Assessment Process for Adopters to be Reformed

The following item was supplied to us by the Department for Education. The Government has announced that the assessment process for prospective adopters is to be overhauled. Children’s Minister Tim Loughton has asked a group of experts to draw up a new process to recruit, train and assess people as adoptive parents.

The current system is slow and unnecessarily bureaucratic. Potentially suitable adopters are often turned away because they may not be the right ethnic match, may be overweight or may have smoked. Adoptive parents can wait up to a year or more to be approved, which leaves thousands of children in care waiting months, and even years, for a family.

The new expert panel is made up of representatives from across the adoption sector, including the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies, British Association of Adoption and Fostering, Adoption UK, and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. The group will work with Martin Narey, the Government’s Adoption Adviser, and provide recommendations in March on a new, more efficient process to be introduced later in 2012.

The group has been asked to:

  • Consider arrangements for an improved recruitment process for adopters and ensure those who do come forward are not lost to the system.
  • Streamline the training and assessment process, building on existing good practice.
  • Remove bureaucracy and over-prescription regarding the information to be collected about prospective adopters.
  • Provide set timescales for training and assessing the suitability of adopters, along with a new national assessment form based on a concise but robust analysis of capacity to care for a child in need of adoption.
  • Suggest what, if any, new monitoring and evaluation mechanisms would need to be put in place to measure the success of the new system.

Tim Loughton said, “The assessment process for people wanting to adopt is painfully slow, repetitive and ineffective. Dedicated social workers are spending too long filling out forms instead of making sound, common-sense judgements about someone’s suitability to adopt. Children are waiting too long because we are losing many potentially suitable adoptive parents to a system which doesn’t welcome them and often turns them away at the door.

“I am determined to change this. I have this week set up a new expert group to look at radical reform of the assessment process. I want it to be quicker and more effective at approving adoptive parents and matching them with children. We cannot afford to sit back and lose potential adoptive parents when there are children who could benefit hugely from the loving home they can provide.

“In October, to mark National Adoption Week, the Prime Minister said he was determined to reduce the time it takes for a child to be placed with an adoptive family. On average, a child waits two years and seven months to be adopted. The Government is determined to reduce this significantly.”

Martin Narey said, “The more I have visited local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies over the last few months, and on Ministers’ behalf, the more exercised I have become about a parental assessment process which is not fit for purpose. It meanders along, it is failing to keep pace with the number of children cleared for adoption, and it drives many outstanding couples to adopt from abroad. I am simply delighted that the Children’s Minister has decided to set it aside and start again.

“This is a significant moment. We made the system work more quickly in the past and have increased adoptions, only for numbers to fall back again. But this will, I believe, ensure a permanent increase.”

The Government is working on a wider programme of reform to overhaul the adoption and care system. More details will be set out in the New Year on the proposals for improving the system.

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