.1

In relation to adoptions arranged by the CCC/CCA, practitioners must assess the need for adoption support at the following stages of care and permanence planning:

  1. When preparing the Child's Permanence Report for presentation to the Adoption Panel as to whether the child should be placed for adoption;
  2. When preparing the Prospective Adopter's Report for presentation to the Adoption Panel as to the suitability of prospective adoptive parents to adopt;
  3. When considering and preparing the Adoption Placement Report for presentation to the Adoption Panel in relation to the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters.
4.2

In relation to placements arranged by the County Council, the need for, or effectiveness of, adoption support must also always be considered at a child's Adoption Reviews following placement.

See Adoption Reviews Procedure.
4.3

Cambridgeshire Coram Adoption (CCA) will also undertake an assessment of need for adoption support on behalf of the County Council at the request of:

  • Children who may be adopted, their parents or guardians;
  • Persons wishing to adopt a child;
  • Adopted persons, their parents, birth parents and former guardians;
  • Other children of adoptive parents (whether or not they are adopted);
  • Birth siblings of adopted children;
  • Relatives of the adopted child or other persons with whom the child has a beneficial relationship.

The requirement to assess the need for support is limited to the entitlement to services of the person making the request.

As well as adoptions arranged by the local authority, children adopted from abroad are entitled to be assessed for therapeutic services and disruption support. It is only where the adoption is by a step parent that there is no requirement to carry out an assessment, although in such cases, counselling, advice and information may be offered, as appropriate.


5. Local Authority Responsibilities

The table below outlines different circumstances and which local authority has responsibility for undertaking (or arranging for) the assessment of need for adoption support.

Circumstance Responsibility for Assessment
Child being Looked After and in respect of whom an adoption plan is being considered The local authority looking after the child
Child placed with, or adopted by, a family living in the area of the local authority arranging the adoption The local authority for the area where the child and adopters live
Child placed with and/or adopted by family living outside the local authority area The placing local authority has responsibility at the time of the placement and for up to 3 years after the Adoption Order is made, and then the local authority where the adopters live will have the responsibility
In all other cases (i.e. non agency placements except step parent adoptions) The local authority where the requester lives must assess

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

The exception to this is where ongoing financial support and/or supporting contact arrangements has been agreed by the placing authority before the Adoption Order was made, in which case the responsibility to provide such support will remain with that authority for as long as eligibility for the service continues.


6.  Assessment Process

In all cases where an assessment is required, the practitioner involved should follow the guidance set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children. The assessment should take account of the adoption context and, where the assessment relates to the child, all their developmental needs including health, education and emotional needs and contact issues. The relevant education and health providers should be consulted as appropriate.

Assessments of need for adoption support under paragraph 4.1 (a) and (b) above should be carried out by the child's social worker and/or the prospective adopters' social worker as appropriate prior to being presented to the Adoption Panel. The assessment under paragraph 4.1.(c) at the time of the child's proposed placement with prospective adopters should be considered at the Matching Meeting and also have the approval of the the Adoption Support Services Adviser (ASSA) and the Adoption Allowance budget holder prior to being presented to the Adoption Panel with the Adoption Placement Report. At all stages, the Adoption Panel must consider, and may give advice on, the proposed adoption support and this advice will be considered by the Agency Decision Maker, before making a final decision on the contents of the Adoption Support Plan - see Placement for Adoption Procedure.

Any assessment (under paragraph 4.2) considered necessary at an Adoption Review, as a result of which a change in the Adoption Support Plan is required, should be referred to the Adoption Support Team Manager (ASSA) for approval who will consider whether the case should be referred back to the Adoption Panel and the Agency Decision Maker.

Requests for assessment for adoption support under paragraph 4.3 above will be allocated to a Cambridgeshire Coram Adoption social worker to carry out an assessment, with advice from the Adoption Support Services Adviser as necessary. 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 situation and the age, understanding and wishes of the child.

An assessment is not required before providing just advice and information.

Where an assessment is carried out as a result of a request under paragraph 4.3, a written report of the assessment should be produced and agreed by the Adoption Support Team Manager (ASSA).

A copy of the assessment report, once approved, should be sent to the person assessed with notice of the outcome of the assessment, which should state:

  • Their assessed need for support;
  • Whether CCA, on behalf of CCC, proposes to provide adoption support services and if so, the nature of those services;
  • Where the assessment identifies a need for financial support, how this has been determined/calculated and the conditions to be attached, including timescale and review arrangements (see Section 8, Financial Support).

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

Where services are proposed, a draft Adoption Support Plan will be attached to the notice and those assessed will be given time to consider and make representations on the proposal.

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


7. The Adoption Support Plan

7.1 Contents of Adoption Support Plan

An Adoption Support Plan should 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. How the services to be provided and the plan will be reviewed.

The Plan should be completed after consultation with the appropriate Health Trust, CAMHS or education service who may have a contribution to make. Where the child is placed in the area of another local authority, the agencies in that area must be consulted as to what services are available for the adopters and their children and, the adopters assisted with any cross-boundary issues that arise.

The Adoption Support Plan should include any proposed financial support, how the amount has been calculated and, where it involves ongoing payments, the frequency of payment, the period over which it will be paid and when the first payment is to be made, the conditions and any consequences of failing to meet them and the arrangements for review, variation and termination (see Section 8, Financial Support).

7.2 Consultation with proposed recipients of adoption support

Once a proposed Adoption Support Plan has the approval of the Adoption Support Team Manager, copies should be sent to the proposed recipients and anyone involved in the delivery of the plan.

The recipients of the proposed support are given 10 working days to consider the proposals and, if concerned, make representations to CCA about the proposed plan. Any representations will be considered by the Adoption Support Team Manager and Head of Adoption Support, who will amend the draft plan if appropriate and inform the recipients of the outcome of their consideration.

7.3 Approval of Adoption Support Plan

In relation to proposed adoptive placements, the Adoption Support Plan will be submitted to the Adoption Panel when the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters is recommended. The final Adoption Support Plan will be approved, taking into account any advice given by the Adoption Panel. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

In all other situations in which adoption support is proposed, the Adoption Support Plan will be approved by the Adoption Support Team Manager (ASSA).

7.4 Distribution of Adoption Support Plan

A copy of the final plan should go to all those involved in implementing it, and to the recipients of services (or appropriate adult). Where the child still has an Independent Reviewing Officer, they should also receive a copy.

7.5 Reviews of Adoption Support Plan

Where adoption support is in place prior to an Adoption Order, the Adoption Support Plan should be reviewed at the reviews of the adoptive placement - see Adoption Reviews Procedure - or at any time there is a significant change of circumstances.

After the Adoption Order has been made, the Adoption Support Plan will be reviewed if a change in circumstances is brought to the notice of the local authority. The Head of Adoption Support will decide on the format and content of any such review, which 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. (For annual reviews of financial support, see Section 8.7, Annual Review of Support).

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 referred to the Adoption Support Team Manager (ASSA) for approval, who may decide to refer the case back to the Adoption Panel for information and/or advice and then to the budget holder for a decision to be made.

Once approved, the person concerned must be notified of the proposed change, together with a draft copy of the revised Adoption Support Plan. They will then be given 10 working days to consider, or make representations on, the proposals.

Any such representations are submitted to the Adoption Support Team Manager / Head of Adoption Support who will take them into account when deciding the final contents of the revised Adoption Support Plan.

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

7.6 Urgent Cases

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.


8. Financial Support

8.1 Introduction

See also: Financial Support to Permanence.

Financial support is intended to supplement existing means of support available to adoptive parents and the child, or children, being adopted. Adopters will be encouraged to obtain advice regarding 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. It is always expected that adopters will claim their maximum entitlement to benefits, tax credits, etc, as a pre-condition of consideration for financial support.

8.2 Criteria

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

  • Where it is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents can look after a child;
  • 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;
  • 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 they have previously shared a home;
  • Where such support is to meet the recurring costs of travel for visits for the child to members of the birth family/significant others;
  • 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).

8.3 Types of Payment

Payment to adoptive parents may be made as:

  • Regular payments - which will be based upon the age of the child and their specific needs. There may be a time limit and these will always be subject to means test and annual review;
  • One-off 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 individual needs. Payment may be in instalments and will end at a time specified by the local authority;
  • Payments in special circumstances (for example, a child with additional needs or where 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 local authority.

It is not intended that financial support should generally include the "reward" element which may be payable to foster carers and or that payments are made to provide an income. However, payments may be paid above the usual level where it is regarded as necessary to ease the transition from foster care to adoption. Such additional payments can be paid for a period of up to 2 years although, in exceptional circumstances, additional payments may be paid for a longer period.

8.4 Assessment for Financial Support

Where regular financial support meets the Council's criteria and is considered appropriate, the amount to be paid to adoptive parents may be determined by an assessment of their means. This will take account of the adopters' income and resources (excluding their home), reasonable outgoings and commitments, and the financial needs and resources of the child. (N.B. Any support provided to assist with legal costs or expenses associated with the child's introduction to the placement will not be subject to an assessment of means).

As part of this assessment, the adopters are asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form. The Adoption Support Manager (ASSA) will advise CCC on the level of support to be included in the draft Adoption Support Plan (see Section 7, The Adoption Support Plan), having regard to this assessment, and the County Council's policy (see Documents Library) and the Head of Adoption Support will obtain budgetary approval as necessary. All allowances are subject to annual review of means-tested income and, depending on their purpose, may also be time limited.

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

8.5 Notification

The County Council will send adopters written confirmation of the decision to provide financial support. This will include the amount and terms of the support and information about annual reviews.

8.6 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.

Prior to making financial support available to prospective or adoptive parents, they will be informed in writing that the must promptly complete and return annual finance reviews and also inform Cambridgeshire Coram Adoption:

  • Of any change to their home address;
  • If the child (for any reason) no longer lives with them, or dies;
  • If there are any changes to their financial situation or the resources of the child.

Should adoptive parents fail to comply with the requirements, payment may be suspended and, where appropriate, any overpayment recovered.

8.7 Annual Review of Support

Where support is provided, adoptive parents are required to agree to complete and supply the authority with an annual statement of their circumstances for the annual review.

The adopters should specify the following in the statement:

  • Their financial circumstances;
  • The financial needs and resources of the child or children;
  • Their home address and whether or not the child(ren) live at home with them;
  • If there have been any changes to their own or the child(ren)'s circumstances.

The County Council will carry out an annual review of the financial support, taking into account the information given. Any proposed variation or termination of the financial support will be notified to the recipient and managed in accordance with the procedure set out in Section 7, The Adoption Support Plan. Any decision to vary or terminate should also consider whether it is appropriate to seek to recover all or any of the financial support already paid.

Should adoptive parents fail to supply an annual statement, CCA will send a written reminder and give 28 days to comply. If they fail to comply, payment will be suspended pending resolution of the matter.

Remuneration for former foster parents

Where the adopter previously fostered the child they are adopting, and they received remuneration within the fostering allowance, such remuneration could be agreed for a transitional period of up to 2 years from the date of the adoption order. This can be extended if the local authority considers the case to be exceptional.

The decision to include an element of remuneration must have been taken before the making of the adoption order.

8.8 Ending of Financial Support

Financial support will end in the following circumstances:

  • At the date specified in the Adoption Support Plan;
  • When a child reaches age 18, unless they continue in full time education or training and an agreement has been made for support to continue until the end of the course of education or training being undertaken, subject to any other financial support the child may be entitled to receive;
  • Where a child ceases full-time education or training and commences employment;
  • Where a child qualifies for income support or job seekers allowance in their own right;
  • Where circumstances have changed and the criteria are no longer met;
  • If the child leaves the adoptive home and this is regarded as permanent, or the child dies.

    Note: temporary absences do not apply, such as boarding school, hospital, and respite care.

End