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6.2.4 Adoption Support

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Guidance on Assessing the Support Needs of Adoptive Families (2008)

DfE, Adoption: Statutory Guidance (2013)

Mott Macdonald/DfE Adoption Support Fund

See also Adoption passport: A Support Guide for Adopters.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2016 to add a link to the Mott Macdonald/DfE Adoption Support Fund. (See Relevant Guidance above).


Contents

  1. What is Adoption Support?
  2. Examples of Adoption Support
  3. When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support
  4. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?
  5. Which Local Authority Should Provide the Support?
  6. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support 
  7. The Adoption Support Plan
  8. Financial Support


1. What is 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 service, for the provision of a range of Adoption Support Services.

Local Authorities do not have to provide the services themselves but must have made arrangements for services to be provided by voluntary or other agencies such as Health or Education.


2. Examples of Adoption Support

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

Adoption support includes:

  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. Services to enable groups of adoptive children, Adoptive Parents and birth parents to discuss matters relating to Adoption;
  5. Assistance, including mediation, with contact arrangements between Adopted Children and their birth parents or others with whom they share a significant relationship;
  6. Therapeutic services for adoptive children;
  7. Assistance to Adoptive Parents and children to support the adoptive placement and enable it to continue, including respite care;
  8. Assistance to Adoptive Parents and children where a placement disrupts or is at risk of disruption;
  9. 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;
  10. Assistance with cross boundary matters;
  11. Intermediary Services - see Intermediary Services Procedure.

Support provided under 4) to 8) above may include cash assistance, for example to pay for a babysitter, although this would not be regarded as financial support.


3.  When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support

3.1

In relation to Adoptions arranged by the agency, 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.
3.2

In relation to placements arranged by the agency, Adoption support must also always be considered at a child's Adoption Reviews following the adoptive placement.

See Adoption Reviews Procedure

3.3

Local Authorities must also undertake assessments of need for Adoption support at the request of the following:

  1. Children who may be adopted, their parents or guardians;
  2. Persons wishing to adopt a child;
  3. Adopted persons, their parents, birth parents and former guardians;
  4. Other children of Adoptive Parents (whether or not they are adopted);
  5. Birth siblings of Adopted Children;
  6. 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.


4. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?

The table below sets out which Local Authority has responsibility for carrying out the assessment of need for Adoption support, and in what circumstances.

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 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


5. Which Local Authority Should Provide Support?

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 have 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. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support

In all cases where an assessment is required, the practitioners involved should conduct assessments by following the guidance set out in the Assessment Framework. The assessment should take account of the Adoption context and, where the assessment relates to the child, all the developmental needs of the child should be covered including health, education and emotional needs, and contact issues. The relevant education service and health trust should be consulted as necessary.

Assessments of need for Adoption support under paragraph 3.1 (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 3.1.(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 Designated Manager (Adoption Support) 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 and Matching Procedure.

Any assessment (under paragraph 3.2) 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 Designated Manager (Adoption Support) 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 3.3 above will be allocated to a 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 case and the age, understanding and wishes of the child.

An assessment will not be required before providing advice and information.

Where an assessment is carried out as a result of a request under paragraph 3.3, a written report of the assessment should be produced and agreed by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support).

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:

  1. The person's assessed needs for support;
  2. Whether the Local Authority proposes to provide Adoption Support Services and if so, what the proposed services are;
  3. Where the assessment relates to the need for financial support, how this has been determined and calculated and the conditions to be attached, (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 should usually be attached to the notice and those assessed should be allowed time to consider and make representations on the proposal as set out in Section 7, The Adoption Support Plan.

Where the service proposed is one-off, the notice of the outcome of the assessment will be sufficient to outline what is proposed and a draft plan will 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. The procedures that will be put in place to review the services to be provided and the plan.

The Adoption Support Plan will need to be completed after consultation with the appropriate Health Trust, CAMHS or education service where any special arrangements may need to be made. Where the child is placed in the area of another Local Authority, the agencies in that authority's area will need to be consulted as to what services may be available for the adopters and the Adopted Children. In these circumstances, the Prospective Adopters should be assisted with any cross-boundary issues that may arise.

The Adoption Support Plan should include any proposed financial support, how the amount has been calculated, where it is to be paid in instalments - the frequency of payment, the period over which it will be paid and when the first payment is to be made, the conditions and the 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 Designated Manager (Adoption Support), a copy should be sent to the proposed recipients of the support, as well as to any party involved in the delivery of the plan.

The recipients of the proposed support should be given 10 working days to consider the proposals and make representations to the Local Authority about the proposed plan. Any representations made should be considered by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support), who will amend the draft plan as appropriate and inform the recipients of the outcome of his or her consideration.

7.3 Approval of Adoption Support Plan

In relation to proposed agency adoptive placements, the proposed 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 and Matching Procedure.

In relation to other situations in which Adoption support is proposed, the Adoption Support Plan will be approved by the Designated Manager (Adoption Support).

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 has an Independent Reviewing Officer, a copy should be sent to him or her.

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 if there is a significant change of circumstances, within four weeks of the notification of the change.

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 Adoption Service Manager 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.

Where the change of circumstances is substantial, such as a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it may be appropriate to conduct a new assessment of needs involving other parties.

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 Designated Manager (Adoption Support) for approval, who, in the case of agency adoptive placements, may decide to refer the case back to the Adoption Panel for information and advice and then to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision to be made.

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

Any such representations should be submitted to the Designated Manager (Adoption Support) whose decision as to the final contents of the revised Adoption Support Plan should take into account any representations made.

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

Adopters are generally people who have applied to the Local Authority because they wish to begin or extend their family through adopting a child that is not known to them. The Local Authority recognises that some children and young people may have specific additional needs that will require financial support. Therefore Wirral Council will ensure that the needs of the Adopted Child are supported appropriately.

Once children are placed for Adoption families will become eligible to claim new state benefits such as Child Benefit, and Child Tax Credit. Therefore wherever possible, families are expected to be financially independent from council support for the day to day costs of a child.

8.2 Eligibility

Financial support may be payable to an Adoptive Parent for the purpose of supporting the placement of the adoptive child or the continuation of Adoption arrangements after an Adoption Order is made.

Financial support can only be provided in the following circumstances (according to The Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 Regulation 8):

  1. Where it is necessary to ensure that the Adoptive Parent can look after the child;
  2. Where the child needs special care which requires greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continuing consequences of past abuse or Neglect;
  3. Where it is necessary for the Local Authority to make any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the Adoption by reason of
    1. The age or ethnic origin of the child; or
    2. The desirability of the child being placed with the same Adoptive Parent as his Brother or Sister (whether of full or half-blood) or with a child with whom he previously shared a home.
  4. Where such support is to meet recurring costs in respect of travel for the purpose of visits between the child and a related person;
  5. Where the Local Authority consider it appropriate to make a contribution to meet the following kinds of expenditure:
    1. Expenditure on legal costs, including fees payable to a Court in relation to an Adoption;
    2. Expenditure for the purpose of introducing an adoptive child to his Adoptive Parent;
    3. Expenditure necessary for the purpose of accommodating and maintaining the child, including the provision of furniture and domestic equipment, alterations to and adaptations of the home, provision of means of transport and provision of clothing, toys and other items necessary for the purpose of looking after the child.

Financial support can be a single payment, payment in instalments or periodic payments for recurring expenditure. The decision about the type of financial support required to meet the needs of individual children (according to the criteria in 8.2) will be made by the Agency Decision Maker.

Financial support may be agreed at the time that a child's Placement Plan is presented to the Adoption panel or at any time up until the child's 18th birthday as long as the criteria listed in 8.2are met.

8.3 Introductions and Setting Up Grants

The Local Authority will consider providing the following financial support to families to enable the introduction of a prospective Adopted Child to the Prospective Adopters:

  • Travel costs i.e. rail or coach fare or car mileage. The maximum travel costs will be public transport rates. Car mileage will be paid at 20p per mile;
  • Overnight accommodation. Where possible this should be arranged through the council procurement process. The rates allowed will be no greater than the subsistence rates for Wirral council employees.

The Local Authority - can provide a ‘setting up’ grant for adopters matched with a child from Wirral according to the regional agreement (Adoption 22). This is currently £250 per child and may increase subject to the regional agreement changing.

Where the child has specific additional needs the Local Authority will consider paying for additional equipment above the ‘setting up’ grant.

The Prospective Adopters’ financial circumstances will not be taken into account when the Local Authority makes a decision about providing financial support for ‘introductions’ and setting up grants.

8.4 Periodic Payments

Where the agency decision maker has decided that a child may require additional support through the provision of periodic payments the Adoptive Parents will be subject to a means test (based on the ‘DFE means test’) to assess if they have sufficient disposable income to provide for the child.

The means test will calculate the disposable income of the Prospective Adopters or adopters which takes into account income from earnings, all eligible benefits including Child Tax Credit, and expenditure that includes housing costs and daily living expenses according to the ‘DFE means test’ guidance.

The maximum eligible periodic payment will be the Local Authority Fostering Allowance plus birthday, Christmas and holiday allowances consolidated into the weekly amount less Child Benefit.

Where the Agency Decision maker has decided that a child may require additional support through the provision of periodic payments and the adopters are in receipt of Income Support, income related Job seekers Allowance, pension credit or income related Employment Support Allowance the maximum eligible periodic payment less Child Benefit will be provided without the requirement to undertake the means test.

Where the adopter was receiving Fostering Allowance for the child, as an approved Foster Carer, immediately prior to the Order, the child will continue to be considered to require additional support through the provision of periodic payments and the Adoptive Parents will be assessed according to the means test to determine the amount of the periodic payments. In addition, the adopters will continue to receive the Skills Fees (paid for that child prior to the order) for a period of 2 years. Payment of the Skills Fee beyond 2 years will only continue in exceptional circumstances.

8.5 Other Payments

In addition to the periodic payments that are means tested the following financial support can be provided to support children as decided by the Agency Decision Maker according to the criteria in 8.2 which may not be means tested:

  • Any legal costs associated with the application for an Adoption Order;
  • Costs for travel to facilitate contact between the child and a related person. The travel and subsistence rates will be the same as that detailed in 8.3 for introductions;
  • Any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the Adoption by reason of the age or ethnic origin of the child; or
  • Any special arrangements to enable a child being placed with his siblings or with a child with whom he previously shared a home;
  • A financial package for any special care relating to illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the consequences of past abuse or neglect for any child that was previously looked after.

8.6 Decision Making

The Agency Decision Maker for Adoption will make a decision about what type of financial support individual children are eligible to receive.

The decision about the level of financial support, following the approval of the Agency Decision Maker, will be made by the Senior Manager, Children’s Resources following a recommendation by the LAC Service Manager.

The adopters or potential adopters will be informed of the proposed financial support and will have 28 days to make representations if they disagree with the proposal.

No periodic payments will start until the Prospective Adopters or adopters have agreed to inform the Local Authority of the following circumstances when financial support will cease:

  • The child dies;
  • The child ceases to have a home with the adopters;
  • The child ceases full time education or training and commences employment;
  • The child qualifies for Income Support, Job seeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in his or her own right;
  • The child attains the age of 18 unless she or he continues in full-time education or training, when the payments may continue until the end of the course or training that she or he is then undertaking;
  • In addition the Prospective Adopters/adopters must inform the Local Authority of any change in their financial circumstances and change of address.

8.7 Reviews

All adopters receiving an Adoption allowance or periodic payment will be subject to an annual review.

The Local Authority will write to the adopters to inform them of the decision of the review of the financial support and their reasons for any variation of the plan. Where the review leads to a reduction in allowance or termination of the allowance they receive, the case will be presented to permanence panel and any outcome will be shared in person with the adopters.

If as a result of the review the Local Authority is proposing to reduce or terminate the financial support, the Local Authority will write to the adopters to give them the opportunity to make representations within a 28 day period.

Remuneration for former foster parents

Where the adopter previously fostered the child they are adopting, and they received remuneration in the financial support paid to them as the child’s foster parent, the local authority may continue to pay remuneration for a transitional period of two years from the date of the adoption order. This can continue for longer than two years if the local authority considers the case to be exceptional.

The decision to include remuneration must have been taken before the making of the Adoption Order.

8.8 Appeals

The Director of Children’s Services will consider any representations and make a decision whether to vary or terminate the payment, seek recovery overpayments or revise the financial support plan.

End