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7.3 Statement of Purpose

Contents

1. Aims and Objectives of the Adoption Agency
2. Children's Guide - Statement of Purpose
3. Organisational Structure of the Adoption Agency
4. Adoption Agency - Team Membership
5. Adoption Agency Services to:
  5.1 Children and their Birth Families
  5.2 Prospective Adopters: Recruitment, Preparation, Assessment and Approval
  5.3 Post-Placement/Post-Adoption
6. Procedure for Assessment of Need for an Adoption Support Service
7. Monitoring and Evaluation of the Adoption Service
8. Supervision of Staff
9. Complaints Procedure


1. Aims and Objectives of the Adoption Agency

The objective of the Medway Council Adoption Agency is:

To provide efficient and high quality adoption and adoption support services comprising of a full range of services for children needing adoption, prospective adopters, adult adoptees, birth parents and post-adoption support services.

The service aims to:

  • Provide permanent families for children who cannot live with their birth families and for whom a decision has been made that they should be placed for adoption.
  • Provide adoption services that form part of an integrated service to children and families, to ensure that plans to achieve permanence are progressed without delay.
  • Optimise the opportunity and choice in permanent family placements.
  • Positively seek to develop services that provide for all sections of the community.
  • Provide counselling, advice and support for birth parents and other members of the birth family where adoption is the plan.
  • Recruit, assess and prepare adopters in a fair and open way, providing clear information about the criteria for acceptance as prospective adopters, the preparation and adoption process, the needs of children requiring adoption and the support services available to adoptive parents.
  • Provide assessment of the need for support and a range of post-adoption support services for adopted children and their parents, including the management of post-adoption contact, counselling, annual reviews and support.
  • Provide a confidential counselling service to adult adopted people who are interested in obtaining information about their birth history.
  • Provide an assessment service and support for inter-country adopters.
  • Complete welfare supervision and court reports for non-agency (step parent adoptions.
  • Provide assessment and support of family and friends carers.

The service will encourage a team culture that mutually supports:

  • A clear focus on the needs, wishes and welfare of the child and makes these the paramount consideration
  • Promotes anti-discriminatory practice within the adoption team
  • The creativity, vision and confidence to develop new ideas and services
  • A team that together maximises individual member's skills and contributions, in an environment which is respectful of challenge, and responsive to change.


2. Children's Guide - Statement of Purpose

Medway Adoption and Permanence Service

The Adoption and Permanence Team helps children needing adoption, people wishing to adopt, families whose children have been adopted, and adults who have been adopted.

It does this by:

  • Finding new families for children who can no longer live with their parents.
  • Making sure that children do not have to wait too long for their new family.
  • Making sure that the best possible family is found for each child.
  • Respecting the wishes and feelings of children and their families about the adoption plan and ensuring all procedures are carefully followed.
  • Where possible, matching children with families from the same culture, race and religion.
  • Finding families who can care for children who may need special help, for example, with their learning or medical problems.
  • Offering support to birth families who are sad and upset at having to say goodbye to their children who are being adopted.
  • Offering support after the adoption has taken place, to children, their adoptive families, birth families and adopted adults.
  • Making sure arrangements for contact after adoption take place and important links are not broken.
  • Counselling and helping adopted people who have reached 18 years and who want to find out more about their birth families.
  • Providing help to people who wish to adopt children from other countries.
  • Providing help to step-parents who wish to adopt their step-son or daughter.
  • Providing help and support to relatives and friends of a child who want to become the child's permanent carer.
  • Providing help, advice and support to those for whom the provision of Special Guardianship may be relevant
  • Working together as a team to provide the best possible service to all those involved in adoption.


3. Organisational Structure of the Adoption Agency

To follow


4. Adoption Agency - Team Membership

Staffing, relevant qualifications, and experience of team members

The Adoption and Permanence Team is made up of 10 qualified social work staff with a wide range of experience in children and families work, including child protection, preventative work, risk assessment, fostering and adoption.

The Team is experienced in providing a variety of adoption services, including the homefinding and placement of children for adoption; securing permanent placements with family and friends carers; the assessment, preparation and approval of adoptive parents; running training and preparation groups; presenting cases to court and Panels.

See Team Staffing for full details.


5. Adoption Agency Services to:

5.1 Children and their Birth Families

The Adoption Agency is part of an integrated service provided to children and families. Each Children and Families Social Work Team has an Adoption Liaison Worker from the Adoption and Permanence Team attached to it, who hold monthly meetings with the social work team and /or their Team Managers. This identifies, at an early stage, those children for whom permanence via adoption may be being considered. The child's details are added to an adoption database and their progress through the system monitored within the Adoption and Permanence Team, in order to ensure plans are made and followed through without delay.

An adoption social worker will attend the four-month Looked After Child review, where the child's need for permanence will be addressed and a plan for permanence made. Where adoption is the identified plan for the child, an Adoption Link Worker will be appointed and will be involved in the planning, preparation, family finding and placement of the child for adoption and this will involve ongoing close liaison with the Children and Families Social Worker to monitor the progress of the plan.

Any relatives or friends identified through a family group conference, organised through the Public Law Outline procedures, can be assessed by a Relatives and Friends Social Worker, and be presented to the Homefinding Panel or the Adoption and Permanence Panel, as appropriate. Support is offered to Relatives and Friends carers by an allocated Relatives and Friends Social Worker, through a bi-monthly support group, newsletter and annual reviews.

Each child, where permanence or adoption is the plan, will be presented to the Adoption and Permanence Panel. Whenever possible this will be within two months of the departmental decision of a plan for permanence

The Panel meets on a monthly basis and will consider whether the child should be placed for adoption or whether the child's need for permanence should be met some other way. Additional Panels will be convened if necessary, to avoid delay.

A key objective of the adoption services in Medway is to find adoptive placements for all children who need adoptive families without delay. If no Medway approved families can meet the needs of the child, the Adoption Agency is part of an adoption consortium which affords access to resources in five other authorities in the southeast and the first point of contact for family finding. National advertising is also used alongside the National Adoption Register, to find the most appropriate match for the child.

Most children with a plan of adoption will have been presented to the Adoption and Permanence Panel and have consideration given to whether they should be placed for adoption and a decision made on this prior to the final court hearing. This enables family finding to proceed without delay. Given the complex needs of many children, their age and their membership of large sibling groups, the length of time before matching will vary considerably. With very young children and babies with no special needs or babies under six months for whom parents have requested adoption, the aim would be to find an appropriate match within three months. For other children the aim would be to finds an appropriate match within six months.

Children will be prepared before joining a new family and information given to them about adoption and the stages involved in this and about the family which has been selected for them. Close liaison will take place between the child's social worker, adoption link worker and the child's foster carers, in planning, implementing and monitoring this work and will include the use of life story work for the child and life appreciation days if possible.

The Adoption Team will also provide advice, consultation and training to foster carers, children and families social workers, fostering officers and the Panel, on adoption issues.

The Adoption Team will also aim to provide counselling, advice and support for both birth parents and other members of the child's birth family where adoption is the plan. This will be in all circumstances, including those where members of the birth family do not agree with the decision to place the child for adoption.

It is recognised, that for some birth parents, receiving these services from the Adoption Agency may not be appropriate and all birth parents are offered a support service via the independent monthly local surgeries in the area run by the Post-Adoption Centre.

5.2 Prospective Adopters: Recruitment, Preparation, Assessment and Approval

The recruitment of prospective adopters is managed by the Adoption Agency in conjunction with the Medway Council Communications Team. The annual campaign involves:

  • Newspaper/cinema programme advertisements and articles
  • Displays and presentations
  • Distribution of posters/leaflets
  • Word of mouth through existing adopters
  • Radio coverage
  • Yellow pages

The Adoption Agency also participates in a scheme to recruit local carers in Medway, providing a centralised telephone number for enquiries. Information is provided on the Medway Council website with an online enquiry facility and on the Adoption Agency's website on the Positive Parenting Network.

The Adoption Agency aims to treat prospective adoptive parents with respect and openness and welcomes applications from all sections of the community, with each application being taken on its own merits. Approaches from people interested in adoption can be made to the Adoption Agency in a number of ways (ie telephone, letter, e-mail) and following their initial enquiry, written information is sent to them within five days giving information about the eligibility criteria, details of the assessment, approval and adoption support process and about the needs of the children waiting for adoption. A copy of the complaints process will be included in this pack.

On receipt of the enquiry form, prospective adopters are either invited to an open evening and/or home visit within two months. Open evenings are held four times a year and provide further information about adoption, the types of children requiring adoptive families, the process of assessment and preparation. These meetings also provide an opportunity for prospective adopters to meet with approved adoptive parents.

If after the Open Evening and an initial home visit prospective adopters wish to continue, they are invited to attend the one-day 'parenting and loss group' (if appropriate) and the 4-day adopters preparation group, normally within a three-month period.

Following the preparation group, where the applicants and the agency wish to go ahead a formal written application will be accepted and a home study assessment will proceed and this will normally be presented to the Panel within eight months. However, the length of the assessment will depend upon individual circumstances and some applications will take more time.

A written agreement with prospective adopters is completed at the beginning of the home study.

A pre-panel visit is made by the Adoption Manager/Senior Practitioner, giving applicants the opportunity to discuss the assessment process and issues arising from this, as well as the Panel process. Adoptive applicants are given written information about the Panel and invited to attend. It is expected that all applicants will wish to attend panel.

The recommendation of the panel, that the applicants are suitable to adopt a child and any advice the panel may give about the number and ages of the children will go to the Agency Decision Maker.

Following approval by the Agency, approved adopters will be included on the Adoption South East database to be considered for matches with children from within the Consortium for a period of three months. If no match has been made in this time, the National Adoption Register will be activated.

Applicants who are turned down by the Agency and those whose assessment is presented at an earlier stage to the panel because it is felt they are unlikely, ultimately, to be approved may have the decision not to approve them as adopters reviewed internally within the agency by having their representation considered by the agency panel or may have their assessment presented to the Independent Review Mechanism. This is a panel whose new recommendation will then be considered by the Agency Decision Maker. The Agency Decision Maker may or may not change the decision as a result of any new recommendations.

The Adoption Agency also provides an assessment service to inter-country adopters which includes counselling, home study reports, completion of paperwork to meet Department of Health requirements, presentation of cases to the Panel and welfare supervision of children cases where the final adoption hearing takes place in this country.

Adopters and their adopted children may need adoption support at any time in the future. For adopters whose children were previously looked after by Medway, Medway will be responsible for three years from the date of the adoption order for assessing what support is needed. After three years the local authority where the adoptive family live becomes responsible for assessing for support services. Financial support, however, remains the responsibility of Medway if it was agreed at the time of placement.

Welfare supervision and court reports are undertaken for non-agency adoption applications.

Training on adoption issues for foster carers, Children and Families Social Workers and Panel members is also provided both internally and externally.

5.3 Post-Placement/Post-Adoption

Adoption support services are provided for adopted children, adoptive parents, birth families and adopted adults. These services include the formulation and implementation of Adoption Support Plans for children to be placed for adoption, as well as for those already in placement. Other responsibilities include the management of post-adoption contact, counselling, annual reviews of on-going financial support and financial support packages.

The Adoption Agency has a specific post of Senior Practitioner Adoption Support (Adoption Support Services Adviser) who oversees the development of adoption support services, and two full-time Adoption Support Social Workers and an adoption support assistant. A database of approved adopters is regularly updated.

Post-approval training and post-placement workshops are also offered both internally and externally.

A confidential counselling service to adult adopted people who are interested in obtaining information about their birth history, is provided.

A service is also available to those birth family members entitled to access information.

Approved adopters can access adoption support directly via the adoption team or use the independent local monthly surgeries offered by the Post Adoption Centre.

A named adoption support worker will be provided to adopters needing support, including liaison with other agencies in health/education if appropriate.

New adopters are offered a year's subscription to Adoption UK, which gives access to local and national support networks. The Adoption Support Team actively encourages adopters to maintain links with each other.

Adoption UK are contracted to provide ongoing support groups, social events and regular newsletters.

Annual reviews of ongoing financial support/adoption allowances are undertaken and include a voluntary feedback form, which provides information on how adoptive placements are proceeding and any issues of support that adoptive parents may wish to add.

Post-adoption contact arrangements are managed centrally through the Adoption Agency, including the supervision of direct contact arrangements where required. Advice and consultation is given on the drawing up of contact arrangements as part of the Adoption Support Plan.

Intermediary services are generally provided by the Post Adoption Centre or Norcap on behalf of Medway Council, except where the adult adoptee or birth relative is already receiving adoption support, for example an adopted adolescent who becomes an adult and wishes to trace their birth family.


6. Procedure for Assessment of Need for an Adoption Support Service

The adoption support needs of a child are initially identified at the point of the Adoption Panel recommending that a child should be placed for adoption and the agency decision endorsing that. These needs are formulated into an Adoption Support Plan at the point of returning to the Adoption Panel for the match between the child and the identified adoptive family. Adoption Support Plans take into account the needs of the child and the resources of the adoptive family, and are likely to include the provision of services by other agencies, including education and health, whose commitment is sought to provide appropriate services.

Plans agreed at this stage can be reviewed at any time at the request of an adoptive parent, an adoptive child, a child of an adoptive parent, a birth relative, or other significant person in relation to contact.

For those families that did not have an Adoption Support Plan in place when the child joined the family or who have moved to live in Medway and it is now more than three years since the adoption order was made any of the above individuals may request a new Assessment of Need for Adoption Support Services. Such assessments follow the guidance set out in the Department of Health Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families, using the following domains: the child's developmental needs, the parenting capacity of the adopters and consideration of the family and environmental factors. Where possible, assessments build on past assessments (e.g. care/adoption plans and Integrated Children's System records).

Based on the outcome of the assessment, a decision regarding whether to provide services, and in what way, is made. As part of this process, it is usually the case that a Planning Meeting is convened, with the aim of determining a proposal for the provision of services. The minutes of this meeting are sent to all participants and a proposal for support services is drawn up.

The person who requested the assessment then has a period of twenty-eight days to consider the proposal and make any representations to the authority. Services may be provided during this period. After this period, the agreed proposal becomes the Adoption Support Plan.

If there is a change in circumstances, or if the period for which it has been agreed that services will be provided ends, a review of the Adoption Support Plan will be undertaken.


7. Monitoring and Evaluation of the Adoption Service

The system in place to monitor and evaluate the provision of adoption services includes:

  • Half yearly report to Assistant Director of Children's Services on the adoption service
  • Annual yearly report to Councillors on adoption services
  • Quarterly Adoption Panel liaison meetings, which will include the independent Chair of the Adoption Panel and the Assistant Director for Children's Services
  • Individual supervision of adoption cases, including children where permanence has been identified as the plan, and the assessment of prospective adopters
  • Prospective adopters are made aware of Medway Council's complaints process
  • Feedback forms are completed following adopters preparation groups/information evening
  • Consultation meetings are held with approved adopters/Relatives and Friends carers, to look at current services and areas for development
  • The local adopters' support groups provide the Agency with views on the adoption support service and areas for development
  • Applicants attending Panel complete a feedback form
  • The Panel has a role in monitoring and evaluating cases coming to Panel, including the quality of paperwork, the planning for the child, the homefinding study undertaken and any issues of delay
  • The Service Manager, Children's Placements, reviews/updates the Panel on all cases presented to the Panel
  • The annual adoption allowance review form includes a questionnaire asking how the placement is progressing and any information adopters would like to provide about the services they are receiving or feel they need.
  • Looked After Child reviews are conducted on all children before the making of an adoption order.


8. Supervision of Staff

Individual Supervision Practice

Supervision is planned for three months ahead and takes place at an appropriate frequency for the worker but to be at no greater than monthly intervals. Informal supervision/discussion is available on a 'needs led' basis.

An individual supervision contract is drawn up and signed by the parties involved.

Supervision sessions include:

  • Practice discussion on case load, current assessments and family finding
  • Personal development eg PDRs, training
  • Personal issues that impact on work/team
  • Individual team responsibilities.

Through the supervision process the following are monitored:

  • Progress of prospective adopter assessments
  • Individual homefinding plans for children
  • Placement support
  • Linking and introduction planning
  • Progress of birth records counselling
  • Delivery of prospective adopters' training
  • Regular inspection of files

And the following may be raised:

  • General adoption issues/ideas
  • General team issues/ideas
  • Relationships with Social Workers/other teams

Supervision is recorded, copied to both parties and placed on file.


9. Complaints Procedure

Medway Council has a Complaints Policy, which is given to prospective and approved adopters. All complaints are passed to the Customer Services section of Medway Council, who record the information on a database. Details of the investigation, the conclusions reached and actions taken, are kept on the relevant file.

All concerns are discussed with the Service Manager, Children's Placements, and agreement reached on the investigation required. Any complaints against a member of staff are kept on their personnel file.

Social Services Complaints Procedure

It is a statutory requirement of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 and the Children Act 1989, for all Local Authorities with responsibility for Social Services, to have a complaints procedure. The Department of Health guidelines advise on the need to publicise the procedures, record all complaints, and work within the required time scales. It also identifies the role of the Designated Complaints Officer (DCO).

Any member of Social Services staff, from the Director to the front line staff, who deals directly with service users, can and may receive a complaint.

All three stages of the complaints procedure are available to complainants who are regarded in legal terms as a 'qualifying individual'. A service user is referred to as a qualifying individual if they receive a package of care agreed by this directorate, whether the service is provided by the directorate or by an outside contractor.

A qualifying individual can also be the parent/carer of a child who is in receipt of a service if they are judged to be speaking on the child's behalf or, in the case of an adult who is unable to speak for themselves, a person nominated by them, their next of kin or with a relevant power of attorney.

Only the first two stages are available for those who are not 'qualifying individuals'.

A complaint may be made in person, by telephone or in writing (hard copy or e-mail). The details of the complaint must be recorded and agreed with the complainant together with what they would see as a satisfactory resolution.

Should a complainant require an advocate or, if English is not their first language, a suitable interpreter, this can be arranged by the DCO.

The three stages of the complaints procedure are:

Stage 1 - Problem Solving

At this stage it is intended that the complaint be resolved as close to the point of service delivery as possible and well within the timescale of 28 days. In fact DCSF guidance suggests a 14 day timescale as more appropriate at this stage.

The staff involved at this stage are likely to be those already known to the service user or someone who directly manages them. The object of problem solving is to correct or improve a situation to the client's satisfaction.

If the complaint involves a child, it may be appropriate to request NCH Complaints and Representation Service to provide a trained volunteer to support the child.

Service users may, on occasion, go directly to 'someone in authority' with their complaint without telling anyone involved in the delivery of the service of their dissatisfaction. Such complaints may still be dealt with at this stage if no prior opportunity has been given to resolve it. Both the complainant and the staff involved must be in agreement with this decision and the complainant will be informed that should they remain dissatisfied, it will be treated as a formal complaint and move on to Stage 2.

Adult services users who wish to make a complaint about a Registered service ie residential care, which they are receiving, should in the first instance make their complaint to the manager of the service through their own complaints procedure. If they remain dissatisfied, they can then ask the Local Authority to investigate or take their complaint directly to Ofsted. They have the right to take their complaint to Ofsted at any stage.

If the complainant is not satisfied with what has been achieved by staff in trying to resolve their complaint at this stage, they will be advised that they need to make a formal complaint to the Director of Adult and Children's Services, preferably in writing. Where this is not possible, the Customer Relations Manager can assist.

Stage 2 - Formal Complaint

The complaint should be made in writing and any advocacy or other arrangements to enable the service user to do so, should be made if required.

An Independent Investigating Officer will be brought in by the Designated Complaints Officer (DCO) to investigate the complaint and provide a report to the Local Authority to consider.

In the case of a complaint from or on behalf of a child, the NCH Complaints and Representation Service will, if appropriate, be asked to nominate a worker to act as an independent investigator as required in the Children Act 1989. The volunteer nominated by them will not be the same person who may have been involved in the previous stage.

"The role of the Independent Investigator is not to represent the complainant or the Department, but to take part in the consideration of the complaint and in discussions about the action to be taken as a result of the complaint. The Independent Investigator will produce a report and may report to the review panel if the complaint goes on to that stage". (The Children Act 1989).

A time scale of 28 days is set for responding to Stage 2 complaints. It may, for a particular reason, be impossible to meet the deadline that has been set. In these circumstances, provided the complainant is kept informed of the progress and the reason for the delay, the timescale can, within reason, be extended.

If a complainant does not accept the written response provided at the outcome of this stage, then if they are a 'qualifying individual', they have a right to ask for their complaint to go to the next stage and be considered by a Review Panel. They must make clear in their application what they remain dissatisfied with and what they require as a resolution.

Stage 2 is the final stage for complainants who are judged not to be 'qualifying individuals'. They are not entitled to have their complaint heard by a Review Panel. They will be advised that if they are still dissatisfied, they can take their complaint to the Chief Executive of Medway Council or the Local Government Ombudsman, and supplied with the necessary information to enable them to make contact with whichever one they choose.

Stage 3 - Review Panel

Review Panels will be arranged by the Committee Section. The Panel must take place within 28 days of the receipt of the request from the complainant.

The Review Panel will consist of three people, two Council Members and an Independent Chairperson with relevant knowledge/experience of the particular service that is the subject to the complaint.

The role of the Panel is to review how the complaint has been handled by Social Services.

The complainant may, if they wish, bring someone with them to the Review Panel to support them, ideally it should not be a legal representative as these are not legal proceedings.

During the hearing, the complainant and the Directorate's representative will be given the opportunity to present their case and to question the other participant. The Panel members may also wish to question both parties before retiring to deliberate.

The Panel will make its decision and provide recommendations to the Director of Health and Community Services within 24 hours. The Directorate will then have 28 days to write to the complainant to notify them of what action, if any, will be taken in response to these recommendations.

If this response is not to the satisfaction of the complainant, then they will be provided with the necessary information to enable them to take their complaint to the Chief Executive, Medway Council or the local Government Ombudsman.

Complaints or representations may also be made to the Regulatory Body for Adoption Services:

Ofsted National Business Unit,
Royal Exchange Buildings,
St Ann's Square,
Manchester,
M2 7LA;

Their telephone number is: 08456 404040
Their email address is: enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk

Or directly to the Children's Rights Director at the above address.

End